Yesterday my uncle shot me a link to this video series from RightNow Media: The Book of Titus. In the intro video, pastor Chip Ingram encourages viewers to read through the entire book of Titus and take note of every time Paul uses the word “good.” I couldn’t help reading the third chapter today with that in mind, and it struck me that this really is a book about encouraging the church to do good deeds.
You guys remember the Strong Bad Email episode “Dragon,” right? Where Strong Bad, when asked to draw a dragon, invents one of the most iconic characters of the Homestar Runner universe, Trogdor the Burninator? In the middle segment, Strong Bad runs a dragon-drawing class, and as he checks up on his students, he finds Strong Mad carving the word “DAGRON” into the table. Strong Mad’s attempt is so off-base that Strong Bad simply responds: “You just…keep doin’ your thing, man.”
Today on All the Paul, having finished one Paul, we move on to a different Paul. This Paul is his letter to the Colossians.
Paul is heavy on the commands in this chapter. Continuing his exhortations to moral behavior from the last chapter, he uses fifteen imperative verbs in the space of thirty-three verses, and if we expand the category to include implied commands and participial phrases used to convey normative behavior, we get something like twenty-five instances. Bottom line: that’s a lot you gotta do.
This chapter takes me back. My freshman and sophomore years of college, the leader of the campus Christian Fellowship was big on the first verse: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” You know how some verses you memorize deliberately, and some verses you end up memorizing accidentally just through exposure? The head of the Christian Fellowship was so big on this verse that I accidentally memorized it through exposure.
Today’s chapter, though. There are a few better-known passages in here, between the secret vision of the man caught up into the third heaven (vv.1-6) and Paul’s thorn in the flesh (vv.7-10). That famous saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (9) used to trouble me in high school; the paradox frustrated me. How can power be perfected in weakness? That’s like saying light is perfected in darkness, or good is perfected in evil! But it’s God’s power that shows itself as perfect in our weakness. Simply put, he does the good that we can’t. He saves us when we can’t save ourselves, and he gives us the strength to endure suffering that would otherwise overwhelm us. And he looks good doing it.
Translation’s a tricky business. Generally, my translation of choice is the NASB, because it cuts fairly close to the original languages of the Bible. But, in my fondness for the NASB, I have to be careful not to fall into the trap of the KJV-onlyists. Fact is, a lot of people more qualified and knowledgeable than I have put together a lot of different and useful translations, and God communicates to us through their work. The NASB’s attempt to retain the original text’s grammatical constructions (where possible) can sometimes obstruct clarity and readability. Just look at 1 Corinthians 4:5.
Transitioning is hard. It’s a new place in my Bible, new chocolate, new Bible Gateway link to a new book, and it’s gonna be new hashtags when I post the photo to Instagram. I’ve got that Psalms momentum, but here I am taking a hard right turn, and it’s just about killed my velocity. I read 1 Corinthians 1 today—I’ve been thinking about doing a series on everything Paul wrote, call it All the Paul. And since we’ve already gone through Romans, I figured I’d get into the next book in line. But man, writing anything about this feels like tunneling through a brick wall.
David’s back with what the NASB calls “An Evening Prayer for Sanctification and Protection.” He asks God to protect him from dangers both inside and out: his malicious adversaries and his own propensity for evil in word and deed. And I don’t know how qualified I am to make this call, but it strikes me as one of the most humble psalms I’ve read yet.
Ah, Isaiah 6: the temple vision. I remember first learning about this passage in Sunday school in Charlotte, NC, which means that for my first encounter with it, I couldn’t have been older than five years. Everything is new at that age, but as I get older, I run the risk of getting inured by familiarity with passages like this. But even if you’re reading it for the first time, if you don’t take the time to visualize it or read it attentively, you can gloss over it without getting the impact of Isaiah’s vision. If you “keep on looking, but do not understand” (6:9), the words remain mere words on the page.