Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 25 April 2019

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.  2 Timothy 2:16 (NIV).

Sorry ahead of time:  another rant.   I get into many debates online, standing up for what I believe in (just as those who are on the opposite side do the same).   I wish I could get back the countless hours and words I’ve expended online because I don’t think it has made much of a difference.   It’s a good thing to let others know that you support them, that they have allies.   Beyond that, I don’t see how my debating done much good.   Indeed, I’m ashamed of many things I’ve said; many words were unkind at best, contrary to this faith I profess here.   Hypocrisy:   I’m guilty.   Here endeth this rant as well.

We spend so much of our time these days talking about things that don’t really matter.   Our news is comprised of celebrities, meaningless sports, banal entertainment, and opinions disguised as facts.   Even worse, we gossip online; what else is social media but a new way of saying “look at me” or “did you hear about so & so?”  Even worse still, we thrive on ‘the chew’ in person.   Don’t believe me?   Try breaking into a clique the next time you go to church.  They’re there, just as exclusive as any schoolyard clique.   And they talk.   Boy do they talk!   I mean…boy, do WE talk!

Welcome to the fallen world.   It’s a world of godless chatter, of ancient tendencies and mis-behaviors given new life in person and online.   The more we indulge in it, the more we sully the good words of Jesus, who is still alive in us, who rose and is still King of Kings, here in the fallen world.   The more we do it, the more ungodly we become.   We become hypocrites.

Paul’s advice?   Avoid it.   Stop it if it starts with us, or passes through us.   But if we can’t effect it for good, then avoid it.   Stop the gossip chain with you, or me.   Gory TV?   Switch channels.   Political arguing?   Back out of it.   Better yet, pray for the other guy, and their candidate, and for our overall peace.   Part of a clique?   Go introduce yourself to the new guy.   Maybe give him a cup of that free church coffee and a donut.

It was good advice in the time of Paul, when true persecution really happened quite often.   It’s good advice here in the land of plenty, where we’re far from that kind of physical persecution…at least for now.  Let that be on our list of things to do in our fallen world now that winter has come (and gone), and we’re in a fresh season of growing.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Timothy 2:17.

Lord, help me to avoid godless chatter, changing my ways for Your good purpose.   Forgive me the ways I’ve failed You.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 24 April 2019

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV).

On its own, this verse is (obviously) good advice.  Always tell the truth because you’re upright before God in doing so.  Yet don’t forget that verse 15 comes in-between other verses that caution us against engaging in useless conversation.   Useless quarrels about words and godless chatter are the opposite of what is God-approved.

Pseudo-political rant commences:  I’m baffled and discouraged by how our government, for political reasons, handles classified information.  I used to hold a clearance; it was required for my job in the military.   So I’m boggled and really discouraged, even angered, at the cavalier attitude some of my countrymen display regarding misuse of classified information.  Whether it’s a candidate doing it with a disregard for law (for reasons we still don’t know), or an FBI director leaking to seek revenge, or an activist traitor who refuses to testify after he is cornered, I can’t see anything good for the country with these people being handled gently.   When you agree to handle classified information, you sign papers with your agreement to do so honorably and carefully.  Jesus forgives them and I’m glad for that.   Our legal system should prosecute them harshly because what they willingly did endangers all of us.   Here endeth the rant.

I say all that because we need to correctly handle words, especially the truth.   Have you ever been ashamed to say or do something because you KNOW Jesus’ Spirit lives within you yet you say or do it anyway?   I’ve been there; how about you?   God gives us this unique, truly special Word to transform lives for Him and we profane it by our misuse, our words and deeds.  It’s similar to handling classified, if you think about it.   We don’t sign paperwork, but we do say “I believe.”   We can’t be prosecuted for believing, but we will be judged appropriately if we reject Him.   All through our lives we can snooze conversations about both politics and religion.   Yet, when we come to the end of our lives, the politics won’t matter but what we believe about Jesus will.

Is this just a useless quarrel or godless chatter?   I’ll leave it for you to decide; I don’t like talking politics here.  Christ included us in His family when He planted His Word in our hearts.  He gave us words to be able to share His Word with other people, so they, too, might believe and receive Christ’s adoption.  We are his brothers, sisters, and friends, not slaves or subjugated.  Those words aren’t trifles.   They are the only lasting love and power in the universe.  We should handle them respectfully

For further reading: Ephesians 1:13, Colossians 1:5, James 1:18, 2 Timothy 2:16.

Sovereign Lord, forgive me for my misuse, my carelessness with Your Word.   Teach me Your better way to use it today.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 23 April 2019

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.  2 Timothy 2:14 (NIV).

I’m becoming a fan of the Facebook snooze feature.   If a friend of mine sends a view or opinion that is particularly difficult to abide, or if what they say is particularly hostile, I turn off notifications for those comments.   I don’t want to un-friend them, but I don’t need the negativity.  Our comments may be well-received by some but also may be hurtful to others.   The better way would be to simply delete this social media so as to avoid the temptation.   But I enjoy Facebook for the ability to keep up with family and friends, and to share things like this blog, family moments, and things I believe both secular and faith-based.  So, until the point of staying off it altogether, I’m using the snooze.   I bet quite a few folks have done this to my comments already.

Thank God He doesn’t snooze us.  My friend, John, said (on Facebook about Facebook) that social media is a mile wide and an inch deep.   It’s designed to keep us quarreling, not really for our betterment.  Quarreling about words ruins us.   It ruins our relationships.   It ruins our families.   It ruins our politics.   It ruins our lives.

Paul wrote these words two millenia before social media existed.   In his day, social media was called “personal conversation.”   And if you think about it, those personal conversations have been made even easier to destroy by the advent of social media.   Online, you and I can say what we want without the responsibility for prudence that comes with saying those things face to face.   If you say something objectionable to someone face to face, they can (and often do) call you out on it, sometimes physically.   If we do that online, there’s no real response except to that the recipients’ emotions are activated.

Nothing good comes from that.  The book of Titus says that these are unprofitable and useless, producing nothing good that benefits anyone.  It was true then; it’s true now.   I need to act differently.   How about you?

This is the day after the day after Easter.   Jesus is still risen.   He is still alive, at work, living through you and I and all we think, say, and do.   We have the gift of electronic communication to enable us to reach each other instantly across the planet.  How will we use that today?   I’m working to do better, so I’m challenging you to do the same, even if that means snoozing it.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 1:4, Titus 3:9, 2 Timothy 2:15.

Forgiving Lord Jesus, help me to use the gifts of conversation and media responsibly, for Your benefit, in ways that help others.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 22 April 2019

Here is a trustworthy saying:  If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.  If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.  2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NIV).

Happy Day After Easter, when Jesus is still risen, still alive again, still King of Kings.   To be honest, the day after Easter has always had the potential to be like the day after Christmas:   a let-down.   We had a great day yesterday, with church, a great meal, and lots of time together as a family.   It tired me out greatly, but I was sad to see it end.   Today, it’s back to work; today the kids and grand-kids go home; today is just Monday.  Today feels like a let-down.

Except it isn’t.   Here is a trustworthy saying:   if Monday seems dull, it’s because the light shines bright.   If disappointment rules the hour, joy rules the day.  If it’s tough to get started back at the routine, the routine is a gift from God, an embodiment of Jesus in our daily lives.   All these contrasting things are gifts from a loving Jesus Christ, whose gift of resurrection provides the hope of today and tomorrow to the believers He elected in eternity.  A fallen world can’t contain Him; a bad today can’t stop a beautiful tomorrow.   He defeated death, He defeated Satan.   Nothing can stop Him.   The contrasts make the difference between Jesus and everything else stark.

It wasn’t just Paul who spoke of these contrasts.   Peter did as well, and Peter knew Christ, man to man, better than most anyone else in Jesus’ ministry.  Peter talked about us rejoicing in the sufferings of Christ because it would mean that His resurrection and eternal glory would be all that much better.  The apostle lived in a barbaric time not unlike our own:   we simply have better tools and technology.   But the words he left would have been just as striking to readers of that time, maybe even more so when you consider how those readers personally knew Peter, how some might have personally known Jesus.  We didn’t know Peter or Jesus man to man; we simply have their words.

Think about that and then consider that this is a trustworthy set of statements, a thing on which we can rely.  Jesus lived, died, and lives again because He said He would.   Jesus suffered so we could rest.   Jesus died so we can live.   Jesus lives because the world can’t contain Him.   That’s great news on the Monday after Easter when the bloom seems to be off the rose and the daily world tries to take hold again.

For further reading: Romans 6:2-11, 1 Peter 4:13, Matthew 10:33, 1 Corinthians 1:9, 2 Timothy 2:14.

Easter Savior, You are the reason for our living.   You are the Lord.   You died and live so we may live.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 18 April 2019, Maundy Thursday

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.   2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV).

Today is Maundy Thursday.   Think of it as election day.   We are the elected.   Think about that.

How do you obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus?   Everything that could be done to save mankind from the second death of damnation has been done by Jesus.   He did it on Easter Sunday, which we’ll celebrate in a few days.  The ONLY thing you do to put that salvation into effect in your life is believe.   With belief comes love.  That’s it; nothing more, nothing less.  All the work, all the spiritual battling, all the sacrifice, all the love:   Jesus did it all.   The only thing we do is believe.   And not lip service; real belief.   Believing means surrendering to His will, surrendering control of your life to Him.   It means letting His Spirit guide your heart to remake your life away from sinful ways.   It means replacing enmity with amity, questions with understanding, hate with love.

The payoff for it?   Eternal glory.  That eternity starts now, here on the Third Rock, there in your life where you live now.   You participate in it now and will for the rest of your life here, until the time your life here is ended and you move to eternity with Jesus in person.  Then the fun really begins.

And who begins this journey for you?   You know the answer:   God does.   Jesus did from the time in Eden to the last moment of your life.  In love, God is eternally all-knowing.   He knows ahead of time who will end up with Him at the end of time, yet He loves us enough to put aside this knowledge and grant us free will.   You and I don’t HAVE TO believe in Jesus.   We get to.   We get to choose whether or not to believe that He has done everything for salvation or not.

With that comes accepting – or not – that He loved us before we even knew Him.  You and I can love Him because He first loved us, or we can choose to not believe it and allow to be so for God to turn us over to the consequences of our choice.   Love respects choices, and God has that kind of love for us.  He will keep working on us, providing what we need to make the right choice up until the moment we die.   After that moment, it’s too late to decide.   We will all meet Him.   Will you stand in joy for your choices, or fall in damned defeat because of them?   He elected you, chose you, through love.   On this Maundy Thursday, what will you do?

For further reading: Colossians 1:24, Titus 1:1, 2 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Peter 5:10, 2 Timothy 2:11.

Lord, thank You for electing me to be saved.   Help our unbelief.   Forgive our sins.  

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 17 April 2019

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.  This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.   2 Timothy 2:8-9 (NIV).

Another word about Notre Dame.   Reflect on what happened, on the Parisians who sang Ave Maria as the church burned.   Reflect on the heroism of the firemen struggling to save the magnificent church.   And then, most of all, reflect on what Jesus has now started doing through the financiers, and politicians, and the unknown people who will use kindness and talent and heart to rebuild it for the glory of God.

God’s word is not chained.  Nothing on this planet can chain it, bind it, contain it.   God’s word is the power of life and eternity.

God’s word is best spoken from the cross.   God’s love is found in His only Son, Jesus, dying there so that we may live.   God’s loving Word is found at the empty tomb, on Easter Sunday, when it crushed death and gave the world real hope.   God’s Word lives in you and me and the singing Parisians as His Spirit that came at Pentecost and now lives with us so many centuries later.

God’s word isn’t chained up by a beautiful church building that can be burned.   God’s word is written on your heart, fused into your DNA, living in your bloodstream and in the thoughts that course through your mind.   When you reach the end of this life, God’s word is the only thing you’ll have left.   What will you think of it then?   Will you have used your time to get to know Him, to confess your need for Him, and to have accepted His gift of salvation?

A friend of mine died on Monday.   What I knew of Kim (Page) Granger was that, in her last years, when the world had literally taken everything from her, she held on to faith.   That wasn’t easy, given that she came from a background of abusive relationships and a family history of dysfunctional religion.    Yet in the end, she still believed in Jesus, meaning that her end here this week was the start of a forever with Him.  Kim and I had been co-workers over the years, and she supported me through my own tests of faith.  I’ll miss my friend, but am happy that her pain here is over – she had brain cancer – and that she met Jesus in person.  God’s word didn’t keep her chained to pain here forever.   God’s word broke her chains because His word itself can never be bound in chains.  It’s true in Paris.   It’s true with my friend.   It’s true with you today.

For further reading: Acts 2:24, Matthew 1:1, Romans 2:16, Acts 9:16, Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 2:10.

Lord Jesus, nothing can contain You, or Your Word.   Forgive me when I fail You.   Teach me Your better ways.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 16 April 2019

Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.   2 Timothy 2:7 (NIV).

One of my pastor’s favorite pieces of good advice is to take 5 minutes daily with God.   In that five minutes, simply be silent.  Clear you mind; focus only on God and whatever He may say to you.   It may take a hundred days; it may take only five minutes.  Eventually, no matter how long it takes, you’ll begin to perceive more of what God says to you in His Word, in messages He gives you through others and the world, in matters put on your heart.  He’s speaking; we listen.

Paul would have understood this.   He was advising Timothy to do much the same thing.   Paul was telling Timothy to be still, to know God is God of all, and to let Him speak to his heart.

That’s still good advice today.   Just ask Pastor Mark.

Indeed, we need insight more than ever.   Just yesterday, I was called a hypocrite online by politically opposite friend…and she was right.   What’s more, her rebuke was enjoined by my own daughter, who was also right.   I had resorted to name-calling in a comment, and it took the rebuke from a political adversary and my flesh & blood for me to see they were correct.  A man of better insight (maybe Timothy or Paul, or even my friend, Mark) would likely have seen that sooner, maybe not even posting the words at all.   When I saw what they were saying, I quickly deleted the name.  Seems I should have done some more reflecting before posting yet another political opinion.   Yep, I need insight more than ever.

And just yesterday, Notre Dame cathedral burned.   We don’t know why, though the cause is most likely something innocuous.  But it’s still suspicious given the number of unaccounted church vandalisms in France, as well as the fact that it’s Holy Week and the cathedral would make a ripe target.   Yet even pushing that suspicion aside, we need insight about the event.   Not insight into why it happened but, perhaps, insight into the good things that Jesus will do through the efforts of first responders, engineers, and builders to restore this ancient house of God.

It’s the insight into what Jesus is saying that Paul was invoking into Timothy.   It’s that kind of insight we would all do well to contemplate today.   Then act on it.

On behalf of my friend, let me invite you to act today by taking five minutes to be still and know that Jesus is God.   That He will speak to you as He does.   That He loves and forgives you.   That He wants to work through you today.   Take five for insight, my friend.

For further reading: Psalm 46:10, 2 Timothy 2:8.

Insightful Lord Jesus, open my eyes to Your purpose for me today.   Guide my thoughts, words, and actions to better serve Your purpose.