Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 20 February 2019

In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.  1 Timothy 6:13-16 (NIV).

People don’t talk like this anymore.  Outside of formal liturgical services, people just don’t use this kind of language anymore, and that’s a shame.  There’s something good to be said from hearing someone formally bless you with the power of God.   Don’t get me wrong:   I like short sermons, and I like it when speakers get to the point.  Yet there’s also something grand, something spectacular, about hearing a speaker like Paul put a capstone on his work (this letter) by describing and invoking God’s action in majestic language.

Granted, Paul’s language in this closing doxology is “Pauly.”   He could be flowery.   He could be formal, and He could be the king of commas and compound sentences.  His rousing conclusion here is full of praise in ways that stand out from the rest of his fairly plainspoken letter to Timothy.  It’s almost as if he didn’t want to end stop talking.   These four verses are actually just two sentences and an ‘amen.’

He’s sending Timothy out into the world (into the ministry) to fight he good fight, to minister to the truly needy, and to stay true to the Lord.  Paul is telling his protégé to stay true to his calling from Jesus.  He focuses on Jesus in language that describes Him as the Savior King that He is, not just as a man or even a great man.   This Jesus isn’t the meek and mild:   he’s mighty.  Paul focuses on Jesus as the true God, the phenomenal cosmic power God who rules over all.

“Stay true to Him, Timothy.   He’s everything and more.”

People don’t talk like that anymore.   Indeed, my simple words seem insufficient compared to what Paul handed down to us.   Yet, in the sight of God (because He is God), the same mighty Jesus speaks mildly to our individual hearts when He leads us as He will.  He did it for Paul; he did it for Timothy; He’s doing it for you and me today.

For further reading:   John 8:33-37, 2 Timothy 4:1, 1 Corinthians 1:7, Titus 1:3, Deuteronomy 10:17, Psalm 136:3, Daniel 2:47, Revelation 1:5, Luke 10:7, 1 Timothy 6:13.

Magnificent Lord, all thanks and praise be to You.   Thank You for making Yourself known to us in so many ways.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 19 February 2019.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV).

You’re part of eternity now.   Because of that, you’re in the fight of your life.

This is part of the canon preached by several friends of mine who shepherd churches here in North Texas, but it isn’t just them.   Ministers worldwide preach this simple truth.  We aren’t eternal when we die.   Because of Jesus, we are eternal now.   The moment we receive what Jesus has already done, we are in relationship with Him.   We are adopted as daughters and sons of He who created us. His Spirit can come to live in us.   We are part of His family, part of His church, part of the communion of saints.   The invitation to join in this brotherhood/sisterhood is open to all 7+ billion people here on the Third Rock, yet most people don’t take Jesus up on His invitation.

That doesn’t invalidate the invitation, though.  To be a child of God means being a part of heaven now, part of eternity now, part of the church everlasting now.   We answer the call He made to our hearts; we pick up the gauntlet our Savior knight laid down and acknowledge His redemption of us, protection of our souls.   We come over to His side; we join His group of followers worldwide.  We are family.   Use whatever allegory you wish, we are eternal family.

And it means you take up your sword.   The fallen world is set against the idea of salvation, against Him.   When you accept His free gift of salvation, you are given your armor, you are issued His uniform.  To be a believer in Jesus Christ today means that you will be called on to defend your belief.   When you fight, you realize it isn’t you fighting:   it’s Him.   He does the work, yet He does it through your heart, through your words, through your stand.   It isn’t a call to violence though it is a call to war.  Your weapons aren’t based on fire:   they are the Word of God Himself.   And every time you say “I believe” you swing your sword of truth against the invisible legions of evil who daily war against you, against Him.   At some point, your sword may become a physical one; be ready now for that time when evil may confront you face to face.   Stand firm.   You’re forever.

Make no mistake:   this won’t be easy, but you have your reward now and sealed forever.   Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, if they strike you down, you will become far more powerful than they ever could have imagined.  You’re part of that eternity now.

For further reading:   1 Corinthians 9:25, Philippians 3:12, Matthew 25:46, Hebrews 3:1, 1 Timothy 6:13.

Saving warrior Lord Jesus, I am Your follower and soldier.   Thank You for the pleasure of Your burden and Your eternity now.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 18 February 2019

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  1 Timothy 6:11 (NIV).

Has anyone ever called you “man of God” (or “woman of God”)?   That hasn’t happened to me very often, and that’s ok.   I’d much rather wait to hear God say it to me Himself.   In the meantime, I hope I don’t dishonor Him with what I do going forward.   There isn’t much that can be done about bad things I’ve said and done in the past except pray with God and attempt restoration where possible.  But going forward is unwritten paper.   You and I can fill it with Godly pursuits.

Paul reminds us that those pursuits should include righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.   In fact, if I could impart just one good lesson to my kids and grandkids, except for “love God, then love your neighbor,” it would be verse 11.  Flee from unwholesome things because they’re trouble that can bring you down.   While fleeing from them, pursue other things that are wholesome, and do it in a way that has you pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

That’s a recipe for a happy life, probably a long one.   Yet whether it’s long or short, it’s using our time and talents in living the way God intended for women and men to live.

Pursue righteousness.  Pursue every task in life being Christ-like, just, rightful, honest, and true.

Pursue godliness.   Follow Jesus.   Act like Jesus would.  Model thoughts and behaviors on Him.

Pursue faith.    Faith always provides hope and enough to get through even the toughest days.

Pursue love because anything done without love is done in vain, without God (because God is all love).

Pursue endurance.   Endurance requires honest courage, and honest courage is a gift from God.

Pursue gentleness because even a hard man should be able to relate to others in love, faith, and godliness.   Indeed, perhaps gentleness is the best way to deal with other people because even when toeing a hard line, one can do so gently.

All these things are the opposite of the love of money, or other petty behaviors Paul describes earlier in the book.  Just think of how peaceful our daily lives could be if we conducted our work, home lives, or social (media) interactions by adhering to Paul’s verse 11 advice!   I fall short in measuring up to Paul’s standard; how about you?

If we fall short, perhaps it’s time to admit that, seek forgiveness, then move forward in better ways…better ways described here today.  Maybe if we did that, more of us could describe each other as “man” or “woman of God.”

For further reading:   Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Timothy 3:17, 1 Timothy 2:2, 1 Corinthians 13, 1 Timothy 6:12.

Forgiving God, I have failed to exhibit these good behaviors.   Forgive me, and thank You for an opportunity to do better.   Guide me in doing this today.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 14 February 2019

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV).

This is a greatly mis-quoted verse.   Money itself isn’t the root of all kinds of evil; money is just a tool, even a blessing, that God gives to us.   Loving the tool more than the God who gives it is what is the root of all kinds of evil.   It’s the starting point down paths that lead away from Him.  I know plenty of wealthy people who struggle to keep it together; I know plenty of poor people who do the same yet seem more contented (or is it resigned) with their lot.

Thank God I’m poor, right?   I mean, I’ve been working for over 30 years now and I don’t seem to get ahead.  Well-paying jobs pay me well and it all seems to go out the door.   At this pace, I’ll be working until noon on the day of my funeral.  Perhaps “poor” isn’t the best word since, by the standards of poverty, my family is no where near that.   Perhaps the better description is “monetarily challenged.”

So be it.  It doesn’t keep me up at night.   I choose a different path.

Don’t get me wrong:   I like a buck as much as the next guy.   And I plan on working until I’m 72-74 to make sure I have done all I can to enjoy retirement.   Besides, I enjoy work.   I look at it as a blessing, as a way to use the talents God gave me to better do His work for me in the world.   That includes my career.

Perhaps I’ve learned to be content with how God provides.  That’s a lesson that didn’t come easily after watching my parents financially struggle for decades.  Then making irresponsible choices with my own money, spending too much and investing too little.   Yet through it all, the antidote to loving money is remembering that, every day, God provides abundantly whether we’re monetarily poor or rich.   It seems cliché but if you wake up, God has provided.   If you’re breathing, rested, drinking water, God has provided.  No matter what condition you’re in, if you’re above room temperature, then God has provided all you need to start the day and meet what’s up ahead.   Let’s be content with that first and let the rest come as it will.

Love God and not the money He provides.   When you do that, it becomes easy to become content and realize He’s going to provide whatever we need in all circumstances.   That, and start to tithe.   But let’s save that subject for a different discussion.

For further reading:   1 Timothy 6:11.

Provider Lord, forgive me when I focus more on money and earning than on You and the blessings You give.  Thank You for giving me today, and help me to use today wisely.   

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 13 February 2019

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  1 Timothy 6:9 (NIV).

I prefer to stay on the positive side of this verse.   Those who know me well will find this surprising.   In fact, my wife calls me “Eeyore” because I usually look on the downside of things.   For Everyday Dave, this verse would be a great place to stop.  It’s a lighthouse, warning of rocks just up ahead near the shore.  We’ll probably mess it up anyway.

But that’s an outlook I want to change.  The verse IS a lighthouse, and it’s one that calls us safely home.   Lately, I’ve been daily contemplating Galatians 5, specifically the verses about the fruits of the Spirit.  I read the verses and then look for ways to put them into practice each day, one per month while compounding them.   January was love month; February is love and joy; March will be love, joy, and peace.   You get the idea.  If you haven’t ever really contemplated them, check out Galatians 5:22-23.

Then put them into action because they are the opposite of what Paul describes in verse 9.   And if you think about it, they are the things Paul could say ARE worthy of our attention instead of desire for money, or running into the traps and temptations that lead to ruin and destruction.   How many of us could avoid pitfalls of sin if we would simply find better things on which to focus?   Let’s keep our eyes on the ways Jesus acts, then watch how things begin to improve.

If we are always looking for ways to get ahead, we probably will miss some of the signs around us that point us to ways we can get involved in what Jesus is doing.   Just prior to this verse, Paul had reminded Timothy to be content with only what God provides for our most basic needs.   Anything more than contentment can run the risk of walking the proud walk down the yellow brick road of temptation.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  Man, those are things worth showing off to the world.   They’re the antidote to swallowing too much desire to get rich.   When we talk about focusing on Jesus, a great way to start doing that is by focusing on ways we can let His Spirit remake us around these behaviors He exhibits.  If we do that, when temptations come, it becomes easier to turn from them.   That’s a wealth worth having.

Eeyore might just agree.

For further reading:   Galatians 5:22-23, Proverbs 15:27, Proverbs 28:20, 1 Timothy 6:10.

Magnificent Lord, I’m not always a good follower.   I’ve turned my attention away from You.   Thank You for not turning away from Me, and I ask You to remake me in the ways of Your Spirit today. 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 12 February 2019

But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  1 Timothy 6:8 (NIV).

That seems like a pretty low standard, doesn’t it, just being content with food and clothing?   Unless of course you’re homeless or don’t have a coat in the cold weather.    Or if you’re one of the 815 million people who are, according to the United Nations, starving or undernourished every day (https://www.worldhunger.org/world-hunger-and-poverty-facts-and-statistics/).   If you live in Africa or much of India, you desperately need clean water.   If you’re in the former USSR or Africa or much of South America, you need reliable medical care.  If you’re in North Korea, you need everything.

The writer of Hebrews tells us to be content in all things because, in all things and at all times, God is with us.   He promised to never leave or forsake us whether we’re in plenty or deadly want.  And the writer of Proverbs 30 (most like a man named Agur) tells us that the only thing he really needs is daily bread.   Do the jump to what Jesus said about not living on bread alone but on every word from God and we can quickly see that we don’t even need food.

Sure, you’ll wither and eventually die without food.  Each of us will die someday, yet even as we are dying, God is with us, Jesus is within us, feeling what we feel and dying again a little bit at a time.   As long as we have Jesus, NOTHING else matters, not even food and clothing.   I’ve spent enough time with homeless people to know that Jesus can be found there as well, even among those who desperately need clothing and shelter.

Yet let’s not be irresponsible and not live thankfully for what He provides us.   When we do have food, we have a gift from God and we should be cognizant of that, 24/7.  Disaster can come on us quickly (from weather, a tempestuous planet, or the wiles of hostile government).   When that happens, our needs become even more acute; duh.  That means now is the time to be thankful and content for food and clothing and water and shelter and all the things we take for granted when disasters are far away.

And let’s also keep it real by remembering that, for those suffering in the gulags of North Korea, Cuba, Russia and China, God must seem far away.  Ditto the streets of our cities, the hell-hardship of being trafficked, and in places where people don’t have enough money to pay for food.  Pray for them.   Pray for ways you and I can tangibly help and be used as Jesus’ hands to feed them.   To give them the hope to be thankful as well.

For further reading:   Hebrews 13:5, Proverbs 30:8, Matthew 4:4, 1 Timothy 6:9.

Blessed Lord, I often fail to be thankful for all You provide.  Thank You for everything because You give everything.   Show me a way to share my thankfulness and bounties today.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 11 February 2019

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  1 Timothy 6:7 (NIV).

Donald Trump will die with nothing.   Nancy Pelosi will die with nothing.   Warren Buffet, George Soros, Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and every other billionaire and millionaire on the planet (as well as every politician, factory worker, and blogger) will die with nothing.   You will die with nothing; me too.  When we die, we will return to God as He sent us:  with nothing of this world in our hands or hearts.

Go ahead and have a happy Monday, now.   Especially if the weather is gloomy and cold.   Have fun with that.

No, really.   Have a lot of fun with that.   If you re-read Paul’s statement, you’ll find it’s liberating, maybe the most freedom-loving thing you’ll read all week.

If you love to have every surface in your house gilded in 24 carat gold, you’re in for a surprise because heaven will be full of golden beauty.   If you love being able to use every resource at your disposal for the betterment of society, you’ll be thrilled with heaven because that’ll be one of our primary jobs there.  If you want to hobnob with real power, you’re going to love heaven because you get one on one time with the ultimate power in the universe, God Almighty in His three persons.

All for being buck naked.

Yep.  We are usually buried in some kind of clothing, and who knows if we wear those same outfits when we meet God in the hereafter.   But we are each born naked, without knowledge or possessions or history, and we will each exit this world going back to God who made us without possessions.   Our history will get us to that moment, but it won’t matter when we’re with Jesus.   Our knowledge will culminate in our deaths, but it won’t matter when we meet Jesus, the source of all knowledge.  That’s a good thing because there are things here – like sickness and anger and war and pain – that have no place in heaven.   The things of this world, the stuff, won’t matter either.

All we have here will be for nothing.   Your prized bird’s-eye maple furniture:  can’t take it.   The books you’ve published, written or read:  can take them.   Land you pay for:  it stays.  The car in your garage, duds on your back, bling on your bod:   they all stay here.

We take nothing with us to the afterlife just as we brought no possessions into this world.   And that’s a good thing because the only thing that will matter then is Jesus.   Everything that comes after meeting Him will be extra, will be a blessing, just as it is here, will be a gift from Him.   Thank God we go there with nothing.   THAT is true freedom.

For further reading:   Job 1:21, Psalm 49:17, Ecclesiastes 5:15, 1 Timothy 6:8.

Thank You Lord Jesus for taking me home without anything from here!