Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 23 July 2019

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  Titus 1:15-16 (NIV).

Before moving on from these verses, we have to talk (again) about sin.   Remember from last time how I said that a friend called me out for calling out a specific thing as sinful.   And that sin is a destroyer.   And, more important than these, that Jesus annihilated sin by confronting it and leading us from it.

Here is a partial list of my many sins:  being unloving, lying, ungratefulness, adultery, blasphemy, theft, anger, hatred, intolerance, judgmentalism, lust, unkindness, unfaithfulness, coveting, dishonor, unrighteousness, vulgarity, immorality, envy, greed, disobedience, drunkenness, rebelliousness, sloth.

Need I go on?   These are just a few that rattle off the top of my head.   There are more.  I regret them.   I’m sorry I did them.   I’m even more sorry I hurt others in doing them.   If all I focused on was my sins, I couldn’t function.  Indeed, there would be no point in going on if the only thing worth living for was evil, more sin.

The thing about it is, when you’re living in the middle it, those sins are all you want.   They’re a twisted poison that infects your heart and mind.   They’re a heroin rush.  They’re slavery disguised as freedom.  You think they’ll make you happy but you know deep inside that’s really a lie.  You say you believe in God but you never really do.   You refuse to give yourself over to God, so hypocrisy simply becomes yet another sin you’ll just live with.  You don’t like it; you don’t even want it, except you do.   Except they occupy your thoughts and become your focus.

Jesus rewires that thinking.

His focus is purity; His purity.  He longs for you to have it.  He looks into your heart and sees someone better.   He looks at you and says to you, “let me take that from you.”   He sees those sins and asks you to give them over to Him, so that He can carry the guilt and the hurt and the shame and the impurity of them.   He who is only that purity and has no sin takes your sins and takes them off you so that you don’t have to deal with them anymore.   He offers you true freedom.

And even after that happens, we make mistakes.   Even after, we deal with the consequences of our actions in that past ‘life.’  Even then, He is with us, helping us to stand, helping us to keep our focus on Him.   Helping us to apologize when we do wrong.   And helping us to stay free by resisting the temptation to fall back.

For further reading:  Titus 2:1

Pure, saving Jesus, thank You for saving me!

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Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 27 January 2015

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear. Mark 4, verses 1-9.

Let’s take another look a couple more things about it that matter before we move on from this parable.

“Went out to sow his seed:” the work of the Lord is work indeed. The work of Christ is to tell others about Him, and that takes hard work.   This world is a place set against Christ, and most people in the world don’t want to hear this message of salvation, love, and peace because it requires effort from them. But have you ever been involved in a big project?   On a project team, though everyone has common goals, meeting those goals requires thousands of daily interactions, achievements, and individual contributions. Everyone’s contribution matters. It takes work to achieve a major objective.   Christ knew this, and He knew that there could be no objective more serious than the eternity of a human soul. He knew that the message He preached would challenge many and upend the order of things, and that to spread that message would take work.

That work would be necessary because the ways of the world – the things of the world – will still be around no matter how we receive God’s word.   The Pharisees and other sects of Jesus’ day were pulled away from hearing Jesus’ word.   Are we any different?   It isn’t just modern technology, affluence, or peer pressure competing with the Gospel for our hearts.   There are untold other temptations and realities with which we must grapple just to stay alive. Strip away the trappings and veneer of the twenty-first century and you’ll find the core matters of the heart aren’t much different from those that were covered over by more primitive veneers during the first-century time of Christ.   Lust, greed, anger, lying, envy, hurt:   those aren’t things that are unique to those of us living today.   Jesus knew that too.

Finally, Jesus knew that not everyone would listen. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” This is a message for everyone that not everyone will take to heart. Everyone has ears but does everyone truly listen?   Don’t we each know people who hold fast to their faith as they are dying, while knowing other people who reject Christ with passion? I know them; I bet you do too. Jesus knew His message would require hearing with the heart instead of just hearing with our ears and not everyone would be willing to listen.

Lord, whatever happens in my life today, I am following You.

Read Mark 4, verses 1-20.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 17 October 2014

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. Mark 1, verses 40-42.

Here in America, there are two stories that have been traveling around the internet this month.   Both are apparently true.   One is the story of a woman who is dying of cancer and has vowed to kill herself on November 1st.   She says she has nothing to live for and it is too painful to think of the physical agony that is dying of cancer.   The other story is about a letter a woman has written to the child in her womb: the child she is vowing to abort next week because the woman “isn’t ready to be your mommy.”   The letter says how the woman thinks the unborn child will be better off being aborted than being in a world where single Mommy would have to struggle just to make emotional and physical ends meet.

Let’s reserve judgment on woman; we sinners must judge not lest we be fairly judged in return.   Instead, let me ask you this:   do you think Jesus is indignant about your condition? Jesus was indignant about the condition of the man with leprosy  He wasn’t mad at the man himself. The man who had leprosy didn’t get leprosy because he was sinful:   he got it because it was leprosy.   The disease got him and not the other way around. The way it reads, Jesus was mad that one of His beloved was sick.

I’d be mad too if someone, a complete stranger to those around me, came up to me begging and expressing profound faith in me.   “If you are willing.” What a statement!   It’s like saying “I know you can do this, and I know that I’m not worth your time, and I know you have so many better things to do, but I believe in you because I know you are who people say you are.” Wouldn’t you be moved if someone said that to you?   Fully God yet fully man, Jesus was. Within seconds, Jesus touched the man and spoke, and the man’s years-long affliction was cured.

Jesus was angry, offended, PISSED OFF that the person He loved was afflicted by sin.

Getting back to the women in the news, perhaps Jesus is indignant about their condition as well.   It’s a terrible, horrible thing to see someone You love dying in a terrible, horrible way.   I wonder if that’s what Jesus feels for the dying woman.   And it’s an awful thing to see someone You love so much overtaken by fear and shame to the point that they want to kill the miracle You have entrusted to them.   It’s awful to watch people go through the spiritual, emotional, and physical agonies these women must be going through; again, let’s not jump to any other judgment.   They’re people in trouble and they need Jesus now more than ever. I’m wondering, then, if Jesus isn’t indignant over their predicaments, angry that His beloved are afflicted with sin and death.   Every time you or I sin, I wonder if the same thing isn’t true.

Lord, help me to avoid or turn back sin today, but when it happens, be indignant for me and love me.

Read the entire story in Mark 1.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 13 September 2013

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  James 1, verse 21.

I never realized that my tripwire temper was morally filthy.

My son and I watched “The Exorcist” the other day and it had been years since I had seen it.   I had forgotten the stark contrasts between Ellen Burstyn’s 12 year old innocent girl and the evil demon who possessed her.   The moral filth that spewed from the mouth of the demon was much more than just anger. 

But, today, James is telling us that our anger is the same.   When I get angry, I’m evil.  Yes, you heard it:   evil.  Not upset, not ticked off:  evil.  James equates that anger to the moral filth that you and I see every day.   Torture porn, chemical weapons attacks, murdering little children, the very worst of skid row:   we’re no better.   You and I are guilty of moral filth when we go to sleep angry at someone, or hold life-long grudges, or refuse forgiveness.  Whenever I lose my temper, I’m guilty of spreading evil moral filth.

Have a good weekend thinking that think.

It’s not just James.   The words come from the top.  Jesus Himself said that someone who is angry has committed murder in his heart; see Matthew 5:22.  If you don’t believe me, believe James.   If you don’t agree with James, take it up with the Man Upstairs.   The words are His.

Along with those words are the way out.   Notice how James doesn’t even finish the sentence of law before he offers Christ’s gospel remedy.  When we humbly accept the word planted in us, Christ saves us.   He saved us once for all, yet we accept that salvation again and again because we keep messing up again and again.  The cure for our anger is Jesus’ patient love.   The remedy for all evil is Jesus’ love.   The solution for all moral filth that springs from us is Jesus’ love.   It’s not some Pollyanna-ish wish:   it’s a real and living medicine.   Jesus’ forgiveness always turns us away from our sins.   His Word always heals; His word always tells of the path we chose.

We can choose His word instead.

In the movie, when all medicine had failed, Ellen Burstyn turned to faith.   Her skeptical faith was rewarded through real spiritual warriors who willingly entered into combat.   They didn’t mince words:   they confronted the demon head-on and drove it out.   Maybe you or I don’t need Max Von Sydow; we’ll save that topic for another time.   But we passionately need the power that spoke through him to exorcise the evil anger and the moral filth that comes from it.

Lord, I desperately need You in my life right now.   I believe in Your patient love and ask you to take away my sin.

 

What good has sprung from your anger?

Where do you need Jesus’ help (trick question)?

What do you intend to do about that?

Daily Proverbial, from James, 12 September 2013

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  James 1, verses 19-20.

My project is experiencing delay.   We are one year out from implementation of changing codes and practices that have been in place for over forty years and we are experiencing yet more delay.   It’s true, there are valid business reasons for this; competing projects, unavailability of resources, limited funds, simple overwork, and corporate intransigence.  As a project manager, my client is paying me to advise them on how to avert crises, then make plans for how to still complete our tasks.   Some days that seems for naught because, when all’s said and done, we’re being delayed, and every delay increases risk, cost, and the likelihood of problems.

It makes me angry.

Now, it’s true that there are situations where it’s ok to become angry.  Dictionary.com defines anger as “a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire.”   Fair enough.  Jesus understood anger.   He became angry at the moneychangers in the temple.   He strongly but angrily defeated Satan in the desert when the devil tempted Him.   He rebuked His close friend Peter when Peter displayed ignorance and pride.  Anger can be ok.   Within us, it’s a hard-wired psychological response to a physiological condition.   God calls us to tap into that condition on matters that offend Him.   When we’re confronted with actions, words, etc that are contrary to Jesus, He tells us that it’s ok to be angered by them so that constructive action for the betterment of the Kingdom may result.   Righteous anger should lead only to righteous following.

Yet James, inspired by his Brother, reminded us of the fine line between human anger and the righteous anger of challenged faith.  He reminds us that, even when being righteously angered, we should temper it.  Temper the anger with patience and wisdom instead of fueling it with impetuousness.  Looking and listening serve to inform and may just open our eyes to things God may be doing in the moment.  If there is a need for our anger, that need will only be correctly focused if it is better informed by Him. 

Those are good lessons to remember today when I jump back into project meetings.   It’s not that the customer is always right, especially as regards delaying things that shouldn’t be delayed.   It’s their decision and their prerogative.  I serve my customer better by offering choices, outlining consequences, and planning for contingencies.  The way to do that is to listen, to keep my mind on first principles, and to pay attention to what God is doing in things that would otherwise have fueled my sinful anger.

Lord Jesus, teach me more to be angry only at the things that anger You.   Remind me, I ask, to listen, watch, and learn to better be led by You.

 

Is your anger on a tripwire?

What things anger you?

Is your anger a reaction or is it righteous?