Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 10 April 2019

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.   2 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV).

In Roman times, unless you were Julius Caesar, this was true.   In our times, it’s still true.  Twelve of our presidents were generals in the Army, most of them serving during the Civil War, yet no general has been president since Dwight Eisenhower, and out of our last four presidents (including the current one), only one has even served in the military.  Today, the US military is the smallest it has been since the early 1930s even as the ‘military industrial complex’ (a term coined by General Eisenhower during his farewell address as president) continues to have great influence in the affairs of government.  I dare say that this same situation is likely true in most countries of the West.

Despite all this, soldiers, sailors, and airmen don’t usually get involved in non-military matters.   They do their jobs and then go home, eventually returning to civilian status themselves.  Until that day, they serve under commanders who they work to please.   Those who command you have great influence and power over your situation.   They can control your daily work, even your daily routine outside the workplace.   They influence your career with evaluation ratings, future assignment choices, and present duties assigned.   Those in command above you can make your life pleasant or hellish.   And they hold the power to enforce orders that may very well lead to your death.

Suffering in the US military is WAY different from suffering in, shall we say, the North Korean military (where you may still starve and be beaten indiscriminately).  Yet nobody who has seen war could ever say that war – the primary business of a soldier – isn’t suffering, isn’t persecution.   In that knowledge, the analogy makes sense because we of the Lord’s Army soldier on for Him.   Occasionally that means suffering.   Persecution – yes, it really happens – and discrimination (that happens too, especially in corporate America), ridicule, rejection, hatred, and even death:   all of those await the person who stands up to say “I believe in Jesus.”

Yet we march on, refusing to let ourselves be dragged into the ‘civilian affairs’ of living as the world commands.   We learn self-control by submitting ourselves to His control.   We get to live out the fruits of His Spirit as our line advances, overtaking the world’s evil by living His good.   We sometimes fail; sometimes the line falters and we fall back.   Sometimes, when we allow ourselves to be swayed by the world, we suffer.  Yet our cause of Christ always advances, even in adversity, because He walks before us.  We work to please Jesus.  We soldier on.

For further reading:  Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Timothy 2:5.

General Savior, lead me, Your soldier, today.   Command and guide me to follow Your words and not the tempting ways of the world around me.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 21 September 2017

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  Hebrews 12, verses 9-10.

The other day I mentioned my parents, stating that they weren’t physical disciplinarians.   After my sister and I entered elementary school, I don’t remember Mom or Dad ever spanking us.   Especially Dad.   Spanking and physical discipline just wasn’t part of him.  Yet for years I thought my father was a weak man.   It was only after I grew up that I realized how wrong I was, that he was actually a good and fundamentally decent man who stood fast on principles.   Dad ‘shook off’ a lot because, if it didn’t interfere with his principles, then it didn’t matter so much.  But he rarely gave an inch when his principles were called into question.

One of those principles was that a person, especially a man, should always do their best.   I never really knew the side of my father who worked in an office.   Dad was an ammunition inspector for the Army, and I don’t recall ever seeing him in the office (because he worked on Army bases where we usually didn’t go).   But I have a box full of awards from his 30 years of work testifying that he had always done a great job.   I do remember Dad working around the house, doing all kinds of home improvements.   He self-taught those things; nobody taught him how fix electrical wiring, hang drywall, or make home repairs.   When I was growing up, except for a two year period where we lived in a house that needed no work, I don’t think I could have named a weekend when my dad didn’t work hard at something.

He always did his best.

Since I got out of the Air Force 21 years ago I have worked for eight different companies (nine if you count my own in that I’m currently an independent consultant).   I can honestly say that, for most of those jobs, I did my best.   A few times I didn’t, and one time I didn’t cost me a job last year.   I felt betrayed by those people; maybe some day I’ll share the rest of the story.   But the long and short of it was that they abandoned me so I abandoned them and it showed in my work.   These days, I love what I’m doing.   I enjoy the work, I really enjoy the team I’m working with and the ones I’m leading, and I am energized at the challenge of the task.   It’s a pleasure to do my best.   When you think about it, I wouldn’t be where I am in this job if “those people” last year hadn’t launched me along the trajectory I’m traveling today.   That’s something to be thankful for.  See what happens when you do your best?

Have you considered that God is doing His best as well?   Moreover, He’s doing it for you, on your behalf, for your good.    God made you legitimate.  He bought you back from the consequences of your sins and set you on a better path.  He gave His Son for you.  He gives you food, air, water, shelter, other people, and love and you don’t have to do anything to deserve them.   You and I are on God’s mind 24/7 even when He isn’t on ours.   Have we really considered that God does His best for us every day, even when we refuse to notice?

It seems so easy to question God when things aren’t going well for us.   It seems so easy to curse His name when we’re up against the wall, or when we don’t get what we want.   Yet have you considered that these are times when God allows (or brings) adversity into our lives to refine us for better things?   I know this is true in my own life, and it hurts when it happens.   But things always turn out for the best eventually.  God gives us only what we can handle and asks us to handle the negative things only so that it will lead us back to Him somehow.   Through them all, He still provides those things mentioned above whether we are in want or in plenty.

God’s a father like me, like my dad.   He gives us His best in all things.   It’s a trustworthy, true thing to believe, to make the bedrock of your life.  Today would be a good day to make sure we do the same for others because of Him.

For further reading:  Numbers 16:22, Revelation 22:6, Isaiah 38:16, 2 Peter 1:4.

Lord, thank You for doing Your best for me.   Your best is simply You because nothing is better than You.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 23 August 2017

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.  Hebrews 11, verse 29.

If pop culture wrote the Bible, this verse might say, “by faith they all survived the eclipse of 2017.”  Did you see the eclipse in America this week?  From all the media hype, one might have thought the world was ending.   From what really happened, it was a cool astrophysical yawn.  As are all such things, in fact.  They’re predicted by mathematics (itself a wondrously baffling knowledge gift from God).  Any astronomer who didn’t want to be on TV could have told you that, barring a miracle, the moon would pass between the Sun and the Earth without incident.   Animals (like reporters) would get a little freaked out by the mid-day darkness, but most everything would hum along just fine, which is what happened.  Eclipses happen about every 18 months or so someplace across the Earth.   This one was unique because it would be visible by the easily sensitive US media.  Unusual but, in reality, no big deal.

Unlike crossing the Red Sea, which wasn’t witnessed by the network news.   Four thousand or more years after it happened, we’re still talking about it (but the media isn’t).   We’re still talking about it because Moses, who wrote the book of Exodus, recorded for us what happened.

You know the account.   Pharaoh finally obeyed God’s command to free Israel from slavery.   Yet Pharaoh also soon developed a royal case of buyer’s remorse.   He summoned his army and they set out to chase the departing Israelites.   When the Israelites found themselves bounded on one side by the approaching Egyptian host and on the other by the unmovable Red Sea, God delivered a miracle.   He moved the Sea, cleared a path, and dried up the ground.   Israel quickly hurried through, followed in close pursuit by the Egyptians.   When the last Israelite was clear of the ocean, God closed up the Sea over the Egyptian Army and drowned them.

All because of faith.

Faith?   I thought it was because of God!   Of course it was because of God, but the reason the Israelites made it through and the Egyptians died was that Israel had faith in God.  They believed God would deliver them and He did.   The Egyptians, despite four hundred years of exposure to the faith of the Israelites, had no faith in God.   So God turned them over to the consequences of their unbelief and they drowned.   Would they have lived if they had faith?   Who knows; ask the Lord.   I like to think that, if God saved Israel because of its faith, He would have saved anyone else who believed.

Can you imagine hurrying through the walled up Red Sea?   Walls of sheer, rushing water held back by, it would have seemed, nothing.   The noise, the spray, the terror of walking through such power on display:  if you didn’t believe in God when you stepped down onto that path, you would have definitely believed on the other side.   Perhaps there never was before or never has been since such a muscular display of God’s raw power.  Perhaps, that is, until that first Easter Sunday.  But that wouldn’t come for most of another two millennia.  We know about Jesus’ resurrection and the power of God displayed in it, the power of God over death.   All Israel got to see His power on display over war, specifically that army which designed to bring war and death upon them had death brought on itself instead.  The best made plans of the unbelieving Pharaoh were, once again, made to not be so.

Just like it wasn’t to be this week that the world would end because the moon traveled between us and the Sun.   Out here in East Texas, it got dark during the peak time.   I made a pinhole viewer and saw the obscured sun through that pinhole.   I also saw the crescent shapes outlined in tree leaf shadows on the ground.   Stupid me, I forgot to look through a welding helmet.   But I and so many others had faith that this was just a natural phenomena, a display of God’s power of astronomy, gravity, and interplanetary motion.  Come to Texas in 2024 for the next one.   I hope we don’t have to view it while on the run from armed charioteers.

For further reading:  Exodus 14:21-31.

Lord God, thank You for the miracle You did in saving the Israelites at the Red Sea.   Thank You for preserving this story of faith for us here today.