Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 28 February 2019

“…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,” 1 Timothy 6:14-15 (NIV).

It isn’t up to you and me.   Jesus, the Lord Jesus Christ, will appear at a time of God’s own choosing.   The Father already knows when it will happen; the Son doesn’t; their Spirit doesn’t.  The Son, Jesus, will appear in the clouds and all the world will see Him, acknowledge Him, revere Him even as many won’t believe it’s actually Him.  You and I (and our world), despite our knowledge and ‘advanced humanity,’ have no say in this in any way.   It isn’t up to us.   It’s up to Him.

It also isn’t up to you and me that God is blessed.   So many folks today spend much of their time hating God.   That isn’t anything new.   It goes all the way back to Cain, even further if you consider the fall of Satan.   Satan hated that God was God and he wasn’t.   So did Cain.   So did every one of us whose sins, small and large, prove we choose anything other than God.  Yet our rebellion from the fact of God Himself doesn’t change the fact that He is blessed to be Himself.   We bless Him with our worship, honor, and love, and He blesses us simply by being Himself, then sharing that with us.   We don’t deserve such goodness, yet He uses our lives to then revere and love others around us.  It’s not about us because it is about Him.   The more we get in touch with that simple fact, the more we become less stressed by the realization that it isn’t up to us that God is holy, blessed, magnificent, just and loving and, well, God.

And it isn’t up to you and me that God is the ONLY ruler, the ultimate king, the Lord above all other earthly lords, the highest authority.   He’s God and we aren’t.   He allows earthly authorities to rule us, or rule over us.   He uses their actions to boundary the lives in which we carry out His work here.   Yet all rulers are subordinate to Him, even the despots.  None is more powerful than the Lord God, and none has the power or dominion that He has.   It’s impossible for them to have those things because we are mere mortals and He isn’t.  God was God and sovereign before the first king, dictator or president, and He will be there when, one day, all bow down in deference to Him.

It’s important to remember these things because we tend to fall away from God if we aren’t frequently reminded.  We fail to show that we know He is God and we aren’t, and we substitute faith in Him with misguided faith in un-divine mankind.

For further reading:   1 Timothy 6:13-21.

Sovereign Lord, You are God, the Only God.   All praise to only You.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 27 November 2018

Command and teach these things. 1 Timothy 4:11 (NIV).

Paul doesn’t mess around.   He says “command and teach.”   Not “go get some proper seminary training first and then wear nice robes and sing boring music.”   And he doesn’t say “you need a college degree for this.”   And Paul doesn’t say “think it over and, if you’re feeling up to it, speak up when you get the chance.”

Command and teach already.   Very Captain Kirk:   boldly go where no man has gone before (or where many have gone but their love has grown cold).   Speak up and speak out.

These words come in the chapter where Paul has given out some broad instructions to his protégé.  The goal is to minister to others as Christ ministered.   The aim is to build up the body of believers into more closely following our Savior in how we think, speak, and act.   It isn’t about a bunch of rules:   it’s about Jesus.

And to better follow Jesus, when one is called to speak up for the faith, COMMAND and teach.   Don’t mess around with it.   Don’t walk around thinking “I can’t do this” because you can; because His Spirit will do the talking and teaching for you.  Stand up and be counted and speak the truth plainly, boldly, convincingly.   Even people of timid nature can be forceful in their convictions.   Command and teach.   Do it confidently because the power you have to do it isn’t your own.   It is the power of Him who sends you:   the living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Yet remember a few things.   The position and ability to command is given by God but respected by men.   Here on the third rock, we earn respect.   If you command and teach in God’s name by humbly submitting to His authority, you’ll be shocked at what He does through you.   When people recognize that, they’ll listen in respect.

And teach wisely.   There’s no shame in not knowing how to do something, but there is shame in knowing you need to know and then doing nothing about it.   Do it in your own way, using your talents and your personality.  Learn to teach and teach to learn.   Do both in submission to Christ.

Finally, before commanding or teaching, go first to Jesus and seek His counsel.  He is the King of the World and knows what He’s doing.    Pray.   Immerse yourself in the Word.   Open your heart to Him and wait on Him to act; go Psalm 46.   He will, in His own good time, and everyone will see it.

When He does, get up and get going.  Command and teach.   Don’t be a jerk about it; Jesus was never a jerk.   We shouldn’t be either.   But stand firm and speak up.

For further reading: Psalm 46:10-11, 1 Timothy 5:7, 1 Timothy 4:12

Lord, put Your words in my mind and mouth, and help me to command and teach in Your name.   Help me to do it humbly, wisely, and confidently.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 3 April 2018

For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.   1 Thessalonians 4:1 (NIV).

Let’s be real:  this verse sounds like a parent calling you out.  “Don’t make me say it again!”  Or your mom calls you by your middle name; “DAVID LEE COME HERE RIGHT NOW!”  We know Paul was the man who met Jesus on the road into Syria, and we know Jesus instituted a personal ministry into Paul.  Now here’s Paul saying he didn’t just say the things he did by his own authority but, instead, BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE LORD JESUS.

Throwdown, baby.  But not really.

Here’s a mind-blower:   you have that same authority.   When you speak from your follower’s heart, you’re speaking with the authority of the Lord Jesus.  When you tell what you believe, you’re speaking in the Lord Jesus.   When you follow Jesus, you speak with His authority.   When you say, “yeah, I believe in Him,” you’re standing up for Him and He’s speaking through you.  What will you do with that?   Perhaps a better question would be “what will it do with you?”

Face it:  this faith-walk thing can be crazy.  Up and down struggles, hypocrisy with overflowing blessings and gratitude for things you don’t deserve, real peace with real conflict:  being a believer in Jesus is the most real thing you can do.  And what are the instructions Jesus gives us through men and women like Paul?  Love the Lord you God with all your heart and all your mind.  When you’ve done that, repeat, then love your neighbor (i.e. everyone else) the same way.

Simple, right?

I bet the Thessalonians struggled with doing it.   We do; we probably aren’t much different from them, at least not temperamentally.   So Paul reminded them that he taught them the ways of Jesus by Jesus’ own authority.  It came straight from the top.  He spoke with wisdom and power and grace:   just like Jesus would.   But the Thessalonians were like us, and we’re like Paul.   We’re sinners, and we constantly need Jesus’ re-affirming wisdom, power and grace.  We need reminders to love God with all our hearts and minds; we need constant reminders to love each other with that same devotion.  When you fall down, when you slip into old habits, when you’re just having a rough day, you and I need reminders that Jesus is still living in us, speaking through us.   That we still speak and act in His authority.   Those reminders help us break through the fog and get back up when we’ve been knocked down.

So maybe it’s a more than good thing to hear my parents calling me out.

For further reading:   Luke 10:27, 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

Lord Jesus, speak through me today.   Speak Your authority over my words and actions, and help me to do Your bidding where I am today.

 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 15 February 2018

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.  1 Thessalonians 2:5-6

Let’s talk about your authority as a follower of Jesus.   You do realize you have a LOT of authority because you follow Jesus, right?

But before talking about that, a few caveats.   First of all, let’s not be jerks about it.   Following Jesus is a privilege, a good thing, not a reason to be unkind.  Christianity isn’t a game of “I’m better than you” or “I’ve got a secret.”  It’s about giving glory to Christ by living in ways that make people want to know about Him.  That’s hard to do if we’re being jerks.   How about we try to listen, stay quiet, and be still instead?

And it’s not about memorizing a ton of Bible verses, being able to sing every hymn in the hymnal, or showing up to every service because you think it’s expected of you.  Being a follower of Jesus also doesn’t mean not enjoying yourself.   Do you think Jesus liked to laugh, preferred smiling to frowning, thought it was better to go through life with a positive outlook than a negative one?

All that being said, you have authority because you are a person who is personally forgiven of the eternal consequences of your sins by the very creator of the universe Himself.   You are an immortal being – yes, I mean that – whose life here is only a precursor of an eternal life that comes after.   You have been given the privilege of sharing personal news from the Savior of all mankind, namely that He wants everyone to know Him the way you do.   You have a one-on-one relationship with the only person in human history who foretold His own resurrection, who fulfilled over 300 ancient prophecies, and who took on the sins of all mankind so mankind wouldn’t suffer for them.

Brother (or sister), if that doesn’t give you authority to speak as Jesus’ representative, nothing does.

There are formal officers and leaders in the church, men and women who are ecclesiastically trained for their jobs.   They have formal Christian authority, but don’t forget they’re just men and women, sinners like you and me; some of them even read this blog.  And there are many Christians who walk their walk better than you or I do; that’s true.   But don’t ever forget that you have authority, given to you by God the minute you said “I believe”, to proclaim Him as Lord in your own special way.   Don’t get cocky about it, but don’t ever forget that nobody can take it away from you either.

For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:7.

Lord, thank You for giving me authority in my life to witness for You.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 9 October 2017

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”  The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”  Hebrews 12, verses 18-21.

Are you seeing as I am that it takes effort and study to understand the Bible?   A few nights ago, a pastor I know said that he thought simply turning to the Bible and picking a random verse for advice was dangerous.   If you randomly pick a verse and expect it to give you life-altering advice, you’re subjecting God to a game of Russian Roulette where you hold the gun against the other guy’s head.  I understand his point, because context matters, background matters.   You may not have a degree in hermaneutics or have a bookshelf full of commentaries, but knowing a little bit about the verses you read might just help you to understand them (and what they’re saying) better.  A good website for this is http://thetorah.com/what-happened-at-mount-sinai/.

The background of these verses is, as you’ve guessed, from the time of the Ten Commandments.  God led the people of Israel to Sinai, His holy place.   There He would minister to them and give them His commandments for how to live in the world.   To protect them, He ordered Moses to set up boundaries so that no one would set foot onto God’s holy mountain in some disrespectful way.  It was for them, not Him.  Why wouldn’t God want His people to flock to Him?   The answer is in the millennial joke:  “it’s you, not me.”   Putting it simply, it was the people’s sins.

God can’t be unholy.   Un-holiness is against His nature.   He can’t tolerate it.  Specifically, it seems like the sin of disrespect would be one He would not tolerate.   For the people to accept His holy law, God wanted to ready them.   So He gave them instructions to follow.   “Stay off the mountain.”  Listen to God and He teaches.  God would speak to them through Moses, and in doing so He would affirm Moses’ leadership over them.   That’s a practical as well as spiritual matter, you know.   2 million souls wandering hungrily in unfamiliar territory needed a leader.  They didn’t need another pharaoh or some strongman:   they needed an authority.   God speaks to them directly from the mountain, but at a distance to gather their attention and to set up some ground rules.  By acting through Moses and by requiring the Israelites to follow directions, God installs Moses as leader and affirms that authority.   What’s more, when God speaks directly from Sinai, He has Moses stand above the people, in-between them and Himself.   He couldn’t have told them any clearer:   “This guy Moses is my spokesman here.   Listen to him.”

Then why would He allow un-holy Moses to stand in His presence?  There wasn’t anything special about Moses regarding his sinful nature.   Moses was a sinner just like the rest of the Israelites.   Perhaps it was that God knew how Israel would rebel in Moses’ absence.   Don’t forget that Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and nights, fasting and being made ready to receive God’s direct commandments.   During that time, Israel defied God and made itself an idol for worship, then they partied like a one-hit wonder on Grammy night.   Moses wasn’t a part of that (reaffirming again his status as above this sin).  Can you imagine the terror of seeing Moses descending from the mountain that first time, carrying two stone tablets, his anger burning stronger with each step down?   Can you imagine the thunder and shaking earth and the fire spewing from the mountain in front of you when God’s wrath was poured out on the rebellious deserters?

It must have been a fearful thing to have been one of the thousands freed from Egypt and then wandering to this strange place in Midian.   It must have been frightening to journey to a mountain where fire, smoke, thunder, and earthquakes were common indicators of the uncommon God occupying it.   It must have been terrifying to see God’s representative coming down to find that you’ve been unfaithful.   And it is always humbling to have to submit to someone’s authority when you know they have every right to rebuke you.

There is a better way.   The better way is to follow as soon as you hear you should.   God never leads people in unjust ways.   His path is always good and for good.   If you want to avoid the stern teaching of a harsh rebuke, or if you fear the fire and brimstone, then live your life in such a way as to make them un-threatening to you.   It really is that simple.  As Billy Currington might have said, thank God for good directions.

For further reading:  Exodus 19:12-22, Deuteronomy 4:11-12, Exodus 20:18, Deuteronomy 5:5 & 25, Deuteronomy 9:19.

Lord, thank You for Your fire, Your high standards, Your good directions, and the hard lessons You taught our ancestors..