Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 27 January 2020

For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:21. (EHV).

We’re people:   this is what we do.   Our own interests are the reasons for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and every other social media platform we have.    When something happens, our first, our go-to, reaction is to react based on how it affects us; what we think, how we feel, why this affects us and our opinions.

Kobe Bryant died yesterday.   But let’s be real and ask when was the last time you or I honestly considered Kobe Bryant?   He retired a few years ago.  He was another among thousands of athletes and entertainers even as he was surely one of the best to ever play his game.   From what I’ve read, he later became a devout Catholic who spent much his time split between his family and charity work.  Part of me wonders if he was working to make amends for what happened in Colorado years ago.   We’ll never know, so let’s, instead, pray for peace for a family left to grieve.

So what was your reaction when you first heard that this celebrity had died?   Stop in your tracks and consider those words “your reaction.”   Because when things happen, our first natural instinct is to consider how they affect us.   Psychologically, even physiologically, that’s probably a healthy thing.   We need to first safeguard our biological selves any time something happens around us.   Is it a danger to me?   What does it mean, and then what does it mean to me?  Considering things in the light of how they affect ourselves is actually understandable and realistic.

Yet we must not allow our consideration to end there.   Paul rightly cautions us that our self-focus can prevent us from focusing on what Jesus is doing, what Jesus wants, how this affects our lives with Jesus.  If all we do is each consider only our own interests, then this world breaks down quickly.   We have to learn to take our thoughts captive and re-direct them towards God.   The better way is to submit our thoughts, our reactions, our pro-actions to Christ and let Him take the lead in whatever comes next.

I’m not much of a basketball fan, yet even I appreciate the natural talent of a Kobe Bryant. More important than some game or even unproven actions, he later spent considerable time and resources helping inner-city kids succeed.   Yet beyond how this affects our community at large, let’s take captive those thoughts and give them over to Christ, then celebrate that Kobe and his daughter got their “well done” from Jesus yesterday.   For them, like others who died in the faith, yesterday was the best day of their lives and the start of the most important part.  That matters so much more.

For further reading:   1 Corinthians 10:24, Philippians 2:22

Lord Jesus, encourage me all the time to submit all my thoughts to You.   Thank You.

 

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 11 April 2019

Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.   2 Timothy 2:5 (NIV).

My wife and I have an ongoing rib about rule-following.   She’s a dedicated rule-follower.   I’m more of a rebel.   It wasn’t always this way; over the years we’ve switched roles.   That happens in relationships.   But, overall, one of her more admirable character traits is her devotion to following rules, staying in-between the guidelines.

This character gift stems from the years she grew up playing in competitive sports.   Basketball, volleyball, and especially softball:  my wife played on numerous teams over the years.   She has a box full of trophies that testify how she was good at it, too.  I never played organized sports.   My parents were anti-athletic, discouraging me from team athletics   I never took the time to learn how to compete by the rules, or train for the race, or run a victory lap.   It’s one of the things I would do over if I could.

Still, that doesn’t negate what Paul says here in verse 5.  In Paul’s day, the Greeks still conducted the Olympic Games.   Thus, his verse here would have meant something to the people of that day who were familiar with the athletic culture that surrounded the games.  They would have understood what it meant to prepare for competition, to race against the best in the sport, and to do so within the confines of rules that made competition fair.   And they would have understood that the competition was for a trophy and the glory that comes with it, both of which don’t last.  If they last, then tell me who were the great champions in the ancient Olympic Games that ran for over a thousand years?

Jesus does that same thing, you know.

Jesus says that human glory dies but He doesn’t.   Jesus knows that the trophy for which we strive – the cross – was already won by Him for us.   Jesus understands that we prepare every day for competition, to race our races, and that He lives within us to encourage us to strive for what is best, competition or otherwise.  And Jesus knows that so much of our life is made up of living in a culture that requires we abide by rules, how His rules – love God and love your neighbor – supersede all human rules while helping us to still live within them.

More and more, I think that’s why my wife is such a rule-follower.   She is constantly improving her outlook, her behavior to live more like Jesus, to share His Spirit with others in how she conducts herself.   THAT is the race she sets out to run every day, and she’s much better at it than I am.  That’s the race that matters.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 9:25, Mark 12:30-31, 2 Timothy 2:6.

Lord, help me run my race today!  Thank You for running with me.