Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 24 February 2020

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.  Philippians 3:17 (EHV).

Let’s imitate Paul in how we think, live, and worship.  More than that, let’s imitate Jesus in how we think, love, and live.

And let’s admit it (again):  we stink at modeling Jesus (and Paul).   Jesus is upright and moral; I’m not, even as I know I’m forgiven.   Jesus judges against His standard of loving justice; I’m just ‘judgy.’   Jesus is kind; I’ve been a jerk.  Jesus forgives EVERY sin, even the little ones I’ve forgotten (because, news flash:   there really is no such thing as a little sin.   Sin is sin.   It’s all rebellion against the Lord).   Jesus loves perfectly; I love conditionally, even the people I love most.

So when someone (like me) asks me to follow Jesus better and join together in living better for Christ, I immediately know I have a lot of work to do.   I’m convicted by it; I see my own sins of the past and want to do better now.  Just yesterday, I found out that a long-time friend on Facebook (and in my personal circle as well) had de-friended me.   This is someone I have known for years.   Whether it was an accident or on purpose I don’t know but it made me wonder:   did they see me or harsh things I’ve said online or things that are un-Christian and decide they’d had enough?   Would I want to see myself from that person’s point of view and, if I did, would I like who I saw?   Would I maybe not want to be friends with me, either?

Let’s be real:   being de-friended online isn’t a big deal.   But since all things serve Jesus, maybe this incident is a good thing.  Another news flash:   those sins of the past and my failures or unkind words?   They’re in the past.     Jesus has forgiven them.  Who knows what hostile effect, what harm I’ve done, that I can’t undo?  What should define me now is Christ alone.   In order to cleave better to Him, I (and maybe we) need to do a better job on keeping my eye on Him, on those who model His behavior.   That doesn’t mean compromising who we are (unless who we are compromises our faith).   And that doesn’t mean not taking a stand (unless that stand makes you stand between Jesus and someone else).   But it does mean watching Him and those who live out His behaviors and then changing how I think and act in response.   It means real repentance.   It means honest change and patience and caring.

Maybe it’s a bigger deal than it seems.

For further reading:   1 Corinthians 4:16, 1 Timothy 4:12, Philippians 3:17.

Lord Jesus, teach me today to better model my thoughts and actions after Yours and those of Your devout followers.   And help me to see myself through someone else’s eyes.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 17 January 2018

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  1 Thessalonians 1:6-7.

People are watching.   That’s one of the most urgent reasons why we should walk the walk and talk the talk.   It’s also one of the things I really stink at doing.  If you don’t walk the walk and talk the talk, people quickly notice because people are always watching.  People are quick to find out if you’re a fraud or a hypocrite.

Have you ever had to learn to do something strictly by rote?   There’s a reason.   And have you ever had to watch what you say around kids?   Kids who are learning to talk will imitate what adults say.   They are always watching.   And what about the jackals of the press?   Sure, a free and independent media is crucial to keeping government within its boundaries but it seems like the American press is everywhere these days and reporting EVERYTHING, fact and fiction alike.   What’s more, we the people enthusiastically gobble up what they feed us.

It’s because we’re watching.   We’re watching each other and learning to imitate what we hear, see and do.

Paul praised the church members in Thessalonica for imitating the behavior he and his companions exhibited.  What was that behavior?   Loving on each other; forgiveness; understanding; patience; forbearance; self-discipline; empathy and caring; you know, the behaviors Jesus demonstrated.  These new believers acted the way they saw their ‘prophets’ acting and, in doing so, led a revolution around them.   It was how the church spread so quickly, not by the sword (as happened later with Islam) but by the conduct of these Jesus followers.   And it did indeed spread quickly, in a generation growing from 12 frightened commoners in Jerusalem to millions of followers through Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, north Africa, and up into southern Europe.

Because people were watching.

Got skin, got sin.   We are always works in progress, but there’s always work to be done on this matter.  Folks who don’t believe are watching us for signs of our hypocrisy, whether it’s foul language, philandering, dishonesty, or what we post on social media.   I’m so guilty of messing up in all these areas; how about you?  Do you ever wonder if unbelievers are actually watching, though, more for reasons to believe instead of just how to trip us up?   We mustn’t let them down.  If, like me, you think you’re guilty of not walking the walk, chances are you are.   The solution, then, is to go back to basics and imitate Paul, Silas, and Timothy.   They imitated Jesus.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 4:16, Acts 17:5-10, 2 Corinthians 6:10, 1 Timothy 4:12, Acts 16:9, Acts 18:12, 1 Thessalonians 8-10.

Lord, please forgive me when I fail you by not living what I believe.   Help me to do better today.

Practical Proverbial, the Ten Commandments, 13 May 2014

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  Exodus chapter 20, verse 17.

Desire is a tough thing to live with.   If you truly want something, it can become an obsession, maybe even an addiction, especially if it is substance or a behavior that acts like a drug.  Desire can rip you apart if you let it.  You know this.  

Now, I can’t speak for you, but I know I don’t like people dumping a bunch of negatives on me.   Perhaps that’s one reason why we’ve lost touch with the Ten Commandments because we perceive them to be a bunch of ‘shall not’s’ in a life that is hard enough without dog-piling a bunch of additional negatives on us, even when we may need to hear them.

So let’s not do that.   We know that coveting is a sin and that it’s wrong.   What’s the opposite behavior?  Instead of desiring for ourselves, how about we change our hearts and focus on giving, on sharing, on using our time and talents in service to others so that they may get what they want out of life?

I’m not calling on you to become some obsessive giver, to substitute one compulsion with another.   No, I’m calling on the both of us to change the way we do things.   It starts with confession and prayer, taking to God the areas where we have made mistakes and where we recognize we need His help.   In that prayer, we should also remember to be thankful for all the things, large and small, that swirl around our mistakes.

Then comes the hard part:  actually walking the walk.   Instead of desiring what we can’t have, how about we find out what others want or need, then work to answer that want or need?  If there’s something we want, some self-examination will usually tell why we want it.   It isn’t difficult, then, to turn the desire to a prayer of service for the someone or something else around our desire.  That prayer is the start of the walk.   That first step can lead to others that serve God instead of serving ourselves.  How bad do you want to take that step?

In this way, we REALLY get a clear picture of what those Ten Commandments are for:  to bring us closer to Jesus.   He didn’t give them to us to slam us:   He gave them to us in love.  What better way to share His love than to put His commandments into practice and use them to live in ways that would please Him?

Lord, search my heart and help me identify things and people I desire.   Help me re-focus my desires only on You, and show me how I can serve You by serving others.

 

Read Exodus chapter 3, Moses meets God.