Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 23 April 2019

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.  2 Timothy 2:14 (NIV).

I’m becoming a fan of the Facebook snooze feature.   If a friend of mine sends a view or opinion that is particularly difficult to abide, or if what they say is particularly hostile, I turn off notifications for those comments.   I don’t want to un-friend them, but I don’t need the negativity.  Our comments may be well-received by some but also may be hurtful to others.   The better way would be to simply delete this social media so as to avoid the temptation.   But I enjoy Facebook for the ability to keep up with family and friends, and to share things like this blog, family moments, and things I believe both secular and faith-based.  So, until the point of staying off it altogether, I’m using the snooze.   I bet quite a few folks have done this to my comments already.

Thank God He doesn’t snooze us.  My friend, John, said (on Facebook about Facebook) that social media is a mile wide and an inch deep.   It’s designed to keep us quarreling, not really for our betterment.  Quarreling about words ruins us.   It ruins our relationships.   It ruins our families.   It ruins our politics.   It ruins our lives.

Paul wrote these words two millenia before social media existed.   In his day, social media was called “personal conversation.”   And if you think about it, those personal conversations have been made even easier to destroy by the advent of social media.   Online, you and I can say what we want without the responsibility for prudence that comes with saying those things face to face.   If you say something objectionable to someone face to face, they can (and often do) call you out on it, sometimes physically.   If we do that online, there’s no real response except to that the recipients’ emotions are activated.

Nothing good comes from that.  The book of Titus says that these are unprofitable and useless, producing nothing good that benefits anyone.  It was true then; it’s true now.   I need to act differently.   How about you?

This is the day after the day after Easter.   Jesus is still risen.   He is still alive, at work, living through you and I and all we think, say, and do.   We have the gift of electronic communication to enable us to reach each other instantly across the planet.  How will we use that today?   I’m working to do better, so I’m challenging you to do the same, even if that means snoozing it.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 1:4, Titus 3:9, 2 Timothy 2:15.

Forgiving Lord Jesus, help me to use the gifts of conversation and media responsibly, for Your benefit, in ways that help others.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 22 May 2017

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  Hebrews 10, verses 26-27.

This verse occurs right after exhorting believers to spur others on to love and good deeds and to continue worshiping.  The context is to persevere in the faith.   You can’t persevere or succeed in anything if you only give half your heart to it.  You also can’t persevere if you aren’t aware of boundaries, of white lines in which to stay between.  So when you consider that the book of Hebrews encourages believers to persevere, then reminds us that the consequences for being a half-hearted believer can be dire, then you see that God is interested in a whole person.  You can see that God’s grace is boundless while any absence of it would be a hard boundary indeed.  If we only give half of ourselves to Him, we shouldn’t expect He’ll be happy.   Indeed, as these verses say, half-hearted believers should expect punishment.   That doesn’t mean God will punish us; He is a God of love, mercy, and grace, which He shows abundantly.   Instead, we should not take for granted or expect the love, mercy and grace, but expect their opposites in a world focused on them.

Yesterday’s sermon topic was “de-cluttering.”  Pastor Mark talked about ways to de-clutter our spiritual lives so as to remove impediments that block our focus on God.   We put that clutter in the way, and clutter isn’t even always bad.   Family time, hard work, supporting others, church work, even a daily Christian blog can all be great things and great expressions of faith.   They can also clutter up one’s life and make it difficult to focus on what’s most important.   Without knowing how it happens, Mary can easily go all Martha (in fact, in another place in Scripture, apart from that famous dinner, she did).

How many things have I put on my plate because they’re the right thing to do?  Too many to list here.  Worse, how many pet sins have I held onto that make it difficult to even focus on those right things?   I know deep inside that I shouldn’t do this.  I was saved long ago, even before the time I can remember, and yet I still keep on choosing the wrong over the right.   Slip of a tongue, moments of anger, being judgmental, looks and thought of selfish lust:   pick a sin and paint me guilty.   I’ll return the favor because, chances are, you’re guilty too.

Better yet, let’s change our behavior.   Part of repenting is turning away from the wrongdoing, so let’s do that here and now.   What I just said, about painting you guilty?   I’m putting down the paint brush.   I’ll confess my sins to Jesus and leave them with Him.   His Word (in these verses) says there are BAAAAD consequences for folks who  choose the sins over Him.  I don’t want to be one of those people because there’s a better way.  Giving half my heart to God and half my heart to the world is wearying and unproductive for either.  My are just clutter waiting to be swept away.   Time to get out the broom and start sweeping.  Your sins are your own too; I’m hoping you’ll want to sweep them away, too.   I can’t do that for you but Jesus can, and He will.   What I can do is be your friend and your brother.  I’ll help you through what you’re going through and help you stay between the lines with me.   Together, we’ll each do our part to persevere in the faith.

For further reading:  Exodus 21:14, Numbers 15:30, Hebrews 5:2, 2 Peter 2:20, 1 Timothy 2:4, Isaiah 26:11, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Hebrews 9:27, Luke 10:38-42.

Lord, help my unbelief.  I need Your help to persevere, to succeed in whatever You have me do.   I can’t do anything without You.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 23 September 2016

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  Hebrews 2, verse 1.

There are folks who don’t like that some folks (like me) dissect Scripture verse by verse and comment on it in the same way.  There’s danger, some say, in taking verses out of context and mis-applying them or misconstruing their meaning.   That’s true.   And there’s danger, others say, in missing a larger meaning or story being told if all we talk about is one verse at a time.   That, also, is true.   I’m sure there are other gripes with doing this, and that’s ok.   It’s a free country, a free internet, and a free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ that we talk about.   If I get close to the line of propriety in any of these commentaries, I ask for your help in vectoring us back to God’s Word.   Over the years we’ve been doing this, I’ve received many emails and calls doing just that, and they’re all helpful, of great value

They’re of great value because of Hebrews 2, verse 1.   Writing these proverbials is one way I pay the most careful attention to God’s word.  He put it on my heart to heal and grow me, then as a way to help encourage others.  In this old world, perhaps that’s most important because it’s easy to drift away from His path.   It doesn’t take radical temptation:   it takes simply living through each day.  If I can help someone cling better to God’s Word by reading them one by one, then perhaps that can be a good thing.

Mind you, I’m neither pastor nor professor.  I’m just a guy occasionally wading into exegetical work.  Theopedia.com defines “exegesis” as “a systematic process by which a person arrives at a reasonable and coherent sense of the meaning and message of a biblical passage. Ideally, an understanding of the original texts (Greek and Hebrew) is required. In the process of exegesis, a passage must be viewed in its historical and grammatical context with its time/purpose of writing taken into account.  This is often accomodated by asking who wrote the text, and who is the intended readership, what is the context of the text, i.e. how does it fit in the author’s larger thought process, purpose, or argument in the chapter and book where it resides, what is the choice of words, wording, or word order significant in this particular passage, why was the text written (e.g. to correct, encourage, or explain, etc.), and when was the text written?”

You betcha!

Theopedia.com also later defines “hermeneutics” as “the science of interpreting what an author has written. In Christian theology, hermeneutics focuses specifically on constructing and discovering the appropriate rules for interpreting the Bible. These methods and principles, however, are often drawn from outside of scripture in historical, literary or other fields. It inevitably involves exegesis, which is the act of interpreting or explaining the meaning of scripture. The goal in applying the principles of hermeneutics is to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), striving to accurately discern the meaning of the text.”

Welcome to seminary…except this isn’t seminary, and I’m not a seminary student nor do I intend to be one any time soon.   Again, I’m just a guy who’s trying to figure out what God is telling him, verse by verse and day by day.   The reason for that goes back, again to today’s verse.   I take it to heart (and hope you do, too) that what God says to me in His Word is important.  It’s important to understand what the Spirit is saying.   It’s important to be able to hear God when He calls (because He calls all the time in many different ways).   It’s important to listen closely and read closely to make sure we’re following what He wants us to know and to do.

Some folks do that by studying at college to be a professionally trained minister; God bless them.   Some folks do that simply by living out their faith, and God bless them too for being such a blessing to others.  And some folks do what you and I are doing here:  breaking down His Words a few at a time to glean out what they mean as we live in this moment.  I don’t know if it’s exegesis, hermeneutics, or just another blog among thousands.  Long as it serves God’s purposes, then all glory to Him.

For more reading:   Romans 11:22.

Lord, I praise You for inspiring these words.   Thank You for Your gift of sharing and for letting us spend some time together.   Help me to always stay true to Your purposes.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 21 September 2016

They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.   You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed.  But you remain the same, and your years will never end.  Hebrews 1, verses 11-12.

A few days ago I shared that I believe creation is how the universe was created, how any reasonable discussion about the facts of evolution and creation will logically lead an intellectually honest person back to creation as that only logical explanation.

Now, in our best “Meatballs” moment, let’s all say this together:   “it just doesn’t matter.”

It doesn’t matter because what was created will be destroyed.   All that was created will be un-created by the same God who created it, all in His own time and by His design.   We don’t have control over that:   He does.   When He gives the word, it’ll happen.   You and I can rail against that, insisting that we, the created, should have a say in how He gains His glory, but the fact is we don’t have a say in it.   Only He does.   And when it’s said and done, He’ll still be and we can be with Him there.

Isaiah prophesied: “All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.”  Psalm 102, written years before Isaiah, says also “In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.  They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.  Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded.  But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”

So, say it with me again:   it just doesn’t matter.   There.   We’re sounding more like Bill Murray every time.

Now remind yourself of a few things.  Consider that Isaiah’s words were a promise.   They were God-inspired and bound to happen.   Remember that the Psalm is a hymn of praise as well as a statement of obvious fact.  But most of all, remember that this section of Hebrews establishes praise for Jesus because of His supremacy over all creation.   The author of the book has already tied Jesus back to creation and Eden themselves.   Now he’s saying that Jesus will oversee the end of all He created yet, after that end, Jesus will remain.   Therein is the hope of the world.

Huh?   The world that we’re talking about dissolving, perishing, destroying, changing has hope after all that has happened?   You betcha.  Not only hope, but the PROMISE, the guarantee, of eternal life.   Hope isn’t just some wishing well or some David Copperfield trick.   It’s a promise, the expectation of a fulfilled agreement.   God gave us the hope that He would endure past all that we know and trust and that, because of this, we can be sure of living forever.   He who is eternal assures us that, because He who is all love and purity endures past time and matter, we who put our trust in Him will live with Him when time and matter cease to be.

And cease they will.   Quote me on this (even tell my atheist friend):   sometimes I think the story of creation’s beginning and end is a giant head game.   I mean, God simply IS and He’s over everything because He created and can control everything.  The ending has already been determined and advertised.  It’s a foregone conclusion that, in the end, evil will be destroyed, Satan will be destroyed, everything that was corrupted by sin will be destroyed.   When that’s done, God will reshape it into something new, perhaps something like the world of Adam and Eve.  This will all again be a paradise where Jesus will once again commune with us, face to face and God-man to man.   There won’t be the taint of sin; there won’t be any anger, violence, or separation from Him.  Those things will have ended and what will remain will be only what God has ordained:   Himself (and His perfect love) and those who have loved Him.   We’ll endure not because of anything we’ve done, but because He made it possible.

Whatever worldly things we trust now just won’t matter anymore.  Things won’t matter.   Parties and plans won’t matter.  Long trips, schedules, project plans, bills, DVR shows, Bill Murray movies, weather forecasts, blogs, iPhones, and steak & shrimp on the menu just won’t matter.   What will matter will be Jesus and holding His hand there in love throughout all eternity.

For more reading:   Isaiah 34:4, Psalm 102: 25-27.

Lord Jesus, only You matter.   Thanks for Your promise of living forever in the world You’ll make new.