Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 5 February 2019

Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves.  1 Timothy 6:2 (NIV).

Perhaps none of us in America can imagine this kind of predicament:   being a slave who follows Jesus while serving a master who also follows Jesus.   It’s true.  We can’t truly imagine it because we aren’t slaves.   There is no American citizen alive today who was an American slave, is the child or grandchild of a slave, or has any personal experience with legal slavery in the United States.  It was outlawed as a legal institution 154 years ago.   Yet, back then, it was very real.   There were real slaves and masters believing in the same Jesus while one lived in cruel servitude to the other.   Yes, slavery still does exist as a criminal exercise on this planet, even within the United States.   But that isn’t what we’re talking about (yet hold the thought).

Perhaps the closest parallel we of the 21st Century could draw is supporting a boss who you know believes in God.   We aren’t talking about supporting someone who says they believe yet says or does things to rebel against Him.   I’m more talking about supporting a boss who is harsh, tough, demanding.   Perhaps a leader or manager who insists that you always give your best, always hold to the highest standards, always demand more from you.

You know, like Jesus would.   Jesus could be hard and demanding of people who were egregious offenders, people like the Pharisees.   Yet He was also demanding of His closest friends, even as He usually interacted with a softer approach.   You and I, we like to say that we’d give Jesus worship, faith and (at least) respect, right?

Perhaps He has given us hard taskmasters in our lives to serve purposes that we don’t fully see.   Perhaps He allows others in our lives to push us to do things that reveal the best in us; iron sharpening iron.  Perhaps God works on us, collectively and individually, through authorities (as my pastor friend, Phil, recently reminded in a sermon).    Perhaps we should respect the boss, the CEO, the leader, the US President, because God is working even through them.  Perhaps God even still allows slavery in our world so that others might be reached by Him, through it.

Perhaps?   Yes.   Yes indeed, Jesus does all these things to us and for us and for our overall good in His Kingdom.   Knowing that, shouldn’t we do our best to render respect and honor to those above us even if they sometimes seem like slave masters?   Perhaps.   You know the answer.

For further reading: Philemon 16, Proverbs 27:17, 1 Timothy 6:3.

Wonderful Savior, we often fail You through things like slavery.  Thanks for Your patience, and teach us today to respect authorities, bosses, and leaders over us.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 16 October 2018

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV).

After talking about excommunicating wayward members, Paul then shifts to urging Timothy (and us) to pray for authorities.   The church leaders of then (and now) are authorities in our lives.   So are police, governments, the UN, bosses, corporate CEOs of companies whose products we use, pastors and leaders, and senior family members (in fact, all senior citizens).

Tell me, progressives:   when was the last time you prayed for President Trump?   Or my conservative friends, how often did you (or do you) pray for President Obama, or Ms. Pelosi, or George Soros?   If you’re like me, in this regard, you’ve failed.   You and I don’t usually pray for those with whom we disagree (or just don’t like).   If you don’t like President Trump or his policies, you may not be praying in thanksgiving for him.  If you didn’t like President Obama or his policies, chances are you didn’t pray in thanksgiving for him, either.

That’s a shame.   We’re losing great opportunities here because Paul recognized that prayer and thanksgiving (especially) are active, vital ways to participate in peoples’ lives, even those of far-off, remote leaders.   They are pure “get to” activities.   We get to pray for the president, our employees in Congress, and others we elect to do things for us that we can’t do ourselves. We get to pray for our bosses, managers, and executives that they would make good use of the time we entrust to them.   We get to pray for our parents, and for seniors who have lived long, useful lives that can teach us many things.

We should take every opportunity to pray in thanks for those who are above us in any way.  Sure, it’s altruistic but even Ayn Rand (who rejected religion) would have supported the idea of supporting leaders who are working for the betterment of all.   I don’t know Donald Trump, but I get to be actively involved in his life when I pray for him.   I don’t know Barack Obama, but I’m actively involved in his life when I pray for him.  Bill Gates, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Dalai Lama, the owner of your company, your pastor, that stranger who flipped you off on the road, and starving kids in India:  you may not know any of them, but Jesus gives you the opportunity to be part of them by actively praying for them.

We spend so much of our time excommunicating other people from our lives.  How about we re-communicate with them by first praying to our Lord for their benefit?

For further reading:  2 Timothy 2:17, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Timothy 2:1

Lord, today, help me to pray for leaders, and show me today just one person for whom I can pray.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 24 January 2017

For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also.  Hebrews 7, verse 12.

Oh my God…literally.   Noodle this verse for awhile then consider the universe-altering implications of it.  It’s a rhetorical argument, one that posits our tendencies as people.

Four days have passed since Mr. Trump was inaugurated as president of the US.   In those four days, there have been four sunrises and three sunsets; another sunset should occur later today.   No mere president can change that.  Eight years have passed since Mr. Obama was inaugurated, sixteen since the second Mr. Bush, and twenty-four since Mr. Clinton.   In all those times, whether we agreed with the political positions or not of those men, the world has kept on turning.   Good and bad have taken place, and all four men have, in my humble opinion, done the best they could to deal with each.

You could say that same thing about each of us.   Neither you nor I are the president, and we probably don’t make deals or even make decisions that have global impact.   World leaders don’t await the next muttering from Dave Terry; God help them if I’m wrong about that.  What anyone could say, world leader or not, is that I’ve usually tried to do my best.   You and I, we generally try to do our best, make the best decisions we can with the information we have.   We find ourselves in situations, we assess our available options, and we make the best decision we can based on what we know at the time.   Sometimes it works out for the best, and we generally work to make sure this is so as much as we possibly can.   Sometimes it doesn’t.   Nearly all the time, if we honestly step back and look at ourselves, even though we’re sinners, we usually do the best we can.

Imagine if we didn’t.   Imagine if, every time we made a decision, everything changed because of it.  Some folks would say that’s what happens when a new president moves into the White House but it simply isn’t true.   There are too many systemic and traditional checks on him to prevent any president from ruling like a king.  When you get a new CEO, a few things change in the company, but generally she or he uses what’s at their disposal to move a company in a direction with the consent of the board.   New pastors do the same thing in their congregations.   New parents do the same thing with their young families.   Sometimes that’s healthy in that new leadership can re-focus on morals or the common good after a group has strayed from it.  Sometimes it’s just change for change’s sake, and that’s rarely good.  Leaders usually do the best they can with what’s available to them at the time.

What happens when people don’t?   If you get paid and spend all your money on marijuana and munchies, what do you do to pay your bills (or buy food other than Doritos)?   If you base all your decisions on emotions, what do you do when your emotions quickly change (as they often do)?   If you refuse to abide by the law, what happens when you’re caught?   You know the answer to these things.   We own the consequences.   We get what’s coming to us.   If we willingly decide to not give it our best, we get what we’re given accordingly.   That’s no surprise.

Put on your clergy cap for a second and then consider your pastors.   They’re sinners like anyone else.  If they didn’t have the gospel of Jesus to guide them, all they’d be doing is preaching a bunch of worthless feel-good nonsense.  On our own, every time a new pastor comes to the church – or a new father, CEO or president – the entire focus needs to change.   Pastors are sinners too.   They’re imperfect; they struggle.   Without the forgiveness of Jesus, they’re just as damned as one who willingly turns his back on the Savior.   If all your pastor does is float with the wind and minister based on what feels good, fire them.

With Jesus as their primary guide, none of that needs to happen.   The political or corporate leader grounded in God and solid ethics will much better serve his constituents, and the president swears to uphold a Constitution written by moral, Godly founders.  The parent who walks the Godly walk will serve as a better long-term example for their kids.   The pastor who preaches the risen Christ has all he or she needs to build a God-centered church.  Everything flows from Him and only Him.   Anything less is, well, less.   Are you satisfied with ‘less?’   If so, maybe you should ask yourself why.

Voters fire politicians who don’t perform.   Companies fire CEOs who don’t perform.   Parents who don’t perform as parents for their kids don’t get fired but trouble usually ensues at some point.  All of it comes back to sin and how we deal with it.   The way to deal with it is to first and always focus on Jesus and where you are in relation to Him at every moment.   He hasn’t moved; He hasn’t changed.   With Him, there is no need to throw out the old in favor of something new.   He’s the reason for the priesthood because He is the ultimate priest of all time.

For further reading:   Hebrews 7:  11-28

Lord Jesus, that You for being the center of everything.   Thank You for being unchanging, for being our true priest and pastor, for being the only Savior.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 9 November 2015

They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him.  By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” Mark 11, verses 27-28.

Here’s yet another example of how little things change.   In a way, stories of the petty ways in which the Jewish Temple leaders treated Jesus give even more credence to the truth of them.   The chief priests and elders schemed, conspired, nit-picked, and finally plotted to bring down this interloper from Galilee. They used every dodge and ploy at their disposal in trying to box Jesus into rhetorical corners, yet He refused to play along.   If Jesus was ‘the big dog,’ they were the pack of little Chihuahuas nipping at Big Dog’s heels.   Yet if you get enough little dogs, even the Big Dog’s life can be in danger.

How little things have changed. Our politics today are rife with stories of how the media and the powers-that-be try to take down anyone who seems to threaten the establishment status quo. In corporate America, the quickest way to losing your job is to rock the boat (even as every new CEO promises to ‘turn things around by changing how we do business;’ freaking rah already). Do you know people, maybe even family members, who gossip and tear down other people for no reason other than petty envy? And what about you?   Where do you or I fit on the spectrum of mis-behavior?

If Jesus walked up to you or me and said, “Friend, let me help you change your life,” would we respond with “who do you think you are?”   Or “who made you the boss of me?” or some other churlish retort.

Noodle it long enough and I believe you’ll see how we really aren’t different from the chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders in these verses.   In their defense, some of them were only doing what they thought was best to protect God’s Temple against the violent tendencies of Rome and the plotting intrigues of their Gentile neighbors.   The Jews of Jesus’ day were used to being treated like second class citizens yet they still fiercely clung to their ancient status as God’s chosen people.   Anyone who came along and was perceived to be a threat would naturally be suspected, likely targeted for elimination.   Should it be surprising to us, then, that they questioned Him, “who do you think you are, pal?”   “Not so fast, young man.   Who gave you permission to rock the boat?”   At what point did prudence turn into venom?

Eons later, we respond every day in the same way.   I respond by immediately being suspicious of the corporate VP who sends me snarky emails about my project; they immediately make me question her agenda.   You respond by questioning when your kids tell you that their teachers know best on American history, Islam studies, and other subjects du jour.   We each act the same with new neighbors, strangers in the mall, and politicians with whom we disagree.

I wonder:   how many times have we missed opportunities to act like Jesus with strangers who honestly didn’t know Him. How many times have our words and actions hindered His Kingdom when we could have helped it?   Are we the Big Dog or the little yappy toy?   We haven’t changed.

Lord, forgive me. Help me yet again to not question You and to do my part for Your work.

Read Mark 11, verses 27-33.