Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 6 June 2019

They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:4 (NIV).

Another thought about this verse:  belief is a choice.

You and I don’t have to believe what we do:   we choose to.   Yes, we’re compelled by faith from within.   We can’t begin to believe in Christ unless He first (through His Spirit) plants the thought in our receiving heart.   We can’t follow a political leader or ideology without watching it, learning about it, experiencing it.   And as much as I believe some people quickly fall in love, we don’t do that, either, without first being moved about the other person.

We choose those things.   Faith, following, love:   they’re choices. Just like turning away from the truth.   That, too, is a choice.

Nobody forced the Canaanites to follow their pagan gods or demonic, detestable practices.   They chose.   The Jews of Jesus’ day weren’t forced to conspire against Him:   they chose to.   Germans of the 1930s weren’t forced to follow Nazism (at least not at first):   they chose to follow evil.   Parishoners at Jonestown, followers of Elijah Mohammed, members of the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Manson family:   they weren’t forced to do the things they did.   They chose.

So it is with those who turn away from God’s truth and turn aside to myths.   To be honest, it’s another person’s American right to follow Zoroastrian mysticism, follow the Maharishi Yogi, or run around naked in the forest to celebrate Mother Gaia.   It’s their right to turn aside to myths.   In America, our Bill of Rights preserves our right to believe or not believe what we want.   In other words, what we choose.

So it is with God as well.  Even God respects that right.   God doesn’t force us to believe in Him.   He asks us to.  He asks us to, then teaches us through His word and our experiences why His teaching is the true way.  His word, the constant miracles of nature and our world, the tangible results of faith in the lives of those who believe, our own experiences, love:   all of these scream proof that Jesus is who He said He is.  It’s up to us to believe or not believe, to choose what we will take to heart about it.

Sure, NOT believing is easier said than done.   It isn’t easy to stop believing in something without a drastic event occurring.  Yet that, too, is a choice.  It was this way in ancient Judea; it is the same today.   In the days that make up the end times, it will only get worse.   Even obvious proof won’t sway the choices of those determined to not be swayed.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 1:4, 2 Timothy 4:4.

Lord, use me and what I say and do to witness You to those who choose unbelief.   Help me to not judge.   Help me to live out Your word better.   For them.


Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 28 November 2016

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  Hebrews 4, verse 14.

Here’s where things get tough.   As John Wayne might have said, ‘this is where we get down to the rat killin.’   Ok, maybe not so much, but, man, this is where things get really, really tough.

Hold.   On.  Wilson Phillips sang that in a really corny song; “hold on for one more day.”  ELO sang it too:  “hold on tight to your dream.”   Corny but it’s true.   And it’s critical.  Just hold on when things get tough.  If your dream is heaven, hold on tight because this is a rough old world that is going to try to pry your dream out of your fingers.   If you have faith in Jesus, hold on tight to it because everything else in the world is going to work to unravel your faith and make you believe life is hopeless.   If you love someone, set them free?   Maybe, but hold on tight to that love because love is antithetical to this place we call the Third Rock, where death awaits every life and every day in-between day one and last day can be a struggle.

Pretty bleak, eh?   It can be, if you let it happen.   Yesterday in church, a guest speaker from Jeremy Camp’s organization talked about the joy of God, how it is theological, positional and situational to us.   God’s joy is 24/7; along with His love, grace, mercy, and peace, His joy is available to us whether we accept it or not.   God’s joy doesn’t depend on us doing anything to make it more or make it less:   it simply is because He’s God and He’s eternal and joy is one of His eternal qualities.   Yet that joy is pretty tough to see sometimes.   In my part-time job, I hear many responses on the phone that say “I’d love to buy it but money is really tight right now.”   Not much joy in chronically tight finances during a near-depression.   Death isn’t joyful; grieving is real and a necessary part of the human condition, necessary, that is, to emotionally come to terms with the cruel finality of death.   Divorce, marital heartbreak, loneliness, hurt, resentment:   no joy in those.

If you let it, the world will break you.   It tries.  Don’t let it happen.   Resolve to not let it happen.  Hold on tight.

Faith is an act of willpower.   It is impossible to believe in Jesus without Jesus’ Spirit first reaching out to us to plant the seed of belief.   Yet holding on to that growing seed of believing faith takes willpower.   It can take effort, work, and determination.   God chooses us before we choose to believe in Him, yet holding on to that choice takes resolute effort because the fallen world will keep working to pry us away from that faith.  We can do it because He in whom we put that faith has overcome the fallen world.   He allowed it to fall, came here to reconcile it to His perfection, did all that was necessary to make that happen, and returned into eternity where He supernaturally encourages us today.

The world thinks that’s all BS.   Resolve to think differently.  He did.   He held tight to faith in His Father even when things got tough.

Jesus was part of the struggle and because He lives in you He is part of your struggle today.   When you hurt, He feels it.   When you’re anxious, Jesus feels it with you.   He came to proclaim God’s Kingdom here and now, to make us part of it here and now so that, one day, we can physically join Him as part of His eternity.  Fine talk for Sunday morning, right; lot of good all that heaven talk does me when I’m in the middle of my troubles now.  Brother, it does you more good than you’ll imagine if you simply hold on tight to the truth of it.   In the middle of a world where living minute to minute can be really tough, God’s joy is still present, still real, still tangible to the heart.  It’s available for you this very minute, but first you have to want to believe in it.  Hold on tight to that faith, to the dream of hope for a better now and a beautiful forever.   Hold on tight and never let go.

For more reading:   Hebrews 2:17, Matthew 4:2, Hebrews 3:1, Hebrews 6:20, Hebrews 8:1.

Lord Jesus, I believe in You.   Sometimes it’s tough, though, and sometimes I fail and I hurt.   Comfort me through this and let me experience Your wonderful joy again.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 2 November 2016

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  Hebrews 3, verse 12.

We choose to believe.   Our choice to follow God is an act of will, of human willpower.   We select it.   We consciously decide on it.   We act in ways that we believe are faithful to Him and this choice we’ve made.   The longer we choose to live like this, the more we see that this choice isn’t about us:   it’s about how God Himself chose us and lives for us.   He chose us when He didn’t have to, and He chose us because eternity – being a part of forever with Him – matters more than anything else here on the Third Rock from the Sun.

You can choose today to not have a sinful, unbelieving heart.   It’s one of the reasons why I keep arguing with my atheist friend.  Faith is an active, living thing that we choose to feed.   Atheists can choose to believe in Jesus.   Skeptics can choose to allow His reasoning to penetrate their intellect.   Agnostics can choose to turn from the no man’s land of ignoring pure evidence of Jesus.   And those of us who live in hurt can choose to live in peace, choosing to put off the hurt and guilt and shame and the past and live now in each moment, thankful and glad for what Jesus does in us now.

Or we can choose to not do this.   We have free will.   Each of us has the free will to freely choose whatever spiritual belief we want.   That includes rejecting Jesus Christ, rejecting all that He offers through His free salvation.   You’re free to choose to believe or not believe whatever faith you want, especially if you live in the West.   I understand the physical and political ramifications of going against ISIS, militant Islam, and the peer pressure of keeping mum when other faiths dominate the local culture; that’s all valid.   Yet the fact still remains, people are free to believe in Jesus or not to.

And when we turn away from Jesus, when we reject Him, we have sinful, unbelieving hearts.  That turning away, that choosing not to be a follower of Jesus, is a conscious choice that becomes an attitude of the heart.   In the aspect of choosing to do it or not do it, dis-believing in Jesus is as much a conscious choice as deciding on a menu item at a restaurant or deciding whether or not to ‘do the deed’ with that hot married person you see every day at work.  We choose those things.   We have other choices available, other paths we can take, but even if those other choices are difficult or objectionable, we always have the choice of whether or not to choose sin.

Per the verses, not choosing Jesus is a sin.   In fact, it’s the original sin.   It’s the same thing that Adam and Eve chose before they ate that forbidden fruit.  They chose something other than God to put first in their hearts.   When we choose to not believe in Jesus, we’re doing the same thing.   It’s wrong.   It’s a sin.  Just two verses before these, the author implores us to follow God because the consequences of not doing so are dire.   Here, he reiterates that, reminding us that not only are we morally bankrupt if we reject God, but that it’s a sin, a behavior accountable to God if we choose to disbelieve.

Choose wisely, my friend.   And choose not because of fear, or because of angst, compulsion or pressure.   Instead, choose Jesus because He has proven Himself trustworthy and true throughout the Gospels.   He proves Himself God over and over through His revelations and the nature He created.   He proves Himself worthy of your choice because He is all love; what is the opposite of that?   And, Jesus proves Himself to be the only logical choice because, to paraphrase CS Lewis, He’s either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord.  But most of all, choose Jesus because He chose YOU to live, love, die and live again for.

For more reading:   Matthew 16:16.

Lord Jesus, I choose You and You alone.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 27 September 2016

how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?  Hebrews 2, verse 3.

Let’s talk about choosing and free will.   A few weeks ago, I shared some thoughts about a conversation I had with an atheist friend.   One thing that conversation had in common with others like it is that we talked about free will.

Free will is a concept I’m not sure unbelievers really grasp.

It’s not that unbelievers don’t understand what free will is.   Indeed, in my experience, atheists and unbelievers stridently guard the territory of free will and free choice.   They jealously guard their right to refuse to believe in God, Jesus, or anything resembling the Christian faith.   That’s their right as Americans.   As a believer, I look at my unbelieving friends and sometimes think they’re only a small step away from actually embracing Christian faith.   After all, it’s easier for someone who says “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand” to come to faith than it is someone who says “I reject that.”   The mind (and heart) is more open to alternatives they might not have otherwise considered.

Yet even knowing that, I’m still left at the point of seeing how free will isn’t really, fully grasped by unbelievers.   They don’t fully see that free will is itself a gift from God and even a fruit of God’s Spirit.  What they purport to reject is the blessed source of their cherished right.

A follower of Jesus sees that it is a blessing that God allows us to choose whether or not to believe in Him, to love Him.   Compulsion isn’t love.   He wants us and He wants us to want Him.  If God were Allah and looking for us to do things to please Him, we’d find we never really can please Him.  Allah would be perfect and we imperfect:   there’s no way for him, or us, to bridge the imperfection gap.   But God did make a bridge:   Himself, in Jesus Christ.   All He asks is that we believe in Him.   We don’t have to ‘do’ anything to please or placate or satisfy Him:   all that needed to be done to satisfy God and His holy requirement for justice was done by Jesus on the Cross.

To believe in Him, God gives us free will.   We can choose to believe in Him or we can choose to not believe in Him.   It’s as simple as that.   He doesn’t ask us to come to Him because we HAVE TO.   He asks us to come to Him because we want to.   And He helps us see that coming to Him is good in itself.   By willingly going to God, we get to share in His love, justice, peace, contentment and sharing heart.  He gives us hints at it in providing for us in every way possible.   God air in your lungs?   It’s because of God.   Got 24 hours in a day?   Because of God.   Got food, friends and folks who love you, a beautiful sunset, anything else?   God.   We can freely choose to believe these are gifts of God or we can freely choose to believe they aren’t.   God allows us either way.   What’s more, He provides for us whether we believe in Him or not.

It’s just that the eventual penalty for rejecting His gift of saving love will be permanent.   The hell God created as the final repository for rebellious angels can be ours for the choosing as well.   Let’s not even discuss how rejecting God and ensuing bad choices can lead to disaster here on the Third Rock.   No, let’s keep our eyes focused on the fact that, after our time here is over, if we’ve spent our choices rejecting God, He’ll let us reap the consequence of it.   That means hell.   Party over, oops, out of time, as Prince might have sung.   I’d rather avoid that.   It’s ok if all that is frightening because there’s a better way.

Mind you, this isn’t judgmental.   I believe in Jesus but I’m no better than anyone else.   My life is made better by believing in Him, following Him, but it doesn’t make me ‘better than’ anyone else.   If I come off as “judgy,” feel free to upbraid me because I deserve it.   These are simply facts and opinions about something that’s really incontrovertible.  We can’t change that God gives us the free will to do as we please.   We can’t change God and we can’t stop Him.   God does as He pleases and, because He’s God and all good, what He pleases to do is right even if we don’t see it as right.

I’m not sure unbelievers understand the great gift that is free will.   Indeed, I haven’t even done it justice in these few words.  How must it feel for God to see people He loves rejecting Him?   Or for Him to see us say we believe yet keep on sinning (which is still rejection of Him)?  You could spend whole books talking about nothing more than the blessing of being able to choose God’s life and love instead of being compelled to endure it.  What say you?

For more reading:   Hebrews 10:29, Hebrews 12:25, Hebrews 1:2, Luke 1:2.

Lord God, thank You for the blessing of free will, for letting me love You instead of having to love you.   Please continue to bless others and use me as an instrument to help others come to You.