Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 10 April 2019

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.   2 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV).

In Roman times, unless you were Julius Caesar, this was true.   In our times, it’s still true.  Twelve of our presidents were generals in the Army, most of them serving during the Civil War, yet no general has been president since Dwight Eisenhower, and out of our last four presidents (including the current one), only one has even served in the military.  Today, the US military is the smallest it has been since the early 1930s even as the ‘military industrial complex’ (a term coined by General Eisenhower during his farewell address as president) continues to have great influence in the affairs of government.  I dare say that this same situation is likely true in most countries of the West.

Despite all this, soldiers, sailors, and airmen don’t usually get involved in non-military matters.   They do their jobs and then go home, eventually returning to civilian status themselves.  Until that day, they serve under commanders who they work to please.   Those who command you have great influence and power over your situation.   They can control your daily work, even your daily routine outside the workplace.   They influence your career with evaluation ratings, future assignment choices, and present duties assigned.   Those in command above you can make your life pleasant or hellish.   And they hold the power to enforce orders that may very well lead to your death.

Suffering in the US military is WAY different from suffering in, shall we say, the North Korean military (where you may still starve and be beaten indiscriminately).  Yet nobody who has seen war could ever say that war – the primary business of a soldier – isn’t suffering, isn’t persecution.   In that knowledge, the analogy makes sense because we of the Lord’s Army soldier on for Him.   Occasionally that means suffering.   Persecution – yes, it really happens – and discrimination (that happens too, especially in corporate America), ridicule, rejection, hatred, and even death:   all of those await the person who stands up to say “I believe in Jesus.”

Yet we march on, refusing to let ourselves be dragged into the ‘civilian affairs’ of living as the world commands.   We learn self-control by submitting ourselves to His control.   We get to live out the fruits of His Spirit as our line advances, overtaking the world’s evil by living His good.   We sometimes fail; sometimes the line falters and we fall back.   Sometimes, when we allow ourselves to be swayed by the world, we suffer.  Yet our cause of Christ always advances, even in adversity, because He walks before us.  We work to please Jesus.  We soldier on.

For further reading:  Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Timothy 2:5.

General Savior, lead me, Your soldier, today.   Command and guide me to follow Your words and not the tempting ways of the world around me.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 17 January 2017

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.  Hebrews 6, verses 19-20.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day.   I didn’t watch much TV, and I didn’t even listen to the radio as much as I usually do, so I didn’t see whether or not there was much coverage or celebration.   It seems that, the farther we get from 1968, the more challenging it can be to remember why we commemorate such a great man.  I was only a little boy when King was killed and I don’t remember it.   I do remember that my second grade teacher, Mrs. Kennon, taught me about him.   Dr. King was one of her heroes; I believe she may have marched with him or met him at one point.  Mrs. Kennon was a highly educated black woman hired as an elementary teacher in a predominantly white Episcopal school in the early 1970s.  Forty five years later, she remains one of my favorite teachers.   Dr. King had already been dead five years when I was first introduced to Mrs. Kennon, but she brought him to life for our class, telling how he lived out his faith in fighting to gain rights that had been won for people in the Civil War over a hundred years before.   She taught us how Dr. King stuck to his principles and protested peacefully against bigots who confronted him in violence.  She taught us that Martin Luther King believed in Jesus.

Next year, Dr. King will have been dead for 50 years.   In the 30+ years since the start of his national holiday, legend has started to overtake history in describing him.  To some, King is practically a civil rights Jedi knight.   To others, he was just a great but flawed man who said and did the right things that needed to be said and done.  He has almost become an untouchable idol to our society.  I suspect the real Martin King was somewhere in the middle of all that.   He was a fighter for justice.   He was a preacher schooled in Scripture, Ghandi, and non-violence.  He was a husband and father.   He was a sinner who had multiple extramarital affairs.   He was a Nobel laureate.  He was martyred by people hung up on hatred.  He was a man who simply did the best he could.  MLK wanted the best for all of us, and he died living out that best desire.

Yet before anything else in his life, Martin Luther King wanted folks to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  It was his sworn duty as a minister of God’s word.   It was the truest reflection of why he fought and died for equal rights for black people.   It was the best expression of everything he held dear in life.   Dr. King unswervingly believed that the real hope of mankind was in Jesus, that only by firm and secure faith in Jesus that lives deep in the human soul.  MLK fought for equal rights as an American because he already knew that he had equal rights before God as a human being.   He fought for what was guaranteed to all people, and that included civil rights.

That’s worth dying for.

It’s worth dying for because Dr. King understood that Jesus was our ultimate judge and ultimate intermediary.   A minister of the cloth himself, King understood how Jesus was our true minister, the only priest who could enter into God’s presence on our behalf and plead for our souls.  Jesus pleads for us in God’s presence because we are His intimate brothers and sisters.   We are His friends and His followers.   Jesus was willing to give up His life for we the people who He loved so dearly.  He did it so that we could have a personal, intimate, just relationship with Him and His Father.  Martin Luther King understood these things and lived the life he did working so that others could understand them as well on an equal footing with all our peers.

Mrs. Kennon understood them as well.  I Googled her and found that she retired from the school in 2013 and has been a very active citizen all her life.   I have no idea where she is now, but I do know I’m one of thousands she touched in years serving at Breck School.   I learned about Dr. King from her, and that Dr. King lived as he did because he followed Jesus before anything else.

For further reading:   Leviticus 16:2, Hebrews 9:2-7, Hebrews 4:14.

Lord Jesus, thank You for heroes of the faith like Dr. King.   Thank You for being our true priest, our Savior, our friend, and our teacher.

Practical Proverbial, the Ten Commandments, 20 June 2014. Today’s topic: ending at the start

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20, verses 2 and 3.

So we end here at the beginning. We end with first principles:   God is God.   We are not to worship anyone or anything else. In reality, this first commandment goes with every other one.   There is no sin that doesn’t start without first making something else more important than God.

Let’s not gloss over that slavery thing, though.   You and I: we are still slaves.   Paul said we believers are slaves to righteousness; that’s true. Yet it’s also true we are rhetorical slaves to many other things.   I’m a slave to my job; you’re a slave to your children; we slave out in the yard every weekend; my wife slaves in the kitchen.   Blah, blah blah. As we talk down a pretty powerful word, let’s not lose sight of what it really means.

Slavery is having no freedom.   It is being under the complete control of another.   It means someone can beat you, abuse you, work you, and kill you without your being able to do anything to stop it. For over 200 years, in colonial America then into Constitutional America, slavery was legal and normal.   It took a civil war and drastic societal change to rid the nation of slavery; even then, hatred found ways to perpetuate its effects for another hundred years.

Don’t kid yourself: slavery still exists in this world.   There are still whole parts of Africa in which men enslave each other.   The sex trade is run on slavery in every nation in on the planet. Every government, even benevolent ones, has the tendency to move from liberty to tyranny to enslaving its people; it is only we the people who prevent that.   Slavery is alive and well in 2014.

The Israelites had been slaves for over 400 years, since the death of Joseph and the kind pharaoh he served.   They were subjugated, beaten, tortured and worked until God delivered them into His freedom. Quickly they learned that slavery, however, needs no taskmaster.   Slavery can exist when you’re enslaved to your sins, to your temptations.   God understood this, so He gave them this first commandment to remind them that He is God. That He redeemed them. That He is more powerful. In Him there is only love, justice and true liberty.   In God, there is no cruelty of slavery.   In God, there is only the true freedom of divine redemption. We were created for that loving freedom.

That’s where we end this series. God started it by reminding us of His true, free redemption, then gave us reminders of how to cling to that honest liberty. How much freer could we be if we simply took His commandments at His Word, then lived our lives accordingly.

Lord, You are my only God.   You are the only source of liberty, truth, and love.

 

Read Exodus chapter 20: the full Ten Commandments.