Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 20 September 2017

If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.  Hebrews 12, verse 8.

Yesterday we talked a bit about discipline, and how discipline is done through both tough words but also mentoring, listening, and a number of other positive but strict behaviors.   That’s the “what,” maybe even the “how.”   Today we get “why.”

If you aren’t disciplined, then you’re a bastard.   Know that I use that word here for effect, not as profanity.   A bastard is “a person born of unmarried parents; an illegitimate child; spurious; not genuine; false.”   That’s from  If you aren’t disciplined, you’re fake and illegitimate.  Your birth is beyond your control, but claiming a birthright that isn’t yours isn’t.  You have no right to be an heir to what’s good.   Taking it a step further, if you don’t allow yourself to be disciplined by God – made a mentored disciple – then you’re that fake, that illegitimate false person.

That’s rough.  You could use the slang of that word to describe it; you might even describe me with said word.   Fair enough.   I’ll throw down another hard truth:   this isn’t teaching for lightweights, for the weak of mind.   This is serious business.   I think of myself as a serious man.   Sure, I’m lighthearted, joking, and I try to get along with most folks.  But that’s the method brought about from within.   If you strip away everything I think or believe, at the very core of it you’ll find I seriously believe in Jesus and I take that belief seriously.   It’s the bedrock of my existence.   I take it seriously because it merits serious investment of the heart.   Faith in Jesus is a matter of life and death.   Embrace the faith and live; reject the faith and die.   It really is that simple.  I want to live, so I take it seriously.

That matters because our opponent does too.  Jesus cautions us through His close friend, Peter  to “be self controlled and alert” because our “enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”   Those are powerful words, figurative in language yet packed with realistic power and warning.   The devil, a very real bastard, is a miserable demon.   He’s false.   He isn’t heir to anything.  He covets endlessly, destructively, viciously.  He wants company, and he uses every means at his disposal to lure in followers.   I don’t know what they see in him; perhaps none of us does.  Jesus called him the father of lies and Peter cautions that he’s mortally dangerous.

If you want to stand against a dangerous foe, you need discipline.   You need to be trained up in the ways of doing so.   Most of all, you need something to believe in when the foe attacks and knocks you back hard.  You can’t be false; your belief must be legitimate, honest, firm.  Jesus can give you that truth, that legitimacy, that honesty, firmness, and genuine quality that you need to stand fast.   When He gives it to you, He’s disciplining you as His brother, sister, son, and daughter.   Faith takes courage; faith requires steel in your spine.  Growing in faith is serious business, even as He honestly says that His “yoke is easy and burden is light.”  Jesus knows that and knows it can be tough.  When He disciplines us, it’s like He is drawing us closer to Himself as family.   That makes us bona fide, legitimate.

Am I disciplined?   In some ways, yes; in others I’m very much a work in progress.   Some folks might call me a bastard, though, and many of them wouldn’t use it as a compliment.  They may have a point.  If you want to not be called such things, then retool your life in such a way as to make those words inappropriate when used to describe you.   Why?   Because Jesus makes you His own.   He was serious enough about believing that that He willfully bled and died for you.   That’s serious.   After all, in Jesus there are no bastards.

For further reading:  John 8:44, Matthew 11:30, 1 Peter 5:9.

Lord, holding on to You can be tough, but You have made me legitimate.   Thank You for loving me that much.


Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 18 September 2017

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”  Hebrews 12, verses 5-6.

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you know I have three kids (and three grandkids).   The most important task I have on this planet is to “go and make disciples.”   I do that by using the talents God has given me to shine in front of others.   All that starts with my kids.  When I was a young man, I wasn’t interested in being a parent.   I wanted to see the world, do great things, be ‘somebody.’  Long before my kids were born, I thought I was destined for greatness, to be famous, to do big things in a big world.   As a dad (and now a grand-dad), I’ve done all that.  Looking at life from the other side of the parental glass, God guided me to see the world with my kids, to do great things with them.   I’m somebody in their eyes.   They think I’m great, I’m the world famous Dad Bod from Paris, and I’ve lived large because of them.

Nowadays, I see that the most important task I’ve been given on this planet starts with sharing Jesus with my kids and grandkids.   I didn’t always see things this way; it’s been a long time coming.   Along the way, I’ve made serious mistakes, I’ve been a hypocrite, I have failed over and over.   Yet I’ve also usually done my best, and I realize now that the good things and bad alike are gifts from God.   I give them to my kids as gifts by sharing how I behave, what I believe, what I do with them in the perspective of trying to live out the words in my Bible and the things I share here.

Here in America, we idealize our kids.   We put them on pedestals, spending exorbitant amounts of money spoiling them.   Nothing is too good for our kids; nothing they want is out of reach no matter what it costs us.  Have you realized yet that we have it backwards?   Our kids (usually) don’t want lavish spending.   Our kids want we parents to lavish love on them.   We don’t do that by buying them things.   We do it by first sharing the lavish love of Jesus.

And it aint always easy.   Sometimes I still rebuke my grown-up kids.   Sometimes I say things they don’t want to hear, but I rarely do so off the cuff.  When I speak up it’s because there’s something I want them to know, even if it’s just “I love you.”   We have to remember that the core of “discipline” involves a disciple and discipling.  More than any other role in this world, I want my kids to be disciples of Jesus.  I’d my honor to parent them along that disciple’s path.

Larry Elder is one of the people I follow on Twitter.   He often quotes that the single biggest problem in the ‘black community’ today is the absence of fathers.  Statistically and realistically, kids do better and have a better shot at a happy, successful life if both a mom and a dad are present in a committed relationship.   I believe that’s true in every situation, not just in the black homes of America.   No I’m not disparaging single parent homes, especially single mom homes.   I’m simply sharing a factual statistic with which I agree.   After all, it’s the model Jesus instituted and the one He modeled in His own life.

We don’t know what happened to Joseph after Jesus became an adolescent.   Sometime after the incident where Jesus was left at the Temple, Joseph disappeared.   He probably died; he’s absent from the rest of the Gospels and Jesus doesn’t say.   Some folks would think this means Jesus was raised in a house where there had been a deadbeat dad.  Some infer a message of “see, dad’s don’t matter.”   Both of those interpretations are greatly lacking in both insight and common sense.   A better way to look at it is that Joseph’s role was complete.   His mission was complete (and successful) and his purpose fulfilled. says that “Perhaps the cause or timing of his death is not nearly as important as the strength of character he displayed.”   I like that interpretation, because it jives with the entirety of his adopted son’s life.  Joseph trained Jesus in the worldly skills of carpentry and working with people.   He stood by Him even before He was born by refusing to deny Mary as his wife.   He took Jesus to the synagogue, and he imparted on Jesus patterns of behavior that were displayed all through the adult ministry we know about.   Joseph raised other sons and daughters with Mary, and he taught Jesus how to be a big brother, how to be both family and friend.  Have you ever considered that Jesus did some of the wonderful things He did not just because He was God, but because He was God who also learned at the feet of a good step-father?

Someday I’d like to ask Joseph how he handled things as a father.   Dad to dad I’d like to ask him a few questions.   I’m betting that, in the conversation, Joseph might just say it was the most important task of his life:   discipling the Man who he would follow as the Savior of his life.

For further reading:  Psalm 94:12, Psalm 119:75, Revelation 3:19, Proverbs 3:11-12.

Lord, help me as a parent to live out a good example for my kids and all the folks around me.


Practical Proverbial, from Mark 11 December 2014

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” Mark 2, verse 18.

That’s not fair!   Have you ever heard kids say that?   Even if you don’t have kids, you’ve probably heard it.   You may have even said it.   Read verse 18 again and admit it:   isn’t that what these people were saying to Jesus?   “How come they get to do this and we don’t?” After 2000 years and billions of other people, what’s changed?

Yet there’s a word that jumps out because it’s used multiple times in this one verse:   disciples.   John’s disciples, disciples of the Pharisees, and (it’s implied) Jesus’ disciples:   what is it about that word that seems so old fashioned? defines “disciple” as “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; follower.”   Not every teacher has disciples, and not every student is a disciple.   The relationship goes deeper.   There’s a connection that allows the student to embrace more than just the educational lessons offered by the teacher. The disciple absorbs the instruction, the patterns, the behaviors of the mentor.   In today’s parlance, ‘mentor’ is more commonly said than ‘disciple.’

That’s something I can relate to.   I’ve had several mentors; men and women who taught me things, ways of thinking, ways of performing and behaving, that I’ve adopted as my own. Especially in our so-called post-modern world, it’s more important than ever to have solid mentors.   We each need people to serve as examples for us; folks who think and act in ways we would like to emulate. In the age when families in America seem to be both disposable and disposed of, our young people need solid, virtuous, and experienced mentors from whom to learn the ropes.

If you have a mentor, you are a disciple.   If you are mentoring someone, you have disciples. To be a disciple is to follow.   Not surprisingly, ‘discipline’ is derived from ‘disciple’ because to be disciplined is to both receive correction (including rebuke) and to have adopted the ways of the one to whom you are discipled. Whether you know it or not, you’re following in Jesus’ footsteps.

And that’s not fair, you see, because it isn’t ‘fair’ to give up one’s entire self to be a follower of someone else.   Without descending too far into vulgarity, however, let me remind you that ‘fair’ is a four-letter F word. Life isn’t fair; fair isn’t even fair. Even Jesus isn’t fair.   Jesus is just, and truth, and love, and peace.   When you think about it, ‘fair’ and ‘fairness’ aren’t any of those things.

Neither is being a disciple of Jesus, yet the more I follow Him and the more I share my interpretations of His Word, I find that I don’t care about fairness where He is concerned.   To be a disciple of Jesus, I gladly give up ways I once thought were fine.   I enthusiastically put myself aside so that He can increase in you. I hopefully live now knowing that His hope is more than just a wish.   I thankfully look forward to being in eternity with Jesus and His church because I know I’m part of that eternity now.   None of that is fair, but all of it is just the way it should be.

Lord Jesus, You aren’t fair as the world sees fair.   You’re so much better than that.

Read the whole story again in Mark 2, verses 18-22.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 6 October 2014

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law – Mark 1, verses 21-22.

“Teachable moments:”   that’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot lately.   It’s a favorite of a good friend of mine, who was saying it long before it was in vogue on the radio or TV.   I know it isn’t one of Solomon’s proverbs, but I’m pretty sure King Solomon would agree with me that wise men look for and use every moment as a teachable one.

Do you like how, when Jesus comes back from the desert, He picks out His first disciples, then starts to teach?   I think it’s reasonable to assume that Simon, Andrew, James, and John were with Him when He quietly went into the local church, sat down, and started to talk. He wasn’t talking like just anyone else.   No, He sounded like He knew what He was talking about.

We instinctively know quality when we see it.   For most people, excellence speaks for itself.   There is a tangible, palpable difference in the ride between a Rolls Royce and a Chevrolet.   Even untrained ears (such as mine) can tell the difference between quality music and bad music. It’s easy to tell the difference between a choice steak and a cheap one. You get the drift.

The people in that first synagogue knew it too, and they recognized that the Man from Nazareth was somebody special.   He wasn’t a slick talker.   It wasn’t that He recited the same old stories from Scripture.   No, He talked about them in the context of life, and about what they really meant.   He talked about them in such a way as to make the words themselves come alive, as if He was speaking from God Himself.

Because He was.   They just didn’t know it yet.

But they knew quality when they heard it.   And they realized that the rabbi with the new followers was using His time there as teachable moments. He was teaching them things about stories, hymns, and words they already knew by heart, yet He was teaching them things about them that they had never considered, or never truly understood. As if every moment with Him mattered.   As if He considered each one of them – both moments and people – special and important as well.

Because they were.

Just yesterday in church, our new pastor said something that stuck with me.   In a teachable moment, he said “people don’t’ care how much we know until they know how much we care.”   Perhaps you’ve heard that truism before; I hadn’t and it resonated. It’s a way of looking at these verses from Mark 1.   The people in Judea didn’t care that Jesus knew all these cool things…until they realized that He cared about them, about them knowing Him.   When that realization came, things started to happen.     We’re no different, especially those of us who don’t believe or struggle with belief.   Faith and doubt walk hand in hand; that was another lesson from yesterday.   So many people in our world struggle with knowing Jesus until they realize that He really, truly does care in ways nobody else does.   And that He uses every moment in our lives in teachable ways to teach us more about His love.

Lord, teach me today, I pray. Help my unbelief.

Read Matthew 4, verse 23, and Luke 4, verses 16-22.