Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 24 May 2018

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV).

This is the greatest privilege of a believer.   When you follow Jesus, your highest calling, best job, and greatest privilege is to encourage other people.

I’ll brag on my wife.   She’s the best encourager I know.   Quite honestly, sometimes it’s downright annoying that she refuses to let things get her down, even really serious things like illness, crisis, or even death.  When she let Jesus take hold of her soul, she meant it and she took it to heart.  Any time something bad happens, she can always be counted on to look on the bright side and work to find ways to bring the good out of any situation.   It’s hard evidence of the Holy Spirit always at work inside of her.

I like to think the Apostle Paul would pat her on the back and say “keep on keepin on” (or something like that).   In fact, I like to think he would say that to any of us who follow Jesus and use our status as His followers to encourage other people.   That means ‘being there’ when someone has an issue.   It means listening (something hard for me to do).   It means helping out however someone needs help.   It means actively praying for people, especially strangers and people who wrong us, and then doing what we can to help where we can.  It means forgiving.

There was a stink last week when, in response to the Santa Fe, Texas school shooting, the mayor of Dallas said “spare us your thoughts and prayers and do your job.”  In the climate of frustration, fear, and anger that comes with this wave of evil, yes, Mayor Rawlings’ comments are understandable even if they are insulting and repugnant.  Yet the point he’s making – we need to DO something – is a popular one.   Might I suggest to the mayor that praying is the first step to ‘doing something.’   Indeed, any ‘doing’ is meaningless if it is done without the guidance and involvement of the Almighty.  Yet now is also the time when believers get to step up to the plate and encourage each other, building each other up, and build up others.   Being there, listening, comforting, not preaching, are perhaps the best witnesses for Jesus we could offer these days.   They are practical faith, really ‘doing something’ meaningful.

Come to think about it, they’re really the best things we could do any day, any time.  Jesus died for everyone so that everyone might have the opportunity to come to know Him in faith and become part of heaven now.   When encouraging each other, perhaps the best things we can offer are our actions.   They prove our belief instead of simply talking about it.   They are our highest calling.  My wife would agree.

For further reading:  1 Thessalonians 5:12

Lord, help me to encourage other people, other believers, and unbelievers every day of my life.

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Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 29 January 2016

She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Mark 14, verse 8.

One of the books on my nightstand is a recent book by Billy Graham called “Where I Am.” It’s about eternity, and it walks the reader through Scripture verses that talk about preparing for eternity by living in God’s Word now.   That’s a tough thing to do, in case you’re wondering.   If you’re doing the best you can, doing what you can to walk God’s walk, you know that it’s rough. It can take everything you have, that you are probably (like me) woefully short of the perfect expectation God has set for us.

And that’s the point, isn’t it?

You see, we are supposed to do what we can.   We are supposed to use the gifts God gives us to their fullest, using them with the talents, time and treasure He provides to do what we can in wherever God has us. Yes, we’re supposed to be responsible with them, to prepare to use them and to educate ourselves on the best ways to use them.   We’re supposed to be stewards of all God gives us every day of our lives, living in each moment and acting on each moment as God tells us through His Spirit.   Through it, God builds His glory, glorified in our weaknesses.

And it can be rough.   Think of Billy Graham. He’s currently 97 years old and in declining health.   Yet his recent book is still ‘bringing it’ to advance God’s word.   Rev Graham can’t drive any more, and he can’t walk across a stage at a 50,000 member crusade, and he can’t even stand in a pulpit anymore because he has Parkinson’s Disease.   But he can still write, and talk and dictate, and he can teach & preach in the ways God has him able to use now.

Think of Steve Harvey.   I recently saw a video of an ad-lib talk Harvey gave to one of his Family Feud audiences.   In the video, Steve talked about using the gifts God gives us to the best of our abilities, and ‘jumping’ with them.   We have to jump in life. We have to do what we can, the best we can.   Whether we are successful or not, whether it gains us something or not, whether what we desire is produced or not isn’t the point.   The point is having faith in God that He will sustain us no matter our situation and enable us to do whatever He wants done with those times, treasures and talents.

Then think of the woman who poured perfume over Jesus’ head to anoint Him for His burial.   It might have been Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus; Mark doesn’t say specifically and who she was doesn’t matter as much as what she did.   The woman did what she could with the tools at her disposal (the perfume) and the treasure God gave her (Jesus and a heart that loved Him).   Perhaps doing this small thing used up the only worldly wealth she ever had.   That it was perceived by God Immanuel as a great gift, and that we’re still learning from it two thousand years later tells me that she didn’t waste her money.

Do what you can today, with what God gives you, where He has you, as He leads you.

Lord, I dedicate today to You. Help me to serve You in every way I can here today, wherever You lead me today.

Read Mark 14, verses 1-11.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 26 March 2015

 They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. Mark 6, verses 12-13.

This is the other half of the story we talked about the other day.   The other day, we talked about how Jesus empowered His disciples to go out and do these things.   Now comes the proof that they did them.   They went.   They acted.   They forgave and healed.   They ‘brought it.’   They ‘did;’ they didn’t just ‘try.’

That matters.   It matters because we can’t just talk.   We have to do something about it. Talking is good preparation but if we’re talking about doing and not actually doing, then we may just be accomplishing nothing. It’s not that God needs our works.   He doesn’t.   God doesn’t need us to do anything to earn the favor He already gave us through His Son being murdered for all the wrongs we’ve done.   Instead – and here’s the shocker – we need it.   We need other people to bring the message of Jesus to us. When we know about the Good News, we NEED to share it with other people, to pass it on down the line because other people need it too.   In all this, actions really do speak louder than words (even though it is the Word putting itself into practice through our actions).

It’s like work.   You can talk about work or you can do work.   I’m helping to lead a team of 20+ people who are executing a project.   They’re executing a project we planned for nearly 2 years, one that we began and had to table last year (thanks to politicians).   For many weeks and months, those of us acting as project caretakers talked about doing things.   We planned, organized, discussed, met, and rehearsed; that was all we could do at the time and it was preparation for things to come.   Now the leadership team has hired the people and I’m helping to manage their work.   In just a matter of a few weeks, their hard work has taken us from 5% complete to almost 30% complete.   They did it by DOING, by putting into practice the things we had planned for them and then empowered them to do.   I couldn’t be prouder to be part of a group than I am to be part of this one.

“Do or do not.   There is no try.”   Yoda said that in The Empire Strikes Back.   And Yoda was a Jedi master (as well as just a movie character). Jesus is real, and really asks us to do for Him, to commit through Him in whatever we do because, when we do that, we can do anything. The Disciples found that out.

Whether we knew it or not, in those movies, Yoda channeled Jesus. Jesus is the original Yoda, the original “do, not try” man.   And Jesus’ message is “do through Me.   There is no trying in Me.   There is doing.   I want you to do through Me.” That’s what He told Peter, John and the rest to do, and that’s what they did. They did it in the mighty name of King Jesus who can do anything.   Through Him, so can we.

Lord, help me to do for You, not just to try.

Read Mark 6, verses 14-29.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 17 October 2013

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  James 2, verse 14

Be very careful here.   If you want to grasp the meaning of this verse, don’t read it alone.   Go back and re-read all of the 2 chapters before.   Don’t get fooled into interpreting this verse as “work out your own salvation.”

It’s a mistake we all make from time to time.   Especially if you’re bull-headed like me.  It’s easy to think that we can do it all ourselves, or that the things we do earn favor in God’s eyes.   After all, we’re put here to work, to share Jesus in all that we do… to ‘do’ things in life.  Isn’t it easy, then, to think that it’s our doing that makes Jesus love us more?   Just look at how good I’ve been, how hard I’ve been working.   Just look at my good intentions!  James even agrees, saying that our faith only means something because we’re doing something about it, right?

If that’s what you think, you couldn’t be more mistaken.   Go back and re-read again, then come back to me here.

Now that you’re back, let’s get back to the truth that James is telling us about his brother, Jesus.   All through chapter 1, he says that believing in Jesus is going to be tough, that we’ll need to persevere.   And that persevering in Jesus means something.   It builds others up, toughens our skin, and prepares us to move forward in the faith.  It is evidence of faith to people who watch us, who are looking to see what evidence we show that we believe in this Jesus, that He is all He says He is.

The ‘doing’ matters because it is the doing that shows others.  It prepares us for more, like tuning an instrument.  What good is it to believe in Jesus if we don’t let Him change what we say & do, then prove we’re changed by living in changed ways? 

Believe me, this is the toughest part of following Jesus.   It’s hard to back away from the arguments because my self-righteous nature rails against doing so, and I don’t like to lose.   It’s hard to keep away from the things that tempt us because, after all, just one more won’t hurt.   It’s hard to stand up for what you believe when everyone else compromises on principle instead of compromising on practice.

We aren’t in it alone; we never are.  The doing matters.   It matters to help build others up so that Jesus might have a work in them too.

Lord, help me more and more to do for You.   Keep me from temptation, forgive me when I mess it up, and help me to move forward in following You.

 

What are your thoughts on working out your own salvation?

How do you confuse what you do & working for faith?

Do you sometimes feel alone in what you do?

Daily Proverbial, from James, 16 September 2013

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  James 1, verse 22.

I’m impatient, and I don’t tolerate ‘stupid’ very well.   If there is something to be done, I prefer to get on it and get it done.  Someday, when I get to heaven, I hope to meet James and see if my hunch is right because I suspect that we have a few things in common.  Maybe that’s why I bristle at this book.   I’ve read and re-read James several time over.   On the surface, it seems very works-righteous centered.  Don’t just say you believe:  do something about it.   Work out your own salvation.   You need to prove to God that you believe in Him, because you need to prove yourself to God.  You, you, you; me, me, me.

If you stop here, you’re getting the wrong message.   That isn’t what James is saying at all.   The impatient part of me wants to cut to the chase and get busy.  I’ve got it, you see; I understand.   Now, it’s time to do something with it.   James would agree with that, right?

Probably not.

You see, James isn’t telling us to do anything to be worthy of Jesus, or curry His favor.   He isn’t saying that there’s anything we need to do to gain salvation because salvation is a free gift of Jesus, something He does for us and not the other way around.   We don’t have to earn our way into eternity.   He’s already made it possible for us to be there with 100% of the work already done.

I think one of the ways to read what James is saying is ‘don’t be a hypocrite.’  The gift of being redeemed is too good to keep silent about.  We shouldn’t say we believe but then disprove it by living unwholesome lives.   We need to talk the talk and walk the walk.   Faith and living were designed to go together, not just be a suit to wear on Sunday. We’re fooling ourselves if we think they weren’t.

Another way to interpret James is to hear a call to action.  You’ve heard the word, now go and put it into practice.   We put Jesus’ word into practice by sharing faith in Him, and the single best way to share faith is to live in such ways as prove to a watching, skeptical world that we believe.  That’s key:  the world is watching.   Our friends and family are paying attention.   Others are just as hungry for peace as you or me.  If you want folks to join the family of believers, then be welcoming by the way you live.   Live out Jesus’ words to be righteous, understanding, patient, loving and kind so that others will think to themselves “I want to be like that.”

Lord, I want to live like You would live.   Constantly teach me to follow You closely and live in better ways.

 

Do you have trouble walking the walk?

Why is that?   Are there impediments in your way?

How do these words challenge you?