Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 18 April 2019, Maundy Thursday

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.   2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV).

Today is Maundy Thursday.   Think of it as election day.   We are the elected.   Think about that.

How do you obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus?   Everything that could be done to save mankind from the second death of damnation has been done by Jesus.   He did it on Easter Sunday, which we’ll celebrate in a few days.  The ONLY thing you do to put that salvation into effect in your life is believe.   With belief comes love.  That’s it; nothing more, nothing less.  All the work, all the spiritual battling, all the sacrifice, all the love:   Jesus did it all.   The only thing we do is believe.   And not lip service; real belief.   Believing means surrendering to His will, surrendering control of your life to Him.   It means letting His Spirit guide your heart to remake your life away from sinful ways.   It means replacing enmity with amity, questions with understanding, hate with love.

The payoff for it?   Eternal glory.  That eternity starts now, here on the Third Rock, there in your life where you live now.   You participate in it now and will for the rest of your life here, until the time your life here is ended and you move to eternity with Jesus in person.  Then the fun really begins.

And who begins this journey for you?   You know the answer:   God does.   Jesus did from the time in Eden to the last moment of your life.  In love, God is eternally all-knowing.   He knows ahead of time who will end up with Him at the end of time, yet He loves us enough to put aside this knowledge and grant us free will.   You and I don’t HAVE TO believe in Jesus.   We get to.   We get to choose whether or not to believe that He has done everything for salvation or not.

With that comes accepting – or not – that He loved us before we even knew Him.  You and I can love Him because He first loved us, or we can choose to not believe it and allow to be so for God to turn us over to the consequences of our choice.   Love respects choices, and God has that kind of love for us.  He will keep working on us, providing what we need to make the right choice up until the moment we die.   After that moment, it’s too late to decide.   We will all meet Him.   Will you stand in joy for your choices, or fall in damned defeat because of them?   He elected you, chose you, through love.   On this Maundy Thursday, what will you do?

For further reading: Colossians 1:24, Titus 1:1, 2 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Peter 5:10, 2 Timothy 2:11.

Lord, thank You for electing me to be saved.   Help our unbelief.   Forgive our sins.  

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 6 November 2018

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV).

One of the verses that helps to amplify Paul’s meaning today is listed below (referenced from my Concordia).   1 Corinthians 10:32 says “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God.”   This is Paul’s goal in meting out advice to his protégé.   “Whatever you do, Timothy, keep these things in mind so that the members of our church of God don’t cause others to struggle in their faith.”

Simply brilliant.   Whatever we do as ‘the church’ should be upright, consistent, caring, and loving so that God is increased and we are decreased.   We should do these things, as followers of Jesus, to encourage, build, and strengthen the faith of others, especially the faith of those who are weak in it or new to it.

That’s been on my heart a lot lately, even more so during the last days of this political season.   I’m guilty of arguing online about my political views, and I have to confess that I don’t think I’ve changed anyone’s mind for the better.   There’s great value in standing up for what you believe, both to take that stand and to encourage friends with similar beliefs.  Yet in doing that, I confess I’m guilty of saying things that don’t glorify God and sometimes cause other people to stumble (both in their spiritual beliefs and their political ones).

On this election day, I therefore take great comfort in Paul’s advice, his urging to Timothy (and to you and I) to conduct ourselves in ways that show even strangers that we believe in Jesus.  The church of the living God acts out of love, even when it, too, takes hard and political incorrect stands.  The church of the living God conducts itself in ways that show what we believe about the love of Jesus.   We don’t give up our temporal political beliefs because we follow Jesus:  we learn ways to do them better.

I haven’t done that very well; have you?   I bet I know your answer.

And if that’s true, then Paul is advising us, too, to remember how we should conduct ourselves, especially today.   Our political choices, for now, conclude in the ballot box.   Our lives as Jesus’ church go on regardless of politics, pop culture, or what the pundits and celebrities think.  We’re the church of God walking around in a world hostile to Him.   Let’s remember to act like it.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 10:32, Matthew 16:16, Timothy 3:15

Lord, forgive me for failing You in my words and actions.   Encourage me to do better, to be a more faithful follower in Your church.   Help me to help others.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 8 November 2016

As has just been said:  “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”  Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.  Hebrews 3, verses 15-19.

Today is Election Day.   Today we, as Americans, will elect either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as president.   We’re voting for the president, for members of Congress, state legislators and governors, local officials, judges and a host of ballot or state constitutional issues.   If you’ve followed politics this year, you may agree:   this election has divided the United States unlike any other in our lifetimes.  Thankfully, it’ll be over today (or soon after if it’s contested) and then the real work of governing and reconciliation will begin.

As we begin that work, perhaps a question, paraphrased from Hebrews, is appropriate:  are our hearts so hard that we cannot enter rest?   Have we become so divided that we can’t come back together and live in peace?   Or at least live in peace disagreeing?  The United States is culturally, economically, politically, ethnically, even racially more divided than at any time since 1860.   That year, the division led to civil war.   Are we that far gone?

I’m reminded of Matthew 19:26.   Jesus has been talking with a rich young man who wanted to puff himself up by chest-bumping the Son of Man.   Instead, Jesus reaches into the man’s heart and levels with him.   “Give up the world and follow me.”   When the young man walks away disillusioned, Jesus remarks, “With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible.”

With God as our first focus, all things are possible.   By going first to God in prayer, we can avoid hardening our hearts as we did in our rebellion, in entrenching these divisions.  God held the ancient Israelites accountable for their rebellion against Him.  They wandered in the desert in sight of the Promised Land until those who believed in the rebellion instead of God were dead and buried.   Redemption was possible but so was chastisement.

Centuries before that, God confounded the language of men when men became too arrogant and rebellions at Babel.  It was the first major human endeavor after Noah’s family left the ark.   Rather than building a city in humility and thanksgiving, mankind build a skyscraper to ‘make a name for ourselves.’   Translation:   “(blank) you, God.   We don’t need you anymore.”   Division followed.   God gob-smacked people with dozens of new languages, confusing their ability to communicate and live together (and finish that audacious tower).  What seemed like chastisement was, in reality, a step towards the people’s redemption.   With God all things are possible.

We, as a people, aren’t much different and we shouldn’t expect any different treatment.  This isn’t some consolation if your candidate loses; this isn’t some pablum to reassure you that things will be ok if you have a bitter pill to swallow.   This is hard, aggressive truth.   ALL things are possible with God.  All through the history of the Bible people sought God, glorified Him, fell away from Him, and felt His wrath until they sought Him again.   All through the history of America we have sought God, glorified him, fallen away from Him, and felt His wrath until we have sought Him again.   All through our history, as we have built and succeeded, we’ve walked away from God.   If you don’t see how we, as a people, have walked away from God for decades now, and now we’re suffering accordingly, then you need to open your eyes.   It’s all good times until the good times run out and then we’re left with the bad ones.

And, at the end of those times, we sought God again.  The First and Second Great Awakenings (of the 1600s and 1800s, respectively) were evidence of this cycle.   Some think our nation is on the edge of a third Great Awakening while others think we’re at the start of the end times.   I think nobody knows.  But I also think – and deeply believe – that days like this contentious Election Day are good days to hold onto our original conviction, our faith in Jesus.  It’s a good day to remember that quote from Matthew 19.   It’s a good day to do our civic duty, then remember that, no matter the outcome, with God all things are possible.

For more reading:   Genesis 11, Psalm 95, Numbers 14:2, Numbers 14:29, Psalm 106:26, 1 Corinthians 10:5, Deuteronomy 1:34-25, Psalm 78:22, John 3:36, Matthew 19:26.

Lord God, I believe that You are over all things, that with You all things are possible.   Bless our divided nation, bless our new leaders, and thank You for the privilege of living here.

Practical Proverbial, the Ten Commandments, 27 May 2014.

You shall not murder. Exodus chapter 20, verse 13.

Today is primary election day here in Texas.   I AM SO GLAD THE PRIMARIES ARE ALMOST OVER. This year, the mudslinging has been especially vicious.   If other voters feel as I do, then I think most must be sickened by politicians saying and doing whatever they think is necessary, including destroying their opponents, just to get a taste of republican (little R) power.

I’ve come to think that every political ad tearing down an opponent is a violation of the sixth commandment.   “You shall not murder” is the same as “X candidate hates puppies, apple pie, and Captain America movies?”   Are you really equating negative words with deliberate murder?

Jesus even said so.   He equated anger with murder.   Anger equals slander equals gossip equals disparaging remarks equals deliberate killing equals pre-meditated murder. When we are guilty of harboring malicious thoughts against others we are just as guilty as if we had actually murdered them. Thus, every time I see the political ads where one opponent tears down another, I’m disgusted at them.   I look at them as if they had just murdered their opponent.

Mean Girls; same thing.   That chick who gossips in church about the other women who don’t look so fit in their Sunday best: murderer. The men who slander each other to try to get advantage:   killers.   The media that thrives on all of it: no better than the mafia. Me talking bad about someone else:   murderer.

The generals who plan great battles?   Not so much.   God forbids murder, but not killing another person.   That doesn’t mean God approves of war, nor should we.   Yet the Bible is replete with examples of God leading his people into war against God’s enemies. I have a hard time equating making war against those who reject justice, especially God’s justice, and the crime of premeditated, malicious killing.   I am also conflicted by remembering that, one hundred years ago, incompetent generals, out of touch with the weapons of their day, unleashed wholesale war carnage on Europe over something that was little more than an extended family feud. It became systematic murder.

Murder, like adultery or stealing or lying, is something that is forbidden in every culture, whether every culture believes in God or not. As an offense against God, it is an offense against society. Don’t believe that?   Look at Sicily, or Somalia, or northern Mexico, or even Chicago.   Wherever murder goes unpunished, vengeance and anarchy rule. Is it any stretch, then, to think that, wherever feelings of malice, hatred, anger, jealousy, or rage rule, so there also is a place of murder as well?

You decide for yourself.   Just like on Election Day. Yes, I’m glad this primary season is over.   Just go vote already and stop the character assassination. There is a better way.

Lord, forgive me of the murder in my heart.

 

Read Exodus chapter 10, locusts and darkness…