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.

 

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 20 December 2016

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  Hebrews 5, verse 11.

My friend, you may not like hearing this but you’re slow to learn.   Dim, dull, impaired, sluggish, ignorant:   guilty, my friend, both you and I.   We are slow to learn matters of God’s heart.  You’ve heard the Biblical account that King David was a man after God’s own heart.   I think that, perhaps, David was just a man, albeit an extraordinarily talented man but that his real advantage – his only real advantage – in life was that he wasn’t slow to learn what matters most to God.   He paid attention to God, and sought Him out even when David made mistakes.  What would King David, or his wiser son Solomon, say about us?

Last night was a tough night at the call center.   Our mission is to call, call, and call, attempting to sell satellite radio programming to people who recently completed promotional offers.  In an average four hour shift, I usually call about 150 people, and I might make 4 sales out of all those calls.   That works out to a 3% sales rate for all the calls, and I’m at the top of my group.   Last night, I made 280 calls in a five hour shift and made zero sales.   It was discouraging but had to be done.  The most memorable calls were with some severely disgruntled customers who decided I would be a verbal punching bag.   I really don’t know why some folks seem to enjoy being nasty but two customers last night seemed to be enjoying it with gusto.   Profanity, yelling, humiliation, insults; try packing uber-portions of those things into an unplanned telemarketing call with a sales agent who can’t respond in kind and can only apologize on behalf of his employer.   That’s what these guys from New York and Washington did.  At the end of the calls, I honestly but reluctantly said a couple of quick prayers for these irate people, but it didn’t feel too soothing.

And then there’s Black Friday.   I don’t like the idea of it.   Me, I’m an ardent capitalist, and in theory, enabling stores to sell what they want when they want to is a great thing.   The combination of Judeo-Christian ethics, free market capitalism, and representative democracy has given rise to the greatest system for improving humanity that humanity has ever devised.  Yet I’m repulsed by Black Friday.   I’m repulsed by stores being open on a day set aside to thank God.   I’m sickened at the thought of hordes of people camping out to save pennies on meaningless stuff.   I’m revolted by the pictures of crowds fighting in Walmart and Best Buy for loss leader worthless widgets ridiculously discounted.   It’s their right; I don’t dispute that.   I am simply disgusted by it on Thanksgiving…and this year I participated, taking my grandson shopping while others ventured out to do same.   That not only disgusts me more:   it makes me a hypocrite.

What about the election?   In our lifetimes, has there ever been a more vitriolic, bad-tempered election than the one of 2016?   Both sides are guilty, and the losing side has shown nothing but sour grapes ever since the results came in.   If you pay attention to the media, it doesn’t promise to get better any time soon.   I’m with those who predict that every issue will be battled mercilessly and endlessly every day going forward.   It’s even more repulsive than Black Friday shoppers fighting over NES game systems.

Wanna know the reason why all these things happen?   It’s because we’re slow to learn.   Our sin choices make us ignorant and immature.  The author of Hebrews has spent five chapters explaining things about Jesus’ role in our lives.   Here in chapter 5, he’s explaining why Jesus is so similar to the ancient priest, Melchizidek.   And before he goes any further, he says that he wants to explain more but his readers wouldn’t understand it.   First century Judea didn’t have Walmart or Hillary Clinton, but I’m betting the marketplaces, synagogues, and common streets were full of the same kind of invective and discord that plagues our world today.

The author’s Hebrew readers were slow to learn what mattered to God, and they weren’t much different from their ancestors in King David’s time a millennium before.    They weren’t stupid; you and I aren’t stupid either.   They were stubborn; so are we.  They were experienced yet immature in following Jesus, and many had been educated in the Torah and the ways of the synagogue for decades before that.   Yet they were slow, sluggish in their faith.   They were not much different from Black Friday electors who could be unkind to strangers on the telephone.

They’re the people Jesus came to save.   They’re us.

For further reading:   Hebrews 5:6, 5:12-14.

Lord Jesus, thank You for being so much better than me.   Thank You for not being slow, and for being wise, full of grace, and patient.   Help me to models these parts of Your character.

 

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 28 October 2016

Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.  Hebrews 3, verses 5-6

Concerning these verses, the Concordia study bible I use as a writing guide says, “The superiority of Christ over Moses is shown in two comparisons:  (1) Moses was a servant whereas Christ is a son, and (2) Moses was in God’s house, i.e. a apart of it, whereas Christ is over God’s house.”

Translate:  Jesus is over you.

So the other day I was talking with my atheist friend again.   We spent 70-80 Facebook posts debating the existence of God.   At the end of our discussion, after he shot in a few pretty vulgar expletives concerning his opinion of the Almighty, he said he thought I had been trolling him, playing him for a chump in the conversation.   Nothing could have been further from the truth as I reiterated to him several times “Jesus loves you just the way you are.  Just the way you are: atheist, hostile to God, full of rage, full of angst. He wants you, as you are, to get to know Him so He can replace anything that hurts you with Himself. THAT is the start of real freedom and peace. And it’s free; costs you nothing. He believed in you so much He died for you so that you don’t have to be separated from His ultimate love, peace and holiness.”

I said that because Jesus is over him.   Whether someone believes in Him or not, Jesus is over him.   Jesus is over everything.  It couldn’t be any other way because, if Jesus weren’t over everything, He couldn’t have redeemed everyone.   His sacrifice would have been incomplete, and that simply cannot be.

Now, my atheist friend and I share a distrust of our government.   We believe our government has grown too powerful, too corrupt.   While we differ on what should be done, who should be in power and other points, we share this common distrust about that expanding and seemingly unchecked growing power-cancer.

Here’s where we would disagree again:  Jesus is over the government.   In fact, nothing the government does, not the most corrupt politician or the worst unindicted crime occurs without Jesus seeing it and factoring how He will work the outcome for the good of His Kingdom.   In this contentious election season, that matters greatly because, no matter what some imperfect human candidate may do, Jesus will still be in ultimate control.   No matter how Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton further tangle the spaghetti-tangle of the Federal government, none of it will happen without Jesus’ oversight.   And no matter whether our economy succeeds or fails, whether we’re in war or peace, or whatever comes down the pike, Jesus will still be King.

He will be King over our house.   And here’s the kicker:   our house isn’t just our home, our building, or our country.   We are His house.   We are God’s house.   The church isn’t some building:   WE are the church.   God has built us up as His permanent movement, the structure through which He will reach those, like my friend, who don’t know Him or who have willfully turned away from Him.   We are the foundation for that and, as the old hymn says, ‘the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.”  We are Jesus’ church here on planet Earth.   Jesus is over this church because He is over us.  He’s even over my atheist friend.

For more reading:   Exodus 14:31, Numbers 12:7, Hebrews 1:2, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Timothy 3:15, Romans 11:22.

Lord, You and only You are Lord and master of my life.   I’m Your house here.   Let me be Your shelter, Your home, Your provision, Your fortress for Your church of my brothers and sisters wherever I am.