Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 31 March 2020

Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings.  Philippians 4:21 (NIV).

Did you view a church service on Sunday?   Last week, our church in Frisco, Texas had done a partial online message, but this week we did a full online service.   For a first-time effort, it was a success:   over 75 couples showed up.   With all those who attended via Zoom, there were easily over 150 people together even if it was virtually.

That’s a huge blessing, you know.   In the middle of both imposed and self-imposed shutdowns, brothers and sisters are together and send each other greetings in the name of Jesus.   Even when Satan is on the march and working to shut down God’s church, God’s church finds other ways to persevere and move forward because our mission is to greet all of God’s people in Christ Jesus.   That’s especially true today, during this COVID-induced crisis.   He is still abiding with us even during fear, uncertainty, and panic.   He may be even more active, considering so many in the world are, at least for now, living upside-down lives in ways we’d never imagined.

He is still our shepherd and we are still not in want.  Sure, there are still shortages of some things.  And, yes, the news is still trying to get us to panic.   Yet God is still very much in control and watching over us, wanting to guide each of us to repentance, then His riches, so that none around us will be lost.

In all ways, He is still providing what we need – Him first and foremost – to prevail.  Did you wake up?   Did you eat today?  Whatever your condition, are you still in functioning health?   Our primary needs of spiritual triumph in Christ, then physical, hierarchy needs of survival are still being met.   Christ is still the healer of our souls, then the feeder of our bodies:   just like He was before this madness started.

He’s still giving us new opportunities to dig deeper into Him and share Him with others.  More people turn to God in times of crisis, proving the old saw true:  better late than never.   If this is your first time communing with Him, try doing it in prayer, on your knees.   Open up your heart and talk with Him.   Open up His word and let it touch your heart, then do what it says.   Be the church especially outside the building.

These things are nothing new.   He has sustained every generation since Eden just as He is sustaining ours now.   To prevent infection, perhaps we shouldn’t meet in groups in a large building for now, but thank God He gives us other ways to do so.   These hard times will pass but God never will.   During them, let’s keep the faith and use it to encourage others.

For further reading: Psalm 23:1, Romans 2:4, 2 Corinthians 9:8, Philippians 4:22.

Lord, abide, lead, and guide us in these days.  You prevail.

Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 7 August 2019

Keep telling people these things. Continue to encourage and rebuke with full authority. Let no one ignore you. Titus 2:15 (EHV).

Finally, a summary.  After Paul has spent the chapter giving instructions on what must be taught to various people, he wraps it up with a brief commission.   “Keep on keepin on, Titus.   Don’t let anyone stop you.”  Remember what you’ve been taught.

Right on, right on.

Especially today.   I work in an industry where there is an unwritten code that you may not openly talk about Christian faith, conservative politics, current events outside a given viewpoint, non-supportive gay rights, or even, in some places, an out-of-town sports franchise.   Seriously.  If you want to survive in this well-paying industry, those are simply the rules of the road.

I wonder what Paul would say about that.   Given Titus 2:15, he might be upset.   Yet given something he said in 1 Corinthians 9, perhaps he wouldn’t.   Perhaps he would tell Titus to keep telling people these things yet doing so in a way to relate to them in their own manner.   Paul said he would become all things to all people to do whatever he had to do to win some people for Jesus.

That’s important to remember here.   Keep preaching but relate.   Paul is telling Titus to stand fast and stick to the truth.  Stand with Jesus:  anything else, you can let it go.  Yet do so in a humbler, serving way to meet their needs, relating to peoples’ circumstances.   Some need encouragement, some need rebuke.   God put these things on Titus’ heart (and Paul’s) to use them for the greater good of God’s Kingdom.

“Keep on keepin, on, Titus.”  Remember what you learned.  Stand and speak.  Minister in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.   Help folks.   Inspire justice and wisdom.  Do what you need to do to be heard…by them.   By the people Jesus puts in your path.  In ways they can understand.   In matters they need to hear.

And the people of 1st century Crete needed to hear that Jesus had overcome evil for them.   That He lived, died, and lives again so that they, too, might do the same.   Theirs was a brutal world of short lives lived in hardscrabble poverty and oppression.  The people of Crete needed hope and a leader to impart it.   They needed Jesus.

So do we.   So do all the people wandering in darkness after the terrible things that happened last weekend.   So do all the hurting people who reject Jesus and the prayers to Him as too little, too late.   So do our coworkers.  So do I.   So do you.  There is a time and place for words, and every time and every place is the right one for living out this faith the Savior put into our hands.   Keep on keepin on with it.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 9:22, Titus 3:1

Risen Lord, help me today to keep on acting, speaking, and living for You, for others in this world.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 4 June 2018

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NIV).

“Warn, encourage, help, be:” read the verse again and focus on the action verbs that it requests of the reader.   Keep in mind that, in this chapter, Paul has discussed matters of the end times and Christ’s return, and he is wrapping up his letter to his friends in Thessalonica.   Immediately prior to this he encouraged them to always be thankful for their spiritual mentors and leaders.

Now Paul is spurring, even commanding, his friends to action.   Warn troublemakers, encourage those who are down, help everyone (because we’re all weak in some way), and be patient; warn, encourage, help, be.   Perhaps that last one is the most important:  be.

Be.   Just be.   Just be there, be patient, be patient with everyone.   Be in someone’s life.   Be wise about your time, talents, and treasures and how you use them to fulfill your mission that God gives you.   Be in God’s Word.   Be in communion with Him with every breath you take.  Be.

In French, “etre” is the verb that says “to be.”   God, through Paul, tells us to BE.   He is; He is the great I AM.   God is the ultimate etre, the ultimate being and state of being, and He commands us to model Him.   We are to be in the world while not of the world.   We are to be both present and accounted for, ready for duty at all times no matter what our duty in His service is.   And in this verse, He implores us to be patient.   In doing this, God tells us to be involved in relationship.

We are to be and be patient because HE is “there for us” and is always patient with us.   Yes, we are to use our services to warn others who interfere with God’s purposes.   Yes, we are to use our time to encourage people who are down, whose hearts are in danger of being pulled away from God.   Yes, we are to help those who are not as strong as ourselves, physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, in whatever way we can.

And, yes, we are to use our time, talents, and treasures here to be for others.   We are to use the wonderful gifts of life that God gives to us to serve His higher mission (or, as Randy Frazee might put it, do our part in the Upper Story).  That starts with being patient with other sinners.   You know:   people like us.

“People like us” means “everyone.”  We are to be in each other’s lives, and we are to be patient with each other.  What we do here does indeed matter because we matter to God.   That starts with simply being then being patient.

For further reading:  2 Thessalonians 3:7, Romans 14:1, 1 Corinthians 8:7-12, 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Lord Jesus, teach me today to be for You.

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.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 27 February 2018

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.  1 Thessalonians 2:111-12 (NIV).

Dad’s love unconditionally and hold you accountable.   Dads love their kids, or at least they should, and they impart of themselves into their kids by encouraging, comforting, and urging them to live lives worthy of God.   That means teaching them how to make their ways in the world, how to do what they love to do, how to be strong, how to get along with others.   Dads are supposed to also teach their kids about Jesus, imparting to them lessons that the Maker wants him to tell them so they can come to know the Maker as well.

At least that’s what we’re supposed to do.  News flash:  we dads don’t always do a great job at it.

Take me.  but I do wish I had done better for my own kids.   I wish I had not obsessed so much about grades, making their beds, the music they listened to or the movies they watched; you know, things that don’t really matter that much.   Sure, it’s important to work hard to get good grades, and it’s important to garner the self-discipline you get from making your bed.   Those things are important, but compared to Jesus they don’t matter very much.  More than anything else, I wish I had done more to live out my life for Jesus and be a better example of Him to the three people who watched me most.   As a young dad, I did a poor job at this.

None of us are blameless; I’m not blameless.   I let my job, my selfish desires, and my own obsessions get in the way of being a better dad.   But if the best thing we can say is “I did my best” then that applies to me too.   My dad did his best with me, and I can say I did my best with my own kids.

News flash again:   it’s not about me.   That’s the first lesson we dads should teach our kids.

I’m betting that’s how Paul and his companions dealt with the Thessalonians.  It’s a good bet to assume they worked to be selfless, to be caring and patient and loving with these new friends.   Unless they were those things, it would be difficult at best to encourage, comfort, and urge the Thessalonians to live Godly lives.   Only someone who’s living selflessly and teaching selflessly can really impart those Christ-like qualities to the people they love.

In other words, Paul and his friends acted like dads.   Like the men Jesus wanted them to be.

For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

Lord Jesus, thank You for being my Maker, my friend, my Savior, but my brother.  Thank You for letting me be a dad.   Always help me to do my best for You and others.