Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 29 July 2019

Likewise, encourage older women to be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not enslaved to much wine, but teachers of what is good, so that they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, busy at home, kind, and submitting to their own husbands, that the word of God might not be slandered. Titus 2:3-5 (EHV).

Last time, Paul advised older men to exhibit certain qualities.   Here he does the same thing for women.

Let’s get this out there:   male chauvinism.   At first glance, Paul seems like a chauvinist.   But when you read more of what he wrote and consider it in the context of his times AND in the audiences he was addressing, you find he isn’t.   You find that he’s merely echoing the qualities of the kinds of people God wants us to be.   Paul is no chauvinist.

I follow two Facebook pages that are full of funny memes:   “Mommy Needs Vodka” and “Mommy Drinks Wine and Swears.”   They’re snarky words to say about the conduct of older women.   Perhaps in his experience he had encountered women who drank too much or gossiped too much or whatever.  We don’t really know.

The pages point out all kinds of funny situations where, you’d think, good women would be driven to drink (mainly because of the conduct of their husbands, kids, or things around them).   It’s all in fun, and shouldn’t be taken seriously.   But if you read such pages too closely, you’ll pick up more than a subtle whiff of female chauvinism, bias in favor of a different view.   In the end, perhaps the only thing you can walk away with (from such things) is a laugh, or maybe a tweak on your morality.  They aren’t really chauvinist.

Yet underneath this is the opposite message from Proverbs 31; a message with which Paul would be familiar.   In those verses the author outlines the behaviors a wife of noble character would exhibit.   Read them today; they’re a beautiful passage in Scripture.   And they comport exactly with Paul’s words here in Titus.

Perhaps that means that they both describe the kind of people God wants His perfect creation, woman, to be.

Me, I love a woman who has a drink but tempers her behavior.   I love my wife who lets her hair down without making herself (and me, in the process) undignified.   I love that her character is strong, admirable, and that she’s the kind of woman other women should want to be.  She loves fun and being around friends and family and even likes a little wine, in moderation.   That isn’t God-displeasing.  If saying that makes me a male chauvinist, so be it.   I think not.

For further reading:  Proverbs 31:10-31, Ephesians 5:22, 1 Timothy 3:11, Hebrews 4:12, Titus 2:6

Lord God, You give us examples and qualities of the kind of people You want us to be.   Help us to do just that.

Advertisements

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 16 May 2019

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.  2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV).

These are harsh words about how people will behave in the end days.   They’re some of the worst qualities of mankind, and Paul prophesies that the end days will bring them out in full.   Whether those end days are now or later, they will be marked by these kinds of behaviors.

These verses apply to Hollywood.   They apply to Wall Street, corporate boardrooms, country club dealing, and the jet set.   These verses could have been written about the American suburbs, or about the ghettos.   They could have been written about people in our universities, in our workplaces, on the road and at the mall and, yes, they could have been written about people who sit every Sunday in a church pew.   They’re HBO; they’re Facebook; they’re Las Vegas; they’re Mainstreet USA.   They’re our living rooms.  These verses could have been written about any of the 7.7 billion people breathing here on Planet Earth.   Two thousand years after He left us, come quickly, Lord Jesus, and set things right again.

Especially if these are the last days.   In fact, I hope they are.   Heaven has much more to offer than our world, which is full of we who could be described by these ugly words.  Those words are a mirror, held up for me and you (and a dog named Boo) to look into and see ourselves as we really are.   Even the best of us is guilty of being like one or more of those words say we are.

Paul told Timothy to avoid people like those he described above.  If Paul met me today, would he see a follower of Christ or a sinking work in progress who loves himself, money, pride and boasting more than Jesus?   Who would Paul see in you?   Even more, if Jesus does come back today, will He see us as we are, or will He see us through the lens of His love?   You know the answer, and thank God Himself for it.   We are guilty of being those awful things Paul mentions, and only a Savior who isn’t could set things right.   Only He could save us.   When He comes back, He’ll see His followers in His own mirror, and welcome us.  Doesn’t it follow, then, that we should use our time today to kindly love on people who don’t know Jesus so that they’ll have the same eternity?

For further reading:  2 Timothy 3:6.

Lord Jesus, come quickly.   These times are as You predicted, full of evil scoffers.   Come and remake all things new.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 13 May 2019

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  2 Timothy 2:23-24 (NIV).

Let it be.   That was the subject of a recent devotion my wife and I did.   Now, you know I’ve confessed to arguing over dumb things on Facebook.   Most of them are political, and it’s unlikely that neither my opponents nor I will be changing our views.   Except for letting allies know they aren’t alone, such arguments are foolish, stupid, unproductive.   Yet I continue to make them, though less and less.   Perhaps I’m beginning to see the wisdom of Paul’s command in these verses.

Mainly I don’t want to be a quarrelsome servant of the Lord.   I don’t resent the people with whom I disagree, but I do understand that such long-term useless quarrels do eventually morph into resentment.   How do we stand up for good things in which we believe without becoming insulting or hurtful?   After all, it isn’t wrong to stand up against someone who hates Jews or minorities or gays or others, but it becomes wrong if, in standing up, we become insulting or depart from the truth into mere opinion.   It isn’t wrong to stand up against the senseless violence political street factions have recently caused, but it becomes wrong if we let it evolve our opposition into desires for counter-violence or retribution.

In other words, things become wrong when we depart from God’s peace.   God desires for us to live peaceful lives, sharing and growing peace in Him, which is the only real peace there is.  Giving us His peace is central to Christ’s salvation.   If not to share God’s true presence with us, Christ came for this reason.   Only through Him can we find the peace that lasts, both here and in eternity.   It is only through modeling His behavior that we can spread peace.

Sometimes that means standing up in silence; sometimes it means standing as the angry, righteous Jesus against true wrongdoing.   Sometimes we have to flee.  We must do our parts to vanquish the wrongdoing but then also extend Christ’s peace to the wrongdoers, lest we become them ourselves.

So perhaps the best thing to do with most of our political, cultural, and even moral rot is to let it be.   It isn’t that these things are unimportant.   It IS that God Almighty is much stronger than they are.   He knows what He’s doing and He gave us the mission to spread His peace and love to others who don’t know about it.   He can handle the rest.  When the opportunity to argue arises, instead, let it be.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 3:2-3, 2 Timothy 2:25.

Good Lord, forgive me for how I have failed to sow peace.   Forgive me for when I’ve shared in stupid quarrels.   Only You can restore me and instill real peace.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 23 April 2019

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.  2 Timothy 2:14 (NIV).

I’m becoming a fan of the Facebook snooze feature.   If a friend of mine sends a view or opinion that is particularly difficult to abide, or if what they say is particularly hostile, I turn off notifications for those comments.   I don’t want to un-friend them, but I don’t need the negativity.  Our comments may be well-received by some but also may be hurtful to others.   The better way would be to simply delete this social media so as to avoid the temptation.   But I enjoy Facebook for the ability to keep up with family and friends, and to share things like this blog, family moments, and things I believe both secular and faith-based.  So, until the point of staying off it altogether, I’m using the snooze.   I bet quite a few folks have done this to my comments already.

Thank God He doesn’t snooze us.  My friend, John, said (on Facebook about Facebook) that social media is a mile wide and an inch deep.   It’s designed to keep us quarreling, not really for our betterment.  Quarreling about words ruins us.   It ruins our relationships.   It ruins our families.   It ruins our politics.   It ruins our lives.

Paul wrote these words two millenia before social media existed.   In his day, social media was called “personal conversation.”   And if you think about it, those personal conversations have been made even easier to destroy by the advent of social media.   Online, you and I can say what we want without the responsibility for prudence that comes with saying those things face to face.   If you say something objectionable to someone face to face, they can (and often do) call you out on it, sometimes physically.   If we do that online, there’s no real response except to that the recipients’ emotions are activated.

Nothing good comes from that.  The book of Titus says that these are unprofitable and useless, producing nothing good that benefits anyone.  It was true then; it’s true now.   I need to act differently.   How about you?

This is the day after the day after Easter.   Jesus is still risen.   He is still alive, at work, living through you and I and all we think, say, and do.   We have the gift of electronic communication to enable us to reach each other instantly across the planet.  How will we use that today?   I’m working to do better, so I’m challenging you to do the same, even if that means snoozing it.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 1:4, Titus 3:9, 2 Timothy 2:15.

Forgiving Lord Jesus, help me to use the gifts of conversation and media responsibly, for Your benefit, in ways that help others.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 16 April 2019

Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.   2 Timothy 2:7 (NIV).

One of my pastor’s favorite pieces of good advice is to take 5 minutes daily with God.   In that five minutes, simply be silent.  Clear you mind; focus only on God and whatever He may say to you.   It may take a hundred days; it may take only five minutes.  Eventually, no matter how long it takes, you’ll begin to perceive more of what God says to you in His Word, in messages He gives you through others and the world, in matters put on your heart.  He’s speaking; we listen.

Paul would have understood this.   He was advising Timothy to do much the same thing.   Paul was telling Timothy to be still, to know God is God of all, and to let Him speak to his heart.

That’s still good advice today.   Just ask Pastor Mark.

Indeed, we need insight more than ever.   Just yesterday, I was called a hypocrite online by politically opposite friend…and she was right.   What’s more, her rebuke was enjoined by my own daughter, who was also right.   I had resorted to name-calling in a comment, and it took the rebuke from a political adversary and my flesh & blood for me to see they were correct.  A man of better insight (maybe Timothy or Paul, or even my friend, Mark) would likely have seen that sooner, maybe not even posting the words at all.   When I saw what they were saying, I quickly deleted the name.  Seems I should have done some more reflecting before posting yet another political opinion.   Yep, I need insight more than ever.

And just yesterday, Notre Dame cathedral burned.   We don’t know why, though the cause is most likely something innocuous.  But it’s still suspicious given the number of unaccounted church vandalisms in France, as well as the fact that it’s Holy Week and the cathedral would make a ripe target.   Yet even pushing that suspicion aside, we need insight about the event.   Not insight into why it happened but, perhaps, insight into the good things that Jesus will do through the efforts of first responders, engineers, and builders to restore this ancient house of God.

It’s the insight into what Jesus is saying that Paul was invoking into Timothy.   It’s that kind of insight we would all do well to contemplate today.   Then act on it.

On behalf of my friend, let me invite you to act today by taking five minutes to be still and know that Jesus is God.   That He will speak to you as He does.   That He loves and forgives you.   That He wants to work through you today.   Take five for insight, my friend.

For further reading: Psalm 46:10, 2 Timothy 2:8.

Insightful Lord Jesus, open my eyes to Your purpose for me today.   Guide my thoughts, words, and actions to better serve Your purpose.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 15 November 2018

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.  1 Timothy 4:6 (NIV).

Yesterday I was in yet another online discussion, this time with a guy with whom I’m no longer on good terms.  We went to high school together and were friends for awhile on Facebook.   But we strongly disagree on many things.   Our conversation this time started on disagreeing about a point of fact and quickly turned personal, both on his and my end.   That’s when I checked out of the conversation; I don’t want to do that any more because it brings dishonor on Jesus.   Yet I wasn’t able to leave the conversation before my ‘ex-friend’ said something that stuck:  “I don’t like you Dave.”

That one left a mark.  None of us likes to be told we aren’t liked but my former friend struck me (rhetorically) pretty hard.  He said he thought I was an insecure jerk (yet he was the one doing the name calling), and to be honest, he had a point.   I’m not perfect; I wasn’t perfect yesterday but I didn’t profess to be.  Yet what he said also made me realize something:

I don’t like him either.  I really don’t.  We were more acquaintances than real friends.  Sometimes we simply don’t gel with others but this is a person I simply don’t like.  This is the point where a gut-check became not just necessary but critical.   I reached out to several pastor friends and asked for some much-needed help.  How can you follow Jesus and still harbor dislike for someone?

Thankfully, my friends gave some very solid advice.   Pray for the other person.  Keep quiet unless you have something positive or constructive to say.  Ask if God is using this as a teachable moment about yourself.  Be cautious when engaging antagonistic people (even Jesus was cautious when He needed to be).  Avoid extended time with serious haters.   And don’t be surprised when some people hate you.   I’m not Jesus but people hated Him too.  As you can see, really great words, and they helped.

Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart and mind, and then He calls us to love our neighbors even more than we love ourselves.   He tells us to forgive generously, to minister wisely but unabashedly, and to live out the fruits of His Spirit in kindness, patience, understanding, and that forgiveness.  I’m thankful that my friends echoed Paul’s advice to Timothy to be a good minister to me.  I hope I can be to others.   I still don’t care for the company of my ex-friend, but in all honesty. I wish him well, health, and faith in Christ.   Jesus loves him too.

For further reading: 2 Timothy 3:15, 1 Timothy 4:7

Lord, forgive my misuse of Your wonderful talents.   I forgive my old friend.   Bless and keep him.

 

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 7 September 2018

We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.  2 Thessalonians 3:11 (NIV).

Some verses are really convicting.   I’m convicted deeply by this one.   In my opinion, if you read verse 11 and don’t see it as a mirror staring back at you, well, you have a problem.

If you’re on Facebook (like I am), you’re a busybody; you’re a gossip.   Our world of social media, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest or whatever is ALL gossip.   That mean’s we’re all busybodies, busy but not busy about what matters.

I can take it; hit me.   “You’re Davy Downer.”   Yep, I guess I am.  In that vein, let me hold up that mirror again.  Maybe you’ll get a deep gaze into it.   I know I did.   I’m a busybody.

See, I love arguing politics.   I’m like others in that I’m pretty sick about America’s state of political affairs.   I’m like others in that I’m sick of seeing my side denigrated and put-down over what we believe.  When someone says something I think is wrong, I like to stand up and defend what I believe.  To be fair, folks on the other side sometimes present consideration-worthy, valid arguments; after all, we’re all Americans.   But do I let it stop there?   No, usually I don’t.   Usually I press on, yammering about whatever point I was trying to make.   Have I reinforced some opinions?   Probably.   Have I changed any minds?   Unlikely.

Sometimes I pig-pile on “liking” things that I find funny; sometimes it’s at someone else’s expense.   And, yes, I’m guilty of sharing things that are out & out wrong.   Or vengeful.   It’s no better than being in the hall in high school, chattering by the lockers or passing notes up and down the aisle.   Or standing in the back of the church, catching up on who’s doing what behind their backs.   For me, social media is nothing more than a place to waste valuable time talking about other people or myself.

(In addition to being arrogant, prideful, and, yes, sometimes a jerk) That makes me a gossip.   Time for another look in the mirror.  If Paul “friended” me, would he think I was a gossip, a busybody?   Worse, would Jesus?

Boy that mirror is bright!  Here’s an internet link, one of thousands, that mentions 32 verses decrying gossiping:  https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-gossip/.  It wasn’t just Paul saying it’s wrong.

How to change?  Stand at the cross:  “I’m sorry, please forgive me” and mean it.   Then back away from the laptop, the iPhone.  When the urge comes to argue, back away and pray a little.   It takes time; it takes effort; that mirror is heavy, and I’m a gossip addict.   But if I don’t try, do I really want to face Jesus one day and have Him look at me disappointed about this?  Or worse, have Him rightfully call me a hypocrite?

For further reading:  1 Timothy 5:13, 2 Thessalonians 3:12.

Lord, help me to change!