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.

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Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 25 July 2019

Encourage older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, love, and patient endurance.  Titus 2:2 (EHV).

Just the other night, I had a conversation with my uncle.  He’s 84 years old and in mixed health.  I’ll try to not puff him up too much since he reads this blog, but in my eyes, he’s the kind of man the Apostle Paul was describing in verse 2.   He’s temperate (of attitude and disposition), worthy of respect (because he’s worked hard to live an upright, Jesus-led life), he’s self-controlled (which is amazing considering the volcanic temper of his father:  another of my heroes), and sound in faith, love and endurance (all of which he has always modeled for those who know him and even those who don’t).

When I get to be 84 (IF I live to be 84), it’s my hope that someone will say those same things about me.   But I doubt it.   I’m not the man my uncle is, and that’s ok.   I’m my own man with my own experiences thanks to the life God has given me to live and the talents with which He’s blessed me.  Perhaps in my own way I’ve made a positive impression on other folks.   It’s my best hope that, if that has happened, they will turn around and do the same for someone else.   That’s how Jesus’ Kingdom grows.  It’s a lesson I have learned, in part, from my uncle.

But no matter what someone thinks of him, me, or anyone else, Paul’s standard is still solid gold.   We want our older men to be men we can look up to.   Both in the church and out of it, we want grandfathers and mentors who we can model, copy and honor.   It’s especially true in the church, where elders are supposed to be worthy of respect and the kind of people we want to be.   Especially the elder men.   But it matters in all walks of life.   Just ask my son, who has been taken under the mentoring wing of a rough cowboy boss who’s teaching him valuable work and life skills.   It’s a pleasure to see.

Perhaps that “patient” quality is the one that makes the most impression.   Patience is the culmination of those other five attitudes.   It’s the demeanor and behavior that both identifies experience and implements reason.   I think of the best leaders I’ve ever known, especially in churches, and, to a man, they’ve all been patient.   There’s a time and place for quick action, even impetuous action.   But in most things, patience is preferred.   Work well and work deliberately, then let’s let things unwind as they will; as God wills them.

I’m thinking both my uncle and my son’s mentor would agree.  And it would make Jesus happy.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 5:1, Titus 2:2

Lord Jesus, thank You for living out here through good men.   Help me to better model their behavior because I’m modeling You when I do that.

Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 10 July 2019

An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.  Titus 1:6 (NIV).

Our goal should be to want to serve the Lord with honor.   Our conduct shouldn’t detract or distract from His purpose, His work.   Our lives as leaders in the church should be upright, and bring great credit on ourselves and the united church of Jesus Christ (that last phrase is actually very close to every Air Force medal citation I’ve ever read).

Good luck with that.

Years ago, I was asked to serve as an elder but I pointed out that my conduct (at the time) would preclude that; Paul would have agreed.  Nobody has asked me since, and all glory to Jesus in all things, including humbling one’s self to serve the Kingdom in unconventional ways.

How many of us are truly blameless?   Many couples deal with infidelity, either physical or emotional.   And where are today’s families whose children are not a little wild and disobedient?   When I left home, my faith drifted and I didn’t attend a formal church for most of a decade.   I believed in Jesus, but I wasn’t sure about many things, or what faith really meant.   I can say the same thing about all three of my kids.   And, as a proud Dad, I’ll brag that all three are coming out of that fog just as I did.   All three have faith-journeys of their own with the Lord, both in and out of formal congregations.

They aren’t blameless.   They aren’t angels.  They aren’t perfect.   Neither am I.   Neither are you.

Could you or I be an elder?   Some people who read this blog are; some are pastors and evangelists; some are teachers; some serve in other ways.   It isn’t a clique or a club or some group where you get a secret handshake.   It’s a way to serve God’s church in an orderly position.   And the elders, pastors, evangelists, and teachers I know who serve the church are flawed human beings, people who make mistakes, sometimes cuss like sailors, and do things that bring discredit on the family of Jesus.

Got skin?  Got sin.   The cure for the common sin is Jesus.

Who then is ‘fit’ to serve?  Certainly not the leaders in my church, or yours.   Or me.   Or maybe you.  None of us but all of us.  “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”   Jesus said that.

I don’t know if you’re truly blameless, or if your kids are wild (or even if you have any).   What I do know is that God can use your life in His work, maybe as an elder, but definitely in some good way.

For further reading:  Matthew 19:26, 1 Corinthians 4:1, 1 Timothy 3:1, Titus 1:7

Lord Jesus, use me in Your service today.   Forgive my sins, and help me repent to move forward from them to better serve You.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 12 June 2019

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV).

Today is my nephew’s graduation day.   He has worked hard for 13 years to get to this day, and it’s a good time to both reflect and look forward.   In my opinion, graduation addresses are boring and easily forgotten.   This particular young man also doesn’t have an active Christian belief, doesn’t practice much in the way of faith, and doesn’t believe in Jesus.  To be honest, that’s ok.   Jesus believes in him.   As long as he lives, unless today is the last day of his existence, Jesus will keep working, keep providing, keep helping and hoping, keep loving him until time runs out.   It’s what the Lord does.

For this young man – and actually for all graduates – I wish him well, congratulations, and endurance.  The phase of life that starts today for him will be a fight, will be a long race, and will need faith.   He may not understand that, and being a kid he rebels against that; most of us do at one point or another.   But that doesn’t stop the fight, stop the race, or negate our critical need for faith.

Without faith in Jesus, the fight isn’t worth fighting.   Give up and just dive into the world.   You’ll get what you get and I hope it doesn’t eat you alive because the world won’t care if it does.   And if you don’t want to run the race, give up.   You’ll have a tough time getting past that, and I’ll be happy to console you, but I won’t feel sorry for you.   Indeed, I hope nobody does.   There’s a difference between giving up and stopping because you leave the outcome to the Lord.   That’s a hard difference to see, to even comprehend, without trusting that Christ knows what He’s doing and is helping us to get through the hard fights and long races.

Keeping the faith means trusting Him in all things, all ways, always.   That isn’t easy.   It defies that world that’s fighting against us, racing against us.   But the crazy miracle is that the faith makes all the difference in our lives.   It makes the tough fight ‘fightable.’   It makes the race winnable because it has already been won for us.   We get to cross the line and receive the laurel from God Almighty Jesus Himself.   It doesn’t matter what the fallen world thinks of us.   What matters is keeping the faith, believing, submitting to Jesus and His better way, His purposes.   Jesus is the finish line; Jesus is the bell at the end of the round.

Paul knew this 2000 years ago.   It’s still true today.   God bless the graduates.   Enjoy this day you worked for and winning this race.  Then line up and get ready for the next one.   You’re in it already.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 9:24, Acts 20:24, 2 Timothy 4:8

God bless those graduating and running their race.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 21 May 2019

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.  2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV).

Game of Thrones is done.  It’s over.   We now know the outcome of the struggle for the Iron Throne.   My wife and I were late-comers to the GOT hysteria, but we enjoyed the show and are both sad and glad it’s done.  At first I thought there were so many reasons to reject the show because its not-subtle themes of violence, sex, and intrigue were antithetical to Christian views.  Yet there are also lessons people of faith can learn from shows like Game of Thrones.   In fact, I challenged a pastor friend of mine to do a sermon series on several of the show’s storylines.   I’ll be interested to see if he takes up the challenge.

The more you think about it, the truer it becomes for every TV show, every activity in life:  ‘the faith” is our benchmark for EVERYTHING.   Whether it’s a fantasy TV series, the new Alabama abortion law, where to get gasoline, or what to do over Memorial Day weekend, if faith in Christ isn’t highest on our list of filters through which we judge our activities then we’re doing it wrong.

We can have the argument about a TV show being or not being a Christian activity.   Yet the shield of faith is the shield that resists for us when the themes of violence, sex, intrigue, or anything else threaten to worm their way into our homes and gain control over gullible people like us.  People who oppose the faith with their parsing of Christianity or the droning, ever-constant labeling of Christians as killers and hypocrites are actually the people standing on quicksand.   They scream loudly, perhaps not knowing that projection is a psychological condition, and those who would worm their way into our faith-lives are sick with it.  Faith in Christ is the foundation of resisting that sickness.

I won’t spoil the end of the show in case you haven’t seen it.   Personally, the more I think about it, the more I like the way it ended because it ended with a note of hope.   That’s the greatest gift of all from following Jesus in faith:   hope.   Without Jesus, there is no hope.   With Him, there is.  I enjoyed the show, and I’ll miss it.   But there’s always the hope of re-runs.

For further reading:  2 Timothy 3:6.

Lord Jesus, YOU are my shield and my hope.   Help me to resist those who would worm their way and try to divide us.   Help me to stand in love.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 20 March 2019

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.   2 Timothy 1:8 (NIV).

Dear fellow believer, we’re going to suffer for this.   You and me, because we boldly say, “I believe in Jesus,” are going to suffer.   In just these last few days, hundreds of Christians have been murdered by Muslims in several African nations.   In Iran, a pastor was recently detained and will serve 10 years hard labor for talking about Jesus.  Churches in China are being torn down by their communist government.  Here in the good old USA, the Federal government is actively trying to tear down a war memorial in Maryland because it’s the shape of a cross.   In schools, universities, and work-rooms everywhere, talking about Jesus is a no-no while words about the NCAA brackets and Game of Thrones are encouraged.

Let’s be real:   ‘suffering’ in America, for now, is pale compared to the persecution our brothers and sisters face overseas.  That simply means the physical pain hasn’t reached our shores yet.   Don’t be daft about it, my friend:  it’s coming.   Disaster, like grace, can come on us in an instant.

Because that’s so true, we shouldn’t be ashamed to be followers of the one true God.   We should be proud to follow Jesus, proud to let Him work through us.   We have become ‘captive’ to His Spirit and are prisoners of His good news.   He holds the keys to our ‘captivity’ and loves us enough for us to stay in His confinement as long as we so wish.  Fall under the love and gaze of the King of Kings and you’ll want only to remain prisoner in His presence.

But make no mistake about it.  It’ll cost you.   This world, fallen and rebellious to Him, will make you pay for professing your belief in Jesus Christ.  The Romans, at the behest of the Jews (and then later on their own) imprisoned and abused Paul before eventually executing him.  All for following Jesus.   All for the rebellion of saying “no, I believe in Jesus of Nazareth.”   It happened in the past.   Even here in peaceful America, it can – and will – happen again.

You and I will be made to suffer for this belief, for this thing that is protected under our Constitution’s first amendment.   We will emotionally suffer, economically suffer, physically suffer.  In time (and it could happen quickly) the things (like worship) that we think are protected could change and a world hostile to Christ will turn against Him by targeting you.

When that happens, friend, let’s celebrate.   Let’s smile in the face of the adversity, turn the other cheek while standing up for our faith, and be prepared to meet Jesus when our government does to us what Paul’s did to him.

For further reading:   Mark 8:38, Ephesians 3:1, 2 Timothy 9.

Praise to You, Lord Jesus, that I may suffer for You.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 14 March 2019

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.   2 Timothy 1:5 (NIV).

The other night, during our Tuesday night online Bible study, we were talking about sharing our faith.   About how this can be a difficult thing to do, especially in our age of trepidation over what to say in public (lest someone else be so easily offended).  One of the participants brought up that talking about faith is a way of planting a seed.  We speak honestly (without being a jerk about it), and trust that Holy Spirit will do whatever He needs to do in order for our words to help His work.  At the time, we probably won’t know if we’ve helped someone.   But later, in some time of need, perhaps what we say will have taken root and lead them in some Godly way.   That part isn’t up to us.  It’s up to Him.

Reading today’s verse, that discussion becomes a little clearer.   In verse 4, Paul talks about remembering Timothy’s tears.   Here Paul says that this memory reminds him of Timothy’s sincere and honest faith in Jesus.   Timothy obviously walked and talked the same message, and something he did – crying – was an honest expression of that.  What’s more, Paul goes on to praise Timothy’s grandmother and mother, who had been the first people to express this faith to Timothy.   Maybe they cried a little, too.

Seems like they’d have lots of company.   What they did was to share their faith and their honesty about it.   Our outward posture often reflects our inward positions.   For Timothy (and probably Paul, Lois and Eunice), tears were an outward posture that reflected the inward position of a rock-solid faith in Jesus.  Timothy knew the Gospel was all true, that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life.   He had seen it for himself in the faith of others; he lived it out as he ministered to believers in Asia Minor.

That faith matters when the chips are down.   Times of need are one of the reasons why we’re encouraged to grow our faith in Christ because, through Him, we can have the strength to endure and overcome them.   People who see that know it.  Paul wrote 2 Timothy when he was imprisoned and knew he would soon be executed.   There could be no time of greater need, so sincere faith mattered deeply.   It matters the same to us, day by day.   Indeed, our daily practice of faith is perhaps more essential if we are to act on it when those critical times arrive.

For further reading:   Acts 16:1, 1 Timothy 1:5, 2 Timothy 6.

Lord Jesus, when times are tough, abide with me.   Strengthen me to strengthen others to stand true and firm in our faith in You.   Most important, teach us to live that out in love so that others might come to know You as well.