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.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 9 May 2019

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  2 Timothy 2:22 (NIV).

More good Pauline advice that re-iterates or re-enforces statements made in earlier letters.   Paul’s message was consistent:   flee evil and pursue good.

Notice that he doesn’t say “fight the evil desires of youth.”   Let’s face it:   there is no fighting them.   Sin is strong enough to defeat us.   Except for Jesus, it has defeated every human ever born.   Without Christ at our side, we can’t fight evil and we can’t win against it because evil is stronger than we are alone.   With Christ at our side, we can’t lose and evil doesn’t stand a chance.

Instead of fighting it, Paul tells us to flee from evil desires.   So many in pop culture ridicule Vice President Pence for adhering to the Billy Graham practice of not being in a room alone with another woman.   I pity them.   Pence is staying blameless by living out an admirable practice.  Rev Graham did the same and it kept impropriety and gossip away along with any chance to even consider evil desire because even Billy Graham was human.   Ditto President Harry Truman, who once was called to a private meeting only to find it was a set-up with a woman.   Truman immediately turned and walked out, fled.

When tempted to give in to desire, turn and walk away.   Then run.   Rhetorically run; physically run if you need to.   Get away from the situation because there’s danger there.  On your way fleeing, then pray for strengthened faith, love, and peace, calling on the Lord in thanks for the opportunity to flee.   In my own experience, when I’ve done this, instead of desperation, I feel empowered.   I’m betting the same would be said by you.   In my own experience, too many times I wish I had fled; I’m betting you’d echo that as well.

The unspoken result of doing these things is best spoken in Acts 2:21:   the Lord will save those who call on Him.   Live a life that pursues Him and you’ll find He’s calling you.   He’s already saved you, so live a life reflecting that by fleeing evil desires when they come to you.   Others might be inspired to do the same and accept His truth, and that matters because their eternity matters most, too.

Sure, these seem like simple, common solutions to complex problems, but first principles are usually the best starting point when trying to address complex issues.   Stick to the simple:  flee from evil when we see it, then seek Jesus in thankful prayer to feel the bliss of protection and forgiveness.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 1:14, Acts 2:21, 1 Timothy 1:5, 1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22.

Lord Jesus, You are the only desire of my recovering heart.   Welcome me back as I flee desires when they tempt me.   Strengthen me and help me to strengthen others.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 10 October 2018

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well. 1 Timothy 1:18 (NIV).

Suit up, fellow warrior.   You’re in a fight.   You believe in Jesus, so you’re in the fight for Him.   You need to be prepared for it, both in your armor and in letting go of your control.   Be ready to pick up your sword, but then stand back and watch Jesus do the hard work.  God has always done this:  fought for His people.   Yet He asks us to be ready to stand with Him.

It’s not that Jesus can’t (or doesn’t) do the heavy lifting for us.  We don’t HAVE TO do anything to earn His love, or earn Him fighting off evil for us.   We don’t do anything to contribute to our salvation by standing up for Jesus, or for our sisters & brothers, or even just by standing up for those who can’t.  We can’t do anything to become more powerful than God; it’s not possible.   Whom God intends to stand against, He will, and they will be defeated.

But…there’s always a but.   But Jesus asks us to do it anyway.  It’s not because we have to:  it’s because we get to.  Because He sent His Spirit to reshape us and give us the heart of a spiritual warrior.  Because He prepares us over time to accept His love, inculcate His teachings, and ready ourselves to face down the evil one.  All that happens to us it to prepare us for this moment, for now, to serve Jesus and stand for Him.

You may not realize it but you fight evil every day.  Hold the door for a stranger:   you’re fighting back evil.  Listen to your kids (or your mom and dad):  you’re thwarting Satan.   Do your best at work:  fighting for God.  Forgive someone who hurt you:  fighting for God and bringing a tear to Jesus’ eye.  “Here’s what the Bible says” when someone asks you why you believe what you do:  suit up, get up, and stand beside Jesus in the unending line of warriors on the front line.   You’re fighting in the battle of the ages:  one kind word at a time.

Paul was always ready to stand up for God.   After giving praise to God, he then coached Timothy, who himself was in training as a soldier-of-God.   Paul consistently used his words to give Timothy tools he could use.  The lesson for is the same:   give praise and get ready.  In World War II, there was a popular song, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.”   That’s good advice; Paul might have said it himself.   Get up, soldier.   The fight is now.

For further reading:  Deuteronomy 1:30, Joshua 23:10, Nehemiah 4:20, Ephesians 6:10-20, 1 Timothy 1:19

Lord, I praise You for Your mighty hand.  Uphold me as I stand for You.   Help me to always be on Your side.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 21 August 2017

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.  Hebrews 11, verses 27-28.

Just yesterday I was talking with a friend who is on the front lines of spiritual warfare.   If you aren’t familiar with that term, it’s trendy…but it’s real.   If you say “I believe in Jesus” then you’re a foot-soldier in the line of the army of the Living God.   You’re acknowledging Him as God, all good, pure perfect love.   Whether you realize it or not, you’re also subtly accepting the existence of non-God, all bad, pure incarnate evil.   That’s Satan.   It isn’t cool these days to talk about Satan as real, but he is.   He’s real, he’s still here, and his methods have changed with the times even as his mission hasn’t.   Since that long-ago day in Eden, he has wanted to be God, not realizing he isn’t and can’t be.   Jesus called him “the father of lies” and that was two thousand years ago.  If you believe in Jesus, you’re setting your beliefs against those of the prince of this world.  You’re on the front lines of spiritual war.

My friend and his wife work in Uganda, helping to mentor villagers in farming and self-management.  However, they  may be moving into a new mission field soon.  They’re currently on the front lines of spiritual warfare in Africa, and may be moving into spiritual trench warfare someplace else.   Please pray for Floyd, Tamra and the Stanley family as they discern where God is leading them.   Yet no matter where they go, they’re going to be on the line against Satan, helping other people to ‘gear up’ in their own fight of standing for good against consummate evil.

Just like Moses.   Just like Moses, my friend, and me, and you, and anyone who has faith in God, are standing against evil.   Moses went back ‘home’ to Egypt, to the palace where he was raised, to the enslaved people from whom he descended.  God had given him the mission to go to Pharaoh and be God’s mouthpiece.  In doing so, Moses would confront the ungodly practices of slavery, and pagan divination, and even murder.   “Have faith in Me” God told him, and then God thrust him back into the scene of Moses’ crime and the source of his flight into Midian.

Yet Moses went and he stood.   He stood because he believed in God and God was all he needed to stand against the evil of Egypt.  Through nine plagues, rising tension, and escalating hostility, Moses went to Pharaoh and passed on God’s command to let his people go.   Nine times Pharaoh declined and hardened his heart…while sharpening his army’s swords.   The tenth time, Moses foretold that death would visit Pharoah’s only son and the first-born child of everyone in Egypt.   What would save them?   Faith:  faith in God.  Faith proven in deed with the blood of innocent lambs painted on their door-frames.   When the angel of death ‘passed over’ Egypt, all Israel would quiver in awesome respect as it stood in humble worship on the Goshen front line of spiritual warfare.

That very night, as every house in Egypt wept, Pharaoh summoned Moses.   Three miracles happened there, and all in short succession.   First, all Israel believed that the sacrifice of lamb’s blood, which would fore-tell the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, would save them from sure death.   Second, God’s promise came true as Israel was saved and Pharaoh then relented and freed them from their bondage.  And third, the pagan Pharaoh was humbled to acknowledge that there is only one God, and that Israel should “go and worship the Lord as you have requested.”   Not ‘your God’ or ‘who you say is God’ but “the Lord.”   How the high were brought low, and the humble brought up.

And all because of faith, all because a few stood watch on the front lines that night.

Just like the kid’s song says, I’m in the Lord’s Army.   Cheesy?   Maybe a little on the surface, but it doesn’t take much to see that the war is real, the fight is intense, and the enemy’s objective is to destroy anyone who gets in his way.   My friend and his family fight overseas.  Moses fought in Egypt, then in the desert against temptations.   I fight here in these words, and in my hometown and wherever I’m given the opportunity to shine kindness against the dark.   I fight Satan with faith in my Lord, knowing my Savior will prevail no matter what the enemy throws against us.  There are many who think the battle of the ages is coming, with signs all over the world happening more and more.   Even today’s eclipse.  It’s time to join the army, my friend.   Pick up your sword and stand.

For further reading:  Exodus 12:21-51, 1 Corinthians 10:10.

Oh Lord, I pray help me to stand against evil where I am today.   I pray You guide me as you did Moses, and strengthen me to stand in awe of You.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 7 November 2013

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  James 3, verses 5-6.

When was the last time you had a family fight?   My Hunnie and I are the patient parents of 2 ex-teenagers and 1-current teenager.   We aren’t sure when these argumentative people replaced the sweet children we once knew, but it happened some time in the late 1990s or early 2K years.  Not to describe too much dirty laundry, but I was eavesdropping on a conversation my wife had with one of our daughters.  Dear daughter must have had a rough day because she was sniping, trying to pick a fight.   It’s something that teenagers – or recently recovering teenagers known as “20 year olds” – are particularly good at.   Instead of downloading from her day, she was throwing out verbal grenades, seeing which one would explode and elicit a reaction.   God bless my patient wife for being the Verbal Grenade Bomb Squad, who deftly, faithfully, and patiently defused every grenade thrown her way.

The tongue is a very small part of the body that makes great boasts.   As folks say in my small Indiana hometown, “your mouth can overload your butt.”  Remembering that the tongue is like the bit in the mouth of a horse, or the rudder on a ship, it’s easy to see how the tongue can overload your butt.   I think James might agree with that rather earthy vernacular. 

It doesn’t take much for words we say to overtake us.   It doesn’t take much for the fire set by our words to burn out of control and consume everything around us.   Indeed, social media, 24/7 information access, text messaging and our so-called modern world make it even easier for a shot to be heard round the world.  Or words.  Sometimes, as in hurtful language, that’s not a bad thing, especially if there’s repentance or justice involved.  

After all, it’s good to remember that God’s grace is meant for all of us, that His word can be like a consuming fire as well.   After all, didn’t Jesus set the world on fire with His words of forgiveness from the cross, changing more lives in human history than any other belief ever known?   After all, didn’t God simply speak everything into existence?  After all, God’s word trumps any of ours.

After all, consider the fight that turns into screaming, tears, separation and divorce.   Consider what happened when Joseph’s brothers transformed their envy over his status into selling Joseph into slavery.  Consider all this the next time your kids fight with you.

Lord of the Word and all words, speak Your love through me.

 

How have your words started a fire?

When did someone else’s words hurt you, and what did you do about it?

How can what you say be a beacon of light for Jesus today?