Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 27 May 2020

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 1 Peter 2:13-15 (NIV).

Peter knew the score.   He may not have known he would, like Jesus, die by crucifixion, but he knew it was possible.   All his life he had seen Rome crucify those it wanted to punish…or silence.   Ever since the resurrection, Peter and his closest friends had been under surveillance, in prison, been tortured, been persecuted for simply stating, “I believe in Jesus.”  Peter and the other disciples understood that both their homeland Jewish church and the occupying Roman government were deadly set against them.   They understood what could, what probably would, happen to them for following The Way.  

And they did it anyway.   The Spirit of Christ crucified compelled them to lovingly, boldly, unabashedly proclaim that Jesus is Lord.  In doing so, they proclaimed His word to submit to those authorities who they knew were set against them.  Knowing what we know now, it was an act of love.

Jesus Himself had said “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.”  That’s more than just advice about tithing.   It is His advice for applying common sense in a non-sensical world.   Money?   Pay what you’re required to pay to the government and what your heart moves you to give to God.   Employment?  Devote yourselves to your work for your employer but give your service to him as an act of worshipping God.  Time?   Use it wisely because the world is watching, but whatever you do, use it as a testament of God’s love for you.

We do that for God.   We do that for us.   We do that so that others, who don’t believe in Jesus, will look at us and, like that pagan centurian, give unwitting glory to Him and say, “this was a righteous man or woman.”  

We do it because this is God’s truth and that truth sets us free.  God wants all His people – and that’s all 7 billion of us – to know, love, worship, and share Him.   He wants all of us to live in His peace, yet most of us don’t.  Most people on this planet don’t know Jesus or outright reject Him.   They are the ignorant, foolish people of whom Peter speaks, yet God loves and provides for them, too.   Jesus died for them, too.   And He wants us to live our lives as a faithful testimony to Him so that others may see this and let nascent questions become roots of faith.

We do life for Him.   That’s the real score for us to make and watch.

For further reading:  John 8:32, Galatians 5:13, Peter 2:16

Lord Jesus, let my thoughts and actions testify about You today.

Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 12 August 2019

 For at one time we ourselves were also foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by many kinds of evil desires and pleasures, living in malice and jealousy, being hated and hating one another. Titus 3:3 (EHV).

Been there, done that.   You know that aphorism; chances are you’ve said it.   You’re experienced; you’ve lived; you’ve been around the block.   In the Queen’s English, you’re trustworthy because you can identify with the circumstances we each encounter.

If you say you aren’t sinful, you’re fooling yourself.   But don’t leave yourself hanging out there, on a limb and out of hope.   Every one of us is sinful; we all suffer from that same malady.   It need not define you.   You’ve been there, done that.   Let’s not leave it there.

The Apostle Paul, perhaps the greatest missionary ever, could identify with his friends and fellow followers of ‘The Way.’  He had been foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by evil, living in malice, jealous, and both hated and hating.  He knew that everyone who would (initially) read his letter there in the first century was just like him.   He understood their sins; he understood they were sinful.   He didn’t say these things to guilt them; neither do I.   It’s simply a fact.   It’s simply one side of who they (and we) were.

Let’s not leave it at that.   Paul had been there, done that; so had his friends.   You and I have too.   So has Pope Francis (or Benedict XVI, wherever he is).   So was Billy Graham, and your sainted grandmother, my best friend, and that newborn baby who’s crying to be held.   It’s ingrained into our psyches, part of who we are when we are born, and until we accept Christ’s Holy Spirit into us, it’s who we are, even when we try to do good.  When we’re ‘there,’ doing ‘that,’ ‘that’ is sin.  Yet when we embrace Jesus, EVERYTHING changes.

Holy Spirit redefines us, eliminates the hold sin has on us, eliminates the consequences of death that sin places on us.  He removes it and washes us clean from what tarnished us before.   Where ‘been there, done that’ had once been our mission statement, it now becomes common ground on which we can reach out to others so that they, too, might receive Jesus’ Spirit and all the good He gives.  It’s our pedigree to serve in amazement the God who makes everything new.

Just one verse ago, Paul reminded his friends to be subject to authorities so that others might follow God, too.  Here, in verse 3, he reminds us why we should.   Even the authorities have been there, done that.   Even they need Christ like we do.  So, today, when you’re at work and overwhelmed, or when you’re dealing with your kids and you’re frustrated, or you’re alone and lonely, remember that we’ve all been there and done that.   Jesus makes it all new.

For further reading:  Ephesians 4:31, Titus 3:4

Lord, forgive my sins and wash me clean.

 

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.