Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 5 June 2019

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NIV).

This is now.   This is 1939.   This is 1914.   This is 1860.   This is 1774.   This is…this is the way of humanity.  Paul wrote these words two thousand years ago.   He wrote them to and about people familiar with the idea that some in society will ignore God and, instead, seek out what they want to hear.  If it wasn’t true then, Paul wouldn’t have written it.  It meant something to people then.  Tell me, do we really think there are new things under the sun?  They who turned their ears away from the truth and turned aside to myths, like those who would do so today, are but the shadows of people who have done so since we were kicked out of Eden.

Danger, Will Robinson, that you and I don’t fall into that trap.   The siren song of false politics, “if it makes you happy” soma, arguing endlessly, and a hundred other falsehoods are tempting to believer and unbeliever alike.   Or haven’t you heard of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, the Schuller family and the rest of the popular televangelists who succumbed to sin?   Or the Catholic ‘churchocrats’ who’ve made careers out of secretly hiding the gross offenses of predators?   It has happened for years; it happened just before great wars and monumental events.   People tire of sound doctrine and give in to something else.   And disaster inevitably follows.   In the last days, it will get worse.

But in the face of it, the antidote is kindness.   Let’s not become weary in doing good because doing good turns back the untruths and the myths and the pop culture lies.  If the cure for the common sin is Christ, then the first tool He gives us to build up His following is to simply do good.   Be kind.   Live nicely and gently and patiently and carefully.   Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.   The opposite of unsound doctrine is sound doctrine, and the evidence of the sound teaching of Jesus Christ is kindness to others.

So that’s our challenge for today:   be kind to someone.   When someone wants to argue with you over some (largely meaningless) point, respond in patience and kindness.   Let the guy from the other lane merge in.   Do some random act of kindness today…just because.  Tomorrow may indeed bring disaster so let’s prepare for it with a smile today.

For further reading:  Ecclesiastes 1:9, Galatians 6:9, 2 Timothy 4:5.

Lord Jesus, You always showed kindness to people, even to those who made themselves enemies to You.  Help me to do that today, to be kind, to smile, to help.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 14 May 2019

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.  2 Timothy 2:25-26 (NIV).

More about wading into discussions or arguments with opponents.   While the spirit of the idea applies to any discussion, keep in mind that Paul’s advice here regards those who opposed Timothy in  spiritual matters.   There were people in Timothy’s circle who were living in sin, or whose beliefs were contrary to Jesus’ gospel.   Some embraced Gnostic beliefs that were heretical to what Paul had taught; some were perpetuating the traditional Jewish laws in the new Christian church.   Paul reminded Timothy that his purpose was to help them to see their need for Christ and return to Him.

How does this apply today?  It might seem fun to think that ‘the other guy’ and his wacky politics are Satanic, but that probably isn’t true.   And even if it were, it’s better to remember that Jesus wants that other guy in His Kingdom as much as He wants you and I.   Perhaps Jesus has you or I in their lives to spread His Gospel to them.   Preach that Gospel constantly; if necessary, use words.   Remember that ‘the other guy’ is probably as sinful and confused as me and you.   None of this is saying we should compromise godly principles or surrender our faith.   It is, however, saying that we should uphold that faith while being empathetic towards understanding another’s predicament.

We do all this because Jesus wants them for His Kingdom, too.   Your worst enemy is Jesus’ dear child.   The overbearing progressive, the strident conservative, the bully who makes your life awful:  all are precious in His sight.   He mourns their sins as much as He mourns mine, and He wants them to be gently instructed, lovingly reminded that God in Christ loves them, forgives them, believes in them.   Jesus’ enemy, the devil, works overtime to pull down those on the fence.   You and I, soldiers in the Lord’s Army, then, get the mission of running into the breach, of standing between those opponents and the devil who would destroy their souls.   We get to stand up for Jesus because they won’t or can’t.   We get to stand for Him and witness to the devil that he is defeated, unwelcome, cast out.

I suppose that’s pretty far afield from why we shouldn’t wade into foolish arguments, but the bottom line of it is the same.  We’re followers of Jesus, in some cases His called servants.   It’s our place to witness boldly, lovingly, and kindly, especially to those who would oppose what we say.   In doing so, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

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

Lord Jesus, let Your Spirit put the words in my mouth as I speak for You today.

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.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 27 September 2018

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. 1 Timothy 1:8-11 (NIV).

Yesterday’s verse talked about using the law properly?   How is that done?   How is it that the later verses talk about how law is about sin, about those mired in sin instead of love?  Let’s key in on the last verse: “for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God.”    If we forget this part, then it’s too easy to simply use God’s law as a hammer.

Think about God’s law like civil law.   If I abide by the speed limit on the road then the police have no reason to pull me over.   If I don’t murder, steal, or commit arson then I won’t be charged with murder, theft, or arson.   Our civil laws are guidelines, boundaries that state what behaviors are not allowed in society.   They’re written codes with consequences, so that we might live as a society in peace.   They’re written so that we might know what kinds of things threaten our liberty.

Yet that’s only half of it.   The law wasn’t given so that we would focus on what we shouldn’t do.   It was given to us so that we would focus on He who is love, who is the loving end of all justice.

God’s law is sound doctrine given out of His love.  Jesus, who Himself perfectly kept all of God’s law without a single transgression, said He had come to fulfill the law, not to abolish it.  Should we doubt Him?  Would the God of all love say something like that if He didn’t mean it, if the law was only given to hammer our sins?  Absolutely not.  We of the New Covenant aren’t governed by the punishments and penalties of the Mosaic laws yet we are still subject to the boundaries they established if only as means to identify when we are in danger of sin.   Helping each other through that is the mark of a heart renewed in love.   It’s why God gave us the law while we live in this fallen world.  So that we would know how we need to draw closer to Him.

For further reading:  Romans 6:29, Romans 7:4-12, Matthew 22:37-40, Galatians 5:23, 2 Timothy 1:13, Titus 1:9, 1 Timothy 1:12

Lord, help me understand how Your ancient law affects and applies to me now so that I may know You better.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 26 September 2018

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 1 Timothy 1:8 (NIV).

What is the law?   God’s law is the set of boundaries He gave to us, through the Old Testament, to help steer us back to Him in all things.  More than just the Ten Commandments, God’s law is a complex set of rules He gave to the Jews of old to live by.   It’s not just a bunch of “no’s.”   The law, given to us by a holy God, points us to our need for the forgiveness that only He (God) can give.   We don’t live by the law now, but if we reject God, we may die by it.   To quote Paul in Romans 6, the wages of sin is death and we all die.   Yet we can live.

In Romans 7, Paul illustrates that the law is holy in that it identifies our transgressions.   It does so in order for us to understand the consequences of sin (death).   When we are bound by the law, we’re buried in our sins, and through the law the only sure destination for us is death.  Sin – the defiance of God – works against us, using our knowledge of the law, given by a holy God, to mire us in the despair of our wrongdoings.

So many churches (and so many followers of Jesus) get so wrapped up worrying about what not to do that they forget a crucial thing about the law.

It’s holy.   It’s loving.

The law of God is holy, given to us by a God of loving justice, purity, and righteousness.   The motivation for the law isn’t punishment:   it’s love.   Jesus Himself said so: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.””

God didn’t give us the law to hurt us:   He gave it to us because of love.   Because He wants to see us turn to Him whenever the threat of anything wrong approaches us.  God’s character throughout all of history hasn’t changed.   The same God who flooded the world to destroy every sin-soaked creature on it (except those kept alive in His ark) is the same Jesus of Nazareth who prayed from the cross “forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

He gave us a code to live by because He means business, namely to join your soul to His in perfect love.   So that you and I might shy away from things that could try to tear us away.   So that we know the way home when we stray.   So that we would trust Him when He gives us tools like the law to properly guide our hearts.

For further reading:  Romans 6:29, Romans 7:4-12, Matthew 22:37-40, 1 Timothy 1:9

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your holy law.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 25 September 2018

They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. 1 Timothy 1:7 (NIV).

I love to teach; I love to share.   It’s the reason for this blog.   Yet the minute it becomes about me, I’ve failed you.

I’m a trained teacher.   College degree (graduate degree in education, even).  Years of instructional design and development training.   Managed training shops.   Written dozens of training manuals.   Taught hundreds of people across multiple disciplines and areas.   Published author.   Followed and shared by (yes) thousands of people in person and online.

Big flippin deal.   It’s not about me.

Truth is I don’t know much.   More and more I find I have to reach out to friends or other sources for advice on what is said here.   I want to get things right, for God and for you.  Yet I make mistakes and sometimes I get it wrong.

I’d love to be a teacher of the law but, too often, I don’t know what I’m talking about or what I so confidently affirm.

Training is good but not a big deal; it’s not about me.  College is a lot of fun; I enjoyed the classes and met some great people but big deal:  it’s not about me.  Years of experience, a story for every situation, researched answers and a desire to want to teach others are all great and wonderful things.   But they aren’t everything, and if they aren’t done in love then they aren’t helpful.  It’s.  Not.  About.  Me.

Over the last week or so I’ve been convicted by some online discussions with people who argue that, above all else, Jesus is pure love.   They argue to the point of flat-out denying the other aspects of Jesus’ character like holiness, justice, and perfection in the law.   Love literally does conquer all, and above every aspect of Jesus Christ is (as the song says) the “overwhelming, never-ending reckless love of God.”   Some of what they say isn’t said in love, some of it was condescending and arrogant, and some of it was crazy wrong.  Yet at the end of some very deep and sometimes confusing points, I found I agreed.   It is all about love:   Jesus’ love.   That crowds out every other true and valid point from the Scriptures.

And it’s what Paul was hinting at in this verse.   The folks, like me, who want to be teachers of the law have it all wrong if that law doesn’t point to the love of Jesus.  God’s law IS holy, yet if we make it about power, or getting the last word, or just being right, then it’s time for a gut-check.  Going forward, I pray for Jesus’ help to be a better witness for Him, to share His love better.   Because it’s not about me.

For further reading:  2 Corinthians 13:14, Ephesians 4:11, Job 38:2, 1 Timothy 1:8

Lord, teach me to better witness for You, in love

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 9 August 2018

He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ2 Thessalonians 2:14 (NIV).

My daughter got married over the weekend.  The dress, the cake, the dancing, the reception, the walk down the aisle:   it was time for the whole shootin match.   If I do say so, it was a great party where everyone (over 150 people) had a wonderful time.   Check out the Youtube of just before the bride walked:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LDOH8OB3hI

But big fancy weddings aren’t why we’re here.

And over the weekend, too, we also had a party for my wife, who has a milestone birthday this month.  At the VRBO we rented, a large group of family and friends gathered to celebrate her birthday, our fellowship, and just enjoying life (and Texas barbecue) together.   Again, if I do say so, it was another great time, a great birthday bash!

But that’s not why we are here.

Big parties, our jobs, our churches, shopping at the mall (or at the grocery store), working hard in school, the next big vacation:   none of those are why you and I are here.   We are called to enjoy life and to be good stewards of all the things that God gives us to do.   We are motivated, even inspired, to do our best in all things, and that is a good thing, even a Godly thing.

But NONE of those are what we are called to in this life.   In all of them, we can indeed give glory to God, and we can even share in His glory through doing them.   But make no mistake about it:   we aren’t called to DO things here just for the sake of doing them.   We aren’t called to simply live, even if living means a rich, full, eventful, or moral life.

We are called to serve in God’s kingdom through faith in Jesus.    We are called to believe in Jesus in everything we do.   We are called to share this belief, this faith in His saving death and resurrection, by living it out.   We are called through the gospel, given to men like Paul, Matthew, Peter, John and others, to share Jesus with what we say and do so that others who don’t know – or reject – Him might come to know Him too (and then repeat the cycle with even more others).  In doing these things, we share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ because that’s how we do the work of the God who sent Him.

I loved the wedding; I loved the party.   I love time with family, friends, and even strangers.   But without Jesus, they’re just meaningless events.   There’s no morality without Jesus, nothing good.  Involving Him transforms life into something more, something meaningful, something we are called to live.

For further reading:  Romans 8:28, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

Lord Jesus, thank You for faith, for letting me share You in all these ways.