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.

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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.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 24 July 2018

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 2 Thessalonians 2:5 (NIV).

Awhile ago, a minister friend of mine told me he doesn’t think we’re near the end of time because the Gospel hasn’t yet been preached to the entire world.   That’s one of the conditions Jesus established before He returned to heaven:  that His Gospel would be preached to the entire world, to the ends of the earth, so that all might hear of Him before He returns to reclaim His followers.   My friend said that there were still millions of people who haven’t heard about this Jesus.   Knowing that, he said it can’t possibly be time just yet.   I hadn’t ever considered this, but his point was simple and compelling.

And then there are the family members I’ve mentioned over the last month or two.   They don’t know much about Jesus, and what they do know they have rejected.  To them, Jesus is just some mumbo jumbo myth that a bunch of weak-minded dupes with a daddy complex put their misbegotten faith in.  To them, Jesus is just a psychological let-down.  Yet whether it’s by ignorance or rejection (itself a form of stark ignorance), they don’t know Jesus and are, well, out in the cold if the world ends today.

Wouldn’t you like to have sat around the hearth with Paul and just listened?   Or maybe not?  I mean, it sounds like his conversations were deep, weighty stuff.   Paul made tents for a living and instead of talking about his latest Eddie Bauer creation, he would talk with his friends about the end of the world.  From the sound of this verse, he talked a lot about it, about how the man of lawlessness would come and set himself against the Lord.  To Paul, it was deadly serious business.

What would the Thessalonians do if they didn’t know about Jesus, about the peace and hope only He can offer?   What WILL you or I do?

Fact is, most of their world didn’t know about Jesus.   And that is still a fact today.   Most of our world hasn’t heard about Him, or they don’t know much about Him, or they have heard about HIm but our behaviors and attitudes turned them off.   But whether it’s conscious or ignorant, if someone doesn’t know then they don’t know.

What will we do to change that situation?   Will we do what we can to be good witnesses, to use our talents to be kind, to help others?  Will our lives point to Him or away from Him?  If you’ve heard about Jesus and rejected Him (or are apathetic), you’re playing Russian roulette with your soul.  You’re living in damning ignorance.  What will you believe today?   It’s a heavy topic, and we may or may not be near the end, but will you take that chance?

For further reading:  1 Thessalonians 3:4, 2 Thessalonians 2:6

Lord, help me to believe and share this belief!

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 10 July 2018

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (NIV).

Sad verse; this is a very sad verse.

I read all the “Left Behind” books.  They’re fiction, yet in the scene where Jesus delivers His divine judgment against those who rejected Him, He is described as looking sad.   For those who choose to not believe in Him, it will be a moment of supreme terror and it will show; for believers, it will be shock, and that’ll show as well.  Yet for Jesus, I’m betting the book will have called it right.   I’m betting Jesus will be sad in that moment, maybe even weeping.

Jesus didn’t come to destroy us.   He won’t return with the sole purpose of doing that either.  Even though He will return in mighty justice, heavenly fire, and more power than the world has ever known, that’s not why He’s coming back.   He’s coming back to restore creation to the way He created it.  He’s coming back to permanently restore true love, real harmony, and peace forever.   Jesus is coming back in power and glory to claim His followers to bring them into eternity with Him and it will be the greatest day in history, especially since it will be the last one.

Yet involved in that will be expunging those who chose no part of it.  Those who insisted they know better, those who spurned Him, those who embraced hypocrisy, those who live in hate and worldly pleasure, those who simply don’t care:  they will be punished.   He will unleash His angels to bind and eternally sentence them to be apart from Him.   Oh, they’ll live forever; we are eternal beings whether eternally in heaven or hell.   Yet their forever will be one of eternal punishment, apart from all love, hope, and peace in whatever hell has in store for them.   Whether hell is literal fire or emotional torment (or both) we don’t know.   Whatever is in it, it will be terrible.

I feel sorry for these unbelievers, especially since the Gospel isn’t a game of “I’ve got a secret.”   It’s sad, and I’m thinking that’s how Jesus will feel.   It’s not what He wants; it isn’t what He intended for His children.   He wants brothers and sisters, friends, followers, lovers of His real love.  He wants all of us to be saved, including scoffers.   He wants saints and sinners side by side with Him forever.  But He’s holy and the new Earth refined out of His fire will be holy like Him.  For that holiness to exist, it must be free from all that reject Him.   That means God will punish those who reject Him and who choose to reject the Gospel of Jesus.   And that’s the saddest news ever even as it’s necessary.

For further reading: Philippians 3:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:3, 2 Peter 3:7, 2 Kings 17:18, Isaiah 2:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

Lord Jesus, come quickly and have mercy.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 13 February 2018

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.  1 Thessalonians 2:3-4

What good does it do to try to please God?   I mean, if I live a good life, do the best I can, am kind to people (even love people), and do what I can to hurt as few people as possible on my journey through life, doesn’t that please God?

Oh, my friend, that thought is flirting with damnation.   Me, I’ll pass on that option.  I’m not one like Paul, entrusted with the Gospel, approved by God to preach the good news…or am I?   Or are you?

Fact is, if you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, or if you say “yes, I believe” when someone asks if you believe in Him, then you ARE being entrusted with the gospel.   God has given to you the privilege of sharing the news about Him that says, “I want all people to know about me.”  He wants to use you to tell people that anything other than Him is the way to ruin, and that the way to Him is through following His son, Jesus.

God tests us like this every single day.   Sometimes it’s testing by virtue of trusting Him to put the words in your mouth when opportunities present themselves.   Sometimes it’s by resisting temptations.   Sometimes it’s knowing when to NOT say something, when to listen and be a friend.   God tests us by giving us a gut check, not to accuse us, but to purify us, to clarify us.

Our reaction?  We make that exasperating.   God doesn’t do it to us:   we do it to ourselves.  God’s motives are pure and they’re up-front, not deceitful.  He wants us to love Him from the heart, without reservation or evasion.  It’s exasperating when we complicate it, when we add to it.   When we do that, we seem to act like we need to try to please God.  Nothing could be further from the truth.   God is pleased with us because of His grace, not because of what we do.   Because of this, we get to do the things we do to line up with who He already is instead of trying to do for ourselves something we can’t do.   There is no limit to God’s grace.

Just like there’s no limit to sharing His gospel.   Sure, there are places in our society where you formally aren’t allowed to proclaim Christ.   In those places, do so in your actions.   Be a caring friend.   Listen and love.  Share Jesus in words and deeds.  When we do that, God is pleased.

For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:5.

Lord, I’m blessed by Your grace.  Thank You for Your Gospel, your tests, and Your Son.