Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 4 March 2020

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Philippians 4:4 (EHV).

Our church has just begun an 8-week Bible study in a book called “The Gospel Primer.”   It’s a day-by-day guide of better implementing the Gospel of Jesus in our lives.   What’s the purpose of doing all this?   Simple:  to better share Jesus.   And why share Jesus?  Simple again:   so others might know Him, too.   And what’s so great about that?

How much time do you have?

Condense the fifteen thousand reasons that we could give in response to that question and they all contain joy.   You can’t say “I believe in Jesus” and not have some amount of joy.   It isn’t likely you’d share this good news of heaven now without being at least a little happy about it.   And it’s flat out impossible to live out the fruits of God’s Spirit without experiencing joy in them.  You’d be lying if you did (especially since one of them actually is joy).

We believe in Jesus and it brings us joy.   We experience joy in contemplating, sharing, or living our faith.   We share joy with others as we think and act more in ways that reflect our faith in Christ.   For this reason, Paul reminds the Philippians to always rejoice.  Not just on Christmas Day.   Not just when you get presents.   Not when there’s a lot of food on the table or when you’ve had a great day at work or when your team wins the championship.   Always.   Rejoice always.

Rejoice when you are laid off.   Rejoice when you bump your funny bone and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.   Rejoice when you’re bullied in the schoolyard.   Rejoice when your loved one is on their death bed.   Rejoice at all times, in all ways, in all places.   Always.

And sometimes that’s a tall order.  When you lose your job, when you’re hurting, when you’re grieving, when you feel alone the last thing you want is some Pollyanna breathing sunshine at you.  Sometimes we just want to bathe in the hurt so it can quickly pass.   It’s natural; it’s grieving; psychologists would even say it’s a healthy way to process trauma.  Yet even in those times Jesus tells us to rejoice, to count our blessings and be glad.   We can rejoice because He’s with us through them, enduring our traumas with us.  Imagine that:   the Son of God enduring our hurt with us.   He who created everything is stooping to our level, to get down with us in the dirt and get through it together.

Always.

That’s why we’re studying the gospel, talking through ways to experience Jesus’ good news in all kinds of situations so we can rejoice in all of them always in all ways.  It’s news that never gets old.

For further reading: Psalm 85:6, Habakkuk 3:18, Matthew 5:12, Romans 12:12, Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 4:5.

Lord Jesus, You are always with me.   I’ll rejoice in this now and always!

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 28 January 2020

But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. Philippians 2:22. (EHV).

Is talent natural (God-given) or can it be learned?   Answer:   yes.

Let’s be honest:   some folks have natural, God-given abilities that are superior over others who attempt to do the same thing.   Athletes, businessmen, pastors, solid managers, moms & dads:   some people simply live as if they were born to do what they do, and they do it better than anyone else.  God bless them as they earn success doing what they do best because it’s a pleasure to watch excellence, especially if it’s done in Godly ways.

And there are others who don’t know how to do a certain thing but teach themselves and then do it well.   My father was one such person.   He wasn’t raised to renovate houses; his parents never did that kind of thing.   Indeed, his mom/my grandmother was a housewife (and sometime boardinghouse manager), and his dad/my grandfather was a civil servant who, to my knowledge, never even did his own yardwork.   But my dad wanted to know how to build things.   It started with the house my parents built in Bloomington, Minnesota.   A couple of years after building the house, they wanted to use the garage as a second living room/play room (for my sister and I).   So dad had a new garage built and singlehandedly renovated the existing garage into a play room.  He learned how to demolish, build walls, string electricity, install plumbing, and all the finishing work.   When the work was done, he had the playroom he and mom talked about.   Not long ago, I drove by the house and his work is still intact, almost 60 years later.

I can’t say Dad’s renovation work was a work of the Gospel, but the good news of it is that he couldn’t have done it if God hadn’t provided him the back-talents to make it happen.   God gave Dad curiosity and drive and the ability to see something and learn from it.   He gave him a degree of fearlessness and the ability to learn new things.   God lined it up so that his income and schedule and resources would enable him to do the work that he wanted to do.   And God drove him to want precision, excellence, and sturdiness in all he did.  I don’t know how many folks have lived in the house since we moved out in 1969, but it’s safe to say that many more people were blessed by what my Dad did while working outside his comfort zone.  He proved himself competent and full of excellence because of the Lord.

Sort of like Timothy.

Now how about you?

For further reading:   1 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Timothy 1:2, Philippians 2:23

Lord Jesus, thank You for inspiring us to excel, for the talents You give us.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 20 November 2019

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.  Philippians 1:12. (EHV).

Let’s talk about Chick Fil A.  And Kanye (again).   The other day I mentioned Kanye West and the service he did with Joel Osteen last weekend.   Whether or not Kanye’s conversion is deep, true, or long-lasting we don’t know (nor should we judge).   We simply know that it has happened and that it has advanced the gospel.   The service introduced Jesus to people who didn’t know Him, who might never have accepted Him without the introduction from this celebrity.

And then there’s Chick Fil A, in the news this week for changing its policy on corporate donations.  In recent years, Chick Fil A has donated to the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.   A change in donation policy (brought about by the expiration of those donation agreements) means Chick Fil A will no longer donate to them.   The COO for Chick Fil A said this was because of those organizations’ LGBTQ policies:   something immediately became radioactive.

Are we so arrogant that we (or Chick Fil A or the Salvation Army or FCA or any of the gay rights groups) actually think that God’s word can be stopped simply because some company says their checkbook is closed?   God completed over a thousand years of prophecies in just the birth of Christ.   God used the death of the Messiah to accomplish the deliverance of all mankind from sin and death.  God used the orphan life of Moses to deliver Israel from slavery; He used an arrogant punk named Samson to destroy the evil Philistines; there are hundreds of examples of how God makes His glory known and perfected through the weakness of sinners like us.   Do we really think that He will be stopped simply because of some change in corporate charity?

Sure, I’m angered that a company I support appears to have caved to bullies (who, in my opinion, won’t be placated by this.   Bullies never are).   Sure, I wish another company would stand up for Christ the way Chick Fil A has until now.   And, sure, I don’t like to lose.   But even surer than these things is the power of God to advance His gospel no matter what we do.   Throughout history, whenever the church has been targeted, it has always advanced, always spread, in spite of what the haters do.  Jesus doesn’t need Kanye to spread the Gospel but He thrives more when Kanye – or we here – do so.   Jesus doesn’t need Chick Fil A to donate to Christian charities because He thrives whether the money flows or not.   The Gospel cannot be contained by our human failings.

For further reading:  Philippians 1:13

Lord Jesus, I pray you use my failings to bring greater glory to Your Kingdom.

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.

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.