Practical Proverbial, from Philemon, 18 September 2019

…because I hear about your love and faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.  Philemon 5 (EHV).

Word gets around.  If you let it, a single action can define you for years, maybe even a lifetime.   That happens because people gossip, people talk, word gets around.  If you think about it, all social media, from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to even Pinterest, is subtle gossip.   Social media is the latest way to spread the word, usually about ourselves (or things we favor).   No, this isn’t “Pick on Social Media Day.”  We’ll save that for another time.

No, this is an acknowledgement that people talk.   And sometimes what we talk about is constructive, or good, or helpful.  It isn’t much of a bet to bet that, when you or I die, we’ll have wanted those around us to speak well of us.   “She was such a great lady.”   “He was a good man who loved the Lord.”  “I’ll miss him/her a lot because I loved him/her.”   You get the picture.   Face it:   people are going to talk whether we’re here or not, whether we want them to or not.

Re-read today’s verse and you see that Paul acknowledged this about Philemon.   Word had spread from Colosse (his home) that Philemon was a strong follower of Jesus.   He showed great love, caring, and compassion; he exhibited those Galatians 5 fruits of the Spirit.   He demonstrated faith, something that can happen only if Jesus first inspires it into us; apart from Him, we can have no faith.   That faith, those behaviors, this caring for Christ (and His reputation) and for those He loves speaks for itself.   It makes itself known.  Years ago, I spoke with a friend during an airplane ride and he told me, “when God blesses you, you have to share it.   He blesses us with so much that we can’t hold on to it.  We have to pass it around.”

Like my friend, Philemon shared that love of Jesus with his peers, his fellow followers of Jesus in Asia Minor.   They cared for each other and cared for strangers.   They got to ‘be’ Jesus to others when they let Jesus work through them.   Because of that, word got around.   It traveled from Asia through believers and messengers, through word of mouth, through letters.   It reached an imprisoned apostle, who then shared it in a new way, requesting that this Philemon then share it again with a man who had once wronged him.

Putting the love of Jesus to work defined Philemon.   And Paul.   And my friend on the plane.   And maybe us.  Letting the love of God go to work in us is the thing that can define us for His good forever, starting now.   It’s something worth talking about.  Wouldn’t that be better than simply idle gossip?

For further reading:  John 15:5, Galatians 5:22-23, Philemon 6

My Lord, work through me today.   Let others see You in what I say and do.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 19 November 2018

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  1 Timothy 4:7 (NIV).

In the world online, if you read it on the Internet it’s obviously true, right?   Political conspiracies, celebrity gossip, re-written history, “hit like and share for Jesus to bless you:”   if it happens online it’s obviously true, isn’t it?   Paul never imagined anything like electronics or worldwide virtual media yet I’m betting he would have applied this same advice to the internet as he did to day to day real interactions between people.

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.

Horoscopes.   Superstitions.  Rumors and gossip.  Country platitudes.  Even in Paul’s time they happened, and even in Paul’s time they were widespread, traditional, and everywhere.   He saw these things could be destructive, could cause people to put their faith in chance and circumstance rather than the living Christ.  So Paul cautioned believers to reject these things, to have nothing to do with them.

Don’t forget that this verse is right after one where Paul exhorts Timothy to be a good minister, to be nourished and nourish others in the truths of Scripture.  It is in a section full of general instructions on high-level concepts such as adhering to doctrine, minding gifts, and hope.   Thus, it makes sense that Paul would here proffer general instructions on how to deal with myths and old wives’ tales.

Yet in a larger sense, he’s giving a specific piece of godly advice that is much-needed even today.  There are things in Paul’s world and ours that work to pull our focus away from Jesus.   You could list them all day and never complete the list.  Paul reminds us to reject them and keep our only focus on Jesus.  That requires discipline and work; individual effort.   He says “train yourself to be godly” and he’s saying it to us as well as to his protégé.  We are to shy away from superstitions.  We are to reject gossip.   We are to run away from conspiracies and ridiculousness because all these things work against the work of God’s Kingdom.

Chicken soup cures a cold.  Pregnancy heartburn indicates a hairy baby.  Itchy palms mean you won money.  Black cats are bad luck (ditto walking under a ladder).  Pick up a penny for good luck (unless it’s tails-up).   These colloquialisms seem harmless and quaint.   So does a poisonous spider.  Paul says we should have nothing to do with them.   That’s good advice still.  Anything that tries to change my focus away from Christ and onto myself is something to beware.

For further reading: 2 Timothy 2:16, 1 Timothy 4:8

Lord, constantly remind me to reject anything that threatens to pull my focus away from You.

 

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 7 September 2018

We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.  2 Thessalonians 3:11 (NIV).

Some verses are really convicting.   I’m convicted deeply by this one.   In my opinion, if you read verse 11 and don’t see it as a mirror staring back at you, well, you have a problem.

If you’re on Facebook (like I am), you’re a busybody; you’re a gossip.   Our world of social media, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest or whatever is ALL gossip.   That mean’s we’re all busybodies, busy but not busy about what matters.

I can take it; hit me.   “You’re Davy Downer.”   Yep, I guess I am.  In that vein, let me hold up that mirror again.  Maybe you’ll get a deep gaze into it.   I know I did.   I’m a busybody.

See, I love arguing politics.   I’m like others in that I’m pretty sick about America’s state of political affairs.   I’m like others in that I’m sick of seeing my side denigrated and put-down over what we believe.  When someone says something I think is wrong, I like to stand up and defend what I believe.  To be fair, folks on the other side sometimes present consideration-worthy, valid arguments; after all, we’re all Americans.   But do I let it stop there?   No, usually I don’t.   Usually I press on, yammering about whatever point I was trying to make.   Have I reinforced some opinions?   Probably.   Have I changed any minds?   Unlikely.

Sometimes I pig-pile on “liking” things that I find funny; sometimes it’s at someone else’s expense.   And, yes, I’m guilty of sharing things that are out & out wrong.   Or vengeful.   It’s no better than being in the hall in high school, chattering by the lockers or passing notes up and down the aisle.   Or standing in the back of the church, catching up on who’s doing what behind their backs.   For me, social media is nothing more than a place to waste valuable time talking about other people or myself.

(In addition to being arrogant, prideful, and, yes, sometimes a jerk) That makes me a gossip.   Time for another look in the mirror.  If Paul “friended” me, would he think I was a gossip, a busybody?   Worse, would Jesus?

Boy that mirror is bright!  Here’s an internet link, one of thousands, that mentions 32 verses decrying gossiping:  https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-gossip/.  It wasn’t just Paul saying it’s wrong.

How to change?  Stand at the cross:  “I’m sorry, please forgive me” and mean it.   Then back away from the laptop, the iPhone.  When the urge comes to argue, back away and pray a little.   It takes time; it takes effort; that mirror is heavy, and I’m a gossip addict.   But if I don’t try, do I really want to face Jesus one day and have Him look at me disappointed about this?  Or worse, have Him rightfully call me a hypocrite?

For further reading:  1 Timothy 5:13, 2 Thessalonians 3:12.

Lord, help me to change!

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 25 June 2018.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NIV).

This is a tall order.   Admit it:  you can’t do this on your own; I know I can’t.   I’m betting quite a few people are better than I am at behaving themselves and at resisting temptation.  There are quite a few people who wouldn’t give a second thought to the pet sins that have plagued my life.   But the dirty secret is that there are many of THEIR pet sins that wouldn’t interest me in the slightest yet these may be very real struggles for them.   Everyone has a vice, even the folks we consider to be upright or pious.   Gambling, porn, drinking, marijuana, profanity, power, gossip, pride; pick one or name another.  Got skin, got sin.

Which is why Paul ends his letter with this benediction.   He doesn’t end with “prayers and positive thoughts to you” or “thinking of you” or “best wishes, pal.”   He invokes the tangible, real presence of the all powerful creator in the daily lives of his friends.   He asks for, even implores, God’s real action in their lives.   And he prays for this over his friends, asking that God set them apart as pure, then preserve everything about them to keep them blameless.

Paul knows his friends will be tempted; he has just written about how evil will always work to tempt us and how we must reject it.   Paul understands that his fellow believers are sinners like himself.   Paul realizes that they can’t be blameless in God’s presence without God Himself making it possible.   So he prays this benediction over them, both requesting for them and reminding them that God gives peace and sanctification.   Only God can do this; only Jesus is the only way.

Hint:   that’s still true.   Paul’s words still resonate with us because they still apply.   The same God who spoke everything into existence through His Son is still abiding with us now.   The same God who watched that Son die on that cross – and felt it all through Him – is still living through us today.   The same God who forgave, sanctified, and strengthened Paul and the Thessalonians 2000 years ago is still doing those things for us today.   We don’t have to do anything to please God; in fact we can’t.   But we do need to see Him through our hearts, to submit to Him and believe Him.   Tall order or not, without God’s presence in our lives, we don’t stand much of a chance against evil.

For further reading:  Romans 15:33, Hebrews 4:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:24.

Lord Jesus, stay with me.   Sanctify me, forgive me, abide with me.   Without You, I am powerless.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 12 November 2013

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  James 3, verses 9-10.

We are people of contrasts.  James notices this and pounces on it as the question of the ages, and indeed it is.   I go to church a lot; mostly regularly; usually every Sunday.   Yet my wife is constantly (rightfully) ragging on me if I leave the parking lot and let some inappropriate comment or foul language fly.  I just spent an hour (more when the pastor goes over time) praising and worshipping God, and I immediately foul it up with what I say.  I’m the same me who sat in church and gladly sang, praised, lifted my hands, prayed, and all that you do at Sunday worship.   I’m the same me who did all that and then gets mad at the guy who cuts me off on the street, or lets the off-color joke fly by, or passes judgment on what was said and done in the service.

Out of the same mouth.  It’s nothing new.   If you went to one of the small home gatherings that characterized ‘church’ in 1st century Judea, you’d see something similar.   Folks would say one thing holy, then immediately besmirch that holiness with something unholy.  Such behavior transcends time. 

Here’s a good time to remember that we weren’t made for just one time:   we were made for forever.  God made you, me, and everyone we know to last forever, to be with Him forever.   Eternity matters most and God – Father, Son, and Spirit – is in eternity, of eternity, and around eternity.   He made us to commune with Him in eternity, to share His love forever.  That’s why He sent His Son to do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves:   make our sinful lives into sinless forever.

That news, too, is nothing new.   It’s older than James:  just like our response to it.   Me first.  I know better.   Did you see that new kid in school?   What planet did she come from?  “Guess what I heard about you know who over in the next department?   Yep!   Doing the boss again.”  The single digit salute to the guy who whips into the parking space you’re waiting for.   How have you responded in ways that a loving follower of Jesus shouldn’t respond?   We could swap war stories on that but we’d miss the point.   We aren’t made for the war stories.   It’s not that we have to become prudes.  Joy is the better path.  We, people of contrast, are made to love Jesus forever.   Let’s start in small ways today.

Patient Lord, teach me to tame my thoughts and words.   Teach me to control them and to use them only in ways that glorify You.

 

How are you guilty of this double-speak?

What contrasts are your weak spots?

Have you asked Jesus to help you change them?