Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 25 March 2020

I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.  Philippians 4:18 (NIV).

I like how Paul equates material support from his friends to a sacrifice to God.   He isn’t putting himself in the place of God but, instead, is commending the Philippians on their caring willingness to want to help someone.    It’s their attitude and not Paul’s status that is the focus of the verse.

And it should be our starting point for the day.   In a related verse (from 2 Corinthians), Paul alludes to our words and deeds also being a ‘fragrant offering’ before God.   Like what the Philippians did for Paul – money, supplies, encouragement – we, too, should offer up what we say and do as a kind of worship to the Lord.   What we say and do should be noticeable to others as something respectful and worshipful of our God.

Admit it:   that can be a tall order when you’re sheltering in place; when you’re locked down in your home and forced to spend quarantined time doing unusual things to keep busy.   Tedium can quickly set in and tempers wear thin.   Yes, this is very much a first-world problem, but don’t forget that most of the world is dealing with this same crisis.  Instead of lighting a short fuse, how about we step back from that and regard what we say and do as ways to honor God?

Sick of working from home?   Thank God that we can.   Tired of being with your kids and family and those closest to you?   Thank the Lord you’re all safe.   Weary of the hoarders in the store and the me-first attitude that short tempers reveal?  Thank God for His provisioning anyway.   God is still very, very active in what we’re doing, especially now when millions of people are affected by this common crisis.

If you think about it, maybe if we used the crisis as a common way to return our focus to Him in what we think, say, and do, it could turn around our attitudes about it.  That starts with the people still right beside us.   We get to resolve today to spend a few minutes more talking with Jesus, then a few minutes putting His peace to work in our relationships.  One step at a time, one interaction at a time, one person at a time.  Whether we give of ourselves in serving others or simply talk with each other more, our words, actions, and gifts could then be regarded as fragrant sacrifices to God, pleasing to Him and noticeable to others.   In that way, His Kingdom may better grow and prosper even when it’s under attack.

For further reading: 2 Corinthians 2:14, Philippians 4:19.

Caring Lord Jesus, mold me today to serve You in what I think, say, and do with others.   Grow Your Kingdom starting in this place.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 25 November 2019

And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. Philippians 1:14. (EHV).

Here’s that why behind the what again.   In the previous verses, Paul said that his bad thing – being imprisoned, in chains, for the gospel – turned out to be a good thing because the Gospel spread.  The reason why that’s a good thing is that people see what true believers are willing to endure for faith in Jesus and then they, themselves, become more confident in their own faith and bold to share it without fear.

Have you considered that the biggest Christian nation on earth – the nation with the most believers in Jesus by population – is the United States?   And that the one place where it should NOT grow (because the government there is atheist, Communist, and hostile to God in all ways) is the People’s Republic of China?   According to Pew Research, in the USA there are 248 million Christians; that’s approximately 75% of the population.   In the USA, for the moment, people are mostly free to exercise any religion they want, especially Christianity.   There are dozens of denominations; there are services and practices for any comfort level in the faith.   Think of that:  248 million people saying they believe in Christ crucified.   And yet that number is actually declining.

Then consider the People’s Republic where, according to billionbibles.org, there may be as many as 234 million Christians.   Out of a current estimated population of 1.435 billion Chinese, this means that 16% of the Chinese population professes to believe in Jesus Christ.   If their faith is discovered, Christians in China are likely to be persecuted in one way or another, either by forced silence or actual imprisonment.   Untold thousands have been sent to Chinese gulags and no accurate number is really known how many have been executed for being Christian.   Yet the faith is growing.

In North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen it is a death penalty offense to say you believe in Jesus Christ.   And people do it anyway.   Just in those countries, thousands of people do it anyway.

Because watching someone be persecuted, lightly or harshly, may just spur you to think more about your own faith.   It may spur you to profess truths you hadn’t seriously considered.   It might just make you think in different ways.  The same “why” that explains why first century believers were strengthened by Paul’s persecution explains the things happening in our world today.   The Gospel can’t be contained by puny human methods, and where it is actively denied in the dark a tiny light can shine all that much brighter.

For further reading:  Acts 4:29, Acts 21:33, Philippians 1:15

Lord Jesus, where I’m stumbling in dark failure to share You where I am, teach me to shine so that others may benefit.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 18 December 2013. Dillon’s 18th Birthday

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  James 4, verses 13-14.

Today is a special day.   It’s  not every day that your youngest child is no longer a child, but that’s what today is.   Today is my son’s 18th birthday.  I don’t usually pick these verses out of order; today is no different.   To segue from James, I have a few words for my new young man.

Live today.   I’m not just talking about doing well in school, or making good choices, or even being responsible in all you do.   Those things are a given.   We’re talking about living.  Submit to God, then watch Him get down in your life.  These verses are talking about how brief life is, and implied in them is the message “live it.”   Live each day well, enjoying and making the most of it, serving others, doing your best, and having fun.

Don’t wait for tomorrow.   Don’t assume tomorrow will happen.   If there is something you dream of doing, then find a way to make it happen and don’t wait.   Prepare, be a good steward of the so-many gifts you have, and use your time here to live that dream.   Don’t be controlled by anyone here but the Lord.  God didn’t put you in our lives just to take up space.   You have gifts, talents, purpose, and dreams.   Develop and use them.  God gave you life to live.   Today.   Not waiting for tomorrow.

Be thankful.   Part of the book of James is a reminder to thank God for all He does.   Be thankful and have a thankful outlook today.   For the rest of your life, you’ll be an adult.   Be thankful for that.  Each day,  I’m thankful for you, for being your dad and to now be your fellow man.  Pass on that thanks to others by living in thankful ways for them.   In doing so, you’ll be giving thanks to Jesus.

Finally, grow as a man of God.  It’s a wonderful thing to grow up, and I would pity the man who wanted only to be a child forever.   It’s a wonderful blessing to grow, but only if you grow in God.  The longer you live, the more you’ll find that, to live in today being thankful, the only way to do it and be happy is to grow in God.   Let Him lead you.   Be in His word.   Question Him.   Follow Him.   Ask Him.  Submit to Him.   Love Him.  

I’m proud of you, Dillon.   I’m proud of all you’re doing, and how you’ve striven and succeeded in your childhood.   It’s a great start.  Happy birthday son.   God loves you and so do I.

Lord, thank you for my son.   Love, grow, and protect him today and always.