Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 3 December 2018

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV).

I regret not being a responsible and moral leader when I was younger.   I was an awful shift supervisor to my first watch crew.  I didn’t understand that commanding and teaching my crew were responsibilities to do so humbly, in my own way according to the rules, and wisely.   I didn’t do a very good job.  Later, as a young father, I was short-fused, hot-tempered, and hypocritical.   My words didn’t always match my conduct, and I didn’t usually demonstrate a good example for my kids or others around me.  Others felt the consequences of my sins.

Know what?   That doesn’t matter.   Death comes to all of us; we’re sinners and because of that we die.   Yet on our winding roads through life we’re given the opportunity to meet other people and share with them.   We share life; we share stories; we share fellowship; we share Jesus.  That last one is our primary mission.  It isn’t to lead, or parent, or be a friend, or to acquire the most stuff.   It’s to share Jesus.   In doing that, we lead.

A few years ago, a fellow believer shared online that his grandson was terminally ill.   That boy died yesterday, went home to heaven to be with Jesus.  I never met him; his name was Andrew.   But I cheered for him as he bravely lived in dignity and hope while leukemia ravaged him.   It never defeated him.   When death came for Andrew, hero that he was, he faced it and walked through into the open arms of the Savior, who, I’m thinking, gave Andrew a huge bear hug.   “Welcome home, Andrew.   I love you SO MUCH!”   Satan thought he’d won again but he’s too foolish to realize he never wins.   Jesus already won.

I learned a lot from following Andrew’s journey.   I learned that such a fine young man was a leader in all he did.   An inspiration in a dirty world full of our regrets.   Those regrets never matter in the long run.   What matters is how we live our lives in pursuing Jesus, in growing closer to Him.   When death arrives, the regrets and possessions and sins won’t matter.   Living forever in peace with Him:   THAT is what will matter most.

I’m going to be away from here for awhile.   Tomorrow I’m having surgery that’ll keep me away from these words for a few weeks.  If it goes well, I’ll see you later.   And if it goes south, I’ll see you later in heaven.   No matter, live today in peace and dignity and hope, and live it fully.   Love and lead and share Jesus.   We’ll meet again.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 4:13.

Lord, watch over my friends and help us each to lead through You.   And bless Andrew there in Heaven and those he left behind.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 27 November 2018

Command and teach these things. 1 Timothy 4:11 (NIV).

Paul doesn’t mess around.   He says “command and teach.”   Not “go get some proper seminary training first and then wear nice robes and sing boring music.”   And he doesn’t say “you need a college degree for this.”   And Paul doesn’t say “think it over and, if you’re feeling up to it, speak up when you get the chance.”

Command and teach already.   Very Captain Kirk:   boldly go where no man has gone before (or where many have gone but their love has grown cold).   Speak up and speak out.

These words come in the chapter where Paul has given out some broad instructions to his protégé.  The goal is to minister to others as Christ ministered.   The aim is to build up the body of believers into more closely following our Savior in how we think, speak, and act.   It isn’t about a bunch of rules:   it’s about Jesus.

And to better follow Jesus, when one is called to speak up for the faith, COMMAND and teach.   Don’t mess around with it.   Don’t walk around thinking “I can’t do this” because you can; because His Spirit will do the talking and teaching for you.  Stand up and be counted and speak the truth plainly, boldly, convincingly.   Even people of timid nature can be forceful in their convictions.   Command and teach.   Do it confidently because the power you have to do it isn’t your own.   It is the power of Him who sends you:   the living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Yet remember a few things.   The position and ability to command is given by God but respected by men.   Here on the third rock, we earn respect.   If you command and teach in God’s name by humbly submitting to His authority, you’ll be shocked at what He does through you.   When people recognize that, they’ll listen in respect.

And teach wisely.   There’s no shame in not knowing how to do something, but there is shame in knowing you need to know and then doing nothing about it.   Do it in your own way, using your talents and your personality.  Learn to teach and teach to learn.   Do both in submission to Christ.

Finally, before commanding or teaching, go first to Jesus and seek His counsel.  He is the King of the World and knows what He’s doing.    Pray.   Immerse yourself in the Word.   Open your heart to Him and wait on Him to act; go Psalm 46.   He will, in His own good time, and everyone will see it.

When He does, get up and get going.  Command and teach.   Don’t be a jerk about it; Jesus was never a jerk.   We shouldn’t be either.   But stand firm and speak up.

For further reading: Psalm 46:10-11, 1 Timothy 5:7, 1 Timothy 4:12

Lord, put Your words in my mind and mouth, and help me to command and teach in Your name.   Help me to do it humbly, wisely, and confidently.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 21 November 2018

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:8-10 (NIV).

Why do we labor and strive here?   Why is physical (and spiritual, educational, vocational, personal, etc) training of some value but godliness of more value?

Ah the questions of the ages.   To be human is to wrestle with them at some point in our lives, to grapple with the meaning of our existence.   Yet for the believer this life is more than mere existence.   It is purpose, mission, satisfaction, adventure.   We strive all our lives to better ourselves in service to Him who saved us from ourselves.   That gives life reason and meaning.   It’s not just about getting by:   it’s about serving Him in new and adventurous ways.

It’s true.   We can have a pretty good life if the best we do is to live as peaceful people with each other.   We can learn, study, train ourselves, even work to live in physical peace.   Pretty darn good lives, actually:  just ask any atheist, any non-believer and they’ll tell you this very thing (before they tell you that you’re a fool for believing in this Jesus).  Yet what they won’t tell you – because they can’t – is that such a life has no inner peace, has no inner-driven purpose other than to be a better man.   That it’s meaningless.  In the end, all they can look forward to is an eternity in the dirt, started in nothingness and returning to it after a life lived in meaningless existence.

C’mon, people: there’s better than that.   We weren’t made for godlessness.   We were made for much, much more.  Godliness is following Jesus.   Godliness is letting the Galatians 5 fruits of His Spirit remake us.   Godliness is living in awareness that He loves us, that He forgives us, that He asks us to do more with what He gives us.   Godliness is submitting our lives to Him even when it means taking up our cross and denying the alluring things of this world.   Godliness is Christ.

When we labor and strive under His understanding, we see the reason for our hope, both now in how He reshapes us into better people, and at the end-beginning when we see Him face to face.   When we live in that hope, every day is Thanksgiving Day.  Every day becomes a reason to express godly gratitude for all the ways He blesses us.

For further reading: Galatians 5, 1 Timothy 4:11

Lord Jesus, every day is a day of thanksgiving in service to You.   Keep remolding me into Your servant that I might better live this life for You.

 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 20 November 2018

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 1 Timothy 4:8-9 (NIV).

Did you see Alex Smith’s horrific injury on Sunday?   Believe it or not, these can be his finest hours.

If you haven’t heard what happened, during a football game with the Houston Texans, Smith, the Washington Redskins’ quarterback was trying to evade being sacked by two Texans defenders.  He went down on his right leg and broke both the tibia and fibula bones.   The quarterback was carted off the field wearing an air cast and is supposed to go in for surgery this week.  This injury will likely end his football career, and that’s an awful break (pardon the pun) because Smith is a talented player who had spurred his team into first place in the NFC East Division.

But don’t forget:   these might just be his finest hours.

You see, physical training is valuable.  It takes YEARS to train a man to play at the level of a first-string quarterback in the National Football League.   It takes training, exercise, diet, commitment and discipline to get into that kind of physical and mental shape in order to prevail in the toughest team sport on the planet.

Let’s see how things play out for Mr. Smith.   And if you haven’t done so already, send up a prayer for him.   For strength, physical and emotional healing, and gratitude to still be alive in Christ.

Huh?   The man’s lifelong desire is probably done for.   He’s worked all his life to become a top NFL quarterback, first with the San Francisco 49ers, then with the Kansas City Chiefs, and then with the Washington Redskins.  To have that taken away by a freak, gruesome injury is enough to emotionally destroy most people.

Yet, not to make light of it, but it’s just football.   Perhaps Alex Smith’s greatest achievements are yet to come.   Perhaps God allowed this devastating injury into his life to put him on the road to serving in another capacity, one that hasn’t yet even revealed itself.   Now is a time of testing, and let’s pray he’s sustained through it to serve God’s better purposes overall.  His life’s work may just lie beyond football.

Ditto you and me.   What life-crisis are you enduring now?   Don’t lose sight of the fact that God may be preparing you for your best days yet to come.   Yes, it matters that we train and prepare for them now, using our time, talents, and treasures to steward the days He gives us.  But they are only shadows great things to come.   Pray that God uses each of our days so that we may live our finest hours now in preparation for better ones tomorrow.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 1:15 1 Timothy 4:10

Lord, heal Alex Smith.   And heal all who suffer.   Prepare us now for Your service.

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 1 Timothy, 15 November 2018

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.  1 Timothy 4:6 (NIV).

Yesterday I was in yet another online discussion, this time with a guy with whom I’m no longer on good terms.  We went to high school together and were friends for awhile on Facebook.   But we strongly disagree on many things.   Our conversation this time started on disagreeing about a point of fact and quickly turned personal, both on his and my end.   That’s when I checked out of the conversation; I don’t want to do that any more because it brings dishonor on Jesus.   Yet I wasn’t able to leave the conversation before my ‘ex-friend’ said something that stuck:  “I don’t like you Dave.”

That one left a mark.  None of us likes to be told we aren’t liked but my former friend struck me (rhetorically) pretty hard.  He said he thought I was an insecure jerk (yet he was the one doing the name calling), and to be honest, he had a point.   I’m not perfect; I wasn’t perfect yesterday but I didn’t profess to be.  Yet what he said also made me realize something:

I don’t like him either.  I really don’t.  We were more acquaintances than real friends.  Sometimes we simply don’t gel with others but this is a person I simply don’t like.  This is the point where a gut-check became not just necessary but critical.   I reached out to several pastor friends and asked for some much-needed help.  How can you follow Jesus and still harbor dislike for someone?

Thankfully, my friends gave some very solid advice.   Pray for the other person.  Keep quiet unless you have something positive or constructive to say.  Ask if God is using this as a teachable moment about yourself.  Be cautious when engaging antagonistic people (even Jesus was cautious when He needed to be).  Avoid extended time with serious haters.   And don’t be surprised when some people hate you.   I’m not Jesus but people hated Him too.  As you can see, really great words, and they helped.

Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart and mind, and then He calls us to love our neighbors even more than we love ourselves.   He tells us to forgive generously, to minister wisely but unabashedly, and to live out the fruits of His Spirit in kindness, patience, understanding, and that forgiveness.  I’m thankful that my friends echoed Paul’s advice to Timothy to be a good minister to me.  I hope I can be to others.   I still don’t care for the company of my ex-friend, but in all honesty. I wish him well, health, and faith in Christ.   Jesus loves him too.

For further reading: 2 Timothy 3:15, 1 Timothy 4:7

Lord, forgive my misuse of Your wonderful talents.   I forgive my old friend.   Bless and keep him.

 

Practical Proverbial, 1 Timothy, 14 November 2018

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.  1 Timothy 4:3-5 (NIV).

Before moving on from these verses, let’s talk about consecration.   Key in on that last verse: “because it is consecrated by the Word of God and prayer.”   Do you get that God just exploded a bomb in your life?  Jesus Christ, who loves you enough to die for you, just threw a grenade and you and watched it explode in your face, blowing you to bits…and He was smiling.

Huh?

Every now and then, the Bible drops these precious nuggets about salvation right into our laps using common language, words we often overlook.  I say that because did you know that you consecrate your actions through the word of God and prayer?   BOOM!   There goes another explosion.

Huh (again)?

Get this:  to consecrate something is make something sacred, to set it apart.  You and I get invite consecration into our lives by praying.  Through Jesus’ power, our ordinary lives are dedicated to His higher service.  Sure, some people have a purposeful calling to be pastors and teachers of Christ; maybe that’s how you’ve been consecrated.   Yet even the more pedestrian of us can be (and are) consecrated as hallowed, holy, righteous by God when we invite (as Carrie might sing) Jesus to take the wheel.

All that happens through prayer.   Prayer:   that conversation between God and you.   Usually it feels one-sided but, if you look closely, it may just be that He’s doing most of the work.   Have you ever felt more at peace after praying?   Perhaps God immediately answered your prayer by giving you that peace.   We will never know how God may act on our prayers if we don’t pray them.

And when we do pray, we are inviting the full power of King Jesus God Almighty into our situation.  Hebrews 4:12 says that the word of God is a living thing, a sharp sword that cuts to the core of what we believe.   It slices away things we don’t need and leaves what we do, namely Jesus Christ. Prayer consecrates us, sets us aside for something hallowed, invokes His power.   When it does that, it cuts away what isn’t important or, like alcohol on a wound, begins to scour and heal.  It isn’t our words that do that:   it’s the Word of God.

Next time you pray, remember that you’re holding a consecrating weapon in your words.   Boom! It might be the most powerful thing you do all day.

For further reading: Hebrews 4:12, 1 Timothy 4:6

Lord Jesus, I pray thanks and praise that You consecrate us.   Help me to use this powerful blessing for Your good purposes.