Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 21 May 2020

 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us1 Peter 2:12 (NIV).

This is harsh but I’m going to say it anyway:   some people need to be quiet about Jesus.   Those who reject Jesus Christ for who He says He is need to be rendered silent regarding their thoughts about Him.   The way to do that isn’t really to rhetorically defeat them, or by being a jerk about faith.   In truth, sometimes we do need to use our words to defeat someone else’s argument but we have to do so in a way that doesn’t destroy them.   You know this is because OUR purpose must be to show them Jesus so they may believe, too; that they may change.   That change isn’t up to us; lovingly defending our Savior is.  When we don’t have constructive words to say, it’s best to not say anything at all; I’m a work in progress with this:  how about you?

The best way to defeat those who oppose Jesus is to “kill ‘em with kindness.”   Me and you:   we need to conduct our lives in ways that show we believe in Him, that He remade us in ways that are good for the world, that demonstrate His love.   Jesus wants all people to be saved, especially those who reject Him.   The best way for us to help that along is to live out our faith.   Suppress our anger, show kindness and compassion, seek understanding; live out those Galatians 5 fruits of the Spirit.   This is ground we’ve covered here before, so let this simply be a reminder.

A reminder like the story of the Roman centurian who crucified Jesus.   We can assume the soldier who oversaw Jesus’ crucifixion had seen many men agonize, curse, and die this way.   Maybe he knew about Jesus before this; maybe not; we don’t know.   What we do know is that Jesus’ dying, and seeing John, Mary, and others at the cross spoke to him.   It made him – an  unbeliever and Roman pagan – conclude, “this was a righteous man.”

Let our conduct inspire the same.

Peter may not have realized he was talking about every day, not just Judgement Day.  His words in this verse almost certainly were referring to the last days, yet isn’t it also true that Jesus comes to us EVERY DAY?   God visits us through His Spirit every day so that He may work through us.   Knowing that, it becomes even more imperative that we live in ways that demonstrate Him so that even those hostile to Him might say, “that’s God at work.”   In this way, the concrete that traps their own hearts might begin to crumble.

For further reading: Matthew 9:8, Luke 23:47, Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 2:15, Titus 2:8 & 14, Peter 2:13

Lord, speak through Me and let my words and actions show my faith in You.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 22 April 2020

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 1 Peter 1:13 (NIV).

Jesus’ returning wasn’t some wild idea to Peter (or the other apostles).   To them, the return of Christ was a certainty.   They had seen Him alive after death.   The miracle of returning was easy to believe in.   They never lived to see it.

That must have been dismaying.   After all, they had shared live with Jesus while He was here, and then they had shared Him again after He resurrected.   All that Jesus had preached about the kingdom of heaven had been proven conclusively true.   They knew it in their hearts.   Then they saw Him rise into the sky and disappear.   Weeks later, they had experienced the full rush of Holy Spirit as He flew through them to give them tools they needed to go out into the world and minister.   For the rest of their lives, they felt Jesus’ presence in their hearts when they told the stories of things He said and did, when they saw new believers come to faith in Christ.

Yet they waited for Jesus to come back the way He said He would and, through the rest of their lives, it didn’t happen.   Here in our lives, thousands of years later, it still hasn’t happened.   That could be dismaying for us as well.

Or, just maybe, it’s a beautiful thing.   Maybe it means that, like Peter, you and I are still sent into our world to share the Jesus we know to be true in our hearts as well.   My friend, Mark, says he doesn’t believe the end times are actually near yet because the Gospel still isn’t being preached in every part of this world.   Nearly 1/7 (or more) of the human race still doesn’t have access to the Word of God.   That is a LOT of people who Jesus wants us to reach.

So, it’s a beautiful thing that the Lord of all creation would use imperfect people like us to do His handiwork.   Jesus did promise to return and make all things new. He gave us signs to look for so that we might pay attention to what He’s doing in the world and ready ourselves for His return.   More importantly, He gave us fore-knowledge of those signs of His coming return so that we might help others know Him and be ready to live with Him forever, too.

The very last words of the Bible exhort God’s grace to the reader of Revelation.   John makes this blessing after immediately reminding us that Jesus told him “yes, I am coming soon.”   It has been two thousand years of “soon” but His promise is as imperative in our world as it was in John’s and Peter’s.   Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

For further reading: Revelation 22:20-21, 1 Peter 1:14

Lord, I am eager for Your return!

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 21 April 2020

It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.  1 Peter 1:12(NIV).

Peter knew something that the angels didn’t.   He had seen things, felt things, received THE thing that angels praise Jesus for but had personally never encountered.   The angels don’t need redemption, don’t need salvation.   They’re sinless beings who live with God the Trinity in heaven.   When angels interact with us, they do so without being contaminated by our sins, so that they can stand blameless before God without needing a savior.  Angels don’t need saving like people do, because angels haven’t committed the sins we have.   Because angels aren’t human.

But angels aren’t made in the image of God Himself like humans are.   Peter understood this; Peter was just a man.   Peter had seen the ministry of Jesus up close and personal for over three years.   He had laughed, cried, been angry, been joyous, been REAL with Jesus for that whole time.   Peter had seen Jesus raise people from death, had walked on water to Jesus, had been with Jesus when Moses and Elijah appeared and he saw Jesus as He is seen in heaven.   Peter had spoken with, touched, eaten with the risen Jesus on that first Easter.   Peter was one of the twelve who had been personally touched by Holy Spirit when He arrived on the scene at Pentecost.   And Peter was the man who raised the beggar from paralysis, who was beaten and imprisoned and freed by an angel; who confronted Saul after his conversion; who repeatedly confronted the Sanhedrin and refused to recant his faith or bow down.

And Peter still needed saving.  Just like me.   Just like you.

Peter was one of the people Jesus sent into the world – into our lives through their words and examples – to minister to strangers like us.   Peter had met and seen angels, yet the angels weren’t sent to minister to the world.   It was Peter (and John, Matthew, James, Paul, and the rest) who took the message of salvation from Jerusalem to every corner of the known world…and then beyond that.  As a boy, the (likely) illiterate fisherman probably never dreamed his life would move along this trajectory, but it did.   It did by the grace of Jesus.   Like yours and mine.

Peter knew something that the angels didn’t.   He knew, deep inside, the saving love and peace of his friend and savior, Jesus.  He had experienced it in the presence of angels so he could share it in the presence of strangers.  We know it too.

For further reading: Luke 24:49, 1 Peter 1:13

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your friend, Peter.   Thank You, too, for the angels who ministered to him and to us, who do Your bidding then and now as You will.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 6 April 2020

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:  Grace and peace be yours in abundance.  1 Peter 1:1-2 (NIV).

Let’s walk with the Apostle Peter for awhile, shall we?   Throughout the 10 years of this blog, we’ve visited Moses, David, Solomon, Mark, John, James, Paul, and (possibly) Barnabas (in Hebrews); nobody really knows who wrote the book of Ruth.   So now, for the next few months, let’s read some of the things Peter wrote.

You know Peter:   Cephas; Simon Peter.   The rock on whom Jesus would build the church.  I like Peter (because I like fishermen, and Peter was a fisherman before Jesus came on the scene).  He gives me hope:   if Christ can use Peter for His work (as well as Peter’s sometime-competitor, Paul), then Christ can use me.  I like that Peter was a common man.  Beyond learning what all Jewish boys did, he probably had little or no other formal education.   He had a family, or at least a wife.   As a fisherman, he probably worked very hard, usually all night (which is when fish bite).  He was probably burly, brusque, and maybe even profane; see his rant while he was denying Christ after the arrest in Gethsemane.

In other words, Peter was probably a lot like you or me.   After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter did indeed help form the early church, and went on to be selected as the first pope.  Tradition holds that he was crucified in Rome under Nero, and is buried under the high altar at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican (archaeology has largely confirmed this or something very much like it).

And he embraced change, first in Jesus’ message, then in spreading the church far beyond where he, personally, ministered.   Peter was the one to whom Christ revealed that all things – and all people – were made ceremonially clean.   He erased Peter’s hang-up’s about traditions, and opened his mind to new possibilities.   Where Peter and Paul were sometime-competitors for church leadership, it was Peter who embraced Paul’s work and then found ways to encourage him to do it.

Peter is one of the people I most look forward to meeting in heaven.  I want to hang out with him, maybe share a beer and ask him what it was like to go fishing with Jesus.   Or to be whisked out of jail by an angel.   Or what Pentecost felt like.  Let’s spend a few weeks journeying through the letters Peter left for us.

For further reading: Matthew 24:22, James 1:1, Acts 2:9, Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:3

Lord Jesus, thank You for the words of your friend, Peter.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 27 June 2019

The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.  2 Timothy 4:22 (NIV).

Here we are again, at another ending, at the end of another book.   If you’re a ten-year reader of this blog, thank you!   I hope it’s a blessing to you.   You’ll remember we’ve reached endings together of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Mark, Hebrews, James, 1/2/3 John, 1/2 Thessalonians and now 1/2 Timothy, as well as the topics of the Ten Commandments and Santa Claus.  That’s thirteen books of the Bible and 15 topics overall; well over a million words.   We’ve spent some time together.   God-willing, we’ll keep doing that.

And if He isn’t willing, if this is the last of these posts, then the Lord be with your spirit.   Grace be with you all.   I mean that.   We’ve (hopefully) learned from Paul to end our conversations genuinely, to infuse our parting with the same Spirit and love that we (hopefully, again) brought into our meeting.   As Paul closed out his letters with greetings from and to friends, he also closed them out by praying the Lord over the recipient.

That’s a bold thing to do, you know.   Paul understood these letters would be widely-read.   He probably didn’t envision they’d ever be part of canon Scripture, but he probably did imagine many people hearing them (or hearing about them).  He put down on paper both his personal affections for the reader as well as his prayers for the same.   In a time when that could get you killed, that’s bold.

And you know that time is now.   Praying Jesus Christ in public today can get you arrested or killed in North Korea, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and many nations in Africa.   In the US, it can get you fired.  Putting those prayers on paper can have the same effect because then you involve those recipients.   Yet, if we really believe in Jesus, then we’re compelled to do it.   The heart of the Gospel is agape love:   undeserved gracious love that goes out without any expectation of anything in return.   No matter the consequences.

It’s that love that nailed Jesus to the cross.   It’s that love that kept Him there, that rolled back the Easter stone.   It’s that love that called Paul on a road into Syria.   And it’s that love Paul wanted shared with his friends no matter what it would cost him.   Not long after writing the letter, it cost Paul his life.   Praise to God that He inspired Paul to be willing to do that.

So, at another ending, let us each be inspired to have that same faith and courage.   To wish Christ’s love infuse our souls and bring grace and peace to each other.   Grace and His love to you until the next time.

For further reading:  Galatians 6:18, Colossians 4:18, Titus 1:1

Lord Jesus, thank You for endings and beginnings, for Your grace and love being in both.   Thank You for lettings us have these times together.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 15 May 19

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  2 Timothy 3:1 (NIV).

This section of 2 Timothy talks about the end times.   It’s heavy stuff, not for the faint of faith.    And it’s heavy stuff that people have been hauling, dreading, and contemplating for two thousand years.

Wikipedia defines “Christian eschatology” as “a major branch of study within Christian theology dealing with the “last things.” Eschatology, from two Greek words meaning “last” (ἔσχατος) and “study” (-λογία), is the study of ‘end things’, whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, the end of the world or the nature of the Kingdom of God. Broadly speaking, Christian eschatology is the study concerned with the ultimate destiny of the individual soul and the entire created order, based primarily upon biblical texts within the Old and New Testament.”

Yep.   What they said.

Even from the beginning of the Christian church, we’ve contemplated the end of it here.  Not long before His crucifixion, Jesus spoke of it extensively in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.   And He inspired John to write extensively about it in the Revelation.  If you haven’t done so, go read these accounts for yourself.   It isn’t for the faint of faith.   Yet read them again and again and you’ll find your faith strengthened.

That’s a good thing because we’re in the last days.   Face it, my friend:   this life is a one-way death trip.   Every day we celebrate life and live we are one day closer to death.   Whether these are the last days of terrestrial history or simply the last days of our lives, we are living through them now.   Do you think terrible things happen?

You know the answer.

Paul warned Timothy about it.   He warned Timothy to teach that people should love Jesus every day, should live as God’s chosen followers every minute of every day because any day may be the last.  Paul and Peter may have been talking about the end of time as the “last days” yet their advice pertains to both those last days of Earth as well as all of our days on Earth.

Scoffers gonna scoff; haters gonna hate.   Those who are determined to be unpersuaded of this man Jesus will remain so.   It’s their choice, their self-inflicted misery.  They aren’t happy with that knowledge and are determined that you be as unhappy as they are.   So they’ll insult you, ridicule your faith, persecute your actions, hate you for who you believe in.  It was this way in 1st Century Judea and Asia Minor; it is the same way now.  It’s heavy, not for the weak to bear even as they, too, must find a way to bear through it.   That way is found only in Jesus Christ.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Peter 3:3, 2 Timothy 3:1.

Lord Jesus, come quickly.   These times are as You predicted, full of evil scoffers.   Come and remake all things new.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 11 March 2019

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dear son:  Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.   2 Timothy 1:1 (NIV).

Welcome back, good friend.  We’re here by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.   You and I may not consider each other familial (as in father to son, or son to father), or perhaps we do.   This blog goes to a great many of my actual family members.   And, as we are brothers and sisters in Jesus, we ARE family.   I can almost hear Sister Sledge now.

But it’s true.   We are family.   Paul considered Timothy, his mentee and protégé, to be his spiritual son.  You and I are friends, and whether we know each other well or simply in passing, I consider you to be family.   I hope you do me the same honor.   We’re family by the will of God.   He wanted us to be family.   He arranged the circumstances of our lives, things we call “chance” or “coincidences,” so that this would be so.   So that we could meet and be in relationship.  We’re family because God wanted us to be together.  Our relationship isn’t just ordinary.   God willed it, making it extraordinary in an ordinary world.

What’s more, we’re family and this is so because of the promise of life that is in Jesus and Jesus alone.  Jesus is the giver of life; His friend, John, recorded that for us.   Everything that is here today was created through Him and for Him and because of Him; Paul testified to that, in Colossians.   He made everything and put His special touch – life – in things that breathe that life.   Especially in man, which He called “very good.”  God made our lives so that we could know Him better and share Him with each other.  He promised to give us all things, meaning His eternal life through the love He shares through us.   Only He can do this; only God through His son Jesus could arrange things as so.

All this because He first loved us.   He spoke things into creation.   He saw this world as incomplete without people, without you and me.   He willed us to be and willed this as so because of His love, through His love.   Through the love of Him that is in Christ Jesus.   Paul, the specially called servant of Jesus, in keeping with the life that is His love, created you and me to be in a family relationship so that we may share His grace, mercy and peace.   Today, starting a new book, let’s begin with that at heart.

For further reading:   1 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 3:6, Titus 1:2, John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, Genesis 1:31, 1 John 4:19, 2 Timothy 3.

Loving Savior, thank You for creating me to share Your love today.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 1 March 2019

“…who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”  1 Timothy 6:16 (NIV).

No one can see God and no one ever has; Exodus 33:20 says so straight from God’s own words.  This side of eternity, no one can see God in all His glory and live.   Our minds couldn’t process Him.  Our bodies couldn’t withstand Him.  Yet when we see Jesus, we are seeing God.   We are seeing the part of Him that is human, fully God and fully man all at once.   It’s a mystery how He does that, but He does it all the same.

I think of this verse the way I think of going outside.   My day job involves a lot of time staring at a laptop.   I implement software and business improvements used in processing healthcare information for insurance companies.   That involves a lot of online work in systems that are pretty basic to look at; white windows with black edges and writing, some grays and blues thrown in.   My office at home is in a bedroom, and while there is a window in it, the sun doesn’t shine directly in.  When I’m on my (current) client’s site, I work in an IT lab, in an enclosed conference room with no outside light.

All this makes going outside during the work-day a rich treat. Yet the older I get, the longer it takes for my eyes to adjust to the sun.   If I don’t wear sunglasses, my eyes squint, and it takes me awhile to be able to see without them watering.   Occasionally things are even blurry but that passes quickly.

Imagine looking into God the Father’s unapproachable light.   Imagine the brightest light you can think of, then staring straight into it.   You’d be blinded; you’d melt (sort of like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Nazis opened the Ark of the Covenant).   You’d die.

Now imagine being Peter, James, and John and standing before Jesus when He was transfigured.  His clothes were the brightest white possible.   They saw Him as He truly was, in the beautiful spiritual light of perfection while clearly recognizing their friend.  Their eyes weren’t burned; they lived through it.   How can this be?   You know the answer:   because of Jesus.   He made it possible for them to look on Him and live.   In a flash it happened, then in a moment it was over.

One day each of us will indeed stare into God’s full light and see Him face to face.   In our final day, will we be dazzled by the brilliance of it or will we be destroyed?   My friend, you know the better way.

For further reading:   Exodus 33:20, Psalm 104:2, 1 John 1:7, John 1:18, Romans 11:36, Mark 9:3, 1 Timothy 6:13-21.

Lord of light, You are beautiful.  Heal my eyes to let me see You more so that others see You through me.

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, 19 July 2018

Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 2 Thessalonians 2:3(NIV).

The most celebrated villain in history has already appeared and he’s here among us now.  He’s you.   He’s me.   He is antichrist.

It seems like a fantastic proposition, the stuff of apocalyptic fiction, yet Paul says it’s true.  Perhaps he will be a single person.   John mentioned many “antichrists” meaning false leaders, people who lead others to reject Christ because he (and they) are anti-Christ, against Jesus Christ.   Yet, in this verse, Paul mentions one man, the worst of the worst.   It won’t be Satan; it will be a human; verse 9 corroborates this.   Millenialists and tribulation believers look for the coming of this one man as the definitive marker that humanity has entered the end times.   They’re probably right.

Yet you and I are men of lawlessness.   You and I are against Christ.   You and I are still steeped in our sins and daily rebelling against God.   Hopefully we aren’t leading legions of gullible people away from Jesus, but when we lead lives of hypocrisy we lead one or a few.   When you think about it, that may be even worse.  I’m a hypocrite; so are you; so is Pope Francis, Franklin Graham, your aunt Myrtle, and everyone we know.

We’re sinful.  We commit lawless acts every day, things that try to tear us away from the redemption of Jesus.   As we get closer to the actual end times, things will get worse.   Things that society used to forbid will become acceptable.  Heinous events and unspeakable evils will become more and more common.   People will lead lives that directly contradict even the small things Jesus taught.   We will embrace petty evil and reject common good.  Come to think of it, maybe we’re in the end times after all.

Or maybe not.   Yet in those coming days, the worst of the worst of humanity will rise up and cause unheard of destruction.  Nuclear war, widespread murder, the most vile kinds of apostasy you can dream up:   whatever it will be it will be awful.  And the thoughts that give him birth are the ones that tempt and hurt each of us now.  We side with the man of lawlessness with every sin we undertake.   Our roles may not make us world leaders, but perhaps people are even more effective one on one, at a personal level.   If we’re anti-Christ, that can have deadly consequences.

The way out of that?   Cling to Jesus; cling to faith in Him.   Do whatever it takes to turn from temptations by growing closer to God.  Turn our everyday lawlessness to everyday righteousness by letting Him make that change in us.   And that’s a tougher road to follow.

For further reading:  Mark 13:5, Matthew 24:10-12, Daniel 7:25, Revelation 13:5-6, 2 Thessalonians 2:4, 9

Again, come Lord Jesus and quickly.