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.

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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.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 7 December 2017

Grace be with you all.  Hebrews 13, verse 25.

Once again, we find ourselves at the end.   If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, you’ve seen the ending of Hebrews, Mark, The Ten Commandments, Ruth, 1/2/3 John, James, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs.   That’s a lot of real estate to cover.   Thank you so much, my friend, for reading, sharing, learning, and hopefully hearing the voice of God inside you through these thoughts.

Yet it’s time to finish up this section.   After this, there are other things I’d like to cover.   Next week, we’ll spend the rest of the Christmas season talking about Santa Claus and giving.   After that, I believe God is leading me to walk through the “five T’s” of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus; we’ll be walking with the Apostle Paul, so get ready to get real; Paul has that effect.

Until then, grace be with you all.   Grace:  that’s a concept I haven’t given nearly enough thought to even though my mom and grand-daughter are both named Grace.  I used to think of grace as a quiet thing, like sunny meadows and warm tea.  But that’s only part of what it is.  My friend, Bill Brimer, however, calls the book of Ephesians “a grace bomb.”  It’s an explosion of God’s grace in your face.   An overpowering force of enormous power that can undo physical reality.  Ephesians spends much of it’s time explaining God’s grace as a living, vital thing instead of just a pastoral quality.

Boom.

Have you ever really thought about what grace means to you?   My Random House dictionary defines grace as “a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment; favor shown in granting a delay or immunity; the freely given, unmerited favor or love of God, the influence or spirit of God operating in man; moral strength.”   All those meanings (and more) for such a small word.   And to think they could all blow up in your face with the peace of a rural pasture.  In the context of talking about Jesus, grace means all those things, and all of them at once.

We don’t deserve it, but Jesus richly blesses us to live in His grace.   We’ve done everything we can think of to tick him off, to merit His wrath, but, instead, He likes us, wants to be with us, runs to us where we are in the middle of our dysfunctions.   If I listed here even a fraction of the sins I’ve done against Jesus, I wouldn’t list much before you’d see I don’t deserve His grace.   I don’t even deserve air, food, water, and my beating heart.   News flash:  neither you you.   We’re damn dirty sinners.

But we have so much more than air, food, water and life.   We have love, friends, jobs, possessions, liberty, opportunity.   We have each other.   We have seven billion people here to live, thrive and survive with, and we GET TO tell them that this Jesus blesses us all in His grace.   That He wants them to know Him, too.   That’s grace.   When I deserve punishment, Jesus wants love for me.  When I deserve scorn, He lives in my heart.   When I merit revenge, He urges peace.   When I deserved to die, He ran to the cross for me and took my place.   Boom!

When the writer of Hebrews had only a few words left to say, he said that he desired for God’s magnificent grace bomb to explode in the lives of his readers.   “Grace be with you all” is more than just a benediction:   it’s a challenge.   It’s a powerful this-I-know-to-be-true amen.   It’s a quiet prayer but also an artillery-packed lock and load on the front line.  Grace is the quiet strength of Christ from the cross giving you peace.   And grace is the raw edge of God’s knife in your hand, cutting away the scar tissue of sin to cure the flesh below.   When there was nothing else to say to his friends, the writer affirmed God’s presence in their lives and called on them to realize all God does for undeserving people while sharing His saving love with those who don’t know about Him.

I’m not worthy to argue with wisdom like that.   I’ll simply accept it as a gift of love from our God.  Grace in your face, indeed.   Back in the race for us now.  Lace up your boots, pick up your gun, and let’s march.

Until next time, grace be with you all.

For further reading:  Hebrews 13:25

Lord thank You for Your grace, for how You love and provide for me.