Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 31 May 2019

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV).

These are two of the most famous verses in the New Testament.   They’re a common-sense exposition of a basic truth:   The entire Bible is the Word of God.   All of it.   Not just the meek and mild Jesus parts:   all of it.

We of the Christian faith find it easy to ignore the Old Testament.   It’s almost as easy for us to ignore the OT as it is to ignore all hymns before year 2000.  Some of the Old Testament is brutal history.  And we don’t like explaining that the same God who smote the Philistines is the same God who died for our sins, who loved the little children, who forgives us anything.   Yep:   same triune God; same Jesus; same Father and Spirit.   We can only understand this if we read that Old Testament instead of selectively ignoring it, which many of our churches do (including my own).

The Word of God is a tool for us to live.  We can (and should) use it for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training, praising, thanking, repenting and living in every way possible.   Paul identifies only four specific behaviors (teaching and the other three) in order to make a point (that they are especially useful in encouraging righteousness).   Yet the bigger point is that ALL SCRIPTURE IS GOD-BREATHED AND IS USEFUL…SO THAT THE SERVANT OF GOD MAY BE THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED FOR EVERY GOOD WORK.

Every good work.   Witnessing and teaching.  Pouring concrete.  Preaching sermons.   Welding I-beams.  Configuring software.   Raising kids.   You name it:  every good work we can conceive of is made possible when we are equipped with the peace from God’s word that transcends all understanding.

Mind you, Paul’s foremost concern for Timothy was spiritual work of the church body.   Yet his point almost certainly meant every good work that we could do.   And then consider this:   God teaches and places us where He does to prepare us for those works.   My friend, Phil, recently preached about David and Goliath, and one of the points he made was how God prepared David years ahead of time to fight Goliath.   Over time, our God developed David’s skills with bravery, simple weapons, and faith most of all.   Stepping out to battle the tall Philistine was the result of much quiet preparation, not just a teenager’s faithful bravado.

In the same way, God uses our work, our lives, to prepare us for things He has for us to do, both now and later.   Every work, then, can be a work for the Lord.   All of them.  No wonder these verses are famous.  All of the Bible is God-breathed and for our use.

For further reading:  Philippians 4:7, 2 Peter 1:20, Romans 4:23-24, 1 Timothy 6:11,  2 Timothy 4:1.

Lord, all of Your word is useful and holy.   Thank You for it!

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 18 February 2016

Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Mark 14, verses 39-40.

The spirit is indeed willing and the flesh is indeed weak.   Knowing that, we can easily relate to the sleepy Apostles.

Let’s cut a little slack to the Apostles because, well, after all, they’re human.   They were tired.   No, they were exhausted.   These verses occurred very early in the morning, perhaps around 2 or 3 AM. After tramping all around Jerusalem on Thursday, then the last supper, then some incredibly wrenching personal time with Jesus, they were exhausted.

“I would have done better.   I would have stayed up.”

Sure you would, pal.   Don’t forget there wasn’t a Denny’s open at that time.   Around AD33 you couldn’t run to the local QT to get a cup of fresh coffee.   You and I might have wanted to stay awake and keep watch, but in the end, after chatting with our mates, we probably would have quietly sat down and nodded off…just like they did. It’s all the more real when you think that they weren’t sitting there in North Face jackets with thermal sleeping bags.   No, on a cold Judean night in the springtime (think 40-50 degrees), they sat on the hard ground, perhaps against stone walls, wearing thin robes, skirts or tunics and sandals.   I’m thinking they didn’t stretch out to relax.   I’m betting they huddled together to keep warm.

Then they were alarmed when Jesus came back and He was disappointed in them.   They didn’t know what to say.

Now, I’ll confess how I’m getting old by saying that I don’t see how young people can sleep so much.   My kids, they can sleep for hours, sometimes 8-12 hours at a stretch. I don’t think I could count on one hand how many times I’ve slept that long in my entire life and I’m nearly 50. Try waking up one of my kids when they’re asleep and you’ll get a disoriented, probably crabby hot mess. Ask them a question and you’ll likely get a vacant response.   Should it be surprising, then, if that’s the same response Jesus got from His sleeping disciples?   And they hadn’t even been asleep for 10 hours.

Yes, they should have kept a better watch; so should we.   Could they have eased Jesus’ anxiety over what was happening?   Perhaps; we’ll never know. Jesus wanted them to keep watch with Him just like He wants us to keep watch with Him every day of our lives.   He upbraided them to watch out and resist temptation because He knew that their best defense against a Satan on offense was to watch and be ready when sin tempts. He’ll do that same thing for you and I, speaking to our hearts, speaking to us through conscience.  When we are tempted, He’ll speak to us in ways that appeal to our hearts.   “Don’t do it.”   “You shouldn’t.”   “Stop now.” Those are good things to know because we will each find ourselves in moments of temptation every single day.   It’s a fair bet to assume that, like the Apostles, we won’t know what to say when that happens.

Lord Jesus, abide with me.   Remind me to avoid temptation and help me to resist.

Read Mark 14, verses 32-41.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 23 September 2013

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.  James 2, verse 1.

I’ve been blessed to be the father of three great kids.   My Hunnie and I both agree in that:  we’re intensely proud of all three kids.   We did our best to raise them and we raised them from a young age in a believing Christian home.   In our Christian home, however, familiarit with the distinctly un-Christian concepts of lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, promiscuity, killing, charades, false fronts, procrastination, personality disorders, disabilities, addiction, slander, envy, rage, and deceit.   I’m not talking about them watching Jersey Shore (which I still don’t understand).   I’m talking in our own experience, in the lives they’ve lived and grown.   These are real lessons, real things with which they’ve dealt, real situations in an all-too real world of fallen depravity.

I’ll tell you the truth:   I don’t have a favorite.   These days, I’m thankful to share unique and special relationships with each of them.   The differences are what make them special.  If I die today, let my life be judged by God and others looking at the kids with whom He blessed it:  I’ll exit a success.

To say I’m proud of how each of them has turned out is to under-whelmingly define pride.   I’m intensely proud of each of them because I see them as Jesus’ gifts.   My oldest daughter the innocent girl who wanted to grow up to be a princess; my youngest daughter, who always tests limits in finding out who she wants to be; my son, who struggled against bullying outsiders and finding his place in a world he didn’t understand:  all three of them live lives that make me proud to know them, and especially proud to be their father.

So I understand what James is saying when he says that believers shouldn’t show favoritism.   In my own life – in work, play, time with my wife, time with those kids – whenever I’ve shown favoritism for one thing or another, I’ve lost balance.  People suffer when we let that happen.  God created us to live in harmony as His children, and He created us for balance.   Not moderation, for we can’t moderate where Jesus is concerned.   No, He created us to live in balance and you can’t live in balance if you are improperly partial to one over another. 

Take this lesson and apply it wherever it calls you because it’s universal.  If you are playing favorites with anything in your life, but especially with people like good kids, I urge you to get with God on this one as soon as you possibly can.  Cast aside the favoritism because we were made and loved for so much more.

Lord, thank You for blessing me with the kids – and the wife – in my life.   I don’t know what I’ve ever done to deserve them and their love, but thank You for it.


Are there any ways where you’re out of balance in your life?

What areas of your life try to get you to play favorites?

What are you prepared to do about it?

Daily Proverbial, from James, 29 August 2013

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.  James 1, verse 9.

Some of the proudest moments of my life are when I was humbled for God.   There were moments on mission trips, moments when I felt moved by Him to do things I wouldn’t ordinarily do at home.  One time in Africa, I felt so despondent and broken that I knew in my heart I had nobody to rely on but Jesus.   When I found Jesus was breaking my heart, I also found that He quickly began to fill it.  I’m proud of those moments; really am.  It’s not an arrogant, cocky, self-confident kind of pride.   Instead, it’s thankful, glad to have been a part of it, understanding God’s purpose for me in those moments, and happy to have let Him do what He did through me.

Then there is last night.   I went to the Minnesota State Fair.   Don’t get me wrong:  I love Texas, and I really love the Texas State Fair.   If you want to do it right, though, you simply have to go to a fair in the Midwest, and the fair here in Minnesota is one of the best.   The food, the rides, the rodeo, the crowds, the bargains, the free stuff:   I love it all.   Most of all, I love walking through the 4H exhibits.   I’m constantly amazed by the arts, crafts, and foods that 4H children make.   They are intricate, very difficult, and original.   Quilts, foods, woodwork, art, photography, different crafts:   they’re all made by kids.

The things on display there are the best of the best; you can tell by all the ribbons.   Yet I imagine the kids who make them do so in humble circumstances.   They’re from small towns all over the state, and they do their best to make things that will be judged among the finest in their craft.   One way of looking at it is that these kids are using their God-given talents to humbly do their best, making things in which they can take rightful pride.

In a way, their handiwork is Jesus’ handiwork.   Those fancy ribbons are recognition for the humble work of humble people, but, in a way, they’re recognition for the good work done by Jesus. 

That should be our goal too:  to win a ribbon for our humility.   We should let Jesus speak through us by using our talents quietly, patiently, humbly, and in a dignified way so that our best, our Jesus light, can shine through.   The longer I live, the more I find that the things of which I’m most proud aren’t things at all, but Jesus moments.   Contentment in my family; smiles on kids; the feeling of a job well done; knowing that I’m loved.   The things of which I’m proudest are the moments when Jesus is most active.

My Lord, I’m proud to follow You.   I’m proud of the faith You grow in me.  Help me to humbly live it.  Thank You.


What are you proud of?

Do you have pride in things, or in people, or in what Jesus does in you?

If you aren’t proud of that, what are you prepared to do?