Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 25 June 2020

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  1 Peter 3:13 (NIV).

Who’s going to harm you if you’re eager to do good?   Seriously?   Peter never lived in the age of social media.   Your political opponents will do whatever they can to harm you if it will advance their cause.   Urban terrorists, drunk with the power of fomenting violent change, are eager to destroy anyone (or anything) in their way.   Uninformed critics will gladly tear you down if you disagree with any part of their dogma.   In our “modern” era, the list goes on and on.

Hint:  “the list” and the words and actions of the naysayers all mean nothing.   Zip.   Zero.   Nada.  

Who is going to harm us means nothing because the love of Jesus is stronger.   What anyone says to detract from us or destroy is means nothing because the power of Jesus is found in His peace, not in their words.   Anything anyone can do to target us, including physical harm, even death, is meaningless because the resurrection of Jesus has already overcome even their most deviant fantasies.

Generally speaking, those who are eager to do good are not harmed by those who aren’t.   Robert Schuller had something of a point:   there is God-given power in positive thinking.   It’s not just that positive thinking and eagerness to do good become self-fulfilling prophecies.   Instead, it is what comes from thinking, then doing, good that allows God to further His kingdom in the face of human depravity.

Think about it.   Turning the other cheek is perhaps the most courageous thing a person can do.   An act of random kindness usually leads to another, especially when done in good faith for another.

Generally speaking (again), I don’t care for movie sequels.   They’re largely unoriginal.   Yet that phrase – Act of Random Kindness – stuck with me when we watched “Evan Almighty” a few years ago.   That’s the Steve Carrell sequel to “Bruce Almighty.”  The up and coming Evan/Carrell moves to DC to take his place as a newly elected Congressman.   But a message from God soon has him building an ark just like the one Noah built.   Through it, Evan has to learn to rely on faith and vision.   Yet, through the process of building a physical ark, God makes it known to him that the real ark He wanted in Evan’s life was that Act of Random Kindness.   That kind of ark not only weathers a storm:   it builds on itself into something good in the world.

Who can harm you if you are eager to do that?

Peter might agree.   Even Steve Carrell might agree.   So that’s our challenge today.   Especially if you find yourself in a bad situation, perform just one, good act of random kindness for someone today.   Launch that ark and see where God takes you.

For further reading:   Titus 2:14, Peter 3:14

Lord Jesus, create for me today the opportunity to do an act of random kindness.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 1 April 2020

All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.  Philippians 4:22 (NIV).

Here we are in Corona-induced shutdown and we’re chomping at the bit for social interaction.   Can’t travel for work (if folks are still working); can’t go out to eat; can’t go to church; a mile-long list of “can’t” seems to be the phrase of the day.   Seeing as how this is April 1st, it would seem like this list of “can’ts” is a huge April Fools joke…except it isn’t.

What we can do is send each other greetings in the name of the Lord.   We can especially send greetings to people who are hurting through all this.   Paul sent greetings (from Rome) from people who worked in the Emperor’s palace.   Think of that for a moment:   there were Christians – followers of this new and “subversive” sect known as “The Way” – who served the Emperor of Rome, who was hostile to such things.   Those people were in very real danger, yet they believed anyway.   They were unknown heroes of the faith.

Just like first responders who are working exhausting hours during this crisis.   Just like my friend whose father died early this week and they are stoically making plans to memorialize him after all the crisis has passed.   Just like another friend who announced just yesterday that he is discontinuing his stage 4 cancer treatments because the cancer is winning and he’d rather trust God exclusively with the rest of his life.   If you think about it, I bet you could send greetings from and to dozens, even hundreds, of people who are living their lives in faithful strength (and strong faith) through terrible circumstances.

Yet we don’t need to suffer to benefit from greetings.   I got a letter from a friend in Arizona last week that brightened my day considerably.   On my work project (that just last week was wearing me down) I got a few “kudos” just this morning.   Last week, I met most of my neighbors on our cul-de-sac and we were all glad to simply see other people.

If you think about it, maybe that’s one of the blessings of this quarantine:   we get to find ways to connect (and re-connect) with others.   I can think of many people who have fallen off my radar; this is an opportunity for us to re-connect, at least greet each other and check on each other.   We’re going through this shared experience:   let’s use it to rebuild our human connections and share some Jesus in the doing.

So that’s my challenge to you today.   Reach out to a friend.  Call your mom, dad, or sibling.   Message a friend who is working hard through all this.   Share a kind word in the name of Jesus today.

For further reading: Philippians 4:23.

Lord Jesus, I’m sharing Your Name of greetings, love, and peace today.  Encourage me to do this with everyone, especially people with whom I haven’t communicated recently.

Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 15 August 2019

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 (EHV).

Let’s add one last sentence because this is the why.   If the five ‘why’s’ are who, what, where, when, and why, then verses four through six (from “But” through the second mention of “Savior”) are who, what, where and when, and verse 7 is the why.

We’re justified by Jesus’ grace so that we might become heirs with the hope of eternal life.   He sprinted to the cross to die, and then to rise from death, for us.   Because He loved us.   Because He saw the complete depravity of sin and knew it couldn’t be tolerated.   Because He understood that sin had compromised us, that we’d let that happen, and that we couldn’t do anything about it.   Jesus opened eternal life because of His love for sinful you and me.

To do that, He made us just.  He made us righteous, clean again.   God demanded an atonement for how our sins had violated holiness.   Jesus, God-Himself, said “there’s only one way to truly make them righteous again” and so He did it.  The choices we made – sins – voided our righteousness.   We couldn’t be in the presence of holiness again without being destroyed by the loving, beautiful perfection of Him.  So Jesus made Himself the atonement for our sins and, in doing so, transferred righteousness to us.   We didn’t deserve it; we couldn’t do it.   But He did it anyway.   He loved us to provide for us as the Father.   He loved us to die for us as the Son.   He loved us to live through us as the Spirit.   Three in One through this miracle called “resurrection,” God did this thing to make us justified in His presence.

Because of His mercy.   His justice, His love, His patience, His kindness:   He wanted to share them, to give them, to pass them around.   He wanted to give us things to live for more than just existence or achievement or property.   God wanted our lives to have meaning and His meaning was the only one that matters.   So, in His righteousness-making mercy, He made us heirs in His promise of eternal life.   Of eternity now and later.   Of being part of the spiritual world today.  Of sharing His supernaturality now, and always.   Because of His mercy.

That’s why.

For further reading:  Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 4:35-41, Mark 11:22-24, Acts 22:16, Romans 3:24, Romans 5:5, Romans 11:14, Ephesians 2:9, 1 Peter 1:3, Titus 3:8

Thank You, God, for Your love, Your righteousness, Your mercy, Your hope.   Help me to share them today!

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 5 June 2019

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NIV).

This is now.   This is 1939.   This is 1914.   This is 1860.   This is 1774.   This is…this is the way of humanity.  Paul wrote these words two thousand years ago.   He wrote them to and about people familiar with the idea that some in society will ignore God and, instead, seek out what they want to hear.  If it wasn’t true then, Paul wouldn’t have written it.  It meant something to people then.  Tell me, do we really think there are new things under the sun?  They who turned their ears away from the truth and turned aside to myths, like those who would do so today, are but the shadows of people who have done so since we were kicked out of Eden.

Danger, Will Robinson, that you and I don’t fall into that trap.   The siren song of false politics, “if it makes you happy” soma, arguing endlessly, and a hundred other falsehoods are tempting to believer and unbeliever alike.   Or haven’t you heard of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, the Schuller family and the rest of the popular televangelists who succumbed to sin?   Or the Catholic ‘churchocrats’ who’ve made careers out of secretly hiding the gross offenses of predators?   It has happened for years; it happened just before great wars and monumental events.   People tire of sound doctrine and give in to something else.   And disaster inevitably follows.   In the last days, it will get worse.

But in the face of it, the antidote is kindness.   Let’s not become weary in doing good because doing good turns back the untruths and the myths and the pop culture lies.  If the cure for the common sin is Christ, then the first tool He gives us to build up His following is to simply do good.   Be kind.   Live nicely and gently and patiently and carefully.   Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.   The opposite of unsound doctrine is sound doctrine, and the evidence of the sound teaching of Jesus Christ is kindness to others.

So that’s our challenge for today:   be kind to someone.   When someone wants to argue with you over some (largely meaningless) point, respond in patience and kindness.   Let the guy from the other lane merge in.   Do some random act of kindness today…just because.  Tomorrow may indeed bring disaster so let’s prepare for it with a smile today.

For further reading:  Ecclesiastes 1:9, Galatians 6:9, 2 Timothy 4:5.

Lord Jesus, You always showed kindness to people, even to those who made themselves enemies to You.  Help me to do that today, to be kind, to smile, to help.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 13 February 2019

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  1 Timothy 6:9 (NIV).

I prefer to stay on the positive side of this verse.   Those who know me well will find this surprising.   In fact, my wife calls me “Eeyore” because I usually look on the downside of things.   For Everyday Dave, this verse would be a great place to stop.  It’s a lighthouse, warning of rocks just up ahead near the shore.  We’ll probably mess it up anyway.

But that’s an outlook I want to change.  The verse IS a lighthouse, and it’s one that calls us safely home.   Lately, I’ve been daily contemplating Galatians 5, specifically the verses about the fruits of the Spirit.  I read the verses and then look for ways to put them into practice each day, one per month while compounding them.   January was love month; February is love and joy; March will be love, joy, and peace.   You get the idea.  If you haven’t ever really contemplated them, check out Galatians 5:22-23.

Then put them into action because they are the opposite of what Paul describes in verse 9.   And if you think about it, they are the things Paul could say ARE worthy of our attention instead of desire for money, or running into the traps and temptations that lead to ruin and destruction.   How many of us could avoid pitfalls of sin if we would simply find better things on which to focus?   Let’s keep our eyes on the ways Jesus acts, then watch how things begin to improve.

If we are always looking for ways to get ahead, we probably will miss some of the signs around us that point us to ways we can get involved in what Jesus is doing.   Just prior to this verse, Paul had reminded Timothy to be content with only what God provides for our most basic needs.   Anything more than contentment can run the risk of walking the proud walk down the yellow brick road of temptation.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  Man, those are things worth showing off to the world.   They’re the antidote to swallowing too much desire to get rich.   When we talk about focusing on Jesus, a great way to start doing that is by focusing on ways we can let His Spirit remake us around these behaviors He exhibits.  If we do that, when temptations come, it becomes easier to turn from them.   That’s a wealth worth having.

Eeyore might just agree.

For further reading:   Galatians 5:22-23, Proverbs 15:27, Proverbs 28:20, 1 Timothy 6:10.

Magnificent Lord, I’m not always a good follower.   I’ve turned my attention away from You.   Thank You for not turning away from Me, and I ask You to remake me in the ways of Your Spirit today. 

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.