Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 9 July 2019

The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.  Titus 1:5 (NIV).

The church is an orderly group, so that the work of our God may be advanced.    Like it or not, we need order, we need structure through which to manage our lives.   Very few people could simply say “I’m going to build a house today” and do it successfully without order, a plan, and help.   Very few projects could be executed without planning to order the work, ensure it’s done correctly, and implement a solution that doesn’t interfere with other things already in place.   Hardly anyone would wake up in the morning and decide “I’m going to get married today and have a 500 person reception” and then have it happen without a great deal of help (and money).

Jethro advised Moses to organize judges and leaders for minor tasks so that the major work of Israel could be accomplished.  After shepherding the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses was beaten down with hearing all the disagreements and legal disputes that happen in a nation of a million former slaves.  His father-in-law, Jethro, paid him a visit there in the desert of Sinai and advised Moses to appoint a structure of leaders who could handle lesser disputes.   That way, only the most sensitive or pressing disputes would land in Moses’ lap for him to take to the Lord.

Delegation is a wonderful thing.

Paul recognized this.   He trained Titus to be a leader in ‘the Way,’ and then appointed Titus as a bishop in Crete.   This happened less than a generation after the resurrection of Jesus, meaning that the church has had formal structure since very early on.   Indeed, even the twelve Apostles were a group of improbable leaders right from the start.   But the important lesson is that the church works well when there is organization.   That doesn’t mean every minute decision must be made collaboratively or by committee.   But it works well when a senior leadership team delegates tasks to lesser groups or committees or leaders who can act.  Titus was one such person.   He was competent.   Paul recognized it, so Paul commissioned Titus to lead and go forth.   And that’s what happened.

Mind you, any group (but especially the church) must be mindful to delegate only to people equipped to act or lead.   Most people hate working for control freaks.   Whether it’s a small church task or building a new line of cars, people don’t like working for other people who get high on power.  A good leader knows their limitations and will seek advice and help when they need it.

How will you lead today?   How can you lead – and serve – where you are today?

For further reading:  Exodus 18:1-26, Acts 27:7, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6

Lord Jesus, empower me to serve and lead where You have me today.   Thanks for Your help.

Advertisements

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 19 September 2017

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?  Hebrews 12, verse 7.

When we think of parental discipline, we tend to think of punishment, that discipline is strict or harsh or carries negative connotations.   That’s all sometimes true, but it’s also only half the picture and I think it misses the kind of discipline God is advising us to share with others.  My parents weren’t harsh.   They weren’t physical disciplinarians (though we got occasional spankings) but they could sometimes be cold.   Mom and Dad had my sister and I when they were older, in their thirties (a rarity in the 1960s), and I don’t think they had it in them to be physically harsh or abusive.   They had struggled to build a family and didn’t want to be physical.  Yet they could sometimes be distant, disconnected, even mean.   They yelled and argued from time to time; what couple doesn’t.   But that was the extent of their ‘violence.’

I wish, now, that they had felt closer to God, seeing Him as a providing Father.   I wish they had been more active in ‘discipling’ us.   God, our Father, is, and in being our disciplinarian, He plays many roles.

Mentor – I believe God schools us as parents.   He wants us to be, first and foremost, mentors to our kids.  Life is the most precious gift He gives, and He gives it to we the people as parents.   We get to create these little beings like ourselves, then raise them and teach them how to live in this world.   God wants us to mentor them so they will know Him, then know the ways of the world.   By focusing kids’ view of the world through God, we teach them that He is supreme over all.   That He is the provider, giver, and lover of all.   That He is all through the world yet close inside their hearts.   The best teachers for that lesson are Mom and Dad.   They can most effectively teach it by modeling that relationship, by inspiring their kids through active examples.

Show and tell – God gives us a world to live in so that we can teach our kids how to do the same.   Sometimes that involves teaching tough lessons; sometimes it involves standing by while we watch those kids learn those tough lessons on their own.  Yet we equip them to persevere and succeed if we mentor them in the ways of the Lord, then show them how to apply that teaching in all they do.  It’s like a game of show and tell, where you bring something and show it off to your class.   In parenting, our class is our kids, and they’re interested, engaged, ready to learn.   How about we teach them about their Savior?

Listening – One of the first times I remember really connecting with my father was the night my girlfriend (my fiancée actually) and I had a huge fight.  I stayed up all night, so upset that I couldn’t sleep.   Dad woke up and asked me what was wrong.   He then spent the rest of the night listening to me talk through the relationship from start until it’s (soon to be) finish.   I believe God put it on his heart to listen to me that night, so that when he finally did open up and share some of his own story I would be ready to receive it and understand.

Leading – Finally, we must lead.  This isn’t an option:   it’s a requirement.  You may not be comfortable ‘leading from the front’ but if you’re going to be a parent (and especially if you’re going to live as a God-fearing and God-following one) then you must lead.   You don’t have to be General Patton; you aren’t Billy Graham.  God didn’t make you to be either of them (unless He did).  Instead, He made you to be you, with your own memories, experiences, and abilities.   When you’re a parent, it’s your duty – and your privilege – to lead your kids and grandkids to the Lord.   You get to serve as the go-between, facilitating the relationship they can have with their Creator.   You do that by leading, by being yourself and using your talents to inspire others.

Sometimes doing all this involves tough love.   Today’s verse reminds us of that.   Sometimes that’s even the approach God takes with us.   God doesn’t bring sin into our lives but He can and does allow, even move, sin’s consequences to affect us.   That feels harsh when it happens, but He does it to build us up.  After all, the Proverb reminds us that ‘iron sharpens iron.’  Yet even in those times of adversity, God’s providing love is still with us.   If you’re a parent, you can understand that.   You love your kids even when you discipline them because, after all, they’re disciples and you want them to grow strong.   Now go out and prove it.

For further reading:  Deuteronomy 8:5, 2 Samuel 7:14, Proverbs 13:24, Proverbs 27:17.

My Lord, I praise You for the tough love You show, for discipline in my life, and for building me up through all of it.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 15 September 2015

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. Mark 10, verse 32.

I like books about warriors, and one of my favorite war authors is Richard Marcinko.   Years ago, he wrote a book called “Rogue Warrior;” it’s an autobiographical book about his work in the Navy SEALs.   One of the maxims about which he wrote was “lead from the front.”   It’s good military advice; it’s good advice overall. You don’t lead a group by giving orders and standing in the back of the pack:   you go to the front of the pack and demonstrate. You don’t shy away from challenges or combat:   you fight from the center, where the fighting is thickest.   In doing so, you inspire, you motivate and you lead.

Now, Jesus is no Special Forces warrior but He could have taught Marcinko a thing or two about leading from the front because it’s what He did every day of His ministry. In verse 32, Jesus is in front of the group, leading.   Keep in mind that it wasn’t just Jesus and the Apostles:   it was a larger group, a Galilean gaggle of followers who had come to find out that there really was something about this rabbi who offered new teaching. They had seen Jesus and the rich man; they had heard His words of power and authority.

And they were afraid.   They weren’t a rioting group of rabble but they were afraid.   They were afraid of being caught.   They were afraid of what could happen if they had to come up against the very entrenched Jews at the Temple.   Truth being told, they were also probably afraid of the things Jesus taught.   Yes, the crowds who flocked to Jesus’ sermons were awe-struck by the love in His words and the power those words conveyed.   I’m betting they were afraid of both that power and of actually having to live up to the things Jesus was talking about.

Through it, Jesus led from the front.   He didn’t hide when things got hairy:   He jumped in and led. Jesus calmed their fears and led them where they needed to go. He’s still doing it today.   Richard Marcinko might just agree.

We can do the same. Over the weekend, my wife and I went to see “War Room,” the new movie about prayer warriors.   It’s a Jesus-Richard Marcinko kind of thing in a unique way.   In the movie, a struggling wife and mom is trying to hold her family together in an all-too-typical situation where they are being pulled apart.   She is taught to lead from the front by fighting the enemy – the devil – through prayer.   The story teaches that prayer is an active battle plan, that it is our way to involve God in our daily battles and our real struggles by getting right in the middle of the fighting and praying for God’s intercession with whatever we’re praying over.   Very lead from the front.

And it’s very much the way Jesus designed things.   In our daily lives, He constantly counsels us to count on Him through prayer and through actively confronting our problems.   He leads us from the front, facing our problems and strengthening us to face them down and defeat the devil who is the real cause of them.

Lord Jesus, teach me to lead from the front as You do.

Read Mark 10, verses 35-45.

Practical Proverbial, the Ten Commandments, 10 June 2014

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus chapter 20, verses 8-11.

“Lead from the front.”   This is one of my friend Pat’s favorite sayings.   Great military leaders do this: think Washington at Trenton, Macarthur in the trenches of France, Alexander leading his armies. Great political leaders lead this way: think Lincoln visiting the battlefields, Churchill during the Blitz, Reagan imploring the Communists to “tear down this wall.” Great parents lead from the front: think setting goals for their families, 2 AM feedings when they’re dog-tired, working for years at jobs that somehow add up to much less than their true hopes and dreams.

God is the best leader of all.   He always leads from the front.   Here, in the fourth commandment, He implores us to rest and uses Himself as the example.   He implores us to and set aside a reasonable amount of our time – our time that He gives us as an equally distributed gift – as a way to seek out His rest. He commands us to rest in every way of our lives, physically, emotionally, and especially spiritually.  

Note the “keeping it holy” clause.  It doesn’t mean “sleep all day” or “get wasted” or “sit around while someone else waits on you” or “clean up the garage so you can throw a kegger next week.”   Keep it holy.   Not just nice; not go hang out at church with the other sinners; not give it the old college try:   holy.   Unblemished.   Following Jesus’ example. Good luck with that.

I’m not saying that to be cynical.   It’s impossible for us to be holy or to keep something holy on our own. The ONLY way to keep it holy is to turn over the entire Sabbath day to Jesus. Like Ms Underwood said, let Him take the wheel.   “When was the last time you did that, Dave Terry?” you might ask.   Fair question and the fair answer can only be that I’ve blown it.   How about you?

Great leaders do this and great leaders know their troops need R&R after fighting at the front.   Too many days in the trenches and you go crazy; go crazy and you slip into sin. God commanded us to keep the day of rest holy by keeping our rest within Him.   When we do that, we find that we want to rest more than one day a week.   We want to rest in Him all the time.

Lord, be my only rest.

Read Exodus chapter 14, God saves the Israelites from the Egyptians in crossing the Red Sea.