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, 18 April 2019, Maundy Thursday

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.   2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV).

Today is Maundy Thursday.   Think of it as election day.   We are the elected.   Think about that.

How do you obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus?   Everything that could be done to save mankind from the second death of damnation has been done by Jesus.   He did it on Easter Sunday, which we’ll celebrate in a few days.  The ONLY thing you do to put that salvation into effect in your life is believe.   With belief comes love.  That’s it; nothing more, nothing less.  All the work, all the spiritual battling, all the sacrifice, all the love:   Jesus did it all.   The only thing we do is believe.   And not lip service; real belief.   Believing means surrendering to His will, surrendering control of your life to Him.   It means letting His Spirit guide your heart to remake your life away from sinful ways.   It means replacing enmity with amity, questions with understanding, hate with love.

The payoff for it?   Eternal glory.  That eternity starts now, here on the Third Rock, there in your life where you live now.   You participate in it now and will for the rest of your life here, until the time your life here is ended and you move to eternity with Jesus in person.  Then the fun really begins.

And who begins this journey for you?   You know the answer:   God does.   Jesus did from the time in Eden to the last moment of your life.  In love, God is eternally all-knowing.   He knows ahead of time who will end up with Him at the end of time, yet He loves us enough to put aside this knowledge and grant us free will.   You and I don’t HAVE TO believe in Jesus.   We get to.   We get to choose whether or not to believe that He has done everything for salvation or not.

With that comes accepting – or not – that He loved us before we even knew Him.  You and I can love Him because He first loved us, or we can choose to not believe it and allow to be so for God to turn us over to the consequences of our choice.   Love respects choices, and God has that kind of love for us.  He will keep working on us, providing what we need to make the right choice up until the moment we die.   After that moment, it’s too late to decide.   We will all meet Him.   Will you stand in joy for your choices, or fall in damned defeat because of them?   He elected you, chose you, through love.   On this Maundy Thursday, what will you do?

For further reading: Colossians 1:24, Titus 1:1, 2 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Peter 5:10, 2 Timothy 2:11.

Lord, thank You for electing me to be saved.   Help our unbelief.   Forgive our sins.  

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 18 February 2019

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  1 Timothy 6:11 (NIV).

Has anyone ever called you “man of God” (or “woman of God”)?   That hasn’t happened to me very often, and that’s ok.   I’d much rather wait to hear God say it to me Himself.   In the meantime, I hope I don’t dishonor Him with what I do going forward.   There isn’t much that can be done about bad things I’ve said and done in the past except pray with God and attempt restoration where possible.  But going forward is unwritten paper.   You and I can fill it with Godly pursuits.

Paul reminds us that those pursuits should include righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.   In fact, if I could impart just one good lesson to my kids and grandkids, except for “love God, then love your neighbor,” it would be verse 11.  Flee from unwholesome things because they’re trouble that can bring you down.   While fleeing from them, pursue other things that are wholesome, and do it in a way that has you pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

That’s a recipe for a happy life, probably a long one.   Yet whether it’s long or short, it’s using our time and talents in living the way God intended for women and men to live.

Pursue righteousness.  Pursue every task in life being Christ-like, just, rightful, honest, and true.

Pursue godliness.   Follow Jesus.   Act like Jesus would.  Model thoughts and behaviors on Him.

Pursue faith.    Faith always provides hope and enough to get through even the toughest days.

Pursue love because anything done without love is done in vain, without God (because God is all love).

Pursue endurance.   Endurance requires honest courage, and honest courage is a gift from God.

Pursue gentleness because even a hard man should be able to relate to others in love, faith, and godliness.   Indeed, perhaps gentleness is the best way to deal with other people because even when toeing a hard line, one can do so gently.

All these things are the opposite of the love of money, or other petty behaviors Paul describes earlier in the book.  Just think of how peaceful our daily lives could be if we conducted our work, home lives, or social (media) interactions by adhering to Paul’s verse 11 advice!   I fall short in measuring up to Paul’s standard; how about you?

If we fall short, perhaps it’s time to admit that, seek forgiveness, then move forward in better ways…better ways described here today.  Maybe if we did that, more of us could describe each other as “man” or “woman of God.”

For further reading:   Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Timothy 3:17, 1 Timothy 2:2, 1 Corinthians 13, 1 Timothy 6:12.

Forgiving God, I have failed to exhibit these good behaviors.   Forgive me, and thank You for an opportunity to do better.   Guide me in doing this today.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 14 February 2019

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV).

This is a greatly mis-quoted verse.   Money itself isn’t the root of all kinds of evil; money is just a tool, even a blessing, that God gives to us.   Loving the tool more than the God who gives it is what is the root of all kinds of evil.   It’s the starting point down paths that lead away from Him.  I know plenty of wealthy people who struggle to keep it together; I know plenty of poor people who do the same yet seem more contented (or is it resigned) with their lot.

Thank God I’m poor, right?   I mean, I’ve been working for over 30 years now and I don’t seem to get ahead.  Well-paying jobs pay me well and it all seems to go out the door.   At this pace, I’ll be working until noon on the day of my funeral.  Perhaps “poor” isn’t the best word since, by the standards of poverty, my family is no where near that.   Perhaps the better description is “monetarily challenged.”

So be it.  It doesn’t keep me up at night.   I choose a different path.

Don’t get me wrong:   I like a buck as much as the next guy.   And I plan on working until I’m 72-74 to make sure I have done all I can to enjoy retirement.   Besides, I enjoy work.   I look at it as a blessing, as a way to use the talents God gave me to better do His work for me in the world.   That includes my career.

Perhaps I’ve learned to be content with how God provides.  That’s a lesson that didn’t come easily after watching my parents financially struggle for decades.  Then making irresponsible choices with my own money, spending too much and investing too little.   Yet through it all, the antidote to loving money is remembering that, every day, God provides abundantly whether we’re monetarily poor or rich.   It seems cliché but if you wake up, God has provided.   If you’re breathing, rested, drinking water, God has provided.  No matter what condition you’re in, if you’re above room temperature, then God has provided all you need to start the day and meet what’s up ahead.   Let’s be content with that first and let the rest come as it will.

Love God and not the money He provides.   When you do that, it becomes easy to become content and realize He’s going to provide whatever we need in all circumstances.   That, and start to tithe.   But let’s save that subject for a different discussion.

For further reading:   1 Timothy 6:11.

Provider Lord, forgive me when I focus more on money and earning than on You and the blessings You give.  Thank You for giving me today, and help me to use today wisely.   

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, 17 January 2019

Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  1 Timothy 5:7-8 (NIV).

Paul continues his advice to Timothy concerning widows; this actually continues through verse 16.   Yet here is his most plainspoken advice on how said advice also applies to how we interact with others (in addition to those widowed).

I grew up in a family of four.  My parents were good, middle-class parents, themselves from modest backgrounds (his in the family of a Philadelphia civil servant with four children, hers in a small, Minnesota farm-town family of five).  My sister and I were the only kids, and while we didn’t live extravagantly, we did live well.   We always had a house, even if it was hopelessly cluttered (my parents loved collectibles).   We always had food on the table, the bills paid (though sometimes barely so), reliable transportation, and church.   We took vacations to see the sights, traveling more of the country than most of my peers.  And we were supported in school; my parents cared deeply about education.  Most importantly, my sister and I can say that we were loved.   Sometimes it was chilly love and sometimes we struggled just to hold together as a family, but we always knew we were loved.

In fact, that could be put on my parents’ gravestone up in Oklahoma:  Mom and Dad did the best they could.  They did what they could with the talents and resources God gave them.   They provided for us everything they could, even when it seemed out of step.  I look around at so many broken families today and I sometimes forget to say “thank you” again to God that mine never ended up that way.   It wasn’t easy; there were times Mom and Dad could have cashed it in, but they didn’t.  They believed in each other; they believed in us; they believed in God (at least on Sundays, or when the music was particularly good.  Mom and Dad both loved good choral and church music).

My childhood wasn’t glamorous or thrilling but it was good.   I always knew what “home” felt like, and I knew how to build a home when I built a family of my own.  I feel sorry for those who don’t, those whose parents didn’t provide, or didn’t care to.  I hope they know that there’s still a chance for them.   God counsels all of us that, even when our earthly families fail us, He never does.   Today’s verse reminds us that we need to care for each other, especially in our families.   Aside from loving God, it’s our primary mission on Earth.

For further reading: 2 Peter 2:1, Jude 4, 1 Timothy 5:9.

My Lord, thank You for my parents and my childhood family.   Thank You for inspiring them to do the best they could and to know You.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 1 November 2018

He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap1 Timothy 3:7(NIV).

Let’s talk about reputation.  Paul is talking about an overseer, an elder.   He’s saying that the people selected as elders must be people of good repute.   They must be upstanding citizens in the church of God, believers who are respected both in and out of the church…especially outside the church.   They must be this kind of people because, if they aren’t, they risk disgrace and falling under the influence of Satan.

Tell me:   do you have that kind of reputation?   I’ll easily confess it:   I don’t.   Too many times in the past, by things I have done and said, I’ve disqualified myself from being someone like an elder.   I’ll confess again:   I didn’t set out to do that.   I didn’t set out to become the kind of person you wouldn’t want to be.   It happened because of choices I made, of choosing sin over choosing God.  I fell into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

So I’ll ask again:  do you have that kind of reputation?   Are you the kind of person who praises Jesus one minute and looks in lust at that good looking woman or man the next?   Do you lie?  Are you envious?   Worse than these, are these the kinds of things that people think or say about you?   Bad news, my friend:   you might not be elder material either.  Maybe we’re both due for a reputation gut-check.

Now let’s turn that bad news upside down.   You and I weren’t made for disgrace, bad reputations, or that old devil’s trap.   We were made to be very good sons and daughters of the Most High, the Triune God who Luther celebrated with his 95 statements five centuries ago.   When we believe in Jesus, God sees through our disgrace and poor reputations and sees Jesus living in us.   He sees His Spirit remaking us in His image, replacing our evil ways with His fruits like love, kindness, peace, patience, and self-control.  When God looks at us through Jesus, He sees an elder-kind of person, someone whose bad reputation was remade for a good one.   What the church or outsiders think matters little.

Mind you, the devil is still setting his traps.   He has since Eden and will until the end.   Sin will still hunt us, trying to pull us away from Jesus, trying to tar our reputations once again.   Don’t fall for it.   Love defeats Satan.   The love of Jesus is more powerful than what others think, or what Satan attempts.   Besides, it’s what God thinks of me that matters.   True, we want elders (and all leaders) to be people of good character and better reputation.  But what God thinks of us is far more important.

For further reading: Mark 4:11, 2 Timothy 2:26, Galatians 5:22-25, 1 Timothy 3:8-13

Lord, all praise to You that You see Your beautiful Son in me.   Thank You.