Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 23 June 2020

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  1 Peter 3:9 (NIV).

In my opinion, “The Godfather” is the best movie ever made in America.   Every intertwined storyline is resolved.   The acting is perfect; the scenery and sets are subtly arranged for maximum effect.   In many ways, the brilliance of the movie is in how it actually underplays the gravity of a story about murder and revenge.   “Family honor,” and “justice”, right?   No.   It’s about revenge.  Among many things, The Godfather is about revenge.

Revenge is embracing evil.   Sure, it’s “justifiable” sometimes, isn’t it?  I mean, if you’re married and you’ve been in a terrible relationship for decades, it’s understandable, it’s ok, for you to want to rake that so-and-so over the coals because they deserve it, right?   No, it’s just embracing evil.  

Or ‘your promotion’ was given to someone else, some upstart who sucked up to the boss and got what you’ve been working years to get.   It’s ok if you work to subvert them, to make them look bad, to hang them out to dry because what they did to you was wrong, right?   No, it’s just embracing evil. 

We get cut off in traffic, or at the grocery store, and we curse the one who did it.   After so many years of ‘oppression,’ it’s understandable that rioters destroy stores, police cars, public property, right?  The bully who persecutes you month after month, slamming you into the lockers, making fun of your clothes every day, spreading rumors about you just so they can laugh with their clique. 

It’s ok to wish for “justice” to happen to these people, isn’t it?

No, it’s just embracing evil.

The Lord asks us to trust Him.   His justice, as He decides, is perfect and applies to all of us, even those who do us wrong.  Our role, as Peter reminds us, is to bless those who persecute us.   Turn the other cheek; pray for the relief of our oppressors; ask for God’s mercy on those who hurt us.  That doesn’t demonstrate weakness.  Deep inside, even those who are hurt confess that it demonstrates underlying superior strength.   There has never been an unspeakable evil done by mankind that wasn’t out-done by even the simplest act of mercy.  After all, so many decades later, what matters more:  the horrible inhumanity of Auschwitz or the faith of those who relied on God to survive it?

Reject evil.   Repay injustice with mercy.   Give forgiveness where you don’t have to.   Yes, don’t forget and, yes, trust God to administer His justice through our legal systems and through His working in the world.   But resist evil with good and overcome the devil with Jesus.  Don’t be the Godfather.  Reject revenge.

For further reading:   Matthew 5:44, Romans 12:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:15, Hebrews 6:14, Peter 3:10

Lord Jesus, help me to overcome evil by trusting only You.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 23 April 2020

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 1 Peter 1:14 (NIV).

Let’s talk about ignorance.  “Ignorance” means “not knowing.”   It isn’t an insult to not know something.   It isn’t an attack when Peter insinuates that you may be ignorant of the love of Jesus, of the lessons of Jesus.   It may very well be that nobody ever told you, or that you never took the initiative to learn.   In our world, to not know something seems almost like a form of innocence.   Ignorance is a factual state of existence.

In this part of Scripture, Peter is talking about people who did not understand that ignorance of Jesus Christ means subtly choosing death over life.

To paraphrase David Platt, if you don’t know Jesus, you’re damned.   Yes, that’s a harsh truth, but a truth it still is.   In fact, it’s so harsh that I hope I’m understanding it wrong.   Our God is the God of love, justice, and mercy but He’s always true to His word.   My friend, Vern, says he wouldn’t be surprised if God had found a way beyond our understanding to save everyone, even those who don’t know Him.   I agree with my friend’s wish, his desire that God’s mercy be so fantastic and beyond my comprehension that He has found a way to save even the people who are ignorant of Him.  Maybe even the people who reject Him, too.

Yet if that isn’t the case, if not knowing Jesus is a form of rejecting Him, then the ignorance of Christ may just be the worst of all possible evil desires.  Peter is telling his friends that, as believers in Jesus, they have been given knowledge of right and wrong behavior, of right and wrong thought; of life over death.   Peter is rejecting our interpretation of ignorance being an innocent thing but, instead, is calling it out as a willful thing.  When our minds are fully alert and sober (as Peter advised in the verse previous to this one), we will be on the lookout to avoid thoughts and actions that render un-ready for Christ’s imminent return.

That especially includes ignorance.   When we’re given the opportunity to learn about Jesus, to pursue Him, to embrace faith in Him, we need to jump at it.  We need to not only learn about Jesus:   we need to put all our faith in Him.   All our trust, all our hope, all our thoughts, all our dreams and wishes and aspirations and everything.   We need to put everything at His feet and follow.

To do anything less is to embrace faithless ignorance of Him.   To do anything less is sin.  And to embrace sin over Jesus is embracing damnation.  Jesus either is the way, the truth, and the life, or He isn’t.  Are you ignorant?

For further reading: Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:18, 1 Peter 1:15

Lord Jesus, YOU are the only truth, the only salvation, the only Way.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 30 March 2020

To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  Philippians 4:20 (NIV).

Hello friend.   There are many new people reading this blog today so please bear with me as I reiterate what the Apostle Paul said centuries ago:   in all things, to God our Father be glory forever and ever.

That struck home this weekend when I found out my cousin died.   I didn’t know him well:  we had only met a few times, but I kept up on him through my aunt.  He died a tough death but, in a way, a miracle happened through him.   For that, I’d like to give God glory forever and ever.

You see, my cousin was a hardcore drug user.  Drugs killed him; likely a heroin-fentanyl overdose.   He had spent most of the last decade living on the hard streets of Philadelphia, struggling with addiction, dependency, mental illness, and horrible things that I, in my sheltered suburban bubble, don’t want to think are possible (let alone happening to someone in my family).

Yet the hand of God kept him alive for the moment he died because, when this happened, he helped many other unknown people.   His mom, as his guardian, had registered him as an organ donor.  Miraculously, despite decades of heavy drug use, those organs were undamaged; no trace at all of chemicals or disease.   That, itself, is a miracle, and I can’t help but think it was God at work through my long-suffering cousin.  I don’t know specifically how many organs he donated, but perhaps up to a dozen people will now live because this tortured soul’s time here was complete.

Even the circumstances of his death seem God-sent.   His heart must have stopped only a few minutes before the first responders found him.  Either way, had he been gone for more than ten minutes or so, his organs would have been unusable.   That wasn’t the case.   As mentioned, the end of his life gave new life to others.

How can we not give glory to God for that?

I don’t know if my cousin was a believer or not.   I hope he was.   I hope he got to know God in the years before he died because he surely met God when this life ended.  Yet I also fervently hope the Lord said to him, “look at the chance you’ve given those other people.   I’m so glad to have you here.”   Pray for peace for my aunt, and her other three grown sons, and their families.   Pray for God’s loving healing through grief.   Pray for good health for those with new organs that give new chances.   But mostly, pray praise and glory to the Father for His gifts of life, mercy, and love.  Rest peacefully, Cole.  Your life here helped so many others.

For further reading: Philippians 4:21.

Lord Jesus, all glory to You.   I pray for Your mercy for Cole, and Your comfort for his family here. 


Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 8 November 2019

 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.  Philippians 1:7. (EHV).

Truth:  I have never visited anyone in jail.   I once picked up someone who had to stay in jail overnight, and I’ve toured prisons, and, from personal experience, I know what it feels like to have to stay in a jail cell.   But I’ve never visited anyone in jail, or prison, or someone who was involuntarily confined like that.

And I’ve never been in chains for the gospel.   I’ve never been arrested, beaten, tortured, or threatened with death for saying “I believe in Jesus.”   People in Communist China, and Iran, Indonesia, Cuba, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and dozens of other nations are regularly assaulted for their belief in Christ.  Paul was chained for the Gospel, imprisoned for defying the Jewish authorities, for witnessing to Romans, maybe even to Nero himself.   Paul was eventually murdered for his fidelity to Jesus.

That has never happened to me, or people I know, or even people who know people who I know.   But it happened to Paul.   And the goofy thing about it is that such a way of life was the right way for Paul, the right way to think and act and speak and feel.   It’s the right thing for us, too, no matter what it costs us.

Because Jesus is the right way, really the only way.  That’s what kept Paul going through the persecutions that were happening to him; that would eventually kill him.   It was right and proper and fitting and the best thing of all for Paul to feel thankful for the people God put into his life.  It was right for him to thank God in prayer for people in his circle.   It was right because Jesus put love into Paul’s once-cold heart.   It was right to feel grateful for and want to share God’s grace, his undeserved gifts of love and mercy and peace, with everyone who didn’t know about it.

You?   Ditto.   Me?   Ditto.   It’s right for us to want peace in our lives and it’s right to appreciate how deep and abiding is that peace only Jesus can give.   It’s right for us to want this for other people.   It’s right for us to have God’s Spirit re-align our lives to share this gift with other people.   It’s right to want to reach out to people who live their lives in the prison of sin and guilt.   It’s right to be willing to die for this.

It’s right.   Because of Jesus.

Today, visit someone in jail, either in a physical prison because of crimes, or the emotional prison of one’s sins.   Share some Jesus with them.

For further reading:  2 Corinthians 7:3, 2 Peter 1:13, Philippians 1:8

Lord Jesus, thank You for springing me from the prison of my sins.

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, 4 April 2019

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me.  May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.   2 Timothy 1:16-18 (NIV).

Notice that Paul prays for the blessing not just for his friend, Onesiphorus, but also for that man’s house.   It wasn’t enough for Paul to ask for God’s blessing / Jesus’ presence in the life of the man who had helped him.   No, Paul prayed blessing and kindness on the people who mattered most to Onesiphorus.

That’s going over and above.  The more you walk in faith-moved circles, the more you see people praying for the benefit of others, the health and prosperity of strangers, the peace of people they don’t even know.  It isn’t enough to get the fruit of Jesus’ Spirit in our lives; see Galatians 5.   No, when that happens, you have to share it.   You want other people to know what that peace means, what it feels like.   You want them to know Jesus, too, so that they can receive those blessings, those fruits in their lives..

You want it so much that you want them to experience it forever.   Paul prayed Jesus’ mercy over Onesiphorus’ household:  his family, his extended family, and anyone who may have moved in their circle.   He prayed eternal life over their home so that they would continue to abide in the Lord when Paul was (soon to be) gone.   Only God could give the kind of peace that would last forever.   Onesiphorus had shown kindness and loyalty to Paul.   Now, in his darkest hour, Paul repaid that kindness in the only way he could:   through prayers in Jesus.  That matters most.

If you don’t believe these things are true, or if you only have one toe in the pool of this faith-life, then these things might not make much sense to you.   This isn’t some Christian game of “I’ve got a secret” or playing goody two shoes.   It’s a life and death battle we’re in and we’re in the armies of the living God.  We want you on our side because we want you, with us, to live forever with Him.   We want you for Him because He wants you for Himself more than we do.   Because He loves you.   Because He is true and real love and the only real peace there is.  Allah and meditation can’t do that.  Jesus does.

For further reading:   Galatians 5:22-23, Hebrews 6:10, Acts 21:33, 2 Timothy 2:1.

Lord Jesus, only in You is found mercy and peace.   I’ve messed up before; help me to not do it again.   Bless those who are around me today, especially those with whom I barely come in contact.   Abide with them; live through them; bless them.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 3 April 2019

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.   2 Timothy 1:16 (NIV).

Contrast this verse with the (hyperbolic) news Paul shared in the previous one; you remember, about Phygelus and Hermogenes and abandonment and being alone.   Then consider this today:   if you’re sensing that you’re having a particularly blessed moment, it could be that God is answering someone else’s prayers for you.

God isn’t some wish machine; insert prayer A and get reward B.   But He does reward prayers of people who implore Him for the welfare of others.   He does it in His own ways, for the good of the Kingdom and the other person.   And in doing so, He rewards the person who prays.

If traffic goes your way, it may be God’s mercy.   If you have a positive outlook, it may be God’s mercy.   If you have enough money in your wallet for the Whataburger you’re craving, it may be God’s mercy.   You can see where we’re going.   If something goes well for you today, consider that it may be God answering some other person’s prayer for you by blessing you in some recognizable way.

But let’s go further.   If you have air in your lungs, you’re living in God’s mercy.   If you have a heartbeat, you’re living in God’s mercy.   Clothing, a place to sleep (and sleep, too), neural activity between your ears, food, all the basics:   you’re living deep and richly in God’s mercy, even in the bad days.   Even on the days when you think everyone has abandoned you.   Even on the days when they have.

I have a friend who broke his arm trying to help homeless people.   He was performing the innocuous task of simply moving a box when a particularly nasty one snapped his upper arm.   Mercy.  Real mercy.   I have another friend who is adjusting to life after learning he’s HIV positive.   Mercy there, too.   We each have our moments when we seem bound in chains by the troubles of the world, and good people do sometimes abandon us in them.   Yet God never does, Jesus never leaves us.  More often than not, I find that, even in those tough times, God soon blesses us with people doing things that help and usually in unexpected ways.

Those are people and times for which we can be thankful.   They’re good times to lift up prayers of thanksgiving for those people.   For God to bless them because they blessed us.   Paul did that.   He did it right after revealing his anxiety over how he felt people he trusted had deserted him.  He’d fit in well in our so called modern world.

For further reading:   Mark 8:38, 2 Timothy 17.

Lord, bless those who are hurting, suffering, and in anguish.   And bless, more, those who help during those times.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 2 December 2014

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 2, verses 6 and 7.

Get ready to get mad. You’re a hypocrite just like the Pharisees in these verses.   You judge people just like they did.   You blaspheme God just like they did.   In this world of sin, you’re one of the worst.   You may think you’re doing your best, and that you’ve come a long way baby, but deep down inside you’re just a hypocrite like the ‘sinless sinners’ who judged the Son of Man.

Mad yet? Please, relax; I’m right there with you.   I’m the worst of sinners, too. The truth is, though, I don’t want for us to be hypocrites any longer but we’re works in progress.   I’m ‘judgy.’ I’m mean.   I’m callous, cold, indifferent, moody, angry, vulgar, sinful and altogether damned left to my own devices.   And all this is while I’m in church.   Imagine how bad it could be outside!   How about you?   Yep: we’re in a bad way.

That’s because we indeed are no better than the Pharisees, who set themselves up as expert witness, judge, and jury over the ancient people of Israel.   Like snarky Congressmen, Ivy League professors, or reporters from the New York Times, they knew better than the people around them; you could ask them and they’d tell you. After all, they kept ‘all’ of Moses’ commandments; they worked hard. They prayed harder.   They didn’t do things like other people. They were upright, pious, well-dressed, moral, paragons of First Century Jewish virtue.

And yet, despite all that, their sin was inside and they were filthy dead with it.   Notice that Mark says “sitting there, thinking to themselves.” They weren’t ‘doing’ anything wrong, only thinking, and it was still damning.   They were educated and knew that the Scriptures told them how only God could forgive sins. They couldn’t believe their eyes, however, that God Immanuel was actually there, at the table with them, in the same room. The Pharisees were so busy looking for the long-promised Redeemer that they couldn’t see how He had found them. That blindness also blinded them to their own sins, their own shortcomings, their own judgmental failures.

Just like us.

Tell me:   how many times do we remember that Jesus is with us now? How many times does Jesus speak to us in a day?   Does your conscience ever tell you something that you ignore?   Or do you see someone who needs help yet you keep walking?   Ever lost your temper?   These sins – and more – are mine; I’m betting they’re yours as well. Yet Jesus still meets us where we are, in our sins, in our thoughts, and He loves us anyway. We are the paralyzed man who can’t walk, who Jesus heals and forgives.   We are the judgmental Pharisees, who refuse to believe the proof right in front of our eyes.   We are the hypocrites, sinners, and low down dirty dogs who practice evil with even our best intentions. And then, despite all this, we also are given the opportunity to be Jesus, to look at others who wrong us and forgive them, to demonstrate mercy where none is deserved.   To follow Him.

I’m sorry if I made you mad earlier; please forgive me that.   I do hope it got your attention, though. Read up on the rest of the story to find out how Jesus responded.

Lord, I have sinned against You. Forgive me, cleanse me, and love me.

Read Mark 2, verses 6-12.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 13 January 2014

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.  James 5, verse 11.

Here’s an example of the prophets to whom James alluded in the previous verse.  Where, in verse 10, James simply exhorted us to be encouraged by the example of Israel’s prophets, here he tells why we should be encouraged.

Because the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Do you know about Job?   It’s one of the most mysterious but powerful books in the Bible.   If you aren’t familiar with the story, Satan comes to God and makes a bet with Him that he (Satan) can make God’s most devoted and blessed follower, Job, turn against God.   God allows it, so Satan proceeds to wreck Job’s life.   As Job is more and more challenged, he eventually confronts God and asks, “why.”   God’s response is more than a simple answer:   it is an exposition of power, mercy, and grace.  What’s more, God then restores Job with more blessings and prosperity than he knew before.

That’s a pretty saccharin synopsis, though.  It overlooks some of the harsher aspects of the book, things like the cynical nature of Job’s friends (who are supposed to encourage him), the almost cavalier way in which God allows Satan to wreck  all Job knows, and even the cruel nature in which Go allows Job to be tested.

But if that’s all you focus on then you’re missing the point.   The example proves how God is compassionate and merciful.   God has faith in Job, stating how Job won’t turn from Him.  Further, Job clings to God even when things become dire, seeking only explanation when he feels he is at his breaking point.  Instead of smashing him like an ant, God stoops to Job’s level and reasons with him, doing something that the all powerful creator of the universe doesn’t have to do for a created being.   Instead of slamming Job back into his place, God talks with him, reveals the wonder of His love to Job, and persuades Job to love before he thinks and think before he asks.

Tell me, good reader, how is that different from you?  You and I, we may not suffer the way Job did (or maybe we do).  Through our suffering, does not God still provide for us?   When we have nothing else, so long as we have Jesus, life, and air, do we need anything else to live through the moment?   Even when things are dire, God is still who He is and He still provides for us in ways that help us to persevere, endure, overcome, and succeed.

Like Job.   Especially when we ask “why.”

Father God, thank You for Your mercy and compassion, and for providing as You do.


Read the book of Job.

How has the Lord been merciful in your life?

How has Jesus been compassionate to you?

Daily Proverbial, from James, 25 November 2013

 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. James 3, verse 17.

The sermon topic on Sunday was John 3:16:   For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in him shall have eternal life.   It was the first time in my life that someone had broken down that verse (which really explains the entire Bible) into understandable chunks that each reveal the splendor and forever love of God.   Later, when I read today’s verse I realized something.  Stop me if I’m wrong, but couldn’t this verse from James 3 also work just fine as the one after John 3:16?  God created us to share heaven, to be part of it now and forever.  He did it selflessly, fully, and eternally because He is all pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive and full of mercy.   Is it just me or do the two verses go together?

Later (again) I also thought a lot about the verse while writing this because yesterday was my Dad’s birthday.   It has taken me years to be able to say that I miss him even though he died in 1997.   Now that he’s gone, I can say that he was a good man who tried his best to be a good father, a hard worker, and a decent man.  When he was here, Dad was peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, bearing good fruit, impartial and sincere.   He was a good man while still being just a man.   His flaws were my flaws and the flaws in my life are ones he would have understood.   Yet he lives today because God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son so that men who believed in him would have eternal life. 

Dad was an intellectual.   He revered the human intellect, learning, and the process of learning.   More than that, I think he enjoyed being part of things where people became better than they were.   Dad liked to learn, teach, and do, and he liked combining those things in his work and his rest.  I think it’s why he had the career he did, teaching people how to properly safely use guns and ammunition.  Toward the end of his life, when the career was done, he couldn’t do many of the things he had always planned to do; cancer prevented it.   Yet he still found time to contemplate wisdom, to put first things first and consider where he was headed.   He told me that he didn’t want to die, but that he understood it and wasn’t afraid of it and that he knew heaven would be a good place.  He knew it because Jesus’ wisdom is all pure, and given so that we might have eternal life.   Happy birthday Dad.

Wise Jesus who gave all, thank You for Your eternal love.


Do you know someone wise?

Read the two verses again.   What are they telling you?

How would you describe wisdom from heaven?