Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 19 November 2019

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.  Philippians 1:9-11. (EHV).

Interviewers used to ask Billy Graham what he wanted to hear from Jesus after he died.  (To paraphrase) Rev Graham would respond, “I’d like to hear ‘well done good and faithful servant’ but I don’t think I will.”   Graham would then go on to recount all the ways he felt he had failed the Lord.  Very poignant but powerful.

And then there is the story that I read this past weekend of the man from the Netherlands who rescued Jewish children from Nazi custody.  Without notice, he would occasionally walk children out of the building where Nazi occupiers were holding the children before shipping them off to death camps.   He simply walked them out when the Germans weren’t looking.  The interviewer asked the man if he ever thought about the children he had saved.   (Again, to paraphrase) “No, not much,” he replied, “but I often think about the thousands that I didn’t.”

It’s those times you snap at your kids.   It’s the time you spend looking at panty pictures on the internet.   It’s the years you’ve padded your expense reports.   It’s the grudge against the kid who bullied you in eighth grade.   It’s that last time you had an argument with your spouse.  There are thousands of ways we fail the Lord, misusing gifts He has given us.   Or His name, or the fruits of His Spirit.   If salvation is left up to us doing things to please the Lord, well, we’re finished.   Toast; hopeless; put a fork in us because we’re done.  Maybe Billy Graham was right:   even when I’ve done good things, I don’t think Jesus will tell me “well done” because there are just too many other times I must have really pissed Him off.

Yep:   it’s a good thing salvation isn’t left up to us.   We wouldn’t measure up.   It’s a good thing that God doesn’t think that way.   It’s a good thing that God operates on the level Paul was praying for.   It’s a good thing that God allows us to discern what is pure and blameless so that we might know conscience and repentance.   More than that, it’s an even better thing that Jesus sees us as His beloved instead of filthy sinners; that He sees us as blameless because He made us blameless when He bled, died, and rose for us.

Someday I’ll ask Billy Graham what Jesus said to him.   I’m betting it wasn’t what he expected.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 1:8, 1 Thessalonians 3:12, Philippians 1:13

Lord Jesus, all praise and thanks to You for making us discerning and blameless.

Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 13 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. Titus 3:4-5 (EHV).

So we’ve been sinful and Jesus gave Himself for us despite that.   Have you ever really noodled that thought?   Would you die for Jeffrey Epstein?   Or Charles Manson?   Would you die for the bully who targeted you for a year in third grade?   Or your ex?    Would you die for the Nazi concentration camp guards who willfully, willingly sent people to their deaths (or pulled the trigger themselves)?

Jesus did it without hesitation.   In fact, he did it willingly, out of the most extreme love and devotion we could think of.

Not to make light of it, but you may be thinking “I get it.   Jesus.   Gotcha.   I’m not Jesus.”  No, you aren’t.   None of us are.

Represent Jesus anyway.

It’s mind-blowing how the New Testament is replete with proofs like Paul’s of how Jesus died for us.   It’s also replete with statements from Jesus about the power of faith.   Think of what He said about tiny faith (the size of a seed), or power over nature (as in how He commanded the fig tree), or Him commanding the waves when the Disciples were terrified, or moving mountains.   He wasn’t speaking in purposefully hyperbolic statements even though they were powerful and dramatic.  Have you considered that He may have simply been stating a fact?

We who were once undeniably sinful can have the same abilities of faith that Jesus does?   Yes.   And yes again.   And yes.  ANYTHING we ask for in true faith in Jesus can be done.

So, I’ll ask you again:   those despicable people I mentioned:   would you die for them?

Your response:  “NOT FAIR!   So I’m saying that, yet because I feel even a smidgeon of resentment or anything other than pure love, I’m disqualified?   I’m not good enough?”   Yes and no.   Yes, you’re not good enough on your own, and, no, you can’t do anything to make it right.   Because Jesus already did.   You and I don’t have to do anything to add to or complete that.   He already did everything.   Yet if we hold on to things of the past – including resentment or the conscious vestiges of forgiven sin- then can we truly expect to think we’re acting like Jesus?   He never did those things.

When Peter remembered he was walking on water, he started to sink.   So it is with us.   Yet in His mercy, Jesus made that walk possible.   He does for us as well.   Should we be willing to die for those who are detestable?   You know the answer.  Represent Jesus anyway.

For further reading:  Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 4:35-41, Mark 11:22-24, Acts 22:16, Romans 11:14, Ephesians 2:9, 1 Peter 1:3, Titus 3:6

Lord, forgive me and help me to let it go.   Then help me to do Your will.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 6 June 2019

They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:4 (NIV).

Another thought about this verse:  belief is a choice.

You and I don’t have to believe what we do:   we choose to.   Yes, we’re compelled by faith from within.   We can’t begin to believe in Christ unless He first (through His Spirit) plants the thought in our receiving heart.   We can’t follow a political leader or ideology without watching it, learning about it, experiencing it.   And as much as I believe some people quickly fall in love, we don’t do that, either, without first being moved about the other person.

We choose those things.   Faith, following, love:   they’re choices. Just like turning away from the truth.   That, too, is a choice.

Nobody forced the Canaanites to follow their pagan gods or demonic, detestable practices.   They chose.   The Jews of Jesus’ day weren’t forced to conspire against Him:   they chose to.   Germans of the 1930s weren’t forced to follow Nazism (at least not at first):   they chose to follow evil.   Parishoners at Jonestown, followers of Elijah Mohammed, members of the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Manson family:   they weren’t forced to do the things they did.   They chose.

So it is with those who turn away from God’s truth and turn aside to myths.   To be honest, it’s another person’s American right to follow Zoroastrian mysticism, follow the Maharishi Yogi, or run around naked in the forest to celebrate Mother Gaia.   It’s their right to turn aside to myths.   In America, our Bill of Rights preserves our right to believe or not believe what we want.   In other words, what we choose.

So it is with God as well.  Even God respects that right.   God doesn’t force us to believe in Him.   He asks us to.  He asks us to, then teaches us through His word and our experiences why His teaching is the true way.  His word, the constant miracles of nature and our world, the tangible results of faith in the lives of those who believe, our own experiences, love:   all of these scream proof that Jesus is who He said He is.  It’s up to us to believe or not believe, to choose what we will take to heart about it.

Sure, NOT believing is easier said than done.   It isn’t easy to stop believing in something without a drastic event occurring.  Yet that, too, is a choice.  It was this way in ancient Judea; it is the same today.   In the days that make up the end times, it will only get worse.   Even obvious proof won’t sway the choices of those determined to not be swayed.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 1:4, 2 Timothy 4:4.

Lord, use me and what I say and do to witness You to those who choose unbelief.   Help me to not judge.   Help me to live out Your word better.   For them.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 20 February 2015

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High GoGod? In d’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”   “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. Mark 5, verses 6-10.

The demons knew who Jesus was; we talked about that yesterday.   If demons knew who Jesus was, then so do Nazis, ISIS terrorists, KKK racists, the LRA in Sudan, atheists in college towns, and any other kind of petty or large evil person…even you and me.   Jesus is self-evident even to those who deny it and want to replace Him with themselves or some other shoddy image.

What’s more: those same demons acknowledged Jesus as God.   True, there’s a fine line between this statement and the one in the last paragraph, but isn’t it also true to say that there’s a difference between knowing who Jesus is and publicly acknowledging the fact? The demons in the man cried out through him that they not only knew Jesus but acknowledged Him as God.  Thoughts became words and actions.

Still, many kinds of demons meant that the man endured many kinds of torture. I have only known a few truly schizophrenic people but those I’ve known are the closest thing I can imagine to being demon-possessed.   The voices in the man were indeed real and they tortured his thoughts, his actions, his dreams, his every emotion and movement. Can you imagine living like that?   It’s not even a life, really.   It’s more like simply existing.

So what did Jesus do about it? Jesus commanded the demons to stop and they did. The demon (the representative of the ‘legion’ which might have been one or thousands) was told to come out of the man and it did. It couldn’t resist the simple command of the simple Man from Galilee.

Now comes the big question:   so what?   To some, this is a nice story about how Jesus did a kind thing for a stranger.   So what?

Well, for starters, you can either accept that line of reasoning or accept that the story is true. It either happened or it didn’t.   And if it didn’t happen, then, yes, it’s just a nice story.   But then that’s all you’ve got.

Or…

…Or, you can accept that it really happened. That the story is an account of something that really happened a very long time ago.   That there really was a man living in a cemetery.   That He really was tortured by imps of hell.   That there really was a man named Jesus who really did command the demons to come out of the man, and that they did.   And if all that is true, then whatever else is said about Jesus must also be true; you can’t simply cherry pick the Bible.   And if the rest of His life is true as well, then it’s also true that what He did for the stranger in the land of the Gerasenes He can do for you or me today.   Now that is a good thought for the day.

Lord, I believe all that is said in Scripture concerning You. Thank You for what You did for the man living among the tombs.

Read Mark 5, verses 1-20.