Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 22 October 2018

And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. 1 Timothy 2:7 (NIV).

Do you have a resume?   Do you keep yours up to date?   In the last few years, I’ve been out of work 3 times.   And I learned things have changed since 2001:  the last time I earnestly sought a new job.  Monster and Dice are still around, but now most tech employers use Indeed and LinkedIn.   I found that looking for a job was less about who I was as a person and more about the raw skills I possess.

As a tech worker, I’ve learned to keep my resume up to date.   Most times I use a 2-page format, and no more than 2-3 bullets per employer.   Some head hunters say to only go back a decade, but I keep all my skills on it, going back to 1986; some of my most important work was back then.   And my resume shows only what I consider most important, only the things that talk about what I can do AND who I am.

Today’s verse is Paul’s resume.   It testifies to his bona fides.   After talking about Christ being the one and only mediator, and after spending the first part of this letter talking about Christ’s grace, Paul goes to the subject of his qualifications to teach the ‘un-churched.’  In several of his letters, Paul discusses his calling as an apostle, that it came from Jesus Himself.   That mattered to the first-century church because that group was being pulled in many directions.   The original 11 apostles had known and walked with Jesus.   He established their resumes.  Now came this man Paul, who had been a famous Pharisee known for persecuting these new followers of “The Way” (as the church was then called).

What’s more, this Paul wasn’t teaching only the Jews, as most of the Apostles and Jewish rabbis did.   No, Paul was speaking about this Jesus to non-Jews:  to non-Jewish people all over the Roman empire.  Everywhere he went, Paul testified that Jesus was the authority to whom Paul gave all credit and from whom Paul had received his calling.

Paul kept up his resume.   You can read it in the twelve books he wrote in the New Testament.  You and I have similar credentials.  God gives us skills to work and talents to advertise, both for His advancement and ours.   He places us in situations to do or prepare us for work He has in mind.  The next time you update your resume, consider your skills and how God would use them – and you – at an employer.  I wonder what that would look like on LinkedIn.

For further reading: Romans 9:1, 2 Timothy 1:11, Acts 9:15, 1 Timothy 2:8

Lord, thank You for establishing Paul’s resume.   And for giving me the skills you want me to have for You in the world today.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 15 October 2018

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. 1 Timothy 1:18-20 (NIV).

If you aren’t familiar with it, to excommunicate someone is to cut them off from communing with the body of believers.   It’s a harsh action, one designed to excise someone whose talk or actions are corrosive and threatening to the health of the church.   But it wasn’t designed to be punishing.   Instead, it was designed to instruct, to give someone over to the sins they seem to be choosing over communion with the saints.   Some churches today still practice this kind of church discipline, and it’s supposed to be done in love, as a way to show the person the drastic and destructive nature of the things they are saying and doing.

Paul is talking about excommunicating Hymenaeus and Alexander.   In the first days of the growing Christian faith, to be excommunicated was a desperate action.   Theirs was a world of physical persecution and very real threat of death at the ‘righteous’ hands of ecclesiastical authorities (Jewish, Roman or Greek).   To be consigned to that was a desperate thing.   Paul did this because these men had crossed a line, saying or doing things that were blasphemous and intolerable.  If they were allowed to continue unaddressed, it could have threatened the nascent church; some things are intolerable for a reason.   Most important, Paul did it to teach the offenders so that they might turn and re-embrace the Lord.

Is that so different from firing a wayward employee?   Or telling a friend “if you keep doing it, we can’t be friends.”   It would be an awful thing to be ‘handed over to Satan’ to be taught a lesson, yet sometimes that’s what God may just call us to do.   Just make sure it’s for the right reasons.   Many years ago I watched a pastor excommunicate a member.   I was a member of the church council and the pastor, the church leader, wanted a member excommunicated because the member was saying terrible things about the church, even demonic things.   The thing about it was that the poor guy was schizophrenic and off his meds, yet the pastor insisted he was sensible and had his wits about him.  We voted to excommunicate him (I voted no).   That seemed like an abuse of excommunication.   For this and other reasons, my family and I left the church a few months later.

I wonder if the man or that pastor ever turned to Jesus.

For further reading:  2 Timothy 2:17, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Timothy 2:1

Lord, teach us to be wise with the powers of instruction that You give us.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 11 October 2018

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. 1 Timothy 1:18-20 (NIV).

How do we fight a spiritual war, and what happens when we give up?

An acquaintance of mine is suffering from Satan.   He and his brother are mired in the consequences of dabbling in Satan’s arts and humanism in general.  I’ve written about them before, but it’s still happening.   Just a few days ago, he sent a social media message asking ‘how to hold back the darkness.’   We don’t talk much, and that makes me sad.   But my wife and I pray for him daily, and we reach out as best we can, and we offer up that there are indeed ways to beat back the darkness.   They all start with going to God…and that’s precisely what these young men refuse to do.   Thus, the spiritual darkness is still happening all around them because they aren’t fighting the right way.   They’re shipwrecked.

It’s still happening because the spiritual war is ongoing.   It has been going on since Adam and Eve.  It has caused every war in human history, and it’s dividing America even today.  Got skin, got sin.   Our problem is a sin problem (Si Robertson said that), not a Democrat vs Republican problem.  Sin is why Jesus came, and died, and rose, and saved mankind.   If only my friends would embrace that simple, liberating truth.

But that’s tough to do.   It requires putting our trust in Jesus.   It requires letting down our guard..   More than that, it requires saying “you know better, Lord”, then letting Him take control of our lives.   We don’t “do” anything to cause, earn, or deserve our salvation; even Paul reminds us that salvation is a gift of love through God’s grace.   The only things we bring into the ‘salvation equation’ are our sins, the ways we’ve realized we need Jesus.  If you don’t sin, you don’t need Jesus.  But, as said earlier, got skin, got sin.   You may not like it, but you’re a sinner.   You aren’t making it out of here alive because death is the penalty for sin, and you will die.  The way to set things right is through Jesus.

I wish my friends could see that.  Instead, they’ve shipwrecked their hearts on the foolishness of insisting they know better.   That simple assertion has caused more pain than anything else in history.  It gives Satan a toe-hold in our lives.   It’s time to end the shipwreck disaster.   It’s time to fight the war.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 2:1

Lord, suit me up then fight for me in this war against the evil one.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 10 October 2018

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well. 1 Timothy 1:18 (NIV).

Suit up, fellow warrior.   You’re in a fight.   You believe in Jesus, so you’re in the fight for Him.   You need to be prepared for it, both in your armor and in letting go of your control.   Be ready to pick up your sword, but then stand back and watch Jesus do the hard work.  God has always done this:  fought for His people.   Yet He asks us to be ready to stand with Him.

It’s not that Jesus can’t (or doesn’t) do the heavy lifting for us.  We don’t HAVE TO do anything to earn His love, or earn Him fighting off evil for us.   We don’t do anything to contribute to our salvation by standing up for Jesus, or for our sisters & brothers, or even just by standing up for those who can’t.  We can’t do anything to become more powerful than God; it’s not possible.   Whom God intends to stand against, He will, and they will be defeated.

But…there’s always a but.   But Jesus asks us to do it anyway.  It’s not because we have to:  it’s because we get to.  Because He sent His Spirit to reshape us and give us the heart of a spiritual warrior.  Because He prepares us over time to accept His love, inculcate His teachings, and ready ourselves to face down the evil one.  All that happens to us it to prepare us for this moment, for now, to serve Jesus and stand for Him.

You may not realize it but you fight evil every day.  Hold the door for a stranger:   you’re fighting back evil.  Listen to your kids (or your mom and dad):  you’re thwarting Satan.   Do your best at work:  fighting for God.  Forgive someone who hurt you:  fighting for God and bringing a tear to Jesus’ eye.  “Here’s what the Bible says” when someone asks you why you believe what you do:  suit up, get up, and stand beside Jesus in the unending line of warriors on the front line.   You’re fighting in the battle of the ages:  one kind word at a time.

Paul was always ready to stand up for God.   After giving praise to God, he then coached Timothy, who himself was in training as a soldier-of-God.   Paul consistently used his words to give Timothy tools he could use.  The lesson for is the same:   give praise and get ready.  In World War II, there was a popular song, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.”   That’s good advice; Paul might have said it himself.   Get up, soldier.   The fight is now.

For further reading:  Deuteronomy 1:30, Joshua 23:10, Nehemiah 4:20, Ephesians 6:10-20, 1 Timothy 1:19

Lord, I praise You for Your mighty hand.  Uphold me as I stand for You.   Help me to always be on Your side.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 9 October 2018

Now to the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.   Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17 (NIV).

Most folks don’t usually end a letter in the middle, but Paul did.   I suppose he wasn’t like most folks, especially since he devoted half of his life to radically enforcing strict Judaism before (being shifted) 180 degrees and becoming history’s greatest evangelist for Christ.

Paul knew who to thank, who had earned the glory.   It wasn’t the man in the mirror.   Look in the mirror now (or as soon as you can).   You’re pretty special; God made you to be “very good” and someone in whom He could personally delight.   But you don’t deserve honor and glory forever and ever (amen).   You just don’t.   None of us do.

I started teaching Sunday School again for the first time in over a decade.   This season, I volunteered to help teach our church’s ‘tweeners’ (grades 3-5).   I believe that’s an important age for us to mentor kids because it’s the time when they start feeling their way into the world.   They become interested in music and movies and the world around them; they develop wider-ranging friendships; they start to make connections.

On Sunday I said this to the kids:   the same Jesus who loves us and holds us and died on the cross is the same God who created everything by speaking, and who kept Noah and his family alive on an ark while everything else around them was destroyed.   It’s true.  The same God who spoke in Genesis 1:1 and in every word, chapter and book of the Bible is the same God who promised “Yes, I am coming soon” as the Bible closes out.

The only thing you can say to such a God is “to You be all honor and glory forever and ever, amen.”

That’s an exploding grace bomb in your mind.   You and I (and Paul and Noah and everyone else) are sinners.   We were born to live in communion with God yet we messed it up.   Yet God sent His Son, Himself, to make right what we couldn’t.   He came to us in love to bring justice by declaring “it is finished” when He completed our salvation.  He is magnificent in every way, and every time you feel your heartbeat, or view a sunset, or contemplate the simple, complex beauty of a tree leaf, or simply wonder how you made it through today alive, you and I get to remind ourselves – and praise Him – that he is King, eternal, immortal, invisible and worthy of honor and glory forever.

That’s the perfect thought with which to conclude every action, every day, every letter, every moment.

For further reading:  Revelation 15:3, 1 Timothy 6:16, Colossians 1:15, Jude 25, Romans 11:36, 1 Timothy 1:18

Lord God, I praise You as my King, as eternal, immortal, invisible and worthy of all honor and glory forever.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 8 October 2018

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:16 (NIV).

Last time we talked about how Paul uses the phrase “here is a trustworthy saying” and that he was a sinner; these are recurring themes in his writing.

Tell me:  are you a sinner?

I was raised Lutheran, confirmed Presbyterian, and have been to most every Christian denomination (and non-denomination) around.  I’ve practiced my faith with Baptists, Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and atheists.  One thing we have in common:  we’re all sinners.  We weren’t made for sin:   we were made to share God’s vast love.   Yet our ancestors – and we – muck up the good plan by embracing sins.

Paul talks about his sins in two tenses.   First he talks about how he “was” shown mercy because he ‘was’ a sinner.   The things he’s talking about are the actions he took against “the Way” (as early Christianity was called before believers were labeled “Christians” at Antioch).  Yet Paul then talks about how “I am the worst” of sinners.   He recognizes that his sinful nature is a present affliction, not just something in the past.

How can this be?   There are many, many people who are confused by it; yours truly is often one of them.

Jesus is the cure for the common sin.   Jesus came because of sin, because we had chosen sin, yesterday and tomorrow.   Jesus offers forgiveness of sins:   all sins, no matter how heinous or embarrassing or long-standing.   Holding a grudge?   Jesus can forgive that.   Murdered Christians in Jerusalem?   Jesus can forgive that.   Abortion, adultery, burning anger, cheating on your taxes, withholding forgiveness:  Jesus forgives all of them.   He did it, once for all, so that we wouldn’t bear the eternal consequences of them.

Jesus came so that you could tell Him what you’ve done, let Him take the guilt and hurt and pain, and then remake you in a way that helps you turn from it.   In this world, that means you’re made righteous, even when you mess up again.  Past atoned for, future atoned for even as you are who you are.

There are some who believe this isn’t true.   That, once forgiven by Jesus, it’s impossible for people to sin. I’d submit they misunderstand the relationship in Christ between love and justice.  Even after being “saved” we still mess up.   And every time, Jesus then beckons us back to receive His forgiveness again.   We all die:  if we weren’t sinners, we wouldn’t die.  It’s how things are, so what say you about that?   I have a good guess what Paul would say.

For further reading:  Romans 2:4, John 3:15, Matthew 25:46 1 Timothy 1:17

Lord, forgive my many sins, even the ones I’ve forgotten.   Teach me to turn away from them and better follow You.

 

 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 5 October 2018

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 1 Timothy 1:15(NIV).

There are two recurring themes through Paul’s eleven letters (that became books of the New Testament).   One is “I am a damn dirty sinner” and the other is “here is a trustworthy saying.”

Here is a trustworthy saying:   we are sinners in need of Jesus.   When we focus on sin, sin takes over and becomes our center.   It weeds up the garden; it crowds out the love.   We weren’t made for sin:   we were made to be in communion with love, with God.  So, the cure for the common sin is always Jesus.   If you want to change your center, start by changing your focus.   Re-train your brain, your behavior, your words to focus on someone better, on what Jesus says in every moment.   He’s there in every moment and beckoning you to be led forward in His loving ways.   If you aren’t doing it, start now.

Yet here is another trustworthy saying:  it’s not about you.  It isn’t about you doing things.  Let Jesus do the work.   Give up the control.   Faith in Jesus isn’t about doing a bunch of stuff that some blogger, pastor, or televangelist tells you to do.   Faith in Jesus isn’t the nagging angel on your shoulder prodding you that you’re a slug if you do something wrong.  And faith in Jesus isn’t spending all your time worrying about what you shouldn’t do or whether you’re close to the white lines.

Faith in Jesus is about living.  Faith in Jesus is following, learning to listen in love, then learning to share that love by how we react in the world.   It’s channeling His wisdom, His patience and understanding, His advice to our hearts in what we think, say and do every day.   We do that because it isn’t about us.  It’s about what God wants to do through us.

But perhaps the most trustworthy saying is how Paul uses that turn of a phrase to make an important point:  what he’s saying is important because if focuses on Jesus Christ.   When Paul uses that phrase (and he does five times in his letters) he’s indicating that this is something reliable, that we can count on it to be true.   We can count on it because it points to a fact about Jesus.   And Jesus is always reliable, true, and trustworthy.

We are sinners and we are in constant danger of always falling back on our old ways.   But thanks be to God that His Son came in amazing grace to turn us away from all that.  That’s the most trustworthy thing of all.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 3:1, 1 Timothy 4:9, 2 Timothy 2:11, Titus 3:8, 1 Timothy 1:16

Lord Jesus, You are trustworthy and true.   Forgive my sins today and help me to follow You closer