Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 16 May 2019

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.  2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV).

These are harsh words about how people will behave in the end days.   They’re some of the worst qualities of mankind, and Paul prophesies that the end days will bring them out in full.   Whether those end days are now or later, they will be marked by these kinds of behaviors.

These verses apply to Hollywood.   They apply to Wall Street, corporate boardrooms, country club dealing, and the jet set.   These verses could have been written about the American suburbs, or about the ghettos.   They could have been written about people in our universities, in our workplaces, on the road and at the mall and, yes, they could have been written about people who sit every Sunday in a church pew.   They’re HBO; they’re Facebook; they’re Las Vegas; they’re Mainstreet USA.   They’re our living rooms.  These verses could have been written about any of the 7.7 billion people breathing here on Planet Earth.   Two thousand years after He left us, come quickly, Lord Jesus, and set things right again.

Especially if these are the last days.   In fact, I hope they are.   Heaven has much more to offer than our world, which is full of we who could be described by these ugly words.  Those words are a mirror, held up for me and you (and a dog named Boo) to look into and see ourselves as we really are.   Even the best of us is guilty of being like one or more of those words say we are.

Paul told Timothy to avoid people like those he described above.  If Paul met me today, would he see a follower of Christ or a sinking work in progress who loves himself, money, pride and boasting more than Jesus?   Who would Paul see in you?   Even more, if Jesus does come back today, will He see us as we are, or will He see us through the lens of His love?   You know the answer, and thank God Himself for it.   We are guilty of being those awful things Paul mentions, and only a Savior who isn’t could set things right.   Only He could save us.   When He comes back, He’ll see His followers in His own mirror, and welcome us.  Doesn’t it follow, then, that we should use our time today to kindly love on people who don’t know Jesus so that they’ll have the same eternity?

For further reading:  2 Timothy 3:6.

Lord Jesus, come quickly.   These times are as You predicted, full of evil scoffers.   Come and remake all things new.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 14 May 2019

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.  2 Timothy 2:25-26 (NIV).

More about wading into discussions or arguments with opponents.   While the spirit of the idea applies to any discussion, keep in mind that Paul’s advice here regards those who opposed Timothy in  spiritual matters.   There were people in Timothy’s circle who were living in sin, or whose beliefs were contrary to Jesus’ gospel.   Some embraced Gnostic beliefs that were heretical to what Paul had taught; some were perpetuating the traditional Jewish laws in the new Christian church.   Paul reminded Timothy that his purpose was to help them to see their need for Christ and return to Him.

How does this apply today?  It might seem fun to think that ‘the other guy’ and his wacky politics are Satanic, but that probably isn’t true.   And even if it were, it’s better to remember that Jesus wants that other guy in His Kingdom as much as He wants you and I.   Perhaps Jesus has you or I in their lives to spread His Gospel to them.   Preach that Gospel constantly; if necessary, use words.   Remember that ‘the other guy’ is probably as sinful and confused as me and you.   None of this is saying we should compromise godly principles or surrender our faith.   It is, however, saying that we should uphold that faith while being empathetic towards understanding another’s predicament.

We do all this because Jesus wants them for His Kingdom, too.   Your worst enemy is Jesus’ dear child.   The overbearing progressive, the strident conservative, the bully who makes your life awful:  all are precious in His sight.   He mourns their sins as much as He mourns mine, and He wants them to be gently instructed, lovingly reminded that God in Christ loves them, forgives them, believes in them.   Jesus’ enemy, the devil, works overtime to pull down those on the fence.   You and I, soldiers in the Lord’s Army, then, get the mission of running into the breach, of standing between those opponents and the devil who would destroy their souls.   We get to stand up for Jesus because they won’t or can’t.   We get to stand for Him and witness to the devil that he is defeated, unwelcome, cast out.

I suppose that’s pretty far afield from why we shouldn’t wade into foolish arguments, but the bottom line of it is the same.  We’re followers of Jesus, in some cases His called servants.   It’s our place to witness boldly, lovingly, and kindly, especially to those who would oppose what we say.   In doing so, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 2:4, 1 Timothy 3:7, 2 Timothy 3:1.

Lord Jesus, let Your Spirit put the words in my mouth as I speak for You today.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 6 May 2019

Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.  2 Timothy 2:17-18 (NIV).

My wife and I went to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky last week.   If you haven’t seen it, it’s a full-size recreation of what Noah’s Ark may have (even probably) looked like; a three-story museum of what it must have taken to create the Ark, then to tend to the animals, then to repopulate the world.   Ken Ham Ministries, which operates the museum, did a great job intertwining this story of how God saved physical life through the Ark with the account of how God saved spiritual life through the Good Friday Easter ark who is Jesus Christ.

At the end of walking through, it occurred to me that I had absorbed the message:  Jesus is the only way.   It was no surprise, but it was pleasantly shocking how much I agreed with it, how easily I identified with it.  Jesus is the antidote to false teaching.   He’s the opposite of all our sinful experiences.  Jesus as He was, is, and is to come.   Jesus as He is presented in the Bible is the only truth that matters.   In Paul’s day, the gangrenous teaching that Hymenaeus and Philetus had spread had already been overcome by Jesus and His resurrection.   All that Jesus said and taught was the highway to heaven.   Whether we receive that teaching in a tourist attraction, our neighborhood churches, online, or in person is all part of our human experience.

Duh.   Better do it while we can.

Back in Noah’s time, nobody other than his family believed that God had told Noah to build the ark because devastation was coming.   After Noah’s descendants repopulated the world, few believed that God would send His Messiah to redeem us from our sins.   In our world, even though there are over 2 billion Christians, there are also over 5.2 billion non-Christians who think our faith in God’s Son as Messiah is foolishness.   Some reject it as that.   Others, like Hymenaeus and Philetus of Paul’s day, spread false teaching about it for ungodly reasons.   Still others would have you and I suffer or die for our belief in Jesus.   Think ISIS or other radical Islamic sects; think Communists in China, Cuba, and elsewhere.  Think even about dilletantes here in the peaceful US of A.

Noah or now, some things never change.  Through it, the message of the Ark Encounter remains:   Jesus is the only ark, the only way to live through this terminal adventure called humanity.  How will you share that message today?

For further reading:  1 Timothy 1:19-20, 2 Thessalonians 2:2, 2 Timothy 2:19.

Saving Lord Jesus, You are the only ark into eternal life.  You are the only truth.  Forgive me when I’ve failed You.   Thank You for today in which to do better.   Help me to do so.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 25 April 2019

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.  2 Timothy 2:16 (NIV).

Sorry ahead of time:  another rant.   I get into many debates online, standing up for what I believe in (just as those who are on the opposite side do the same).   I wish I could get back the countless hours and words I’ve expended online because I don’t think it has made much of a difference.   It’s a good thing to let others know that you support them, that they have allies.   Beyond that, I don’t see how my debating done much good.   Indeed, I’m ashamed of many things I’ve said; many words were unkind at best, contrary to this faith I profess here.   Hypocrisy:   I’m guilty.   Here endeth this rant as well.

We spend so much of our time these days talking about things that don’t really matter.   Our news is comprised of celebrities, meaningless sports, banal entertainment, and opinions disguised as facts.   Even worse, we gossip online; what else is social media but a new way of saying “look at me” or “did you hear about so & so?”  Even worse still, we thrive on ‘the chew’ in person.   Don’t believe me?   Try breaking into a clique the next time you go to church.  They’re there, just as exclusive as any schoolyard clique.   And they talk.   Boy do they talk!   I mean…boy, do WE talk!

Welcome to the fallen world.   It’s a world of godless chatter, of ancient tendencies and mis-behaviors given new life in person and online.   The more we indulge in it, the more we sully the good words of Jesus, who is still alive in us, who rose and is still King of Kings, here in the fallen world.   The more we do it, the more ungodly we become.   We become hypocrites.

Paul’s advice?   Avoid it.   Stop it if it starts with us, or passes through us.   But if we can’t effect it for good, then avoid it.   Stop the gossip chain with you, or me.   Gory TV?   Switch channels.   Political arguing?   Back out of it.   Better yet, pray for the other guy, and their candidate, and for our overall peace.   Part of a clique?   Go introduce yourself to the new guy.   Maybe give him a cup of that free church coffee and a donut.

It was good advice in the time of Paul, when true persecution really happened quite often.   It’s good advice here in the land of plenty, where we’re far from that kind of physical persecution…at least for now.  Let that be on our list of things to do in our fallen world now that winter has come (and gone), and we’re in a fresh season of growing.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Timothy 2:17.

Lord, help me to avoid godless chatter, changing my ways for Your good purpose.   Forgive me the ways I’ve failed You.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 23 April 2019

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.  2 Timothy 2:14 (NIV).

I’m becoming a fan of the Facebook snooze feature.   If a friend of mine sends a view or opinion that is particularly difficult to abide, or if what they say is particularly hostile, I turn off notifications for those comments.   I don’t want to un-friend them, but I don’t need the negativity.  Our comments may be well-received by some but also may be hurtful to others.   The better way would be to simply delete this social media so as to avoid the temptation.   But I enjoy Facebook for the ability to keep up with family and friends, and to share things like this blog, family moments, and things I believe both secular and faith-based.  So, until the point of staying off it altogether, I’m using the snooze.   I bet quite a few folks have done this to my comments already.

Thank God He doesn’t snooze us.  My friend, John, said (on Facebook about Facebook) that social media is a mile wide and an inch deep.   It’s designed to keep us quarreling, not really for our betterment.  Quarreling about words ruins us.   It ruins our relationships.   It ruins our families.   It ruins our politics.   It ruins our lives.

Paul wrote these words two millenia before social media existed.   In his day, social media was called “personal conversation.”   And if you think about it, those personal conversations have been made even easier to destroy by the advent of social media.   Online, you and I can say what we want without the responsibility for prudence that comes with saying those things face to face.   If you say something objectionable to someone face to face, they can (and often do) call you out on it, sometimes physically.   If we do that online, there’s no real response except to that the recipients’ emotions are activated.

Nothing good comes from that.  The book of Titus says that these are unprofitable and useless, producing nothing good that benefits anyone.  It was true then; it’s true now.   I need to act differently.   How about you?

This is the day after the day after Easter.   Jesus is still risen.   He is still alive, at work, living through you and I and all we think, say, and do.   We have the gift of electronic communication to enable us to reach each other instantly across the planet.  How will we use that today?   I’m working to do better, so I’m challenging you to do the same, even if that means snoozing it.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 1:4, Titus 3:9, 2 Timothy 2:15.

Forgiving Lord Jesus, help me to use the gifts of conversation and media responsibly, for Your benefit, in ways that help others.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 22 April 2019

Here is a trustworthy saying:  If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.  If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.  2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NIV).

Happy Day After Easter, when Jesus is still risen, still alive again, still King of Kings.   To be honest, the day after Easter has always had the potential to be like the day after Christmas:   a let-down.   We had a great day yesterday, with church, a great meal, and lots of time together as a family.   It tired me out greatly, but I was sad to see it end.   Today, it’s back to work; today the kids and grand-kids go home; today is just Monday.  Today feels like a let-down.

Except it isn’t.   Here is a trustworthy saying:   if Monday seems dull, it’s because the light shines bright.   If disappointment rules the hour, joy rules the day.  If it’s tough to get started back at the routine, the routine is a gift from God, an embodiment of Jesus in our daily lives.   All these contrasting things are gifts from a loving Jesus Christ, whose gift of resurrection provides the hope of today and tomorrow to the believers He elected in eternity.  A fallen world can’t contain Him; a bad today can’t stop a beautiful tomorrow.   He defeated death, He defeated Satan.   Nothing can stop Him.   The contrasts make the difference between Jesus and everything else stark.

It wasn’t just Paul who spoke of these contrasts.   Peter did as well, and Peter knew Christ, man to man, better than most anyone else in Jesus’ ministry.  Peter talked about us rejoicing in the sufferings of Christ because it would mean that His resurrection and eternal glory would be all that much better.  The apostle lived in a barbaric time not unlike our own:   we simply have better tools and technology.   But the words he left would have been just as striking to readers of that time, maybe even more so when you consider how those readers personally knew Peter, how some might have personally known Jesus.  We didn’t know Peter or Jesus man to man; we simply have their words.

Think about that and then consider that this is a trustworthy set of statements, a thing on which we can rely.  Jesus lived, died, and lives again because He said He would.   Jesus suffered so we could rest.   Jesus died so we can live.   Jesus lives because the world can’t contain Him.   That’s great news on the Monday after Easter when the bloom seems to be off the rose and the daily world tries to take hold again.

For further reading: Romans 6:2-11, 1 Peter 4:13, Matthew 10:33, 1 Corinthians 1:9, 2 Timothy 2:14.

Easter Savior, You are the reason for our living.   You are the Lord.   You died and live so we may live.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 16 April 2019

Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.   2 Timothy 2:7 (NIV).

One of my pastor’s favorite pieces of good advice is to take 5 minutes daily with God.   In that five minutes, simply be silent.  Clear you mind; focus only on God and whatever He may say to you.   It may take a hundred days; it may take only five minutes.  Eventually, no matter how long it takes, you’ll begin to perceive more of what God says to you in His Word, in messages He gives you through others and the world, in matters put on your heart.  He’s speaking; we listen.

Paul would have understood this.   He was advising Timothy to do much the same thing.   Paul was telling Timothy to be still, to know God is God of all, and to let Him speak to his heart.

That’s still good advice today.   Just ask Pastor Mark.

Indeed, we need insight more than ever.   Just yesterday, I was called a hypocrite online by politically opposite friend…and she was right.   What’s more, her rebuke was enjoined by my own daughter, who was also right.   I had resorted to name-calling in a comment, and it took the rebuke from a political adversary and my flesh & blood for me to see they were correct.  A man of better insight (maybe Timothy or Paul, or even my friend, Mark) would likely have seen that sooner, maybe not even posting the words at all.   When I saw what they were saying, I quickly deleted the name.  Seems I should have done some more reflecting before posting yet another political opinion.   Yep, I need insight more than ever.

And just yesterday, Notre Dame cathedral burned.   We don’t know why, though the cause is most likely something innocuous.  But it’s still suspicious given the number of unaccounted church vandalisms in France, as well as the fact that it’s Holy Week and the cathedral would make a ripe target.   Yet even pushing that suspicion aside, we need insight about the event.   Not insight into why it happened but, perhaps, insight into the good things that Jesus will do through the efforts of first responders, engineers, and builders to restore this ancient house of God.

It’s the insight into what Jesus is saying that Paul was invoking into Timothy.   It’s that kind of insight we would all do well to contemplate today.   Then act on it.

On behalf of my friend, let me invite you to act today by taking five minutes to be still and know that Jesus is God.   That He will speak to you as He does.   That He loves and forgives you.   That He wants to work through you today.   Take five for insight, my friend.

For further reading: Psalm 46:10, 2 Timothy 2:8.

Insightful Lord Jesus, open my eyes to Your purpose for me today.   Guide my thoughts, words, and actions to better serve Your purpose.