Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 16 March 2020

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  Philippians 4:10 (NIV).

Today, show your concern for your fellow man.   You know where we are, what’s happening.   Our world is in Coronavirus panic right now.   God help all those who are infected, sickened, or dying from it.   God’s peace to those grieving ones lost to the virus.   You and I probably have opinions about the virus and our world’s reactions to it but let’s table those for a few minutes and move on to something more important:

We get to help now.   We are the church of the living Christ who wants all mankind to live.   Some of our sisters and brothers are in need, and we can do something about it.   We get to help and we get to do it in the middle of a worldwide crisis.

Paul would understand this.  His world knew pandemics though they didn’t call them by that word.   They were just diseases; plagues and pestilences that appeared for reasons they didn’t fully understand.   But Paul would understand both praying out of concern AND taking the opportunity to follow through on that concern.   Wherever he went, Paul worked to support himself (he was a tent-maker), but he also encouraged the churches he planted to support him and each other through offerings and material support (food, housing, etcetera).  It was for their benefit, not his.

He would understand the predicament we’re in and might even echo what I’m saying here.   We should indeed keep praying for each other.   We should bring those concerns to our living God who hears them and acts in His glorious way.   No matter what we’re going through, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding is in us and with us.  More people need that.

But let’s take that concern a step further.   Let’s not just talk about church:   let’s be the church…today.   I’ve been challenging Facebook friends to call me for a few days now.   If you’re in North Texas, call me if you need help doing anything:   running errands, helping you clean, get meds, run kids, whatever.   If you need help, message me and I’ll help you.

I’m challenging you to share that same thing.   Sure, be prudent and take care of yourself; don’t do foolish things.   But beyond that, have faith that our Lord is stronger than some unseen virus and that He will protect us as we help our fellow women and men who need help.   Pray first, then lace up your boots and get in the battle.   Harder times than these are coming.  Get involved.   Check on neighbors.   Volunteer at a church; check online for groups where you can help, even the Red Cross.  Comply with civil guidelines but let’s be bold in Christ.  Today; now.

For further reading: Esther 4:14, 2 Corinthians 11:9, Philippians 4:11.

Lord Jesus, show me someone or way I can help today!

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 5 November 2019

 I thank my God every time I remember you.  Philippians 1:3. (EHV).

Confession:  I don’t pray all the time.   Just the other day, in church, Pastor Anthony mentioned praying all the time.   He mentioned how many Bible passages exhorted the Israelites (and we Jesus followers) to pray all the time, to pray unceasingly; to pray by mumbling thoughts about God’s word to ourselves, in quiet, in public, in our comings and goings, at all times.

So, confession (again):   I haven’t done that.   I stink on ice at doing that.

Yet even I can say in all honesty that there are some people for whom I thank God every time I see them.   Or talk with them.   Or even think about them.   The people I love most in the world are such a giant blessing to me that I’m grateful for them in ways my small words can’t convey.  But God knows because I tell Him and He understands my heart.

Perhaps Paul felt that same way (and, unlike me, he had a lasting way with words).   Many of his letters begin with words like these.   He began his communications by letting his friends know how much he valued them.   He told them that he thought of them often, that he often thanked God for them in his thoughts and prayers.   He conveyed that he did this every time he even thought of them.   That would be quite a blessed routine to train one’s self into, but in our distraction-filled world it would probably take some lengthy training.

Yet think about how life-changing it could be to pray a small, quick prayer for someone every time you think of them.   Your spouse, your kids, your parents, your aunts and uncles, your siblings, your significant other; your friends, your co-workers, your bosses; your enemies, your antagonists, the people you genuinely dislike.   You get the picture.   Think about how life-changing it would be to pray for everyone, even a little at a time, every time you remember them.   Your outlook would transform.   Your behavior would change.   Your faith would increase.   You’d more easily start living out those Galatians 5 fruit-of-the-Spirit behaviors because Jesus’ Spirit would be working to remake you: one prayer at a time.

All from praying.   All from thanking God when we remember people who are in our lives anyway.   Just like Paul did.  Just like Jesus does.

Yes, I confess that I don’t do these things very often, and when I do I don’t usually do them very well.   But that can change.   I can change.   So can you…because it’s the Spirit of the living God who will do the work in you.   And for Him nothing is impossible.

For further reading:  Romans 1:8, Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 1:4

Lord Jesus, I open my heart to Your Spirit today.   Help me to change my ways and pray for the people in my life 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, 1 Timothy, 14 November 2018

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.  1 Timothy 4:3-5 (NIV).

Before moving on from these verses, let’s talk about consecration.   Key in on that last verse: “because it is consecrated by the Word of God and prayer.”   Do you get that God just exploded a bomb in your life?  Jesus Christ, who loves you enough to die for you, just threw a grenade and you and watched it explode in your face, blowing you to bits…and He was smiling.

Huh?

Every now and then, the Bible drops these precious nuggets about salvation right into our laps using common language, words we often overlook.  I say that because did you know that you consecrate your actions through the word of God and prayer?   BOOM!   There goes another explosion.

Huh (again)?

Get this:  to consecrate something is make something sacred, to set it apart.  You and I get invite consecration into our lives by praying.  Through Jesus’ power, our ordinary lives are dedicated to His higher service.  Sure, some people have a purposeful calling to be pastors and teachers of Christ; maybe that’s how you’ve been consecrated.   Yet even the more pedestrian of us can be (and are) consecrated as hallowed, holy, righteous by God when we invite (as Carrie might sing) Jesus to take the wheel.

All that happens through prayer.   Prayer:   that conversation between God and you.   Usually it feels one-sided but, if you look closely, it may just be that He’s doing most of the work.   Have you ever felt more at peace after praying?   Perhaps God immediately answered your prayer by giving you that peace.   We will never know how God may act on our prayers if we don’t pray them.

And when we do pray, we are inviting the full power of King Jesus God Almighty into our situation.  Hebrews 4:12 says that the word of God is a living thing, a sharp sword that cuts to the core of what we believe.   It slices away things we don’t need and leaves what we do, namely Jesus Christ. Prayer consecrates us, sets us aside for something hallowed, invokes His power.   When it does that, it cuts away what isn’t important or, like alcohol on a wound, begins to scour and heal.  It isn’t our words that do that:   it’s the Word of God.

Next time you pray, remember that you’re holding a consecrating weapon in your words.   Boom! It might be the most powerful thing you do all day.

For further reading: Hebrews 4:12, 1 Timothy 4:6

Lord Jesus, I pray thanks and praise that You consecrate us.   Help me to use this powerful blessing for Your good purposes.

 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 23 October 2018

Therefore I want men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 1 Timothy 2:8 (NIV).

I think God is telling me to pray.   Yesterday, my daily book devotion was about praying.   Then I went to an online devotion I read and it was about praying.   My wife and I talked about praying.   And then, in preparation for today’s Proverbial, I saw the subject is about praying.  Sometimes God nudges you; sometimes He whacks you with a hammer.   The whack today felt like a velvet head bump.

Paul has spent the first part of this letter teaching Timothy some basics about ministry:   about calling, order, training.   Now he talks about prayer.   After establishing his bona fides, Paul tells Timothy that believers should pray.   The verse says “men” yet the original wording infers “mankind” meaning everyone of either sex.  We should pray to God in reverence and without negativity.

In fact, praying may just be the most practical weapon a Christian warrior has in their arsenal.   The armor of God is necessary, but it is prayer – imploring for Christ’s assistance through praise or invocation – that is the sword of the Word of God.   It is through prayer that we talk with God, that we praise Him, that we weep to Him, that we most frequently can commune with Him.   Thus, it is through prayer that God arms us to repel the evil one’s attacks with the words of Jesus.

Paul says we should raise up holy hands to God.   To be honest, I’m not always comfortable doing that in public.  I might occasionally do it in private, where I prefer to do my earnest praying.    That’s just a personal choice.   Others feel more comfortable doing such things; God bless them for it.  Because God prepares us for what He wants us to do, and because of where He has us each in our lives, Paul exhorts all people to pray.  We get to do it to stand with Jesus in the daily war between God and the evil one.   Pray to Him for everything:   for strength, for wisdom, for help making it through long meetings, for safety, for healing, for peace….especially for His peace in everything we think, say, and do.

My challenge to you today is pray for someone.   In your own way, praise God for them, and speak with God over someone else’s predicament.   Pray on your knees, or in your car, or in the shower, or alone in a room, or standing on the subway platform, or at McDonald’s, or with your hands in the air.   Pray everywhere for them.  However or wherever you do it, pray to God and watch how He begins to move in your life.  This reminder may be God’s way of whacking you in the head to do just that.

For further reading: Ephesians 6:17, 1 Timothy 2:8

Lord, I praise You and thank You for this opportunity to talk with You.   Watch over and guide my friends today.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 16 October 2018

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV).

After talking about excommunicating wayward members, Paul then shifts to urging Timothy (and us) to pray for authorities.   The church leaders of then (and now) are authorities in our lives.   So are police, governments, the UN, bosses, corporate CEOs of companies whose products we use, pastors and leaders, and senior family members (in fact, all senior citizens).

Tell me, progressives:   when was the last time you prayed for President Trump?   Or my conservative friends, how often did you (or do you) pray for President Obama, or Ms. Pelosi, or George Soros?   If you’re like me, in this regard, you’ve failed.   You and I don’t usually pray for those with whom we disagree (or just don’t like).   If you don’t like President Trump or his policies, you may not be praying in thanksgiving for him.  If you didn’t like President Obama or his policies, chances are you didn’t pray in thanksgiving for him, either.

That’s a shame.   We’re losing great opportunities here because Paul recognized that prayer and thanksgiving (especially) are active, vital ways to participate in peoples’ lives, even those of far-off, remote leaders.   They are pure “get to” activities.   We get to pray for the president, our employees in Congress, and others we elect to do things for us that we can’t do ourselves. We get to pray for our bosses, managers, and executives that they would make good use of the time we entrust to them.   We get to pray for our parents, and for seniors who have lived long, useful lives that can teach us many things.

We should take every opportunity to pray in thanks for those who are above us in any way.  Sure, it’s altruistic but even Ayn Rand (who rejected religion) would have supported the idea of supporting leaders who are working for the betterment of all.   I don’t know Donald Trump, but I get to be actively involved in his life when I pray for him.   I don’t know Barack Obama, but I’m actively involved in his life when I pray for him.  Bill Gates, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Dalai Lama, the owner of your company, your pastor, that stranger who flipped you off on the road, and starving kids in India:  you may not know any of them, but Jesus gives you the opportunity to be part of them by actively praying for them.

We spend so much of our time excommunicating other people from our lives.  How about we re-communicate with them by first praying to our Lord for their benefit?

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

Lord, today, help me to pray for leaders, and show me today just one person for whom I can pray.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 15 August 2018

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 2 Thessalonians 3:2 (NIV).

Not long ago I was staying at a home of a friend who has embraced evil.   In rejecting God he has replaced Him with evil and invited it into his home.   Now, I’ve always been skeptical of ‘haunted houses.’   They’re a Halloween gimmick and I never fully accepted the idea of evil living in one place…that is until I stayed there.   I’ve never truly felt such hopelessness, such rage, terror and loneliness, such sadness in a single place as I did staying a few days in this friend’s room.

There was a sinister poster on the wall; I was told from a video game.  The owner kept books about darkness there; books about hating God, about dark arts, about Satanist Aleister Crowley, about philosophy.   It was as if my friend is stewing his mind in twisted ideologies to find meaning.   I was told he didn’t read these things but why have them if not to use them somehow?   In my way of thinking, it’s impossible to keep something this grotesque around you and not be affected by it.

“For not everyone has faith.”

I couldn’t wait to get out of there.   I warned the owner of the house that they needed to face this and do something about it.  And I was harshly confronted by another member of the household in an attack I can only attribute to their vulnerability to a misunderstood evil.  When I left, I called my wife, overcome, and we spent the next half hour talking while I was in tears.

Have you ever encountered such a thing?   I know people who have conducted real exorcisms.   I have seen first-hand the result of what unabashed evil can do to a family.  I once saw my own grandmother seemingly transform through her eyes, in a matter of minutes, from placidness to manic panic in a fashion I could only think of as possession.  She was a woman of faith, yet evil in that moment overcame her.

I write these blog posts to, in my way, share the Gospel of Jesus with you.  That’s a call I believe God put on my heart, and it’s the motivation that keeps me doing them.  I know that some who read them don’t believe in Jesus, haven’t learned about Jesus, and some have even rejected Jesus.  Yet God hasn’t rejected them and He sends people like me and you to them to witness with how we live our lives.   The popular phrase is that believers are to be in the world but not of the world.  Yet here in the world, to not be of it, we constantly need God’s help to deliver us from evil as He Himself once said.   In advance of that help, we must pray.

For further reading:  Romans 15:31, 2 Thessalonians 3:3.

Lord, strengthen me to stand against evil then deliver me from it.