Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 31 May 2019

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV).

These are two of the most famous verses in the New Testament.   They’re a common-sense exposition of a basic truth:   The entire Bible is the Word of God.   All of it.   Not just the meek and mild Jesus parts:   all of it.

We of the Christian faith find it easy to ignore the Old Testament.   It’s almost as easy for us to ignore the OT as it is to ignore all hymns before year 2000.  Some of the Old Testament is brutal history.  And we don’t like explaining that the same God who smote the Philistines is the same God who died for our sins, who loved the little children, who forgives us anything.   Yep:   same triune God; same Jesus; same Father and Spirit.   We can only understand this if we read that Old Testament instead of selectively ignoring it, which many of our churches do (including my own).

The Word of God is a tool for us to live.  We can (and should) use it for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training, praising, thanking, repenting and living in every way possible.   Paul identifies only four specific behaviors (teaching and the other three) in order to make a point (that they are especially useful in encouraging righteousness).   Yet the bigger point is that ALL SCRIPTURE IS GOD-BREATHED AND IS USEFUL…SO THAT THE SERVANT OF GOD MAY BE THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED FOR EVERY GOOD WORK.

Every good work.   Witnessing and teaching.  Pouring concrete.  Preaching sermons.   Welding I-beams.  Configuring software.   Raising kids.   You name it:  every good work we can conceive of is made possible when we are equipped with the peace from God’s word that transcends all understanding.

Mind you, Paul’s foremost concern for Timothy was spiritual work of the church body.   Yet his point almost certainly meant every good work that we could do.   And then consider this:   God teaches and places us where He does to prepare us for those works.   My friend, Phil, recently preached about David and Goliath, and one of the points he made was how God prepared David years ahead of time to fight Goliath.   Over time, our God developed David’s skills with bravery, simple weapons, and faith most of all.   Stepping out to battle the tall Philistine was the result of much quiet preparation, not just a teenager’s faithful bravado.

In the same way, God uses our work, our lives, to prepare us for things He has for us to do, both now and later.   Every work, then, can be a work for the Lord.   All of them.  No wonder these verses are famous.  All of the Bible is God-breathed and for our use.

For further reading:  Philippians 4:7, 2 Peter 1:20, Romans 4:23-24, 1 Timothy 6:11,  2 Timothy 4:1.

Lord, all of Your word is useful and holy.   Thank You for it!

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 2 October 2018

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 1 Timothy 1:12 (NIV).

Imagine if God called an atheist to preach the Gospel.  Or if He called Louis Farrakhan (or an Iranian mullah) to preach reconciliation with the Jews. Imagine if a Alec Baldwin went on the Tonight Show to preach for reconciliation in the name of Jesus.

That’s Paul.   Think of the worst possible persecutor, the very harshest, the meanest guy you could meet and it was Paul.   He relished what he did for a living:   killing followers of “the Way.”   He was a zealous follower of the one true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and lived in His temple in Jerusalem.   That is, until a roadside meeting with that one true God shut, then opened, Paul’s eyes.   The persecutor became the persecuted, and every time that happened, he doubled down on it.   He gave thanks to Jesus for picking him, the most unworthy of servants, to become zealous for His message and carry it to places unknown.

Today’s verse changes direction from the last few.  Keep in mind that this change of direction happens right after Paul warns Timothy to avoid false teachers and properly invoke God’s law.  Paul has used the first part of his letter to remind Timothy that not everyone is for him…or Him.   Now he begins a section of different instruction, outlining God’s grace and how it is a unique gift from the King to preach the faith to people who need to hear it.

Not everyone is called to that calling.   I’ve never really felt it, other than the daily urge to write these word.  I can’t do much but I can do this.  Some pastors tell me that they innately knew they should become pastors.   One told me it was like God slamming shut every other door in his life until he walked through the ministry one.   Another seemed to relish being a pastor instead of “just a pig farmer’s son” (as if that’s something to be ashamed of…it isn’t).

No matter, to minister to others in the name of Jesus is a calling that I think each of us gets in our own ways.   Some get it to be a full time job.   Jesus molds our lives in unique ways.   Have you ever thought that there are 7.2 billion ministers for Jesus alive right now?   It’s true.   Yet not all know it, or Him.   So it’s up to us to use the gifts He gives us and the good fruits of His Spirit that are kindness, understanding, and love to help others along their way to Him.  Imagine if God called an atheist to preach.   Better yet, imagine how He’s calling you.

For further reading:  Philippians 4:13, Acts 9:15, 1 Timothy 1:13

Lord Jesus, all my praise to You for putting Your love on my heart to follow and preach You in my own way.