Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 23 July 2019

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  Titus 1:15-16 (NIV).

Before moving on from these verses, we have to talk (again) about sin.   Remember from last time how I said that a friend called me out for calling out a specific thing as sinful.   And that sin is a destroyer.   And, more important than these, that Jesus annihilated sin by confronting it and leading us from it.

Here is a partial list of my many sins:  being unloving, lying, ungratefulness, adultery, blasphemy, theft, anger, hatred, intolerance, judgmentalism, lust, unkindness, unfaithfulness, coveting, dishonor, unrighteousness, vulgarity, immorality, envy, greed, disobedience, drunkenness, rebelliousness, sloth.

Need I go on?   These are just a few that rattle off the top of my head.   There are more.  I regret them.   I’m sorry I did them.   I’m even more sorry I hurt others in doing them.   If all I focused on was my sins, I couldn’t function.  Indeed, there would be no point in going on if the only thing worth living for was evil, more sin.

The thing about it is, when you’re living in the middle it, those sins are all you want.   They’re a twisted poison that infects your heart and mind.   They’re a heroin rush.  They’re slavery disguised as freedom.  You think they’ll make you happy but you know deep inside that’s really a lie.  You say you believe in God but you never really do.   You refuse to give yourself over to God, so hypocrisy simply becomes yet another sin you’ll just live with.  You don’t like it; you don’t even want it, except you do.   Except they occupy your thoughts and become your focus.

Jesus rewires that thinking.

His focus is purity; His purity.  He longs for you to have it.  He looks into your heart and sees someone better.   He looks at you and says to you, “let me take that from you.”   He sees those sins and asks you to give them over to Him, so that He can carry the guilt and the hurt and the shame and the impurity of them.   He who is only that purity and has no sin takes your sins and takes them off you so that you don’t have to deal with them anymore.   He offers you true freedom.

And even after that happens, we make mistakes.   Even after, we deal with the consequences of our actions in that past ‘life.’  Even then, He is with us, helping us to stand, helping us to keep our focus on Him.   Helping us to apologize when we do wrong.   And helping us to stay free by resisting the temptation to fall back.

For further reading:  Titus 2:1

Pure, saving Jesus, thank You for saving me!

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 25 June 2018.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NIV).

This is a tall order.   Admit it:  you can’t do this on your own; I know I can’t.   I’m betting quite a few people are better than I am at behaving themselves and at resisting temptation.  There are quite a few people who wouldn’t give a second thought to the pet sins that have plagued my life.   But the dirty secret is that there are many of THEIR pet sins that wouldn’t interest me in the slightest yet these may be very real struggles for them.   Everyone has a vice, even the folks we consider to be upright or pious.   Gambling, porn, drinking, marijuana, profanity, power, gossip, pride; pick one or name another.  Got skin, got sin.

Which is why Paul ends his letter with this benediction.   He doesn’t end with “prayers and positive thoughts to you” or “thinking of you” or “best wishes, pal.”   He invokes the tangible, real presence of the all powerful creator in the daily lives of his friends.   He asks for, even implores, God’s real action in their lives.   And he prays for this over his friends, asking that God set them apart as pure, then preserve everything about them to keep them blameless.

Paul knows his friends will be tempted; he has just written about how evil will always work to tempt us and how we must reject it.   Paul understands that his fellow believers are sinners like himself.   Paul realizes that they can’t be blameless in God’s presence without God Himself making it possible.   So he prays this benediction over them, both requesting for them and reminding them that God gives peace and sanctification.   Only God can do this; only Jesus is the only way.

Hint:   that’s still true.   Paul’s words still resonate with us because they still apply.   The same God who spoke everything into existence through His Son is still abiding with us now.   The same God who watched that Son die on that cross – and felt it all through Him – is still living through us today.   The same God who forgave, sanctified, and strengthened Paul and the Thessalonians 2000 years ago is still doing those things for us today.   We don’t have to do anything to please God; in fact we can’t.   But we do need to see Him through our hearts, to submit to Him and believe Him.   Tall order or not, without God’s presence in our lives, we don’t stand much of a chance against evil.

For further reading:  Romans 15:33, Hebrews 4:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:24.

Lord Jesus, stay with me.   Sanctify me, forgive me, abide with me.   Without You, I am powerless.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 6 May 2015

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them. Mark 7, 14-16.

I’m sometimes ashamed of things I say and have said. Jesus could have been talking about me in these verses because, if you’ve met me at various stages in my life (including sometimes even these days) you might be really, truly shocked to see me writing about Jesus and what He means to me.   You might be shocked to find I deeply believe in God and struggle every single day to ‘walk the walk and talk the talk.’   More often than not, I fail at it miserably.   Thank God He is good all the time and that He forgave me long ago for being sinful, stupid and Dave.

I remember middle school when I hung out with the other outcast kids in Oklahoma.   We used to swear and tell dirty jokes and think we were so grown up and cool.   Yeah, that sounds pretty typical (and lame) but I wonder how many kids I turned off with the dumb attitude I wore on my shoulder.

Or as a young man in the Air Force.   I once got chewed out by my supervisor for cursing on a recording we made.   That F word? One of my favorites. Analysts would be reviewing our recordings and we were supposed to be professional.   That time, I was far from professional.   In fact, I was just a young punk.   I wonder what the analyst who listened to my track thought.

My kids know how to swear; they learned it from me.   Mind you, I’m not throwing them under the bus, but if you know them then you know they are earthy, and that they sometimes can let the language fly. They’re adults now; they’re responsible for their own words and actions.   But they first learned them from listening to their profane and impulsive father. Now things are worse.

The list goes on and on.   When I re-read today’s verses, I can identify with them because Jesus convicts me every time I read them.   He could have had me in mind when He first said them…

…in fact, He did.   Yes, Jesus did have me in mind when He spoke these words.   He knew me even then, just like He knows you now. Don’t forget the context in which He first uttered them:   He was responding to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. But He was also talking about what we do with our ‘wrapped around the axle’ moments.   Do we learn from them or do we follow through on the evil they hatch? There’s the tongue-twisting phrase from the Apostle Paul that I’ll paraphrase here:   the things I don’t want to do (or say), these I keep on doing.   That’s me. That’s my dirty mouth and worse. And He forgave it anyway.

The beauty of Scripture is that it’s ALL a story of Jesus.   All of it, from the history to the prophecy, is the revelation of Jesus, of God imparting knowledge of Him into our hearts and minds.   Hand in hand with that is remembering that I’m forgiven; so are you.   Yet there are verses like today’s that, taken on their own, convict and spotlight me and shine a light into dark places I’d rather not see.

Lord, I crave You and Your forgiveness.   Forgive my stupid sins and make me clean again.

Read Mark 7, verses 1-23.

Practical Proverbial, the Ten Commandments, 11 June 2014

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. Exodus chapter 20, verse 10.

There’s a country song on the radio now in which one of the refrains keeps singing, “Oh my God…this is my song.”   I like the guy singing the song, but call me old fashioned enough to think the he shouldn’t be singing it. It’s blasphemy. I’ve used that language; perhaps you have as well. In fact, I used to have a really, really foul mouth. And, since I’m in true confession mode here, sometimes I still do.   Sometimes it’s in the name of ‘good humor.’   Sometimes it slips out.   Sometimes I just rant and engage my mouth before I consider what I’m saying and whether or not I should say it.

No matter the situation, it’s wrong.   It’s mild compared to some of the stuff we hear on the airwaves these days, but wrong is still wrong. It’s wrong because it’s blasphemy to misuse the name of God. That includes casual references in lyrics like those I mentioned.   Or countless others. You know what I’m talking about.   If we say it and we think we shouldn’t, then probably that’s our conscience talking through.   It isn’t tough to figure out.

It has implications on our faithfulness because the Lord says that He reads our hearts.   He knows that what we say starts in the heart, deep down inside.   In reality, bad language – or good language – that impugns or misuses God’s name in any way paints us accurately as the hypocrites we are.

Now, I’m not here to guilt you out because, as I said, I’m guilty of it.   The worst actor, comedian, or rapper in Hollywood sometimes sounds prudish compared to things I’ve said. I wouldn’t say such things in a job interview, or in the workplace, or in front of my grandson, or in intimate conversation with my wife. Why would I say them, then, at any time about my God and my Savior?   I wouldn’t damn the people I love most in the world in my conversations with or about them; why would I do it to my God and my Savior?

The folks talking about a war in our culture have a point when they insist that one of the main ways we’ve allowed our culture to coarsen is through our course language.   Indirectly or directly, all of that language starts with how we misuse the name of our Creator.

It’s sin.   Petty, wrong, uncaring, blasphemous sin.   There is a better way.

Lord, forgive me for my foul language and how I’ve used it to misuse Your good name.

 

Read Exodus chapter 15, Moses and his sister sing, then God gives everyone a drink.