Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 12 August 2019

 For at one time we ourselves were also foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by many kinds of evil desires and pleasures, living in malice and jealousy, being hated and hating one another. Titus 3:3 (EHV).

Been there, done that.   You know that aphorism; chances are you’ve said it.   You’re experienced; you’ve lived; you’ve been around the block.   In the Queen’s English, you’re trustworthy because you can identify with the circumstances we each encounter.

If you say you aren’t sinful, you’re fooling yourself.   But don’t leave yourself hanging out there, on a limb and out of hope.   Every one of us is sinful; we all suffer from that same malady.   It need not define you.   You’ve been there, done that.   Let’s not leave it there.

The Apostle Paul, perhaps the greatest missionary ever, could identify with his friends and fellow followers of ‘The Way.’  He had been foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by evil, living in malice, jealous, and both hated and hating.  He knew that everyone who would (initially) read his letter there in the first century was just like him.   He understood their sins; he understood they were sinful.   He didn’t say these things to guilt them; neither do I.   It’s simply a fact.   It’s simply one side of who they (and we) were.

Let’s not leave it at that.   Paul had been there, done that; so had his friends.   You and I have too.   So has Pope Francis (or Benedict XVI, wherever he is).   So was Billy Graham, and your sainted grandmother, my best friend, and that newborn baby who’s crying to be held.   It’s ingrained into our psyches, part of who we are when we are born, and until we accept Christ’s Holy Spirit into us, it’s who we are, even when we try to do good.  When we’re ‘there,’ doing ‘that,’ ‘that’ is sin.  Yet when we embrace Jesus, EVERYTHING changes.

Holy Spirit redefines us, eliminates the hold sin has on us, eliminates the consequences of death that sin places on us.  He removes it and washes us clean from what tarnished us before.   Where ‘been there, done that’ had once been our mission statement, it now becomes common ground on which we can reach out to others so that they, too, might receive Jesus’ Spirit and all the good He gives.  It’s our pedigree to serve in amazement the God who makes everything new.

Just one verse ago, Paul reminded his friends to be subject to authorities so that others might follow God, too.  Here, in verse 3, he reminds us why we should.   Even the authorities have been there, done that.   Even they need Christ like we do.  So, today, when you’re at work and overwhelmed, or when you’re dealing with your kids and you’re frustrated, or you’re alone and lonely, remember that we’ve all been there and done that.   Jesus makes it all new.

For further reading:  Ephesians 4:31, Titus 3:4

Lord, forgive my sins and wash me clean.

 

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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!

Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 22 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).

Splash!   There.   There’s a splash of cold water, thrown from the cell of a Roman prisoner two thousand years ago.   Got your attention now?

Fact is that the fact is.   Truth is truth.   Over the weekend, a friend online called me out for being a terrible Christian.   And the fact of that is that I don’t know if she’s right or wrong.  My friend and I are political opposites and she’s known for calling out those with whom she politically disagrees.   I’m sure she’s going through some tough times, too.   And Facebook isn’t a place for intimate friendship, not a good place for truly intimate conversation.

So she called me out on sin.   I’ve posted so many things over the years that I don’t know whether she’s right or wrong.   Specifically, she said (that I said) that homosexuals were sinful.   To be frank, I may indeed have said that; I don’t remember.   But it’s possible.  Homosexuality is only one of the sins listed out in Scripture, specifically by Paul (and Moses and others).  Yet in our world, it isn’t acceptable to say that.

Splash, again.   It isn’t me that determines what is sinful.   It’s God, through the Word He gave us to guide our way to Him.   It isn’t PC to say what’s sinful.   If we lose sight of what is sinful and what isn’t, we lose sight of what’s right and what’s wrong.   You want to know things that are sinful?   Open up your Bible and read.

And in doing so you’re going to find the reason for Paul’s bucket of cold water.   His name is Jesus and He came to atone for those sins so that they might not control us, kill us, or divide us any longer.  Jesus didn’t tolerate sin:   He opposed it, vanquished it.  Yet if all we focus on is the sin, we miss Him.   Sin is a destroyer. He came to save us and guide us in turning away from sins.  To do that, we have to call out sin for what it is, then avoid entangling ourselves in it.   If we tolerate sin in our own lives and don’t turn from it, we’re lying about our faith in Jesus because Jesus calls us to turn from sin and follow Him.  To repent.   To forgive.   To love.   To  help others find their way to Jesus so they may know Him and do the same.

Maybe my friend was right.   If she is, then I apologize.   Yet, right or wrong, where are you in your turning today?

For further reading:  Jeremiah 5:2, Hosea 8:2-3, 1 John 2:4, Titus 2:1

Lord, help me in following You and only You.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 30 January 2019

The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.  1 Timothy 5:24-25 (NIV).

There are sinful things you did years ago that only later became known.   In verse 24, Paul (obviously) refers to sin, and his message that ‘the wheel in the sky keeps on turning’ is true; thank you Journey.  God does indeed see what we do, and if we reject Him, eventually the sins of our past will come back to haunt us.  Yet that need not always have negative connotations.  Sometimes (actually, most times) God uses the outcomes of our sins to shape a better future.

I know a health information system called “XCelys.”   It was called “Diamond” before that.   Diamond, like a few other systems, is used by health insurance companies to process health information and medical claims.  The last time I worked with it was 2005, when I unwillingly left a health plan in Montana (I was let go).  After that, I learned other systems like MetaVance, Facets, QNXT, EasyCap, and a few others.  Yet in 2016 I found myself working in a call center in Paris, Texas, far from any health insurance company, using Xcelys, the old Diamond, and teaching long-forgotten aspects of it to strangers so they could better perform their jobs.

The job from which I was let go had come to me as the outcome of a chain of events that started with things I did in New England.   Families were devastated, friends alienated, and vocations affected just to name a few.  I worked to put those sins in the past and “move on;” don’t we all?  Yet Jesus had other plans in mind.  Good things resulted, including where I am today.  I have a second career (maybe third) working for a company called HealthEdge, and my family is thriving.  For this I’m thankful.   It’s all God.

We catch on the ‘hidden sins’ message in verse 24, yet it’s just as important to remember the verse 25 message that our Savior uses our hidden good works as well.  Perhaps those good works came as a result of our sins.   In my own life, God has woven my long road through the sins I embraced and on to better ways of living; I bet you could say something similar.  No matter what we do, God sees it and is using it for His work and our benefit.  Our lives journey along paths that are connected to both sin and good times, yet wherever we find ourselves, God has us there for His good purpose.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 3:8, 1 Timothy 6:1.

Lord Jesus, all praise to You for Your plans in our lives.   I’m sorry for my past sins, thank You that You used them to do better, and ask You to guide me today.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 16 May 2018

So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.  1 Thessalonians 5:6-7 (NIV).

Another thought on darkness and falling asleep.

Several people close to me are currently struggling with faith.   They believe, or did believe at some points in their lives, but they’re being attacked right now and are struggling.   One is sick with a chronic disease, marital difficulties, and unbelieving family members surrounding her.   Another is worried about her daughter, burned out by things in life, and wondering where God is in all this.   Another is mad at his church, which over-used his talents and abused his generosity.   They’re ripe for attack by Satan, and he’s doing a top job of constantly buffeting their emotions.  They’re tired.

Then there is me.   I’m unemployed again.   While my prospects for finding a job are good, it’s still a fact that I’m out of work for the third time in two years.   It makes me question so many things, and I feel inadequate, scared.   I feel sure I haven’t done things to label myself as a troublemaker, but to be honest, when your work ends, you find it difficult to feel fully sure about many things.   I feel vulnerable and apprehensive of where to go next.   Lump me in with those who are being attacked by the evil one.  I’m sleepy.

Sometimes on a faith-walk, we fall asleep.   The world tires us out and we let ourselves become distracted.  Satan uses those distractions to twist understanding, trying to yank us away from Jesus.   He knows he can’t yank Jesus away from us, but he can pull us away from Him by working to shift our focus.  We fall asleep to Jesus but remain too awake in the world.  When that happens, sin ensues.  I’m betting that anyone who realizes they’re being attacked by Satan could tell you similar stories.

The good news in all this is the Good News.   Jesus lived, died, and lives again to redeem sinners like me and my family and friends and you.   When we let ourselves fall asleep to faith and fall into sin’s grasp, He’s there to remind us that He is the better way.   That we’re forgiven and that it’s time to wake up to His light.   His light is daytime, and it’s warm, embracing, cleansing, loving.  It’s another chance.  Everything that needed to be done to set me right with God – and be at peace in this world – He has already done.

Struggles will happen; we’re sinful by nature, and sin will be in our lives as long as we have a pulse.   Just remember that, at any time, it’s time to wake up to the light.

For further reading:  Romans 13:11, Matthew 25:13, Acts 24:25, Acts 2:15, Romans 13:13, 2 Peter 2:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:8.

Lord, wake me up today.   It’s time to rise for You.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 9 April 2018

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.   1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 (NIV).

Let’s hone in on ideas that are key to understanding sexuality.   It is God’s will that we be made holy.   It is God’s will that we avoid sexual sins.   It is God’s will that we each learn to control our biological sexuality.  It is God’s will that we continue to know Him in this way.   God wills that we use sex in Godly ways.

Re-read the verses, then please re-read my take on them because these verses put the world at our feet.   I’ll go further:  they make our mastery of any addiction possible.   What God wills in this world cannot be denied.

I’ve said it before:   I worshipped sex.   It’s part of the reason why I spent so much time in affairs.   It was immaturity and sin.   I put sex on a pedestal, mistakenly judging it as the ultimate expression of love in a relationship.   Over time, I came to see it as just something you do when you’re with someone.   I bought into the cheap grace of our society and turned a blind eye to the damage my selfish views did to other people.   My wife paid for it.   My kids paid for it.   My friends, my church, my co-workers, even ‘the other women’ paid for my selfishness.

And that’s part of the sin delusion, you see.   It’s not about me.   It’s about Jesus.   I didn’t, we didn’t pay for my selfishness:   Jesus did.   He paid for ALL of it, including the guilt, the nagging regrets, and the emotional regurgitation every time my pet sins nag at my psyche.

The key to getting back on the straight and narrow was Jesus.   Without understanding that He and only He had done EVERYTHING I ever needed to change, I would still be mired in my immaturity and adultery.   And let’s be clear:   being in line with Jesus opens you to more of Satan’s attacks.   He still tempts, he still tries.  You need to resist in Christ.

Paul was teaching his friends that God willed for them to be sexually faithful, sexually pure, and humanly capable of mastering the same biological and emotional drives that face us now.  It was God’s will, God’s plan, God’s determination that His people not be plagued by these attacks, that they revere Him in sex.  If you’re suffering, then there’s hope for you.   The first step in your recovery is going to Jesus and submitting to Him taking control.   What Jesus wills for you won’t be denied.  Without taking that step, you’re stuck.

For further reading:   1 Thessalonians 4:6.

Lord Jesus, empower Yourself through me to control my sexuality.   Help me to worship You through this gift.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 15 March 2017

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.  Hebrews 9, verse 12.

Blood again.   This verse continues the ones from earlier in chapter 9, the ones that talk about how blood is needed for the sacrifice.  How do I put this?   I don’t understand why all this happened.   Logically speaking, I don’t understand the connection between Jesus’ blood and eternal salvation.  I really don’t.  He who could not die died.   He who could not sin took on all sin.   He who could do no wrong became wrong incarnate, through and through.   He who was completely innocent became completely guilty.  Why was blood required to make all that happened?   Yes, I know the history of it, the ties to animal sacrifices, the ancient Hebrew rituals commanded by God.   I understand the symbolism, and the physiological connection of blood and life.  I get all that.   I simply don’t understand WHY.  It’s lost on me.

That’s ok.   Love is illogical.  Love defies reason, logic, and process.   It’s simply the divine gift and there may be no fully explaining it in ways we’d understand this side of eternity.  The way out of this self-manufactured conundrum is to understand that I don’t need to understand it completely.   You don’t need to understand it completely.   It’s just fine that the finer points of ecclesiastical doctrine and Divine intention remain unknown when you get down to brass tacks.

Hint:   they were unknown to the high priest.   He could tell you, second by second, how to do everything he was doing and the history of it going all the way back to the first priest to enter the Most Holy Place.   I assume that would be Aaron, somewhere in the desert of Sinai, walking gingerly into God’s dwelling among men.  But the why?   Why did God require blood?   Why blood alone would make atonement?   I’m betting it was lost on him too.   I imagine that, if you had a long discussion with Aaron, his bottom line response would end up being “because God said so.”

That’s the ticket!   That’s the reason.   It’s reason enough.

It’s reason enough to know that God commanded it.  If you truly submit to God, you don’t need reason beyond that.  What’s more, it’s enough to know that God made it so for Jesus’ blood to be the only true sacrifice that would ever be needed to gain eternal salvation of mankind.   He who didn’t need to shed His own blood gave all of it up willingly, from the heart, from His soul.   He who was without sin and didn’t deserve to die, who hadn’t earned the death penalty for sin, willingly died for people who wouldn’t be willing to die for Him.   Why?   Because God said so.

Because God said so and predicted the need for it going all the way back to the fall of man.  Before He even spoke to Eve or Adam about their sin, He cursed Satan the tempter and laid out the penalty that Satan would pay.   “Cursed are you…He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”   Sin would be separate from God, intolerable and cursed.  There would be blood – and there weren’t even animal sacrifices yet; there wouldn’t be for hundreds of years – and it would forever vanquish sin.  It would then forever re-establish communion between men and their creator.  But it would require blood, first to represent and teach, then to actually do all that was necessary.

Why?   Because even way back in Eden, just before God expelled men from that paradise, God said so.   And then, because God shed His own blood to restore that communion between His favored beings and Himself, He, Jesus His Son, was fully able to re-enter heaven and present full atonement for all of mankind’s sin.   From Eve and Adam all the way down to Dave Terry, you, and everyone else here on Earth, Jesus entered the Most Holy Place of the presence of God and presented Himself in our place.   Nothing more is required; nothing more is necessary.   Indeed, nothing more could ever make it better or more complete.   Indeed, pursuing more would itself be an act of vain sin.   Best to turn away from that.

We don’t need to understand God’s motivation beyond knowing that He did it and that He loves us.   When all reason and logic fail, these will endure.  When you consider God’s ‘why’ in that light, ‘because He said so’ isn’t some response to a petulant child.  In that light, it’s the greatest gift He could ever give.

For further reading:  Leviticus 16:6, Hebrews 10:4, Hebrews 10:24-28, Genesis 3:14-15.

Lord, thank You for Your sacrifice of Your blood, for how You love us that much.