Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 15 April 2019

The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.   2 Timothy 2:6 (NIV).

This verse, along with the previous ones, should be considered all together to get their full impact.  Together, verses 1-6 say “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.”

Think of it this way:   keep your eye on the ball because the reward for this is better than anything else you can imagine.

Sometimes I wonder where I fit in.   I’m working at my fifth company in three years.   To be honest, that sometimes shakes my confidence, especially when your work is done or the client moves in a new direction.  The reasons for moving around so much are many, but they all end at this place:  I’m currently employed at a great company, and I’m so thankful for it.   Yet even here, after so many moves, even when I’m thankful to be working and working where I am, I wonder where I fit in.

I wonder if farmers feel that way.   It must be a challenge to stay motivated to get up every day and work patiently at growing crops, husbanding animals, and maintaining your homestead.   It’s good work, peaceful work, rewarding work I’m sure.   But it must also be frightening at storm times, or when the rains come too early, too much, too little or late.  Athletes prepare for competition; farmers prepare for the harvest (and then for the rest months, and then planting, weeding, and the next harvest).   Like athletes who are always preparing for the next competition, or consultants who are always implementing the last version of software in anticipation of the next future implementation, farmers prepare now for the next harvest and the times after that.

Sort of like Jesus did for us, preparing us now for the next harvest after this life.   That means we need to heed Him, let ourselves be prepared, and keep our eyes on the ball of His presence, His teaching in our lives; let Him reward us as He sees best.  It prepares us now for both living here in the fallen world and the harvest in heaven when the full crop of His believers are brought together in eternal praise and celebration.  THAT is the place we’ll fit in best.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 9:10, 2 Timothy 2:7.

Awesome “farmer” Jesus, prepare me now, I pray, to serve You better.  

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 10 April 2019

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.   2 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV).

In Roman times, unless you were Julius Caesar, this was true.   In our times, it’s still true.  Twelve of our presidents were generals in the Army, most of them serving during the Civil War, yet no general has been president since Dwight Eisenhower, and out of our last four presidents (including the current one), only one has even served in the military.  Today, the US military is the smallest it has been since the early 1930s even as the ‘military industrial complex’ (a term coined by General Eisenhower during his farewell address as president) continues to have great influence in the affairs of government.  I dare say that this same situation is likely true in most countries of the West.

Despite all this, soldiers, sailors, and airmen don’t usually get involved in non-military matters.   They do their jobs and then go home, eventually returning to civilian status themselves.  Until that day, they serve under commanders who they work to please.   Those who command you have great influence and power over your situation.   They can control your daily work, even your daily routine outside the workplace.   They influence your career with evaluation ratings, future assignment choices, and present duties assigned.   Those in command above you can make your life pleasant or hellish.   And they hold the power to enforce orders that may very well lead to your death.

Suffering in the US military is WAY different from suffering in, shall we say, the North Korean military (where you may still starve and be beaten indiscriminately).  Yet nobody who has seen war could ever say that war – the primary business of a soldier – isn’t suffering, isn’t persecution.   In that knowledge, the analogy makes sense because we of the Lord’s Army soldier on for Him.   Occasionally that means suffering.   Persecution – yes, it really happens – and discrimination (that happens too, especially in corporate America), ridicule, rejection, hatred, and even death:   all of those await the person who stands up to say “I believe in Jesus.”

Yet we march on, refusing to let ourselves be dragged into the ‘civilian affairs’ of living as the world commands.   We learn self-control by submitting ourselves to His control.   We get to live out the fruits of His Spirit as our line advances, overtaking the world’s evil by living His good.   We sometimes fail; sometimes the line falters and we fall back.   Sometimes, when we allow ourselves to be swayed by the world, we suffer.  Yet our cause of Christ always advances, even in adversity, because He walks before us.  We work to please Jesus.  We soldier on.

For further reading:  Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Timothy 2:5.

General Savior, lead me, Your soldier, today.   Command and guide me to follow Your words and not the tempting ways of the world around me.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 19 February 2019.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV).

You’re part of eternity now.   Because of that, you’re in the fight of your life.

This is part of the canon preached by several friends of mine who shepherd churches here in North Texas, but it isn’t just them.   Ministers worldwide preach this simple truth.  We aren’t eternal when we die.   Because of Jesus, we are eternal now.   The moment we receive what Jesus has already done, we are in relationship with Him.   We are adopted as daughters and sons of He who created us. His Spirit can come to live in us.   We are part of His family, part of His church, part of the communion of saints.   The invitation to join in this brotherhood/sisterhood is open to all 7+ billion people here on the Third Rock, yet most people don’t take Jesus up on His invitation.

That doesn’t invalidate the invitation, though.  To be a child of God means being a part of heaven now, part of eternity now, part of the church everlasting now.   We answer the call He made to our hearts; we pick up the gauntlet our Savior knight laid down and acknowledge His redemption of us, protection of our souls.   We come over to His side; we join His group of followers worldwide.  We are family.   Use whatever allegory you wish, we are eternal family.

And it means you take up your sword.   The fallen world is set against the idea of salvation, against Him.   When you accept His free gift of salvation, you are given your armor, you are issued His uniform.  To be a believer in Jesus Christ today means that you will be called on to defend your belief.   When you fight, you realize it isn’t you fighting:   it’s Him.   He does the work, yet He does it through your heart, through your words, through your stand.   It isn’t a call to violence though it is a call to war.  Your weapons aren’t based on fire:   they are the Word of God Himself.   And every time you say “I believe” you swing your sword of truth against the invisible legions of evil who daily war against you, against Him.   At some point, your sword may become a physical one; be ready now for that time when evil may confront you face to face.   Stand firm.   You’re forever.

Make no mistake:   this won’t be easy, but you have your reward now and sealed forever.   Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, if they strike you down, you will become far more powerful than they ever could have imagined.  You’re part of that eternity now.

For further reading:   1 Corinthians 9:25, Philippians 3:12, Matthew 25:46, Hebrews 3:1, 1 Timothy 6:13.

Saving warrior Lord Jesus, I am Your follower and soldier.   Thank You for the pleasure of Your burden and Your eternity now.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 10 October 2018

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well. 1 Timothy 1:18 (NIV).

Suit up, fellow warrior.   You’re in a fight.   You believe in Jesus, so you’re in the fight for Him.   You need to be prepared for it, both in your armor and in letting go of your control.   Be ready to pick up your sword, but then stand back and watch Jesus do the hard work.  God has always done this:  fought for His people.   Yet He asks us to be ready to stand with Him.

It’s not that Jesus can’t (or doesn’t) do the heavy lifting for us.  We don’t HAVE TO do anything to earn His love, or earn Him fighting off evil for us.   We don’t do anything to contribute to our salvation by standing up for Jesus, or for our sisters & brothers, or even just by standing up for those who can’t.  We can’t do anything to become more powerful than God; it’s not possible.   Whom God intends to stand against, He will, and they will be defeated.

But…there’s always a but.   But Jesus asks us to do it anyway.  It’s not because we have to:  it’s because we get to.  Because He sent His Spirit to reshape us and give us the heart of a spiritual warrior.  Because He prepares us over time to accept His love, inculcate His teachings, and ready ourselves to face down the evil one.  All that happens to us it to prepare us for this moment, for now, to serve Jesus and stand for Him.

You may not realize it but you fight evil every day.  Hold the door for a stranger:   you’re fighting back evil.  Listen to your kids (or your mom and dad):  you’re thwarting Satan.   Do your best at work:  fighting for God.  Forgive someone who hurt you:  fighting for God and bringing a tear to Jesus’ eye.  “Here’s what the Bible says” when someone asks you why you believe what you do:  suit up, get up, and stand beside Jesus in the unending line of warriors on the front line.   You’re fighting in the battle of the ages:  one kind word at a time.

Paul was always ready to stand up for God.   After giving praise to God, he then coached Timothy, who himself was in training as a soldier-of-God.   Paul consistently used his words to give Timothy tools he could use.  The lesson for is the same:   give praise and get ready.  In World War II, there was a popular song, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.”   That’s good advice; Paul might have said it himself.   Get up, soldier.   The fight is now.

For further reading:  Deuteronomy 1:30, Joshua 23:10, Nehemiah 4:20, Ephesians 6:10-20, 1 Timothy 1:19

Lord, I praise You for Your mighty hand.  Uphold me as I stand for You.   Help me to always be on Your side.