Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 31 July 2019

Encourage slaves to submit to their masters in everything, to be pleasing to them, not to be argumentative with them, not to steal from them, but to demonstrate their complete trustworthiness, so that they may show the teaching of God our Savior to be attractive in every way. Titus 2:9-10 (EHV).

It’s about submission, not slavery.

Slavery is an off-limits topic in our politically-correct culture.   We aren’t allowed to acknowledge that slavery happened except in terms of denouncing it in the most vociferous tone.  No doubt:  slavery is an abomination and a wrong.   No doubt, too, that more people than just Americans were or held slaves throughout human history.   Indeed, it’s occurring, still, today, on every continent except, perhaps, Antarctica.

How does Paul advise us to deal with slavery?   Encourage slaves to be submissive.  WHAT?   Yep.   Encourage those suffering through the degrading misery of human bondage to submit to their masters as a reflection of submitting to God.   Demonstrate patience and endurance.   Demonstrate honesty and trustworthiness.  Demonstrate these qualities that slaveowners, through their very role, are lacking.   Do so as a way that the slave owners and others may see Jesus through us, through the example of trust in Him.  As Jesus said, “let your light sine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Right on, right on.

God didn’t make slavery, but He allows it to occur so that people may learn to depend on Him.   God didn’t make cruelty but He allows it so that others may learn love for Him instead.   God didn’t invent political-correctness but He allows this modern slavery to ideology so that we might see He’s so much bigger than our nonsense.   We get to see that by first submitting to Him.

It isn’t PC to talk about positive things that resulted from slavery.   Historically speaking, after emancipation, the black community in America was the most cohesive, familial, dignified and faith-based community across all demographics up until the advent of the 1960s Great Society.  Even under the oppression of Jim Crow, former slaves rose to overcome that oppression with dignity and honor; if only those oppressing would have done the same.   Perhaps God’s message (through Paul) to us today is to endure the unendurable with that same dignity and honor.   He encourages us to submit to Christ by submitting to those who would put us in bonds in a thousand different ways.   This so that, to God may be the glory.

For further reading:  Matthew 5:16, Luke 1:47, Ephesians 6:5, Titus 2:11.

Lord God, to You be the glory in all things, even the worst that humanity can conceive.  Remind me always to submit to You in all ways.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 26 June 2019

Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.  Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters.  2 Timothy 4:19-21 (NIV).

This seems like a Southern goodbye.   My wife frequently notes that people from the American South take a long time to say goodbye.   You (or they) say “well, I have to get going” and you may start for the door or intend to hang up the phone.  Yet the person on the other end of the conversation then says “Yeah, me too,” pauses, and then continues with :….and then I was in my kitchen…” or something like that, extending the conversation through a protracted goodbye.   A five-minute talk easily stretches to a half-hour or more.

That’s a Southern thing.   True, you see it in other places.  I was born a Yankee.  I have northern friends and family who do this.  But it’s almost a way of life in the American South.  Maybe it’s the way we’re raised (see “Southern thing”).  Or maybe they tell you the same thing several times.   The older I get, the more I find myself doing this.   Either way, it takes longer.

When you think about that, think about Paul.   It reminds me of how Paul signed off his letters.   In Paul’s time, letters were the only long-distance means of communication.   That means that you’d have added greetings to your letters, sending greetings from or to people you knew lived near the recipient.  Paul often did this:   it’s how he signed off Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, here (in 2 Timothy), Titus, and Philemon.  In all his letters, Paul sent (at least) generic good-bye’s.  But in most of them, he sent greetings from and to the people mentioned above as well as others he knew would be nearby.

Paul might have fit in in North Texas.  He’d understand the Southern goodbye.  Sure, it can be time-consuming and, yes, it can even be annoying.   But it’s great that people want to be involved in our lives.   It makes me want to be involved in theirs.  It’s love and mutual affection, mutual respect.  I like the art of conversation, and I like that someone wants to talk.   In a way, I feel sorry for folks in our electronic world because that art is changing. Text messages are so brief, so impersonal, so incomplete.   Emails are intended to be direct and to-the-point.   My wife is constantly urging me to go back to writing letters and cards; perhaps she has a point. Paul might agree.

So let’s keep talking.   In fact, my best to you, to your X and Y.   In the name of Jesus.

For further reading:  Acts 18:2, Acts 19:22, Acts 20:4-29, 2 Timothy 1:16, Titus 3:12, 2 Timothy 4:22

Lord Jesus, thanks for long goodbyes, for people who want to send their love to us, and for ways of communicating.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 19 February 2016

Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.  Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Mark 14, verses 41-42.

If you drive through the American South, you see all kinds of religious billboards.   Many of them implore you to know Jesus as soon as possible because we don’t know when He’s coming back.   I used to see one south of Savanna, Oklahoma that said “watch and pray for we know not what hour the Son of God will return.” There are others that quote dire verses of Scripture announcing hellfire for those who reject Jesus’ open invitation to free salvation. There are still more that have sayings like “Talk with me before it’s too late.   Sincerely, God.” Announcing God’s impending judgment on us isn’t necessarily regional; I suppose signs like these are everywhere. I’ve simply noticed more of them here in the Bible Belt.

Guess what?   They’re all true. Today’s verses prove it.

It’s before sunrise on the morning of Good Friday. Jesus is exhausted while His Disciples have had fitful intermittent rest on the cold Gethsemene ground. After imploring them to keep watch for sin, Jesus returns to them a third time and brings them up short.   The night is over; no more rest; no more interruptions. It’s time to get up because there’s work ahead today. It’s going to be the hardest day of your lives.

“Today I’m going to die.”

The Son of Man was delivered into the hands of sinners.   Make no mistake about it:   the temple guards who seized Jesus were sinners indeed.   They were players in a staged drama predicted since the fall of man.   These ‘innocent’ actors were only doing the bidding of their priestly overseers.   The overseers were only doing the bidding of the chief priests.   The chief priests had only initiated this arrest because Judas Iscariot came to them with news they wanted to hear.   Judas Iscariot only betrayed Jesus to the priests because he was a sinful twisted man.  He was sinful and twisted because he listened to Satan.   Satan was evil because he reveled in sin.

So do I; so do you.   We’re thick with sin and no better than Judas or the guards.   The Bible tells us so.   Jesus said so.   All those billboards scream out the fact. Here’s the good news.

Jesus faced His betrayer. The verses and chapters of Mark after this all describe the story of how He faced His betrayer, how He loved Him anyway, and then how He went to His death as an innocent lamb to slaughter. He did this because the Disciples slept instead of kept watch for sinful temptation.   He did it because Judas Iscariot, the chief priests and those temple guards were dead in their sins if He didn’t.   He did it because all the sins I’ve done today and every day of my life demand more of a penalty than I can pay.   He did it because the same thing can be said about you and everyone we know.

Will you face down your betrayer today?   Will you face your sins and own up to them, then face Jesus and repent of them?   Bibles and billboards remind us how it’s imperative that we do so.

Lord Jesus, I’m sinful through and through.   Thank You for Your holy sacrifice, for facing your betrayer, for dying for us.

Read Mark 14, verses 43-52.