Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 24 April 2019

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV).

On its own, this verse is (obviously) good advice.  Always tell the truth because you’re upright before God in doing so.  Yet don’t forget that verse 15 comes in-between other verses that caution us against engaging in useless conversation.   Useless quarrels about words and godless chatter are the opposite of what is God-approved.

Pseudo-political rant commences:  I’m baffled and discouraged by how our government, for political reasons, handles classified information.  I used to hold a clearance; it was required for my job in the military.   So I’m boggled and really discouraged, even angered, at the cavalier attitude some of my countrymen display regarding misuse of classified information.  Whether it’s a candidate doing it with a disregard for law (for reasons we still don’t know), or an FBI director leaking to seek revenge, or an activist traitor who refuses to testify after he is cornered, I can’t see anything good for the country with these people being handled gently.   When you agree to handle classified information, you sign papers with your agreement to do so honorably and carefully.  Jesus forgives them and I’m glad for that.   Our legal system should prosecute them harshly because what they willingly did endangers all of us.   Here endeth the rant.

I say all that because we need to correctly handle words, especially the truth.   Have you ever been ashamed to say or do something because you KNOW Jesus’ Spirit lives within you yet you say or do it anyway?   I’ve been there; how about you?   God gives us this unique, truly special Word to transform lives for Him and we profane it by our misuse, our words and deeds.  It’s similar to handling classified, if you think about it.   We don’t sign paperwork, but we do say “I believe.”   We can’t be prosecuted for believing, but we will be judged appropriately if we reject Him.   All through our lives we can snooze conversations about both politics and religion.   Yet, when we come to the end of our lives, the politics won’t matter but what we believe about Jesus will.

Is this just a useless quarrel or godless chatter?   I’ll leave it for you to decide; I don’t like talking politics here.  Christ included us in His family when He planted His Word in our hearts.  He gave us words to be able to share His Word with other people, so they, too, might believe and receive Christ’s adoption.  We are his brothers, sisters, and friends, not slaves or subjugated.  Those words aren’t trifles.   They are the only lasting love and power in the universe.  We should handle them respectfully

For further reading: Ephesians 1:13, Colossians 1:5, James 1:18, 2 Timothy 2:16.

Sovereign Lord, forgive me for my misuse, my carelessness with Your Word.   Teach me Your better way to use it today.

Advertisements

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 27 February 2019

“… to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Timothy 6:14 (NIV).

That’s the rub of it, isn’t it?   Keeping the command (to be made righteous in the sight of God by the love of Jesus) is a tough thing.   We like our control.  Me, I messed it up yesterday in more than a few ways.   You did too.   Let’s not list all the ways we failed yesterday because it misses the point.   Confess your sins to God in private; I’ll do the same.

But remember this:  Jesus saw it; God the Father saw it; God the Spirit saw it.  He/They saw every time me and you did and said awful things yesterday.   He knew them when we thought them.  We repeatedly demonstrated it; He saw it every time.

And He loved us anyway.   He loved us though we spit in His eye.   He felt dirty when we felt dirty because He loves us enough to go through what we go through.  He knew we wouldn’t keep His command, not even the easy one to just love each other.   He knew it, and He loved us anyway.   He loved us enough to provide air, water, food, shelter, and anything you know of yesterday and today.   He blesses us with provision, with His love that we get to share with each other.

He COMPLETELY forgives.  Always and every time.

He loves us enough to come back again to rescue us because He doesn’t want our eternity to be marred.   He promised to come back and He kept all His words the first time around, so His promise is reliable.   He loves us and said He’s coming back, so we can believe it.

When is He coming back?   Look up the details in Daniel, Revelation, 2 Thessalonians, and the other prophecies.   You will won’t find the date and time.   Could be today; could be in a thousand years.   Be ready now.

But also get ready to have your world rocked:   He’s already here.   He came back to you already.   Here, now, in the flesh…your flesh.

Yep:   Jesus will physically come back in majesty the way He said He would.  Yet His Spirit is in us now.   It’s Him, part of Him, part of the Trinity that He is.   He lives and acts and thinks and loves through you.   He’s with us during the secret sins; He’s there to walk us back away from them in repentance.   And He’s there in praise, speaking when we don’t know how to.   Jesus will come back in His body and all the world will see Him, but the world can see Him now through us.

Do they? Do we show Him in us?   Yes, that’s the rub of it.

For further reading:   1 Thessalonians 3:13, 1 Corinthians 1:7, 2 Timothy 1:10, 1 Timothy 6:13-21.

Mighty Jesus, I let You down yesterday; I’m a sinner.  Forgive me and guide me to show You better today. 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 13 February 2019

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  1 Timothy 6:9 (NIV).

I prefer to stay on the positive side of this verse.   Those who know me well will find this surprising.   In fact, my wife calls me “Eeyore” because I usually look on the downside of things.   For Everyday Dave, this verse would be a great place to stop.  It’s a lighthouse, warning of rocks just up ahead near the shore.  We’ll probably mess it up anyway.

But that’s an outlook I want to change.  The verse IS a lighthouse, and it’s one that calls us safely home.   Lately, I’ve been daily contemplating Galatians 5, specifically the verses about the fruits of the Spirit.  I read the verses and then look for ways to put them into practice each day, one per month while compounding them.   January was love month; February is love and joy; March will be love, joy, and peace.   You get the idea.  If you haven’t ever really contemplated them, check out Galatians 5:22-23.

Then put them into action because they are the opposite of what Paul describes in verse 9.   And if you think about it, they are the things Paul could say ARE worthy of our attention instead of desire for money, or running into the traps and temptations that lead to ruin and destruction.   How many of us could avoid pitfalls of sin if we would simply find better things on which to focus?   Let’s keep our eyes on the ways Jesus acts, then watch how things begin to improve.

If we are always looking for ways to get ahead, we probably will miss some of the signs around us that point us to ways we can get involved in what Jesus is doing.   Just prior to this verse, Paul had reminded Timothy to be content with only what God provides for our most basic needs.   Anything more than contentment can run the risk of walking the proud walk down the yellow brick road of temptation.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  Man, those are things worth showing off to the world.   They’re the antidote to swallowing too much desire to get rich.   When we talk about focusing on Jesus, a great way to start doing that is by focusing on ways we can let His Spirit remake us around these behaviors He exhibits.  If we do that, when temptations come, it becomes easier to turn from them.   That’s a wealth worth having.

Eeyore might just agree.

For further reading:   Galatians 5:22-23, Proverbs 15:27, Proverbs 28:20, 1 Timothy 6:10.

Magnificent Lord, I’m not always a good follower.   I’ve turned my attention away from You.   Thank You for not turning away from Me, and I ask You to remake me in the ways of Your Spirit today. 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 8 November 2018

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demon1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV).

We are a divided world; the division goes far beyond just the United States.   Muslims against everyone else.   Rich against poor (or at least ‘not rich’).  Protestants against Catholics.  Conservatives against progressives.   You get the picture.   We line up against each other over imaginary lines of offense.  Perhaps every generation thinks it has seen things ‘worse than they have ever been.’   I and others of my middle-aged generation seem to be saying that now.

Many of us line up and, in doing so, put our faith in things that aren’t Jesus (or aren’t of Jesus).  It isn’t just new age religions (many of which are actually rooted in ancient pagan religions), and it isn’t just embracing sensuality, materialism, atheism, or even apathy.  Many people just ignore the voice of Jesus’ Spirit talking to them.   He speaks through our conscience, through our knowledge of right and wrong, through nature, through others, through the Bible.   God has a myriad of ways that His Spirit can talk to us and convince us that He is talking.   Yet many people turn off that voice, chill it and drown it out.   Some people don’t even realize it’s Jesus’ Spirit talking to them or moving them in a direction.   Many don’t even think to ask.

How can we tell if something is of Jesus or from Jesus or about Jesus?   You know the answer.   Compare it against what is said in the Bible, especially in the New Testament.   And if you doubt that Jesus is who He said He is, then the first place to stop is your own heart.  Open it and pray.   Talk with God about exactly what you’re feeling, what you think, what you do or don’t believe.   He can take it and you’re worthy.

Start by asking God.   If you don’t feel or sense an answer from Him, go to the Bible.   Find a concordance or go to Biblegateway.com.   Any search engine can give you instant answers to most any question about Scripture you have.   Finally, if your head is wondering, remember those links I shared yesterday:  the first is about how Jesus fulfilled 300+ prophecies about the Messiah (http://www.accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/353prophecies.html) and the second talks about the logical odds that Jesus is who He said He is based on those prophecies  (http://www.goodnewsdispatch.org/math.html).  His words are always true, even when we don’t know.

We may or may not be witnessing the ‘later times,’ but we are witnessing people abandoning faith for whatever scratches their itches.   In the face of that, test what you believe against what Jesus said and did.   If those things line up, it may just be Him talking with you.

For further reading:  John 16:13, Acts 8:29, 1 Corinthians 2:10, 2 Peter 3:3, Mark 13:5, Timothy 4:2

Lord Jesus, I open my heart and ask Your Spirit to talk to me.   I’m listening.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 18 October 2018

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NIV).

I’ve been in a week-long discussion with people who dearly love the traditional Lutheran liturgy and worship service.   That’s the kind of environment in which I was raised; I love it, too.   These days, I worship in a place that is pretty non-traditional but still within the Missouri Synod structure.   Our services contain all the same elements of doctrine used in more traditional settings.   Yet our church focuses on Jesus’ mission in our lives, on being ‘disciples who make disciples who make disciples.’   On being in mission and worship every day, not just for an hour on Sunday.

Come to our church and you’ll find most people in jeans.   You won’t find hymnals but you’ll find both new and traditional praise music.  You’ll say the same creeds (though not as often) and hear the same Bible.   And you’ll be introduced to the living Christ.  Yet the focus isn’t on Lutheranism but on Jesus.  The letters “LCMS” are on the door but they aren’t where the emphasis is.  The folks with whom I was debating would be aghast at this.

Paul affirmed what others in the early church already knew:   there is one God and one Savior, one mediator between God and man.   That mediator is Jesus Christ and only Jesus Christ.   He Himself is God and man, Savior and one representing those who need to be saved, fully man while being fully God at all times, and the Son in the triune Godhead of Father, Son, and Spirit.  THAT is the message of the faith.

How we proclaim that message is somewhat up to us.  Lutherans (and others) call anything not commanded by Scripture “adiophora:” neither God-commanded nor forbidden.  In many settings, traditional, liturgical worship works.   It faithfully proclaims Christ while encouraging believers.   Yet in other settings (such as where I live), a different approach works.   My church’s non-traditional methods still faithfully proclaim Christ while encouraging believers.  As long as the focus in on proclaiming Christ, we’re arguing about window dressings.   One isn’t better than another.   They’re simply different ways of accomplishing the same goal, that is proclaiming the one God and one mediator.

If your church uses a generations-old liturgy, traditional hymnals, pastoral robes, and clings to worshipping the same way that generations have, then God bless you!   Keep doing it; God is pleased with that.   And if your church uses other methods like hymns on the screen, contemporary music, non-traditional schedules, and blue jeans, then God bless you, too.   Keep doing those things because they please God, too.   Something borrowed, something blue: it’s contemporary tradition.

For further reading: Deuteronomy 6:4, Romans 3:29-30, Galatians 3:20, Matthew 20:28, 1 Corinthians 1:6, 1 Timothy 2:7

Lord, bless our worship of You, the one and only God and one and only mediator.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 12 July 2018

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NIV).

Confession time (again):   yesterday I ended by saying “don’t be a jerk.”  Don’t be a jerk about how you talk about Jesus.  Walk the walk and talk the talk harmoniously.  So here’s the confession:   I’ve been a jerk about it.   Online, in person, in any modality I have been a jerk.  I haven’t been worthy of His calling to talk with you (and others) about Jesus.   My witness has been words and actions and, to be honest, my witness has been discredited by other words and actions.   Got skin, got sin, and, like Paul, I’m the worst of sinners.

Confession (again, again):  every day, Jesus says “keep moving forward.”  On my own, apart from Jesus, I can’t do or say anything about Him that’s meaningful.   It’s His Spirit that places the good words in my mouth and moves me to work for Him with my hands.   Where I am weak, Jesus steps in and injects His Spirit to strengthen me.   Where I don’t know what to do or say, when I submit to Him, Jesus does those things.   My sinful nature becomes His glorious appeal.   It’s not me:   it’s Jesus making me into who He wants me to be.   It’s not a cop-out for:   it’s how things really work.

That’s what Paul is saying in this verse.   God makes us worthy of His calling.   On our own, by our own motivations, we aren’t worthy of it.   We aren’t worthy to even speak His name because we’ve chosen to sin against Him.   On our own, our desires are only desires, and we are ruled by them, which is how the evil one keeps sneaking in and turning our focus.

Enter Jesus.   Enter God into our lives and He makes all the difference.   With Jesus in residence in your heart, the evil one is powerless.   With Jesus inspiring my thoughts, my thoughts are inspired to become His words, to help and to encourage.   With Him in our hearts, we can see when we’ve said and done wrong and turn from it, then try to make amends; to change.   When He controls peoples’ actions, we don’t have to obsess about the things we’ve done wrong.   You and I can focus, instead, on the great things He can do through us now.

I mess it up.   I do that quite regularly; no excuses.  To paraphrase Paul from Romans, the stupid things I don’t want to do, these I keep on doing.   Yet I’m still who Jesus wants to work with to make me worthy of what He wants me to do, then equip me to do it.

For further reading:  John 15:5, Romans 1:10, Romans 7:19, 2 Thessalonians 1:12.

Lord, mold and make me today to do Your will.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 20 June 2018

Do not quench the Spirit1 Thessalonians 5:19 (NIV).

Not long ago, I stayed with some folks who are going through a really tough time.  Sickness, anger, division, hatred, divorce, financial difficulties, job problems, Satan:  I maintain their family is being attacked by the devil.   One person seems to be firmly in the grip of evil.   Another is having a breakdown and is battling many personal issues.   And then there is the third person.   He is nearly a man, full grown and finishing school.   He’s impressionable and has struggled hard to get to where he is, fighting health, educational, and personal challenges that would have broken lesser boys.

His spirit is threatened.   There are influences around him who are working diligently to quench God’s Spirit from working on him.   As a result, he’s struggling even more.   At one point, the young man was exploring Christianity, finding comfort and purpose in it.   That’s all done, at least for now.   Someone close to him – someone he admires – crushed this nascent belief.  The young man has now embraced atheism and dark matters (because that same close person also embraces them).   Indeed, I’ve rarely felt the presence of evil – and then the more powerful presence of God – than I have in the home where this young man lives.

Paul reminds us that we are not to quench God’s Spirit.   Make no mistake:   God’s Spirit is so much more powerful than even the strongest evil, yet it’s fully within our power to quench it in our lives.   If God wills to overcome our unbelief through whatever means He will, then He will.   Yet it’s unmistakable from Paul’s time into ours that God doesn’t want people who are forced to believe in Him.   He wants people to believe in Him willingly, by choice.   Love doesn’t compel:   love chooses.  God could crush evil with a single thought, yet He doesn’t because love doesn’t force.   Love gives, including giving free choice and even hard choices.

What happens when we don’t choose love?   God is all love, and when we choose something other than love, we run the risk of choosing something other than God.   When we do that, we are pouring cold, cold water on the fire of God’s Spirit burning in our lives.   Whatever good is being produced is put at risk.   Whatever good we might be doing for others by sharing God’s love is also put at risk.  God doesn’t NEED our good works, but He asks for them in His Name so that His love might increase.  When we choose something other than God, we injure His love; we deny it.  Paul reminds us to not put out the fire of God’s Spirit.   For the sake of my young man friend, I hope those around him stop doing that.   It does him no good.

For further reading:  Ephesians 4:30, 1 Thessalonians 5:20

Lord, inspire in me today a Spirit to love You among others.   Let me share You so that Your great love might increase.