Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 21 May 2020

 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us1 Peter 2:12 (NIV).

This is harsh but I’m going to say it anyway:   some people need to be quiet about Jesus.   Those who reject Jesus Christ for who He says He is need to be rendered silent regarding their thoughts about Him.   The way to do that isn’t really to rhetorically defeat them, or by being a jerk about faith.   In truth, sometimes we do need to use our words to defeat someone else’s argument but we have to do so in a way that doesn’t destroy them.   You know this is because OUR purpose must be to show them Jesus so they may believe, too; that they may change.   That change isn’t up to us; lovingly defending our Savior is.  When we don’t have constructive words to say, it’s best to not say anything at all; I’m a work in progress with this:  how about you?

The best way to defeat those who oppose Jesus is to “kill ‘em with kindness.”   Me and you:   we need to conduct our lives in ways that show we believe in Him, that He remade us in ways that are good for the world, that demonstrate His love.   Jesus wants all people to be saved, especially those who reject Him.   The best way for us to help that along is to live out our faith.   Suppress our anger, show kindness and compassion, seek understanding; live out those Galatians 5 fruits of the Spirit.   This is ground we’ve covered here before, so let this simply be a reminder.

A reminder like the story of the Roman centurian who crucified Jesus.   We can assume the soldier who oversaw Jesus’ crucifixion had seen many men agonize, curse, and die this way.   Maybe he knew about Jesus before this; maybe not; we don’t know.   What we do know is that Jesus’ dying, and seeing John, Mary, and others at the cross spoke to him.   It made him – an  unbeliever and Roman pagan – conclude, “this was a righteous man.”

Let our conduct inspire the same.

Peter may not have realized he was talking about every day, not just Judgement Day.  His words in this verse almost certainly were referring to the last days, yet isn’t it also true that Jesus comes to us EVERY DAY?   God visits us through His Spirit every day so that He may work through us.   Knowing that, it becomes even more imperative that we live in ways that demonstrate Him so that even those hostile to Him might say, “that’s God at work.”   In this way, the concrete that traps their own hearts might begin to crumble.

For further reading: Matthew 9:8, Luke 23:47, Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 2:15, Titus 2:8 & 14, Peter 2:13

Lord, speak through Me and let my words and actions show my faith in You.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 20 May 2020

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul1 Peter 2:11 (NIV).

You know we can say “no,” right?   We get to say “no” to things that can harm us because the Spirit of Jesus has made us free to do so.

Tempted to mouth off to the guy in the next lane?   You don’t have to.   Surfing to the porn sites?   You don’t have to do that.   Wanting something bad to happen to the woman who got “your” promotion?  You don’t have to do that either.  Flirting to arrange a tryst?  Nope, you don’t have to do that.

Jesus gave us “no.”   We have been blessed with the privilege of saying no, of walking away, of changing our minds, of re-training our thoughts and habits.   The Spirit that Jesus promised us, then gave at Pentecost, has taken up residence in our lives.   Through Him, we don’t have to live by the rules of this world anymore.   The lust, greed, avarice that come with living through our sinful nature can be effectively defeated with that little word, no.

And then the hard work begins.   You know that’s true as well.   It’s tough to work up the courage to say no, but it’s even tougher to stand by it, to let our no’s mean no.  Even when we instinctively know that our sinful desires are harmful to us; that no good comes from our foul language, that affair, my evil thoughts or yours.   Even when we know deep inside that these things can hurt, and even when we also know Jesus lives and breathes through us, it’s still so tough to say no and mean it.   To not backslide.   To not stick a toe back in the pool of sin because, after all, a little touch can’t hurt, can it?

Yes, actually it can.

It can hurt because living in the filth of our sins isn’t what Christ has in store for His people.   He paid for our reservations in a new land, our mansions on a new estate.   We aren’t citizens of this world any longer.   His resurrection paid for us to be resident aliens of Heaven living here on the earth below.    We’re part of it now; we’re citizens now; we belong to Jesus and His Paradise now, and eventually we’ll be there with Him.

Until then, we get to say “no” when our pet sins come calling.  You know they do; you know they will.   When that happens, remember He gave us the freedom to resist, then He stands with us as we make our stand.  Make yours now.   Say “no” today.

For further reading: Romans 13:14, 1 Corinthians 10:14, Galatians 5:16, Hebrews 11:13, James 5:11 Peter 2:12

Savior Lord Jesus, strengthen me when I say “no,” and stand with me to resist the temptations when the sins of my life try to lure me back.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 12 May 2020

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.  1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV).

If you’re like me, sometimes a glass of milk simply hits the spot.

People who are new to faith in Christ are, according to Peter, like newborn babies needing milk.   They need the Spirit of Jesus to feed them, to keep them alive, to help them grow, to nourish them on things that matter most.  When we get older – when our faith begins to mature – we supposedly crave less milk.   It’s not that we don’t still need His nourishment.   Instead, we can dig deeper into a heartier meal.   We can begin to explore His Word for deeper understanding, for more solid food, for different tastes and different meanings.

Yet every now and then, we should get back to basics.   Every now and then, we need a cleanse, a detox from the world.   The richer food of faith still nourishes us but sometimes our systems need simpler food.   Maybe the ways of the world have made us sick; maybe we need to re-focus on the foundations of believing.   Following Jesus.   Simply listening to Him as He communicates to us.   Simply doing what He asks without searching for more depth.   Just being in the faith.

When that happens, open the fridge (or wherever you keep your Bible), and just focus on the words of Jesus.   Pour yourself a glass of milk and just accept at face value what He’s telling you.  Even the most learned scholars still need to hear, “Jesus loves me this I know.   For the Bible tells me so.”  Drink up and enjoy.   It’s good for your bones; it’s good for your soul.   It’s what you need.

Granted:   there are some people who can’t handle milk.   Some people are intolerant of it.   That’s ok:   He’ll meet you where you are, with whatever you need.   He is the point; the Word is the point, not so much how it gets into you.   If it takes soy milk, then so much the better.   Or almond.   Or even just a glass of water.   Didn’t you know that He told us He’s the living water, too?  In Him are streams of living water that permanently refresh us.   In Africa, they say “water is life,” and how true that is.   Without water, we cannot survive.   Without Jesus, we cannot survive.

Without milk, a young baby cannot survive.   It’s how they are nourished, how they build up muscle, strength, and immunity.  Not much about that changes as we age.   Without the spiritual milk of Jesus, we cannot survive.  With it, what matters most will never die.

For further reading:  Psalm 34:8, John 4:10, 1 Peter 2:4

Lord Jesus, I need Your spiritual nourishment and Your living water.   Fill me today so that I may share with so many others.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 4 May 2020

Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God1 Peter 1:21 (NIV).

Last time we talked about what the world would be like without Jesus.   All we can assume is that it would be bleak, much different from what we know today (even on our world’s worst day, which is yet to come).   A world without Jesus – a world without love, hope, justice, honor and so much more – would be a terrible nightmare in which to exist.

One thing we can know, however (because Peter’s words remind us):  we wouldn’t be able to believe in God.  There would be nothing to believe in because He is God.  And it is only through Jesus that we have come to believe in God for it was only through Jesus that God sent the part of Himself who is His Holy Spirit.   When we know Jesus, we do so because His Spirit first touched us.   Yes, we choose to ultimately follow Jesus but that choice comes only after He, first, reached out to touch us in some way.  When we grow in faith it’s because He started and is causing the growth.  Think of us as good soil and Him as seed, light, air, and water.   The growth happens because of Him, not us.

If you put your faith in other men, you aren’t putting your faith and hope in God.   If you put your faith in Allah through Mohammed you aren’t putting your faith and hope in God.  If you put your faith in your abilities, in chance, in your fortune (or what a fortune teller says), or in anything other than God, you aren’t putting your faith and hope in God.

Neither Allah nor a thousand Hindu gods raised themselves from death.   No other man has ever done this.   Our money, our possessions, our history all pass to others when we assume room temperature.   Go check the tomb:   Jesus isn’t there, because He rose from death then ascended into heaven later.   Somewhere on this planet you will find the mortal remains of Mohammed, the Buddha, your ancestors, and eventually us.   But Jesus isn’t here.   He isn’t here because He said He wouldn’t be bound by death, and He wasn’t.

You and I can’t know this to be true if God Himself, through His Spirit-inspired Word, had not reached us in both spiritual and intellectual knowledge.  He made it happen so the He could inspire it into our hearts and minds.   You and I put our faith in the reliability and honesty of His Words.  It’s true because He said it and made it so.   It’s simply the truth.

For further reading:  Romans 4:24, Philippians 2:7-9, Hebrews 2:9, 1 Peter 1:22

Lord Jesus, You and Your Word are the ultimate truth in our world.   In this fallen place, they’re really the only reliable word.   Thank You for inspiring them into my faith.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 27 April 2020

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV).

My Concordia Bible references this verse to the Lord’s Prayer.   That makes sense when you consider that the first line of it says, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name.”

Because He is holy.  To be holy is to be consecrated, sinless, clean, without error or blame.   That’s God; that’s Jesus.  Is it you?

Do you or I ever step back from our daily lives to consider that God sees us as holy?   When God the Father looks at us, He looks at us through the lens of the perfect life of His Son, Jesus.   He sees Dave Terry as His very good creation.  Instead of seeing all the ways I’ve messed up His very good creation, He sees me covered in Jesus.   The blood in my veins is His blood.   The clothes I wear are His royal robes that are sparkling white.   The look on my face is careworn but through love, not trials.   When God the Father looks at me or you, He sees us through our faith in Jesus and doesn’t even remember that we’ve ever done X, Y, or Z.

God sees us as holy.

So how are you doing with that, today?   Have you messed up your holiness yet on this last Monday in April?   I’m betting the correct answer is “yes.”   Maybe you’ve already messed up big today; maybe you’ve barely scratched an indiscretion.   No matter what has happened, chances are that, because you’re a human being, something has already happened, because of you, that put up a wall of sin between you and God.   But then here comes Peter with his call for us to be holy.   It’s barely Monday here and already I’ve tanked that expectation for the week.   How can this ever be?

You know the answer.   You really do.   You’re a smart, discerning, Spirit-led person of faith.   You’re no longer ignorant of the saving faith of Jesus or the fact that He’s coming back soon to make all things new.  You know the Father, Son, and Spirit are holy, and you know deep inside that they see you as holy, too.   And when we put a divide between ourselves and God, the ONLY way to bridge that divide is to go back to Jesus.   Yet again; maybe again and again.   To go back, confess our wrongs, and submit to Him again (and again and again).   He sees us only in love and forgiveness.   It’s we who see ourselves as something else.

Pray that Lord’s prayer again today and give it another go.   And be holy because He has made us holy.

For further reading:  Leviticus 11:44, Isaiah 35:8, Matthew 6:9, Revelation 21:5, 1 Peter 1:17

Lord Jesus, YOU make me holy.   Lead me to think and act holy in Your service today.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 5 February 2020

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Philippians 3:1 (EHV).

Why does Paul say “it is a safeguard for you?”  My Concordia says, “when serious error is present, there is safety in repetition.”

Tell them what you’re gonna tell them.   Tell them.   Then tell them what you told them.   That, and the law of seven.   If you’re flummoxed about what I’m saying, these are rules for public speaking.   If you want to reinforce a point, repeat it.   And if you want to ensure a listener remembers a point, repeat it at least seven times.   Paul did this in his letters.

In all of his letters except Philemon, Paul used this vehicle to reinforce points he had previously mentioned either in person or in his writings.  In those letters, Paul carefully outlined both positive behaviors to model and negative ones to avoid.  Flee from those who are immoral, impure, debauched; turn from ways of anger, envy, drunkenness, adultery, and more.  In doing those, watch God remake your heart and your life.  Model Jesus in how you show love, joy, peace, kindness and much, much more.  Right trumps might; Christ always prevails over evil.

Isn’t it safeguarding someone to keep encouraging them to follow Jesus instead of following the evil one?   To display those Galatians 5 fruits of the Spirit instead of trying in vain to find their own way in the world?   Isn’t it better, more loving, to mentor someone to display God’s qualities instead of those of an ungodly world in rebellion?  If we really care, shouldn’t we care for someone’s welfare right down to their soul?

If that takes telling them over and over about the basics, well, so much the better.

Fact is, in our world today, we live with serious error.   The horrors of abortion, war, crime, terrorism, division, disease, and so many more things demonstrate how fallen our world is; how there are innumerable things that are deadly wrong here on the Third Rock.  How separated we are from God while trying to do it all on our own.   Fact is, without someone to bridge the growing chasm, on our own, we’re damned.

It’s a good thing that there are people who will tell it like it is.   It’s a better thing that someone keeps encouraging us that we don’t have to fall into that chasm.   It’s a great thing that we have heroes of the faith to show the way.   And it’s the greatest thing in all history that Jesus bridged the chasm of our sins and saved us from ourselves.  That’s the truest safeguard of all.  I’ll gladly repeat that any time!

For further reading:   Galatians 5: 19-24, Philippians 3:2.

Lord Jesus, thank You for words You inspired into Paul.   Thank You that we get to still learn from them today, and for safeguarding our hearts and minds forever.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 13 January 2020

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13. (EHV).

Be careful about reading these verses because part of verse 12 – “work out your salvation” – is easy to misconstrue if you forget the rest of verse 13.  This isn’t about me or you doing it ourselves.   It isn’t about us doing the work of salvation for ourselves.   Jesus already did all of it, everything necessary, for salvation.   Instead, the verse is about our faith, our letting God’s Spirit work through us.   The good things we say and do are God Himself working through us as His Spirit guides our thoughts and actions.

That’s easy to forget, you see, because sometimes it feels like there is something we have to do to feel worthy or be worthy or involve ourselves in our salvation.   Mark this and remember it:   the only involvement we have in salvation – being saved from damnation – is saying “I believe.”   All the atonement, all the work, all the actions, all the bloodshed, all the spiritual healing was done by Jesus and only by Jesus.   As Madeline might have said, that’s all there is; there is no more.

Yet here on the Third Rock we get confused.   We fill our lives with busyness (and business), and we spend most of them learning, striving, working to attain.   If you’re in America, you’re also imbued with the concept of personal liberty and independence.   It’s our God-given right to exercise our liberties because we’re free.   That’s where it should stop but all too often it doesn’t.  We get our independence here mixed up with our dependence on God for His saving us from ourselves.   And the worst part is that we don’t want to admit when we’re wrong.   That He’s God and we aren’t.   That we don’t, we can’t, save ourselves from the consequences of our sins.

Faith is a choice.   We choose to accept what Christ has done for us.   When we do that, He sends His Spirit to live and work through us.   Our hands may do the physical lifting but it’s His heart that gives us the motivation to do it.   Our eyes do the seeing, our lips speak the words, yet it is God’s Spirit seeing what we see, speaking words we speak in order to do our part in His Kingdom work.   This is where ‘working out our salvation’ occurs and where we meet the water’s edge.

For further reading:  Ezra 1:5, 1 Corinthians 12:6, 2 Corinthians 7:15, Galatians 2:8, James 2:18, Hebrews 13:21, Philippians 2:13

Lord Jesus, continue to work Your work through me today.   Help me to know You better so that all my words and actions may be ones Your Spirit works through me

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 9 December 2019

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21. (EHV).

This verse is one of the key verses in the entire New Testament.   It expresses Christ’s promise of eternal life and temporal peace.   It conveys Paul’s hope and Paul’s confidence.   It gives us today both a purpose and a reward.  Chances are you’ve heard this verse before.   From the viewpoint of a skeptical world, this is foolish braggadocio.   From the view of a believer, it is a profound and confident boast of faith.   Both are true.

You and I:  we aren’t Jesus.   We aren’t God.   We can’t atone for sins.   We don’t have much power on our own.   We are fully human without being any God at all.  On our own, my friend, we’re damned.   The sins we’ve chosen, even the unconscious ones, even the times we thought we were doing good for ourselves, separate us from God.   The older I get the more I believe God isn’t vengeful, that He doesn’t smite people out of anger or revenge.   He can; He could; He doesn’t.   More and more, I believe God simply allows the natural consequences of sin to work on us when sin is the path we’ve chosen.   Those things separate us from Him because He’s holy and we sometimes choose to put off that holiness.

Enter the miracle of Jesus.  Jesus carries us past this.   He looks past our sins to see us, to pull us away from the natural consequence of them.   Fully God and fully man, Jesus searches for us in the dark places of our hearts and shines His light there.   He extends His hand and says “focus on Me instead of where you are.  Believe in Me.   Trust in Me.”  When we do that, things start to change.   The miracle happens differently for all of us.   For some it’s instantaneous release.   For others, it’s a small process, drop by drop, until we’re washed clean.  From that moment on, when we let Him and His Spirit begin to remake us, things are different.

To live becomes to really live, to let Christ’s Spirit work through us in what we say and do.   To be kinder, motivated to serve, motivated to love and be patient and seek to share His peace.   To live is to use our lives in ways we hadn’t before for the increase of His Kingdom.   To live is Christ is to carry the Spirit of Christmas and Easter every day of the year, especially to others hurting as we once did.   To live is Christ because nothing in this world can stop us when we know that our eternity is sealed in Him, that we’re part of heaven now and later.  This is foolishness to the rest of the world.   That is, until the rest of the world allows itself to live for Him as well.

For further reading:  Galatians 2:20, Philippians 1:22

Lord Jesus, to live today for You is my only goal.

Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 15 August 2019

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 (EHV).

Let’s add one last sentence because this is the why.   If the five ‘why’s’ are who, what, where, when, and why, then verses four through six (from “But” through the second mention of “Savior”) are who, what, where and when, and verse 7 is the why.

We’re justified by Jesus’ grace so that we might become heirs with the hope of eternal life.   He sprinted to the cross to die, and then to rise from death, for us.   Because He loved us.   Because He saw the complete depravity of sin and knew it couldn’t be tolerated.   Because He understood that sin had compromised us, that we’d let that happen, and that we couldn’t do anything about it.   Jesus opened eternal life because of His love for sinful you and me.

To do that, He made us just.  He made us righteous, clean again.   God demanded an atonement for how our sins had violated holiness.   Jesus, God-Himself, said “there’s only one way to truly make them righteous again” and so He did it.  The choices we made – sins – voided our righteousness.   We couldn’t be in the presence of holiness again without being destroyed by the loving, beautiful perfection of Him.  So Jesus made Himself the atonement for our sins and, in doing so, transferred righteousness to us.   We didn’t deserve it; we couldn’t do it.   But He did it anyway.   He loved us to provide for us as the Father.   He loved us to die for us as the Son.   He loved us to live through us as the Spirit.   Three in One through this miracle called “resurrection,” God did this thing to make us justified in His presence.

Because of His mercy.   His justice, His love, His patience, His kindness:   He wanted to share them, to give them, to pass them around.   He wanted to give us things to live for more than just existence or achievement or property.   God wanted our lives to have meaning and His meaning was the only one that matters.   So, in His righteousness-making mercy, He made us heirs in His promise of eternal life.   Of eternity now and later.   Of being part of the spiritual world today.  Of sharing His supernaturality now, and always.   Because of His mercy.

That’s why.

For further reading:  Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 4:35-41, Mark 11:22-24, Acts 22:16, Romans 3:24, Romans 5:5, Romans 11:14, Ephesians 2:9, 1 Peter 1:3, Titus 3:8

Thank You, God, for Your love, Your righteousness, Your mercy, Your hope.   Help me to share them today!

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.