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.

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.