Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 6 January 2020

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4. (EHV).

Step one in restoring unity is to start with me then realize it’s not about me.

Once again, I’m writing this from an airport.   Today is my first travel day of the new year and I’m sitting in a Southwest terminal in St. Louis.   I’m transiting one airport to get to another to go to a client for work.  On days like this, I like to watch people, and today the people I’m watching are in the group gathered at gate E38.   A few feet away from me sit two Asian nuns, enjoying a morning snack.   Across from them are two women in hijabs; I presume they’re Muslim.  Off to my right sits an older gentleman who, like myself, is chubby and looks tired.   Off to my left there is a man who is carrying a camouflage backpack and is dressed like he could be going to a construction site.   Off to his left there is a young woman staring at an orange laptop that is festooned with stickers; she may be a student.   The agent working our gate today is a tall, bald black man who was just joking with a few of the other waiting passengers.

If you want a place to remember that ‘it’s not about me,’ come to an airport gate.  So many of our moments in life seem to be thrown-together moments where people from so many different backgrounds come together for a common purpose.   In our case today, it’s flying to Detroit.   Other groups with that single purpose are concerts, church services, office meetings, holiday dinners, or online chat rooms.   The list is endless.

Today, it’s in our shared interest for all of us to arrive safely at our destination, the first of which is an airport in Michigan.  Yet after that, this temporary, disparate group will dissolve and we will all go our separate ways.   Who knows if we are like-minded or one in God’s Spirit?  Maybe yes, maybe no, especially in a plane with nuns, Muslims, and folks like me.  Yet you can’t be on an airplane full of strangers and not realize that you’re all in this together, especially on an egalitarian Southwest flight.  When you get irritated, to get along, most people suppress their irritation.   When a child cries, most people understand that an airplane in flight is a more unnatural place for little kids than it is adults.  When the flight is delayed and tempers are raw, we’re all in this together in having to adjust our lives to fit a bigger schedule.

Isn’t it the same with spreading our faith?   It isn’t about me; it isn’t about you.   Maybe it’s time to take Paul’s advice.

For further reading:  Matthew 16:26, Philippians 2:5.

Lord Jesus, help me to be humble today.

 

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 28 September 2017.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  Hebrews 12, verse 14.

Here’s another tall order:   live in peace and be holy.  How does that fit in with America’s NFL controversy this week?   Or our political discourse in general since the start of this century?   How well are we living in peace with our enemies and even our allies?   Is there peace in Detroit or St. Louis?   Is there peace at your table on Thanksgiving?   And are you and your spouse at peace (if you’re married)?

Let’s get this out there:   peace is NOT the absence of conflict.   Don’t think that just because we don’t have conflict that we’re at peace.   Yes, I mean that.  Sure, not shooting each other in war is indeed “peaceful” yet there’s all too often no real peace in that.   It’s a good thing to not have someone shooting you, attacking you, berating you, and that condition is indeed conducive to overall peace.  But it isn’t real peace.   There isn’t peace along the DMZ on the Korean Peninsula:   there is only a cessation of hostilities that has lasted since 1953.  There isn’t peace in Sudan.   There isn’t peace in Ukraine.   There isn’t peace in Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, or most of America’s inner cities.

You can only have peace if the Holy Spirit is working within you.   The bumper sticker meme “no Jesus no peace.   Know Jesus know peace” is spot on true.   The only real peace you can know in this world is when you open up your heart and let Jesus crowd out all the rest of the noise.  Sure, there are some true believing folks in all the areas listed above (even in North Korea) but without God’s Holy Spirit in control, the peace we will know is uneasy, tenuous.

That isn’t easy to do.   I have a schedule to keep.   There are Facebook posts that require my brilliance.   My wife and kids aren’t doing what I want them to do.  That guy who passed me on the right was a real jerk!  DO I LOOK LIKE I HAVE TIME FOR PEACE?  Actually, Dave, if the truth is told, you don’t have time to NOT have peace.   Without the peace of Jesus, you got nuthin.

You’ve got nothing without Jesus because, without Jesus, the second half of verse 14 is also impossible.   I’m not holy; you aren’t holy.   Neither Franklin Graham nor Pope Francis (nor even Pope Emeritus Benedict) are holy.   We’re all dirty sinners on our own.  Without Jesus, we still own our sins; owning our sins, we are unholy.   Without Jesus we still own the consequences of our sins.  What’s more, without Jesus you won’t see the Lord.   You won’t see heaven.   You won’t be there.

Don’t get mad at me for pointing that out:   it’s what verse 14 says.  Without knowing Jesus we can’t be holy and if we’re unholy we won’t be going to heaven.   The ONLY cure for that is to put your faith in Christ.  And the way to do that is to say “I believe” and then start walking the walk.  Read your Bible.  Pray constantly.   Be with other believers and be built up by your fellowship with Jesus and each other.   Tithe from a giving heart.   And, most of all, practice what you preach by starting to live your life in ways the Lord has told us to.  Once again, that’s a tall order.   It means giving up the porn, holding your tongue, confessing your dark secrets to the unseen God, and changing the way you act with other people.   Pick your pet sin:  you and I GET TO give up these things and follow Jesus closer so that His holiness can be imputed to us and we may stand with Him in paradise.   These are simply the practices of a follower of Jesus.  If my tone seems preachy, I apologize.

I have no illusion that everyone turning to Jesus would immediately solve the world’s problems.  Perhaps we would still have conflicts, arguments, and hurt.   Or, perhaps we wouldn’t.   Si Robertson once said “it ain’t gun control we need.   It’s sin control.”   Right on brother.  If we all embraced Jesus more and did what He asked, perhaps we’d have more control over those temptations that lure us in.   If we all did better and walking the walk and talking the talk, perhaps the world’s problems would indeed be solved.   Sin control looks a lot like Jesus.

For further reading:  Romans 14:19, Romans 6:22, Matthew 5:8.

Lord, thank You for giving us Your righteousness, for making us holy.   Help us to believe in You more, to practice our faith.