Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 24 July 2019

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.  Titus 2:1 (NIV).

If you think about it, this is the job of every teacher, every parent, every mentor.  If you read the four Gospels closely, you’ll find that Jesus is referred to as “rabbi” – meaning ‘teacher’ – more than any other title.  Teachers are supposed to teach what is correct, what is good.  They’re supposed to teach sound things that will be needed or useful in life.

Yet we aren’t Jesus so sometimes that gets off track.   Sometimes, in the course of teaching, we teach other things, things that aren’t necessary or useful.   You know:  like algebra.   Just kidding:   I’m sure algebra is useful but I don’t specifically know how, at least not in actual mathematics.  Good, well-meaning, intelligent people teach algebra and other un-useful things, and sometimes that runs contrary to what matters most.

Paul spends part of Titus, chapter one denouncing people who are teaching unsound doctrine, namely that there are things we must do to be acceptable to God; that there are things we have to do to earn our salvation.   It was ecclesiastically and practically wrong in the early Church, and it’s wrong still today.   Doing things to please God so He will love us is contrary to His nature.   He loves us because He’s all love, because of His Son.   Adding to that mocks Him.

That’s especially important for we believers.   It’s especially difficult in our age of social media, divisive politics, and 24/7 global reach.   Christians have been purified by the atoning death of Jesus; nothing more, nothing less.   That’s hot iron on a sinful wound to people who don’t want to hear it.  Those people set up rules around what you can and can’t say, all to shut you down.   And when we slip up and are human again?  “WHY YOU DIRTY HYPOCRITE!   I TOLD YOU THIS JESUS THING WAS A WASTE!”

Baby and the bathwater both on the way out. No walking the walk and talking the talk together.

The cure?   The response?   Go back to Jesus; sound teaching to sound doctrine.   Love God with all your heart, then love our fellow man.  Jesus loves you and forgives you all your sins.   Come as you are to Him any time to receive His love so that you may be healed and reach others.   The Ten Commandments are a mirror to point us to God.   Sin is sin but love is more powerful.   Jesus is God in the Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit.  Those fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5?   We get to live them out in a skeptical world to better walk and talk the sound teaching of sound doctrine of God’s holy call.  We’re all teachers now.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 1:8-11, Titus 2:2

Rabbi Jesus, forgive me my sins and help me to change my sinful ways.   Teach me to better love my fellow man, and to better share the gifts of Your love and Spirit.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 15 April 2019

The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.   2 Timothy 2:6 (NIV).

This verse, along with the previous ones, should be considered all together to get their full impact.  Together, verses 1-6 say “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.”

Think of it this way:   keep your eye on the ball because the reward for this is better than anything else you can imagine.

Sometimes I wonder where I fit in.   I’m working at my fifth company in three years.   To be honest, that sometimes shakes my confidence, especially when your work is done or the client moves in a new direction.  The reasons for moving around so much are many, but they all end at this place:  I’m currently employed at a great company, and I’m so thankful for it.   Yet even here, after so many moves, even when I’m thankful to be working and working where I am, I wonder where I fit in.

I wonder if farmers feel that way.   It must be a challenge to stay motivated to get up every day and work patiently at growing crops, husbanding animals, and maintaining your homestead.   It’s good work, peaceful work, rewarding work I’m sure.   But it must also be frightening at storm times, or when the rains come too early, too much, too little or late.  Athletes prepare for competition; farmers prepare for the harvest (and then for the rest months, and then planting, weeding, and the next harvest).   Like athletes who are always preparing for the next competition, or consultants who are always implementing the last version of software in anticipation of the next future implementation, farmers prepare now for the next harvest and the times after that.

Sort of like Jesus did for us, preparing us now for the next harvest after this life.   That means we need to heed Him, let ourselves be prepared, and keep our eyes on the ball of His presence, His teaching in our lives; let Him reward us as He sees best.  It prepares us now for both living here in the fallen world and the harvest in heaven when the full crop of His believers are brought together in eternal praise and celebration.  THAT is the place we’ll fit in best.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 9:10, 2 Timothy 2:7.

Awesome “farmer” Jesus, prepare me now, I pray, to serve You better.  

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 9 April 2019

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.   2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV).

One eyewitness is both a witness and an opinion.   Many witnesses can make a movement.   Paul knew this, so here he reminds Timothy that the things taught to him (Timothy) were important, verified, and part of something larger that would grow into the greatest movement the world would ever see.

Tell me:   should just anyone be a teacher?   I struggle with that question.   On one hand, everyone has a unique talent, something to bring to the table that is valuable, should be preserved to the next generation.   On the other hand, not everyone has the talent to teach those things, and teaching is a unique, important skill worth venerating.  Paul thought this, too.

The Word of God is written on all our hearts, even those of women and men who don’t teach.  We all have an intrinsic knowledge of right and wrong, and we learn consequences for doing both; Paul wrote this to the churches in Rome.   But we each require someone to teach these things to us, to teach us what it means to know right from wrong and to know how Jesus lives through us when we do each.  He appoints some people to the special task of teaching what all this means.   From your parents to your school teachers to teachers at church to professors to mentors:  there are people whose calling from God is to pass on what they know.

Such people must be reliable.   Face it:   we each go through times when we aren’t reliable.   When others can’t count on us.   I’ve been there; I’m betting you have as well.  Imagine how tough it must be to find reliable people to become teachers, especially in this day of social media that lives online forever.   It’s tough enough to find reliable employees for ‘regular’ jobs.   Imagine how much more difficult it must be to find teachers who are spiritually reliable who can teach others about the word of Jesus.

Should just anyone be a teacher?   Can a throng of witnesses testify to their reliability?   What is impossible for men is possible with God.

For further reading:   Romans 2:15, 1 Timothy 6:12, Luke 18:27, 2 Timothy 2:3.

My Lord, help us to find reliable people to teach us Your Word.   Help me to be more reliable, have more integrity, in living out Your witness to others.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 21 March 2019

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.   2 Timothy 1:9 (NIV).

How are you doing with living your holy life?   Let me be clear:   this is NOT to guilt you, to make you feel bad.   If you’re like me, your bad language and dirty thoughts and petty grudges and not-so-clever hypocrisies and just plain judgmental attitudes that comprise “daily life” have corrupted your holy life.   If you’re like me, you stink on ice at living out your holy life even when you want to live it out better.

Welcome to our daily need for Jesus.

He knows it.   He hurts when we turn our backs from Him.   When we do, say, and think those things that are contrary to the holy life He designed for us, those holes in His hands and feet must pain Him.   I can almost hear Him say to Himself, “I’m so sorry you’re going through that, Dave” when I choose words and deeds that aren’t what He originally had in mind.   And when I’ve realized, yet again, how I messed up and how much I need Him to make me clean, I can also hear Him say “of course I love you.   I’ve been here with you all along.”   He went through those same sins that pain me.   Amazing.

Jesus saved us from the death that is separation from Him.   He saved us from that awful truth designed for those who actively reject Him.  Instead of creating us for hurt and pain and hell, Jesus created us to call us to live a holy life; a life declared sacred, consecrated, dedicated to serving Him.   For some that means serving in the formal church.   For others it means using our talents as parents, welders, managers, engineers, dentists, teachers, and every talent you can think of in helping others and providing a thankful living.  We don’t do the work we do just because it’s good work (which it often is).   We do it because He calls us to do it.

Jesus did this not because we’re so wonderful (though in His eyes we are) but because He is a loving, just, holy God who was this way since before we were born.  He understood we would love Him but rebel against Him and, therefore, need Him to make things right again.   Every time we do work well, we get to look to Jesus and say “thanks.  I need You!”   Every time we realize we’re thick with our sins again, we get to look to Jesus and say “thanks.   I need you!”

So I’ll ask again:   how are you doing with Your holy life?   The better answer is “forget that.”   Focus on Jesus instead.

For further reading:   Romans 8:28, Romans 11:14, Ephesians 2:9, 2 Timothy 10.

Lord Jesus, thanks.   I need You!

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 8 December 2014

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. Mark 2, verse 13.

We are attracted to celebrities, aren’t we?   This week, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – aka “Prince William and Kate” – are in the United States.   As I write this, they arrived in New York yesterday and were surrounded by throngs of paparazzi and onlookers. Or there’s center stage at the Mall of America, where I spend some evenings walking. I’ve seen all kinds of celebrities on the stage in the center court; last year, I saw a number of people from HGTV on that stage. Whenever someone famous shows up, crowds gather.

Jesus became famous; duh.   And there are many reasons why He gained quick fame.   Miracle worker, Jewish patriot, hoped-for king, rabble rouser, esteemed teacher, kind hearted, new and unusual:   He was all these things.   Yet the Bible is replete with stories like the one from verse 13 about what Jesus did when large crowds gather.   He taught.

He would begin speaking by telling parables, stories that seemed to have one meaning but were also talking about another.   Or sometimes (as in the Beatitudes) He would extemporaneously recite what sounded like beautiful poetry. Other times, He spoke directly, telling people things they needed to hear.   Maybe He would perform a miracle, or simple be Himself and act just like other people. Yet He always taught people in some way, teaching in and about each moment…and more. He taught them from the heart – from HIS heart. He taught them about God and His immeasurable glory and love.

I doubt you’ll see Prince William, Kate Middleton, or the Property Brothers do that.

I doubt you’ll see them do that because they aren’t Jesus; that’s true.   Yet that’s not what most celebrities do, and I would say it isn’t why people flock to them either. Folks want to be near fame; that’s also true.   Yet I think people flock to celebrities because they sense that famous people have something desirable and we, as strangers in this strange land, want to be desired.   People want some of the shine, the glow, that seems to emanate from people in the limelight.

Yet when Jesus used His fame, He used it to teach people; to impart lessons on things they needed to hear deep inside.   Jesus didn’t mug for the cameras or walk the red carpet.   Instead, He met people right where they were and told them things that nobody ever had.   Things like “love your neighbor,” and “forgive your enemies,” and “love the Lord God with all your heart.”   And “I forgive your sins.” Instead of tarnished celebrity luster, Jesus addressed some of peoples’ most fundamental spiritual questions, then gave them answers that helped and healed.   No other leader, or rabbi, or celebrity of the day did that. Is it any wonder, then, in a first century, word-of-mouth culture, that news of Him spread so quickly over the relatively small area of Judea? And then worldwide?

So I say good luck to Prince William and his wonderful wife; have fun on your trip to the States.   And good luck, too, to the folks from HGTV; my wife and I enjoy your programming.   But as much as we enjoy watching folks like these, in the long run, they’re pale and fading – just like us – when compared to the Godly, shining teachings of Jesus.

Lord, let me bask in Your shining light today.

Read Mark 2, verses 13-17.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 31 October 2013

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.  James 3, verse 1.

Happy Halloween on that thought.   I’m glad I’m not a teacher; I don’t have the patience for it.   No, I’m not putting teachers on a pedestal.  I don’t want to talk about the myriad of problems with American public education and, yes, some of those problems are the fault of teachers.   Still, it’s undeniable that teaching others is a calling that requires patience, devotion, and understanding on levels that I simply don’t possess.

James is glad I’m not a teacher too; at least that’s one way I’m reading the verse.   Teachers should be held to a higher standard because God does.  Teachers are responsible for passing on (as Paul said) what is of first and foremost importance; what we need to make it in this world.   It’s debatable whether or not this includes algebra.   Those who teach are in the spotlight and rightfully so because shaping the hearts and minds of others impacts the world for years to come.   What would you say to the teachers who taught Hitler, Charles Manson, or Joseph Kony?   Or the teachers who taught Ghandi, Billy Graham, and Martin Luther King?  Whether we realize it or not, those folks impacted those impactful minds to do things that impacted the world in ways we still talk about.   That’s more responsibility than I could bear 24/7.   I’m glad I’m not a teacher.

Except…

…Except that you and I are teachers.   If you’re a parent, you’re a teacher (and you teach more to your kids than any school ever will).  If you’re a blogger, you’re teaching others.   If you’re a manager at any task, your primary task is teaching and mentoring, NOT telling others what to do.  If you’re a quiet follower, you’re a better teacher than I’ll ever be.   Get the picture?

Those whose job it is to formally teach are and will be held to a standard that the rest of us don’t and won’t know.   According to James (and thus Jesus), that’s how it should be.   But don’t lose sight of the fact that you and I teach others in everything we do.  Just the other day I was reading the text of my first book, Uncle Boo and Me, which is about my son’s invisible friend.  I realize now all the things I was teaching my son in my absence and in my absence even when I was home.   How he and Uncle Boo were reaching out to me; how they’re still teaching me good lessons today.   We’re teaching in everything we do, even if we don’t get an apple on our desk.   Never forget that.

Teacher Jesus, teach me today to be forgiving, listening, merciful, and compassionate.   Nothing else I do in how I live my life will be more important than how I live and teach these things of You to others.

 

Who do you teach?

In what ways are you a teacher where you are?

Who taught you and what is most important about that?