Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 23 July 2019

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  Titus 1:15-16 (NIV).

Before moving on from these verses, we have to talk (again) about sin.   Remember from last time how I said that a friend called me out for calling out a specific thing as sinful.   And that sin is a destroyer.   And, more important than these, that Jesus annihilated sin by confronting it and leading us from it.

Here is a partial list of my many sins:  being unloving, lying, ungratefulness, adultery, blasphemy, theft, anger, hatred, intolerance, judgmentalism, lust, unkindness, unfaithfulness, coveting, dishonor, unrighteousness, vulgarity, immorality, envy, greed, disobedience, drunkenness, rebelliousness, sloth.

Need I go on?   These are just a few that rattle off the top of my head.   There are more.  I regret them.   I’m sorry I did them.   I’m even more sorry I hurt others in doing them.   If all I focused on was my sins, I couldn’t function.  Indeed, there would be no point in going on if the only thing worth living for was evil, more sin.

The thing about it is, when you’re living in the middle it, those sins are all you want.   They’re a twisted poison that infects your heart and mind.   They’re a heroin rush.  They’re slavery disguised as freedom.  You think they’ll make you happy but you know deep inside that’s really a lie.  You say you believe in God but you never really do.   You refuse to give yourself over to God, so hypocrisy simply becomes yet another sin you’ll just live with.  You don’t like it; you don’t even want it, except you do.   Except they occupy your thoughts and become your focus.

Jesus rewires that thinking.

His focus is purity; His purity.  He longs for you to have it.  He looks into your heart and sees someone better.   He looks at you and says to you, “let me take that from you.”   He sees those sins and asks you to give them over to Him, so that He can carry the guilt and the hurt and the shame and the impurity of them.   He who is only that purity and has no sin takes your sins and takes them off you so that you don’t have to deal with them anymore.   He offers you true freedom.

And even after that happens, we make mistakes.   Even after, we deal with the consequences of our actions in that past ‘life.’  Even then, He is with us, helping us to stand, helping us to keep our focus on Him.   Helping us to apologize when we do wrong.   And helping us to stay free by resisting the temptation to fall back.

For further reading:  Titus 2:1

Pure, saving Jesus, thank You for saving me!

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Practical Proverbial, the Ten Commandments, 21 May 2014

You shall not steal. Exodus chapter 20, verse 15.

Ok, so we get it.   We shall not steal.   It’s one of the foundations of every peaceful society on earth. I travel a lot, sometimes between 150 and 200 nights per year.   Everywhere I go I watch the local news and hear about robberies, cars being stolen, and the like.   It’s everywhere, all over the world.   Does that make us, as mankind, better?   I think not, and I’m betting you would agree. Sometimes I feel that, wherever heaven is, Jesus must be shaking His head in disappointment at all our debauchery.

Isn’t it time that we changed that paradigm?

“From a distance;” do you remember that song?   It came out during the first Gulf War, in the early 1990s. From a distance, do you think God is watching us?   I do.   From a distance and up close both. And since God is watching us, wouldn’t it be a better place if, instead of conspiring ways to take from each other, we conspired on ways to share, be more generous, to give, and to help each other?   I’m not naïve: I know ours is a fallen world.   I know that all the pretty words, even all the ways we use to explain the 8th commandment, aren’t enough to quickly put an end to all the thievery we commit.

I’m not asking you to change the world. Just your part of it.

Let’s change the game. I’m challenging you to start right now, where you are, today, and walk the higher road. Today, find some way to be generous towards someone. Preferably it would be to a stranger but someone all the same. Pay it forward the next time you go to Starbucks. Give of your time to the people closest to you, whether they’re family, co-workers, or even strangers. Honestly try to help someone in whatever way they need it.   Start small, but start anyway.

Start because the commandment still stands as a reminder: we are not to steal.   Yet remember that, those beautiful words, Jesus is pointing us to a better way, to not just get hung up on the negative edge of that commandment but, instead, to listen to what He’s saying. What He’s imploring us to do. Instead of stealing, thou shalt give. Instead of taking from each other, how about we use today to find ways to do that?   Like I said, I’m not naïve; it won’t make the evening news, and it might not even be a very big thing.   But it will make a difference.   From the ground up, it will make a difference to someone, and that’s how movements for good should begin.   Beside, just like the song says, “God is watching us…from a distance.”

Lord, watch me, empower me, embolden me, live in my heart, and guide me to give as You want me to.

 

Read Exodus chapter 7, Pharoah’s hardens his heart, so the plagues begin…

Practical Proverbial, the Ten Commandments, 20 May 2014

You shall not steal. Exodus chapter 20, verse 15.

When I was a young teen, my bike was stolen. I grew up in a family where stealing was considered to be just plain wrong, so when it happened to me, I was extremely upset.   I felt hurt, violated, unsafe, and angry.   I had worked hard to save for the bike, and had only had for a few months.   Granted, it was just a bicycle; it could be replaced.   But I hadn’t done anything to merit the theft and still some neighborhood kids took it.   When police found the bike, the thieves had taken it apart.   I got it back the next day, but it wasn’t the same.   I tried to fix it but it wasn’t the same.  

Now, I’ll admit: my example is sort of over-blown. Like I said:   it was just a bicycle; hardly the end of the world. But it was the first time something like this had ever happened to me and, given that I was struggling with bullying in school and having a rough time of things, it was a small trauma. I trusted and the trust was broken.

Isn’t that what happens when someone steals from us?   Perhaps we should get on God’s level and understand why He forbade stealing in the first place. The thing is, stealing is more than just kids swiping a bicycle.   It’s more, even, than armed robbers knocking over a Brinks truck or devious CEOs swindling their shareholders. It’s not just criminals who take things.

Taken office supplies lately?   It’s stealing.   Ever lifted a piece of candy from a bin at the store?   Stealing. Ever padded your expense report, or taken extra deductions on your taxes, or borrowed something from your neighbor and not returned it even after you remembered you had it?   Lifted money from your parents? You know the answer.

There’s more.   Stealing, theft, robbery, larceny:   they start in the heart.   In truth, doesn’t all sin start in our hearts? That’s what makes it so insidious…and so offensive to Jesus. When we take credit without giving God His due, we’re stealing His glory.   When we decide how to use the truth to our advantage while being unfair in some way, we’re stealing God’s intended honesty. When we lie, we are stealing the truth from others.   It’s destructive.   Like those lies, nothing good comes from it.

What happened to the kids who stole the bike?   I really don’t know.   I didn’t press charges; I got the bike back but, like I said, it wasn’t the same.   A year later, I donated it to Goodwill. Yet I’ve never forgotten how hurt I felt to realize something I valued, had worked hard for, was taken from me.   Years later, I now understand that’s how Jesus feels every time we steal in any way.

Lord, forgive me for the times I have stolen in any way, from You or others.

 

Read Exodus chapter 6, God and Moses.