Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 16 May 2019

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.  2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV).

These are harsh words about how people will behave in the end days.   They’re some of the worst qualities of mankind, and Paul prophesies that the end days will bring them out in full.   Whether those end days are now or later, they will be marked by these kinds of behaviors.

These verses apply to Hollywood.   They apply to Wall Street, corporate boardrooms, country club dealing, and the jet set.   These verses could have been written about the American suburbs, or about the ghettos.   They could have been written about people in our universities, in our workplaces, on the road and at the mall and, yes, they could have been written about people who sit every Sunday in a church pew.   They’re HBO; they’re Facebook; they’re Las Vegas; they’re Mainstreet USA.   They’re our living rooms.  These verses could have been written about any of the 7.7 billion people breathing here on Planet Earth.   Two thousand years after He left us, come quickly, Lord Jesus, and set things right again.

Especially if these are the last days.   In fact, I hope they are.   Heaven has much more to offer than our world, which is full of we who could be described by these ugly words.  Those words are a mirror, held up for me and you (and a dog named Boo) to look into and see ourselves as we really are.   Even the best of us is guilty of being like one or more of those words say we are.

Paul told Timothy to avoid people like those he described above.  If Paul met me today, would he see a follower of Christ or a sinking work in progress who loves himself, money, pride and boasting more than Jesus?   Who would Paul see in you?   Even more, if Jesus does come back today, will He see us as we are, or will He see us through the lens of His love?   You know the answer, and thank God Himself for it.   We are guilty of being those awful things Paul mentions, and only a Savior who isn’t could set things right.   Only He could save us.   When He comes back, He’ll see His followers in His own mirror, and welcome us.  Doesn’t it follow, then, that we should use our time today to kindly love on people who don’t know Jesus so that they’ll have the same eternity?

For further reading:  2 Timothy 3:6.

Lord Jesus, come quickly.   These times are as You predicted, full of evil scoffers.   Come and remake all things new.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 15 May 19

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  2 Timothy 3:1 (NIV).

This section of 2 Timothy talks about the end times.   It’s heavy stuff, not for the faint of faith.    And it’s heavy stuff that people have been hauling, dreading, and contemplating for two thousand years.

Wikipedia defines “Christian eschatology” as “a major branch of study within Christian theology dealing with the “last things.” Eschatology, from two Greek words meaning “last” (ἔσχατος) and “study” (-λογία), is the study of ‘end things’, whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, the end of the world or the nature of the Kingdom of God. Broadly speaking, Christian eschatology is the study concerned with the ultimate destiny of the individual soul and the entire created order, based primarily upon biblical texts within the Old and New Testament.”

Yep.   What they said.

Even from the beginning of the Christian church, we’ve contemplated the end of it here.  Not long before His crucifixion, Jesus spoke of it extensively in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.   And He inspired John to write extensively about it in the Revelation.  If you haven’t done so, go read these accounts for yourself.   It isn’t for the faint of faith.   Yet read them again and again and you’ll find your faith strengthened.

That’s a good thing because we’re in the last days.   Face it, my friend:   this life is a one-way death trip.   Every day we celebrate life and live we are one day closer to death.   Whether these are the last days of terrestrial history or simply the last days of our lives, we are living through them now.   Do you think terrible things happen?

You know the answer.

Paul warned Timothy about it.   He warned Timothy to teach that people should love Jesus every day, should live as God’s chosen followers every minute of every day because any day may be the last.  Paul and Peter may have been talking about the end of time as the “last days” yet their advice pertains to both those last days of Earth as well as all of our days on Earth.

Scoffers gonna scoff; haters gonna hate.   Those who are determined to be unpersuaded of this man Jesus will remain so.   It’s their choice, their self-inflicted misery.  They aren’t happy with that knowledge and are determined that you be as unhappy as they are.   So they’ll insult you, ridicule your faith, persecute your actions, hate you for who you believe in.  It was this way in 1st Century Judea and Asia Minor; it is the same way now.  It’s heavy, not for the weak to bear even as they, too, must find a way to bear through it.   That way is found only in Jesus Christ.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Peter 3:3, 2 Timothy 3:1.

Lord Jesus, come quickly.   These times are as You predicted, full of evil scoffers.   Come and remake all things new.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 14 May 2019

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.  2 Timothy 2:25-26 (NIV).

More about wading into discussions or arguments with opponents.   While the spirit of the idea applies to any discussion, keep in mind that Paul’s advice here regards those who opposed Timothy in  spiritual matters.   There were people in Timothy’s circle who were living in sin, or whose beliefs were contrary to Jesus’ gospel.   Some embraced Gnostic beliefs that were heretical to what Paul had taught; some were perpetuating the traditional Jewish laws in the new Christian church.   Paul reminded Timothy that his purpose was to help them to see their need for Christ and return to Him.

How does this apply today?  It might seem fun to think that ‘the other guy’ and his wacky politics are Satanic, but that probably isn’t true.   And even if it were, it’s better to remember that Jesus wants that other guy in His Kingdom as much as He wants you and I.   Perhaps Jesus has you or I in their lives to spread His Gospel to them.   Preach that Gospel constantly; if necessary, use words.   Remember that ‘the other guy’ is probably as sinful and confused as me and you.   None of this is saying we should compromise godly principles or surrender our faith.   It is, however, saying that we should uphold that faith while being empathetic towards understanding another’s predicament.

We do all this because Jesus wants them for His Kingdom, too.   Your worst enemy is Jesus’ dear child.   The overbearing progressive, the strident conservative, the bully who makes your life awful:  all are precious in His sight.   He mourns their sins as much as He mourns mine, and He wants them to be gently instructed, lovingly reminded that God in Christ loves them, forgives them, believes in them.   Jesus’ enemy, the devil, works overtime to pull down those on the fence.   You and I, soldiers in the Lord’s Army, then, get the mission of running into the breach, of standing between those opponents and the devil who would destroy their souls.   We get to stand up for Jesus because they won’t or can’t.   We get to stand for Him and witness to the devil that he is defeated, unwelcome, cast out.

I suppose that’s pretty far afield from why we shouldn’t wade into foolish arguments, but the bottom line of it is the same.  We’re followers of Jesus, in some cases His called servants.   It’s our place to witness boldly, lovingly, and kindly, especially to those who would oppose what we say.   In doing so, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 2:4, 1 Timothy 3:7, 2 Timothy 3:1.

Lord Jesus, let Your Spirit put the words in my mouth as I speak for You today.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 23 April 2019

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.  2 Timothy 2:14 (NIV).

I’m becoming a fan of the Facebook snooze feature.   If a friend of mine sends a view or opinion that is particularly difficult to abide, or if what they say is particularly hostile, I turn off notifications for those comments.   I don’t want to un-friend them, but I don’t need the negativity.  Our comments may be well-received by some but also may be hurtful to others.   The better way would be to simply delete this social media so as to avoid the temptation.   But I enjoy Facebook for the ability to keep up with family and friends, and to share things like this blog, family moments, and things I believe both secular and faith-based.  So, until the point of staying off it altogether, I’m using the snooze.   I bet quite a few folks have done this to my comments already.

Thank God He doesn’t snooze us.  My friend, John, said (on Facebook about Facebook) that social media is a mile wide and an inch deep.   It’s designed to keep us quarreling, not really for our betterment.  Quarreling about words ruins us.   It ruins our relationships.   It ruins our families.   It ruins our politics.   It ruins our lives.

Paul wrote these words two millenia before social media existed.   In his day, social media was called “personal conversation.”   And if you think about it, those personal conversations have been made even easier to destroy by the advent of social media.   Online, you and I can say what we want without the responsibility for prudence that comes with saying those things face to face.   If you say something objectionable to someone face to face, they can (and often do) call you out on it, sometimes physically.   If we do that online, there’s no real response except to that the recipients’ emotions are activated.

Nothing good comes from that.  The book of Titus says that these are unprofitable and useless, producing nothing good that benefits anyone.  It was true then; it’s true now.   I need to act differently.   How about you?

This is the day after the day after Easter.   Jesus is still risen.   He is still alive, at work, living through you and I and all we think, say, and do.   We have the gift of electronic communication to enable us to reach each other instantly across the planet.  How will we use that today?   I’m working to do better, so I’m challenging you to do the same, even if that means snoozing it.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 1:4, Titus 3:9, 2 Timothy 2:15.

Forgiving Lord Jesus, help me to use the gifts of conversation and media responsibly, for Your benefit, in ways that help others.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 16 April 2019

Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.   2 Timothy 2:7 (NIV).

One of my pastor’s favorite pieces of good advice is to take 5 minutes daily with God.   In that five minutes, simply be silent.  Clear you mind; focus only on God and whatever He may say to you.   It may take a hundred days; it may take only five minutes.  Eventually, no matter how long it takes, you’ll begin to perceive more of what God says to you in His Word, in messages He gives you through others and the world, in matters put on your heart.  He’s speaking; we listen.

Paul would have understood this.   He was advising Timothy to do much the same thing.   Paul was telling Timothy to be still, to know God is God of all, and to let Him speak to his heart.

That’s still good advice today.   Just ask Pastor Mark.

Indeed, we need insight more than ever.   Just yesterday, I was called a hypocrite online by politically opposite friend…and she was right.   What’s more, her rebuke was enjoined by my own daughter, who was also right.   I had resorted to name-calling in a comment, and it took the rebuke from a political adversary and my flesh & blood for me to see they were correct.  A man of better insight (maybe Timothy or Paul, or even my friend, Mark) would likely have seen that sooner, maybe not even posting the words at all.   When I saw what they were saying, I quickly deleted the name.  Seems I should have done some more reflecting before posting yet another political opinion.   Yep, I need insight more than ever.

And just yesterday, Notre Dame cathedral burned.   We don’t know why, though the cause is most likely something innocuous.  But it’s still suspicious given the number of unaccounted church vandalisms in France, as well as the fact that it’s Holy Week and the cathedral would make a ripe target.   Yet even pushing that suspicion aside, we need insight about the event.   Not insight into why it happened but, perhaps, insight into the good things that Jesus will do through the efforts of first responders, engineers, and builders to restore this ancient house of God.

It’s the insight into what Jesus is saying that Paul was invoking into Timothy.   It’s that kind of insight we would all do well to contemplate today.   Then act on it.

On behalf of my friend, let me invite you to act today by taking five minutes to be still and know that Jesus is God.   That He will speak to you as He does.   That He loves and forgives you.   That He wants to work through you today.   Take five for insight, my friend.

For further reading: Psalm 46:10, 2 Timothy 2:8.

Insightful Lord Jesus, open my eyes to Your purpose for me today.   Guide my thoughts, words, and actions to better serve Your purpose.

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, 29 March 2019

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.   2 Timothy 1:13 (NIV).

Sound teaching lasts a lifetime.   When you consider that we humans were made to live forever, sound teaching can therefore last forever.   The oldest of the Bible’s books are Job and those of the Pentateuch, each of them between 3400 and 3500 years old.  The newest of the Bible are nearly 2000 years old.  That you and I are still discussing them today seems to verify that they’re sound teaching, especially since it is the Bible that gave rise to the monastic culture (that preserved ancient knowledge during the Dark Ages), the Reformation and Renaissance, and even western democracy.

That’s sound teaching.   It has lasted for centuries, even millienia.   Paul understood that.   He had had a very personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus Christ, who set him on an informed path of evangelical mission.   People won’t do those kinds of things without believing in them, and the fact that so much constructive good happened because of it seems to also verify the sound teachings of Christ.   Sure, you can sell your soul to Satan, believe in the magical paganism of Wicca, or follow Mohammed into jihad.  In the end, those teachings lead to separation from the God of our fathers, to the second death.

There is a better way.

There is a better way that Paul exhorted Timothy (and us) to follow.  Keep true to the teachings of Jesus.   You’re only human and you’re going to screw up; so will your friends and congregants.   And when you do, run right back to Jesus and confess your failings.   Receive His forgiveness, soak up His Spirit and His strength, and begin again (and again and again).   Talk about it with everyone you can.  Live it out.  Run this good race set before you and preach Christ crucified in all you say and do.   Go all in on this faith because it’s the only faith that matters, and the only one that will save your immortal soul.   There will be hardship and suffering, but remain true to Christ and you will wear a crown of peace in this life, then a thankful crown of reward from Him in the next.

THAT is a better way.

And it all stems from learning that sound teaching.   We teach our kids morals, basic math, language skills, and how to get along with each other at a young age; we spend years doing it.  Generations past did those same things using God’s Word as the foundation.   It isn’t that they knew something we don’t:  they simply did better than we’re doing.  As long as God permits day and night, there is still time to turn to that better way.   How about we start now?

For further reading:   Romans 8:9, 2 Timothy 14.

Lord Jesus, YOU are the better way.    Forgive me my sins.   Thank You for today in which to proclaim You.   Guide me today.