Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 7 September 2018

We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.  2 Thessalonians 3:11 (NIV).

Some verses are really convicting.   I’m convicted deeply by this one.   In my opinion, if you read verse 11 and don’t see it as a mirror staring back at you, well, you have a problem.

If you’re on Facebook (like I am), you’re a busybody; you’re a gossip.   Our world of social media, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest or whatever is ALL gossip.   That mean’s we’re all busybodies, busy but not busy about what matters.

I can take it; hit me.   “You’re Davy Downer.”   Yep, I guess I am.  In that vein, let me hold up that mirror again.  Maybe you’ll get a deep gaze into it.   I know I did.   I’m a busybody.

See, I love arguing politics.   I’m like others in that I’m pretty sick about America’s state of political affairs.   I’m like others in that I’m sick of seeing my side denigrated and put-down over what we believe.  When someone says something I think is wrong, I like to stand up and defend what I believe.  To be fair, folks on the other side sometimes present consideration-worthy, valid arguments; after all, we’re all Americans.   But do I let it stop there?   No, usually I don’t.   Usually I press on, yammering about whatever point I was trying to make.   Have I reinforced some opinions?   Probably.   Have I changed any minds?   Unlikely.

Sometimes I pig-pile on “liking” things that I find funny; sometimes it’s at someone else’s expense.   And, yes, I’m guilty of sharing things that are out & out wrong.   Or vengeful.   It’s no better than being in the hall in high school, chattering by the lockers or passing notes up and down the aisle.   Or standing in the back of the church, catching up on who’s doing what behind their backs.   For me, social media is nothing more than a place to waste valuable time talking about other people or myself.

(In addition to being arrogant, prideful, and, yes, sometimes a jerk) That makes me a gossip.   Time for another look in the mirror.  If Paul “friended” me, would he think I was a gossip, a busybody?   Worse, would Jesus?

Boy that mirror is bright!  Here’s an internet link, one of thousands, that mentions 32 verses decrying gossiping:  https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-gossip/.  It wasn’t just Paul saying it’s wrong.

How to change?  Stand at the cross:  “I’m sorry, please forgive me” and mean it.   Then back away from the laptop, the iPhone.  When the urge comes to argue, back away and pray a little.   It takes time; it takes effort; that mirror is heavy, and I’m a gossip addict.   But if I don’t try, do I really want to face Jesus one day and have Him look at me disappointed about this?  Or worse, have Him rightfully call me a hypocrite?

For further reading:  1 Timothy 5:13, 2 Thessalonians 3:12.

Lord, help me to change!

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 26 February 2018

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed1 Thessalonians 2:10 (NIV).

This verse convicts me because, you see, I haven’t been righteous or blameless lately.  The last time I wrote here I was eulogizing Billy Graham, one of my heroes and, I believe, a much better witness for God than me.  Billy Graham was never a jerk on social media, but I have been.

There are things that I feel very strongly about, very passionate about, and I have shared my strong opinions on Facebook and Twitter, sometimes even here in this blog.  But I haven’t been holy, righteous or blameless among the believers or unbelievers in how I’ve done that.

God doesn’t tell us to not have opinions, and He doesn’t tell us to not stand up for things we believe in.   What He does tell us is to have those opinions and stand up as we will with His heart, His motivation, and His truth as our only guide because anything else is sinful.  By that fair measure, then, I haven’t been holy, righteous or blameless in how I’ve shared my opinions.   That bothers me.   God is indeed a witness of all we think, say and do, and since that’s true, then I’ve fallen short in this way and, I’m sure, many others.   When I read this verse, I’m convicted, guilty of failing God by failing others.

Paul placed paramount importance on being upright and blameless in front of the people to whom he ministered.  He realized they hadn’t had the kind of encounter with Christ that he’d had.   And he realized that his former life as a persecuting Pharisee placed unusual burdens on both his credibility and the ways other people would see him.  So whenever he traveled anywhere, Paul made sure his words and his conduct were Godly and pure.

Um, I’m not Paul.   I haven’t done those things.   I need God’s forgiveness for falling short and misusing the bully pulpit He’s given me.

We live in contentious times, times in which there are Christians in our world who really are being persecuted.   Our society is rotting from within; our culture is set against faith; our politics have turned bitter and the divisions are deepening.   Yet God is God of all whether we acknowledge Him or not.    For those of us who believe, we’re like Paul, being held to a higher standard.   So I ask for your prayers that I would do better and thinking, saying and doing things with more of the heart God has instead of the rash thoughts of old Adam (or Dave).

For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:5, Romans 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:12, 1Thessalonians 2:11.

Lord, forgive me for how I’ve failed you in my thoughts and actions.  Thank You for convicting me with Your word.   Teach me to do better for You.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 27 February 2017

Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.  Hebrews 8, verse 1-2

This is the main point of everything, not just a few verses in the Bible.   You may not want to hear it, but the high priest of heaven – Jesus of Nazareth – is the main point of everything in your life.

We went to two different church services yesterday.   My wife and I attended our home church in Frisco to help set up communion and then to attend worship.   Later, (along with our daughters, their families, and my in-laws) we also attended a church in Prosper where we sat in on a telecast with David Jeremiah, well-known Christian author and minister.   Dr. Jeremiah’s sermon topic was the gospel and how our society is diluting it.   Our society is constantly trying to water down the powerful message that God redeemed us so we could live and love with Him forever.   We of the world constantly try to shift away from that because that message takes away from the focus on us.   We aren’t the creator:  we’re the created.  We aren’t the center of all things:   God is.

In other words, he talked about how Jesus was the main point of everything.

Then, last night, I didn’t watch the Oscars.   I usually don’t, so this year was no exception.   Chances are you’ve already heard about the major errors that happened  when Warren Beatty presented the Best Picture award.   Perhaps Clyde Barrow actually grabbed the envelope and stormed onstage, or maybe someone rushed the action, or perhaps there was some kind of mix-up we’ll never know about; internet conspiracy theorists are already going wild about it.   But no matter what happened, someone actually did hand that envelope to Jack Reed.   Can you imagine how it must feel to be the person who handed Beatty the wrong envelope?  They probably want to drop off the planet today.

That person needs to know that Jesus is the main point of everything.   Jesus is bigger than the Academy Awards.

Or there is someone my pastor friend, Patrick, is following on Twitter.   @SarahTaras tweeted just today “If Jesus’ end game had been moralism, no one would have wanted him dead.  The gospel is not a safe message.   Not then.   Not now.”   Powerful statement there, don’t you think?  I completely agree with her point, though.  The gospel is a radically unsafe message.   It directly challenges all the wisdom of this world in full frontal assault.  That makes it unsafe, threatening, dangerous to the world.   If you believe in the gospel, then you, too, are unsafe, dangerous and threatening.

All that is so because Jesus is the main point of the gospel.   Jesus is the main point of everything.   He is the center of the good news of salvation.   He is the center of real peace after a comedy of errors broadcast live across the globe.   He is the main point of all Christian ministry.  We each rebel and struggle with that idea because the sin in us spurs us on to want to be supreme.   We each want to be the top dog, all the while not realizing that Jesus is the main point of all creation.  He gives life because He is life.   He gives love because He is love.   God has provided everything that we have, think, or know of, and has put His Son Jesus over all of it.   That puts Him smack dab in the middle.

And He’s there whether we believe in Him or not, whether we forget or focus on Him.   He was at both Water’s Edge and Prestonwood yesterday.   He was on stage with Warren Beatty when old Warren announced the wrong film.   He’s with my friend and the woman on Twitter.   He’s reading these words through your eyes.   We each easily forget that Jesus is the center of all things but that only makes it even more urgent for us to regroup and remember who’s in charge.

Lord Jesus, You are the middle of everything.  You are God, You are love, You are the focus of my life.   Abide with me and forgive me, I pray, when I mess up.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 10 February 2016

“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ Mark 14, verse 27.

A friend and I were having a Twitter discussion today.   It was about the Gospel and how big churches grow based on money, power, and programs but not the Gospel.   From time to time we discuss matters like this, and today my friend made the point that he didn’t think most people who attend mega-churches are there to hear the Gospel of Jesus.   I contended that, whether they’re there to hear it or not, the Gospel is actually what hollow lives crave. Whether or not they do, or take that message home with them, or even acknowledge it is another matter.

But my friend’s point got me thinking, especially when I consider it within the context of today’s verse. Are we simply sheep who have fallen away?

In one sense, we aren’t.   We’re believers seeking Jesus, following Jesus.   He tasked His very Disciples with that very charge: “come follow me.”   So we do.   When we do, we’re sheep following the Shepherd. He guides us, helps us, keeps us together, teaches and cares for us. Gathering together in His name, whether in small groups or mega-churches, is true fellowship with Him and His church.

Yet in another sense we are the sheep who have fallen away. Every minute of every day, I harbor sins against my Savior. Thoughts, words, actions:   I’m thick with sin and can’t live a minute innocent of it. I’ve come to ignore my shepherd willfully and frequently. I forget His voice; I turn from His commands; I deny His perfection; I spit on His gift to me.   Long ago, Jesus quoted the ancient prophecy of Zechariah by saying “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”   He was predicting what would happen to His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed.   In a larger sense, He was also predicting what we, His church, would do to Him on a regular basis both as individuals and as His corporate and worldly church.

I deny Him.   We deny Him.   We are struck by Satan through the problems of this world and the sins we embrace.   It’s an age-old battle in which we fight, one that goes back to Eden.   Anything but God; anyone but God.   Indeed, every one of our sins is a subtle idolatry, a quiet choice to be scattered from instead of gathered to our Lord.   When Jesus predicted that His best friends would all soon fall away from Him, in another sense He was also predicting the same for us.   It doesn’t matter how many times we gather to worship Him, offer Him tithes, sing in the best choir or praise band, or any deed we do for the church. If we fall away from Him in the heart, none of that matters.   Jesus wants us to stand with Him with a whole heart first, before anything else, before anyone else.

We’ve fallen away, my fellow sheep.   My friend’s point is valid even as it is cynical. We daily fall away from Jesus even as, deep inside, our deepest need is for the fulfillment, satisfaction, and love that only He can offer. As today is the beginning of Lent, what will you contemplate about this fact in the forty days to come?

Lord Jesus, I have fallen away from you.   Daily abide with me, forgive me, and renew me that I may learn to live only for You.

Read Mark 14, verses 27-31.