Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 30 May 2019

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  2 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV).

Paul is a delight to read because he talks lovingly to his protégé, Timothy, while also reasoning with him.   He doesn’t preach to Timothy; he doesn’t condescend to the younger man.   Instead, he uses reason and care that talks with we strangers so many years later.   Indeed, break down these two verses and you can digest some of the tones in which Paul communicates with his “son.”

“Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of:” that could almost be a commencement address.   Good teaching speaks for itself and convinces us of truth.  Convincing us of the truth is the primary goal of all education.

“You know those from whom you have learned it.”   Paul is talking about both himself but especially about Timothy’s mother and grandmother, who raised him.   They were early followers of Jesus who taught the young man about Christ, preparing him for mission with Paul and then service to the church abroad.   They were honest and trustworthy people.

“How from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures.”   Then as now, Jewish boys are taught the Torah and the Talmud starting at around age 5.   It begins a life-long pursuit of knowing God more through His word.  It’s the reason why so many Christians so strongly advocate Christian education for the young.

“The Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise.”  True wisdom comes only from God, is imparted only by Him and through His Word.   On our own, we the people aren’t wise.   With the Lord, His wisdom becomes an inevitable gift of grace.

“Salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”   Jesus did the work of salvation.   He and only He forgave our sins and made it possible for us to live forever.   Yet that doesn’t happen if we don’t put our faith in Him.   If we choose to reject faith in Christ, He allows us the consequence of our choice.   Yes, we will live forever, but the Scriptures say it won’t be with Jesus.

All these things Timothy knew.   And he knew that persecution was all around him, and would come for him, too.   History says that Timothy eventually became a bishop in Ephesus, in modern Turkey, where he was beaten to death during a pagan feast when he tried to minister the Gospel.  He and Paul understood these things because they pursued Godly wisdom from Jesus.   We can do the same.

For further reading:  John 5:39, Deuteronomy 4:6, Psalm 119:98-99, 2 Timothy 3:15.

Wise Savior, only You are truly wise.   Wisdom comes only through You.  Thank You for teaching us Your wisdom through people like Paul and Timothy.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 27 November 2018

Command and teach these things. 1 Timothy 4:11 (NIV).

Paul doesn’t mess around.   He says “command and teach.”   Not “go get some proper seminary training first and then wear nice robes and sing boring music.”   And he doesn’t say “you need a college degree for this.”   And Paul doesn’t say “think it over and, if you’re feeling up to it, speak up when you get the chance.”

Command and teach already.   Very Captain Kirk:   boldly go where no man has gone before (or where many have gone but their love has grown cold).   Speak up and speak out.

These words come in the chapter where Paul has given out some broad instructions to his protégé.  The goal is to minister to others as Christ ministered.   The aim is to build up the body of believers into more closely following our Savior in how we think, speak, and act.   It isn’t about a bunch of rules:   it’s about Jesus.

And to better follow Jesus, when one is called to speak up for the faith, COMMAND and teach.   Don’t mess around with it.   Don’t walk around thinking “I can’t do this” because you can; because His Spirit will do the talking and teaching for you.  Stand up and be counted and speak the truth plainly, boldly, convincingly.   Even people of timid nature can be forceful in their convictions.   Command and teach.   Do it confidently because the power you have to do it isn’t your own.   It is the power of Him who sends you:   the living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Yet remember a few things.   The position and ability to command is given by God but respected by men.   Here on the third rock, we earn respect.   If you command and teach in God’s name by humbly submitting to His authority, you’ll be shocked at what He does through you.   When people recognize that, they’ll listen in respect.

And teach wisely.   There’s no shame in not knowing how to do something, but there is shame in knowing you need to know and then doing nothing about it.   Do it in your own way, using your talents and your personality.  Learn to teach and teach to learn.   Do both in submission to Christ.

Finally, before commanding or teaching, go first to Jesus and seek His counsel.  He is the King of the World and knows what He’s doing.    Pray.   Immerse yourself in the Word.   Open your heart to Him and wait on Him to act; go Psalm 46.   He will, in His own good time, and everyone will see it.

When He does, get up and get going.  Command and teach.   Don’t be a jerk about it; Jesus was never a jerk.   We shouldn’t be either.   But stand firm and speak up.

For further reading: Psalm 46:10-11, 1 Timothy 5:7, 1 Timothy 4:12

Lord, put Your words in my mind and mouth, and help me to command and teach in Your name.   Help me to do it humbly, wisely, and confidently.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 15 August 2017

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.  Hebrews 11, verse 22.

I respect wisdom; I only wish I practiced more of it.   Like I said the last time, I’m Jacob.   I tend towards living out the unwise even as I crave to be wiser.  If I’m Jacob, that makes Joseph my son.  It’s as if my Dad and I had switched roles.   When I think of Joseph, I think of my Dad because I believe they shared a similar temperament.

If you don’t know the story, Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son.   He’s his son by Rachel, the beloved wife for whom Jacob had slaved seven years.   Joseph is animated, insightful, lively, and honest.   He’s also naïve and wise, and not very tactful.   Joseph alienated his older brothers so much that they wanted to murder him, but couldn’t bring themselves to do it.   So they sold him as a slave to passing travelers, who carried him away to Egypt.   There Joseph became a slave in a rich man’s house.   Over ups and downs, God provided for Joseph in everything, abiding with him when he was unjustly thrown in prison, and abiding with him when he rose to great power afterwards.   Second only to the king, Joseph worked miracles in using the knowledge and talents God gave him to prepare for seven years of famine.   Because of Joseph’s faith in God, all Egypt had food to eat during that famine, so much so that the extra was sold to foreigners…including Joseph’s family.   After some drama even Hollywood couldn’t imagine, Joseph is reunited with his family, and his father, Jacob, is able to die in peace.

Joseph was wise.   He recognized the hand of God in all good that had come his way.   When bad things happened, he thanked God for providing rescue and knowledge.   When good things happened, he gave all credit to God who had made it so.   Yet Joseph never underestimated the power of human depravity.   He understood the fickle nature of politics, and of being a foreigner serving a foreign king; Joseph believed there would be trouble after he died.   Thus, he prophesied that a time would come when his Israelite kinfolk would become a nation in need of deliverance.   “God will come to your aid” was what he told his children and grandchildren.  Joseph was a wise realist.   He ‘played long ball’ were good and when they weren’t.   He knew that, in both, God is still God and over it all.  His faith didn’t decrease even when he realized he was dying.   Indeed, he clung onto it steadily even when he knew God would see him die in a strange land.

My dad was a Kenneth, not a Joseph.   Yet I’m reminded of Joseph when I think of my dad.   Dad wasn’t a deeply religious man.   He went to church nearly all his life, yet it seemed like he taught my sister and I to be Sunday morning Christians.   It wasn’t that he was a bad man, or that he lived a moral life on Sunday and immoral otherwise; nothing could be farther from the truth.   Dad always believed in Jesus.  It’s just that his faith wasn’t something he practiced openly.   That is until he was dying.   Dad died of cancer in 1997.   The disease took him in a little over two years of up’s and down’s and painful treatments.   Through it, like Joseph, Dad learned to cling onto his faith.   Even up until the last time I talked with him, Dad was content with his life and realistic about his death.   “I know where I’m going.   I wish it wasn’t now, but that isn’t up to me.”   His words; not mine.

My Dad wasn’t a perfect man, and he didn’t try to be one.   He did his best.   His father did the same even as he, my grandfather, wasn’t a particularly strong example of the kind of man my father once wanted to be.  Dad worked to teach the people around him to have faith and be better.   He did his best to prepare us for hard times that would one day come.

If I as the son am more Jacob – an impetuous believer – then I remember my Dad as more Joseph:  a wise believer.   God took Joseph from obscurity to the depths to great fame.   God took my Dad from obscurity, through the hills, and to a quiet grave in a green field of white stones.  Yet I remember him as wise, and prospering, and usually laughing, and good.   I learned from my Dad to always try my hardest, and to ‘give it my all’ no matter what ‘it’ is.  And I learned from him the basics of believing, of learning how to trust God.   I’m betting Joseph could have said the same thing about his dad.

For further reading:  Genesis 50:24-25, Exodus 13:19, Joshua 24:32.

Lord, thank You for letting me be my Dad’s son, and Your created son.  Thank You for the example of Joseph, for all he did.

 

Daily Proverbial, from James, 14 November 2013

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  James 3, verse 13

So you’ve prayed the prayer, told Jesus that you love Him and want His forgiveness, and want to be a changed person.   What’s next? 

Follow through.

I haven’t smoked a cigarette in 28 days, and in the last 49 days I’ve had exactly one.  The last 49 days have been extremely difficult at work and at home.   I’ve been sick twice, been on the road 5 of 7 weeks, have done some major home improvement, worked with some difficult situations with my kids, adjusted to my wife working from home instead of at her old job, and the seasons have changed, going from pleasant summer to cold autumn.  At this time, staying off the smokes hasn’t been easy.

What’s the difference?   He put it on my heart to quit and stay quit.  It isn’t worth it to me to smoke but it is worth it to me to do better for Jesus.   No, we aren’t going down the self-righteous path of my trumpeting my own horn or telling you how wonderful it is to be smoke-free and how healthy I’ll be.   Personally, I think that’s bunk because there are times when I’ve stopped myself from buying them.

But it’s not about me.   It’s about the difference.   The difference is Jesus, and the proof is in the follow through.   Mind you, Jesus doesn’t need proof of Himself, and He doesn’t need us to prove to Him how wonderful we are.   It’s you and I who need to see the good deeds to reinforce our belief.   Jesus has wanted from eternity to share His wisdom, His perfect love, with us, and He wants to share it with ALL of us.

Everyone.  One way He shows it is by each of us living out changed lives.  He changes us; He makes all things and all people new.   He wants us to then go forth and sin no more, changing our behaviors and being more than we were.   That isn’t easy.   Look no further than me for proof of that.  I’m not perfect.  I fell off the wagon.   One day I smoked.   I messed up.   I fell short.

But I bounced back because He makes it possible.  Jesus makes us wise and He wants us to share His wisdom.  It can be done.   Not necessarily quitting smoking; that may not be your vice or pet sin.  But whatever your sin is, He can change your heart, plant His perfect love in You, and bless you through it in ways you never considered.   He can do it now.   Be wise:  follow through.  What are you prepared to do about that?

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your perfect love.  Change me with it so that I can live for You and live You to others, so You can change them too.

 

Do you want to live forever?