Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 24 April 2019

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV).

On its own, this verse is (obviously) good advice.  Always tell the truth because you’re upright before God in doing so.  Yet don’t forget that verse 15 comes in-between other verses that caution us against engaging in useless conversation.   Useless quarrels about words and godless chatter are the opposite of what is God-approved.

Pseudo-political rant commences:  I’m baffled and discouraged by how our government, for political reasons, handles classified information.  I used to hold a clearance; it was required for my job in the military.   So I’m boggled and really discouraged, even angered, at the cavalier attitude some of my countrymen display regarding misuse of classified information.  Whether it’s a candidate doing it with a disregard for law (for reasons we still don’t know), or an FBI director leaking to seek revenge, or an activist traitor who refuses to testify after he is cornered, I can’t see anything good for the country with these people being handled gently.   When you agree to handle classified information, you sign papers with your agreement to do so honorably and carefully.  Jesus forgives them and I’m glad for that.   Our legal system should prosecute them harshly because what they willingly did endangers all of us.   Here endeth the rant.

I say all that because we need to correctly handle words, especially the truth.   Have you ever been ashamed to say or do something because you KNOW Jesus’ Spirit lives within you yet you say or do it anyway?   I’ve been there; how about you?   God gives us this unique, truly special Word to transform lives for Him and we profane it by our misuse, our words and deeds.  It’s similar to handling classified, if you think about it.   We don’t sign paperwork, but we do say “I believe.”   We can’t be prosecuted for believing, but we will be judged appropriately if we reject Him.   All through our lives we can snooze conversations about both politics and religion.   Yet, when we come to the end of our lives, the politics won’t matter but what we believe about Jesus will.

Is this just a useless quarrel or godless chatter?   I’ll leave it for you to decide; I don’t like talking politics here.  Christ included us in His family when He planted His Word in our hearts.  He gave us words to be able to share His Word with other people, so they, too, might believe and receive Christ’s adoption.  We are his brothers, sisters, and friends, not slaves or subjugated.  Those words aren’t trifles.   They are the only lasting love and power in the universe.  We should handle them respectfully

For further reading: Ephesians 1:13, Colossians 1:5, James 1:18, 2 Timothy 2:16.

Sovereign Lord, forgive me for my misuse, my carelessness with Your Word.   Teach me Your better way to use it today.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 30 January 2018

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.  1 Thessalonians 2:3.

These messages are delivered to you electronically.   We’re blessed to have an Internet that allows us to easily, quickly, cheaply exchange information.   Yet even though this is true, let’s face it:   there’s a LOT of disinformation and outright lies on the internet.  News, opinion, statistics:  we live in the era of fake news.   Let’s not even get into the mire about how that moniker affects our current politics.   Much of what you see, read, and hear today isn’t real.

And it isn’t anything new.

Within minutes of hearing about the resurrection, the political and religious elites of the Paul’s day were concocting cover stories about Jesus’ body being stolen, about drunken guards, and other angles; initially, Paul was one of those elites.   Everywhere the Apostles went they were confronted by people who didn’t believe it was possible for any man to come back to life.   Even when Paul discussed his own conversion in intimate, one on one settings, he wasn’t believed, wasn’t trusted.

Nothing has changed.  Don’t believe me?   Try arguing an atheist out of his science and his faith in the knowledge he has about the origin of species.   Two thousand years later, people still argue about the reliability of the gospels.   About just what did happen at that garden tomb on that first Easter morning.   As you can read from today’s verse, people argued with Paul about it (and they were centuries closer to the actual event than you or I), even as there were still (at the time) guards and witnesses who had seen Christ alive after the Resurrection.   What would make Paul talk about all this?

You know.

The appeal Paul made to the Thessalonians wasn’t any different from the appeal his words make to us.   They talk to us of things about God, and they are trustworthy and true because God has never been disproven in His words.   God’s words, spoken through men like Paul, speak of truth and love and forgiveness.   Any other quality would have long since been disproven; any other thing would simply have fallen apart.   Not so the witness of the Apostles.   Nothing could contain God’s word, and nothing would stop it from spreading.   When God spoke to Paul, Paul simply HAD TO share it because what was entrusted to him was too good to hoard.

Yet his readers, like us, are just people, and people are skeptical.   So Paul testifies and reminds his reader that his motive is pure, that he’s passing on what was given to Him by the Lord.   You and I can take that to the bank even if you read it on the Internet.

For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:4.

Lord, thank You for speaking through Paul, and for touching my heart to hear and grasp Your words.

 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 29 January 2018

We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.  1 Thessalonians 2:2.

Something else needs to be said before we move on.  To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, without God, everything is meaningless but nothing can contain Him.

I was reading about how Google Home doesn’t recognize the name of Jesus.   A story online said that the in-home smart speaker recognizes the names of Buddha, Allah, and even Satan and can relay to you a whole encyclopedia of knowledge about those names, but that it says “I’m sorry I don’t understand” (or something like that) when you ask it about Jesus or Jesus Christ.  Newsflash, my friends, God doesn’t need Google Home but He loves the people who make and use it anyway.   Ditto Alexa, Echo, Facebook, Bing, and any other gadget or browser we can think of.   Indeed, God’s word will spread even MORE when people deny it.

Crazy?   Yes, actually it is.   The conventional world can’t see how this makes sense, but the world that believes in Jesus can.   His word is too good to be contained; it’s too good to be bottled up or confined by the smallness of human activity.  People can try, but the good news always comes through.   It did in concentration camps.   It does in prisons, and inner cities, and communist re-education camps, and even in Hollywood.  It even happens in organized churches.

In this verse, Paul describes how people strongly opposed his preaching.  In Philippi Paul had been strongly opposed and it stung him.  He considered it outrageous that God’s word would be opposed, that anyone would try to interfere with or target or stop the preaching of words ordained by the Lord Himself.  Yet despite the opposition, word spread.   People all over Greece and Asia Minor wanted to know more about what these missionaries of “The Way” were saying.  Tyrannical Romans couldn’t stop the message.  Hostile Jews and their synagogues couldn’t stop the message.  Skeptical Greeks and hateful pagans couldn’t stop it.  By the time Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he was used to being opposed, and he began to recognize that it was to God’s glory that all this happened.

That was true 2000 years ago.   It’s still true today.   God doesn’t need us to preach His message.   He can get it out any way He chooses.   Yet He chooses us to do it for Him, to talk about it one on one, to build relationships based on common worship and understanding of Him because without Him everything else means nothing.   God chooses to work through us as we love one person at a time.  Nothing could contain that way back then; nothing can contain it now.

For further reading: Ecclesiastes, Acts 14:19, Acts 16:22, Philippians 1:30, 1 Thessalonians 2:3

Lord, I pray:  work through me today. Love others through me.   Teach me to represent You.

 

Daily Proverbial, from Ruth, 18 March 2014

And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.  Ruth 3, verse 11.

It doesn’t take much to destroy a reputation.   Ask me; I know.   I’ve built, destroyed, and re-built my reputation several times over.  Not everyone knows me well, and those who do sometimes wish they didn’t.   I work hard these days to live out my faith, but I don’t always live it well, especially if you get me talking about politics.   That hasn’t always been the case because the cliché is true:  a good reputation takes a long time to build while it takes only a few minutes to tear it down.

My grandfather (himself a man who had strong good and bad sides) used to say that you should always tell the truth because then you never have to worry about what you told someone.  Perhaps he spoke from experience.  He worked hard all his life to build a family and a business, yet in some of his weaker moments, he dove head-first into tearing that down.   It took him many years to recover from that; in some cases he never did, and he was still one of the greatest men I’ve ever known.   Yet he strived to be honest, to be no-nonsense while being just himself.   That isn’t easy.

He was a far cry from Ruth.   Since her arrival in Judea, she had worked hard to be known as a follower of God.   Ruth’s reputation was solid.  Her words and actions aligned; she lived out her faith.  That isn’t an easy thing to do, especially when you’re dealing with abject poverty as Ruth was.  She had stood by Naomi; she had worked hard.   Ruth had lived honorably and had done nothing to bring shame on herself, Naomi, or Naomi’s family.  Word gets around in a small town, even if it’s a good word.   Boaz knew about Ruth, and he understood her to be a woman of good, Godly character.   A decision to marry is hardly a ‘no brainer,’ but it’s made much easier when you know your prospective partner to be the kind of person you can admire.

Like Ruth.

Not so much me.  Or my grandfather.   Or most people, maybe even you at times.   Admit it:   we have good points, but we aren’t Ruth.  We usually work hard to develop character, and we struggle with the things that could derail it.  I can’t picture Ruth struggling with feelings of hatred, or temptations to steal, or to lie, or sleep around or shoot heroin.   But she was a sinner too, and she had her own pet temptations that we don’t know about.   She found strength to stand in her new-found God.   So can we.

Lord, I thank and praise You for giving me another day on Planet Earth to build a reputation for following You.

 

Read Ruth 3.

What are some kinks in your reputation?

Would people have a hard or easy time believing you are a good follower of Christ?

Who do you need to forgive?