Practical Proverbial, from 2 Peter, 29 October 2020. Today’s topic: Shake It Off

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Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”  2 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV).

A few days ago, we discussed (here) how a ‘new’ organ was recently discovered in the human head.   Today comes a story (from CNN, USA Today, Fox, and the Times) that a new coral reef, one the size of the Empire State Building, was recently discovered off the coast of Australia.  You know what that means:   people have been sailing off Australia for hundreds of years and have, in all that time, overlooked something obvious.   In other words, even as a learned, educated, and experienced people, humanity has many things to learn.

Keep that in mind as this world seems to careen out of control.  The talking heads of the media, academia, and ‘leaders’ all tell us to ignore simple things in front of our eyes.   “Gaslighting” has become a commonplace word in our modern lexicon:   you don’t see what you’re really seeing.  Maybe the folks who are predicting this as the start of the end times are right; maybe they aren’t.   From what I’ve read in the Bible, there are many more signs to be fulfilled, but who am I to say?   Besides, if I were to agree, no doubt someone would disagree.   And if I disagree, no doubt there is someone out there who would criticize me for not agreeing. 

After all, “haters gonna hate (hate, hate, hate, hate, hate)”.  Or so Taylor Swift sang.  And she’s become a modern day scoffer!   Right after that, Taylor sang that we should just shake it all off and not sweat the small stuff (and for good reason; more in a minute).  Now look at the poor girl.  All alone, rich, famous, and still pining in angst over lost boyfriends.

Perhaps Taylor needs to be reminded that the scoffers scoff (scoff, scoff, scoff, scoff; ok, I’ll stop).  When the heartbreakers stop breaking and the fakers stop faking, they’re left to see that God is bigger than all of it.   Jesus was and is and is to come before, during, and after this world.   No matter what undiscovered reefs we sail, no matter how many people hate us, no matter what the smartest people say, what Jesus said is still over it.   Nothing they (or we) know was created without Jesus; nothing we (or they) think or say is done without Jesus knowing it first. 

And with that in mind, someday I’d like to see that reef in Australia.  In the meantime, when the world comes at us, just shake it off.

For further reading:  Isaiah 5:19, Ezekiel 12:22, Matthew 24:48, Mark 10:6, Luke 17:30, 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Peter 3:5

Mighty Lord Jesus, You are over everything in this world.   There is nothing that is that is apart from You.   We are but small.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Peter, 28 October 2020. Today’s topic: So Should We

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Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.  2 Peter 3:1-2 (NIV).

At first reading (and for most of my life), these verses sounded pretty dull.  I suppose most young people would say that, maybe even many seasoned ones.  It’s natural; it’s the way of things. These days, they aren’t so dull.  In fact, they make sense.   They appeal to me having lived long enough to start appreciating wisdom.  I can almost hear Sam Elliott saying them, speaking in that oaky timbre of his.  They’re words a wizened and experienced Peter would remind his younger self to heed.

Chapter 3 of 2 Peter is the last chapter of the book.  Much of it is spent talking about the final days of the late, great Planet Earth, and about Judgment Day, about the last day of the world.  If you’re an unbeliever, these seem either laughable or sobering, even terrifying, thoughts.   They’re the stark reality that Jesus means what He says about coming back, about setting things right, and about judging sin; about destroying this fallen place and restoring it into what it was originally spoken to be.

If you’re old Peter, and you’ve known Jesus as both Savior and friend, and you have been entrusted with knowledge He gave you, you want to share this knowledge so that anyone you meet will heed it and avoid the desolation of being found unbelieving.  The old man Peter had lived long enough to see the wisdom of the words and wanted to share them before it was too late.   Before Jesus returned, or Nero struck, or both.

And if you’re young Peter, or the unbelieving people around him, then you don’t yet understand this wisdom, don’t really see the full value in it.  Surely the loving God, who you say sent His only Son to redeem us in love, wouldn’t do this to his chosen very good creation?   What will be is what we’ve always known.   Go away, old man, and bother someone else.

That’d be sad, wouldn’t it?   It would be sad to ignore someone who’s just trying to help you.   It would be sad to stare wisdom in the eyes and think it is actually unwise. It would be even sadder to think that the judgments to come would endanger me, or you, no matter what age we are.   Peter understood this, first as a young man, and then after many years.  So, he quoted Jesus.   So should we:  it’s the wise thing to do.

For further reading:  Luke 1:70, Acts 3:21, Ephesians 4:11, 2 Peter 3:3

Lord Jesus, come quickly.  Have mercy on us.   Forgive us our sins.   Renew us and Your world.   Until then, help me, use me to reach those who don’t know You.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Peter, 27 October 2020 Today’s topic: That’s When Your Heartaches Begin

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Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.  2 Peter 3:1 (NIV).

This puts me in good company:   Peter’s reason for writing his letters is the same as mine:   to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.   You could do me no greater compliment than to look in your Bible to learn more about today’s verse.  No greater honor could be paid than for you to be encouraged in your faith, strengthened in your relationship with the Lord Jesus, who saves us all.  When that happens, give all the credit to God because He’s the one who made it happen.

THAT was the wholesome thinking Peter urged; that’s why I write here.  It is for God to use these words to help you somehow in your walk today.  Let’s face it:  we all need that help.   We can’t do this faith-journey alone; we can’t journey through life without others.   And others are here to channel the Lord’s love to help us as well.

That becomes important, even critical, every day when we’re faced with idolatry.   You know you will be; you know that something today will occupy your interest so much that you’ll put aside thoughts of God, thoughts of yourself even.   Hard work and focus are good things, inherent in our human independence.   But they can facilitate our idolatry if we let them.   We can make work, sex, leisure, money, anything an idol, and the evil one will happily use that to drive a wedge into our relationship with God.  If you think about it, every sin we do is a combination of at least two sins, one of which is idolatry.   We choose something other than Jesus and, like Elvis sang, that’s when your heartaches begin.

The good news is that Jesus forgives all sins.   All of them.   Recognize idolatrous immorality then flee from it so you can confess genuine sorrow, real remorse, true repentance.   He will forgive you.  That doesn’t make him a wish-machine:  it simply shows His divine character.   You know when you feel that genuine sorrow:  it’s when you feel it deep inside, when you’re ashamed of what you’ve done, when you want to ‘take it back’ but accept that you can’t undo what you did.  Go to God with that on your heart and you’ll find He’s been waiting for you.

When you do that, you’ll understand how every believer needs to go to Christ every single day because every day we mess things up.   Every one of the apostles and church heroes of old had to do the same thing.   And so will you every day of your life.   Feel the relief of Jesus’ forgiveness and know you’re in good company.   That’s when the best life begins.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 10:14, 2 Peter 3:2

Lord Jesus, let my heart genuinely confess my sins to You, and let me rest peacefully in Your forgiveness.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Peter, 26 October 2020. Today’s topic: He Forgives Every Sin

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It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”  2 Peter 2:21-22. (NIV).

Does God forgive every sin?   Will He forgive us even when we repudiate Him, when we say “I don’t believe in you?”   Simple answer:   yes, but God can’t be fooled.   He understands if we are honest.  God sees inside our hearts.   He knows when we mean something and when we don’t.   A lie is a sin and saying “I believe in you” when we don’t truly believe is a lie.   God understands that.   Would He welcome back my friend who converted to Islam?   Answer:   yes, when she genuinely confesses her need for Him.   Just like me or you.

And that’s the thing.   That’s why Peter spent so much of chapter 2 talking about this concept.   Salvation is God’s free gift for us.   He didn’t do it for Himself:   He doesn’t need to be saved because He’s holy and perfect already.   He doesn’t need to be made righteous because He’s already righteous.   God saved us because He loved us.   He knows we can’t save ourselves.

And yet, we each know of people who want nothing to do with this.   They have their own reasons; some say they once were Christian, or were brought up as Christian.   Now they want nothing to do with Christianity.   God respects their choice.   Or you know of people who only ask for prayers when they are in need.   When they don’t think they need faith, they scorn it.   Don’t spend too much time looking down your nose at them lest you see them in the mirror.

Same for me, you know.  I’m judgy; I’m cocky; I’m confident enough in my own faith to walk a razor’s edge of it where, on one side there is Jesus, and the other are my judgments.  I’ve walked in both worlds and the better one by far is the one where Jesus is, where His leadership guides my life.   Yet there’s also that pleasing comfort of those pet sins.   Like sweet sounding sirens, they try to sing me back.

Giving in to them would be so much more costly, though.   It becomes almost impossible to break free of sin’s grip if we give in to it again and again.   Yes, it’s that powerful.   Yet know this:   even more powerful is the searching love of our righteous Savior.   Jesus forgave all our original sins.   He forgives EVERY new one when we come to Him with genuine hearts.

For further reading:  Proverbs 26:11, Ezekiel 18:24, Hebrews 6:4-6, 2 Peter 3:1

Lord Jesus, let my heart genuinely confess my sins to You, and let me rest peacefully in Your forgiveness.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Peter, 22 October 2020. Today’s topic: Only Faith That Saves

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If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.  2 Peter 2:20. (NIV).

A friend of mine converted FROM Christianity to Islam.   In an era where (literally) millions of disillusioned Muslims are converting to faith in Jesus, my friend repudiated her faith in divine Christ and subscribed it to Islam.  She did it to marry a Muslim man, but she exercises her faith in Allah much more devoutly than most Christians show theirs in Christ.  When we worked together in Minnesota, several times per day she would disappear behind the office cube walls.   Once I walked back to see what was happening and I found her praying towards Mecca.   To tell you the truth, I admire her devotion even as I know it is misplaced.

She practices her faith so devoutly, so earnestly, and she speaks honestly of peace and how practicing Islam brings her relief.  She told me once that she never got that feeling from Christianity, and that she saw many more like-minded devotees in Islam than she ever saw as a Christian.   Living in (now) Muslim south Minneapolis allows her to stay in a cloister while still being in the world.   She raises her children in the faith and they are part of an extended family that, before the events of this year, was beyond compare.   I don’t know what it’s like now, given that riots shook the neighborhoods around hers.  Like I said, I admire her practice.  

And it’s a shame – an eternal shame – that her faith is misplaced.  Allah cannot save her.   Allah is not the Triune God.   Whatever Islam is, it isn’t the way of Jesus and, because of that, it leads to damnation. Talking about these things isn’t some child’s game of “my faith is better than your faith.”   That would dishonor the true God.  No, this is simply the truth.

God allows us complete free will, even including the free choice to disavow Him.  When we do that, the enemy is invited in.   Sure, the enemy may come bearing alleged peace and flowers, but flowers die and peace without the victory of Jesus’ salvation is simply the absence of open warfare.   The enemy actually wars against us by many other means.   When we empty our hearts of Christ, the demons set against us are free to move in.   When they do, they wreck us worse than we were before.   There’s a better way.

I hope that doesn’t happen to my friend.   She’s one of the most competent people I’ve ever worked with.   In this challenging time, I pray that she comes back to the true faith in Jesus Christ.

For further reading:  Matthew 12:45, 2 Peter 2:21

Lord Jesus, preserve and forgive us when we turn away from You.   Take care of my friend.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Peter, 20 October 2020. Today’s topic: Knowledge Starts With Jesus

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For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”  2 Peter 2:18-19. (NIV).

Did you know that, just this week, scientists discovered 2 new organs in the human body?   That’s right, doctors in the Netherlands announced they had just discovered 2 previously unknown salivary glands in the human skull.   The story can be found at https://www.sciencealert.com/chance-discovery-reveals-mysterious-organ-lurking-in-human-head-missed-for-centuries.

This isn’t in some new species, discovered in some remote South American jungle cave:   this is in the middle of every person’s head!   Right behind the nose and right in front of the brain:  BOOM!   Two undiscovered organs that learned professionals have been overlooking for hundreds of years, assuming they were something else.  But our learned professionals know more than common people, right?

It brings me to Peter’s point:   just because someone is educated, learned, even experienced doesn’t mean they have all the answers.   If you want answers, go to God.   Period.   Whenever we have questions about that, repeat that last point:   go to God. 

Mind you: it is a good thing – a blessing – to have human curiosity and people who are deeply educated about many things.   I don’t know much about human anatomy (other than mine is overweight), but I’m thankful God inspired others to learn about it.  I don’t know how to weld but I’m thankful there are people like my son, who is highly trained to do this difficult work.   I can’t do many things that others can, but, then again, most others don’t have my skills either.   Thanks be to Christ for all of us.

Yet when it comes to real answers – the ones about life and death – then all the education in the world could make me (or you) a slave to this world.   Indeed, many who are highly educated try to lead others astray.  We as a species have misplaced God from His rightful place in the natural order and tried to replace Him with the shabby false gods of ‘reason’ and ‘knowledge.’  Yet the more we dig into how things are, the more we discover our gross lack of real understanding.   If that’s wrong, then would someone please explain how gravity came to be?   Or how inanimate organic matter becomes alive?  PhD’s and scientists can’t explain these simple things.  It’s sort of like overlooking new organs in the average human head.   But what do I know?

Apparently not much, which is why I’m thankful for Jesus, who is both above my pay grade but also readily accessible as both Savior and friend.   When I need to know what to think about something, the place to start is with Jesus.  After all, the start of all real knowledge is Him.

For further reading:   Romans 6:15, Jude 16-20, 2 Peter 2:20

Lord Jesus, without You, there is no reason; without You, knowledge means nothing.  

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Peter, 20 October 2020. Today’s topic: His Much Better Way

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These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.  2 Peter 2:17 (NIV).

Have you ever gone through times in your life when you felt desolate?   Perhaps you lost a spouse, or a child, or a parent?   Perhaps you did your best and still lost your job.   Perhaps you had to declare bankruptcy, or your house burned, or your pet died, or you found out you have a terrible disease.

You get the drift.   Most of us have been there.   Why, even if something dreadful hasn’t happened in your life, I’m betting today you’ve experienced something that left you feeling desolate, barren, alone.

Here’s the bad news.   It can get worse.   You can shut your heart out to God completely and denounce Him.   He won’t punish you.   No, He’ll do something much worse.   He’ll do to you the same thing He did to the nations of the Old Testament.   God can remove His favor from your life.   God can remove His protective hand from your life and let the prince of this world reign in it.  All it takes is for you to turn your back on Him and deny Him.   It can get very much worse, my friend, and I hope it never does for you. 

This is the kind of people Peter is talking about in this verse:   people who have denied God, who have abandoned Him.  They live in spiritual and emotional misery, in constant sin and constant regret.   I wouldn’t want to live in a world without love, but there are many, many people who don’t care about that.   Hell may very well be fire, brimstone, and torture, but I think that it is also something much worse.   Hell is a place where everyone exists in the absence of God’s love.   It isn’t punishment:   it’s God accepting the choices we made and demanded He accept.   It’s His turning us over to the consequences of our choices.  Fire and pain would be easy compared to living through eternity with a barren heart.

These were the kind of people Peter was describing.   Darkness was their final destination.

Don’t let it be yours. 

Making sure it isn’t yours is easier than you might think.   It starts with saying to Jesus, “I’ve sinned.   I’m a sinner.   Forgive me.”   Say it and mean it.   “I believe in You Jesus.   You’re the only God.   You’re my savior.   Save me.”   If death and eternal misery can happen in a blink, then so can eternal life and light.  Light shines in an instant. In fact, the light of Jesus was what Peter, Jude, and the rest of the apostles were yearning to share with everyone they met.   It’s even more so today.

This world shows us desolation and pain.   Why settle for that when Jesus invites us to be part of His much better way?

For further reading:   Jude 12-13, 2 Peter 2:18

Lord Jesus, forgive me.   I’m a sinner.   I believe in You.   I need You.   You are my only Savior.

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Practical Proverbial, 19 October. Today’s topic: Balaam’s Donkey Today

They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.  2 Peter 2:13-16 (NIV).

Peter doesn’t have kind words for people who have willfully indulged in their sins.   I was one of them, for a very long time.   I think about that now, and I’m ashamed.   Even as I’m so imperfect now, I’m ashamed of who I was, what I said and did, ashamed to have hurt others.  Ashamed to have dishonored God and my family and myself.

Here’s the kicker:   even though I haven’t done such things in years, I did them.   I sometimes still think of them.   Sometimes, the lust creeps back into my mind.   Sometimes the bad language still seeps out of my mouth.   Sometimes I’m still immature and intolerant and angry.   I’m still sinful.  On my own, I still don’t deserve Jesus’ forgiveness.   I recognize it, am sorry for it, wish I could make amends for it.

But I can’t.   And neither can you.   And, best of all, Jesus knows it.   He recognizes it.   He and only He makes you and I righteous.   On our own, we aren’t righteous, but with Him covering us, He makes us worthy, makes us righteous.   On our own, like Peter says, we’re like Balaam, who led the Israelites astray only to be rebuked – and saved – by his donkey.   We’re foolish, pursuing our own brand of wisdom until reality smacks us in the head to get our attention.   With Balaam, it was a donkey, swerving off the road to avoid God’s avenging angel, who Balaam couldn’t see.

Yet with us, it’s that righteousness.   Jesus forgave us.   He took away our sin and the death-consequence for it.   We won’t spend eternity apart from Him, and that eternity begins now.  More, when taking away our sin, He took away our shame, our guilt, our self-punishment.   When those bubble up, He beckons us to think of Him, of the nail marks in His hands, of all He did to build up His church, of His solid love.

In the long run, it’s better to cling to that than the sadness of what’s passed.

For further reading:   Numbers 22:4-30, Deuteronomy 23:4, Romans 13:13, 1 Corinthians 11:20-21, Ephesians 2:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:7, James 1:8, Jude 12, Revelation 2:14, 2 Peter 2:17

Lord Jesus, always remind me of Your unfailing love and sacrifice for me.   Welcome me home when I forget these things.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Peter, 15 October 2020 Today’s Topic: He Was Right

He Was Right

But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.  2 Peter 2:12 (NIV).

I have a confession: I haven’t always professed my belief in Jesus this way.   In fact, I spent quite a few years being a cocky, profane hypocrite.   I said I was a Christian, but I only would have told you that if you had pressed me on it.   I was scared to do otherwise.  Other than that confession, nothing about my words, demeanor, or attitude would have told you I was anything other than just another fool with a loud-mouth who said too much of too little worth.

This point was brought home to me by friends with whom my wife and I visited last month.  We were in Colorado and were invited over to see some friends we hadn’t seen in many years (from our time in Italy, in fact).  Our friend, Wanda, told her husband, Brad, that she had been reading some of these Christian blog posts.   Brad’s remark: “that doesn’t sound like the Dave Terry I remember.”

He was right.   You see, I could have been the guy Peter was talking about in verse 12.   I was an unreasoning animal, a creature of sinful instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed.   My words and actions brought disrepute on God for many years.   Yes, I believed, but I was a hypocrite.   Profane, immature, unreasonable, drunken, unkind, dishonest: keep it up with the negative adjectives and more than a few would stick to me.   As a young man, and for many years, this was my pattern.   Even after God blessed me with a wife, a family, and success; even after rediscovering faith and what it really meant.  Jude could have been talking about me when he said, “these people slander whatever they do not understand.”

Thanks be to the Lord that He’s better than me, that He has outrageous mercy and grace.   That He sends other people, like my friends, to witness with their words and lives.  Sometimes it doesn’t sink in immediately.   Sometimes we push against the goads, we struggle against what we know is right.   Pride will do that to us.   A little pride is the engine of satisfaction, but too much of it can douse that engine in dangerous fuel. 

There’s a better way.   In every moment during my most distasteful days, Jesus was there.   He was patient; He was sinless; He was providing for me; He was beckoning me to change.   It took time for me to listen, and listening meant stripping down my soul until I had no place left to turn but to Him.   And that’s when the good times truly began.

For further reading:   Psalm 49:12, Jude 10, 2 Peter 2:13

Lord Jesus, all I can say is “thank You.”

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