Hey, Look at Me!

It should be with fear and trepidation that we engage in social media. There seem to be sufficient warnings in God’s word, particularly in Proverbs 27, to counsel against participation.

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips. A stone is heavy and the sand weighty, but the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them. Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy? Proverbs 27:1-4

The first is that it is based on boasting. However it’s cut, you wind up with “ha, ha, this is what I’m doing tomorrow.” The biblical principle is that who can predict what tomorrow holds? The same would hold for true for what you’ve just enjoyed. All this just promotes the jealousy of others. It’s said here that jealousy is worse than anger and wrath. The latter characteristically flare up and subside. The former causes one to seethe.

We are counseled early on to not blow one’s own horn, but the whole basis of Facebook and Instagram is to invite the comments of others. But with your boastful posts you do blow your own horn with the purpose egging on others to praise you. Then you’re sad if no one does, or if they don’t react in the way you expect, which would always be, if you’re honest, to heap praise or to admit envy.

During the normal course of one’s life there may be times where you’re praised. But let these moments be special, not contrived. We should be about pleasing God not man. Sometimes he dispatches special emissaries to provide encouragement. Likes are finicky and ofttimes disingenuous.

But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,  and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12

Paul talks about our leading a quiet life working with our hands. Living online is not quite what he had in mind. The apostle was always under fire and second-guessed for his motives. He used a lot of ink trying to set the record straight or attempting to clarify himself even before he spoke. Today imagine the Twitter storms he’d endure!

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6

What we have to offer the world in many cases are “pearls before swine.” To argue with others on the meaningless platform of social media is to carry unnecessary weight. It’s a burden we need not bear.

 

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I’ve Got This

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 (NASB)

When our signal’s weak and we have trouble connecting with God, the spirit intercedes for us. His connection is solid and clear. When he does the talking God listens, because only the spirit can formulate what is in our hearts and align it with God’s will. This means out go our selfish wants, unfounded fears and impatient expectations. What’s left is our need in the truest sense, and God hears. At the very least God’s word to us will be comforting and encouraging, saying “I’ve got this.“

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Power Packed—Romans 8:1-25

There are many things you can buy these days, the features of which you may never use or understand. Cars nearly drive themselves. There are smart TVs that require a Millennial to operate. And try plumbing the depths of Photoshop! Not enough time in the day. The same goes for what the Spirit does in our lives! But in this case we can understand all that is under the hood.

Stepping aside from the almost word-by-word magnificence of Romans for a second, I scanned Chapter 8 to see what the Spirit of Life does for me—and you.

First, it’s replaced the law of sin and death with the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. I can now walk not according to the flesh but the Spirit. I have been emancipated.

With him on board I am able to set my mind on the things that are important to God. Only then am I able to experience real peace in my life and do the things that please him.

Actually I should not be able to contain the excitement in me when I truly realize who I’ve got inside! It’s mind blowing. Get this. The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is in me. Now I’m immortal. Now I’ve got power to live sin free, for “putting to death the deeds of the flesh.” Now I have a leader to follow who gives me instructions from within. It’s better than Google maps in a big city! Now I’m adopted into his family and stand to inherit all that’s his, that is everything that could be imagined.

But, and there’s always a catch, for now I get only the first fruits of his spirit. But even so, the unexpiring trial version is fully functional, only causing me by design to want it all. And that’ll be available in a place where he’s there in person, not in spirit.

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I Can See Clearly Then

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:23-25

While we have the Spirit in Christ we only have his first fruits so to speak. We see in the mirror dimly right now, as Paul says. (1 Corinthians 13:12) We know we’re adopted and redeemed, but in our bodies because we are not yet glorified, it doesn’t feel that way. If Paul calls himself wretched (Romans 7:14) then we can expect to be frustrated as well, having to drag this dirty old carcass around for now.

Our present condition produces a continuing reliance upon our eternal hope to live each day. It’s better to be fueled by hope than a sense that this is all there is. Buy a new car and you’ll know what I mean. You have what you hoped for and now what? Soon the new car smell fades.

This yearning for it all causes us to groan as we struggle to persevere. But in all cases, we can persevere in our frustrating humanity in and by the spirit. As we do our hope in what lies ahead grows.

I remember my grandmother. Such a hard life. She lost her gifted firstborn son to pneumonia when he was 17. Her husband, a lawyer, coped with the loss with alcohol and never was the same. They lost everything and lived in the projects. She never had a home of her own that I know of. But through it all, no one could shake her hope in the Lord. Living for a time with each of her surviving sons, she touched her grandchildren in such a way that they could not help but yearn for what she had. I remember her sitting out in the family room in the dead of night groaning deeply and crying out to God. But she never gave up hope. Now in glory she sees clearly why it was all worth it.

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Pre-game Speech–Proverbs 25

Good coaches tell you what you should and should not do. They give instructions on how you can better your game and help the team. They want to be clear so they illustrate what they say with words you can understand. They’ll describe the consequences of your actions so you’ll know what you’ll experience ahead of time.

Solomon was reportedly the wisest man who ever lived. The men of Hezekiah wanted to make sure we all benefited from that wisdom by recording his pregame speech in Proverbs 25. (v. 1)

Studying Proverbs can be tricky, since its statements, while apparently simple and straightforward, are simple and straightforward. It’s best just to organize them and take them as they are.

In Chapter 25, using the New American Standard Bible, these are my organizational keywords that signal the coach’s main instructions. “Take away,” “do not,” “it is better,” “like,” and “it is not good.”

Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble. (v. 19)

One important note, the word “like” indicates a “similitude.” Whatever Solomon has said, unless very archaic, cannot be improved with your own version.

For example, when he says a “faithless man” is like a bad tooth or unsteady foot, what he means is that a faithless man is like a bad tooth or unsteady foot. We all know what this means, especially a bad tooth. Universally and for all time, to get relief the tooth must come out. Therefore, toss the faithless man!

For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,” than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen. (v. 7)

If you want to improve your life, try doing what is “better.” For example, when tempted to self-promote, downplay your importance. Self-deprecation is better than self-aggrandizement.

It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman. (v. 24)

When selecting your wife, consider how contentious she might be while you’re dating. Solomon gives you fair warning.

…do not reveal the secret of another, or he who hears it will reproach you, and the evil report about you will not pass away. (v.9, 10)

The “do nots” are clear as day as you’d expect. I’ve already mentioned the pitfalls of self-aggrandizement, and there are also warnings not to rush to file suit and tell secrets.

Now you will have to do a little study on topics like “heaping burning coals on someone’s head,” (v. 22) but the subject is kindness, so you’re not too far off. I’ll try my own similitude here, like a gallon of gas to a stranded motorist is

One other bit of teaching that’s not too deep is as “the north wind brings forth rain,” the sly or slanderous tongue brings on anger. (v. 23) If you want sunshine in your life, hold your tongue, and Jesus might also make it more rigorous and add your thoughts!

After you’ve read this chapter you might want to write down what’s really important. I’d say, and the good coach would say, all of it!

Better to—ha, ha—read it over and over and over. Practice makes perfect!

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Call the Exterminator

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:1-2

Being no longer condemnable in Christ Jesus means his Spirit takes the reins of our lives. I sometimes get the sense that it’s quite easy to nudge the Spirit aside and retake control. Reading Chapter 8:1-25, though, perhaps it’s more like wrestling or wrenching control from him than a head fake.

The extent of our transformation is head to toe. Sure we continue to battle with sin, but these occasional skirmishes can be easily snuffed out by the power that resides within us. So effective is our emancipation we now set our minds on following the one who set us free (v. 2) and gives us life and peace (v. 6). We no longer have a taste for sin. In fact, it’s nauseating! That’s why Paul would wonder if the Spirit of God is in someone who appears to be still feasting off a life of sin (v. 9).

Now from metaphors to an analogy. If your house is infested with termites and you find a pesticide to eradicate them, you’re crazy not to use it. We in the Spirit have the right stuff to constantly keep our house sin free. And every time we apply the Spirit we are reminded that we only have this on our shelf because He’s inside us!

Then we can only hope to be absolutely free of the nuisance of sin, and we groan (v. 23) when the pests reappear! And they will.

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Meanwhile Back at the Ranch…

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  Romans 7:18-19

Meanwhile back at the ranch… I’m going to confirm what Paul laments about here. I am capable of incredible goodness, yet there’s a tripwire out there somewhere that I can’t see that can put me almost immediately into sin.

The propensity to screw up is never factored in but pops up all the time. It’s maddening because you were on a roll up to that point. I find my mouth is the usual suspect. Then there’s that normally sedated anger of mine that was conquered long ago. You think, where did that come from? And from here to eternity, there’s those pesky lusts of the flesh!

As one matures you’re hoping to be perfect in Christ, but that’s not the case. While the majors may not be happening anymore, the minor sins seem way more acute. I’m better than that, I say, and I probably am. But I’ll never get there this side of eternity.

That’s exactly why Paul of all people appears tormented. He wants to do right, but try as he might he can’t! So it is with all of us.

Seeing this wretched state in which we reside, so valuable are God’s mercy and grace, and the boldness we have to enter his throne room to make things right! (Ephesians 3:12) If this process is like breathing it won’t take much to get back on the right plane. You may have to apologize to the dog, but you’ll have yet again righted the ship.

Paul’s reality check is a helpful yet painful reminder of the war that rages within. Yet “greater is he who’s within me than he who is in the world!” (1 John 4:4)

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