Do you want fries with that?
Proverbs 29: If you let people treat you like a doormat, you’ll be quite forgotten in the end.
Not long ago we stopped off at a fast food restaurant for a quick burger. I was taken with the quiet confidence and good nature of the young lady who took our order. The job she’s doing isn’t the highest paying, but she’s doing it with real class. Like many people who are “flipping burgers” that job is just a temporary stopping point for her along the way. The point of this proverb isn’t that we’re to demand respect, refusing to be anyone’s doormat. Instead, it’s that we’re to do whatever it is we do with excellence and pride and that will, in itself, demand respect. Those who think they’re “saving” their best for some dream job and just “getting by,” giving the least effort possible in some temporary place in life, are the ones who are accepting the “doormat” position in life. That young lady who was asking “would you like to super-size that order?” gets it and I seriously doubt she’s in danger of being forgotten in the end.
Take Away: A person can do whatever they do with class – and when they do, people take note.
Hearing, believing, acting
1 Samuel 17: David took off from the front line, running toward the Philistine.
I’m not sure why this phrase stands out to me but it does. It has to do with David’s confidence, his rushing to, in the eyes of common sense, disaster. There’s no trace of hesitancy here. This isn’t one of those reluctant “well, someone has to do it, it might as well be me” situations. David’s eager for this fight. The mental picture is powerful. On one hand, big old Goliath, armed to the teeth, stands there spewing out promises of death. On the other, young David armed only with a sling, proclaims God’s authority, running toward this giant of a man. Within seconds Goliath lies face down in the dirt and David stands over him, with Goliath’s own sword in hand, preparing to chop off his head. It was never about the brashness of youth, or David’s “secret weapon.” Everything here carries the mark of God at work. David acted with confidence because he had heard the voice of God in his life. Not only had he heard, he had believed. A realization of this truth is not only good for combat with giants — it’s good for everyday life too. I need to spend enough time with God that I can clearly hear him, and then, having heard, to believe, and having believed, to act with confidence.
Take Away: Once you’ve heard a certain word from the Lord you can move forward in absolute confidence.
Titus 1: I left you in charge in Crete so you could complete what I left half-done.
As I read Paul’s letters and the account of his journeys in the book of Acts I keep running into Titus and while I’m not given a complete biography of him, I pick up bits and pieces of his story along the way. He’s a Gentile, converted under Paul’s ministry. He joins Paul in his travels and assists the Apostle in various ways. The occasion of this letter is one example. Apparently, Paul spends some time on the island of Crete but for some reason has to leave before the work there is complete. He leaves Titus there to finish up, specifically, to appoint church leaders there. Now, Paul’s writing to Titus with some specific instructions for the completion of his task there. Again, while I don’t know all about Titus, I find enough information about him to cause me to think highly of him, as, obviously, Paul does. In this letter, Paul’s quick to get to the matter at hand. He wants Titus to put pastoral leadership in place in the Christian congregations on the island and he wants him to be careful in his selection of leaders. He wants people who are respected in the community, family men who are even tempered, welcoming to strangers, wise, fair, and reverent. An interesting qualification is that these leaders are to have a good grip on themselves and on the Good News of the Gospel. Understanding the gospel makes sense and so does having a good grip on self. Leaders need to be comfortable in their own skin. Obviously leaders need humility, but they also need a level of confidence. They need to know their strengths and weaknesses and be ready to entrust others to help shoulder the burden especially related to those weaknesses. Off Titus goes with his “shopping list” in hand, ready to pick people God has already picked and prepared for the task. Any church looking for a pastor will benefit from digesting this passage.
Take Away: The Lord uses a wide variety of people for his work, but some characteristics are to be found in them all.
The Antichrist and the last days
2Thessalonians 2: Don’t let anyone shake you up or get you excited over some breathless report or rumored letter.
The congregation at Thessalonica is, in the words of Elvis, “All shook up,” over some gossip that Paul says Jesus has already returned and they’ve missed it. Paul reminds them of what he told them about this topic while he was with them. The events surrounding the Second Coming will be too big to miss. Two huge, worldwide events will dominate all else: a great Apostasy and the rise of a very bad person who’ll pretend to be God Almighty. The spirit of this personification of evil is already evident in the world, so they already have an idea of what it will be like but when the real deal comes no one will be left wondering whether or not “this is it.” The Apostle hurries to reassure them that everything’s going to be okay. Just when it seems all is lost Jesus will appear and without any difficulty at all, will handle this bad guy. Paul tells his readers he’s not all that concerned about this stuff. After all, he has bigger fish to fry. Just what is that? Why, it’s putting his time and energy into thanking God for what he’s doing and is going to do in their lives. So, what am I to do with “end days” concerns? I’m to be aware that some bad things are coming to the world. I’m to remember that Jesus is coming back and he’ll handle it all with ease. Especially, I’m to keep my eyes on the Lord and use my energies in living for him and in him and not let myself get worked up over stuff I barely understand in the first place.
Take Away: I trust the Lord, not my knowledge about how everything will happen at the end of time.