Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 31 August 2017

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  Hebrews 12, verse 1.

If only it were that easy, right?  Actually, it is.

Last night, I watched “The Alamo,” with John Wayne.   I’m drawn to the story of the Alamo; I was even before I became a Texan.   I believe every American should see the Alamo in San Antonio at least once.   If you’ve never been there, you might be more impressed by the movie set where Mr. Wayne directed his movie; that can be found out in Brackettville, in West Texas.  If you want to sense the Alamo, you’ll find it on a tiny city block in the middle of downtown San Antonio.   It’s almost unimpressive, and it’s difficult to imagine barely 200 untrained ‘militia’ holding off an organized army of nearly six thousand:   the largest attacking force in the Western Hemisphere.  Yet that’s what happened.   They did it for nearly two weeks, buying time for General Sam Houston’s army to gather and prepare.   At the end, all the defenders were killed.   Only a few weeks later, the tables were turned, Santa Anna defeated, and Texas became its own country.

It seems like such an easy choice to make, that is, standing up against a dictator like Santa Anna.   Freedom against oppression; standing up for what you believe instead of living under the boot of an oppressor.  That ought to be an easy choice to make, almost no choice at all really.  Then again, I’m just a spectator, a movie-watcher.  I haven’t yet had to choose death over surrender against an overwhelming army.

Or have I?

If you think about it, we choose death every day.   We aren’t heroes like the men at the Alamo, but we choose to stand up and fight every day simply by believing.  Every day we are given the choice to stand and fight again or sit out the battle and watch events affect us.  Every day we’re given the choice to hold onto things or to throw off every thing, every sin, that hinders and entangles.  Most of the time, we do throw them off; at least some of them.  Others, well, we hold onto them.   Why?   Why hold onto the guilt, the danger, the agony of that pet sin?   What good does it do you?   Or has the hurt of it wrapped around you like an old quilt, enfolding you in false warmth as it actually, slowly, smothers you from within?   For the love of God, and because of it, throw it off already.   Stand up and fight.   You have witnesses to support you.   As Crockett, Bowie and Travis might have said, ‘you don’t have to stand tall but you do have to stand up.’

And that ain’t easy.  Read verse 1 again and you’ll see that it doesn’t promise easy.   But it does promise support.  That support comes first and foremost from Jesus.

I read a blog called “Trusty Chucks” by a Christian lady named Mary Graham (www.trustychucks.com).   Her current posts are agonizing, about how her husband, a recovering drug and alcohol addict, has back-slid.   Their family is right now being ripped apart by something that entangled and hindered, something they, and she, thought had been long ago thrown off.  Why would her husband secretly use these poisons that endangered the happiness and security of all they had built?

Why would you or I?   You know we do the same damn thing.

Yet Christ calls us to stand up and do it again.   Every night when we embrace the cold arms of our sins, we entangle ourselves in all the dysfunction that’s involved in them.   And every morning, Christ beckons us to come to Calvary and die with Him, to put to death the sins of yesterday.  To throw them off, then stand up and start again.   Most every morning, most of us do.   Through that process, He is there.   When all our cards are played, He is still there, supporting us, encouraging us, loving us through the worst and the best.  And when we get the energy to look around, we find we’re one of many fighting on the line.  Christ does that.   He inspires others to stand with us, beside us.

What will you do today?

If you have a few minutes, go read Mary’s blog.   She’s very candid, very real, and a passionate soldier in the army of the living God, and she’s taking fire now.   And make plans to one day go see the Alamo.  The Shrine of Texas Liberty is hallowed ground for us all.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 10:36.

My Lord, You stand with me.   You are my backbone, my spirit, my energy, my rest.  Help me to get up again today, then stand with me to battle these temptations and evils once again.

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Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 16 October 2015

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11, verses 12-14.

Words mean things.   Jesus cursed this tree and, as we’ll read in a few verses, the curse worked.   Did He do it to be mean to a tree?   No, probably not; vegans and tree huggers, rest easy.   Instead, He did it to teach us a lesson. Do you or I really say what we mean?   And how much effect do our words truly have?

I have a Facebook friend who is always taking courses in how to conduct ministry.   She’s a reformed alcoholic who let God remake her life of despair into one of joy and service to others.   She says that people don’t always believe her when she gives her testimony and talks about the bar scene, the drug scene, the promiscuity scene, and the always being miserable scene. We’re online friends and have never even met in person, yet I find her testimony to be compelling and utterly remarkable.   If there’s one thing I know about my friend (other than she likes steak and peanut butter) it’s that she means what she says.   She’s determined to live this new life in Jesus to the fullest nearly as strongly as she’s determined to never go back to the ways that used to occupy her heart.   God gives her that determination, and I admire her for it.

Almost as much as I admire my wife.   A few years ago, yours truly was the one living the pathetic life of drinking, partying, and promiscuity. It was a double life, one based in lies and in juggling reality and fantasy; mostly it was just dishonest. When my wife found out, she said she loved me and I believed it…just as I also believed her when she moved out.   She was forthright, upright and ruggedly, brutally honest in saying that she wanted to be together but she wouldn’t allow me to walk on her or our life together any longer.   In a strange way, I had been waiting for years to hear that.   She was never a doormat but I didn’t know the real depths of her love.   It was when she stood up so strong for God and us, in that order, that I knew I had to change.   In fact, it was her courage that gave me the will to stop, to turn my back on the way I was living. I admire and respect her endlessly for that.

The common thing that my Facebook friend and my courageous Hunnie have in common is that they mean what they say.   They mean what they say because what they say is said through faith in Jesus.   The Lord and giver of life gives the only real meaning there is to every word He said.   In turn, when we speak in Him, we can be completely assured that everything we say will have meaning and power. Can we turn a fig tree to wither? Absolutely?   Anything becomes possible, even miracles.   If you don’t believe in miracles, talk to my friend or my wife about the faith miracles in their lives.

Lord, I believe in You, that only You can give power and meaning to life.

Read Mark 11, verses 12-25.