Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 22 October 2018

And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. 1 Timothy 2:7 (NIV).

Do you have a resume?   Do you keep yours up to date?   In the last few years, I’ve been out of work 3 times.   And I learned things have changed since 2001:  the last time I earnestly sought a new job.  Monster and Dice are still around, but now most tech employers use Indeed and LinkedIn.   I found that looking for a job was less about who I was as a person and more about the raw skills I possess.

As a tech worker, I’ve learned to keep my resume up to date.   Most times I use a 2-page format, and no more than 2-3 bullets per employer.   Some head hunters say to only go back a decade, but I keep all my skills on it, going back to 1986; some of my most important work was back then.   And my resume shows only what I consider most important, only the things that talk about what I can do AND who I am.

Today’s verse is Paul’s resume.   It testifies to his bona fides.   After talking about Christ being the one and only mediator, and after spending the first part of this letter talking about Christ’s grace, Paul goes to the subject of his qualifications to teach the ‘un-churched.’  In several of his letters, Paul discusses his calling as an apostle, that it came from Jesus Himself.   That mattered to the first-century church because that group was being pulled in many directions.   The original 11 apostles had known and walked with Jesus.   He established their resumes.  Now came this man Paul, who had been a famous Pharisee known for persecuting these new followers of “The Way” (as the church was then called).

What’s more, this Paul wasn’t teaching only the Jews, as most of the Apostles and Jewish rabbis did.   No, Paul was speaking about this Jesus to non-Jews:  to non-Jewish people all over the Roman empire.  Everywhere he went, Paul testified that Jesus was the authority to whom Paul gave all credit and from whom Paul had received his calling.

Paul kept up his resume.   You can read it in the twelve books he wrote in the New Testament.  You and I have similar credentials.  God gives us skills to work and talents to advertise, both for His advancement and ours.   He places us in situations to do or prepare us for work He has in mind.  The next time you update your resume, consider your skills and how God would use them – and you – at an employer.  I wonder what that would look like on LinkedIn.

For further reading: Romans 9:1, 2 Timothy 1:11, Acts 9:15, 1 Timothy 2:8

Lord, thank You for establishing Paul’s resume.   And for giving me the skills you want me to have for You in the world today.

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Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 11 February 2016

But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee. Mark 14, verse 28.

This verse carries us realistically into the supernatural.   Up until now, Jesus has alluded to His death and resurrection.   He has performed miracles even as many of those could be rationalized away.   He has said and done amazing things, and He has confronted authorities, prejudices, convention, and things that good people would rather have left unsaid. Now Jesus lurches forward into a clearly, undeniably supernatural realm in ways nobody else could.

Bet you didn’t think that much power could get packed into just thirteen words of one verse!   Sure, it happens all the time…but you know, in fact, it really does.   Whether we’re comfortable admitting it or not, ours is a supernatural world. Things happen that defy logic; things that we just can’t explain. Heck, the internet is full of them; try Googling the topic some time. Carlos Santana believes that music has supernatural healing powers; yes, he really did say that. We seek comfort in the very real times of crisis in our lives by clinging to the physically impossible probability that there are such things as a Savior and life after death.   We crave the supernatural when the natural gets us down.

Is it any wonder that Jesus would “go there” during this last real teaching time He had with His Disciples? Consider the verse.

“After I have risen:”   Jesus He puts it on the calendar.   He has spoken openly about being betrayed, arrested and killed even if the Apostles didn’t understand it.   Now He talks about those things as a past-tense matter, stating that He would rise and there would be time afterwards. Maybe that doesn’t seem like much, especially in the hindsight of knowing it actually happened. Consider, then, the idea that He was actually saying (not predicting:   stating) that He would resurrect from actual physical death and decomposition.   Purely supernatural but talked about as a matter-of-fact.

“I will go ahead of you:”   Action.   Doesn’t Jesus always go ahead of us? Don’t forget that this verse comes immediately on the heels of the ones talking about how all of those Disciples would fall away and only minutes after that supernatural Passover supper.   As we have also fallen away, isn’t it an amazing thing to know that Jesus is omniscient and omnipresent in our lives today, even while we’re still living minute by minute in our sins? The Apostles weren’t supermen; they didn’t have physical or mental strengths greater than ours.   They were just men.   Because they were just men, Jesus was promising that He would go ahead of them.   They had sought earthly and spiritual comfort in His presence.   Now He was promising them that He would both remain with them and that He would be active. He would “go” as they would “go.”

Finally, “into Galilee.”   Jesus was reporting a reliable news story ahead of time.   “I’m coming back, I’ll be on the move, and here’s where I’m going, where you can find me.”   Jesus would go home, back to where His ministry started.   He would go back to where He had first encountered these friends of His.   “Find me there” He was saying.   “Here’s where you can look for me.” He was giving them directions that they would need for the time just ahead when they would find themselves isolated, scared and confused.

Realistic yet purely supernatural; truly out of this world.   I’m hoping Carlos Santana would approve.

Lord, I praise You for your real but supernatural life and love.

Read Mark 14, verses 27-31.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 3 February

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. Mark 14, verses 12-16.

If you don’t know the story of the Last Supper, then my prayer for this is that you learn something about it.   I’m not yet going to dive into the deep spiritual meaning that Jesus’ Spirit imbues in each of us through His real presence in the elements of bread and wine; relax, peeps, we’ll get there.   Instead, let’s just focus a bit on the history of it.

You know what I think about coincidences (in case you’ve forgotten, it’s ‘there aren’t any’). It’s no coincidence that Jesus would use the ceremony of the Passover seder to give His gift of the Holy Supper. The rich symbolism of Passover was ancient even in Jesus’ day; to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, “this is deep, old magic.” BEFORE freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, while they were watching the Egyptians suffer through the ten plagues (that were designed to inspire Pharaoh free God’s chosen people), God came to Moses and commanded him to paint lamb’s blood on the lintels and doorposts of every Hebrew home.   The Hebrews were to stay inside their homes and eat a meal of lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs while God’s angel of death passed over each home where it saw the entryway blood.

Read that again and let it sink in, then consider the story with these words.

While they were still in their sins, God personally came to sinner slaves and, through the blood of an innocent lamb on the entrance to their hearts, purposefully forgot to kill those inside.   To commemorate this, the sinners followed God’s command to eat a meal that would remember this action of God’s holy grace. Lamb signifying the death of an innocent; unleavened bread to remember freeing them in haste from their sins; bitter herbs to remember the unsatisfying taste of their slavery to sin. Blood that God would see and remember their sins no more. The meal became a milestone in every believer’s life.

Sound familiar?

The first Passover happened over a thousand years before the life of Christ.   And every year since they had been delivered, even when in captivity in Babylon then dispersed in the diaspora, the Jewish descendants of those Hebrew slaves had eaten this meal in remembrance.   Jesus the man was a descendant of Israelites; so were His disciples.   So, on that Maundy Thursday, the night before He was murdered on Good Friday, Jesus used the ecclesiastical, spiritual, historical and personally emotional significance of the Passover meal to institute what we Christians know as Holy Communion. It’s not a coincidence.

Noodle that today, then give thanks and glory to God.

Lord Jesus, thank You for using the beauty of Passover for Your Last Supper and Your Holy Communion.

Read Mark 14, verses 12-26.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 14 December 2015

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. Mark 13, verses 12-13.

The verses are talking about how things will be at the end of time; this is common knowledge.   Have you considered, though, that they apply to more than just end times prophecy?

You see, all those things described in verses 12 and 13 are happening now.   You know as well as I do that they’ve been happening all throughout history.   The first murder was brother betraying brother. If you don’t believe that people will hate you because of Jesus, then you need to consider the fate this year, here and now, of Coptic Christians in Egypt and Iraq; they survived Mubarek and Saddam Hussein but ISIS has exterminated them.   Children rebelling against their parents and having them put to death?   Check Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, even today south of the border in Mexico thanks to the drug cartels.

If you stand up for Jesus, you’re a target. You always have been.   You will be.

Consider the fate of the 12 Apostles.   At the time Jesus spoke these words, they didn’t know it but they were only days away from being hunted fugitives, and Judas Iscariot had only hours left to live. Eleven of the twelve men would die gruesome deaths; only John would live until old age but even he would be tortured numerous times.

Consider these things and then maybe consider that Jesus wasn’t just telling us how things would end for the world:   He was telling us how things could end every single day.   Yes, the price of following Christ would be high.   Could it be any other way when we set ourselves against the world?   If you think of it that way, we are bringing the ‘old Adam’ to his end every day we profess to believe in Jesus, and the old Adam doesn’t die easily.   He’s thick with sin and doesn’t want to let go.   He’s us.   We made him and he doesn’t want to go.

I don’t want to die a painful death.   I don’t want to be tortured or crucified or anything like that.   I want to die like my mom did last year: surrounded by family and in my sleep.   Yet if God wills that I must die for Him in some grotesque or exquisitely painful way then bring it baby.   It’s not false bravado talking:   it’s faith in Jesus.   I love, respect and fear the one who could destroy my soul even as he lets my human life expire.   I know He loved me enough to live and die and live for me. Because of that faith in Him, I know that I won’t die at all.   That while my life here will end, I will only pass into the next life and that it will be so much better than anything I could ever imagine here.

Still, I won’t go easily. There is much living left to do, many things I would like to finish that are now, as yet, undone.   But when the battle comes, I have my sword, I have my armor, and I have my faith.   I have my Lord.   I need nothing more.

Lord, let me live well for You in the remaining time You give me.

Read Mark 13, verses 1-31.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 6 October 2015

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.  Mark 10, verses 51-52.

Before moving on, there’s something else to be said about these two verses that I feel compelled to share.   It’s the heart of them. It’s not about me.   It’s about Jesus.

Duh!

No, really, I mean it. There’s nothing Bartimaeus could do to make Jesus love him any more; there’s nothing Bartimaeus could do to be worthy of Jesus’ gift of sight, or even the gift of sharing the same airspace with Jesus Christ for just a few minutes.   It isn’t about Bartimaeus receiving his sight in this fantastic miracle of love.   In fact, it isn’t about Bartimaeus at all. If you or I were in the story, it wouldn’t be about us either.

It’s about Jesus loving Bartimaeus and doing something for him. It’s what Jesus did and not what Bartimaeus did.

If you’re like me, you spend more of your time wondering about you’re angle, about what all this means to you, about how you should think or respond or whatever.   Lost in the shuffle of all that selfishness is that monumental statement “what do you want me to do for you” that Jesus spoke to this blind stranger. The creator of the universe, the man with whom Adam and Abraham and Moses all personally interacted, the advocate of Job, the fire in the burning bush and the whisper of life in every living being on the planet walks up to a perfect stranger in a crowd and asks him how He, the Savior, can serve.

It’s not about me.   It’s about Jesus.

Just yesterday, a co-worker and I were talking about how we had led our project with a service attitude.   Not to be beaten-down servants, or to be cowards in the face of weaker people:   we were talking about how proud we were to be on a team where our attitude has been to serve.   To do our best for other people while subordinating ourselves to their goals.   We talked about how this is the true attitude of a Believer, how it’s impossible to be a follower of Jesus without this attitude.   It’s impossible because it’s what Jesus modeled for us.

And because He did it – because He rendered for us the ultimate service of dying in our place, as our punishment – there is nothing standing between us and the majesty of God.   I couldn’t do that; the Apostle Paul couldn’t do that; you couldn’t do that; neither could Bartimaeus, my co-worker, Billy Graham, any Catholic pope, Joyce Meyer or Donald Trump on a good hair day.   Only Jesus could die for us; only Jesus could redeem us.   Only Jesus could show us that all of life is about the supreme gift of love that He is and gave for us and still gives us every day.

Bartimaeus saw that.   He got his sight and immediately followed the first thing he saw, and the first thing he saw was the Savior who served him in his deepest need.   It’s not about Bartimaeus.   It’s not about you.   It’s not about me.   It’s about Jesus and all was, and is, and is to come.

Lord, let all my life be my service to You.   It’s not about me.   It’s about You.

Read Mark 11, 1-3.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 22 September 2015

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Mark 10, verse 41.

Being a believer doesn’t exempt you from human emotions, feelings or reactions.   Believers in Jesus, followers of Jesus get angry, upset, tired, irritated, pleased, happy, indifferent, and the whole range of emotions and feelings just like folks who don’t believe in or follow Jesus.   If you think that saying “I believe in Jesus” will make everything unicorns and rainbows, friend, you’re following some Jesus different from the one who is who He says He is.

The Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus of the Trinity.   He is Lord and Savior of a race of broken sinful people called “human beings.”   Millions, maybe billions, of people in the last two thousand years have declared their devotion to and for Him, and all that devotion began with Him mentoring twelve imperfect, sinful humans known as “the Apostles.”   In this story, as you know, James and John have asked Jesus for something He can’t give. They have overstepped the bounds of righteousness because they were imperfect sinners falling into emotion and feeling. We don’t know all the sidebar conversations that the Apostles were having but one thing becomes readily clear:   as soon as the other ten Apostles heard what James and John had asked for, they became indignant.

Dictionary.com defines ‘indignant’ as “feeling, characterized by, or expressing strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive, insulting, or base.”   That’s seriously ticked off.   Not just upset:   strongly upset, angry and riled up. The other ten Apostles heard that James and John had asked for special privilege and they got fighting mad at their brother Apostles.

Stop the picture and take it all in.   These are Jesus’ twelve closest friends.   Two of them have asked for special favors, and the other ten are calling them out on it.   Calling them out, in fact, vociferously and angrily. You can almost feel what they were feeling and these were the people who knew Jesus better than anyone else on Planet Earth.   They had dedicated their lives to following Him, learning from Him, worshiping and serving Him…and they were just like you and me.   They got PO’d.

That’s why I say that being a believer doesn’t exempt you from the same feelings that non-believers have.   If you believe in Jesus, you’re still you.   You’re still a sinful human subject to the whims of your emotions and feelings:   just like folks who don’t believe in Jesus.   What’s more, you’re a believer in an unbelieving world with a devil set against you; a devil who is determined to trip you up by bombarding you with those emotions, feelings, reactions and many things that are beyond your control.   On your own, like James and John (and the other ten indignant Apostles), you’re basically screwed.

The difference is Jesus. The difference between your being screwed and having zero hope in this world or the next is the life and death of Jesus Christ of Nazareth who was and is and is to come.

Read the next few verses to find out how Jesus said the Apostles should now act instead of react.

Lord Jesus, I’m full of flaws and failures.   Forgive me all of them and help me to master my emotions.

Read Mark 10, verses 35-45.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 24 August 2015

And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10, verse 16.

I long for this.   In the worst of my infidelities, I honestly wanted to die and finally feel Jesus just hug me; me, who felt horrible about the things I had done.   In the hardest days of this four-year project I’m finishing, I sometimes want to simply go away and feel Jesus just put His hand on me and comfort me.   In the throes of worship, when I sometimes feel attuned to what God is saying, I want Jesus to put His hands on me and bless me. In the times when I’m lonely or scared, I just want to feel the presence of Jesus to know that He will get me through these tough times.

In truth, I’ve never felt the physical touch of the Savior.   This blessing awaits me in the life to come. But in further truth, I have to confess that I’ve rarely felt the inner peace that I take for His spiritual touch.   It isn’t because of anything He’s done but, instead, usually because of barriers that I put up between us. I know:   got skin, got sin; this is true.   So I find that my longing for Jesus’ touch is even stronger because I’m so acutely aware of how lonely this life can feel without it.

Do you ever feel like this?   I’m sure that it’s a common thing, psychologically speaking, that is. We’re people and we feel alone, vulnerable, remorseful, stressed and the like.   When we do, we long for the touch of someone who is loving and familiar. Maybe it’s something that’s taught to us as infants, when our mothers first cradle us in the warm security of their love.

That’s how it feels to be embraced by Jesus:   like motherly fatherly love.   Jesus is God is Father, Son and Spirit all in one, yet I think that most of us, myself included, associate His loving embrace with motherly love, with that feeling of being protected and nurtured by the one who gave us life.   If you think about it, that makes sense because Jesus gives us both life and mothers.   Indeed, Jesus had a mother and surely must have felt these same feelings of longing and security, maybe even more so given that, even from a young age He knew His divine side fully.   Perhaps He felt even more secure in Mary’s arms, and even more longing to feel at one with someone who loved Him unconditionally.

Keep in mind that Jesus took the children in His arms after His disciples tried to shoo them away. Jesus chided them for that, reminding them that all people should come to Him as innocently as children. Having done this, it’s not surprising that He would then bless the children, imparting into their hearts and minds His reciprocation of their love for Him. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little envious, yet I’m sure this envy is the same one so many millions have felt in the 2000 years since Christ departed. We’re envious of the Apostles, of the people who physically walked with Jesus, who got to see Him in person and hear His comforting voice.

And feel His spiritual touch.   I know inside that this is good, even enough, yet sometimes I forget while walking the streets of this world. I long for Jesus.

Lord, I pray for Your comforting touch.   Ease my pain, forgive my sins, I pray in Your holy name.

Read Mark 10, verses 17-31.