Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 2 February 2017

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.  Hebrews 7, verses 18-19.

You can read it as easily as I can:   these verses are talking about law (and, in context, about the divinity of Jesus, our true priest forever in the order of Melchizedek).   Let me draw another parallel for you, though.

I’m struggling to not hate right now.   If you’ve read these words for awhile, you know that my (now) former company laid me off at the end of December.  They didn’t need me anymore, and I hadn’t done anything wrong or illegal or immoral.   They simply didn’t need me anymore and I wasn’t a fit in the company culture; they didn’t want me, so they let me go.   Since then, I’ve been working part time in a call center.   There, I recently switched to a new account because the previous one also scaled back.   Along with two of my co-workers, I’m learning how this company uses a system I’ve known for over fifteen years.   It should be a good fit for me, especially as a part-time gig, yet I feel more discouraged than I have in months.  I’ve interviewed for a number of full-time positions but none has come open yet, at least not for me.   It’s discouraging to be out of work, and my wife and I are scaling back our spending drastically, contacting creditors, and trying our best to keep afloat.  I’m worried, and scared, and I feel ashamed to be out of work when I would so much rather be moving forward in success.

As a result, I find myself struggling to stay away from the selfish spiraling of blaming my former employer, of succumbing to hatred.   If you hate the people who hate you, they win, and that would simply make another wrong.   I thought I was doing the right thing in the way I led the projects they had me working on,  but the culture there had become mistake-free.   I made mistakes, didn’t do what they wanted me to do even as some of what they wanted me to do was wrong.  I find myself fighting off the urge to truly hate the men who put me on the street, to wish on them pain and hurt like they’ve inflicted on me.   It’s a real struggle; it’s a real fight, like two parties are warring for my soul.   I’m so angry and feel so hurt, and I’m really trying to not feel sorry for myself.   There are so many other people struggling worse than we are.   Yet I find myself wanting to scream at those men, to meet them in an airport someplace and punch one of them in the eye, or worse.   It was unfair, it was cruel, it was just plain wrong what they did to me, and I feel an empty burning anger inside of me because of it.

Now is the time to re-read the verses and address what God is saying in them.   In all I’m going through, God isn’t indifferent.   What was behind me is behind me.   God bless the folks still working for those wretched men and I honestly hope they do well.   As for me, God has me out of there for a reason.   In that, God is teaching me things, first and foremost reminding me to rely on Him.   My God is bigger than some job.   It isn’t Pollyana-ish to say again and again that something good is coming.   I don’t know how soon it’ll happen, but it will happen.   Until then, in good and in bad, God is still with us and is providing what He knows we need.   He has me doing what I can to move forward along a new path.  What is now in the past is rightfully in the past, relegated there because God is growing me beyond it.   It’s no longer needed for the path He has me on.

This whole job-searching process then becomes an exercise in trust, in trusting God.   He prepared me in the past for things I need to know now.   All that He’s going to use to put me in some new place has already been set in motion, even if I can’t yet see how it all fits together.  It’s frustrating, it’s anger-inducing, it has my emotions on edge and under stress.   It did the same to Job, and to King David, and to Elijah, and to Jesus in Gethsemene.  God is active in where He has my wife and I, and He’s building us up for work He’s readying for us in the days to come.   God is drawing my wife and I nearer to Him.   Imperfect as we are, we’re close as one and closer to God than we have been in a long time.   That will bear only good fruit.  What it bears will be washed in Jesus’ hope.

I still want to sock my old manager in the eye, though.   But instead of that, I’ll pray the “Fiddler on the Roof prayer,” the one the villagers asked of their rabbi concerning the tsar.   “May the good Lord bless and keep him…far away from us.”  God’s active in their lives even when they were (I feel) unjust to me.   In a way, I hope He’s active for their best as well.

For further reading:   Romans 8:3, Romans 3:20, Galatians 3:20, Hebrews 3:6, James 4:8.

Lord Jesus, thank You for saving me when I so don’t deserve it.   Bless those who persecute us, and lead me to the new place You have in store.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 4 January 2017

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  Hebrews 6, verse 10.

Dovetailing off yesterday’s talk comes today’s verse that confirms how God has a long memory.  As you’ll remember, the gist of yesterday’s talk was ‘do something about your faith right now’ so this is good advice for people who may be on the fence about how to live out their faith.

The other night I talked with one of the nastiest people with whom I’ve ever spoken.  At the call center, a number appears on a computer screen and we are required to dial it.  We don’t see the history of calls dialed to the person’s number, and we aren’t given any information about them, how many people have spoken with them, or anything of a personal nature.   When the man answered the phone, he began to berate and yell at me, demanding that I stop calling him.   I followed procedure and asked him to verify his telephone number so I could place him on a do-not-call list.   That only caused him to get angrier, and he continued berating, insulting, and even threatening me for about 10 minutes.  Eventually, he hung up before I could complete the call procedure, but I put him on the do-not-call list anyway.  We aren’t supposed to do that; it can cause auditors to give an ‘auto-fail’ to an agent.   But I did it anyway because I figured that both the customer and the company would be better off by not antagonizing him any further.   If I’m assigned an auto-fail for it, so be it.

The best way to recover from something like this is to pray for the person.   I’ll admit:  I did this, but it was difficult.   In fact, I let his negativity ruin the rest of my night.   But the next morning, my wife and I prayed for him during our morning devotion.   I sincerely hope he’s well (and I hope he both calms down and hasn’t received any more telemarketing calls).

I also sincerely hope God remembers it because I know He will.   My hope for the irate customer is more like a wish; I wish for him some peace and maybe that he’d lighten up a little.   My hope where God’s memory is concerned is remembering a sure promise.  God WILL remember the good things we do, not as good works to earn His favor but, instead, as examples of how we live out the faith we have in Him.  It matters when we do things for each other in a caring manner.   It matters when we act in ways that demonstrate faith in God.   It matters when we do things to truly foster peace by helping others instead of choosing another way.

These things matter because they are evidence of how our thinking, then our actions, change when Jesus takes over in our lives.  We get to do good works and act kindly towards others because that’s what Jesus wants us to do.   He acted lovingly towards us, even when He was harsh.   He wants us to do the same in how we act towards each other.

Both Proverbs 25 and Romans 12 (which quotes Proverbs 25) say “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  That may seem mean, but it really isn’t.   If your motivation is to help, then these actions are discipline.   They are tough love, dishing out justice for justice’s sake because justice should be righteous.  They’re only mean if you intend them to be mean.   And God remembers our intentions.   God deals in the why, not just the what.

God remembers what we do here and now, and right now is when we’re living.  If our motivation is to live in ways that please God, then we’ll want to be kind, helpful, just, and honest whenever we’re dealing with others in any way.   Be nice to each other, especially to strangers, even telemarketers.  If you’re in a troubled marriage, be kind.   If you’re working with difficult people, be generous.   If someone talks too much, actively listen.   If someone is angry, be respectful.   If someone hurts you or is irate with you, respond as Jesus would and, in doing so, you’ll heap burning coals on their head.   Then, stand back and hope that they realize how unpleasant it can be to have your head on fire.   With God’s hope in mind, they, too, will choose to act differently.

For further reading:   Matthew 10: 40-42, Proverbs 25: 21-22, Romans 12:20.

Lord Jesus, forgive me when I fail to act as You do.   Help me to show love and caring for my brothers and sisters in everything I do.

 

 

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 16 November 2016

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.  Hebrews 4, verses 9-11.

Please forgive the indulgence of talking about myself for the next few minutes.

I recently started working a second job.   Money has been tight for most of the summer so, to help add income to our family’s bank account, I got a night job at a local call center.  It’s been 22 years since I did something like this; the last time I had a night job I was in my late twenties.   Suffice it to say that it’s been an interesting adjustment.  My typical day now starts at 0500 hrs at the gym.   I’m at my consultant day job, working from home, between 7:00 and 8:00 AM and I work at this until about 4:30 or 5:00 PM.   Then, I’m sitting in my desk at the call center, ready to make sales calls at 6:00 PM, and I work here until 10:00 or so until the shift leader tells us to go home.  Add up all those hours and it makes for a 14-15 hour day, every day for five days per week.

I’ve been doing this for less than 2 weeks and I’m already physically tired.   I can’t imagine how folks who do it for years must feel.   Twenty-eight year old Dave could hack this but fifty year old Dave is finding it to be a physical challenge.  Yet, emotionally and even spiritually, I’m excited.  I’ve been given the chance to do something I’ve never done before, and a chance to meet people and be a representative for Jesus.   I get to do this with my co-workers, most of whom are from backgrounds drastically different from my own.   And I get to do this, subtly, with my customers on the phone, simply being helpful, kind, and engaging.

I get to share Sabbath rest with other people.   My day job is frustrating to me right now, so I have been given the gift of a night job to give me some emotional rest from my day labors.  All of it happening when it did, the way it did, seems like evidence to me of God’s hand in these matters.  And I’m even getting paid for it!

Leviticus 23 says “There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord.”   That’s a direct command:   get some rest one day a week.  Put down your burdens and let go, rejuvenate, regroup.  God is saying that we aren’t built for 24/7 work.   We aren’t robots and we shouldn’t try to be.   Following up on that thought, Revelation 14 says “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”  “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.””  In this life, we are to trust the Lamb, to trust in the Lord fully so that, when we die in this world of work, we might live yet again as His blessed followers.

Yet it’s so important to remember that the rest God is talking about isn’t just physical rest:   it’s spiritual rest.   He isn’t telling us just to mark our calendars to have one day off in seven.   He’s telling us to constantly seek our rest in Him, to put all of our labors, burdens, and stresses on Him and seek our rest in Him on our good days and bad ones.  God promises each of us that, today, here and now, when we seek Him we will find true peace and rest.   In a fallen world there will be sin and it will make life difficult, including in our work.   There are some days when Satan will attack us this way.  Yet Jesus is with us to give us the peace, strength, and rest through it all to not only get over the hard times but grow into success because of them.    We get to do that by exhibiting our faith in Him, by following His lead, conducting ourselves in His way, and representing Him faithfully, even when the going gets tough.  THIS is our real second job, maybe even our primary one.

Good words to remember when the days are long and Satan tries to attack through exhaustion.

For more reading:   Leviticus 23:3, Revelation 14:13.

Lord Jesus, abide with me, I pray.   I’m working hard here at the tasks You’ve given me.  I trust You, so please strengthen and encourage me through them.   Help me to be Your faithful representative and brother.