Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 26 August 2019

This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:8 (EHV).

Awhile back I wrote about my uncle (in the context of Titus 2:2); how he is an older man worthy of respect and honor.   Today I’m writing about how he’s dying with dignity and strength.   Those things are possible for him because, decades ago, he decided to follow Jesus and live his life in a way that was devoted to Him, to what is good.   My uncle is in hospice today, and it won’t be long before he leaves this place, and is young again in heaven.

I’m watching from far away while this happens, knowing that he listened to the Apostle Paul countless times in his life.   That good words like Paul’s, here, prepared him for this time when he is readying to meet Jesus face to face.  It was trustworthy for Paul to say that it was honorable, excellent, and able to bear much good fruit for those who follow Jesus to devote themselves to doing what is right, what is decent, what is honorable.

My uncle has lived his life doing those things, and when he dies, we’ll gather around his funeral to remember how a man we loved taught us so many good things about how to follow Christ.   Buzz didn’t earn a trip to heaven; none of us do.   But Jesus earned it for him, made it possible for him to leave behind the cancer and debilitation and loneliness that sometimes plagues us here on the Third Rock.  When the door opens, he’ll walk through and be renewed and be in the presence of He who made it possible.

THAT is the point of Paul’s words to Titus today.   THAT is the point of my uncle following Jesus throughout his life.   The things that are excellent and profitable in this life are from Jesus and because of Jesus and in Jesus.  We aren’t talking A+ on-your-report-card excellent, or Bill & Ted adventure excellent:  we’re talking perfection.   And we aren’t talking about your-best-life-now financial profitable, or YUGE 401K profitable:  we’re talking about souls standing in eternal praise of God.   Here in this world, living lives in thankful praise of Him can earn we followers respect and honor, yet it isn’t for this world that people live such lives.   It’s to praise Jesus.  It is for being part of forever even now…and then after.

My uncle, Buzz Kornmann, understands all this.   I hope he isn’t too embarrassed by my saying it here.   Say a prayer for him, please, and for his family.   And please make it a prayer of happiness and thanks:  like he would.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 1:15, Titus 3:9

Lord Jesus, thank You for good men in our lives who lived to teach us to follow You.

Advertisements

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 23 April 2018

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV).

In this verse, Paul switches subjects.   He moves from living to living again.

You’ll recall that Barbara Bush died last week.   Her son, President Bush, said that his mother didn’t fear death because she had faith in God, faith in the afterlife.   Here in Texas, this has been a big story.   In fact, I can’t remember the press ever making such a big deal about the death of a First Lady, even though Mrs. Bush was indeed extraordinary and famous.   Ecology.com says that approximately 151, 600 in the world people die every day.   Not to make light of their deaths or Mrs. Bush’s, but that means that 909,600 people have died just since Barbara Bush joined their ranks.

I wonder how many of them died with the surety she had about her ultimate destination.   The fact is, Mrs. Bush lived in her faith so dying was simply the next part of living.   She knew Jesus, so there was no fear of death.   I wonder how many of her fellow dead could have said the same thing.

My Pastor will occasionally remind our congregation that we aren’t just part of eternity when we die:   we’re part of it now.   Our forever is sealed to be with Jesus by His grace, through His death, in His wisdom, in our world today.   We are guaranteed to live with Him forever whether we die now or a century from now.   More importantly, what time we have left in this life is guaranteed to be led in His grace, to be inspired by His love, by His forgiveness.   The shame, the guilt, the hatred, the ignorance that plagued us before accepting Him is gone.  It’s as if it never existed forever, and it will never be held against us again, forever.   We are citizens of heaven already because Jesus is our savior, God and brother.

Mrs. Bush understood this.   I’m hopeful that many who died in this last week also did, though statistically speaking that’s unlikely.  Paul reminds us that those who precede us in death are with the Lord, awaiting the final day of time, when all who have died will be resurrected.   Those who died here believing in the Lord awaiting a destiny much brighter than those who rejected Him.  This, the purpose of this life is to give glory to Jesus in how we live it, to use our time here to connect others to Him.   To prepare, and to love and forgive as Jesus does.   It isn’t codes of morality or getting the brass ring.   909600 people, including Mrs. Bush, learned that final truth last week.

For further reading:   Romans 11:25, Matthew 9:24, Ephesians 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:14.

Lord, I praise You for the life you give.   Help me to live it for You.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 21 February 2018

 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.  1 Thessalonians 2:9 (NIV).

Usually I write these blog posts the night before I post them.   Last night, I was busy calculating my taxes so I didn’t get to write until morning.   I take that as yet another proof that God knows what He’s doing and is active in even the little details of our lives.

Word came this morning that Billy Graham has died.   I think of a few things when I think of Rev Graham, mostly that I met him once, saw him twice, and turned off the TV when he was on dozens of times when I was a kid.   Today I think that 1 Thessalonians 2:9 is a fitting verse by which to remember him.

The words I write and share here won’t reach 2 billion people, but Billy Graham’s did.   I’ve never met 9 presidents and witnessed the gospel personally to them, but Billy Graham did (indeed, George W. Bush credits Graham for personally ministering to him in a way that let him turn cold turkey from alcoholism and never turn back).   I never traveled behind the Iron Curtain for the specific purpose of talking about Jesus, but Billy Graham did.  I never did this or that or one or the other but Reverend Graham did.

So what? Through it all, Mr. Graham was just like you and me.   He was a sinner.   On his own, he wasn’t worthy to lick God’s bootheels.   Without God’s intervention, he was damned.  Because of Jesus, none of that mattered.   Because of Jesus, Billy Graham got to meet Him face to face today:   just like you and I can when our lives are over.

I once went to a Billy Graham crusade; I once met him in person.   In those days, that was simply another happening to me, another check box I could fill about having done something for God.   I didn’t realize that Graham, as a speaker, was using his platform to tell me what God had already done for me.   In time, I came to admire that, came to better understand it.   There was no decision for Christ I made other than simply acknowledging what Jesus had already done in full.  Yet when that understanding came, it made all the difference in my life.

Today you’ll read a great many things about Billy Graham, then tomorrow the world will move on to its next big thing.   That’s how it goes here, and really that’s how it should be.  But for today, celebrate the kingdom work of a man who used his time to tell us all “Jesus loves you.”  The longer I live, the more I see that’s the most fitting epitaph of all.   Rest in peace Reverend and welcome home.

For further reading: Thessalonians 2:10.

Lord, thank You for this good servant.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 16 January 2018

You know how we lived among you for your sake.  1 Thessalonians 1:5.

Before we move on, let’s discuss the last sentence of verse 5.

Our dog, Josh, had been part of our family since September 2006, and he got very sick these last few months.   Yesterday, it was time to say goodbye, so we made an appointment with a vet to have hit put to sleep; that’s what you do as a pet owner.   Josh died bravely, and he licked me on the face just a few seconds before he received the injection.   It tore at me but I didn’t want to see my canine friend suffer.  He was my pal, and I loved him.  My wife and I cried together as he died.

I have another friend, not canine, who is battling terminal cancer.   She and I were co-workers, and we’ve stayed friends over the years, commiserating over work, sharing life stories.  My friend has battled cancer already, but this time the disease is likely to win.   How do you support someone who is facing death?  Do we ever really know what to say when they are fighting this battle we all must eventually fight?

The Apostle Paul, Silas, and Timothy had lived among the people of the church at Thessalonica.   They had witnessed to the parishioners, helped them set up things from the start, and helped them to hold fast to this new and fast-spreading faith.   At the time this was happening, Christianity was brand-new.   When the congregation was figuring out how to do things, how to worship in the face of real, physical persecution, they did so without history to guide them.   They were setting that precedent; they were figuring out how to do things for the first time.

What a comfort it must have been to have these storied men live among them, be themselves among them, and help them through this difficult time.

Perhaps that’s a lesson we can remember now, in difficult times when we lose loved ones and face the troubles life gives us.  God gives us people in our lives to live among us for our sake.   He gives us each other to support each other, encourage each other, love on each other.   God chooses to live among us by living through us and letting us share Him through how we live.  Famous people don’t make the world go around:   you and I, living out our faith, do.

What do we say when our friends and family face death, when times are tough and we don’t know what else to say or do?  We love them as Jesus would, listening, talking, feeling for them when they hurt, even saying goodbye.   We do what Paul and his friends did, for their sake, for their comfort.   For Jesus’ glory.

For further reading:  Colossians 3:12, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Corinthians 2:12, Romans 1:16, 1 Thessalonians 1:6.

My Lord, teach me to live Your love for other and to others in my circle.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 17 February 2017

Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  Hebrews 7, verse 26.

You NEED a holy high priest to intercede for you whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not.   You need it just like you need air, water, food and shelter.   Here endeth the sermon.

Now for the example.  A friend of mine has recently lost both of her parents.   I completely empathize with her because both of my parents are gone as well.   Her mom got sick and quickly died late last year.   Not long after, I talked with her and she said that she didn’t think her dad, who was also in failing health, would last long.   Her parents’ marriage had been close, Godly, and long, and my friend simply didn’t see how her dad would want to live long without his wife.   Turns out she was right as her dad died just this week.   Did he will himself to die or did the maladies of old age simply overtake him?   Perhaps it was a little bit of both.   The culprit in his passing really doesn’t matter, though, because the man and woman are both home with the Lord now, off on a new adventure that will last all eternity.   They’ll get to spend it with each other, with Jesus, and with millions of others who believed and were saved.

Here’s the kicker:   my friend doesn’t believe any of this.   She’s not an atheist:   she’s an unbeliever, one who doesn’t know but is apprehensive of taking the step that says “I believe.”  She and I have talked many times about this very thing, and several times I’ve held out hope – as I do especially now – that she would be brought to faith.   I see God’s Holy Spirit at work in her life, calling out to her to give up her pride and just embrace Him, yet she doesn’t.   If good can come out of grieving (and it usually does), then I hope and pray this good comes out of hers.   Heaven would be a much better place with my friend in it.

My friend doesn’t realize that she needs Jesus.   She needs Him as a holy high priest, one who is blameless, pure, set apart from we sinners, and exalted from the heaven where her parents now thrive.  A “need” is a necessity arising from circumstances.   My friend (and me, and you, and everyone here on the Third Rock) needs Jesus to be her personal high priest because the circumstances of her life include rebelling against His holy command to be perfect.   She hasn’t loved fully.   She’s done things that are wrong.   She’s willfully and sometimes gleefully dived deep into dark sins to which none of us should aspire.   Those things weigh her down, making temporal existence seem overpoweringly dreadful when it need not be so.  When we don’t realize our physical and spiritual need for Jesus, our lives are empty.   Life without Jesus is merely existence.

News flash, friend reader:   I could have just described you.   I DID just describe me, as well as my mourning friend.   Every single one of us sets ourselves apart from Jesus every time we sin against Him.   And every thought or deed that is not of Him is sin.   How can we abide by His command to be perfect?   It’s not that tough.   It starts by submitting to Him, believing in Him, giving ourselves over to Him, damn the world and the cost.   Yes, in giving ourselves over to Jesus, we damn, we condemn, our actions to be taken away from us.   We’re taken out of this world and begin to set foot, here and now, in a new world, a new existence where those things we condemn are separated away from us.   They’re taken away from us because Jesus Himself took them away.   I’ve described you, friend sinner, and I’ve described me, a sinner like you.

Like my friend.   Please keep her and her family in your prayers.   Pray that she would come to faith in the Savior who aches now to ease her pain, take away her burdens, and prepare her, too, to one day join her parents with Him in that new world of which they’re now forever citizens.

Lord Jesus, be with my friend and her family as they grieve.   Reach out, use me to reach out, to help her by being a friend and Your ambassador.  Touch her life and I pray she and all like her would come to You in faith.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 24 October 2016

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.  Hebrews 3, verse 1.

My mom died two years ago today.   Two years ago this morning, my mom, Grace Terry, exited the temporal plane of this life and entered the eternal plane of heaven.   For her and my dad, who preceded her by 17 years, time no longer has meaning.  Days, years, aging, disease, seasons, changes:  these mileposts by which we measure our lives here don’t mean anything anymore to either of them.   Or to the millions of believers there with them.   Today is every moment for those in heaven because every moment is spent with Jesus.   I know it has been two years since Mom died but I’m thinking she doesn’t.   For her, it’s “Amazing Grace” (and not just because that’s her name).   You know the line:   “when we’ve been there ten thousand years…we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.”

My parents were both believers and college graduates.  I learned from them the intellectual exercise of how I walk my faith walk.   I learned how skepticism, questioning, and even academic rigor can be tools with which you can learn around the edges about the richness of our Lord and Savior.   As long as you don’t make those tools your idols, they can be helpful, even Godly, gifts.   In concluding his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul said “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good.”  He was giving instructions to the church on how to deal with the physical and spiritual persecution they were undergoing.   As you’ve read, part of those instructions was to use Godly skepticism in questioning matters of faith.   God would never lead them wrong so they (and we) should use healthy questioning to determine God’s will in tough choices.

Yet, a better, deeper way to learn about Jesus is to move beyond that, to fix that intellect on Him.  The author of Hebrews says that if the Hebrew believers (and us, and the Thesssalonians) would fix our thoughts on Jesus then it would be much easier to employ that healthy questioning when the times come for us to do so.  When we don’t know what path to take, ask Jesus.   When we are troubled by things happening our lives, think about Jesus.   When we make mistakes, turn to Jesus.  Celebrations, happiness, and good times?   Focus on Jesus and thank Him, involve Him.  And when temptation, or falling, or hurt come into our lives as they regularly do, then focusing on Jesus makes it much, much easier to then ask “Lord, what should I do now?”   “Is this a good choice?”   “What do You want me to do?”

God will answer in His own way in His own time, but answer He will.   I’m betting it’ll be much sooner than later and usually in an overflow of some blessing.

Like my mom dying two years ago today.   I have a confession to make:  I haven’t cried over her.   Really haven’t.   I loved my mom, and I’m ashamed to say I spent a good part of the last year of her life busy and angry over choices she made that impacted me.   When she was gone, I was still in the thick of having to deal with her estate that I simply put all my feelings in a box and stored them away.   I’d deal with them later.  Two years on, I still haven’t, and I know some day that box will be opened and there they’ll be, fresh for dealing.  Her death snuck up on me.   She went into the hospital healthy – but quietly dying – on a Wednesday night and was gone on Friday morning.  That’s less than 36 hours, and I think, now, that it was actually a blessing.   God gave us a gift in that, for a brief hour or two, she regained consciousness and grasped what was happening, and instantly made peace with it.   All of us in the family got a chance to talk with her and say goodbye.   But it happened much sooner than I ever thought it would.   If I had known she would die so quickly, perhaps I might have let go of that anger and spent time more wisely.

Yet now I see we did use that time well.   In the last years and months we all had here, we had good visits, and we talked for hours, and we forgave and shared faith.   It wasn’t all rosy but it was all good because, through it all, in our own ways, we fixed our minds on Jesus and understood that He would somehow make everything alright.   And He did.

For more reading:   1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, Hebrews 2:11, Romans 8:28, 1 Timothy 6:12, 2 Corinthians 9:13.

Lord, thank You for this day, for the passage of death, the forgiveness You give, and for calling Your followers home.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 1 December 2014

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2, verse 5.

Hello my friend.   It’s good to be back with you.   I was gone for the last month after my Mom died at the end of October.   The ensuing time has been both frustrating and rewarding; pretty much what you’d expect when you lose someone.   Yet I know she went home to Heaven, and that all will be well in God’s good time.

I know it because Jesus saw her faith.   Just like He did the man in this verse. See, I don’t think you can overstate the enormity of this verse.   The Son of God speaks to a man, a paralyzed “sinner,” and the man’s maladies are wiped out. Jesus saw that the man and the men who had brought him there believed He was the righteous Son of God. He saw their earnest faith and that it was for real, not contrived, not fake, not just for the show, not just to get something from Him.

Can you or I really wrap our noggins around that?   I mean, seriously? NOTHING in this universe was made without Jesus.   Jesus saw the man where he was, just as he was.   The man’s friends had cut a hole in the ceiling and lowered him down just in the off-chance that the Nazarene miracle worker might work a miracle.   And He did.   Jesus saw the man where he was, assessing his true condition:   faith, not paralysis, defined him, even as physical ailments debilitated him and the guilt of sin (that we each carry) weighed down his heart.   And Jesus loved him anyway.

This isn’t just some fable:   think of it as a news report, as a chronicle of something that happened. Because that’s what it is.   Jesus healed the man in the way that he most needed healing. In the two thousand years since then, the same thing has happened countless times in countless ways because that’s what Jesus does.   He meets us, summarizes our faith, and acts accordingly. He does; He doesn’t just talk.   Jesus is action.

Don’t believe me?   I watched it happen. I held onto my mother’s hand while she was dying.   Mom didn’t want to die; none of us really does.   I think that, throughout her life, she was skeptical of faith, always holding out a question or two even as she knew in her heart that all the Bible lessons were true.   She was a sinner like me and you, and death had finally come to meet her. That could have been a frightening prospect, yet in the few hours between declining health and going to Heaven, she let go of her skepticism and embraced her coming reward. Good pastor friends stayed with my family and I as we sat at her side, praying with us, preparing us – and Mom – for her time of deliverance. During her last moments of consciousness, Mom said her goodbyes and gave us her love because she knew her skepticism was unneeded and her sins fully forgiven.

I have full faith and confidence, just as I do in any truth, that Mom went to heaven and was met there by the Lord, the same Lord who forgave and healed the paralyzed man.   I believe He said “welcome home.”   The enormity of that moment was made possible because of Jesus living, then dying, here on the Third Rock, leaving behind for us all the lessons we would ever need to join Him in what lies beyond.   While He was here, Jesus met people where they were, in the middle of their struggles.   And in doing so, He freed them from the paralysis of their sins.   Just like He does us now.

Lord, I’ve been a sinful man. Forgive me and heal me. I want to walk in following You.

Read Mark 2.