Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 14 August 2018

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NIV).

If you study the spread of Christianity, you see that Paul’s prayer was answered.   A word of mouth proposition, Christianity spread all over the known world in a matter of a few years.  That’s unprecedented.   The faiths of the Norse, Japanese, and indigenous tribes in the Americas never spread out of local areas due to many factors.  Already an established faith at the time of Jesus, it took hundreds of years for Buddhism to spread beyond India.   It also took many decades for Islam to spread out of Arabia and then it happened only through violence.  Yet it took only a handful of years for the message of Jesus Christ to spread from Jerusalem to Assyria, Greece, Asia Minor and all over the Roman Empire.   Within only a few decades, it spread into pagan Europe and up into India.

Good news travels fast.

Mark Twain and Winston Churchill were right:  A lie gets halfway around the world before truth puts on its boots.  Bad news travels fast, too, especially if you’re on the internet.  Yet I maintain that good news travels faster.   Bad times don’t last but they hurt while they’re here.   Yet when good news travels and takes root, it’s there for good.   True, we can misplace that good news but when it travels fast, it travels fast while establishing itself.

The good news of the Good News took root wherever it went.  Moreover, it took root in the face of adversity.   It traveled by word of mouth along ancient roads and trade routes.   It sailed the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, and across the Black Sea.   It climbed mountains and was spoken across language barriers giving new-found hope to those who would open their hearts.  People accustomed to the family of Greek and Roman Gods and the plethora of ancient tribal deities heard, for the first time, that the God of all loved them.   That He forgave their sins, and wanted to live through their hearts and hands.   Revenge was replaced with hope; hope could finally spring eternal.

And all because people talked with each other.   Because people took Paul’s letters and shared them, preserved them, used them as a way to get to know this Jesus.   Because God answered Paul’s prayer.  Word traveled fast.   It still does today.   If you don’t believe that, consider that, in less than 4 decades, over 200 million people have come to faith in the dictatorship of Communist China.   In the years to come, there could (and probably will be) more Christians there than anywhere else on earth.   Good news travels fast and it can put down deep roots even in the harshest soil.

For further reading:  1 Thessalonians 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:2.

Lord, I praise You for Your word traveling fast!

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 6 December 2017

I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.  Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.  Hebrews 13, verses 23-24.

My son in law is current deployed overseas and he talks with his wife and daughter almost daily via Skype, Facebook, and Marco Polo.   I wish those things would have been available when I was still in the military.   And when my wife was overseas on a mission trip in Romania, we talked online (and did our daily devotion) every day via Skype.    When we were stationed overseas (in Italy) in the late 1980s, my wife and I would call home about once per month.  We looked forward to those calls as a real morale booster.   And, speaking of morale boosters, in the mid-80s, when I was deployed to sea, our team received periodic “personals”:   messages called into our unit office, then transmitted to us on the ship.   Getting one could make (or break) your day.

Still, it’s not the same as a letter.

No matter how you communicate, the important thing is to communicate.   In the days of the Hebrews, letters were the only method.   You could send someone to relate an in-person, personal account of something, and that was convincing (it still is).   But if you wanted to transmit an explicit, word-for-word message, you had to write it down and send it.   Years later, it would still preserve your message.   For instance, consider what you know just from these concluding verses in chapter 13:

  • Timothy, a fellow believer, has been released from custody
  • That same Timothy was on his way to meet the writer
  • Together, the two of them would likely travel to where the recipient of the letter lived
  • The writer fondly thought of his audience and asked them to greet mutual friends
  • Someone from Italy, acquainted with the writer, sent greetings.
  • There was more than one person there from Italy
  • There were things the writer wanted his reader to know

That’s a lot to pack into just a few words, but those are some of the messages the writer of the book conveyed as he closed out his epistle.   Two thousand years (and across five continents), we are still reading his messages.  The only way he could reach people across the Mediterranean and into southern Europe was to write a letter, and that letter enclosed good news about Jesus.   When it was done, the writer wanted to close fondly.   He wanted to end on a positive note, so he sent warm greetings.   How he did it didn’t matter as much, though, as THAT he did it.   That he answered God’s call to share a message with his fellow brothers and sisters.   We benefit from that today.

I saved the 1987 personal message that my (now) wife sent to me while I was at sea, asking for me to call on her when I returned home; as you’ll remember, thirty years ago yesterday I did.    It’s hanging in a small frame on the shelf as I walk into my closet.   Somewhere out in my storage unit I have several small boxes full of cards and letters that Hunnie and I exchanged when we were dating.   I also have boxes with that same correspondence from my parents in 1950s Germany, and even my grandparents thirty years before that.   One day, I’ll go back and read those old letters.   They still have something to say.

So this is a challenge to you, friend reader.   This Christmas, send out some Christmas cards (my wife and I are actually sending a New Year’s card this year instead).   Pick just one person you know and write a letter to them, then mail it.   Actually use snail mail.  Better yet, share a little Jesus in that letter, and close it out with warm regards.   Years from now, someone may just read it and cherish.

For further reading:  Acts 16:1, Acts 18:2.

Lord, thank You for communicating with us!

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 2 December 2015

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. Mark 13, verses 7-8.

Watch out and be ready.   Read the signs.

Every day we are looking for signs for the second coming of Christ.   As you can read, it’s something that Jesus Himself told us we need to do.   Watch out and be ready.   Look for the signs and heed them.   Heed them to be ready.

Now, I am not going to speculate on whether or not we are in the end times.   Dozens of generations before ours thought they were because they saw wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, earthquakes, famines and violence.   Remember the fall of Jerusalem less than a generation after Mark’s Gospel was written?   Or the fall of Rome a few centuries later.   The Crusades a thousand years ago, the Muslim invasion of Europe in the 1400s.   The Hundred Years’ War; The Thirty Years’ War; World War I and especially World War II. The generations that lived through those things must surely have thought they were witnessing the end.   So it is with ours.

Maybe it’s never happened in my lifetime or maybe I’m just paying attention to it now but the signs are appearing again.

And the moral of the story is still “watch out and be ready.”   Right now; today.   That’s what Jesus told us.

I can honestly say that I hope it happens.   I honestly hope for the time when this life can end and the life without time can begin.   Perhaps it will indeed happen in my lifetime.   Just today, with ISIS on the move again and with Russia threatening nuclear war with Turkey, wars and rumors of wars are abounding.   I heard a radio ad (not a preacher, an advertisement) speculating on whether or not we are witnessing the start of the war prophesied by the prophet Ezekiel over 2500 years ago. High profile radio hosts are openly talking about how we are in the beginning of World War III but we haven’t faced up to it yet.   Some are saying “end times.”

Watch out and be ready.

Watch out and be ready so that no one deceives you.   Watch out and be ready so that no one deceives you into thinking they are the returning Jesus. He is coming and soon but none of us know the date or time.   All we can understand through our view of the trees is that only Jesus can truly see the whole forest and He will return to govern it when God the Father deems it to be the time. Until then, we have only one job.

Watch out and be ready.   Watch out and be ready by helping others to do the same.   Help others to do the same by using the talents Jesus gives each of us to His glory, for His purpose, in His ways.   Share our stories, use our abilities, do what we can to be Jesus for other people so that they, too, may ready themselves for Jesus’ imminent return. Heed the signs by reading and interpreting the signs.   Be ready to stand, then to leave, when Jesus comes back for you. Watch and be ready.

Lord, I anxiously await Your return.   Until that happens, help me to understand the signs and be ready for You.

Read Mark 13, verses 1-31.