Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 11 March 2019

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dear son:  Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.   2 Timothy 1:1 (NIV).

Welcome back, good friend.  We’re here by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.   You and I may not consider each other familial (as in father to son, or son to father), or perhaps we do.   This blog goes to a great many of my actual family members.   And, as we are brothers and sisters in Jesus, we ARE family.   I can almost hear Sister Sledge now.

But it’s true.   We are family.   Paul considered Timothy, his mentee and protégé, to be his spiritual son.  You and I are friends, and whether we know each other well or simply in passing, I consider you to be family.   I hope you do me the same honor.   We’re family by the will of God.   He wanted us to be family.   He arranged the circumstances of our lives, things we call “chance” or “coincidences,” so that this would be so.   So that we could meet and be in relationship.  We’re family because God wanted us to be together.  Our relationship isn’t just ordinary.   God willed it, making it extraordinary in an ordinary world.

What’s more, we’re family and this is so because of the promise of life that is in Jesus and Jesus alone.  Jesus is the giver of life; His friend, John, recorded that for us.   Everything that is here today was created through Him and for Him and because of Him; Paul testified to that, in Colossians.   He made everything and put His special touch – life – in things that breathe that life.   Especially in man, which He called “very good.”  God made our lives so that we could know Him better and share Him with each other.  He promised to give us all things, meaning His eternal life through the love He shares through us.   Only He can do this; only God through His son Jesus could arrange things as so.

All this because He first loved us.   He spoke things into creation.   He saw this world as incomplete without people, without you and me.   He willed us to be and willed this as so because of His love, through His love.   Through the love of Him that is in Christ Jesus.   Paul, the specially called servant of Jesus, in keeping with the life that is His love, created you and me to be in a family relationship so that we may share His grace, mercy and peace.   Today, starting a new book, let’s begin with that at heart.

For further reading:   1 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 3:6, Titus 1:2, John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, Genesis 1:31, 1 John 4:19, 2 Timothy 3.

Loving Savior, thank You for creating me to share Your love today.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 7 October 2016

Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.  Hebrews 2, verse 11.

Think about this one.   I mean really, truly, slowly contemplate the idea being stated by this Bible verse.

You’re like Jesus.

Jesus is like you.

You and Jesus, the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-everything creator of the universe, are family.   You’re in His.

You aren’t part of Allah’s family.   In fact, nothing you can do could ever get you close to Allah; you’ll never be good enough.   You aren’t on the same level as the Buddha.   He reached nirvana first and, well, we just aren’t that cool.   Your ancestors did it better than you.  The earth and Mother Gaia are so much bigger than you.   Name one other faith on this planet and, chances are, you and I just don’t measure up.   This isn’t Rag On Other Religions Day:   it’s simply the way things are.

Not so with Jesus.   With Jesus, you’re family.   We’re family.   You and I, we are adopted children.   It’s as if He showed up at court and did everything necessary to fully, freely, finally adopt us as His own children.   Even more, He doesn’t just think of us as children:   He looks at us as brothers and sisters.   Equals, peers, siblings, friends:   we aren’t just family.   We’re on the same level.

Now, let’s keep it real.   Us, we aren’t God.  We aren’t supernatural and we aren’t the Triune God the way Jesus is.   But He asks us to put off thinking like that and reminds us that He came here as Himself, as fully man while being fully God.   We don’t have to understand that mystery.   In fact, we don’t get to.   It’s simply a fact we get to accept.   Yet fact it is.  We can’t do what He does in the supernatural realm and we never will.   We are the created, not the Creator.

But as men, we get to relate to Jesus man to man because that’s how He relates to us.   He reminds us that He lived a full life among us.   He ate, drank, slept, laughed, cried.   Jesus did the same things you and I do except sin.   He lived the kind of life we were designed to live to teach us that it could be done.   He lived the life we could live, that, post-death, we will one day get to live.   And He did it out of love to set things right.

Buddha didn’t do that.   Allah can’t do that.   Neither can the Hindus, the Mormons, the atheists, or any other followers of any other faith.   But Jesus did it.

He did it because He sees us as people, as men and women.   He meets us where we are and asks that we meet Him there in return.   He wants to meet us on a human level because He knows that’s what we can understand.   He knows that He can appeal to our understanding, our hearts and minds, because He is the foundation of all understanding.   Faith in God is the beginning of human reason.   Jesus knows this and wants us to know it too so that we can live our lives here in purpose and love with Him as our guide.

Jesus sees you as His brother or sister because He wants you to see Him as your brother.  He wants to be the person with whom you can confide, and trust, and rely on.   Jesus wants us to know Him as family because family sticks together.   Because family is a bond that matters.   Because a family is the primary unit in every society, and because mankind was designed to live in families.

Seriously think about that.   Seriously contemplate that thought.  Jesus brings many sons to glory because He sees those sons, you and I, as brothers whom He loves and adores.   That’s the best news you’.

For more reading:   Hebrews 13:12, Ephesians 5:26, Matthew 28:10.

Lord Jesus, my brother and my Lord, thank You for loving me as your sibling!

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 15 June 2015

And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” Mark 9, verse 1.

You and me:   we should be dead by now.   You know it as well as I do that, to paraphrase the apostle, we face death all day long.   Every day that we make it to work safely is a miracle.   Ditto waking up, digesting food, staying healthy from disease, nurturing a beating heart, and sleeping through the night.   Some might say those are simply the outcomes of impossible to predict random acts of chance and interaction.   I say they’re mini miracles that testify to the existence of God in the very details of our lives.

So how astounding is it that God Himself would say that some of those to whom He was speaking would soon see an astounding miracle promised for centuries.   That isn’t some miniature detail anyone would overlook.   It was a big deal, yet Jesus threw it down and, in context of what came next, it was prophetic.

Here’s another throw-down:   it’ll happen to you today as well.

Huh?   First some of that context. Keep in mind where Jesus was. He has just fed four thousand men, healed a blind man, (yet again) confronted the Pharisees, upbraided His friends, predicted His own death, and told people to get on His level regarding what they should expect from their faith in Him. Now He’s saying that not only will people who believe in Him die but that, before they do, they will see God coming in power. As we will see, shortly after this comes the Transfiguration and that display of power Jesus promised.

In my opinion, He also promised a different kind of power to us every day.

Are you thinking about Thor and his hammer?   Or Zeus smiting puny men with thunderbolts from Olympus?   Sauron marching to crush Middle Earth with a million ugly orcs?   Or perhaps a vengeful Allah vanquishing all enemies of Islam with his priestly army of fanatics?   These are the images of god-like beings wielding power that come to mind when we humans are left to our own devices. We think of power as the omnipotent use of force, of the physical being overtaken by the meta-physical, of forces beyond our control or understanding manipulating our lives from a position of strength.

Except that’s not how Jesus worked.   Or works now.   See, He promised the Disciples that He would display His power, and a few days hence He did.   Yet He also promises us the same thing every day.   I believe He delivers on that promise, and I see it in the majesty of sunsets, in the feel of my grandson hugging me around my neck.   I feel it in my beating heart, in the love of my family as we sit at the kitchen table, as I work in my garden where God gives me vocation and food. I see it at work in how He comforts distraught friends, how He turns around destruction to expand His kingdom of goodness, and how He works quietly through we sinful humans by our spreading word about Him.   Do you know Jesus?   Then you know Him in power and miracles.

I think it’s a miracle that we’re still alive to talk about this, given all the ways the world could kill us every day. Turn to Jesus and you see it really is.

Lord, thank You for Your miracles and power in my life.

Read Mark 9, verses 1-13.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 12 January 2015

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”  And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”  Mark 3, verses 20-22.

Are you afraid?   Fear:  isn’t that at the nub of what was really going on here?   Picture Jesus, being Himself – that is, unconventional, radical, caring, teaching – being invited to a friend’s house.   The folks of the town heard about the famous teacher and they crowded Him; Taylor Swift kind of crowds.   They gathered in crowds so dense, so pressing and needy, that Jesus and His friends couldn’t even sit down for a meal.  Imagine the subway at rush hour, or piling into a football stadium for the Super Bowl, or the Mall on the pay day before Christmas.   This was more crowded.  And some of the crowd seemed afraid.

His family was around him.   I take that to mean that the location of this house was either near Nazareth, where Jesus had grown up, or that His mother, brothers, or sisters traveled with Him at this time.   We don’t really know.  All we can say is what Mark does:   that they tried to shut Him down.  They tried to shut him down because they seemed afraid.   Afraid of Jesus’ words, afraid of the crowds, afraid of something:  it’s another thing we don’t know.   But they were so afraid that they felt an urgent need to corral Jesus and ‘take charge of Him.”   As if they could.   What’s more, they felt so strongly about it that they were willing to lie about it.   “He is out of His mind.”  That’s a bald lie.

It’s hardly what someone says when they love you.   “Don’t listen to Dave:   he’s crazy.”   “That guy is a loon.”  You get the picure.   Hardly loving words, especially since their words fed those of the rabbis (who also followed Jesus around), who wanted to shut up Jesus in any way possible.   ‘He is possessed by the devil.’   That’s what the leading Jewish interpreters said.

So here’s a news flash:   they seemed pretty afraid as well.   I suppose there were some who had genuine concern to protect the integrity of the rich Jewish tradition.   Their fear would seem understandable since what Jesus said & did was so confrontational and challenging.   What He said, however, didn’t contradict God’s commands or His love.   Indeed, had they listened closer, perhaps they would have let go of their fear.   And I suppose, too, there were those who were afraid of what could happen to them if the people listened closely enough to Jesus and maybe wised up.  That, too, is understandable, if inexcusable.  So they were afraid enough to jump to the conclusion that Jesus must be Satanic.

Tell me:   how are we different?   We get to know Jesus by His word and Spirit; are we afraid of what He says, afraid of what it could mean to us?  The Judean people knew Him in person.   They saw Him as the man He was, and came to know Him as fully man and fully God.   My pastor said this yesterday:   Jesus had to be both for Him to do what He did.   Yet some became afraid of Him…just like some of us.  Why?

Lord, forgive me my fears.

Re-read Mark 3, verses 20-34.

Practical Proverbial, from Ruth, 17 April 2014

Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.  Ruth 4, verses 16 and 17.

I’m a grandfather now.   You’ve heard me briefly mention my grandson, who was born January 23 of this year:   Thomas Nolan who, in my humble opinion, is the cutest grand-baby ever.  My wife and I are finding that it’s more fun to be a grandparent than it was to be a parent.   There are many reasons for that, I’m sure, but it simply is what it is.

Thomas is my son.  Now my daughter and son-in-law may take issue with that statement, but he’s my grandSON.  It’s a blood relationship and it’s an emotional bond.   Being a generation removed from him doesn’t mean he is less of a son to me.   He is my direct descendant.  We are family, just like Sister Sledge sang.  And we are more than that.

Get ready to be blown away.

You are my son.   You are my daughter.   You are my brother, sister, father and mother.  You and I, we are family as well.   Words like “I believe” and “I do” are enough to bind us together in our Father.  He created us.   We alienated ourselves from Him.   He lived, died, and rose to adopt us.   And we say “I believe” to accept the bond He freely extends outward to us.   We are adopted back into His family and we are family together.

When Ruth married Boaz, she was already family to Naomi.   When she married Boaz, that bond deepened even more.   And when she bore her son, the bond became even stronger.   It was no longer just vows that bound them (as if those vows were not enough).   Instead, blood tied them together.  What God brought together with words of affirmation was solidified in an act of love that bore God’s miracle of life.  Family.

Jesus’s family, his physical lineage stretched back to the baby Naomi held in her arms, yet Jesus’ blood makes us family.   We are adopted into Jesus’ family simply by His resurrected love.  That makes Ruth, Obed, Boaz and Naomi our family as well.   Obed grew up to be King David’s grandfather, and King David was the forebear of the King of Kings Himself.   Next time you got to church, take a look around you.   The people seated there aren’t just your friends.   They are family.   Sunday morning is a family reunion.   This coming Sunday will be an extra special one.

It’ll be special, in part, because it’s Thomas Nolan’s first Easter.   Next year, he will be able to go to church and clap along, to hunt chocolate eggs, and to talk up at dinner.   He’s my family.   You are too.

Jesus, thank You for family.  Thank You for ALL my family, even those I don’t yet know.


Read Ruth 4