Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 27 June 2019

The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.  2 Timothy 4:22 (NIV).

Here we are again, at another ending, at the end of another book.   If you’re a ten-year reader of this blog, thank you!   I hope it’s a blessing to you.   You’ll remember we’ve reached endings together of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Mark, Hebrews, James, 1/2/3 John, 1/2 Thessalonians and now 1/2 Timothy, as well as the topics of the Ten Commandments and Santa Claus.  That’s thirteen books of the Bible and 15 topics overall; well over a million words.   We’ve spent some time together.   God-willing, we’ll keep doing that.

And if He isn’t willing, if this is the last of these posts, then the Lord be with your spirit.   Grace be with you all.   I mean that.   We’ve (hopefully) learned from Paul to end our conversations genuinely, to infuse our parting with the same Spirit and love that we (hopefully, again) brought into our meeting.   As Paul closed out his letters with greetings from and to friends, he also closed them out by praying the Lord over the recipient.

That’s a bold thing to do, you know.   Paul understood these letters would be widely-read.   He probably didn’t envision they’d ever be part of canon Scripture, but he probably did imagine many people hearing them (or hearing about them).  He put down on paper both his personal affections for the reader as well as his prayers for the same.   In a time when that could get you killed, that’s bold.

And you know that time is now.   Praying Jesus Christ in public today can get you arrested or killed in North Korea, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and many nations in Africa.   In the US, it can get you fired.  Putting those prayers on paper can have the same effect because then you involve those recipients.   Yet, if we really believe in Jesus, then we’re compelled to do it.   The heart of the Gospel is agape love:   undeserved gracious love that goes out without any expectation of anything in return.   No matter the consequences.

It’s that love that nailed Jesus to the cross.   It’s that love that kept Him there, that rolled back the Easter stone.   It’s that love that called Paul on a road into Syria.   And it’s that love Paul wanted shared with his friends no matter what it would cost him.   Not long after writing the letter, it cost Paul his life.   Praise to God that He inspired Paul to be willing to do that.

So, at another ending, let us each be inspired to have that same faith and courage.   To wish Christ’s love infuse our souls and bring grace and peace to each other.   Grace and His love to you until the next time.

For further reading:  Galatians 6:18, Colossians 4:18, Titus 1:1

Lord Jesus, thank You for endings and beginnings, for Your grace and love being in both.   Thank You for lettings us have these times together.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 30 December 2016

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.  Hebrews 6, verses 7-8.

In verses 4-6, the author of Hebrews warns us that, while God doesn’t undo our salvation, we can undo our acceptance of it to our own peril.  Here he talks about what peril can await us if we turn from Him.

At the end of a growing season, fire can be your friend.   I’ve spent several days this week raking leaves on my land.   I purposefully waited until all the trees had shed their leaves so that I wouldn’t have to do this task twice.   Now I’m seeing that choice has resulted (literally) in a mountain of work.  It takes hard work and time to rake 2 acres of leaves, then to pile them and burn them.   But it’s good for the soil because, once all the ash has cooled, I’ll make several trips with a wheelbarrow and dump that rich ash on my pumpkin patch.   Hold that thought.

Leaves are a useful crop.  They give food to the trees, then die off and enrich the soil on which they fall.   It’s almost shocking how the volume of leaves you rake can condense into such a small portion of ash but that’s what happens.   God’s nature is a miraculous thing.  Part of burning up the leaves includes burning up weeds.   When I dump all that ash on my pumpkin patch, I’m also going to burn off this year’s weeds.   It’ll kill off those plants so that they don’t grow back again, and it will enrich the soil anew.   Weeds are plants you don’t want, and they can be a nuisance when you’re farming crops you do want.   They don’t last but they can come back if you don’t tend to them.  Make no mistake:   this year, they’ll be burned.

Imagine if I was a weed.   In a way, maybe I am.   Today is my last day with the company for which I’ve worked for six years.   They’re letting me go and not replacing me (at least that’s what was told to me).  I’m not being fired for cause; I haven’t done anything improper or wrong.   After six years, in their words “I’m just not a fit.”  Thanks, guys, and at the holidays even!  What I didn’t do was grow the project on which I was the manager, and I refused to make certain concessions to a client that I did indeed think were wrong.   For most of the past six months, I’ve been on the bench and not really fitting in the minor tasks they’ve assigned to me.  For that, I’m losing my job.

It happens.   In corporate America, it happens a lot.   It’s a scary thing to be over fifty and on the unemployment line, though I’m not truly unemployed (I’m working part-time in a call center).  To make it scarier, I feel like a worthless weed that has been cursed and is ready for the fire.   I KNOW that God is active in this, and that He’s clearing a path for something new.  Whether that’s big or not, I don’t know.   I simply know He’s at work, closing and opening doors and moving me in a direction for which He’s preparing me now.   Yet it hurts.   I’ve gone round and round in my head about ‘what did I do wrong?’   I can’t honestly tell you that I consciously did, but if you don’t do what your employer wants, in a way you’re doing wrong.   You get whatever consequences they assign to you.   That’s where I find myself.   I’m in a burn pile from one job and while I’m confident God will see me through, I’m anxious about going through.  I haven’t rejected God in any way.   What’s happening isn’t His fault; it’s mine.   But fire hurts.   Right now it doesn’t seem like my friend.

Here’s the kicker:   good things can come out of the fire.

Another job will happen.   When it does, and I believe and hope that will be soon, it will be worthwhile and present a whole new set of good challenges.   The prospect of that energizes me.   When my manager dismissed me, in addition to protesting my innocence, I also said “I forgive you.”   I meant it, and those three words have kept me from being bitter.   They’ve allowed me to quickly see God’s hand in this, and to both turn the other cheek while still standing up to something that I think is a wrong.   The door that’s closed is behind me.  Others just ahead will be opening and it’s all because of God.

Fire can refine gold.   Fire can burn away impurities and hazards.   Fire wipes the landscape clean.   And fire produces ash, like that ash I’ll dump on my pumpkin patch.  That builds up the soil and prepares it for good things to grow next season.  That’s evidence of God at work, producing useful crops from what’s left of last season’s burn.  Fire can hurt, and fire can kill.   Getting fired can hurt your job prospects, but in the end, God always has something better in store.

For further reading:   Genesis 3:17-18, Isaiah 5:6, Isaiah 27:4.

My Lord and Savior, I see Your beautiful hand at work in this anxious season.   I ask for Your comfort, and the cleansing of Your perfect fire in my life.   Burn away useless weeds from my life, and prepare me to grow a good crop afterwards.