Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 16 April 2019

Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.   2 Timothy 2:7 (NIV).

One of my pastor’s favorite pieces of good advice is to take 5 minutes daily with God.   In that five minutes, simply be silent.  Clear you mind; focus only on God and whatever He may say to you.   It may take a hundred days; it may take only five minutes.  Eventually, no matter how long it takes, you’ll begin to perceive more of what God says to you in His Word, in messages He gives you through others and the world, in matters put on your heart.  He’s speaking; we listen.

Paul would have understood this.   He was advising Timothy to do much the same thing.   Paul was telling Timothy to be still, to know God is God of all, and to let Him speak to his heart.

That’s still good advice today.   Just ask Pastor Mark.

Indeed, we need insight more than ever.   Just yesterday, I was called a hypocrite online by politically opposite friend…and she was right.   What’s more, her rebuke was enjoined by my own daughter, who was also right.   I had resorted to name-calling in a comment, and it took the rebuke from a political adversary and my flesh & blood for me to see they were correct.  A man of better insight (maybe Timothy or Paul, or even my friend, Mark) would likely have seen that sooner, maybe not even posting the words at all.   When I saw what they were saying, I quickly deleted the name.  Seems I should have done some more reflecting before posting yet another political opinion.   Yep, I need insight more than ever.

And just yesterday, Notre Dame cathedral burned.   We don’t know why, though the cause is most likely something innocuous.  But it’s still suspicious given the number of unaccounted church vandalisms in France, as well as the fact that it’s Holy Week and the cathedral would make a ripe target.   Yet even pushing that suspicion aside, we need insight about the event.   Not insight into why it happened but, perhaps, insight into the good things that Jesus will do through the efforts of first responders, engineers, and builders to restore this ancient house of God.

It’s the insight into what Jesus is saying that Paul was invoking into Timothy.   It’s that kind of insight we would all do well to contemplate today.   Then act on it.

On behalf of my friend, let me invite you to act today by taking five minutes to be still and know that Jesus is God.   That He will speak to you as He does.   That He loves and forgives you.   That He wants to work through you today.   Take five for insight, my friend.

For further reading: Psalm 46:10, 2 Timothy 2:8.

Insightful Lord Jesus, open my eyes to Your purpose for me today.   Guide my thoughts, words, and actions to better serve Your purpose.

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Practical Proverbial, about Santa Claus, 19 December 2017

Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.   Deuteronomy 26:11.

It’s the week before Christmas and, if we’re having an honest conversation about Santa Claus, we need to face some facts about the world we live in.

We each know people who are having a tough time this year.  One friend of mine is struggling to give her kids and grandkids the kind of happy Christmas she never had when she was growing up, and she feels she’s failing.   Another friend of mine is struggling with the recent diagnosis of a terminal brain tumor.   Yet another confesses her broken-heartedness on her first Christmas as a single mom following her divorce.   One of my sons-in-law is deployed overseas, spending his first Christmas away from his wife and daughter; his wife and daughter are very much missing Dad.  Another friend of mine is struggling with schizophrenia.  One of my classmates is being buried today after her untimely death last week.  I’m losing my house.

And we’re supposed to rejoice over all this?  Actually, yes, and it really isn’t that difficult to do.

Think of “A Christmas Carol”, of Scrooge’s overnight transformed heart.   Or the Santa Clause movie where Tim Allen brightens up the teacher’s holiday party by using a little Santa magic.  Consider the lines of excited kids lining up to see Santa.   Or the bell-ringer wearing a Santa hat who wishes you a merry Christmas when you drop a few coins into the red kettle.  Rejoice.   Rejoice, already.   God gives us the basics but so much more.   If you don’t believe that, go do some Santa watching at the mall.   Reject the crass commercialism and just watch the little kids.   Watch how they anticipate, and how a kind old man spends some time with them to listen and love a little.   Then rejoice already.   Rejoice on days good and bad alike because the same Christ Child, born on Christmas Day, reflected by a character we call “Santa,” is Lord of all.

In it all, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.   You know it, the Christmas hymn.   According to Wikipedia, the words to the hymn come from the 1700s while the medieval dirge to which they’re sung comes from France of the 1500s.  Yet I love the song.  It is actually one of the more hopeful ones you’ll hear this Christmas because the refrain constantly reminds us to rejoice over how Jesus Emmanuel has ransomed us from ourselves.   How “Emmanuel” actually means “God with us.”   How He is with us now.

Rejoice, too, because one of Emmanuel’s representatives here in our world is that jolly fat man in the red suit.   That attitude of giving selflessly is cause enough to begin the rejoicing.   The heart that gives is the heart of hope, and in the face of real adversity we need more of that hope.   Only Jesus can truly give that hope, but you, me, and acting like Santa can share it.   That’s what keeps the world going around.  The people of 1500s France knew it.  The magi knew it.   Moses knew it when he penned Deuteronomy.   And the men who play Santa at the mall know it.

I’m not trying to be Pollyanna concerning the hard condition in which we find ourselves.   Living can hurt.   Yet the very real antidote to being crushed by this world is letting ourselves be lifted up by God instead.   Loss, death, and pain still happen, but they cannot defeat a heart focused on giving through rejoicing.   Indeed, the only way to persevere through those things is with that rejoicing heart of Jesus.   In hard times, that may be the only gift we can get or give.  Like the song, so much of our lives is sung in a minor key.   How much better it is, then, to consider the smile of Santa’s face, the touch of Jesus’ hand, and the fresh day today to rejoice one moment at a time.

For further reading: Matthew 25:29.

My Lord, I rejoice at Your wonder, at how You provide for us and love us.  Help me to persevere through adversity today.   And ease the pain of those who are struggling right now.  Love and nurture them, Lord.

Practical Proverbial, the Ten Commandments, 10 June 2014

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus chapter 20, verses 8-11.

“Lead from the front.”   This is one of my friend Pat’s favorite sayings.   Great military leaders do this: think Washington at Trenton, Macarthur in the trenches of France, Alexander leading his armies. Great political leaders lead this way: think Lincoln visiting the battlefields, Churchill during the Blitz, Reagan imploring the Communists to “tear down this wall.” Great parents lead from the front: think setting goals for their families, 2 AM feedings when they’re dog-tired, working for years at jobs that somehow add up to much less than their true hopes and dreams.

God is the best leader of all.   He always leads from the front.   Here, in the fourth commandment, He implores us to rest and uses Himself as the example.   He implores us to and set aside a reasonable amount of our time – our time that He gives us as an equally distributed gift – as a way to seek out His rest. He commands us to rest in every way of our lives, physically, emotionally, and especially spiritually.  

Note the “keeping it holy” clause.  It doesn’t mean “sleep all day” or “get wasted” or “sit around while someone else waits on you” or “clean up the garage so you can throw a kegger next week.”   Keep it holy.   Not just nice; not go hang out at church with the other sinners; not give it the old college try:   holy.   Unblemished.   Following Jesus’ example. Good luck with that.

I’m not saying that to be cynical.   It’s impossible for us to be holy or to keep something holy on our own. The ONLY way to keep it holy is to turn over the entire Sabbath day to Jesus. Like Ms Underwood said, let Him take the wheel.   “When was the last time you did that, Dave Terry?” you might ask.   Fair question and the fair answer can only be that I’ve blown it.   How about you?

Great leaders do this and great leaders know their troops need R&R after fighting at the front.   Too many days in the trenches and you go crazy; go crazy and you slip into sin. God commanded us to keep the day of rest holy by keeping our rest within Him.   When we do that, we find that we want to rest more than one day a week.   We want to rest in Him all the time.

Lord, be my only rest.

Read Exodus chapter 14, God saves the Israelites from the Egyptians in crossing the Red Sea.