Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 17 April 2019

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.  This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.   2 Timothy 2:8-9 (NIV).

Another word about Notre Dame.   Reflect on what happened, on the Parisians who sang Ave Maria as the church burned.   Reflect on the heroism of the firemen struggling to save the magnificent church.   And then, most of all, reflect on what Jesus has now started doing through the financiers, and politicians, and the unknown people who will use kindness and talent and heart to rebuild it for the glory of God.

God’s word is not chained.  Nothing on this planet can chain it, bind it, contain it.   God’s word is the power of life and eternity.

God’s word is best spoken from the cross.   God’s love is found in His only Son, Jesus, dying there so that we may live.   God’s loving Word is found at the empty tomb, on Easter Sunday, when it crushed death and gave the world real hope.   God’s Word lives in you and me and the singing Parisians as His Spirit that came at Pentecost and now lives with us so many centuries later.

God’s word isn’t chained up by a beautiful church building that can be burned.   God’s word is written on your heart, fused into your DNA, living in your bloodstream and in the thoughts that course through your mind.   When you reach the end of this life, God’s word is the only thing you’ll have left.   What will you think of it then?   Will you have used your time to get to know Him, to confess your need for Him, and to have accepted His gift of salvation?

A friend of mine died on Monday.   What I knew of Kim (Page) Granger was that, in her last years, when the world had literally taken everything from her, she held on to faith.   That wasn’t easy, given that she came from a background of abusive relationships and a family history of dysfunctional religion.    Yet in the end, she still believed in Jesus, meaning that her end here this week was the start of a forever with Him.  Kim and I had been co-workers over the years, and she supported me through my own tests of faith.  I’ll miss my friend, but am happy that her pain here is over – she had brain cancer – and that she met Jesus in person.  God’s word didn’t keep her chained to pain here forever.   God’s word broke her chains because His word itself can never be bound in chains.  It’s true in Paris.   It’s true with my friend.   It’s true with you today.

For further reading: Acts 2:24, Matthew 1:1, Romans 2:16, Acts 9:16, Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 2:10.

Lord Jesus, nothing can contain You, or Your Word.   Forgive me when I fail You.   Teach me Your better ways.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 9 October 2018

Now to the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.   Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17 (NIV).

Most folks don’t usually end a letter in the middle, but Paul did.   I suppose he wasn’t like most folks, especially since he devoted half of his life to radically enforcing strict Judaism before (being shifted) 180 degrees and becoming history’s greatest evangelist for Christ.

Paul knew who to thank, who had earned the glory.   It wasn’t the man in the mirror.   Look in the mirror now (or as soon as you can).   You’re pretty special; God made you to be “very good” and someone in whom He could personally delight.   But you don’t deserve honor and glory forever and ever (amen).   You just don’t.   None of us do.

I started teaching Sunday School again for the first time in over a decade.   This season, I volunteered to help teach our church’s ‘tweeners’ (grades 3-5).   I believe that’s an important age for us to mentor kids because it’s the time when they start feeling their way into the world.   They become interested in music and movies and the world around them; they develop wider-ranging friendships; they start to make connections.

On Sunday I said this to the kids:   the same Jesus who loves us and holds us and died on the cross is the same God who created everything by speaking, and who kept Noah and his family alive on an ark while everything else around them was destroyed.   It’s true.  The same God who spoke in Genesis 1:1 and in every word, chapter and book of the Bible is the same God who promised “Yes, I am coming soon” as the Bible closes out.

The only thing you can say to such a God is “to You be all honor and glory forever and ever, amen.”

That’s an exploding grace bomb in your mind.   You and I (and Paul and Noah and everyone else) are sinners.   We were born to live in communion with God yet we messed it up.   Yet God sent His Son, Himself, to make right what we couldn’t.   He came to us in love to bring justice by declaring “it is finished” when He completed our salvation.  He is magnificent in every way, and every time you feel your heartbeat, or view a sunset, or contemplate the simple, complex beauty of a tree leaf, or simply wonder how you made it through today alive, you and I get to remind ourselves – and praise Him – that he is King, eternal, immortal, invisible and worthy of honor and glory forever.

That’s the perfect thought with which to conclude every action, every day, every letter, every moment.

For further reading:  Revelation 15:3, 1 Timothy 6:16, Colossians 1:15, Jude 25, Romans 11:36, 1 Timothy 1:18

Lord God, I praise You as my King, as eternal, immortal, invisible and worthy of all honor and glory forever.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 17 July 2018

We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:12 (NIV).

Someone close to me is currently being savagely attacked by the devil; I’ve written about this before.   It’s tough to watch, and while my family is praying for them, they’re rebuffing our efforts to reach out, to prayerfully support, to help as we can.   To be honest, we won’t stop, because you don’t stop fighting for the heart and soul of people you love.  The way to fight for them is to pray to Jesus, even when the recipient of your efforts rejects both Him and you.

Why do this?   So that the Lord Jesus may be glorified in them, and that they may be glorified in Him.

That’s a crazy thing about faith:   Jesus is glorified whether we do things or not.   He’s glorified because He’s God, not because of our prayers or actions.  I think it must be the thing that frustrates Satan and his duped followers most of all.   No matter what they do, no matter how hard they try, no matter that evil may win a day and it seems like good is on the run, Jesus still triumphs in every possible ending.   He still stands; He still reigns; He’s still Lord, still always as He has been.   Unharmed, unblemished, undaunted, undefeatable:  no matter what terrible things may happen, in the end, Jesus is still glorified.  When we praise Him, He reflects that glory through us.

That’s another crazy thing about faith:   no matter how bad we’ve gone, as long as we have breath, Jesus, in His glory, is still always calling to us.   “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling…calling o sinner come home.”   On our worst day when we feel most defeated and when we have done or said the most unspeakable things, Jesus is still there, His hand held out saying “take my hand and come back to peace.”   It’s so illogical, so crazy in its implications, so super-human.  You know:  glorious.

It must really piss off Satan.   Too bad.

When you care for someone, you don’t give up.   You don’t let evil triumph in their life while you still have a way to help.   A friend of mine wisely said, “there are some people you can help and some you can only pray for.”   That’s where we are with this person we know:   we can only pray for them because they’ve shut down and won’t engage back in living.   So we keep praying, and keep encouraging, and keep looking for openings where God clears paths to help in other ways.   No matter what we do, Jesus is glorified.   That makes it worthwhile.

For further reading:  Isaiah 24:15, Philippians 2:9-11, 2 Thessalonians 2:1.

Lord, help everyone who so desperately needs Your love, peace, and encouragement.   Help us to do reflect Your glory to others.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 5 March 2015

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. Mark 6, verses 1-6.

Yesterday at work we were having a discussion about Jesus; yes you heard me right:  at work. I was talking with a co-worker who had read “Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.”   I haven’t read the book; only synopses of it. It’s written by a Muslim author who (according to Wikipedia) “argues that Jesus was a political, rebellious and eschatological Jew whose proclamation of the coming kingdom of God was a call for regime change, for ending Roman hegemony over Israel and ending a corrupt and oppressive aristocratic priesthood.” It actually sounds like a set of good points, though the author misses the primary purpose of Jesus and His ministry. But the point made by the various synopses (and by my friend) was that, while Jesus was many things, one thing that He could definitely be called was “radical.”

“Radical” is also the title of a book by David Platt. In it, Platt argues for radically re-thinking the church’s approach to ministry because the founder of the church was a radical. Jesus lived radically, called on His followers to do things that, in first century Judea, were radical.   Love your neighbor; take up your cross and follow Me; to gain your life you must lose it; hate evil and love God:   these were radical ideas shared by God Immanuel who had instituted a confrontational, conventional-wisdom-on-its-head ministry to bring many sons to glory.

Glory:   glory to God His Father was why Jesus left the land of the Gerasenes and went home.   He went back to His hometown where (just like at Cheers) everybody knows your name.   The people of Jesus had known Him when He was nobody, when He was only Mary and Joseph’s son, when He was a growing boy and an awkward teenager, when He attended the synagogue every week. This time, however, Jesus sat and listened to the town elders talk…and then He began to teach.   He began to teach with radical words that they had never heard.   He taught them in words and ways that left them amazed, hungering for more.   They had heard about His exploits, the crowds, and the miracles, and now He was back home, teaching in their midst, teaching them about the glory of God the Father by opening their hearts to His wisdom and love.

Flash forward two millennia:   what’s your experience with Jesus?   Are you amazed by Him?   Are you skeptical, questioning, maybe ignorant about Him?   Are you threatened by the radical or comforted by the lover of your heart?   Would you be one of the folks who sees Jesus as a radical and a political instigator? Or would you be someone who sees Him as the source of love, the fount of all life because God is the source of life and God is love and God gave us life to live and love Him in?

You know there’s no wrong answer. All of them are correct.   Jesus was a zealot, and a radical, and a herald of glory, and all love. Those reasons and more were why He went home:  to share with the people He knew best the message that eternity truly does matter most.   Try talking about that at work today.

Lord, I am thankful You’re all You are, that You are in my life to share Your radical glorious love.

Read Mark 6, verses 1-6

Practical Proverbial, from Luke 2 in the King James, 24 December 2014.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.   (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.   Luke 2, verses 1-20

The most important words ever spoken, to that time, in any language.   There’s nothing more to say…until Easter.