Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 1 April 2020

All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.  Philippians 4:22 (NIV).

Here we are in Corona-induced shutdown and we’re chomping at the bit for social interaction.   Can’t travel for work (if folks are still working); can’t go out to eat; can’t go to church; a mile-long list of “can’t” seems to be the phrase of the day.   Seeing as how this is April 1st, it would seem like this list of “can’ts” is a huge April Fools joke…except it isn’t.

What we can do is send each other greetings in the name of the Lord.   We can especially send greetings to people who are hurting through all this.   Paul sent greetings (from Rome) from people who worked in the Emperor’s palace.   Think of that for a moment:   there were Christians – followers of this new and “subversive” sect known as “The Way” – who served the Emperor of Rome, who was hostile to such things.   Those people were in very real danger, yet they believed anyway.   They were unknown heroes of the faith.

Just like first responders who are working exhausting hours during this crisis.   Just like my friend whose father died early this week and they are stoically making plans to memorialize him after all the crisis has passed.   Just like another friend who announced just yesterday that he is discontinuing his stage 4 cancer treatments because the cancer is winning and he’d rather trust God exclusively with the rest of his life.   If you think about it, I bet you could send greetings from and to dozens, even hundreds, of people who are living their lives in faithful strength (and strong faith) through terrible circumstances.

Yet we don’t need to suffer to benefit from greetings.   I got a letter from a friend in Arizona last week that brightened my day considerably.   On my work project (that just last week was wearing me down) I got a few “kudos” just this morning.   Last week, I met most of my neighbors on our cul-de-sac and we were all glad to simply see other people.

If you think about it, maybe that’s one of the blessings of this quarantine:   we get to find ways to connect (and re-connect) with others.   I can think of many people who have fallen off my radar; this is an opportunity for us to re-connect, at least greet each other and check on each other.   We’re going through this shared experience:   let’s use it to rebuild our human connections and share some Jesus in the doing.

So that’s my challenge to you today.   Reach out to a friend.  Call your mom, dad, or sibling.   Message a friend who is working hard through all this.   Share a kind word in the name of Jesus today.

For further reading: Philippians 4:23.

Lord Jesus, I’m sharing Your Name of greetings, love, and peace today.  Encourage me to do this with everyone, especially people with whom I haven’t communicated recently.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 4 April 2019

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me.  May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.   2 Timothy 1:16-18 (NIV).

Notice that Paul prays for the blessing not just for his friend, Onesiphorus, but also for that man’s house.   It wasn’t enough for Paul to ask for God’s blessing / Jesus’ presence in the life of the man who had helped him.   No, Paul prayed blessing and kindness on the people who mattered most to Onesiphorus.

That’s going over and above.  The more you walk in faith-moved circles, the more you see people praying for the benefit of others, the health and prosperity of strangers, the peace of people they don’t even know.  It isn’t enough to get the fruit of Jesus’ Spirit in our lives; see Galatians 5.   No, when that happens, you have to share it.   You want other people to know what that peace means, what it feels like.   You want them to know Jesus, too, so that they can receive those blessings, those fruits in their lives..

You want it so much that you want them to experience it forever.   Paul prayed Jesus’ mercy over Onesiphorus’ household:  his family, his extended family, and anyone who may have moved in their circle.   He prayed eternal life over their home so that they would continue to abide in the Lord when Paul was (soon to be) gone.   Only God could give the kind of peace that would last forever.   Onesiphorus had shown kindness and loyalty to Paul.   Now, in his darkest hour, Paul repaid that kindness in the only way he could:   through prayers in Jesus.  That matters most.

If you don’t believe these things are true, or if you only have one toe in the pool of this faith-life, then these things might not make much sense to you.   This isn’t some Christian game of “I’ve got a secret” or playing goody two shoes.   It’s a life and death battle we’re in and we’re in the armies of the living God.  We want you on our side because we want you, with us, to live forever with Him.   We want you for Him because He wants you for Himself more than we do.   Because He loves you.   Because He is true and real love and the only real peace there is.  Allah and meditation can’t do that.  Jesus does.

For further reading:   Galatians 5:22-23, Hebrews 6:10, Acts 21:33, 2 Timothy 2:1.

Lord Jesus, only in You is found mercy and peace.   I’ve messed up before; help me to not do it again.   Bless those who are around me today, especially those with whom I barely come in contact.   Abide with them; live through them; bless them.