Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 16 May 2017

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10, verse 23.

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you know that I recently started a new job.   My previous company laid me off in December.   Now, I’m 50 and have been working in one capacity or another since I was 16.  This wasn’t the first time I’d been rolled off an account or even laid off a job.   Yet this has been the first time that my confidence has been rattled to the core.  I started a new job 3 months ago and, by all measures, it’s going very well (I’m leading a great team of really talented people).  Yet I’ve become ultra-sensitive to perfectionism, working to try to get things just right even as I know that isn’t a sustainable goal.   For the first time in my life, I’ve encountered anxiety, even panic attacks.   Couple that with some pretty heavy depression, a bunch of other stressors, and it’s a tough combination to live with.  I’ve come to dread  every time someone from my new job calls or e-mails, wondering if this is the message where the ax falls on my neck again.  50 is a tough time in life to be having to start over.

It’s as if I have forgotten how to hold unswervingly to the hope I profess in Christ.   Except that my faith is still solid. All through this, I’ve known deep inside that God was still real.  I’ve almost instinctively known that Jesus is with me, and that whatever I’m feeling, He’s beside me to help me.   That’s proof of Hebrews 10, verse 23.   And yet I’ve still been hurting.

Earlier, I was talking with my atheist friend who, once again, chided me for believing in “space fairies.”   I replied to him that it’d be better if he got to know the One he calls “space fairy” now, in thanks and admiration, instead of later in fear and dread because he will come to know Him whether he calls Him names or not.   Again, this is something I know inside of me because I believe what God has said through His Word and through His nature & history.   Yet in a world of doubt, anger, and hurt, is it any wonder that people like atheists would reject faith they can’t see, even if the One they reject is faithful and bears real hope?

Perhaps it’s natural to occasionally question one’s faith, even as the God in whom we have faith doesn’t question us.   He is always present, always the same, always diligent, always loving.   He’s God; He can’t be any other way.   We aren’t God; we can’t be God and shouldn’t try (after all, there really are no true atheists…).  I can only speak for myself in saying that I truly believe in all God says He is and that I don’t doubt that He’s saved me.   Yet I still question where He is and His purposes when things like this job loss come to me.   I didn’t deserve it, but it happened.   It has wreaked a lot of changes, some good and many not, in my family’s life, and I question “why”.

Perhaps the best answer is still the one God gave to Job, namely that He’s God and I’m not and I should just be comforted by knowing that.   Way back in the book of Job – probably the oldest book in the Bible – God upheld the hope of His faithful servant who, like me, questioned when bad things happened without rejecting his belief in his Maker.   It’s ok to be sincere about saying “Lord, this really sucks right now.”   It’s ok to be sincere about feeling bad when things make you feel bad.   It’s ok to be sincere in saying “I don’t want this.”  Vent those feelings and share those thoughts; that’s good, even Godly.   And then let them go and come back into His fold, remembering that He gives real hope for here and now, not just forever.  He who promised it is faithful in all things and at all times.

For further reading:  Hebrews 3:1, 1 Cor 1:9.

Lord, it’s been really tough lately and I’ve been hurting, questioning why these things have happened. I believe in You, though, and I know in my heart that You are with me.   Uphold me now and continue to give me the courage to face each new day.  Thanks for what You do and who You are.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 3 May 2017

Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” Hebrews 10, verse 17.

Jesus is talking about wiping the slate clean. That’s a concept we, in our so-called modern world, desperately want.

I’ve been depressed lately.   Really, truly, deeply depressed.   It’s likely a delayed reaction to too many big things happening in my life too quickly.   Job loss, new job; anger over losing the old job, frustration with learning the new one; 2 new grandkids in four months; 2 kids living at home in the same six month period; financial woes; running into the city almost every weekend; missing my old travel job and the control I thought I had over my life; an ever-growing list of chores here on the farm   Guilt over past sins that just doesn’t seem to go away; feeling inadequate in everything I do, that no matter what I do it’s never enough or never good enough for my wife or my family or my team.   Feeling overwhelmed even by small things.

That’s all been me over the last few months, actually more like the last year since I went on the bench in my previous job.   I feel so frustrated over so many things, and I feel powerless to actually do anything substantial to change them.   Yes, it’s a lie because God gives us the power to make changes where we are now.   He is always with me; He is always actively involved even when it seems like Satan’s attacks are making progress in bringing me down.   I know all that is true:   I simply still feel so down over all of it and more.

Some of what bothers me isn’t my fault; I’m innocent of much, maybe even most of it.   Yet if I’m going to be truly honest, all of the things that plague me stem from some kind of sin, either mine or someone else’s.   All dysfunction and strife in the world stems from some kind of sin, either now or in the distant past, even sins that aren’t our own.  The Bible says that all creation is frustrated by man’s sin.   Taking that thought to its logical end, when Adam and Eve first fell, their sin set into motion violence, disease, weather patterns, disasters, and other ‘natural’ phenomena that affect us today.   If you think that’s possible, then perhaps it’s possible for the sins of 7 billion souls alive now affect this planet still.

I know, wacky stuff.   It’s kind of a stretch; it’s kind of crazy to think about it…even if it’s true.  The goodness of God with us in Eden kept sin away, but man’s embrace of sin unleashed these terrors into a place never intended to know them.

Here’s some good news, then.   Jesus will remember our sins no more.   When Jesus moved His Spirit into my heart, He ended the residency of sin.   He drove it out and away.   He wiped the slate clean and in His mind’s eye, they don’t even exist anymore.  He did that in me here and now.   Later, when Jesus returns to renew this corrupted planet, He will remember our sins and lawless acts no more.   He will remake nature; He will wipe out crime; He will change everything we know about living in this place. And in doing so, He will make it so that the things that plague us will never plague us again.   It will be as if they had never happened.

When I get down, I cling to remembering this.   Sure, I do the things to try to beat back the darkness.   I make realistic lists of things to do and work to get them done, then pat myself on the back for doing so.   I remind myself that I’m doing my best.   I remember that the past no longer exists, and the future hasn’t yet happened.   But most of all, I remember that Christ is in my heart and hurts when I hurt.  That He hurt more than I could know for pains like I feel these days.  That He died to make my hurt a thing of the past, and that His death means my sins and lawless acts are remembered no more.

For further reading:  Hebrews 3:7, Jeremiah 31:33-34, Hebrews 8:10.

My Lord, abide with me when I get depressed.   Help me through the dark days, and comfort me with knowing You don’t hold my sins and acts against me.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 27 January 2015

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear. Mark 4, verses 1-9.

Let’s take another look a couple more things about it that matter before we move on from this parable.

“Went out to sow his seed:” the work of the Lord is work indeed. The work of Christ is to tell others about Him, and that takes hard work.   This world is a place set against Christ, and most people in the world don’t want to hear this message of salvation, love, and peace because it requires effort from them. But have you ever been involved in a big project?   On a project team, though everyone has common goals, meeting those goals requires thousands of daily interactions, achievements, and individual contributions. Everyone’s contribution matters. It takes work to achieve a major objective.   Christ knew this, and He knew that there could be no objective more serious than the eternity of a human soul. He knew that the message He preached would challenge many and upend the order of things, and that to spread that message would take work.

That work would be necessary because the ways of the world – the things of the world – will still be around no matter how we receive God’s word.   The Pharisees and other sects of Jesus’ day were pulled away from hearing Jesus’ word.   Are we any different?   It isn’t just modern technology, affluence, or peer pressure competing with the Gospel for our hearts.   There are untold other temptations and realities with which we must grapple just to stay alive. Strip away the trappings and veneer of the twenty-first century and you’ll find the core matters of the heart aren’t much different from those that were covered over by more primitive veneers during the first-century time of Christ.   Lust, greed, anger, lying, envy, hurt:   those aren’t things that are unique to those of us living today.   Jesus knew that too.

Finally, Jesus knew that not everyone would listen. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” This is a message for everyone that not everyone will take to heart. Everyone has ears but does everyone truly listen?   Don’t we each know people who hold fast to their faith as they are dying, while knowing other people who reject Christ with passion? I know them; I bet you do too. Jesus knew His message would require hearing with the heart instead of just hearing with our ears and not everyone would be willing to listen.

Lord, whatever happens in my life today, I am following You.

Read Mark 4, verses 1-20.