Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 6 December 2017

I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.  Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.  Hebrews 13, verses 23-24.

My son in law is current deployed overseas and he talks with his wife and daughter almost daily via Skype, Facebook, and Marco Polo.   I wish those things would have been available when I was still in the military.   And when my wife was overseas on a mission trip in Romania, we talked online (and did our daily devotion) every day via Skype.    When we were stationed overseas (in Italy) in the late 1980s, my wife and I would call home about once per month.  We looked forward to those calls as a real morale booster.   And, speaking of morale boosters, in the mid-80s, when I was deployed to sea, our team received periodic “personals”:   messages called into our unit office, then transmitted to us on the ship.   Getting one could make (or break) your day.

Still, it’s not the same as a letter.

No matter how you communicate, the important thing is to communicate.   In the days of the Hebrews, letters were the only method.   You could send someone to relate an in-person, personal account of something, and that was convincing (it still is).   But if you wanted to transmit an explicit, word-for-word message, you had to write it down and send it.   Years later, it would still preserve your message.   For instance, consider what you know just from these concluding verses in chapter 13:

  • Timothy, a fellow believer, has been released from custody
  • That same Timothy was on his way to meet the writer
  • Together, the two of them would likely travel to where the recipient of the letter lived
  • The writer fondly thought of his audience and asked them to greet mutual friends
  • Someone from Italy, acquainted with the writer, sent greetings.
  • There was more than one person there from Italy
  • There were things the writer wanted his reader to know

That’s a lot to pack into just a few words, but those are some of the messages the writer of the book conveyed as he closed out his epistle.   Two thousand years (and across five continents), we are still reading his messages.  The only way he could reach people across the Mediterranean and into southern Europe was to write a letter, and that letter enclosed good news about Jesus.   When it was done, the writer wanted to close fondly.   He wanted to end on a positive note, so he sent warm greetings.   How he did it didn’t matter as much, though, as THAT he did it.   That he answered God’s call to share a message with his fellow brothers and sisters.   We benefit from that today.

I saved the 1987 personal message that my (now) wife sent to me while I was at sea, asking for me to call on her when I returned home; as you’ll remember, thirty years ago yesterday I did.    It’s hanging in a small frame on the shelf as I walk into my closet.   Somewhere out in my storage unit I have several small boxes full of cards and letters that Hunnie and I exchanged when we were dating.   I also have boxes with that same correspondence from my parents in 1950s Germany, and even my grandparents thirty years before that.   One day, I’ll go back and read those old letters.   They still have something to say.

So this is a challenge to you, friend reader.   This Christmas, send out some Christmas cards (my wife and I are actually sending a New Year’s card this year instead).   Pick just one person you know and write a letter to them, then mail it.   Actually use snail mail.  Better yet, share a little Jesus in that letter, and close it out with warm regards.   Years from now, someone may just read it and cherish.

For further reading:  Acts 16:1, Acts 18:2.

Lord, thank You for communicating with us!

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 7 August 2017

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  Hebrews 11, verses 13-14.

I’m a wanderer.   I learned it as a kid.   We first moved in 1969, when I was three, moving from Bloomington to Minneapolis, Minnesota.   That isn’t very far, but it’s a quantum leap for a family from the suburbs.  I went two years to an old elementary school before they tore it down in 1974.   That year, I spent a year in private school in east Minneapolis.   1975-1976 saw me attend two different third grade classes, one in Iowa and the other in Pennsylvania.  From 1976 to 1978 we lived in Pennsylvania, 1978-1980 in Oklahoma, 1980-1983 back in Iowa, and 1983-1985 in southern Indiana, which I refer to now as ‘home.’  After that, I joined the Air Force, and spent 1985 in Texas, then 1986-1989 in Texas, Maryland, and TDY (on temporary duty) around the world.   From 1989 to 1992, I lived in Italy (living in two different towns during that stay).   From 1992 until 2004, I lived in Colorado, residing in six different places in twelve years.  2004-2005 found me in Montana, then 2005 back in Colorado before moving to Texas.   Since 2005, I have lived full time in Texas, but have traveled all over the country (and the planet), and have lived in three different houses in two towns.  After fifty years of wandering, I’m finally in a home I’ve always dreamed of.   Wouldn’t you know that even my time here may be short, in jeopardy, and that there could be more wandering just up ahead.

Sometimes I feel like I’m looking for a country of my own.

I wish I could say that my story is one of deep public faith, but it isn’t.  In fact, more times than I care to admit, my faith has wandered too and has been weak with my practice of it weaker.  I’ve been rightfully accused of being a hypocrite, and Billy Joel could have once described me as “a man with so much tension and far too many sins to mention.”  I’ve tried, but in following Jesus, trying isn’t enough.   You have to “do” to be believeable to other people, and sometimes what I’ve done has been quite opposite of what I believe.

You know what?  I’m in good company.   Abraham was a wanderer and God did wonderful things through Him.   Jacob was a deceitful wanderer and God led him to live an amazing life.  Moses, David, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and finally Jesus Himself were all wanderers who did incredible, great things in the lead-up to the time of their Messiah.  After Jesus, all twelve of His disciples wandered, going from place to place to spread the Good News of the friend-Savior they knew.  Some of them were murdered for it; only one lived into old age.

I bet all those people were looking for a country of their own.   I wonder, then, if the country mentioned by the writer of Hebrews isn’t actually the nation of Heaven.   Shakespeare called death “the undiscovered country.”  Hamlet lamented that his life was all sorrow and he longed to journey into the undiscovered country of what lay beyond.   Don’t we all, yet here and now are all we know.   This is where we make our bones, discover what it means to live.   And the longer any of us live – and wander – the more we find that the only real meaning in the fallen world is found in Jesus Christ.  In Christ there is no more wandering.   In Christ, the discovery is amazement and it is continuous.   In Jesus Christ there is fulfillment of all of life’s desires, answers to every question, and peace to settle all restlessness.   In Christ, we no longer need to wander.

Christ is the undiscovered country I wish to explore, yet isn’t it wonderful to be able to do so now, as best we can, in this place that’s rife with both life and imperfection?  Until my prayers are answered and I meet Him face to face, I guess I’ll continue to wander, awaiting my endless time in the country of my own that I know in hope is only a short time away.

For further reading:  Matthew 13:17, Genesis 23:4, Leviticus 25:23, Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:17.

My Lord and Savior, abide with me as I wander here.