Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 14 April 2020

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.  1 Peter 1:8 (NIV).

This is an underrated verse.   Maybe it should be more widely discussed, more widely known.   Peter was writing it to people he knew in and around the Mediterranean who had come to faith after Jesus had ascended to heaven.  They never knew Jesus personally, as a man, as Peter had.  Yet they believed in Jesus anyway, gave Him their faith and their love unconditionally.   They believed in Jesus without seeing Him in person.

You and I:  we can almost certainly identify with that.

Having said it, I know of people who claim to have met Jesus.   It wasn’t meeting Him as a human, yet He spoke to them all the same.   I know people who know, deep inside of themselves, that they have met Jesus in their greatest moments of both need and peace.  I know people in my close circle of family and friends who will tell you they have encountered Jesus and that He changed their lives, even saved them from certain death.

In a way, I’m jealous.  It isn’t covetous jealousy.   Instead, it’s the kind of longing that wishes I could have an experience like they did.   They’ve had experiences I don’t fully understand and I want to understand them.   Perhaps, in God’s good time while in this life, I will.   Until then, this is good enough.   I can love Jesus the same for times when it matters most.

Five years ago, I held my mother’s hand when she died.   Nothing momentous occurred to delineate her passing from this life to the next; there were no earthquakes or flashes of light or miraculous occurrences.   On a typical Friday morning, one minute she was breathing and her heart was slowly beating; the next she wasn’t.   I was in shock that it was even happening, yet I was also at peace.  In her last moments of lucidity, Mom said her goodbyes to all of us in the room, and understood that she was dying.  And she was at peace with it.   All her life she had believed in Jesus, even as she almost regularly intellectually questioned so much about Him.  In that moment when she died, that belief mattered most because Jesus was there, on the other side of the heartbeat, waiting to return her love.  She loved Him and believed in Him, and lived a life full of inexpressible joy.   All her questions were answered simply in meeting Christ.

Just like they will be for us.   I identify with not having yet met Christ man to man, but I know He’s real, and that He is who He said He is, and that I believe in Him.   Knowing all that, I’m content to simply follow Him.

For further reading: John 20:29, 1 Peter 1:9

Lord Jesus, I believe in You.



Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 22 January 2020

But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. Philippians 2:17-18. (EHV).

Building on yesterday’s thoughts, we should be glad when one of us is poured out, spent, sacrificed for God’s greater kingdom.   Yes, you read that right.   You and me:   we should celebrate when a fellow believer is poured out, spent, persecuted, tortured, even murdered (and martyred) for faith in God.   Again, yes, you read that right.  Read it again because, as things go in our world, some day soon it might be you or me being martyred.  And if you think about it, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.   Yes, I’m being serious.

Years ago, I read one of the Left Behind books, which aren’t my usual taste.   It was the one in which non-believers accepted the mark of the devil, and those who didn’t have the mark (believers) were rounded up and marched to the guillotine.   One of the main characters was awaiting her own beheading when she saw a group of other believers marching toward their execution, and they were joyful.   They were singing, joyful to be going to die.   By the end of the book, the main character joined them.   She, too, went joyfully.

I think about the people who are sentenced to die in Iran and Saudi Arabia and China and Cuba for being followers of Jesus.   Do they know they are heroes of the faith?   Are they happy to be dying?  Surely their families aren’t happy about it…are they?  Do the families or the persecuted realize that there are people all over the world who are both praying for their release while celebrating their defiant courage?   I love reading stories of their quiet dignity, their iron resolve to not renounce Jesus.   Those people – women and men both – are being poured out like Paul was.   They’re doing a courageous thing; something we, ourselves, may one day be called to do.   When they die, we can celebrate that their mission is complete, that they accomplished what God sent them here to do.   They’re enjoying eternity with Christ, enjoying their reward.   That’s something to celebrate.

When Peter and John were flogged and imprisoned, they sang.  Paul encouraged his friends to celebrate as approached death.  But should we be happy about it when our turn comes against the wall?   Yes:  yes, we should.   We’re each going to die; unless Jesus returns first; that’s a certainty.   When it happens to us, we can either face it with courage and be an example for others to celebrate or we can choose differently.   And when it happens to someone else, we have those same choices.   How we die matters.   Let’s make ours count.

For further reading:   Acts 5, Philippians 2:19

Lord Jesus, encourage me to celebrate the heroic faith of others and to demonstrate it myself today.

Practical Proverbial, from Philemon, 23 September 2019

For I have received great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.  Philemon 7 (EHV).

This concept of joy from refreshment of the soul is one Paul discussed in (at least) 3 books.   In Romans, and both Corinthians books, Paul talks about joy and how refreshing to his spirit it is to know his fellow believers find joy in the Lord.

My uncle’s funeral affirmed that for me.   What could have been a morose, depressing ceremony turned into a celebration of joy because Uncle Buzz had used his life to live kindly towards others.   Indeed, in this true story, he and his former son-in-law had been estranged.   Buzz literally had a deathbed request to be reconciled and seek this man’s forgiveness.   Word came through Buzz’s grandson that his father had indeed forgiven Buzz, and within minute of hearing this, my uncle died.

What a testament that is to the refreshing joy that comes from knowing we can receive forgiveness.   That we can forgive because Christ first forgave us.   Putting love into action can take many forms, from holding the door for strangers to being kind to telemarketers who call at dinnertime to letting mean words pass by when someone is attacking you.  When faith is put into action, the fellowship of the saints is encouraged and grown.

Yet the most joyful, soul-refreshing way to put your faith in action is to forgive.   Forgive your spouse when they say or do that bone-headed thing you hate most.   Forgive the kids who bullied you in grade school.   Forgive the guy who cuts you off in traffic.   Forgive the one who broke your heart when they dumped you all those years ago.   Forgive the gossipers who say petty things about you.

Forgive the way Jesus forgives – unconditionally and fully – and watch the hearts of the saints be refreshed.

Like our talk the other day, that’s a tall order.   It takes great inner strength to muster the fortitude to be kind, then to forgive.   Everyone can do it, but most don’t.   But if you want to experience being part of heaven right now (instead of just later) then forgive generously, forgive without strings, and forgive again and again.  As Olivia Newton-John sang, let go to let God.

The crazy thing is that, when we let go of our burdens and accept the forgiveness God gives in Jesus, we experience joy.   It is like cold water after a hard day of work.   Or shade on a sunny day.   If you haven’t done it, why not let go of your baggage today and experience the joy that comes from understanding you’re truly, permanently forgiven?

For further reading:  Romans 15:32, 1 Corinthians 16:18, 2 Corinthians 7:4, Ephesians 4:32, Philemon 8

Lord Jesus, forgive me.   I’ve sinned against You.   I need Your forgiveness; I want Your joy.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 4 March 2019

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  1 Timothy 6:17 (NIV).

No doubt, Paul is talking here about material wealth.   He says as much just a few words into the verse, then throughout it.  May I submit there’s more that makes us arrogant?

Politics make us arrogant.   “Our hope” is a wide path to hell, if we let it be.  Our differences of opinion put a wide gulf in-between us, so wide the perhaps only civil war can bring it together.   Yet before we go to such a drastic end, let’s consider that our politics – left, right, and indecisive – stem from where we put our hope.   If we put our hope in ourselves, we’re arrogant.   Nothing can stop us because, well, us!

Knowledge makes us arrogant.   This one is a stretch (from the verse) yet, if you think about it, is inherent to the verse.   We can’t put our hope into something of which we know nothing.   To put our hope in money means knowing what the accumulation of wealth can do.   It’s the knowing, not the ‘thing,’ that makes us arrogant.   The farther back you stretch it, the more you see that knowledge is at the heart of idolatry, of knowing (or think we are knowing) the difference between one thing and another.   Or right and wrong.  Take it to its academic extreme and knowledge breeds human arrogance.

The in-crowd makes us arrogant.   Got the perfect house; got the perfect school for the kids; got the cool car; got the new clothes.   The suburbanites have this in common with the urban hipsters:   they’re part of the in-crowd who have “it,” whatever “it” is.  If you don’t, well, God bless you but you just aren’t part of our party.

Ever met an arrogant preacher?   You’re a sinner who hasn’t been educated at a seminary, given knowledge that members in your church haven’t received.   Years ago, I belonged to churches where that was the case, where the pastors were arrogant and condescending.   One used to say he was just the son of a pig farmer, and he then usually expounded on seminary talking points to drown out whoever was challenging him.   Not very loving.  My friend, if I ever come off to you that way, please bring me up short.

What’s the common denominator in all this?   You know.   It’s you.   Or me.   The man (or woman) in the mirror who forgets that wealth, politics, knowledge, status and religion are fleeting.  They aren’t God, and there’s nothing any one of them – or us – can do to provide the JOY of the soul (in “enjoyment”) that God does.   Everything else isn’t God; everything else is arrogant.

For further reading:   Psalm 62:10, Jeremiah 49:4, Luke 12:20-21, Acts 14:17, 1 Timothy 6:13-21.

Beautiful God, only You are God.   Bless You.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 13 February 2019

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  1 Timothy 6:9 (NIV).

I prefer to stay on the positive side of this verse.   Those who know me well will find this surprising.   In fact, my wife calls me “Eeyore” because I usually look on the downside of things.   For Everyday Dave, this verse would be a great place to stop.  It’s a lighthouse, warning of rocks just up ahead near the shore.  We’ll probably mess it up anyway.

But that’s an outlook I want to change.  The verse IS a lighthouse, and it’s one that calls us safely home.   Lately, I’ve been daily contemplating Galatians 5, specifically the verses about the fruits of the Spirit.  I read the verses and then look for ways to put them into practice each day, one per month while compounding them.   January was love month; February is love and joy; March will be love, joy, and peace.   You get the idea.  If you haven’t ever really contemplated them, check out Galatians 5:22-23.

Then put them into action because they are the opposite of what Paul describes in verse 9.   And if you think about it, they are the things Paul could say ARE worthy of our attention instead of desire for money, or running into the traps and temptations that lead to ruin and destruction.   How many of us could avoid pitfalls of sin if we would simply find better things on which to focus?   Let’s keep our eyes on the ways Jesus acts, then watch how things begin to improve.

If we are always looking for ways to get ahead, we probably will miss some of the signs around us that point us to ways we can get involved in what Jesus is doing.   Just prior to this verse, Paul had reminded Timothy to be content with only what God provides for our most basic needs.   Anything more than contentment can run the risk of walking the proud walk down the yellow brick road of temptation.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  Man, those are things worth showing off to the world.   They’re the antidote to swallowing too much desire to get rich.   When we talk about focusing on Jesus, a great way to start doing that is by focusing on ways we can let His Spirit remake us around these behaviors He exhibits.  If we do that, when temptations come, it becomes easier to turn from them.   That’s a wealth worth having.

Eeyore might just agree.

For further reading:   Galatians 5:22-23, Proverbs 15:27, Proverbs 28:20, 1 Timothy 6:10.

Magnificent Lord, I’m not always a good follower.   I’ve turned my attention away from You.   Thank You for not turning away from Me, and I ask You to remake me in the ways of Your Spirit today. 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 27 March 2018

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.  1 Thessalonians 3:9-10 (NIV).

This is Holy Week.   Tradition (and say that Monday is the day when Jesus went to the Temple in Jerusalem and scoured it out.   Tuesday is the day of Jesus’ Olivet discourse, and the day when Judas Iscariot discussed betraying his Master with the Sanhedrin.  When you boil it all down, though, we’re speculating.   The events of Holy Week are well documented in the four Gospels, but 2000 years later we still can’t pinpoint exactly some of what happened and at exact times on each of the days.  That isn’t surprising, since we can’t always pinpoint exact times for things that happen in our lives today.  It’s tough to say, but in reality, the specific dates and times of things, even events from the Bible, are just trivia.   If that’s all we focus on, we’ve missed the larger point.

Yet something about this is true whether we know the date and time or not:  we can’t thank God enough for the joy we have in His presence because of each other, especially now.  No matter what’s going on, no matter what day of Holy Week it is, no matter what other trivial things cloud up our lives, we can always thank God for the blessing of other people that He moves into our lives.

Why does Paul say what he said?   You know the answer:   joy.   It’s because the angels in heaven rejoice when we the people love and live as followers of Jesus.   It’s because it pleases Jesus to commune with us, and when two or more of us are together in His name He is there.   It’s because it’s a privilege to tell loved ones about this Jesus and this miraculous, wonderful love He has for them.   It’s because you get to share with other people the news that they’re completely forgiven, as forgiven as anyone ever could be, by the God who created them just to love them.

People are a blessing.   They folks you argue with on Facebook:  blessing.   The sister-in-law who’s hurting:  blessing.   The grandkids you love, the ornery boss, the stranger with whom you strike up a conversation, the homeless man you pass by:  all blessings.   God gives us people in our lives so that we might share the joy of Jesus with them, and then increase His love all the more.

That matters no matter what day of the calendar it is.   And it’s not a trivial matter.

For further reading:   Matthew 18:20, Matthew 21:12-13, John 2:13-22, 1 Thessalonians 3:11.

Lord, I praise You for the blessing of people in my life.   Thank You for blessing me with them, all of them.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 19 June 2017

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.  Hebrews 10, verses 32-34.

Is this calling us to actively give up our possessions?  Is it telling us to be content in all circumstances, even when we’re being mistreated?   Actually, yes it is.   It ISN’T saying “be happy about it.”   God doesn’t tell us to enjoy suffering.   But He does tell us to put our trust in Him alone and be content with Him because He is more than enough to overcome any suffering.  He doesn’t promise Easy Street:   He promises to abide with us on any street.  Is this also telling us to turn the other cheek?   Again, yes it is.  When suffering happens, we should focus our joy on it’s true source, Jesus.   Instead of focusing on hurt, to stop the ‘bleeding’ of our suffering, we should focus on He who is with us even to the point of turning the other cheek to the one who is making us suffer.

A few days ago, my Billy Graham devotion reminded me that “joy” doesn’t equal “happiness” as the world defines happiness.   Brother (and sister), I understand this.   I’m sure you do, too.  Without divulging too many whines, my family is going through a difficult time.   For the moment, my wife and I are unemployed.  Just as He did the last time we went through this, God has a plan in all this.   To be honest, we don’t know what that plan is right now, but we do trust Him and His daily provision.   We’re still eating; we’re still breathing; midnight to midnight, we are still above the dirt.   Everything else is a gift from Him, even the struggles.  We pray the time will be short, and we’re blessed to be able to use it to do things that need to be done here on our farm.   God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

Yet it can be a struggle to see happiness or joy in this.   “How could it” you might ask?   “Dave, you’re on the unemployment line again; you expect to be happy?”  Happy no, joy yes.   Every struggle, even unemployment or financial struggles, is an opportunity to make a choice for Jesus.  The verses aren’t saying that my problems will disappear.   It’s only saying that my unseen baggage from them can when I fix my eyes and hope on Christ.  If nothing else, why not ease that emotional burden?

And let’s get real:  the author of Hebrews wasn’t talking about a First-World situation like unemployment or paying your bills online.   He was talking about struggles like being tortured in Roman prisons.   About living in a world with astronomical infant mortality, real starvation, life expectancy of 45 years, and a host of other problems that most of us can’t fathom.   The first audience for verses 32-34 was comprised of people who lived in the primitive first century nations of the Mediterranean.  He was telling them to put all their trust, their hope, their everything on the shoulders of Jesus and let Jesus take the heat.   The author was telling his reader to rejoice in Jesus even when the branding iron struck your flesh, or you were kidnapped to row in a galley, or your family was sold off into slavery because you couldn’t pay your debts, or when they nailed you to a cross.

My puny problems pale compared to those things.   If our ancestors could trust Jesus through things like that, I can too.

I’ll admit:   it’s a struggle.   We are having to ‘skinny down;’ going through possessions, putting our farm up for sale, applying for jobs (literally) all over the world.   It’s hard to face being let go and rejected; it’s hard to face doing without things you’ve worked for or desire.   It hurts to go through this.  Jesus understands that.   He’s with us during these times and is calling us to put our faith in Him.  When the tough times are past, the lessons He’s teaching us today will come in handy.

For further reading:  Hebrews 6:4, Philippians 1:29-30, 1 Corinthians 4:9, Philippians 4:14, 1 Peter 1:4-5.

Lord, help me to trust You in all things.   Forgive my weakness and how I’ve failed You.   I trust You in Your teaching, Your provision, and Your discipline.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 23 December 2016

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5, verse 14.
One more set of thoughts about solid food…and Christmas. We gain strength from solid food. Our bodies – our spirits – gain strength and maturity from consuming things that build us up. Today is the day before the day before Christmas. If you’re a “Friends” fan, it’s Christmas Eve Eve. Have you considered that now is the time you should be hungry? Contrary to the popular Christian idea, I actually think that now is the time you SHOULD want more for Christmas. You SHOULD want the whole big Griswold Family Christmas.
Make sense? Probably not; let me explain. It’s because of Hebrews 5, verse 14.
We’re sinful fallen human beings. Like it or not, our ancestors took onto themselves something they’ve passed down to us through our genes: sinful nature. You have one. So do I. Sinful nature is how we can take a beautiful thing like undeserved grace and make it into a consumer-driven mega-holiday we call “Christmas.” Sinful nature is how we can want more and more stuff and still not be satisfied with it. If you don’t believe me, name for me the big gifts you received each of these last 10 years. Chances are, if you’re like me (and I believe you are), you can’t. We think we can gorge on solid food but we don’t realize that if we eat too much steak when we can only tolerate milk, we’re going to end up gripping the spiritual toilet, barfing up what we can’t handle.
Yet we SHOULD want more, we SHOULD want all the love, peace, joy, and happiness that Christmas represents. Why? You know the answer: they’re love, peace, joy and happiness! Don’t make it tougher than it should be! And here’s the kicker: love, peace, joy, and happiness are food for the mature. They’re food for a weary soul. They’re the simplest, most child-like things we can imagine and yet it takes a mature heart to grasp them. More important, it takes a mature spirit to share them, to give them away. Best of all, it takes a mature soul to give them unselfishly, as undeserved grace, to people who don’t deserve it.
Make no mistake: people don’t deserve it. We spend all year treating each other like crap and yet, at Christmas-time, we say we want to make amends and share that love, peace, joy, and happiness. We say we want to do those things because we want them ourselves. Yes, we actually are pretty slow, dull and dim, and yet even the slowest, dullest, dimmest of us want that love, peace, joy and happiness. News flash, friend reader: it’s a good thing to want them. It’s a good thing to look through all the bad things in the world and focus on what’s right and good, especially at the time of the year we set aside to celebrate them.
They’re some of the best of the fruit of God’s Spirit. Love, peace, joy, happiness: apart from God, you can’t find them. Apart from the Savior in the Manger, you only get stuff, you only get a facsimile of love, peace, joy, and happiness. Real love, honest peace, true joy, and lasting happiness can only be found at the feet of Jesus. When you, crushed sinner, bow at His feet and humble yourself in repentance, He takes your hand and you get to look into His eyes. There you see only love, peace, joy, and happiness.
You should want that. It’s the best Christmas gift of all.
In our house, Christmas season starts, oh, probably around May. It’s the consequence of marrying an Elf. My wife is happiest when she’s doing things for others, and I know of nobody better who demonstrates the love, peace, joy and happiness that are knowing Jesus through Christmas than the woman who was crazy enough to marry me. She plans all year long for Christmas, making lists, arranging finances, solidifying plans, and spreading honest cheer. The season kicks into full gear around October; these last two years it has been exacerbated by this thing called “the Hallmark Channel.” She’s been on the floor organizing presents all afternoon, and in a few minutes we’ll go out to give cookies and candies to our neighbors. It’s her thing; it’s a huge part of who she is and I wouldn’t have her any other way. My Hunnie knows a lot about love, peace, joy, and happiness. In a world set against them, she’s chosen to learn about them from following Jesus.
He’s the same Jesus who, God Almighty, decided the best way to meet His greatest creation, humanity, was by coming as a defenseless baby in poverty, then growing up to teach the world about love, peace, joy, and real happiness. Christmas comes this weekend. It’s a herald for the truly beautiful holiday a few months down the road at Easter.
Merry Christmas my friends. Wishing you love, peace, joy, and happiness…and some cookies and Hallmark movies as well. Feast heartily on them because they are the best food for a maturing spirit.
For further reading: Matthew 4:4, Hebrews 6:1, 1 Corinthians 2:6, 1 Corinthians 3:2, 1 Corinthians 14:20, 1 Peter 2:2, Isaiah 7:15, Psalm 46:10
Lord Jesus, thank You for Christmas, for coming here to live with us, for being our Savior in the manger.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 28 November 2016

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  Hebrews 4, verse 14.

Here’s where things get tough.   As John Wayne might have said, ‘this is where we get down to the rat killin.’   Ok, maybe not so much, but, man, this is where things get really, really tough.

Hold.   On.  Wilson Phillips sang that in a really corny song; “hold on for one more day.”  ELO sang it too:  “hold on tight to your dream.”   Corny but it’s true.   And it’s critical.  Just hold on when things get tough.  If your dream is heaven, hold on tight because this is a rough old world that is going to try to pry your dream out of your fingers.   If you have faith in Jesus, hold on tight to it because everything else in the world is going to work to unravel your faith and make you believe life is hopeless.   If you love someone, set them free?   Maybe, but hold on tight to that love because love is antithetical to this place we call the Third Rock, where death awaits every life and every day in-between day one and last day can be a struggle.

Pretty bleak, eh?   It can be, if you let it happen.   Yesterday in church, a guest speaker from Jeremy Camp’s organization talked about the joy of God, how it is theological, positional and situational to us.   God’s joy is 24/7; along with His love, grace, mercy, and peace, His joy is available to us whether we accept it or not.   God’s joy doesn’t depend on us doing anything to make it more or make it less:   it simply is because He’s God and He’s eternal and joy is one of His eternal qualities.   Yet that joy is pretty tough to see sometimes.   In my part-time job, I hear many responses on the phone that say “I’d love to buy it but money is really tight right now.”   Not much joy in chronically tight finances during a near-depression.   Death isn’t joyful; grieving is real and a necessary part of the human condition, necessary, that is, to emotionally come to terms with the cruel finality of death.   Divorce, marital heartbreak, loneliness, hurt, resentment:   no joy in those.

If you let it, the world will break you.   It tries.  Don’t let it happen.   Resolve to not let it happen.  Hold on tight.

Faith is an act of willpower.   It is impossible to believe in Jesus without Jesus’ Spirit first reaching out to us to plant the seed of belief.   Yet holding on to that growing seed of believing faith takes willpower.   It can take effort, work, and determination.   God chooses us before we choose to believe in Him, yet holding on to that choice takes resolute effort because the fallen world will keep working to pry us away from that faith.  We can do it because He in whom we put that faith has overcome the fallen world.   He allowed it to fall, came here to reconcile it to His perfection, did all that was necessary to make that happen, and returned into eternity where He supernaturally encourages us today.

The world thinks that’s all BS.   Resolve to think differently.  He did.   He held tight to faith in His Father even when things got tough.

Jesus was part of the struggle and because He lives in you He is part of your struggle today.   When you hurt, He feels it.   When you’re anxious, Jesus feels it with you.   He came to proclaim God’s Kingdom here and now, to make us part of it here and now so that, one day, we can physically join Him as part of His eternity.  Fine talk for Sunday morning, right; lot of good all that heaven talk does me when I’m in the middle of my troubles now.  Brother, it does you more good than you’ll imagine if you simply hold on tight to the truth of it.   In the middle of a world where living minute to minute can be really tough, God’s joy is still present, still real, still tangible to the heart.  It’s available for you this very minute, but first you have to want to believe in it.  Hold on tight to that faith, to the dream of hope for a better now and a beautiful forever.   Hold on tight and never let go.

For more reading:   Hebrews 2:17, Matthew 4:2, Hebrews 3:1, Hebrews 6:20, Hebrews 8:1.

Lord Jesus, I believe in You.   Sometimes it’s tough, though, and sometimes I fail and I hurt.   Comfort me through this and let me experience Your wonderful joy again.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 4 June 2015

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Mark 8, verse 34.

After writing about how terrible and hard it is to take up our cross for Jesus, I don’t want to let another point slip by unobserved. As we talked about yesterday, Jesus said something that is, by our standards, harsh. It’s tough for us to get past that. And it’s almost like He’s being contradictory, even schizophrenic, since Jesus is the same man who said “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   When we look at Jesus’ tough words about taking up our crosses through the prism of our ‘modern’ emotions, they are pretty bitter pills to swallow.

Here’s what I think of emotion: don’t let it steal your joy.   Jesus didn’t create us to focus us on emotion or on agony. Instead, He allows the agony so that it leads to joy. It’s for joy that we take up that cross:   the joy of satisfaction in living for something (and Someone) better than ourselves.   It’s for eternal joy that Jesus took up His cross; to share in this is why He exhorts us to take up our own.   Rather than getting wrapped around the axle and not getting past the torture of crucifixion, accept the joy of what Jesus is saying. He calls the crowd and they draw to Him; they draw to Him because they know He has a reputation for love and miracles. When they draw to Him, Jesus levels with them telling them that His message is radical, that it will cost them dearly to follow Him.   He’s being honest with them.   In a few verses we also find that He talks about why His cross and ours are so important. Boil them down and the reason is joy.

Think about it. Can you be happy, know real joy, while you hold onto that grudge, that anger, that chip on your shoulder? Is it possible to know joy without the giving and receiving of forgiveness?   Answering ‘yes’ to either of those questions would not be honest. When our emotions are all in upheaval, we don’t know joy.   Those sins and those emotions must be submitted to God in Jesus via the cross. The reason for the cross was to slay the sin of the world, remolding those who believe in Him to be the people of joy we were meant to be.   On the road to eternity, the way to joy travels through the cross.

There’s a song on Christian radio that says “we were made to thrive” (Casting Crowns).   Joy unspeakable, faith unshakeable, love unstoppable, anything is possible; more words from the same song.   They could easily be talking about the joy of dying in this life for Jesus.   We were indeed made to thrive.   We were indeed made for joy, for the joy of kneeling forgiven before our God and Savior King Jesus, then standing beside Him forever as both his worshipper, brother and friend. To get to that point, we must take up the joy of the suffering that is the cross.   It refines us, puts to death our old Adam, and carries us forward into becoming the people in joy who Jesus wants us to become.

Lord, bless You to bless me with Your joy.   Thank You for Your cross, and for the joyful burden of mine.

Read Mark 8, verses 34-38.