Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 27 June 2019

The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.  2 Timothy 4:22 (NIV).

Here we are again, at another ending, at the end of another book.   If you’re a ten-year reader of this blog, thank you!   I hope it’s a blessing to you.   You’ll remember we’ve reached endings together of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Mark, Hebrews, James, 1/2/3 John, 1/2 Thessalonians and now 1/2 Timothy, as well as the topics of the Ten Commandments and Santa Claus.  That’s thirteen books of the Bible and 15 topics overall; well over a million words.   We’ve spent some time together.   God-willing, we’ll keep doing that.

And if He isn’t willing, if this is the last of these posts, then the Lord be with your spirit.   Grace be with you all.   I mean that.   We’ve (hopefully) learned from Paul to end our conversations genuinely, to infuse our parting with the same Spirit and love that we (hopefully, again) brought into our meeting.   As Paul closed out his letters with greetings from and to friends, he also closed them out by praying the Lord over the recipient.

That’s a bold thing to do, you know.   Paul understood these letters would be widely-read.   He probably didn’t envision they’d ever be part of canon Scripture, but he probably did imagine many people hearing them (or hearing about them).  He put down on paper both his personal affections for the reader as well as his prayers for the same.   In a time when that could get you killed, that’s bold.

And you know that time is now.   Praying Jesus Christ in public today can get you arrested or killed in North Korea, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and many nations in Africa.   In the US, it can get you fired.  Putting those prayers on paper can have the same effect because then you involve those recipients.   Yet, if we really believe in Jesus, then we’re compelled to do it.   The heart of the Gospel is agape love:   undeserved gracious love that goes out without any expectation of anything in return.   No matter the consequences.

It’s that love that nailed Jesus to the cross.   It’s that love that kept Him there, that rolled back the Easter stone.   It’s that love that called Paul on a road into Syria.   And it’s that love Paul wanted shared with his friends no matter what it would cost him.   Not long after writing the letter, it cost Paul his life.   Praise to God that He inspired Paul to be willing to do that.

So, at another ending, let us each be inspired to have that same faith and courage.   To wish Christ’s love infuse our souls and bring grace and peace to each other.   Grace and His love to you until the next time.

For further reading:  Galatians 6:18, Colossians 4:18, Titus 1:1

Lord Jesus, thank You for endings and beginnings, for Your grace and love being in both.   Thank You for lettings us have these times together.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 26 June 2019

Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.  Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters.  2 Timothy 4:19-21 (NIV).

This seems like a Southern goodbye.   My wife frequently notes that people from the American South take a long time to say goodbye.   You (or they) say “well, I have to get going” and you may start for the door or intend to hang up the phone.  Yet the person on the other end of the conversation then says “Yeah, me too,” pauses, and then continues with :….and then I was in my kitchen…” or something like that, extending the conversation through a protracted goodbye.   A five-minute talk easily stretches to a half-hour or more.

That’s a Southern thing.   True, you see it in other places.  I was born a Yankee.  I have northern friends and family who do this.  But it’s almost a way of life in the American South.  Maybe it’s the way we’re raised (see “Southern thing”).  Or maybe they tell you the same thing several times.   The older I get, the more I find myself doing this.   Either way, it takes longer.

When you think about that, think about Paul.   It reminds me of how Paul signed off his letters.   In Paul’s time, letters were the only long-distance means of communication.   That means that you’d have added greetings to your letters, sending greetings from or to people you knew lived near the recipient.  Paul often did this:   it’s how he signed off Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, here (in 2 Timothy), Titus, and Philemon.  In all his letters, Paul sent (at least) generic good-bye’s.  But in most of them, he sent greetings from and to the people mentioned above as well as others he knew would be nearby.

Paul might have fit in in North Texas.  He’d understand the Southern goodbye.  Sure, it can be time-consuming and, yes, it can even be annoying.   But it’s great that people want to be involved in our lives.   It makes me want to be involved in theirs.  It’s love and mutual affection, mutual respect.  I like the art of conversation, and I like that someone wants to talk.   In a way, I feel sorry for folks in our electronic world because that art is changing. Text messages are so brief, so impersonal, so incomplete.   Emails are intended to be direct and to-the-point.   My wife is constantly urging me to go back to writing letters and cards; perhaps she has a point. Paul might agree.

So let’s keep talking.   In fact, my best to you, to your X and Y.   In the name of Jesus.

For further reading:  Acts 18:2, Acts 19:22, Acts 20:4-29, 2 Timothy 1:16, Titus 3:12, 2 Timothy 4:22

Lord Jesus, thanks for long goodbyes, for people who want to send their love to us, and for ways of communicating.