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.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 3 April 2019

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.   2 Timothy 1:16 (NIV).

Contrast this verse with the (hyperbolic) news Paul shared in the previous one; you remember, about Phygelus and Hermogenes and abandonment and being alone.   Then consider this today:   if you’re sensing that you’re having a particularly blessed moment, it could be that God is answering someone else’s prayers for you.

God isn’t some wish machine; insert prayer A and get reward B.   But He does reward prayers of people who implore Him for the welfare of others.   He does it in His own ways, for the good of the Kingdom and the other person.   And in doing so, He rewards the person who prays.

If traffic goes your way, it may be God’s mercy.   If you have a positive outlook, it may be God’s mercy.   If you have enough money in your wallet for the Whataburger you’re craving, it may be God’s mercy.   You can see where we’re going.   If something goes well for you today, consider that it may be God answering some other person’s prayer for you by blessing you in some recognizable way.

But let’s go further.   If you have air in your lungs, you’re living in God’s mercy.   If you have a heartbeat, you’re living in God’s mercy.   Clothing, a place to sleep (and sleep, too), neural activity between your ears, food, all the basics:   you’re living deep and richly in God’s mercy, even in the bad days.   Even on the days when you think everyone has abandoned you.   Even on the days when they have.

I have a friend who broke his arm trying to help homeless people.   He was performing the innocuous task of simply moving a box when a particularly nasty one snapped his upper arm.   Mercy.  Real mercy.   I have another friend who is adjusting to life after learning he’s HIV positive.   Mercy there, too.   We each have our moments when we seem bound in chains by the troubles of the world, and good people do sometimes abandon us in them.   Yet God never does, Jesus never leaves us.  More often than not, I find that, even in those tough times, God soon blesses us with people doing things that help and usually in unexpected ways.

Those are people and times for which we can be thankful.   They’re good times to lift up prayers of thanksgiving for those people.   For God to bless them because they blessed us.   Paul did that.   He did it right after revealing his anxiety over how he felt people he trusted had deserted him.  He’d fit in well in our so called modern world.

For further reading:   Mark 8:38, 2 Timothy 17.

Lord, bless those who are hurting, suffering, and in anguish.   And bless, more, those who help during those times.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 2 December 2014

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 2, verses 6 and 7.

Get ready to get mad. You’re a hypocrite just like the Pharisees in these verses.   You judge people just like they did.   You blaspheme God just like they did.   In this world of sin, you’re one of the worst.   You may think you’re doing your best, and that you’ve come a long way baby, but deep down inside you’re just a hypocrite like the ‘sinless sinners’ who judged the Son of Man.

Mad yet? Please, relax; I’m right there with you.   I’m the worst of sinners, too. The truth is, though, I don’t want for us to be hypocrites any longer but we’re works in progress.   I’m ‘judgy.’ I’m mean.   I’m callous, cold, indifferent, moody, angry, vulgar, sinful and altogether damned left to my own devices.   And all this is while I’m in church.   Imagine how bad it could be outside!   How about you?   Yep: we’re in a bad way.

That’s because we indeed are no better than the Pharisees, who set themselves up as expert witness, judge, and jury over the ancient people of Israel.   Like snarky Congressmen, Ivy League professors, or reporters from the New York Times, they knew better than the people around them; you could ask them and they’d tell you. After all, they kept ‘all’ of Moses’ commandments; they worked hard. They prayed harder.   They didn’t do things like other people. They were upright, pious, well-dressed, moral, paragons of First Century Jewish virtue.

And yet, despite all that, their sin was inside and they were filthy dead with it.   Notice that Mark says “sitting there, thinking to themselves.” They weren’t ‘doing’ anything wrong, only thinking, and it was still damning.   They were educated and knew that the Scriptures told them how only God could forgive sins. They couldn’t believe their eyes, however, that God Immanuel was actually there, at the table with them, in the same room. The Pharisees were so busy looking for the long-promised Redeemer that they couldn’t see how He had found them. That blindness also blinded them to their own sins, their own shortcomings, their own judgmental failures.

Just like us.

Tell me:   how many times do we remember that Jesus is with us now? How many times does Jesus speak to us in a day?   Does your conscience ever tell you something that you ignore?   Or do you see someone who needs help yet you keep walking?   Ever lost your temper?   These sins – and more – are mine; I’m betting they’re yours as well. Yet Jesus still meets us where we are, in our sins, in our thoughts, and He loves us anyway. We are the paralyzed man who can’t walk, who Jesus heals and forgives.   We are the judgmental Pharisees, who refuse to believe the proof right in front of our eyes.   We are the hypocrites, sinners, and low down dirty dogs who practice evil with even our best intentions. And then, despite all this, we also are given the opportunity to be Jesus, to look at others who wrong us and forgive them, to demonstrate mercy where none is deserved.   To follow Him.

I’m sorry if I made you mad earlier; please forgive me that.   I do hope it got your attention, though. Read up on the rest of the story to find out how Jesus responded.

Lord, I have sinned against You. Forgive me, cleanse me, and love me.

Read Mark 2, verses 6-12.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 13 January 2014

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.  James 5, verse 11.

Here’s an example of the prophets to whom James alluded in the previous verse.  Where, in verse 10, James simply exhorted us to be encouraged by the example of Israel’s prophets, here he tells why we should be encouraged.

Because the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Do you know about Job?   It’s one of the most mysterious but powerful books in the Bible.   If you aren’t familiar with the story, Satan comes to God and makes a bet with Him that he (Satan) can make God’s most devoted and blessed follower, Job, turn against God.   God allows it, so Satan proceeds to wreck Job’s life.   As Job is more and more challenged, he eventually confronts God and asks, “why.”   God’s response is more than a simple answer:   it is an exposition of power, mercy, and grace.  What’s more, God then restores Job with more blessings and prosperity than he knew before.

That’s a pretty saccharin synopsis, though.  It overlooks some of the harsher aspects of the book, things like the cynical nature of Job’s friends (who are supposed to encourage him), the almost cavalier way in which God allows Satan to wreck  all Job knows, and even the cruel nature in which Go allows Job to be tested.

But if that’s all you focus on then you’re missing the point.   The example proves how God is compassionate and merciful.   God has faith in Job, stating how Job won’t turn from Him.  Further, Job clings to God even when things become dire, seeking only explanation when he feels he is at his breaking point.  Instead of smashing him like an ant, God stoops to Job’s level and reasons with him, doing something that the all powerful creator of the universe doesn’t have to do for a created being.   Instead of slamming Job back into his place, God talks with him, reveals the wonder of His love to Job, and persuades Job to love before he thinks and think before he asks.

Tell me, good reader, how is that different from you?  You and I, we may not suffer the way Job did (or maybe we do).  Through our suffering, does not God still provide for us?   When we have nothing else, so long as we have Jesus, life, and air, do we need anything else to live through the moment?   Even when things are dire, God is still who He is and He still provides for us in ways that help us to persevere, endure, overcome, and succeed.

Like Job.   Especially when we ask “why.”

Father God, thank You for Your mercy and compassion, and for providing as You do.

 

Read the book of Job.

How has the Lord been merciful in your life?

How has Jesus been compassionate to you?

Daily Proverbial, from James, 25 November 2013

 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. James 3, verse 17.

The sermon topic on Sunday was John 3:16:   For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in him shall have eternal life.   It was the first time in my life that someone had broken down that verse (which really explains the entire Bible) into understandable chunks that each reveal the splendor and forever love of God.   Later, when I read today’s verse I realized something.  Stop me if I’m wrong, but couldn’t this verse from James 3 also work just fine as the one after John 3:16?  God created us to share heaven, to be part of it now and forever.  He did it selflessly, fully, and eternally because He is all pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive and full of mercy.   Is it just me or do the two verses go together?

Later (again) I also thought a lot about the verse while writing this because yesterday was my Dad’s birthday.   It has taken me years to be able to say that I miss him even though he died in 1997.   Now that he’s gone, I can say that he was a good man who tried his best to be a good father, a hard worker, and a decent man.  When he was here, Dad was peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, bearing good fruit, impartial and sincere.   He was a good man while still being just a man.   His flaws were my flaws and the flaws in my life are ones he would have understood.   Yet he lives today because God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son so that men who believed in him would have eternal life. 

Dad was an intellectual.   He revered the human intellect, learning, and the process of learning.   More than that, I think he enjoyed being part of things where people became better than they were.   Dad liked to learn, teach, and do, and he liked combining those things in his work and his rest.  I think it’s why he had the career he did, teaching people how to properly safely use guns and ammunition.  Toward the end of his life, when the career was done, he couldn’t do many of the things he had always planned to do; cancer prevented it.   Yet he still found time to contemplate wisdom, to put first things first and consider where he was headed.   He told me that he didn’t want to die, but that he understood it and wasn’t afraid of it and that he knew heaven would be a good place.  He knew it because Jesus’ wisdom is all pure, and given so that we might have eternal life.   Happy birthday Dad.

Wise Jesus who gave all, thank You for Your eternal love.

 

Do you know someone wise?

Read the two verses again.   What are they telling you?

How would you describe wisdom from heaven?

Daily Proverbial, from James, 16 October 2013

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.  James 2, verses 12-13.

Here’s why we shouldn’t be ‘judgy.’  Jesus was judgmental, but He was God, the source of all judgment between sin and righteousness.  He administered His judgment with mercy.  He set an example for us by judging between right and wrong, then always siding on right, yet He did it without condescending and without demeaning others.   Jesus judged using mercy.  Why?  You know why.

If we are without mercy, we are without Christ.   Simple as that.

Jesus knew – and James re-iterates – that, without mercy we are without love.   Mercy isn’t turning your back on wrongdoing.   Mercy isn’t condoning sin, or turning a blind eye when wrong happens.  Mercy isn’t giving people a pass.   Mercy is showing love despite all those things happening, especially when they happen to us.

Mercy is saying a prayer for the guy who cut you down in the meeting at work yesterday.  It’s helping the kid who stole money from you to buy drugs, with no expectation of anything from them in return.   Mercy is not responding in kind when someone verbally attacks you and leaves you raw and exposed.  Mercy is walking away when there is a fight at your doorstep and you know you have the advantage.

Mercy is doing anything that Jesus would because that’s the way Jesus would do it.   We’re encouraged by Jesus to use our learned power of judgment to stick to the straight and narrow, not to narrowly edge out each other.  And when we’re presented with the opportunity to do one thing versus another, we’re told to be merciful.   Not because we have to, but because He loved us and showed us how and why.

Lord, have mercy on me and teach me to have mercy on all those around me.

 

When was the last time you acted in mercy?

Who can you be merciful to today?

How has Jesus been merciful to you?