Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 22 April 2019

Here is a trustworthy saying:  If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.  If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.  2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NIV).

Happy Day After Easter, when Jesus is still risen, still alive again, still King of Kings.   To be honest, the day after Easter has always had the potential to be like the day after Christmas:   a let-down.   We had a great day yesterday, with church, a great meal, and lots of time together as a family.   It tired me out greatly, but I was sad to see it end.   Today, it’s back to work; today the kids and grand-kids go home; today is just Monday.  Today feels like a let-down.

Except it isn’t.   Here is a trustworthy saying:   if Monday seems dull, it’s because the light shines bright.   If disappointment rules the hour, joy rules the day.  If it’s tough to get started back at the routine, the routine is a gift from God, an embodiment of Jesus in our daily lives.   All these contrasting things are gifts from a loving Jesus Christ, whose gift of resurrection provides the hope of today and tomorrow to the believers He elected in eternity.  A fallen world can’t contain Him; a bad today can’t stop a beautiful tomorrow.   He defeated death, He defeated Satan.   Nothing can stop Him.   The contrasts make the difference between Jesus and everything else stark.

It wasn’t just Paul who spoke of these contrasts.   Peter did as well, and Peter knew Christ, man to man, better than most anyone else in Jesus’ ministry.  Peter talked about us rejoicing in the sufferings of Christ because it would mean that His resurrection and eternal glory would be all that much better.  The apostle lived in a barbaric time not unlike our own:   we simply have better tools and technology.   But the words he left would have been just as striking to readers of that time, maybe even more so when you consider how those readers personally knew Peter, how some might have personally known Jesus.  We didn’t know Peter or Jesus man to man; we simply have their words.

Think about that and then consider that this is a trustworthy set of statements, a thing on which we can rely.  Jesus lived, died, and lives again because He said He would.   Jesus suffered so we could rest.   Jesus died so we can live.   Jesus lives because the world can’t contain Him.   That’s great news on the Monday after Easter when the bloom seems to be off the rose and the daily world tries to take hold again.

For further reading: Romans 6:2-11, 1 Peter 4:13, Matthew 10:33, 1 Corinthians 1:9, 2 Timothy 2:14.

Easter Savior, You are the reason for our living.   You are the Lord.   You died and live so we may live.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 17 April 2019

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.  This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.   2 Timothy 2:8-9 (NIV).

Another word about Notre Dame.   Reflect on what happened, on the Parisians who sang Ave Maria as the church burned.   Reflect on the heroism of the firemen struggling to save the magnificent church.   And then, most of all, reflect on what Jesus has now started doing through the financiers, and politicians, and the unknown people who will use kindness and talent and heart to rebuild it for the glory of God.

God’s word is not chained.  Nothing on this planet can chain it, bind it, contain it.   God’s word is the power of life and eternity.

God’s word is best spoken from the cross.   God’s love is found in His only Son, Jesus, dying there so that we may live.   God’s loving Word is found at the empty tomb, on Easter Sunday, when it crushed death and gave the world real hope.   God’s Word lives in you and me and the singing Parisians as His Spirit that came at Pentecost and now lives with us so many centuries later.

God’s word isn’t chained up by a beautiful church building that can be burned.   God’s word is written on your heart, fused into your DNA, living in your bloodstream and in the thoughts that course through your mind.   When you reach the end of this life, God’s word is the only thing you’ll have left.   What will you think of it then?   Will you have used your time to get to know Him, to confess your need for Him, and to have accepted His gift of salvation?

A friend of mine died on Monday.   What I knew of Kim (Page) Granger was that, in her last years, when the world had literally taken everything from her, she held on to faith.   That wasn’t easy, given that she came from a background of abusive relationships and a family history of dysfunctional religion.    Yet in the end, she still believed in Jesus, meaning that her end here this week was the start of a forever with Him.  Kim and I had been co-workers over the years, and she supported me through my own tests of faith.  I’ll miss my friend, but am happy that her pain here is over – she had brain cancer – and that she met Jesus in person.  God’s word didn’t keep her chained to pain here forever.   God’s word broke her chains because His word itself can never be bound in chains.  It’s true in Paris.   It’s true with my friend.   It’s true with you today.

For further reading: Acts 2:24, Matthew 1:1, Romans 2:16, Acts 9:16, Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 2:10.

Lord Jesus, nothing can contain You, or Your Word.   Forgive me when I fail You.   Teach me Your better ways.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 11 February 2019

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  1 Timothy 6:7 (NIV).

Donald Trump will die with nothing.   Nancy Pelosi will die with nothing.   Warren Buffet, George Soros, Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and every other billionaire and millionaire on the planet (as well as every politician, factory worker, and blogger) will die with nothing.   You will die with nothing; me too.  When we die, we will return to God as He sent us:  with nothing of this world in our hands or hearts.

Go ahead and have a happy Monday, now.   Especially if the weather is gloomy and cold.   Have fun with that.

No, really.   Have a lot of fun with that.   If you re-read Paul’s statement, you’ll find it’s liberating, maybe the most freedom-loving thing you’ll read all week.

If you love to have every surface in your house gilded in 24 carat gold, you’re in for a surprise because heaven will be full of golden beauty.   If you love being able to use every resource at your disposal for the betterment of society, you’ll be thrilled with heaven because that’ll be one of our primary jobs there.  If you want to hobnob with real power, you’re going to love heaven because you get one on one time with the ultimate power in the universe, God Almighty in His three persons.

All for being buck naked.

Yep.  We are usually buried in some kind of clothing, and who knows if we wear those same outfits when we meet God in the hereafter.   But we are each born naked, without knowledge or possessions or history, and we will each exit this world going back to God who made us without possessions.   Our history will get us to that moment, but it won’t matter when we’re with Jesus.   Our knowledge will culminate in our deaths, but it won’t matter when we meet Jesus, the source of all knowledge.  That’s a good thing because there are things here – like sickness and anger and war and pain – that have no place in heaven.   The things of this world, the stuff, won’t matter either.

All we have here will be for nothing.   Your prized bird’s-eye maple furniture:  can’t take it.   The books you’ve published, written or read:  can take them.   Land you pay for:  it stays.  The car in your garage, duds on your back, bling on your bod:   they all stay here.

We take nothing with us to the afterlife just as we brought no possessions into this world.   And that’s a good thing because the only thing that will matter then is Jesus.   Everything that comes after meeting Him will be extra, will be a blessing, just as it is here, will be a gift from Him.   Thank God we go there with nothing.   THAT is true freedom.

For further reading:   Job 1:21, Psalm 49:17, Ecclesiastes 5:15, 1 Timothy 6:8.

Thank You Lord Jesus for taking me home without anything from here!

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 Biblegateway.com) 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.