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 Mark, 21 January 2015

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3, verses 31-35.

It’s my privilege to be part of several groups of people who are just about the best people you could know. Now, I’m sure we can all say that about the friends closest to us, and that’s a good thing, a real blessing.   I am fortunate to say that there are two groups with whom I keep in contact that I think of quite literally as family. One is my shipmates from the three years I spent at sea while I was in the Air Force; yes, you read that right. We keep in touch mostly on Facebook and email, but I have several phone numbers and we’ll occasionally catch up that way as well.   The other group is the small group of men with whom I worked at an obscure assignment in Colorado Springs.   We did systems work together, and we were part of a self-appointed elite group who felt we were doing the best work anywhere in addition to actually being the best anywhere.   Personally, I’d stack the folks in either of these groups against ISIS and we’d leave those Islamo-Nazi lunatics in a pile of confused and hurting refuse when we finished with them at a time of our own choosing.

My friends, they’re my brother and sister and mother.

Now, it’s a very safe bet to assume that Jesus wasn’t talking about militarily vanquishing a group of Muslim fanatics.   But I think you can understand my analogy.   I’ve been privileged to call good people ‘friend’ and ‘brother,’ and I’ve been privileged to do so both in and out of church settings.  During several overseas mission trips I grew close to the men and women with whom I traveled.   Perhaps they’re closer to the idea Jesus was conveying, yet there’s something about having served in the military, having been ordinary people doing extraordinary things that draws you together.

Yet if you think about it, in following Jesus, you’re an ordinary person doing something extraordinary.   You’ve staked your claim on something that the world sees as illogical and childish.  You’re like the disciples, who were ordinary ‘nobodies’ who lived extraordinary lives in service of the Savior.  You’re the kind of person Jesus is looking for.   Jesus is looking for His own martial group; a group who, to quote the Founding Fathers, will pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor in His service.   Jesus wants people who will fight their temptations and fight off the world to stand up for Him, to carry His message to others, and to do His work in a world that really needs Him.

Chances are, when you find yourself in a group of like-minded Jesus followers, you’re going to quickly realize that they are your brother, mother, and sister.  They’re family to you because we are all family in Him.   That’s the biggest part of His message in these verses.

Jesus, you’re my brother, God, Savior, creator and friend. Let me be as close to others as You are to me so that I can represent you honorably to them.

Read Mark 3, verses 31-35.