Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 18 November 2016

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Hebrews 4, verse 12.

Read the verses listed below, then wrestle with God at what He’s telling you through them.  He’s dividing your soul from your sins.

I’ll never forget the look on the face of the CIO when she fired me.   I was the temporary IT director at a small HMO in Montana.   A few months before, I had taken the job up there in Kalispell to make a big change after a year of sin, frustration, shame and distraction had nearly wrecked my family.  Montana would be a fresh beginning, a place to start from scratch and move forward.   Nearly from the start, I knew I couldn’t fix all that was wrong in the department there yet I kept trying, doing my best to bail water out of a sinking boat.   Profession dysfunctions, inadequate systems, incompetent consultants, poor configuration, no processes:   it was an IT director’s challenge and my job to clean up someone else’s messes.   To do that, I worked with the company board to hire a new CIO and we found one with all the qualifications we needed.   She was really good.  Now she was letting me go.   I had trained her in all the issues we were facing and what was being done to address them and there I was, called in out of the blue on a Tuesday afternoon and she was letting me go.   “This just isn’t working out,” she said, and without them giving me another reason I was out of a job.

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”  That’s from Jeremiah 23.  I felt crushed.  In the parable of the sower, Jesus tells the story of how God’s word is like good seed that farmers sow in various kinds of ground.   Some grows to produce a harvest; sometimes it withers and dies.  What seed had I become?  And in Acts 12 there’s this simple truth:  “But the word of God continued to increase and spread” despite the faithful being scattered, torture and murders of the saints, and all the structural impediments that the Jews and their collaborative Roman friends could build against it.  Fine words to hear but I had people depending on me!

Ephesians 6 talks about us being clothed in the armor of God to carry that word of God boldly into battle against real forces of sin and dark magic. Paul’s sometime friend Peter then says that this word is imperishable, living, enduring.   John is the one who said it is a double edged sword, one he saw in a vision coming out of the mouth of Jesus.  And as you’ve read, that analogy was also used here in Hebrews, stating how God’s word cuts us to the core, slicing away soul from sin so that our sins might be laid bare for the terrible choices they are.

Tell all this to the guy who lost his job.   Here in the real world, tell all this to the man who’s terrified of how he’s going to support his family, pay his bills, overcome the shame of unemployment, talk to the people who thought he was making a fresh start up there in the north woods.   Or in the woods of east Texas.   Or perhaps in the woods where you and I wander today.   Tell all this to that guy, and to you, and to me, and all who will listen.   Speak it loud and clear because, brother, we need it.

Even in what we think must be the worst times, Jesus is still in everything and the Word He gives is that sharp sword.  It is both the weapon to use against temptations and guilt, and the scalpel that excises cancer from the spirit.  It has been years since that day in northwest Montana when Dory fired me for reasons I still don’t understand.   Once again I find myself in a job that seems to be slipping away, and once again I find myself faced with the fears of supporting my family, paying those bills and the frustration of not understanding where things went wrong.   Yet once again I also find myself standing here, sometimes terrorized in the dark until I realize that I’m standing here, not alone, but with Jesus.   He used that door He slammed shut to walk me through others He would open.   He’s doing it again now and, in doing so, He speaks to my heart to cleanse my thoughts and my attitude.   The bills will get paid, we’ll get through the tough times, and that second job is there to help.  What matters is staying close to His side.  He reassures me in the days when the world seems harsh that I should take heart because He has overcome the world.

For more reading:   Isaiah 55:11, Jeremiah 23:29, Mark 4:14, Luke 5:1, John 10:35, John 16:33, Acts 7:38, Acts 12:24, 1 Corinthians 14:24-25, Ephesians 6:17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Timothy 2:9, 1 Peter 1:23, 1 John 2:14, Revelation 1:2, 16

Lord Jesus, I find myself scared and worried about all kinds of things.   Comfort me with Your presence, and equip me to boldly share You where I am today. May Your piercing Word be active in my life today and in the lives of those I reach.


Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 8 October 2014

Just then a man in their synagogue, who was possessed by an impure spirit, cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”– Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. – Mark 1, verses 23-26.

The demon called out to Jesus; did you see that?   It wasn’t that Jesus called out the demon.   No, it was the other way around.   The demon recognized Jesus for who He was and proclaimed it. That matters.   It’s a small thing to overlook, but it matters.

It matters because evil always surrenders to good. Darkness ALWAYS surrenders to light.   In a pitch black room, a flickering candle always gives light and becomes the focus.   In a world of hatred, murder, abuse, and death, kind acts of the heart always mean more than all the suffering Satan can pile on.   The demon in the synagogue recognized that. When it recognized the Light of the World, it squealed.   It could not ignore the light; it could not ignore the loving compulsion of the Son of God.

What did Jesus do? He didn’t freak out.   He didn’t yell and scream.   He didn’t try to rationalize or diminish it:   Jesus faced the evil.   The Son of Man confronted the evil and didn’t back down.   Then he calmly but forcefully commanded it to be gone.   And it was so.

Tell me:   what’s the difference for us?   I’m not saying this to be flippant or trite.   What’s the difference?   Sure, you and I aren’t Jesus.  We aren’t God Immanuel; we don’t have the kind of power He does.   But you’d be wrong if you honestly believed that.

We have Him.   Therefore we have that kind of power. Don’t believe me?   Face down your temptations today. Whatever pet sin is tempting you right now – spending, drugs, stealing, screwing around on your spouse, lies, deception, whatever – face it down and say “no more.”   It’s not a Pollyanna approach.   This is real life.

In the real world, this is how real people overcome the real evil that plagues them.   First we face it, then we overcome it. To truly overcome evil, we only need Jesus.   We need His love and His light to shine down the darkness that constantly tries to overcome us.   To say no to our temptations; to put our sins behind us; to truly repent and move forward; to help other people meet Jesus; to live our lives to help others do the same.

One by one, evil by evil, we overcome evil when we believe in Jesus and turn our battles over to Him.   We ask Him for His strength, His power, His forgiveness, His love, His presence to help us fight.   When we stand, we stand wearing the armor of His light, and evil will surrender. Yes, it may fight back and it may fight fiercely; it’s evil.   Yet it will always surrender immediately or in time. Sometimes those battles are minute by minute; sometimes they’re tough.   Some of them might threaten to take everything we have.   For Jesus, everything isn’t much of a price to pay.   Don’t forget: He already paid it.

He already paid it because He knew that evil must surrender to good.   It always has.   It always will.

Lord Jesus, thank You for fighting for me.   Stand with me – stand for me – to overcome the evil that threatens me.

Read Mark 1, verses 22-26 again