Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 4 July 2019

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.  Titus 1:1-3 (NIV).

Why now?   Why have the elect (us) learn about the hope of eternal life (for both now and always)?

Because it’s time.

So today is Independence Day in America.   Seeing as how the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 is now a World Heritage Site, in a way, July 4th is a holiday for the entire world.   It’s the day when man declared his rights by standing up to a tyrant.  King George wasn’t the most evil tyrant in history; think Herod the Great, or Stalin, or Mao, or Hitler for that.   But George III was a tyrant all the same, demanding that all people in his kingdom bow to him as the ultimate authority.

“Not so fast,” was the collective reply of our American forbearers.  If you’ve ever studied the people who wrote our Declaration, you’ll find they are some of the most amazing political thinkers in all of human history.   They were also some of the boldest, willingly committing mass treason in the name of natural law and natural rights given by God alone.   It’s amazing to think that so many people could come together at once and produce a simple statement that says “these are our rights” and defined western democracy for the rest of all time.

It happened because centuries of thought, and decades of experience and preparation culminated in a gathering one Philadelphia summer.   Because God brought them all together.   Because it was time.

Now is your time.   Now is our time.   Now is our time to not only celebrate this wonderful thing done by our ancestors.   Now is also our time to thank God for them and what they did, and to realize that the rights they bequeathed to us enable us to live the lives we do here and now.  God put Paul where He did to spread the Gospel for the first time.   Jesus put His Spirit into Paul, and you, and me, and all of us to do the same, both here in America and world-wide.  Thank God for the American founders on behalf of all citizens of our world.   And thank God for Jesus.

Because it’s time.

For further reading:  Numbers 23:19, Luke 1:47, Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1, 1 Timothy 2:4, 1 Timothy 1:10, 2 Timothy 2:2, Hebrews 6:18, James 1:1, Titus 1:3

Lord Jesus, You have me where You have me because it’s time for me to do Your bidding.   Empower me, educate me, and embolden me today to declare my independence from sin for the rest of my life.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 17 January 2019

Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  1 Timothy 5:7-8 (NIV).

Paul continues his advice to Timothy concerning widows; this actually continues through verse 16.   Yet here is his most plainspoken advice on how said advice also applies to how we interact with others (in addition to those widowed).

I grew up in a family of four.  My parents were good, middle-class parents, themselves from modest backgrounds (his in the family of a Philadelphia civil servant with four children, hers in a small, Minnesota farm-town family of five).  My sister and I were the only kids, and while we didn’t live extravagantly, we did live well.   We always had a house, even if it was hopelessly cluttered (my parents loved collectibles).   We always had food on the table, the bills paid (though sometimes barely so), reliable transportation, and church.   We took vacations to see the sights, traveling more of the country than most of my peers.  And we were supported in school; my parents cared deeply about education.  Most importantly, my sister and I can say that we were loved.   Sometimes it was chilly love and sometimes we struggled just to hold together as a family, but we always knew we were loved.

In fact, that could be put on my parents’ gravestone up in Oklahoma:  Mom and Dad did the best they could.  They did what they could with the talents and resources God gave them.   They provided for us everything they could, even when it seemed out of step.  I look around at so many broken families today and I sometimes forget to say “thank you” again to God that mine never ended up that way.   It wasn’t easy; there were times Mom and Dad could have cashed it in, but they didn’t.  They believed in each other; they believed in us; they believed in God (at least on Sundays, or when the music was particularly good.  Mom and Dad both loved good choral and church music).

My childhood wasn’t glamorous or thrilling but it was good.   I always knew what “home” felt like, and I knew how to build a home when I built a family of my own.  I feel sorry for those who don’t, those whose parents didn’t provide, or didn’t care to.  I hope they know that there’s still a chance for them.   God counsels all of us that, even when our earthly families fail us, He never does.   Today’s verse reminds us that we need to care for each other, especially in our families.   Aside from loving God, it’s our primary mission on Earth.

For further reading: 2 Peter 2:1, Jude 4, 1 Timothy 5:9.

My Lord, thank You for my parents and my childhood family.   Thank You for inspiring them to do the best they could and to know You.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 14 May 2015

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. Mark 7, verse 31.

We need to go with our faith.   What would Jesus do?   Stop stalling by asking that trendy question and pay attention to what He did.   He went.

Now, I’m a big proponent of overseas mission work.   I’ve been on overseas mission trips to Asia and Africa. I’ve done mission work in Minnesota, California, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma, and here in Texas.   This blog is my mission work every day and it’s my privilege to share it with you, to send it to where you live in the hope that it helps you, and that you’ll send it on to parts unknown.   Between us, over 4000 people a day see these words.

Big freaking deal. It’s what I can do but it doesn’t mean much. I’m capable of more and I haven’t done more. If this is the best I can do then I have let down my Lord.

Yes, I mean that.   There are still so many places in the world where people haven’t heard about Jesus, and there are even more where people don’t want to hear about Him. They’re right under our noses.   My last foreign mission trip was to Uganda four years ago.   My life was in turmoil then, heading out of the most tumultuous year of my life.   My head and heart were upside down; I had turned my life inside out and was destroying people I loved. Ten days in Uganda changed me, exposed me to the heights of faith in the depths of poverty.   I met some of the finest men and women there, and they are my brothers and sisters to this day.   To say the trip moved me was an understatement because I felt I was doing what Jesus wanted me to do:   go on the road and love like He would.

Yet almost immediately after my last foreign trip, a friend of mine upbraided me, saying I shouldn’t have gone overseas. That there are real people really suffering in real ways here in the United States. At first, what she said ticked me off.   The more I thought about it, however, the more I saw her point. Anybody up for doing some outreach this week along 8 Mile, or maybe on Charles Street in Baltimore?   Been to West Philadelphia to hand out tracts, or have you worked in a soup kitchen in Oak Cliff lately?   Me neither.   Indian reservations, prisons that hold 2 million Americans, depressed towns all throughout Appalachia and the deep south, those war-zone urban areas challenged by Crips and Bloods, and the oh so complacent suburbs where consumption is the American Idol of choice:   my friends, right here in the US of A is a foreign-like mission field in itself.   After all, have you read the survey (published by Pew this week) saying how, since 2009 the percentage of people in the USA professing themselves to be “Christian” has shrunk by 8%?   Seventy percent of us still call ourselves “Christian” but 30% not so much.   Do the math and that’s almost 100 million under the red, white and blue who don’t want Jesus.   That’s a ripe field for us to go be Jesus.

Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus led by example?   He didn’t sit on His brains to ruminate, cogitate and contemplate.   Jesus went.   Go we and do the same.

Lord, empower me to go where You lead me.

Read Mark 7, verses 31-37.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 17 February 2015

And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5, verses 25-34.

We are skipping ahead a few verses today. Someone in my family passed away yesterday and I want you to know a little bit about her.   My father’s sister, June Terry, passed away yesterday at the age of 71 after a nearly 30 year battle with scleroderma; more on that in a minute because it’s extraordinary.

If you knew her, you knew someone special.   Aunt June was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known.   She was outgoing, sensitive, positive, and talented.   She had a beautiful singing voice and belonged to several chorale groups around Philadelphia. My immediate family grew up on the other side of the country from Dad’s family in Philadelphia, so we never go to spend much time with them.   When I grew up, the Air Force stationed me back east and I was blessed to get to know some of my relatives there, including Aunt June. You can’t say this about many people but I can say this about June: I never heard her utter a cross, malicious, or cruel word against anyone. It wasn’t for reason either because she had as much reason as anyone.   She lived a tough life and lived through some tough circumstances, yet they didn’t define her.   Faith defined her.   Faith in God, faith in hope, faith in what is good in people.   I never said it to her – don’t we all say that too much? – but I very much admired her for that.

My Dad was a great cook (he prided himself on it), but he said he couldn’t hold a candle to his sister.   He bragged about her lasagna, her spiced pot roast, and her ability to turn bread and water into a scrumptious feast. I had dinner with her more than a few times and couldn’t agree more. I’m lucky to have recorded some of the family recipes she made best

But we don’t just remember people for their cooking, unless, that is, they cook up inspiration. Aunt June did just that.   I mentioned above that she battled scleroderma for most of 30 years.   That makes her both a medical anomaly and a medical miracle. Scleroderma is a rare auto-immune disease that, in some forms, hardens your internal organs from the inside out.   That’s the kind Aunt June had.   It’s chronic, debilitating, painful, and ultimately fatal.   Like the rest of her life, though, I never knew her to complain about it.   That wouldn’t have been in her nature.   She was pleased to know (but never admitted) that many others in the US will benefit from drug studies and research conducted on her because she was extraordinarily long-lived with the disease.

Personally, I think her hopeful outlook was a manifestation of her faith.   When she had nothing left to live for, she lived for heaven. She became the woman Jesus healed when the woman touched His robe.   It wasn’t her body that He healed:   it was her soul.   None of the problems of this world could plague her inside where it mattered most.   Where the soul matters, Aunt June held fast to her Savior and God.   For me and without misrepresenting who she was or making her into someone she wasn’t, June Terry was a hero of the faith.

Yesterday she got to meet Jesus face to face and hear Him say, “well done, June. I’m so pleased you’re home.” Today, she woke up in heaven and she’ll be there until the rest of us amble along. Those of us left behind here are sad to see her depart yet glad to know she’s truly healed, truly happy, and truly at home forever.

Read Mark 5, verses 1-20.