Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 30 January 2020

But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.  Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Philippians 2:25-27. (EHV).

Do you pray when people ask for “thoughts and prayers?”   Full confession here:   sometimes I don’t.   Sometimes, I let the selfishness of this world lead me to say “I’ll pray for you” and then I forget to.   Usually, if I say I’m going to, I stop what I’m doing and say a quick prayer for whatever is requested, then I go about my day.  Out of sight out of mind?  Maybe a little.   More than that, I simply understand that I’ve put the matter in God’s hands and He is always to be trusted to do what is best.

I don’t know that anyone has sent another person ever to specifically care for my needs.   When I was in the hospital some months back, my family all visited me and tended to me in the weeks after (when I was recuperating).  And friends also visited, shared gifts, and let me know of their love.   But I can’t say that I’ve ever known of anyone who ever sent someone from far away to assist me in my work or tend to my needs like the Philippians had sent their brother, Epaphroditus.   Indeed, by sending a co-worker to help Paul, they were doing more than just online thoughts and prayers.

So maybe that’s a good cue for us to consider doing more as well.   Reach out and bring a meal to someone.   Go help a friend move furniture.  When someone doesn’t have enough to pay a bill, help them out.   Haven’t talked in awhile with an old friend who’s going through some trouble?   Call them…better yet, go visit them.   More than any of these things, listen attentively.   Let’s each resolve to follow Jesus closer here, today, by starting to listen attentively to what the folks around us are saying.   Listen to relate to their problems, their concerns; to empathize and feel their hurt the way they do, then maybe sympathize and do something to help where we can.

Start that out by giving honest thoughts and prayers.   Sometimes we can’t do much but we can do that.   Besides, putting matters before the Lord is the first, best way to start the healing.   Take time this day to shut out the noise and pray when someone needs our prayers.   Then move forward however we’re led by Him.

For further reading:   Romans 16:3, 2 Corinthians 8:23, Philippians 2:28

Lord Jesus, hear my prayers today and always for those in my life who are in need.   I trust You fully that You will begin their healing.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 27 June 2019

The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.  2 Timothy 4:22 (NIV).

Here we are again, at another ending, at the end of another book.   If you’re a ten-year reader of this blog, thank you!   I hope it’s a blessing to you.   You’ll remember we’ve reached endings together of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Mark, Hebrews, James, 1/2/3 John, 1/2 Thessalonians and now 1/2 Timothy, as well as the topics of the Ten Commandments and Santa Claus.  That’s thirteen books of the Bible and 15 topics overall; well over a million words.   We’ve spent some time together.   God-willing, we’ll keep doing that.

And if He isn’t willing, if this is the last of these posts, then the Lord be with your spirit.   Grace be with you all.   I mean that.   We’ve (hopefully) learned from Paul to end our conversations genuinely, to infuse our parting with the same Spirit and love that we (hopefully, again) brought into our meeting.   As Paul closed out his letters with greetings from and to friends, he also closed them out by praying the Lord over the recipient.

That’s a bold thing to do, you know.   Paul understood these letters would be widely-read.   He probably didn’t envision they’d ever be part of canon Scripture, but he probably did imagine many people hearing them (or hearing about them).  He put down on paper both his personal affections for the reader as well as his prayers for the same.   In a time when that could get you killed, that’s bold.

And you know that time is now.   Praying Jesus Christ in public today can get you arrested or killed in North Korea, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and many nations in Africa.   In the US, it can get you fired.  Putting those prayers on paper can have the same effect because then you involve those recipients.   Yet, if we really believe in Jesus, then we’re compelled to do it.   The heart of the Gospel is agape love:   undeserved gracious love that goes out without any expectation of anything in return.   No matter the consequences.

It’s that love that nailed Jesus to the cross.   It’s that love that kept Him there, that rolled back the Easter stone.   It’s that love that called Paul on a road into Syria.   And it’s that love Paul wanted shared with his friends no matter what it would cost him.   Not long after writing the letter, it cost Paul his life.   Praise to God that He inspired Paul to be willing to do that.

So, at another ending, let us each be inspired to have that same faith and courage.   To wish Christ’s love infuse our souls and bring grace and peace to each other.   Grace and His love to you until the next time.

For further reading:  Galatians 6:18, Colossians 4:18, Titus 1:1

Lord Jesus, thank You for endings and beginnings, for Your grace and love being in both.   Thank You for lettings us have these times together.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 20 July 2015

“‘If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9, verse 23.

But what if what I want to do doesn’t happen?   Before moving on to one of the most profound statements in Scripture, we need to tackle this really tough question.

What if I’m praying earnestly, believing honestly, submitting reverently to Jesus and I still can’t move the mountain?   What if I’ve prayed for healing and healing hasn’t occurred?   What if I’ve tried and failed, repeatedly?   Is it my fault?   Is my faith inadequate?   Has Jesus given up on me?

What easy questions for a Monday…

Before giving an answer, may I refer you back to the verse.   Don’t go down the rabbit hole of doubt without firmly realizing that nothing you do, and nothing you don’t do, could shake Jesus off you.   Everything that we are, everything we think or say or do is under Jesus’ dominion, and nothing in all creation happens without His knowing of it.   When Jesus says everything is possible for one who believes, He means it.   He means it in ALL circumstances, at all times, even when we feel lost.

What if you pray earnestly and the mountain (either physical or rhetorical) doesn’t move?   Is it all about you, my friend?   It’s not about you or me, you know, and just because I may pray for something to happen doesn’t mean that God, who is omniscient and omnipresent, will allow it.   You and I simply have to trust that God has a purpose, that things are arranged as they are for His higher purposes.   So rather than getting wrapped around “why not” (or even “why”), perhaps the better approach is to simply say “thank you, Lord” for whatever is and adjust our prayers accordingly.

What if my prayers aren’t answered and healing doesn’t occur?   I’ve thought a lot about that recently.   Two friends of mine have died in the last year.   My aunt died a few months ago.  My own mom died just last October, and though I prayed earnestly for healing, that physical healing didn’t happen.   Does that mean my prayers weren’t answered?   Not at all.   Indeed, I know in my heart that Tom, Mark, June and Mom are in heaven, with Jesus, living out eternity as a reward for their faith.  Indeed, again, my prayers WERE answered in that I know this simple truth to be simply truth.  What’s more, some of my other friends and family who are dealing with dread conditions are still very much alive and kicking here, teaching lessons with their very presence.   Those are bountifully answered prayers.

Finally, is it my fault, and is my faith inadequate?   And Has Jesus given up on me?   Not in any way, my friend, and you know this in your heart to be true, even when your heart is clouded in our human doubt. Put your hand on your artery and feel your pulse.   Blink your eyes a few times.   Breathe in and breathe out.   The thing you feel is life, and that life is a gift from Jesus Himself.   If you can feel, you’re alive.   That means Jesus hasn’t abandoned you because, as long as you live, He will always be with us.   No amount of faith or fault can shake that:   He promised it when He left, saying He would be with us always.   That includes now, in our doubt, when our faith is shaken, even when we do all we can and what we desire doesn’t come to pass.

Lord, I need to say it again: I believe that, through You, everything is possible.

Read Mark 9, verses 14-29.