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, 23 February 2016

The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. Mark 14, verses 46-52.

Bible scholars think the young naked man was John Mark: the same Mark whose book we’ve been examining.   If it isn’t him, then why include this strange and, frankly, inappropriate passage in the narrative?   No matter, I think John Mark’s reaction would be the same one that each of us would have had if we had been present when Jesus was arrested?

“You think I’d go running naked into the night after the church security tried to arrest me?” Yep. I’m saying exactly that.   Don’t worry or feign modesty because I’m right there beside you, streaking towards Jerusalem.

Think about it.   We’ve been following Jesus for awhile.   We aren’t part of His close inner circle, but we’ve been following Him long enough to put our faith in Him, to know that He’s got big things planned.   Just what those ‘big things’ are we can’t really say, but we want to be around when they happen.   You see, He’s been preaching truth and love and endurance and facing up to your problems.   Nobody we know of has ever spoken like this, and based on what we know from what we’ve seen and heard, we agree that He is the Christ:   the Holy One of God promised since the time of our ancient forefathers.   He has finally come, at long last, to restore our nation in more ways than one. We adore Him and believe He knows us fully.

Just five days ago, we walked in the glorious procession behind Him as He entered Jerusalem like an arriving King.   Yet He didn’t lead military columns or come in to vanquish the local government.   Instead, He went to the Temple and did what we’ve wanted to do for a long time:   clean it out; it’s sort of like what we wish He would do to Congress.   Anyway, ever since then, He has been teaching, and dining with close friends, and He’s been different; passionate, insightful, wise and kind, but different.   If Jesus is the Christ we’ve been waiting for, then things aren’t going down the way we always thought they would.

Now come these armed guards, sent by the temple priests, and they’ve arrested Jesus.   They’ve tied Him up and are frog-walking Him away.   They’ve beaten some of His Disciples, and a swordfight broke out.   When the guards came for you and me, we didn’t put up much of a fight because we were confused, addled, scared.   Instead, we struggled to break free and then get away but lost our clothes.   Where they’ve taken Jesus, we don’t know.   All we know is that something bad is going down and it’s going down quick.

So on that chilly Judean Good Friday morning, if I were in Gethsemene at all, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if I was running away with John Mark.   Naked, exposed and very afraid.

Lord, forgive my naked fear. Forgive me for not standing by You, for running away when You needed me most.

Read Mark 14, verses 53-65.