Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 12 October 2017

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.  Hebrews 12, verses 22-24.

One of my favorite Christian songs is “Days of Elijah.”   There’s a particularly good version of it by Twila Paris that’s not saccharin, not too rock & roll, not too corny.   It’s just uplifting, and one of the verses in the song says “out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.”  Look up the geography of Jerusalem and you see that Zion is the hill on which the first and second temple’s were built.   It was literally God’s home address on terra firma.  It’s where the Temple was located, where King David reigned and is buried, where the Last Supper was held, and it’s not far from Calvary.   In contemporary usage, Zion refers to the land of Israel itself, and to the cause of establishing the modern nation of Israel.  Yet in days of old it was where God lived.

That’s a lot to draw from just a few verses.  Then again, Jerusalem has been ground zero for most of human history, and Zion is the spiritual heart of Jerusalem.   There’s a lot to consider with it.

The writer of Hebrews invoked Zion to symbolize heaven made possible by Jesus.   It is the new heaven, the new dwelling place of the living God.   You and I get to go there, to worship in His true temple, to make our home with Him (to tabernacle with Him).   Where Sinai symbolizes our need for Jesus before heaven, Zion symbolizes our heaven with Jesus both here in this world and in the next.  Sinai was a place of power and fear:   Zion is a place where the greatest power in the universe – God’s love – took root and grew.   Sinai was law:  Zion is love.   Sinai was remote:   Zion is connection.

I can hear Twila singing about “righteousness being restored.”

Read, too, about Abel.   The writer recalls Abel, invoking that the sacrifice of Christ means more than the sacrifice of Abel (both the blood of the animal Abel sacrificed as well as his own as the victim of history’s first murder).  Abel gave a representation of divine blood in a sacrifice about his personal faith; Jesus actually gave His own blood as the faith sacrifice for all persons.

Read, too (again) about the firstborn.   Recall the story of Esau and Jacob (or, for that matter, Cain and Abel, or any of the first-born sons of the patriarchs).   Jesus makes us all as if we are first-born.   We ALL get to inherit the best of the family.   We all get to be treated as special because of what Jesus did in dying on that rugged cross.

“These are the days of Elijah declaring the word of the Lord.”   Elijah declared God’s word to an unbelieving world.   You and I get to do the same, thousands of years after Elijah, thousands of years after the Word of the Lord Himself.

Finally, there is the new covenant.   We’ve discussed how a covenant is more than just a contract or an agreement.   It’s a blood oath, a God-affirming vow made in faith and justice.  God had made covenants with humanity all through the age of the patriarchs yet all of them were made to point us to our need for His redemption.   When Jesus came, He delivered that redemption and made it possible for men to speak directly with God.   He restored balance by making the perfect atonement.   He made a path for us to spend both now and eternity in God’s presence.  The Old Testament covenants pointed us to our need for God, yet the covenant made by Jesus points us to God in our lives.  God has always judged all people yet now we get to see His judgment more clearly, more as an act of loving justice instead of punishing vengeance.   We get to see that God’s holy law from Sinai was made perfect by His holy sacrifice from Zion.   That the covenant Jesus made by Zion is one to which we can still be bound today.

Go download Twila’s song.   I guarantee you’ll like it.

For further reading:  Isaiah 24:23, Revelation 14:1, Galatians 4:26, Exodus 4:22, Revelation 20:12, Genesis 18:25, Psalm 94:2, Philippians 3:12,Galatians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:2, Genesis 4:20, Hebrews 11:4.

Lord, thank You for so many messages in so few words.   In these days of Elijah, help me to declare Your Words to those around me.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 9 October 2017

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”  The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”  Hebrews 12, verses 18-21.

Are you seeing as I am that it takes effort and study to understand the Bible?   A few nights ago, a pastor I know said that he thought simply turning to the Bible and picking a random verse for advice was dangerous.   If you randomly pick a verse and expect it to give you life-altering advice, you’re subjecting God to a game of Russian Roulette where you hold the gun against the other guy’s head.  I understand his point, because context matters, background matters.   You may not have a degree in hermaneutics or have a bookshelf full of commentaries, but knowing a little bit about the verses you read might just help you to understand them (and what they’re saying) better.  A good website for this is http://thetorah.com/what-happened-at-mount-sinai/.

The background of these verses is, as you’ve guessed, from the time of the Ten Commandments.  God led the people of Israel to Sinai, His holy place.   There He would minister to them and give them His commandments for how to live in the world.   To protect them, He ordered Moses to set up boundaries so that no one would set foot onto God’s holy mountain in some disrespectful way.  It was for them, not Him.  Why wouldn’t God want His people to flock to Him?   The answer is in the millennial joke:  “it’s you, not me.”   Putting it simply, it was the people’s sins.

God can’t be unholy.   Un-holiness is against His nature.   He can’t tolerate it.  Specifically, it seems like the sin of disrespect would be one He would not tolerate.   For the people to accept His holy law, God wanted to ready them.   So He gave them instructions to follow.   “Stay off the mountain.”  Listen to God and He teaches.  God would speak to them through Moses, and in doing so He would affirm Moses’ leadership over them.   That’s a practical as well as spiritual matter, you know.   2 million souls wandering hungrily in unfamiliar territory needed a leader.  They didn’t need another pharaoh or some strongman:   they needed an authority.   God speaks to them directly from the mountain, but at a distance to gather their attention and to set up some ground rules.  By acting through Moses and by requiring the Israelites to follow directions, God installs Moses as leader and affirms that authority.   What’s more, when God speaks directly from Sinai, He has Moses stand above the people, in-between them and Himself.   He couldn’t have told them any clearer:   “This guy Moses is my spokesman here.   Listen to him.”

Then why would He allow un-holy Moses to stand in His presence?  There wasn’t anything special about Moses regarding his sinful nature.   Moses was a sinner just like the rest of the Israelites.   Perhaps it was that God knew how Israel would rebel in Moses’ absence.   Don’t forget that Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and nights, fasting and being made ready to receive God’s direct commandments.   During that time, Israel defied God and made itself an idol for worship, then they partied like a one-hit wonder on Grammy night.   Moses wasn’t a part of that (reaffirming again his status as above this sin).  Can you imagine the terror of seeing Moses descending from the mountain that first time, carrying two stone tablets, his anger burning stronger with each step down?   Can you imagine the thunder and shaking earth and the fire spewing from the mountain in front of you when God’s wrath was poured out on the rebellious deserters?

It must have been a fearful thing to have been one of the thousands freed from Egypt and then wandering to this strange place in Midian.   It must have been frightening to journey to a mountain where fire, smoke, thunder, and earthquakes were common indicators of the uncommon God occupying it.   It must have been terrifying to see God’s representative coming down to find that you’ve been unfaithful.   And it is always humbling to have to submit to someone’s authority when you know they have every right to rebuke you.

There is a better way.   The better way is to follow as soon as you hear you should.   God never leads people in unjust ways.   His path is always good and for good.   If you want to avoid the stern teaching of a harsh rebuke, or if you fear the fire and brimstone, then live your life in such a way as to make them un-threatening to you.   It really is that simple.  As Billy Currington might have said, thank God for good directions.

For further reading:  Exodus 19:12-22, Deuteronomy 4:11-12, Exodus 20:18, Deuteronomy 5:5 & 25, Deuteronomy 9:19.

Lord, thank You for Your fire, Your high standards, Your good directions, and the hard lessons You taught our ancestors..  

 

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 4 October 2017.

See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.  Hebrews 12, verses 16-17.

Esau.   We’ve talked about Esau before, early on in discussing Chapter 11.   Refreshing your memory, Esau was Jacob’s brother who was rash, impetuous, and emotional.   He and his brother knew their father and grandfather had been promised by God Himself that He would make them into a blessed nation.   It was their family inheritance; it set them apart from everyone else on the planet.   It’s logical to assume Esau grew up hearing these accounts (first-hand even, from both Abraham and Isaac), yet Esau treated God’s promise with casual contempt.  One time, Esau’s emotions got the best of him and it had eternal consequences for mankind.   He traded his birthright – perhaps the most important thing a man of antiquity possessed – for a bowl of stew.   Later, following his brother’s trickery, he was subjected to being a second-place citizen in his own family even though he was first-born.

Admit it:   the reason Esau did this was that he was godless.   Specifically, he craved less God in his life except when it served his own purposes.

Then there’s his brother.  Jacob’s deceit was two-fold.  First was the verbal acquisition of Esau’s birthright by taking advantage of Esau’s own foolishness.  Then came the physical blessing of their father, Isaac, through active deception and playing on Isaac’s own loving words.  No objective analysis of Genesis 25 and 27 can reach any conclusion other than that Jacob was a crafty deceiver, maybe even dishonest.  He must have been a conflicted man, harboring deep, real faith in the living God while still clinging to the worldly ways of taking what you want.  Before the world was made, God had marked Jacob to carry His lineage and fulfill His purposes.   Even without Jacob’s participation, I’m sure God would have found another way to include him.  It’s amazing how God can turn human dysfunction into Divine glory.

Yet none of this excuses Esau.   Esau treated the gift of divine birthright as a cheap thing.  He didn’t regard it as important.   He didn’t consider the implications of rejecting it.   Instead of saying to himself “I’ll get a bite someplace else”, Esau demanded his weaker brother feed him.   Jacob pressed Esau with what must have seemed a silly demand, that Esau forswear his first-born birthright to property, blessing, and special status as God’s chosen vessel of the redemption promise.   Rather than taking this seriously, Esau flippantly signed away his birthright in exchange for a full stomach.   I hope it tasted good; I’m betting Esau didn’t give it a second thought.

And when the time came for their father to die, Isaac wanted to bless his sons respecting that birthright.   Jacob tricked Isaac and got the blessing that had been intended for his older brother.   But Isaac was a man of character, an upright and faithful follower of his Lord.   He couldn’t go back on his word even when his favorite son pressed him for something you and I might consider fair.   The firstborn blessing had been given and Jacob would become heir to all Isaac was and owned.   And it had happened because Esau had shamefully regarded God’s promise.

Moral of the story:  don’t treat God’s gifts cheaply.

I mentioned yesterday that it seemed strange that the writer of Hebrews would talk about the powerful concept of sexual immorality in only a few words before spending the next two verse talking about Esau’s immorality.   Those words were almost an off-hand comment.  Yet perhaps the message of these two subjects actually fits together.   It’s not about the sex; it isn’t about hunting for wild game.   It isn’t about the lust for flesh or the lust for status.   Immorality is immorality no matter what form it takes, and the writer cautions followers of Jesus to be on our guard against it.   If we, like Esau, treat God’s gifts cavalierly, it should be no surprise to us when all we receive in return are cavalier rewards.  If we, like Esau, think God-less thoughts from our hearts, is it any surprise we might find ourselves dis-inherited and at war with the world of our own making?

For further reading:  1 Genesis 25:29-34, Genesis 27:30-40.

My Lord, I pray You had mercy on Esau.   And I pray here for Your guidance that I might not treat Your many gifts flippantly.   Help me to appreciate Your value in all times.  

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 3 October 2017

See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.  Hebrews 12, verses 16-17.

If you were just skimming through the verses today, you might blaze past those first seven words:  “see that no one is sexually immoral.”  They jump out at you, but then most of them talks about Esau, presenting him as another example of immorality.  But did you know that the Bible says in over 25 different verses that we are to not be sexually immoral?   Most of those are in the New Testament, some of them (like Matthew 5:28) spoken directly by Jesus Himself.   Sexual behavior is something God wants us to understand in His way.

Now, I’m not here to preach to you or talk you down for your sexual sins.   You’ve got them; so have I.   For years, I put sex on a pedestal, thinking it was the thing you did if you wanted to show someone you cared for them.  That’s true, but it’s also cheap.   It’s that kind of thinking that gets you quickly in the sack, unless you were teenage me.   For years I had a low opinion of myself, and throughout school I only had one really serious relationship.   The whole “goin out” thing didn’t go for me.   Or at least the local girls didn’t.   By the time I finally did have sex, I didn’t know a thing about it, only that it felt physically great and emotionally torturous at the same time. I struggled with sexual identity, wanting to be attractive to the opposite sex but feeling that (no pun intended) I somehow didn’t measure up, that nobody would want me.  I kept sex up on that pedestal and in actuality valued it as “my right” or just something you do.   No wonder affairs resulted.

Asking for a “do-over” is usually a fool’s game.   We rarely get them in life, and I believe that’s a blessing from God.  He wants us to live in the here and now, relying on Him for our guidance in everything.   Yet if He ever asked me what do-over I’d like, I’d ask Him for a chance to re-do my attitude about sex.   I’d want the attitude the 51 year old Dave has to be the one 16 year old Dave lives by.   It’s not to be prudish:   it’s to seek God’s wisdom.   Middle-aged me looks at sex as a gift instead of just something physical or something to worship.

You know that sex is intended for marriage.   It is indeed intended to be the ultimate expression of caring for someone:   someone you’re committed to before God.   God made us as men and women to complement each other in how we live, including between the sheets.   He intended for physical union to be an expression of our relationship with each other and even with Him.  He intended it for procreation, for pleasure, for intimacy, for physicality, for love.   I know that in my own life I haven’t often asked God what He thought of my sexual life, of what I should think about sex.   If I could ask for that do-over, I’d want more of God’s input, more of His heart in how I give my heart and body to the woman He created just for me.

God wants us to value His gift of sex, to cherish how we take our pleasure from it by cherishing who we have sex with.   There is no “free love” and sex always carries emotional and even spiritual connotations.   God wants us to value those, so He commands us to steer clear from the easy morality that is, in fact, immorality.  That’s why the Bible mentions it so often.  Sex outside of marriage cheapens something that God gave us as an expression of the pleasure it is to be in union with Him.

Where yesterday we were talking about how to not be a bitter root (and thus abandon God’s peace), wouldn’t it be a thing of wonder if we all sought out God’s heart when we look at each other with more than just a passing interest?   My wife is hooked on watching shows about the Duggar and Bates families.   If you don’t know much about them, they’re very faith-based and live their lives by that faith.   One of the things these large families have taught their kids is the lost art of Godly courtship.   Of waiting for marriage to share any kind of physical pleasure, even a first kiss.   In a time and age when new TV shows like “The Deuce” seem to reach for the lowest sexual denominator, I find that refreshing.   These families live their lives in a way I wish I had.   I believe, perhaps, that I still would have chosen the wife I did because I believe she’s the woman God created specifically for me.   Yet perhaps our path to deeper intimacy wouldn’t have been as rocky or as full of heartbreak and hurt.

And on that note, tomorrow let’s talk about Esau.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Hebrews 13:4, Matthew 5:28, Ephesians 5:5, Genesis 25:29-34, Genesis 27:30-40, .

My Lord, thank You for sex.   Thank You for opening my eyes to how You view it.   Help me to cherish this gift and to share it thankfully with my spouse.  

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 2 October 2017

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.  Hebrews 12, verse 15.

A bitter root:   what is that?

The media is a bitter root.   Left wing or right wing:   the purpose of today’s media is to get ratings because getting ratings equals profit.   Yes, this is an opinion, yet what is fact is that the media’s opinions, which is most of what they report now, cause trouble and defile many.   Like it or not, it is true.   Perhaps it has always been true.

Celebrities are a bitter root.  Been paying attention to the NFL controversies these last few weeks?   What about celebrities on the Emmy Awards (or any awards show) expressing their opinions instead of just their thanks?   I have enough trouble living up to God’s standards on my own:   I really don’t need or want celebrities pointing out how superior they are.   They’re bitter.

Angry opponents are a bitter root.   I’ll lump in disagreeable relatives into this category.  The aunt or uncle or grandparent who spouts off their comments causes trouble.   The folks protesting the removal of Confederate monuments – and more than a few of those in favor of keeping them – cause trouble and defile many.   Name whatever ‘hate’ group you want and you’ll find they are a bitter root.  Indeed, perhaps all social media is ripe soil for bitter roots.

But most of all, I’m a bitter root.   You are a bitter root.  I cause trouble with my words, even when I say some of them to heal.   I defile many by being argumentative, contentious, and combative.   I cause trouble and defile many with my pride that I carry to extremes.  You know, too, that when I’m judgmental I’m misusing God’s grace.  Isn’t it true that, when we judge others, gossip, or look down on others, our motives for doing so are almost always based in some kind of selfish thing?    And that it feels bitter?   There is no judgmental coldness of the heart in God’s soul-warming grace.  “Judgy” words and attitudes, anger, selfishness, pride, arrogance, condescension:   they’re all fruit grown from bitter roots.

All this happens because we’re short of the grace of God.   God gives His grace to us no matter what we do, even when we cause trouble and defiling.  But I set myself against His grace when I set myself up above Him.     I have chosen to fall away, to alienate myself from Jesus.   Today’s verse hails from Deuteronomy, translating it into advice that fits into the context of chapter 12.  Moses commanded the Israelites to not let anyone spring up as a root that would grow and produce poison.   If you think about it, whenever we actively move contrary to Jesus, we reject His grace and choose to spout poison.  Sin is poison; it destroys and kills.   It is vile and defiles God’s grace.  Just one verse ago, God was imploring us to be holy and live in peace with others, knowing that apart from Him there is no peace possible.   Have we truly considered that, when we fall away from God’s grace, we are moving ourselves just a little bit further away from that peace and holiness?

But let’s take heart in the words that begin this verse:   “see to it.”   If we choose to embrace sin, we can choose to reject it.  We have each other, fellow believer, to encourage each other, to fellowship, to build each other up.  When you’re feeling weak, I can be there to see to it that you don’t fall.   I’d love your help when the same thing happens to me.  We don’t have to live our lives mired in these sins.   Jesus took them away and we don’t need to keep coming back to them; we don’t need to be fools for the world.  God’s grace is given to us to build us up, to bring us closer to Him.   One way we do that is by ‘seeing to it’ that none of us, by our choices, positions ourselves away from God by planting in the dirt as bitter roots.

For further reading:  Galatians 5:4, Hebrews 3:12, Deuteronomy 29:18, Proverbs 26:11.

My Lord, keep me accountable to you through the fellowship of other believers.   May I reject being a bitter root and become closer to you through the fellowship of other believers.  

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 28 September 2017.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  Hebrews 12, verse 14.

Here’s another tall order:   live in peace and be holy.  How does that fit in with America’s NFL controversy this week?   Or our political discourse in general since the start of this century?   How well are we living in peace with our enemies and even our allies?   Is there peace in Detroit or St. Louis?   Is there peace at your table on Thanksgiving?   And are you and your spouse at peace (if you’re married)?

Let’s get this out there:   peace is NOT the absence of conflict.   Don’t think that just because we don’t have conflict that we’re at peace.   Yes, I mean that.  Sure, not shooting each other in war is indeed “peaceful” yet there’s all too often no real peace in that.   It’s a good thing to not have someone shooting you, attacking you, berating you, and that condition is indeed conducive to overall peace.  But it isn’t real peace.   There isn’t peace along the DMZ on the Korean Peninsula:   there is only a cessation of hostilities that has lasted since 1953.  There isn’t peace in Sudan.   There isn’t peace in Ukraine.   There isn’t peace in Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, or most of America’s inner cities.

You can only have peace if the Holy Spirit is working within you.   The bumper sticker meme “no Jesus no peace.   Know Jesus know peace” is spot on true.   The only real peace you can know in this world is when you open up your heart and let Jesus crowd out all the rest of the noise.  Sure, there are some true believing folks in all the areas listed above (even in North Korea) but without God’s Holy Spirit in control, the peace we will know is uneasy, tenuous.

That isn’t easy to do.   I have a schedule to keep.   There are Facebook posts that require my brilliance.   My wife and kids aren’t doing what I want them to do.  That guy who passed me on the right was a real jerk!  DO I LOOK LIKE I HAVE TIME FOR PEACE?  Actually, Dave, if the truth is told, you don’t have time to NOT have peace.   Without the peace of Jesus, you got nuthin.

You’ve got nothing without Jesus because, without Jesus, the second half of verse 14 is also impossible.   I’m not holy; you aren’t holy.   Neither Franklin Graham nor Pope Francis (nor even Pope Emeritus Benedict) are holy.   We’re all dirty sinners on our own.  Without Jesus, we still own our sins; owning our sins, we are unholy.   Without Jesus we still own the consequences of our sins.  What’s more, without Jesus you won’t see the Lord.   You won’t see heaven.   You won’t be there.

Don’t get mad at me for pointing that out:   it’s what verse 14 says.  Without knowing Jesus we can’t be holy and if we’re unholy we won’t be going to heaven.   The ONLY cure for that is to put your faith in Christ.  And the way to do that is to say “I believe” and then start walking the walk.  Read your Bible.  Pray constantly.   Be with other believers and be built up by your fellowship with Jesus and each other.   Tithe from a giving heart.   And, most of all, practice what you preach by starting to live your life in ways the Lord has told us to.  Once again, that’s a tall order.   It means giving up the porn, holding your tongue, confessing your dark secrets to the unseen God, and changing the way you act with other people.   Pick your pet sin:  you and I GET TO give up these things and follow Jesus closer so that His holiness can be imputed to us and we may stand with Him in paradise.   These are simply the practices of a follower of Jesus.  If my tone seems preachy, I apologize.

I have no illusion that everyone turning to Jesus would immediately solve the world’s problems.  Perhaps we would still have conflicts, arguments, and hurt.   Or, perhaps we wouldn’t.   Si Robertson once said “it ain’t gun control we need.   It’s sin control.”   Right on brother.  If we all embraced Jesus more and did what He asked, perhaps we’d have more control over those temptations that lure us in.   If we all did better and walking the walk and talking the talk, perhaps the world’s problems would indeed be solved.   Sin control looks a lot like Jesus.

For further reading:  Romans 14:19, Romans 6:22, Matthew 5:8.

Lord, thank You for giving us Your righteousness, for making us holy.   Help us to believe in You more, to practice our faith.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 27 September 2017

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.  Hebrews 12, verses 12-13.

These verses strongly echo Isaiah 35, which says “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”   And it carries the echo of Galatians 6 which cautions men to counsel each other wisely and in Godly love, but to be wise ourselves to not be pulled into temptation.

So I’m attending a School of Discipleship and Ministry at the Calvary Chapel where we attend here in Paris.   This week’s lesson was about how to carry out the mission of the church.  In doing that, Jesus followers are encouraged, even expected, to live in ways that edify and glorify God, that are Godly and upright, and can be a good example for others.   That doesn’t mean being goody-goody or snotty:  it means ‘walking the walk and talking the talk.’   It means being honest and moral.  And that’s tough, especially in a poor town full of drug use, poverty, despair, and economic disadvantages.

Every day you live your life like that is like working out hard in the spiritual gym.   It’s like pumping serious iron of the soul.   Every time you say ‘no’ to temptation, you lift the weight, then put it down.  Every time you walk away when you could be confrontational you run the extra spiritual mile.   Every time…you get the picture.

Yet it’s true.  In order to walk a Godly walk we have to choose the best path.   We have to train ourselves up in the ways of the Word.  That requires studying Scriptures.   That requires personal prayer with God.   That requires doing things that Jesus wants us to do:   loving, listening, helping, serving, being selfless.  When all I want to do is buy a six pack and forget my many troubles, God calls me to write these words instead.  To listen to other believers, to share my story and work to serve others.   To walk away, confess my pain, accept His peace.

Man, that’s a tall order.   You better believe, then, our Savior is a tall, tall man.

During this School of Discipleship and Ministry, the pastor is talking about core beliefs of the church, about church history, about mission and vision, about leadership in the Lord.   The center of all he’s taught is Christ and only Christ.   I find that refreshing, and even though change is coming in my life I intend to keep returning to finish out the course.  I find it refreshing because so much else of the world in which I walk is focused elsewhere.   You know yours is as well.   NFL debates, same sex marriage, public corruption, celebrity wreckage, divorce, unemployment, kids having kids and kids aborting kids:   pick your poison.   In 2017 America there’s plenty to go around.   So I find my respite these weeks in going back to God, in focusing on first principles.   First of those is Jesus Christ is God who lived, died, and lives again to redeem sinners like me and you.   He did everything necessary to make that happen, and now He asks us to follow Him.   To follow requires a spiritual workout where you’ll flex muscles of the soul, sinew of the conscience, blood pumping and heart racing to new beats.

Yep:   that’s a tall order indeed.  Are you willing to stand up for the mission?   “I don’t think I can” you might be saying.   It might seem too embarrassing, too inconvenient, perhaps even too risky given the social world we live in.  But let me propose that, if you’re even thinking about it, God’s Spirit is already working within you, calling you to a new purpose, a new mission.   He’s giving you a mission He’s prepared just for you, and He’s going to ready you for it.   Put on your gym shoes, my friend.   We’re in training.

For further reading:  Isaiah 35:3-4, Proverbs 4:26, Galatians 6:1.

Lord, help me to train up more to serve You.