Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 25 October 2018

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.  A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.  1 Timothy 2:11-15 (NIV).

These verses are hard to understand, hard to accept, in the PC world we inhabit today.  Yesterday I mentioned that my mom, a modern woman before most other women were modern, always bristled at Paul’s exhortations on the roles of men and women in worship.  Nobody except Jesus, not even Jesus’ Apostle Paul, would tell her to be quiet or submissive.  Yet here’s a point she missed:   in worship.  Paul was talking about worship, about worshipping God in all ways.

It’s undeniable that Eve gave Adam the fruit of sin after she had first eaten it.   And it’s undeniable that God held Adam (and all men after him) spiritually accountable for the things that happened in their families.   This is still the case today.   Whether we like it or not, men and women do have distinct roles in God’s eyes.   Where Paul talks about “saved through childbearing,” he’s indirectly pointing to the Gospel because God’s response to the excruciating pain of childbirth was to remind women that he would redeem that inner pain through the Savior.   And He did.   This site, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-are-women-saved-through-childbearing, does a great job of explaining this nuance.

We are to honor God in all we do.  Paul believed everything we do should be an act of worship.   Modesty, humility, propriety, decency:   these are words of good advice for all situations, not just in the formal church and not just for women.  God will hold men responsible for the spiritual acts of the people in their families, yet God redeemed them through Jesus.   God holds women responsible through spiritual acts of the people they bear through childbirth and the pains associated with it, yet God redeemed them through Jesus.  The common theme is “redeemed through Jesus.”   It’s not about sexes.

Don’t get too wrapped around the gender roles without considering the larger context in which those Biblical roles should still apply in our ‘modern’ world.   They do apply, and in many ways.  Paul wrote what God put on his heart to teach us how we should worship God in the bigger picture, including our roles as men and women.   We shouldn’t be quick to dismiss them.

For further reading: 1 Peter 3:3, Ephesians 5:22, Genesis 2:7, 1 Corinthians 11:8, 1 Timothy 2:11

Lord, help me to better understand these hard to understand roles you established for the sexes.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 11 October 2018

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. 1 Timothy 1:18-20 (NIV).

How do we fight a spiritual war, and what happens when we give up?

An acquaintance of mine is suffering from Satan.   He and his brother are mired in the consequences of dabbling in Satan’s arts and humanism in general.  I’ve written about them before, but it’s still happening.   Just a few days ago, he sent a social media message asking ‘how to hold back the darkness.’   We don’t talk much, and that makes me sad.   But my wife and I pray for him daily, and we reach out as best we can, and we offer up that there are indeed ways to beat back the darkness.   They all start with going to God…and that’s precisely what these young men refuse to do.   Thus, the spiritual darkness is still happening all around them because they aren’t fighting the right way.   They’re shipwrecked.

It’s still happening because the spiritual war is ongoing.   It has been going on since Adam and Eve.  It has caused every war in human history, and it’s dividing America even today.  Got skin, got sin.   Our problem is a sin problem (Si Robertson said that), not a Democrat vs Republican problem.  Sin is why Jesus came, and died, and rose, and saved mankind.   If only my friends would embrace that simple, liberating truth.

But that’s tough to do.   It requires putting our trust in Jesus.   It requires letting down our guard..   More than that, it requires saying “you know better, Lord”, then letting Him take control of our lives.   We don’t “do” anything to cause, earn, or deserve our salvation; even Paul reminds us that salvation is a gift of love through God’s grace.   The only things we bring into the ‘salvation equation’ are our sins, the ways we’ve realized we need Jesus.  If you don’t sin, you don’t need Jesus.  But, as said earlier, got skin, got sin.   You may not like it, but you’re a sinner.   You aren’t making it out of here alive because death is the penalty for sin, and you will die.  The way to set things right is through Jesus.

I wish my friends could see that.  Instead, they’ve shipwrecked their hearts on the foolishness of insisting they know better.   That simple assertion has caused more pain than anything else in history.  It gives Satan a toe-hold in our lives.   It’s time to end the shipwreck disaster.   It’s time to fight the war.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 2:1

Lord, suit me up then fight for me in this war against the evil one.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 21 November 2017

And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.  Hebrews 13, verse 12.

Yesterday I mentioned that Jesus was killed, buried, and rose outside the city walls of Jerusalem.  That happened to fulfill Scriptural prophecy.   Being criminally punished outside the city was a common practice in ancient days for a number of reasons.   It dishonored the accused and it accorded them unique, public status to be despised.  It sent a message to the public:   don’t mess with the authorities.   Burying bodies outside the city limits also was a health issue; it still is.   Indeed, removing decomposing corpses from the places where we live is still our practice today; it’s why cemeteries are usually found at or outside the original boundaries of most towns.   But most of all, it happened because God used the lowest among us to perform the highest function.

It gave God “street cred.”  We give great honor, glory, and social status to the pretty things.   That’s the foundation of street credibility.  It’s all about being perceived as “legit,” about being respected, about being able to walk the walk and talk the talk.  On the streets, honor and status are (supposedly) earned, and glory is taken.   In the way Jesus died, He earned real street cred.

So did His house.  The Jewish Temple was one of the great marvels of antiquity.   The Second Temple, renovated by Herod, rivaled any building in Rome, Thebes, Athens, or Babylon for its beauty, architectural wonder, and impact.  The original Temple of Solomon had been the actual “house of God:”   the place where His presence physically resided.   Its location was on the very spot where Abraham had bound Isaac, where Jacob had his famous dream, and where David purchased the threshing floor.  Tradition held that it was even the spot where God first touched earth after creation.   Solomon’s First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians but was rebuilt as the Second Temple by Zerubabbel.   This Second Temple, however, lacked God’s presence as well as many of the original artifacts (like the Ark of the Covenant) that traced their origin back to Moses.  Those have been lost to the ages.  Still, the Second Temple stood for nearly 600 years, and had been greatly renovated and expanded by Herod the Great just before the time of Jesus.  You would have been able to see it for miles around as it was the tallest building in the city and stood at the top of Mount Moriah (later called Mount Zion).  It’s massive size, glistening gold, and snow white stone would have made it shine brilliantly in both sun and night.

By the time Jesus arrived, the Temple had become the focal point of the Middle East.  It was the focus of Jewish life, the singular place to which Jews made annual pilgrimage.  Jesus Himself would spend much time in the Temple as the building represented God’s promise to His people and His continuing magnificence.    As mentioned, it was the most prominent building in the city, more visible and ostentatious than any of the city’s palaces or government buildings.  Great glory and honor was accorded to being in the Temple and especially to those who worked there and maintained the religion there.

For Jesus to have worshipped and taught in the Temple gave credence to His status as Messiah.   In our time, it would have meant He earned that ‘street cred.’  All through His life, Christ honored the practices and traditions of God’s people, including honoring the Temple.  Repeatedly during His ministry Christ taught at the Temple and challenged the political and ecclesiastical authority of the men who ran it.  Immediately after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus went to the Temple and cleared out the merchants who had set up shop.  He did this to cleanse out God’s home.

And when the conspirators of the Jewish Sanhedrin determined to murder Him, they wanted to do so in a way that would both reinforce their status and power AND consign him to the lowest place in society.   That meant Jesus would die outside the city.   He would be tried inside Jerusalem, but when it came to His actually killing, that was to take place away from the honored Temple Mount.  Christ was crucified on Golgotha, which ancient tradition (even then) held was the burial spot of Adam, the original man; how ironic is that?  How ironic it was, too, that, at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil on the Holy of Holies was miraculously torn asunder.

What’s the point in all this history?   It’s a sign for us.  It’s interesting that God used human history to give His story honor and credibility but getting wrapped around the archaeology of it misses the central point.   It’s not where God performed His salvation of us but WHAT He did that matters.  The focal point of all human history is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.   It’s the real street cred.  That happened in the places we’ve discussed and was made credible to humanity by the fact that it happened where it did.  Yet it is the resurrection itself – God’s saving atonement of our sins – that matters and not the place where God did it. We study the history of the location to help us better understand the context of the time and place for the life of Jesus.   Yet it is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that is the ultimate street cred on which we all can and should depend.

For further reading:  John 19:17, Ephesians 5:26, Romans 3:25.

Lord, thank You for using these places and events in history to point to Your Son.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 26 July 2017

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  Hebrews 11, verses 5-6.

Do you know the story of Enoch?   Outside of the Bible, to our society today, he’s pretty irrelevant.  From Genesis 5:  “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah.  After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”   So let’s recap.   Compared to the others in the line from Adam to Noah, Enoch didn’t live very long (only365 years) and he had kids when he was a “young” man of 65.   Enoch was the father of Methuselah (who is recorded as having lived 969 years:  longer than any other human in history).   He had other unnamed children.   And Enoch “walked with God.”

In the rest of the narrative, that phrase matters.   None of the other men or women in the narrative (from Adam to Noah) are said to have “walked with God.”  My Concordia Bible reminds that “walking with God” is different from merely living.   Seth, the child of promise after Cain murdered Abel, isn’t said to have walked with God.   Not long-lived Methuselah, and not his son, Lamech, who became the father of Noah.  Only Noah is said to have also ‘walked with God’ and that was long after Enoch.

It wasn’t for not knowing God.   Genesis 4 says that, around the time of Seth, men began to call on the name of the Lord.  This means that men and women knew God and knew they depended on God.   Adam and Eve had known God perfectly and had rejected Him.   Their son, Abel, had known and understood God, but had been killed by his envious brother.   Cain knew God face to face and flaunted Him.   Cain’s brother, Seth, and then Seth’s children and children’s children all knew God and started to call on Him for things He would do and provide.  Yet they didn’t walk with God.   Only Enoch did that.

We can’t know for certain how many people were on the Earth in those days.   A website, https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-qa/qa-archives/question/how-was-the-world-populated/, mathematically postulates that the pre-flood world population could have been massive by the time of the flood; at least as much as the 6 billion people alive now.  That makes for a great many people who knew God, or at least knew of Him, yet the Bible says only Enoch walked with God.   Enoch believed in God, put his faith in God, trusted God all through his 365 years. Enoch lived to seek God, to know God more.  Not until King David many centuries later is there a person mentioned in the Bible who sought God’s heart this way.  At the end of His life, Enoch didn’t die.   Like Elijah the prophet, God simply took Enoch.   One second he was here and the next second he wasn’t.  That’s a rare gift from a graceful God since the Bible records it happened to only one other person.

Knowing God isn’t enough.   Instead of simply knowing of Him, which even un-believers do, we need to believe in Him, to put our faith and trust in Him.  We NEED to do as Enoch did.  Instead of simply saying “I believe in God” because “In God We Trust” is on our money, we need to believe in God in such a way that we let Him become a truly intimate partner in our lives.   We involve ourselves with Him.  We talk with Him.   We plan with Him.   We cry, obsess, think, scream, laugh, and do everything with Him.   Like Enoch, we learn to walk with God.   We our faith in God and this pleases Him because we do so from the heart.

Maybe it was easier for Enoch.   Maybe God walked and talked with Enoch the way He had with his ancestors Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel.   Or maybe not; Scripture doesn’t say and, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter.  What matters to us is walking with God.

For further reading:  Genesis 5:21-24, Hebrews 7:19.

Lord, I pray, let me walk with You today.   Walk with me today that I might know You more and model my day in Your way.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 25 July 2017

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.  Hebrews 11, verses 4.

Yesterday we explored how faith is truth.   Today let’s talk about the first person in the Word who is remembered for believing that.

Read the story of Abel in Genesis 4.   We don’t know much about Abel beyond his birth, his vocation, and his death.   He was the second-born child to Adam and Eve.  Abel was a shepherd, and he loved the Lord.   He proved His love for the Lord by offering the best of his possessions as a sacrifice.

Stop and consider that.   In a time when humanity was only beginning, before communities, before commerce, before money, before crime, and even before most families, Abel saw fit to offer worship to God by sacrificing the best of his flock of sheep (“the fat portions” from “the firstborn”).   He recognized that the only thing he could offer in worship to his creator was all he had.   He gave the best and he gave it from his heart.

Then he gave his life for that.   His brother, Cain, murdered him for it.  In truth, Cain murdered Abel because of Cain’s own sin. Idolatry, greed, rage, and envy took hold in the older brother so much that they consumed him and planted the idea of murder in Cain’s heart.   Whatever his motivation, Cain killed his brother because his brother had done what he, Cain, had not.

Thousands of years later, when we talk about this story, we don’t just talk about Cain:   we talk about “Cain and Abel.”   We use their account as the ultimate story of how sin can divide loved ones.    Cain lived a long life after he murdered his brother.  God put a mark on Cain so that everyone would know who he was and would shy away from him.  We know he became the father of a tribe, the builder of cities, and a ‘great’ man known for his actions.   We don’t know how he died; he may have died as an old man, or even when the flood drowned everything other than the beings on the ark.

Yet it was Abel who we remember.  The writer of Hebrews commends Abel – not Adam, Eve, Cain, or Seth the younger brother Abel never met – as being righteous.   He does so because Abel demonstrated faith in God that God would accept the blood of his sacrifice as fitting.   Indeed, God, who still walked the earth with people even then, regarded Abel’s gift as good while rejecting Cain’s as not.   You and I can identify with Cain, who may have thought he was giving God his best when all he was doing was giving God what he wanted.   Cain gave God leftovers:  Abel gave God his best and his all.

Many billions of people later, do we do any different than Cain?   Do you or I give our very best to God every day?  Most obviously, do we do so in our tithes and offerings?   More to the point, do we give God our best in our work, in how we live with our families, in how we relate to other people?   Do we put God first in our thoughts and ask Him to be involved in everything we think, say, or do?   Abel did and it cost him his life.

Are you prepared to go that far?   Abel was.

For further reading:  Genesis 4:4, 1 John 3:12, Hebrews 12:24.

My Lord, thank You for the story of Abel.   May I be as willing as he was to give my all to you, to dedicate the best in my life only to you.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 21 March 2017

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.  Hebrews 9, verse 15.

Part of having your conscience cleaned up is remembering that the things you once did held you hostage until you were set free.  You and I don’t need to be held as slaves by the memories of those things, but it’s fitting and proper that we remember how we were kept as slaves to sin.   As people who were held hostage by terrorists.   As bystanders who are victimized by criminals.

Think about it.   That little white lie, that exaggeration, that deliberate falsehood, that cover-up:   all of those things come from that little white lie.   It’s just as serious as the cover-up that destroys everyone around it.   That little white lie holds power over you…if you let it.   That tiny indiscretion holds you in its grip, until you see there’s a better way.   Without a way out, you can’t escape.   That tiny act of rebellion holds a gun to your head and threatens you with death.

The tempter knew this.   He reveled in it, looking for victims to use in his struggle against God.   He found them in Adam and Eve.   He found them in you and I.  Those tiny moments of pitting ourselves against God are moments when we align ourselves with Satan and deny God’s better plans for us.  “I know better” becomes the deceptive cry of alleged independence.   In reality, those words are just a vow of slavery.   C.S. Lewis said “the gates of hell are locked from the inside.”   Bravo, Jack:   when we embrace our sins, we volunteer to walk into hell and lock the door behind us.   The tempter knows this, knowing the laws of God, the covenants of the Old Testament and how they convict us over and over again. Twisting those words is one of his favorite ways of continuously working to keep us focused on our sins.

Step back and take a breath now.   This is said NOT to brutalize you, to hurt you or guilt you.   There is hope, but you can’t do it on your own.  Good doesn’t result from some holier-than-thou Jesus-follower talking down to sinners like himself.  All alone you and I know what feels bad, and how things that feel good at first very often go sour afterwards.  We don’t need people hammering us over and over all the time.  All alone you and I can’t turn from our sins.  Brow-beating us with them doesn’t help, doesn’t make the situation better, doesn’t prove Jesus’ love.

Jesus proves Jesus’ love.   The way to turn from sins and for good to result from bad situations is by constantly reminding people that Jesus died for them.   That Jesus fully and completely forgives ALL our sins.   That Jesus fully and completely restored our relationship with the Holy God Almighty.   That Jesus took on all of our guilt and punished Himself with it so that holy justice wouldn’t have to punish us.   The Gospel was Jesus’ aim in living, dying, and living again.   THAT is what we need to remind ourselves with when the sins of yesterday bubble back up and threaten “I’m still here.”   No, they aren’t.   They’re gone and powerless forever.   Those memories can only hurt if we empower them.   Jesus gives us what we need to make that not happen.

When you realize that Jesus’ Gospel frees you from your sins, your conscience can become clean.   He cleans it up for you.   The guilt and tempting and re-tempting and hurt that you carried around don’t hold you hostage anymore.   Jesus holds your hand and you walk up to that locked door in hell, and He unlocks it for you, then leads you out.  He tells you that you’re forgiven.   He tells you that you are fully restored with God.   He tells you that He will be with you in all ways always, even up to the last second of your life.   He tells you that He has plans for you, that He wants to work new things in you and through you.   He tells you that, with Him, you have everything you need to stand and resist the tempting and persevere.  Those things you thought, said and did in the past may have held you hostage in the past.   But they don’t anymore.

For further reading:  Galatians 3:20, Luke 22:20, Romans 8:28, Hebrews 6:15, Acts 20:32.

Lord, thank You for setting me free, for making me clean, for forgiving me.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 15 March 2017

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.  Hebrews 9, verse 12.

Blood again.   This verse continues the ones from earlier in chapter 9, the ones that talk about how blood is needed for the sacrifice.  How do I put this?   I don’t understand why all this happened.   Logically speaking, I don’t understand the connection between Jesus’ blood and eternal salvation.  I really don’t.  He who could not die died.   He who could not sin took on all sin.   He who could do no wrong became wrong incarnate, through and through.   He who was completely innocent became completely guilty.  Why was blood required to make all that happened?   Yes, I know the history of it, the ties to animal sacrifices, the ancient Hebrew rituals commanded by God.   I understand the symbolism, and the physiological connection of blood and life.  I get all that.   I simply don’t understand WHY.  It’s lost on me.

That’s ok.   Love is illogical.  Love defies reason, logic, and process.   It’s simply the divine gift and there may be no fully explaining it in ways we’d understand this side of eternity.  The way out of this self-manufactured conundrum is to understand that I don’t need to understand it completely.   You don’t need to understand it completely.   It’s just fine that the finer points of ecclesiastical doctrine and Divine intention remain unknown when you get down to brass tacks.

Hint:   they were unknown to the high priest.   He could tell you, second by second, how to do everything he was doing and the history of it going all the way back to the first priest to enter the Most Holy Place.   I assume that would be Aaron, somewhere in the desert of Sinai, walking gingerly into God’s dwelling among men.  But the why?   Why did God require blood?   Why blood alone would make atonement?   I’m betting it was lost on him too.   I imagine that, if you had a long discussion with Aaron, his bottom line response would end up being “because God said so.”

That’s the ticket!   That’s the reason.   It’s reason enough.

It’s reason enough to know that God commanded it.  If you truly submit to God, you don’t need reason beyond that.  What’s more, it’s enough to know that God made it so for Jesus’ blood to be the only true sacrifice that would ever be needed to gain eternal salvation of mankind.   He who didn’t need to shed His own blood gave all of it up willingly, from the heart, from His soul.   He who was without sin and didn’t deserve to die, who hadn’t earned the death penalty for sin, willingly died for people who wouldn’t be willing to die for Him.   Why?   Because God said so.

Because God said so and predicted the need for it going all the way back to the fall of man.  Before He even spoke to Eve or Adam about their sin, He cursed Satan the tempter and laid out the penalty that Satan would pay.   “Cursed are you…He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”   Sin would be separate from God, intolerable and cursed.  There would be blood – and there weren’t even animal sacrifices yet; there wouldn’t be for hundreds of years – and it would forever vanquish sin.  It would then forever re-establish communion between men and their creator.  But it would require blood, first to represent and teach, then to actually do all that was necessary.

Why?   Because even way back in Eden, just before God expelled men from that paradise, God said so.   And then, because God shed His own blood to restore that communion between His favored beings and Himself, He, Jesus His Son, was fully able to re-enter heaven and present full atonement for all of mankind’s sin.   From Eve and Adam all the way down to Dave Terry, you, and everyone else here on Earth, Jesus entered the Most Holy Place of the presence of God and presented Himself in our place.   Nothing more is required; nothing more is necessary.   Indeed, nothing more could ever make it better or more complete.   Indeed, pursuing more would itself be an act of vain sin.   Best to turn away from that.

We don’t need to understand God’s motivation beyond knowing that He did it and that He loves us.   When all reason and logic fail, these will endure.  When you consider God’s ‘why’ in that light, ‘because He said so’ isn’t some response to a petulant child.  In that light, it’s the greatest gift He could ever give.

For further reading:  Leviticus 16:6, Hebrews 10:4, Hebrews 10:24-28, Genesis 3:14-15.

Lord, thank You for Your sacrifice of Your blood, for how You love us that much.