Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 20 November 2017

The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.  Hebrews 13, verse 11.

Word came out today that Charles Manson died over the weekend.  Charlie masterminded the 1969 grisly Tate-LaBianca killing spree, convincing his young, drug-addicted followers to savagely murder for him.  Manson had lived a tortured life of abuse and crime, and the late 1960s counter-culture was a petri dish in which he enthusiastically grew the bacillus of true hatred.  Charlie didn’t kill anyone himself:   he directed others to do it for him.  Originally sentenced to death, Manson’s sentence was commuted to life in prison after California changed its death penalty laws.  In the (over) 45 years since, Manson gave no sign that he repented of his heinous crimes, and there’s no reason to believe he did so at his end.   Hell may very well be one soul richer this morning.

Do you think Jesus is grieved at that?   I do.  I’ve talked about how Jesus loved Osama Bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, and the most notorious people in history.  He created each of us as “very good” and loves us unconditionally.  Even mass murderers, criminals, and people who do the worst things we can imagine.   So if Charlie checked into a hellish eternity yesterday, it happened in spite of Jesus love and that must sadden our Savior.   It’s as if His sacrifice was burned up for nothing.

The verses associated with this one talk about sin offerings.   During the time after the Ten Commandments, God revealed to Moses how He wanted His people to recognize their need for atonement.  The Israelites could no more atone for their own sins than we can, so God provided them with a system of animal sacrifices that would remind them of their spiritual dependency on Him.  Once a year, a Levite high priest would slay an animal, sprinkle it’s blood in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle, and ‘make atonement’ for all the peoples’ sins.   Afterwards, what was left of the animal would be taken outside the camp and burned to ashes, then the ashes would be sprinkled in a place that had been made ceremonially ‘clean.’   All this was done to remind Israel that it was sinful and that it should depend completely on God for its salvation as much as it did for it’s three squares, air, shelter, and safety.

You know where this is going:  Jesus was our sin offering.   Jesus was the ultimate offering to God Almighty to atone for our myriad sins and appease His holy, righteous anger.  His blood sprinkles on all of us.   He was executed outside the city, buried outside the city, even rose outside the city.  Jesus Christ did for mankind the most important thing that mankind couldn’t do for itself.

When we turn our backs on this truth, we are keeping Jesus outside our camp.  “I’d never do that.   I’d never act like the Manson Family” you or I would say.  But have we considered how we do it every day?   Every time we embrace even petty evil, we side with what defined Charlie Manson.   I’ve never killed anyone but I’ve harbored deep grudges and hatred.   I’ve followed idols.   I’ve hurt and destroyed things Jesus commanded me not too.   I’ve done evil just as you have, and when I have I have sided with the evil that drove Manson.   What do we make of Charlie?

In-between drugs, sex, violence, and helter skelter, Manson once declared himself to be Jesus.   His followers believed it and did his bidding.  I was only a small child when all this happened, and I grew up learning about the things the “Manson Family” did in its savage killing spree.   It was confusing and hard to understand, how someone could orchestrate such unspeakable evil and convince others to follow.  But now that I’m an adult, I look back and realize it really isn’t very hard to understand.   Evil is as old as Eden and as common as the air we breathe.   Charlie kept Jesus outside the camp of his life for all his life.   He rejected God’s invitation to be at peace, and in doing so he led astray other equally confused people.   In rejecting Jesus, there could be no sin offering for Charlie but himself, and all that’s left now are worthless ashes.  I believe that must grieve Jesus.   I picture Him today, sitting alone and contemplating the loss.   We walk up to Him and say “is everything ok Lord?”  “Yes,” He might reply, “but I’m a little sad right now because one of my dear people has gone.”   He might even have real tears in his eyes for Charles Manson and everybody else who goes astray forever.

Mass killing has become common place in our society; that’s a legacy of the Manson Family.  None of his followers has ever been released from prison (though one is up for parole at this time).   One of his acolytes even tried to a president.  Yet the evil Charles Manson came to represent is his legacy.  Manson was consumed by it.   That evil tries to permeate everything we do, and it works on us daily to separate us from God because evil is lonely and desires bad company.  It rages at all that is good in the world.   Will you let it overtake you?  For those of us left behind, this message is clear.   Don’t be Charlie.

For further reading:  Leviticus 16:15, Exodus 29:14, Leviticus 4:12, Leviticus 4:21.

Lord, bless You for Your deep mercy, for Your sacrifice, for Your unending love.   Help me to turn away evil in my life today by relying fully on You.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 2 February 2016

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over. Mark 14, verses 10-11.

Just after witnessing the woman anoint Jesus, Judas went to the Jewish priests and betrayed Jesus. Maybe he was PO’d that Jesus had encouraged the huge ‘waste of money’ that came with dumping the priceless nard over Jesus’ head.   Maybe he had had enough of all the pussy-footing goody goody do-good nature of Jesus and His “love everybody” message.   Maybe Judas had a bad day.

In reality, he had a really bad day.   One of the other Gospels refers to the betrayal by saying “then Satan entered” Judas.   The day Satan enters you is the worst in your life because only terrible things flow from that.   To be honest, I think Satan entered all of us years ago, as babies.   Ever heard a two-year old say “no?”   Yep:   sin.   They learned it somewhere, and they applied it because Satan had already taken up residence.

A bad day for Judas, indeed, when you betray the Son of Man for a sack of coins.

But do you want to know a secret?   I’ve always felt sorry for Judas; Pontius Pilate, too.   My sorrow for them is (obviously) tempered by my after-the-fact knowledge they didn’t have.   I know Jesus was resurrected.   I know He is the Son of God.   I know the history of the faith and what it means to have His Spirit working in my life.   Judas Iscariot and Pontius Pilate had to experience events in real time.   What we read as history are events through which they lived as they were happening.   They didn’t have Bible concordances and two thousand years of interpretive Christian perspective. We can look down on their terrible choices and we should, yet don’t lose sight of knowing that they made those bad choices without applying any fore-knowledge of just who Christ said He was. They lived through it; we didn’t.

I feel sorry for Judas because he became even more destitute and pathetic than he was before.   I’m betting he was the smartest of the disciples, that he had canny sense and was both analytic and street-wise.   He made a choice to cast his lot (pun intended) with those who sought to kill Jesus.   He knew what the priests had in mind, and he knew that his action was risky.   Perhaps he calculated that he would somehow benefit from this choice, from this betrayal.   Otherwise why do it?   Don’t forget that Satan had entered into Judas, though. With Satan indwelt, all bets would be off.

Yet I feel sorry for Judas because that choice brought him only misery, death and (I assume) damnation. Jesus loved Judas.   Let that sink in.   Jesus Christ loved Judas Iscariot.   Jesus didn’t want Judas to be further deceived by the great deceiver. Jesus wanted Judas to live a life in praise of Him, sharing His Spirit with Judas so Judas could share it with others. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of Judas Iscariot just like He did for yours, mine, and Adolf Hitler’s. And Judas betrayed Him anyway. By Good Friday afternoon, when Jesus died, Judas had already hanged himself.   I feel sorry for him, that the consequences of his choices were so dire and awful.

Lord, forgive all who sin, who betray You with our sins, who let You down.   Forgive and rebuild us, Savior Jesus.

Read Mark 14, verses 12-26.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 3 February 2015

The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. But they have no root; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. – Mark 4, verses 14-19.

Thanks for your patience in walking through this parable; I hope I’m not exasperating you.   It’s just that there are some themes in here worth sharing and now’s a good time to do that.

And I appreciate you patiently reading.   After all, this past Sunday was the Super Bowl.   Even if your team didn’t win, it’s an occasion when nearly a billion people on the planet are all focused on doing the same thing. Imagine what we, as a people, as humanity – the people of God – could do if we were all focused on doing the things God wants for us. Instead, we get wrapped all around lesser things like wealth, power, war, envy, and politics (but I repeat myself).

Because of that, the word is out there, available to all, and heard by all.   Not long ago I had a discussion with my pastor in which he said he thought that the Gospel had already been preached to the entire world.   I brought up the platitude about pygmies in the Amazon, and folks in the slavery of Iran and other places where radical Islamism doesn’t allow other information to be shared.   Yet his point stuck with me:   the Gospel has already been shared in every language on Earth.

Therefore Satan is still very much at work.   I like how Jesus treats Satan as a fact.   Satan is a real being; there really is a devil. Jesus treats him as a real being and as a real force in the world. Do we? Or do we treat Satan like a mental illness, like just another condition we can cure with pills?   That isn’t how Satan views us.   He thinks of us as tools, as things to use in his quest for power, war and dominion.   How ironic is it that he’s already defeated.

Tell that to the millions, though, who don’t realize that falling away is a choice.   We don’t have to cleave away from Jesus and His peace.   We choose to. We choose to fall away every time we choose anything that is sketchy or not of God. Surf the porn site and you aren’t choosing God. Let your anger get spun up and you aren’t choosing God.   We don’t need to be Adolf Hitler to not choose God.   We each do it a thousand times each day.

And yet we are here for a better purpose. We are here to bear fruit.   We are here to share Jesus with the world, using the talents He gives us, being ourselves.   We aren’t here to pay attention to Satan, or to fall away, or even to watch the Super Bowl.   We’re here to live Jesus for those who don’t know Him.   Nothing else matters.

Lord, govern my life and let Your purpose be my only purpose.

Read Mark 4, verse 20.