Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 20 April 2020

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.  1 Peter 1:10-11 (NIV).

Nobody in the ancient world knew precisely when the Messiah would appear.   Scriptures recorded hundreds of prophecies, and each one contained a small piece of the overall prediction.   Yet none of those gave the exact date and time and precise location.   It was known He would be born in Bethlehem, and that he would be born of a virgin, and there were dozens of details about His life that were disclosed ahead of time.   But nobody could put them all together to tell exactly when and where and even how all this would happen.

Until it did.  Until then, it didn’t really matter.

Two thousand years later, most of the world still doesn’t believe this.  Of those who do believe, many search intently with the greatest care to know the hour and minute that the Messiah will return in the manner He said He would.   There are many reasons for this; some of them are even valid.   Boil away those reasons, however, and we’re left with the best advice of all:   be ready now.

Until it happens, it won’t matter.   When it happens, it will have mattered most of all.   Be ready.   Receive Him and believe now.   Do it today.   You’ll find that everything you needed to do was already done by Him.

We can and should embrace salvation here and now because Jesus Christ gave us His Spirit to bring us salvation.   He sent His Spirit at Pentecost and it has been at work worldwide ever since.   We don’t need to know the date and time of Christ’s return to know that the salvation He gave can be ours right now.   Predicting when Christ’s return happens is a fun exercise but it doesn’t matter much other than landing on “be ready.”   What matters so much more is sharing Jesus in any number of ways with our fellow women and men who don’t believe in Him.   Jesus died for them, too, and wants them to have His life everlasting the same as you or me.   He gave us to them to share His invitation.

So do it now.   Don’t waste another day.  As Peter said, “the glories that would follow” are both the peace of God here and now and life through Him forever.   Share His word in how you talk and act.   Live out the Galatians 5 fruits of the Spirit in what you do.  Share it in some way today.  The Messiah has come, and gone, and will return.  Until that happens, be ready now.

For further reading: Matthew 26:24, Acts 16:7, Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 1:21, 1 Peter 1:12

Lord Jesus, come quickly.   I’m ready now.

Practical Proverbial, about Santa Claus, 14 December 2017

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  The song is sung to a poem by Longfellow, and the fourth verse of it sings, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor doth he sleep, The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”   That song was written in the late 1800s, but it has a message for us today.   God is not dead nor does he sleep.   He is active in our lives today, right now.  God coming to earth to do just that IS Christmas.   It is the story of Jesus in Bethlehem.

Flash forward from the 1800s until now.   Our Christmas today includes the character of Santa Claus.  A fictional creation amalgamated from our past, Santa is the Christmas that people who don’t believe in Jesus celebrate.   He’s about giving, being jolly, loving children.  According to a story in the New York Times just yesterday (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/13/us/christmas-less-religious.html) only 55% of Americans who celebrate Christmas do so as a religious holiday.   Noodle that for a second.   According to that survey, 45% – nearly half – of the people in the United States celebrate Christmas without considering it is a holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Yet peace is still at the center of the holiday.   The Christmas song above is but one mention of it.   Christmas cards mention “peace on earth”.   You see it on road signs, yard signs, billboards, and internet postings everywhere.   Even unbelievers embrace the idea of peace between men.   The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth good will to men.   A mythical fat man in a red suit shows up every Christmas Eve to give children, good and bad, Jesus-followers or not, a gift of good will:  all so they might find a little enjoyment, a little love and peace.  How much more, then, does the idea of a gift from Santa mean when we consider that “peace on earth, good will to men” is a quote from Luke 2:14.   They were the words spoken by angels to the shepherds who followed and went to find the newborn Christ child.

You can’t believe in Santa Claus and not embrace the idea from Luke.   Giving is love and giving is Christ-like.   Santa’s behavior is modeled on that, is a reflection of that.   The gifts Santa gives are to commemorate the birth of Jesus, foretold by prophets, announced by angels, and witnessed by common men.  The amazing life that started that night fleshed out the Savior who would one day teach that God doesn’t give the way men give.  God gives real peace, real love.   He frees us from the burden of sin, from the worries of punishment, from the guilt of dreading justice.   Jesus loves us enough to let us live our lives as we please while living them within us, beside us.   He sees when we screw up and always beckons us to a better way, to His way.   His way is that peace, which is more than just contentment.  All that started that first Christmas Day in Judea.

On his best day, which is Christmas, whoever is Santa in your life just gives you new toys.   That’s a good thing, but there’s so much more to it.  I’m not here to wage some “Jesus versus Santa” throw-down.   I’m here to simply tell the way it is.  And still, in our time, when the bells of Christmas ring, they echo peace on earth good will to men.  No matter what you believe, that’s a good thing.   The greater thing, then, is how that peace always comes back to Jesus.

For further reading:  Romans 8:32.

Lord, thank You for Your peace.

Practical Proverbial, Santa Claus the Cheerful Giver, 11 December 2017

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 Corinthians 9:7.

Let’s take a few days away from breaking down the Bible verse by verse.   Since it’s Christmastime, let’s talk about Santa.   You see, I believe in Santa Claus.

It’s a running joke in our family that my wife is an elf.   Or at least part elf.   Her Godly love language is acts of service and it is innate to her very being that she loves to serve others, mainly by giving.   It’s not the gift that matters but making someone else’s life a little better that matters most to her.   If she has pointy ears and hails from the North Pole then I haven’t seen it.   But if Hollywood is ever looking for someone who I think could have worked for Santa, look no further than my home.   If you ask Hunnie, she’ll eagerly respond that she, too, believes in Santa.

Now, if you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re probably familiar with the annual “Jesus versus Santa” debate.   You’ve seen the signs saying “Jesus is the reason for the season.”   For a long time I was one of the people exercised about the idea of of Santa Claus crowding out the reality of Jesus.   Santa seemed so secular, an Easter Bunny in a fluffy red hat.  The magic of a fat Norseman slinking down a chimney to give away gifts seemed like a sweetly ominous distraction from the godhead becoming one with His creation to give us the gift of eternal love.   I get it; I accept it, too.  For years it created conflict in me, wanting to be a true believer in Jesus but not wanting to completely reject the mostly harmless concept of Santa.  I mean, in our society, what kind of monster could reject Saint Nick, the venerated gift-giver to good little girls and boys?

Not this one.   Yes, I’m a dirty sinner (like you, even like the real Saint Nicholas of Myra), but I came to the point of thinking there is no conflict, there is no harm, there’s no sin in believing in Santa.   I won’t even offer the cautionary aside of reminding you of the differences between Jesus and Santa; I believe you get those on your own.    Instead, if it is wrong to believe in Santa, explain to me how 2 Corinthians 9:7 lines up with the idea of Santa.  The story of Santa Claus is inseparable from the idea of cheerful giving.   And the notion of being a cheerful giver is inseparable from 2 Corinthians 9:7.   God is all about giving us gifts because He does it every day.   He gives us the ultimate gift of free life symbolized by His incarnation in Bethlehem.  He gives us the gift through the idea of sharing that loving life through the concept of a jolly old man wanting to simply love on perfect strangers.

Sure, Santa wasn’t a real person whereas Jesus Christ is.   We’ll discuss the aforementioned Saint Nicholas later.  But God’s love is real whether someone is fiction or not.  God’s love simply is, and God loves a cheerful giver.   If Santa was a real person, God would love him for being that cheerful giver.  Our world could use some more of that, so maybe sharing a little cheerfully giving Santa love is really sharing the true love of Jesus.   I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from that.

We own a Christmas ornament (and an accompanying children’s book) showing Santa kneeling in praise at the manger of Jesus.   I think that fits.   I think the story of Santa complements the history of Jesus.  To people who reject that, well, God bless you.  On this we believe different things.   And if you’re like me and you still believe, then God bless you, too, this Christmas season.   Ho, ho, ho and merry Christmas whether you believe in Santa or not.  If you’re nice, my Hunnie might just send you a gift.

For further reading:  Acts 20:35.

Lord, thank You for the story of Santa Claus.   Let this popular fable be a way we can give you praise and glory.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 16 November 2015

Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” Mark 12, verses 10-11.

Verse 11 is a quote of Psalm 118, verse 22.   Word for word, Christ uses this ancient hymn of prophetic thanksgiving to declare to the chief priests – and to us – that He is the completion of God’s temple (indeed of all endeavors), that He was rejected by the people who were supposed to embrace him, that human knowledge is useless compared to the things of God, and that His life is the greatest blessing that God has ever given us. The hymn was ancient even at the time He fulfilled it:   it had already been around for hundreds of years.

Think about it:   The psalmist wrote these words hundreds of years before Jesus even lived.   How could someone know that the Son of God Himself would become the living stone that is the cornerstone – the foundation – of all salvation?   How could some obscure words from a temple song have such deep meaning? How could such a miracle happen?   It’s a God-thing; that’s the only explanation.

The capstone:   without it, the building would be incomplete and would come apart.   The capstone is the stone that holds all the others in place.   Think of it as a keystone in an arch; the stone in the middle that bears the weight of all the other stones in the arch pushing opposing in opposite directions.   Pull out that capstone and the arch (and all the other stones over it) collapse.   Leave it in place and it can stand indefinitely.

That’s Jesus.   That’s the stone, the only man in all of history with the qualifications, genealogy, and ability to hold humanity together.   Without Him, the arch falls; humanity falls apart.   Don’t believe me?   Think of places without Christ, without hope, without faith.   Without Jesus, you get ISIS, Paris attacks, 9/11, modern Iran and Nazi Germany.   Without Jesus, you get humanity left to its own devices.   Is it any wonder that, when we live without Christ, disaster, murder, and hopelessness ensue?

So why did the builders reject the capstone?   Why did the chief priests reject Jesus?

Why have you and I?

“But Dave, I haven’t.”   Oh really?   I won’t guilt you out but I will ask you if you’ve honestly done what you know you should to help your fellow man.  If you haven’t, then have you kept Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself?   I haven’t; what about you?

“Well, if I had been alive then I would have helped Jesus.”   Oh really (again)?   Centuries ago, Martin Luther answered similar statements from people who said they would have helped the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem instead of letting Him be born in some dirty, germ-ridden stable. “You would have helped the Baby Jesus, would you?   Then what have you done for your neighbor who is Christ in your midst?”

Tell me:   what have we done for our neighbor?   If we neglect them, are we rejecting the Capstone just like the Jews?   Maybe I haven’t ordered Jesus’ murder but my lack of love must surely hurt His soul just as much as those misguided priests.   Especially since you and I have the benefit of being able to interpret Jesus’ words with more ease and more resources at our disposal than any people at any other time in history.

Lord, forgive me for the ways I’ve rejected You.   Teach me continually to do better.

Read Mark 12, verses 1-12

Practical Proverbial, from Luke 2 in the King James, 24 December 2014.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.   (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.   Luke 2, verses 1-20

The most important words ever spoken, to that time, in any language.   There’s nothing more to say…until Easter.

Daily Proverbial, from Luke, 24 December 2013, Christmas Eve

Luke 2, verses 1-20

This is the best thing anyone could write about Christmas Eve.  

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.   (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.). 

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.   And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.   And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.   For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”

Merry Christmas.