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.

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Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 31 March 2016

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.  Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. Mark 16, verses 9-14.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most eye-witnessed events in antiquity.   More people gave corroborating eyewitness accounts of seeing Him alive after He was dead than people who witnessed the assassination of Julius Caesar, William Wallace’s victory at Stirling, the driving of the Golden Spike, or even the attack on Pearl Harbor.   Legends don’t have that kind of evidence.   Legends aren’t spoken of by multiple unconnected sources within a generation, but the death and resurrection of Christ was.

All too often people couch their unbelief (or dis-belief) in Jesus by saying “there’s no proof” yet I hope you’ll see that this just isn’t the case.   There are more post-resurrection accounts of the existence of Jesus of Nazareth than there are of the ancient kings of England, yet nobody disputes there were kings before the Anglo Saxon invasion.   In the four gospels there are more corroborating proofs of the life, death, and post-death life of Jesus than there are descriptions of Abraham Lincoln’s mother.   In the words of those who saw Him up close, there is more convincing evidence of the real existence of Jesus the Christ than there is existing evidence that proves who shot JFK.

Yet we don’t doubt any of these things while so many people doubt Jesus. What more proof do you need?

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, according to my study Bible, the earliest versions of Mark don’t contain these last few verses.   They may indeed have been added later, and they may (or may not) have been added by John Mark himself.   Like so much else in the world, we don’t know. If this bothers you, perhaps ask yourself why.   And consider this:   Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence most likely didn’t say “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Lincoln’s first draft of the Gettysburg Address may not have said “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Over a thousand years ago, at the council of Nicea, it was decided by scholars of the day that (today’s) ending of Mark fit with the rest of the book.   That’s good enough for me.

Yet when you boil down the story of Jesus’ resurrection, the proof isn’t the majesty and beauty of it.   The proof is that, by faith, you receive the miracle of His redemption.   For that no proof is needed.   It’s proof enough of itself.   Legal evidence is impeachable and potentially corrupt. Jesus isn’t.  He proved it so.

Lord Jesus, I believe in You because You are who You say You are.   Nothing more is needed.

Read Mark 16, verses 9-20.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 22 July 2015

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”Mark 9, verses 25-29.

Yesterday I read an article from CNN that berated Pope Francis for talking too much about the devil.   Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, whatever name he goes by:   he’s so First Century.   Here in our post-modern world, we’ve outgrown Satan.   CNN is tired of hearing the pope talk about the prince of demons. For whatever reason, they claim, the pope should stick to helping the poor, attacking capitalism, scouring out pedophile priests and a bunch of other things. Satan is so yesterday, so pre-Internet and today’s techno-marvel world.

Dangerous, my friends:   it’s dangerous to turn your back on Satan.   It’s just what he wants us to do.

On the other hand, if you read a great many web sites or listen to many Biblical preachers today, you hear over and over that Satan is winning.   These people think the exact opposite of CNN; they agree with Pope Francis that Satan is a very real being who is really, truly working against us in everything we do.   According to this thinking, Satan is winning on homosexual marriage, appeasement of enemies, defining down pop culture, misuse of the law, misuse of the church, and a hundred other things.   Varying degrees of concern are furthered even more by saying how these kinds of things are signs of the end times (and they are).   Should we worry if we start seeing things like this happening, knowing that the end of the world may be nigh?   Maybe…

…But first let’s step back from the tree and take a look at the forest; at this point, we need to.

In looking at this particular forest I would remind our friends at CNN that all of Scripture tells us how Satan is a real being.   Il Papa is simply reiterating the Bible and we would do well to follow his lead, at least in this case.   Satan isn’t a construct, and he isn’t a figure of a colorful imagination, and he isn’t anyone to be trifled with.   Satan is real and really is up to no good.

Yet I would also reiterate to my doom-crying friends that Jesus commanded a spirit to come out of tortured child and it did. The fact is that Satan is already defeated.   His imminent and eternal defeat won’t stop him from continuing to try to yank people away from faith in Jesus; sorry, y’all, but that’s our burden to bear. In bearing it, we would do well to remember that Jesus can drive out demons. Demons (and Satan) are terrified of Jesus because of what they’ve done. Even when we fail to drive them out, we should still cling to Jesus because in Him is found the power to make Satan cower as evidenced by what He did for this boy.

Lord, watch over me and protect me from the demons that cower before You.   I believe You are more powerful.

Read Mark 9, verses 30-36.

Practical Proverbial, from Markk 5 May 2015

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” Mark 7, 9-14.

How do you and I set aside the commands of God?

Yesterday, we talked about how the Pharisees were hypocrites then, more importantly, how Jesus was the loving and stern confrontation that they needed.   It’s a given that we aren’t much better.   In the 2000 years since the days of Jesus we haven’t evolved very much.

My wife and I are watching the “AD The Bible Continues” series on Sundays.   As fiction, it’s sort of melodramatic; thankfully it isn’t too heavy handed or overly dramatic; no Cecil B. DeMille treatment.   Anyway, the storyline weaves both the Acts of the Apostles and things that could have happened in Roman Judea in the first century.   The political intrigues and palace coup plots aren’t from the Bible, but they are believable.   Taken in the context of how Rome would probably have governed, the TV show is believable.

And it presents a perspective that I hadn’t thought of, namely in showing how very human were the twelve men in whom Jesus entrusted the building of His church.   They were flawed, trying their best, full of emotion, pain, and turmoil. The rulers of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council, are portrayed as typical politicians, conniving and debating, dithering on one hand while acting out of hand with the other.

All the characters in the show, including the Apostles, set aside the commands of God in one way or another.   They choose human decisions rather than what God would want. Granted, some of that is story-telling.   I mean, the people on the show are actors working from a script.   It’s isn’t real, and it injects twenty-first century reactions into first century situations.

But the reactions of the men and women are played as if they are, and it’s believable. It’s believable because they say and do things that we would.   I can believe Peter is realistic because he says and does things that would be familiar to me.

Do you think Jesus would talk to me, then, like He did to the Pharisees, telling me that I’m nullifying the words of God?   Let me answer this way:   if He didn’t it wouldn’t be because I didn’t deserve it.   I do nullify God’s words.   I do it in many different ways. I set aside the commands of God in so many different ways that I often forget how much I do it.   When I look at some woman in lust, when I curse out again, when I let that old grudge darken my mood, when I lose my temper, when I judge the guy on the other side of the aisle, when I say things that hurt my wife, when I do ANYTHING that is in any way contrary to Jesus I nullify and set aside the Word of God.

And so do you.

Forgive my failing You in all my sins, Lord.

Read Mark 7, verses 1-23.