Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 29 December 2016

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  Hebrews 6, verses 4-6.

Something else that needs to be said, and this is going to be harsh.

“To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”   We do it every day.   It’s why He chose the cross; it’s why, every day, He chooses it again and again when you and I, selfish bastards that we are, keep stabbing him with those Roman nails.   We do it with our sins, small and large, even the ones we don’t think amount to much.   Have you begun to realize all the effects of your God-damned sins?   Yes, I said that.   Your sins and mine:   they’re cause for God to damn us to eternal punishment.   Personally, I think that punishment starts here and now and only gets worse as we go.   God damn us for all of our sins.

Enough of the profanity.   I hope you don’t mind it too much…it’s for effect and I’m hoping that it makes you think, maybe even a little angry.  You should be righteously angry at sin; angry enough to do something about it.   Jesus did.   And yet we keep taking up that hammer and ramming those nails back into His hands and feet.

Every single time you and I fail we nail Jesus back to that cross.   He suffered mortal agony the first time around, and then He suffered spiritual agony being ripped apart from His Divine being (so as to suffer and redeem us) while still being inevitably matched to Him as well.   Then He rose three days later, making death and suffering moot forever.  And yet every minute since, whenever someone has done, said or thought anything contrary to Him, it’s like we have nailed Him back onto that cross.

Here in the first-world, we persecute those who believe in Jesus.   You’ve done it; so have I.   Huh?   You bet you have.   Ever been afraid to speak up and say you’re a believer?   Ever been ashamed of your faith because the ‘cool kids’ didn’t seem to be ashamed of themselves?   Ever felt even the slightest bit sanctimonious when you did speak up, not realizing your proud sanctimony is a disgrace to Him who loves us unselfishly?  Every single time we do things like these, even the tiniest thing, we are disgracing Jesus again.   We are joining in with the crowd along the Via Dolorosa who spit on Him, screamed at Him, hated Him.  You and I already know it’s un-cool to be a believer in Hollywood or even on social media.   That’s persecution my friend, even if it’s soft-boiled.

And REAL persecution?   You know, the kind that gets you killed for being a believer?   It’s happening in every Muslim country on the planet.   It’s happening on steroids in places controlled by ISIS and Boko Haram.   It’s still happening in communist strongholds like Cuba, and China, and North Korea.   Don’t fool yourself:   when you and I sin, we’re joining in the execution squads in Iran who torture you, then stand you up against the wall simply for saying “I believe in Jesus and not Mohammed.”

Like I said, God damn us for our sins.   He can, He will, He doesn’t want to, but He must if we don’t repent of them.   God is holy and must be holy.   Our very lives depend on it.  If He isn’t, even for an iota of a second, then this whole universe comes apart.   The places where the spiritual and physical intertwine would become explosion points of sin if there is no holy and just Lord God Almighty to bind them together.

Thank God that He is the cure for the common damnation.   The cure for damnation is Jesus.   Every time we do the difficult, mature thing and turn from our sins, it’s like witnessing Jesus rise from death again.   We’re the women at the garden tomb, clinging fast to our risen Lord.   We’re the blind man who can see again because He healed us.   We’re Peter, restored to faith after denying Him three times.   If our sins nail Him to that cross every time, then our repentance and re-acceptance of His gift of true salvation is being restored into His resurrection.   Damnation becomes simply a road we didn’t follow when we step back onto the path of following Jesus.   Then and only then do we grasp how He was ready for us all along.   The salvation wasn’t undone by our rebellion even as our rebellion renounced our acceptance of His salvation.

For further reading:   Luke 2:14, Philippians 3:12-14, Hebrews 5:12, Hebrews 9:14, John 3:25, Acts 6:6, Acts 2:24, Acts 17:24, Acts 18:21.

Lord Jesus, I praise You for all You did in saving us.   I’m truly sorry for the sins I’ve done that nailed You to the cross.   I’m truly sorry that I’ve kept on doing them.   Live in me and strengthen me to turn from my awful sins and to follow only You.

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Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 4 February 2015

Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” – Mark 4, verse 20.

I want to be a farmer.   When I was a boy, I spent a little time around farms and farmers.   Early on, I fell in love with the idea of working the soil to produce a crop.   Or raising animals, the hard work and the simpler pace.   To me, there’s something magnificent about living close to the earth, growing food from it, and sharing that with others so they can thrive.   It’s hard, sometimes unforgiving work, but it’s what I would like to do with my life.   Right now, my wife and I are taking active steps to move in this very direction.

As we’ve discussed before, this matters because farming is a good practical analogy for what we’re supposed to do with the love Jesus entrusts to us. And it isn’t hard to understand.   If you’ve been in love before, or if you’ve ever loved anyone, even a family member or a young child, you know how love grows itself.   The feeling only increases if you nurture it. It’s then becomes even more dynamic when it’s shared.   God’s Word grows when people share it, especially when we let it remake our lives to where people can see how it’s all for real.   When that happens, they want more of it. When they want more of it, they can become closer to God and the crop of love Jesus planted grows that much more.

We can also produce a crop thirty, sixty, or a hundred times what was sown if we let our sinful base instincts take over. Don’t believe me?   Only five or ten percent of 1930s Germans were Nazis, but the entire nation bore responsibility when those few percent bore the worst fruit possible…and millions died because of it. The vast majority of Muslims in our world today are peaceful people who want to live their lives in peace.   Yet there is a small percentage who have misused that religion, producing a hundred or a thousand-fold crop of utopian evil that calls itself “brotherhood,” or ISIS.   Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it is only good that can produce a crop for harvest.

Yet, like the song says, such a crop will be the trampled out vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. Good always triumphs.   Satan and all his petty evil are already defeated. True, those who farm evil, like those who grow illegal drugs, are sowing crops of destruction.   Yet their evil is already overcome by something far more powerful than they could ever envy to be. If you don’t think right, love and Christ are more powerful, then you have much to learn and a very long row to hoe.

Farmers produce good crops.   Even our high-tech world would grind to a quick halt if the food supply ran out. Isn’t it also true that we grind to a halt without love?   Just ask the hopeless people occupied by ISIS or Boku Haram. Jesus loves ALL of us and wants all of us to be with Him in eternity, even those we’d write off here in the world we know.   He wants them to be part of His harvest as well.   We should work to do the same.

Lord, grow a crop of love in me that I can share in my world today.

Read Mark 4, verses 21-23.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 2 October 2014

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” – Mark 1, verses 14-15.

Jesus doesn’t waste time.   He didn’t waste time in getting to His mission; He doesn’t waste our time today. He asks for us now, where we are in this moment, just as we are and complete with all our faults.   Jesus doesn’t wait until the time is opportune or He sees and opening.   He is beside us, encouraging us, pleading for and with us in every moment.

You know the mission: tell people to repent and believe the good news.   Does that mean wearing a breadboard sign on the street, crying out about the end times?   Maybe; if that works for you, let me know. Does it mean being a witness for Jesus in all things at all times?   Yes.   Does it mean giving up things that are negative and bad in favor of Christ’s positive and good?   Yes it does.

Is Jesus putting you on a mission to waste your time doing something you can’t do?   No, He isn’t.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything we can’t do.   He often asks us to do things we don’t want to do, and often the things He asks us to do are emotionally and spiritually difficult. Jesus very often asks us to do things that make us uncomfortable, and sometimes they even hurt.   Sometime, He may ask us to do something that causes us to choose between life and death.

Yet Jesus NEVER asks us to do things we can’t do, or that He can’t do, or that we can’t do with His help.   In everything, Christ asks us to rely fully on Him, to turn all our cares and concerns and crises over to Him, then to follow His lead.   That’s especially true when He calls us to stand up for Him when we’re asked “do you believe all that Christian stuff?” Or when we are asked just what we do believe.

The more we do that, the more we find that He doesn’t waste our time, that He either puts us in or allows us to get into situations where our faith in Him can be shared and grow.   When we don’t know what to say, as we rely on Him, His Spirit gives us just the right words at just the right time (including those times when we wished we’d said something better). As long as we are honest and true, our time with Christ is always used just right.

Just this morning, I was reading about two women in Nigeria who were recently confronted by Boko Haram terrorists who demanded they renounce Christ and proclaim their faith in Islam. In a no-win situation, both did so, both were then beaten, raped and left for dead. They talked at length about the desperate sadness they felt.   Not about renouncing Christianity but about renouncing Christ. Yet even Peter was forgiven after doing the same thing three times during Jesus’ last day, and he was Jesus’ best friend.   Just the right words at just the right time convinced the women of Christ’s forgiveness for ALL of our sins.   That is never a waste of time.

Lord, lead today.   Teach me what to say and when to say it, and help me to make the best use of the time You have given me.

Read Mark 1 again.