Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 15 November 2017

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.  Hebrews 13, verse 9.

For the last few weeks I’ve had “La La Land” playing in my head.   I’ve heard the catchy opening number – “Another Day of Sun” – playing over and over in my head.   If you haven’t seen the movie and you like musicals, watch it.  And you have to watch right from the opening credits because that opening number sets the stage for the entire movie.  “Climb these hills I’m reaching for the heights and chasing all the lights that shine.   When they let you down.   Get up off the ground.   Then morning comes around and it’s another day of sun.”

That kind of sums up one of the great things about Christian faith.  Jesus is always here, always the same, always a constant.   Every day is a gift, another day of Son in the sun.  We chase all kinds of things here on the Third Rock and they let us down.  Yet to survive, to persevere, we have to get up and try again.  Without knowing Jesus, life is just a senseless drudgery.   With Him, it’s another day of sun.

And in the process of getting through life we get distracted by lots of lights that shine.   They glitter, they’re cool, they’re trendy, they’re the thing; gotta chase em!   Sometimes those lights that shine are bright fires that burn in hostile camps.   Sometimes the things that are cool aren’t so cool when we become part of them.  Sometimes when things let us down we can get crushed.   Not to put an insensitive point on things but “that’s life.”

Here, then, is some more life.  Sometimes in worship we get distracted by thinking we MUST say the Lord’s Prayer every time we are in church.   Sometimes we forget to regard our brothers and sisters as fellow believers even when they royally mess up.  Sometimes we split our fellowship based on things like ‘just when (or if) do the wine and bread of communion actually become the body and blood of Christ?’   Sometimes our friends insist that we are becoming weak in our faith if we don’t do all the things they insist we must do.

When they let you down, get up off the ground and realize these are just shiny things you’re chasing.  Get back in the Son because it’s another day of sun.   Jesus hasn’t changed.   He’s the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow.  No, what’s changed is our position in relation to him.   We’ve moved ourselves away from Him.   We chose something that wasn’t Him and we shifted.   And that’s crazy because He freed us from the need to follow human codes.   He freed us from the constraints of having to prove ourselves to God.

Centuries ago, the early followers of Jesus were genuinely conflicted about what foods they could and couldn’t eat.  Most of them had been raised as Jews, and Jews had all kinds of ceremonial laws about what foods were unclean (and thus forbidden) and those that were allowed.   Many of the foods common to pagan communities in the Roman Mediterranean area were considered unclean, and the early believers struggled with ‘how Jewish’ they should be in observing these ceremonial traditions.   Their Jewish friends, who had a vested interest in seeing the nascent Christianity fail, insisted that these new followers follow all Jewish codes.   First Century Judea had become spiritual La La Land, complete with the tyrannical government controlling the people and the complicit spiritual leadership doing whatever it needed to do to stay in power.

Jesus changed all that.  He made it so that we are free from following anything but Him.   As the Apostle Peter learned, we are free to rise and eat and not worry about whether it’s ceremonially unclean.   All that God has created is good.   And when you realize that, you realize that those old codes would only let you down.   That’s when it’s time to get up off the ground and follow Jesus.   When you do that, you realize that it’s morning and it’s another day of sun in the Son.   And you get to leave La La Land.

For further reading:  Ephesians 4:14, Colossians 2:7, Colossians 2:16, Hebrews 9:10, Acts 10:9-48.

Lord, thank You for making all things possible, for removing barriers we crazy humans put up in your creation.

 

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 7 February 2017

 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.  Hebrews 7, verses 23-25.

We need consistency.   Frankly, consistency is one of the best things about faith in Jesus.   He’s always the same, He is always fair, He is always just, He is always there; hey, that rhymes!   He is consistent, constant, and always present when you need Him (or even when you think you don’t).  As Hebrews 13 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”   Amen to that.  Yet consider this:   Jesus doesn’t need to be consistent.   He doesn’t need that constancy, or fairness, or sameness.   We do.

It has always baffled me why folks reject faith in Jesus.   Why would a decent, upright soul not want to follow Jesus?   Reject Christianity, religion, Protestantism all the live-long day (or Catholicism, maybe even Orthodoxy as well); I may even join you.   Far as I’m concerned, we can sell every church building in the country and use the proceeds to BE the church instead of meeting in one.  Practice of the Christian religion by Christians has given Christianity a really bad name.   If you’re stuck on your liturgy or hymnals, your ‘infallible’ doctrines, your rock band performances (or the cherubic choir), the beautiful sanctuary with the comfy cozy pews, or even your motivated pastor, maybe you need a gut check.   Jesus is about relationship, about discipling, about serving, about love.   None of those other things are really about love, are they?   If your ‘church’ is about the worship service and not worshipping Jesus in service, try walking out one Sunday and trying something different.

All that ragging aside, if anything about your church or practicing your faith is encouraged by the things I’ve derided, then all glory to Jesus and keep on keeping on with them.  They should (and perhaps do) point to Jesus because He’s consistent and constant.   Like a solid reference, we as humans need Him to be unchanging.   Everything not of Him is sin or is, at least, tainted by the possibility of sin.  The more you look at things not of Jesus, too, the more you find they’re inconsistent, transient.   All things aside from Christ are temporary.   They don’t last.   Pyramids?   Slowly decaying.   Scientology?   Please.   Money?   Never enough.   All your possessions?   Nice but when you die they aren’t yours anymore.   Even the land:   please, again; just another possession, and that deed you and I always work for will only be ours for a short time before it passes to someone else.

Standing beside all those other things is Jesus, who remains just as He was and is and is to come.   He’s the same as He was with Peter, James and John.   He’s the same as He was with Adam.   He’s the same Jesus to Billy Graham that He is to you, me, and the strangers we pass in the street.  That matters even more when you then remember that Jesus’ mission is to save souls.   He lived, died, and lives again to reach souls who need Him even when they don’t realize it.  Even when they/we do things to reject Him, He still intercedes with the Father to say “remember, Dad, we love him/her.”  He provides for us because of those intercessions, because He wants with all His being for us to be one with Him and He’ll do anything He needs to in order to give us the maximum chances to be in communion with Him.  Every breath we take in rebellion against Christ is also another opportunity to lay down our arms.  Every new morning He grants is a fresh start to make something new with the life He gives us.

Why not make the most of it?   Jesus is.   We need Him to.   Thanks be that He does.

For further reading:   Romans 11:4, Romans 8:34, Hebrews 13:8.

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your consistency, for interceding for me, for always providing for me.