Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 14 November 2017

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13, verse 8.

You know it’s true:  you might as well just say “amen” now (which actually means “this is most certainly true”).   Verse 8 is one of the foundation verses of the entire Bible.   It’s the explanation, motivation, and reason for everything.   There’s a Maren Morris song that mentions old time country music as “my church.”  It’s explains life; it’s always great; it’s always the same; it’s always there to uplift a sad soul.  I agree with some of that; “can I get an amen?”

Here’s something that merits an amen whether Maren sings about it or not:  Jesus our Savior is the same person He was yesterday as He is today as He will be tomorrow.  Can I get a hallelujah?

Wrap your noodle around this truth.  When everything around you is changing (and the only constant in this crazy world is change), Jesus is.  The great I AM is.  As you feel like your feeling careen around like a pinball, Jesus is the same.   The same Jesus who talked one on one with John, Peter, and even Judas Iscariot is the same Jesus who speaks to your heart today.  In science, gravity and time are constants.   Everything else changes, and you can even vary the effects of both time and gravity even though they are standards.  Yet Jesus is the same.  He is the same no matter the temperature, the time of year, or the phase of the moon.  Yet Christ is more than science; indeed, He invented it, inspired it.   Christ is beyond our science, and beyond our puny religion.  Jesus is the same whether you’re a Baptist, a Hindu, a Shiite (or Sunni or Wahabi) Muslim, or a card carrying atheist vegan who loves Crossfit.   He’s the same Savior we think about when we sing “Jesus Loves Me” as little children or “The Old Rugged Cross” as old people.

Consider, too, that this statement comes at the end of the exhortations where the writer has given us concluding thoughts.   He wants us to remember that, no matter what advice we give, the founder of all advice is Christ.   The source of all wisdom is Christ.   The reason for all we know is Jesus.   And when the world gets sideways as it always does, Jesus is still there just as He always was/is/will be.  Maybe the Doobie Brothers summed it up:   “I don’t care what they may say.   I don’t care what they may do.   Jesus is just alright (oh yeah).”

He’s just alright.  He’s just in time.   You can count on Him.  We should sing about that.   Can I get an amen?

I have a friend who is going through a particularly rough time right now.   He just left one job, and his family situation is all in turmoil.   My friend has always been plagued by darkness and has become one of the more hopeless people I know.   No faith, no grounding, he’s lost his way and is miserable.   Some of it is circumstances beyond his control; some environment; some the past; and some of it is his chickens coming home to roost.  Just last night we were talking about his having no identity, and I asked him to call me when he’s ready to seek it.  To call me because there’s really only one place to find your lasting identity.   It’s at the cross.   It’s there and only there that we can lay down our weapons, our guilt, our fears, and our pride and be renewed in both spirit and mind.

It’s because the Jesus we find on the cross is the same Jesus who walked on water is the same Jesus in the Word is the same Jesus listening to our prayers today is the same Jesus who loves children is the same Jesus who will judge the world.  He’s the same God no matter what.   When my friend sees his world collapsing around him and he feels bereft of all that’s good, by going to the cross and meeting the same Jesus there, he can begin again and move in a different direction.

I’m not a pastor.  I sometimes wish I had some of the knowledge my pastor friends have gained.   If not the knowledge, then maybe a little of the wisdom.  When people come to me and ask about why I believe what I do, all I can do is paraphrase C.S. Lewis who said that he prayed because he couldn’t help himself.   I believe in Christ because I can’t help myself.  Everything else I’ve sought in this world has left me wanting and hollow.  Yet I go to Jesus and see that He’s the same as He always is.   That helps me to realize that He’s the God I crave, the God I want to follow, the leader I want to emulate, the unchanging Savior I desperately need, and the friend I want to always cherish.  Jesus is just alright because He is ALL RIGHT and is always Himself.   Can I get an amen to that?

For further reading:  Psalm 102:27, Hebrews 1:12.

My Lord, this is most certainly true:   You are God.   You are the only constant in the universe.   You are good, worthy of praise, and all life.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 19 April 2017

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.   Hebrews 10, verses 11-14.

Do you feel like you’ve been made holy?

“HOLY” is a song on country radio now.   Florida Georgia Line sings it, and HOLY stands for “High On Loving You.”   You may or may not like country music; you may or may not like Florida Georgia Line (not my favorite).   But the song uses a word with which many country music fans might typically be familiar.   Holy.   Invoking a stereotype, it’s commonly accepted that country listeners have more exposure to gospel music and gospel themes than some other genres.   Thus, it seems reasonable to surmise that folks who listen to the song are familiar with the idea of holiness.  This particular ditty may be a young man’s paean to love (or something like it…that’s a Kenny Rogers song), but it made me think of the theme from verse 14.

You and I have been made holy.

My Concordia makes the point that this section of scripture contrasts sitting with the actions of Jewish priests, who stood in the tabernacle and the temple.  They never sat down while on duty.   They didn’t ‘rest’ in front of God.   Instead, they stood, walked, or performed all their duties while in the standing position.   Not so Jesus, who conducted His ministry as He did.   Then, after His ascension, “sat down at the right hand of God.”   That isn’t rhetoric or allegory:   it’s a point.

The point of it is that Jesus makes us holy.

The point of the verses is that Jesus was both divine and complete.  He completed His tasks because, in Him, life found full completion.   In and through Jesus, redemption and forgiveness are complete, and we have been made holy by Him.  No further sacrifice is necessary.   No further effort is required.   Where Jesus is, He is done.   Indeed, the Gospel of John says that some of Jesus’ last words were “it is finished.”  It is finished.   Everything that needed to be done was done.   He did everything necessary to make you holy.   Jesus, sitting at the right hand of God, lives and reigns today, resting but interceding with the Father through their Spirit on our behalf.   They do that because everything Jesus did was to make you holy.   Where Jesus is, He’s high on loving you.  Florida Georgia Line aint got nothing on that.

So I’ll admit that, sometimes, I don’t feel holy.   In fact, most of the time I don’t feel holy.   I can’t ‘feel’ it at all; I can’t seem to sense it.   I realize that this is a problem with me, not with God.   He’s already done His part and nothing more needs to happen.   It doesn’t matter whether I feel it or not:   God has still done everything that needed to be done to make me holy, to make me blameless in His sight.   Because I believe in Jesus, when God sees me, He doesn’t see my sins.   He sees me through the prism of His perfect Son.   What I don’t feel through emotion now is still reality in fact forever.   All I have to do is believe.  Yet I’ll admit:   sometimes this is a challenge.

It’s also moot.  Even when I don’t feel holy, Jesus looks at me as holy and bids me to turn from the temptations that lure me or the guilt that plagues me.   He reminds me that I’m loved perfectly, made clean perfectly, and that He sits and the right hand of His Father to tell him “consider our child and friend, Dave.   I’ve made him holy for You again.”   Florida Georgia Line can’t do that and it’s no less of a fact even when I don’t feel it.

For further reading:  Hebrews 5:1, Mark 16:19, Joshua 10:24, Hebrews 1:13, Ephesians 5:26, John 19:30.

My Lord, I praise You for making me holy.   For loving me so unconditionally, cleansing me from my sins, giving me the courage to live here again for You.

Practical Proverbial, the Ten Commandments, 11 June 2014

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. Exodus chapter 20, verse 10.

There’s a country song on the radio now in which one of the refrains keeps singing, “Oh my God…this is my song.”   I like the guy singing the song, but call me old fashioned enough to think the he shouldn’t be singing it. It’s blasphemy. I’ve used that language; perhaps you have as well. In fact, I used to have a really, really foul mouth. And, since I’m in true confession mode here, sometimes I still do.   Sometimes it’s in the name of ‘good humor.’   Sometimes it slips out.   Sometimes I just rant and engage my mouth before I consider what I’m saying and whether or not I should say it.

No matter the situation, it’s wrong.   It’s mild compared to some of the stuff we hear on the airwaves these days, but wrong is still wrong. It’s wrong because it’s blasphemy to misuse the name of God. That includes casual references in lyrics like those I mentioned.   Or countless others. You know what I’m talking about.   If we say it and we think we shouldn’t, then probably that’s our conscience talking through.   It isn’t tough to figure out.

It has implications on our faithfulness because the Lord says that He reads our hearts.   He knows that what we say starts in the heart, deep down inside.   In reality, bad language – or good language – that impugns or misuses God’s name in any way paints us accurately as the hypocrites we are.

Now, I’m not here to guilt you out because, as I said, I’m guilty of it.   The worst actor, comedian, or rapper in Hollywood sometimes sounds prudish compared to things I’ve said. I wouldn’t say such things in a job interview, or in the workplace, or in front of my grandson, or in intimate conversation with my wife. Why would I say them, then, at any time about my God and my Savior?   I wouldn’t damn the people I love most in the world in my conversations with or about them; why would I do it to my God and my Savior?

The folks talking about a war in our culture have a point when they insist that one of the main ways we’ve allowed our culture to coarsen is through our course language.   Indirectly or directly, all of that language starts with how we misuse the name of our Creator.

It’s sin.   Petty, wrong, uncaring, blasphemous sin.   There is a better way.

Lord, forgive me for my foul language and how I’ve used it to misuse Your good name.

 

Read Exodus chapter 15, Moses and his sister sing, then God gives everyone a drink.