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, 16 March 2016

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Mark 15, verses 22-24.

Sometimes the Bible is overly dramatic. Sometimes the verses are so descriptive that it’s almost too much, almost melodramatic, like watching a Cecil B. DeMille movie.  The imagery ‘goes there,’ doesn’t leave much to the imagination.   Worldwide flood, ten plagues, talking donkey, humiliating the prophets of Baal, Philip disappearing from the eunuch, the Revelation:   name all you want, they’re sometimes a lot to swallow because, in some ways, it seems over the top.

And sometimes, as in verse 24, it’s powerfully under-played.   Consider these for words:  “and they crucified him.”   Consider those words closely because everything you know, everything on this planet, hinges on the powerful understatement they convey.

There is no salvation without the crucifixion.   You’re eternally dead in your sins, and the holy triune God of eternity doesn’t know you, can’t acknowledge you, hates your sin, and damns you forever.   There is no forgiveness, there is no happiness, there is no satisfaction, there is no love without Jesus dying on that horrible cross.   What’s more, everything you know about the world is changed.  There is no western culture without the crucifixion.   There is no church, no Protestant Reformation, no brilliant Renaissance, no Enlightenment ideals, no Declaration of Independence, no industrial revolution and western prosperity, no Western laws and traditions that support the rights of man.   Everything we know politically, economically, militarily, socially, culturally, artistically, ecclesiastically, and even physically changes, morphs into something unrecognizable, without Jesus’ death on the cross.

“And they crucified him.”   Four pretty powerful words, don’t you think?

“Oh come on, Dave.   Now you’re the one being overly dramatic!”   Really?   The crucifixion is the central event in human history; we measure culture, law and most of our activities today from it.   The events that descended from it permanently dispersed ancient Judaism, brought about the demise of the Roman Empire that crucified Him, and inspired the rise of the Western society that recognizes Him.  The systems of justice, economy and society on all seven continents are measured against the life and legacy of Jesus, culminating in His selfless sacrifice of Himself.  Everything we judge to be decent and pure, we do so because of what we know of Jesus Christ.

And in just four words, Mark describes what humanity did to its creator.   “And they crucified him,” as if is the subdued ending to a vast saga, which it was.   Those simple words are the four-word coda on the music of our soul, as if a great fugue had concluded with a still whimper, then dying notes fading into silence.

Consider the agony of being crucified, of being tortured for hours, dragged through the street in humiliation, subjected to persecution no innocent man should conceive, then having thick spikes driven repeatedly through your body. On the cross, you don’t die of blood loss, you die agonizing in asphyxiation:  you heave your body up on the spikes holding your feet to the cross, gasping just to draw a breath.  And that’s what’s up ahead.

And it changed everything.   The Romans, Jewish priests, and bystanders there at Calvary didn’t know that “and they crucified him” would soon come to mean “and it changed everything.”

It’s not a four-word coda:   it’s a symphony..

Lord Jesus, thank You for being crucified so that my soul wouldn’t be.   Thank You for doing what I can’t.   Thank You for the cross.

Read Mark 15, verses 16-47.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 1 March 2015

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway. When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14, verses 66-72.

“I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about .”   Peter could be someone in our pop culture today.   If you corner one of the Glitterati and they don’t want to answer your questions, they spout off an answer similar to Peter’s (if they answer at all). But let’s not be judgy here; let’s not assume that it’s only the rich and famous who cower in the face of simple truth.  12 year old kids avoid the truth.   So do politicians running for president (or who used to be president).   You don’t always get a straight answer out of your pastor.   And me?   I love you, friend reader, but you’re only reading what I’ve selectively chosen to share. Let’s keep this real: that’s a way to avoid sharing the whole truth.

Don’t you know it gets worse for Peter.   And for us. The young girl found out about Peter, then she told others.   What does Peter do?   He doubles down on his cowardice. Peter doesn’t just run farther from the truth.   He adds in elements of drama queen, profanity, and histrionics. ‘NO I DON’T KNOW THAT SON OF A %*^&!   NO I’M NOT ONE OF THEM, YOU FILTHY %*%&y#* @*@($&%(!”   You get the picture…

…and this is Jesus’ best friend.   This is the man on whom Jesus said He would build His church.   In just a few minutes, Peter will be taken to Pilate where He will be questioned, humiliated further, and tortured.   In just a few hours, soldiers will spread out Jesus’ arms and drive thick rusty nails through them, nailing Him to a cross for the trillions of sins He never committed before, on or after that day.   Including Peter’s three denials…including the thousands of ways you and I have denied Christ in our lives.

How many times have I said “I don’t know what you’re talking about” when someone has asked me about my faith, what I believe, who Jesus is to me.   Yes, I’m more comfortable now talking about it than I was many years ago.   What about all those years when I wasn’t?   How many people lost out on a chance to hear about Him because I was a coward?   How about you?

We can’t obsess about those times.   They’re forgiven sins anyway.   But to ‘go and sin no more,’ what can we do today to prepare for those times ahead when others may ask us about Jesus?

Lord, forgive my cowardice concerning You.   Forgive me, strengthen me, teach me, and encourage me to be bold for You.

Read Mark 14, verses 53-65.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 16 September 2015

“We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” Mark 10, verses 33-34.

Why did Jesus tell the Disciples these things?   You know, couldn’t He just have let it happen without making a big deal about it?   It was traumatic enough for those who witnessed it, especially if the real crucifixion was anything like “The Passion of the Christ.” And for those who lived through it, afterwards everything changed and the Apostles spent most of the rest of their lives being hunted as criminals.   Why did Jesus tell these men about how He would die?

If you haven’t considered it before, there are several very good reasons.

First, He needed to tell them He was fulfilling prophecy. In doing so, they would know without a doubt that He was who He said He was and that all He had said and done was true.   There are HUNDREDS of individual prophecies about the Christ in the Bible (meaning in all of Jewish antiquity).   Mathematically, it is nearly impossible for them all to be fulfilled in one person, yet that is what Jesus was saying would happen in Him.   He knew these (relatively) uneducated men wouldn’t understand or remember every prophecy but they would know enough (just from their upbringing) to see how Jesus was identifying Himself as the one and only Messiah. He told them what would happen so that they would know, without a doubt, that He was that Messiah.   They would know this was a miracle and that He was the one true God.

Then, He needed them to be prepared for when it actually did happen (which was only a few days away).   If you care for someone and you know something bad is going to happen, then you try to prepare them as much as possible for it, right?   That’s what Jesus was doing. I mentioned the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” The Jews of Jesus’ day were familiar with crucifixion and how it was used only for the most rebellious and vile of criminals. If the act was as gruesome as Mel Gibson portrayed it then the Disciples would have been familiar with it and would have been shocked, even disheartened, at seeing their Teacher subjected to it. Jesus told them these things to prepare them for the shock of His death…and then for the even bigger shock of His resurrection.

But I think, most of all, Jesus told His closest friends these things just because He loved them. Yes, it’s an act of love to prepare someone, and to identify Yourself as Messiah.   Yet I think Jesus was doing more than just telling these men a simple truth.   I think He told them just because He loved them.   Peter, John and the rest all mattered to Him, enough to die for in fact.  After all, why does He tell us, especially after all these years?

It’s love.   Jesus told them – and us – these things simply because He loves us.

Lord Jesus, I thank and praise You for Your unending love.   I love You too.

Read Mark 10, verses 35-45.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 4 September 2015

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” Mark 10, verses 32-34.

Consider what has just happened.   As Jesus and the His Disciples are walking to Jerusalem they are being followed by crowds of strangers.   In all this, Jesus politely but definitively rebukes a wealthy man and, in doing so, teaches a valuable object lesson.   He then stresses that everything we know about ‘living a good life’ means nothing in God’s eyes, that only those dead to the world will be considered alive to Christ, and that it is impossible for us to be rich enough to get to Heaven.

Now He’s predicting His death.

Several times before (just in Mark He has mentioned it explicitly twice and implied it at least three other times and that was just in Chapters 8 and 9), Jesus has talked about His coming death.   Here, in Chapter 10, He spells out more details even as He and His friends are walking towards the scene of the coming crime.   What’s more, He is specifically telling them that the very religious authorities to whom they have submitted (in faith) through their entire lives will seize Him, murder Him, and bring about the greatest miracle in all of history.

Put yourself in the place of someone walking there beside Jesus.   Do you think your mind would have been scrambled by now?   I think it’s practically a guarantee. In the space of a few days’ walk from Galilee to Bethany, Jesus has upended everything you thought you knew. He has thrown spiritual, economic, mental, political, ethical and practical knowledge into chaos and all without any kind of threat or violence.   His words cause people to question everything they have ever known and every way in which they’ve ever interacted with others.

He’s still doing it today.   He’s still doing it because His love is illogical.   It’s crazy; it makes no sense.   It was foolishness to the men and women walking with Him in 1st Century Judea.   And it is foolishness today for those who, to paraphrase CS Lewis, populate all of human history with their pursuit to deny God by making other things gods in His place.   It’s simply crazy to believe in something you can’t see while denying what you can see; that’s how the logical world looks at faith in Jesus.   It’s even crazier to cling to that unseen thing and justify it as good because a good man who said He was God died.

Except that it all actually happened.   Except that Jesus gave us His crazy life.   That he clings to us illogically through His crazy love today specifically because He died that death in our place. It’s been proven nearly statistically impossible for one person to have fulfilled every Bible prophecy and live a sinless life to atone for all our sins and promises we didn’t keep.   Yet Jesus did it anyway.   It’s crazy but it’s true.

Lord Jesus, thank You for living and dying for me.  

Read Mark 10, verses 35-45.