Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 11 April 2017

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.  Hebrews 9, verses 27-28.

More mumbo jumbo if you don’t believe it’s real.   Human sacrifice, fairy tales, pipe dreams, unkept promises from 2000 years ago:   if you don’t believe in Jesus then these are logical things to you.  They’re all that Christianity is (oh and don’t forget that part about the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition…radical Islamists have a lot of fun with those two).

Yet the essence of faith is belief.   Believing is the only thing that’s asked of people who follow Jesus.   Yes, He asks us to keep His commands, but we can’t perfectly do so even if we live our lives dedicated to doing good works for Him.   Yes, He asks us to love God above all else but we can only mimic the kind of grace that God bestows on us without our even asking.   Yes, believing in Him stretches our concept of logic because, according to the world, it isn’t logical to believe that someone can live again after they’ve died.  All these things and more Jesus asks of us who believe in Him, but ALL of them are impossible without faith.  Only by believing do those other good fruits begin to bear in our lives.

Without faith, there’s no need to believe He will appear a second time.   For all you know, that may be just another myth from antiquity.   Without faith, waiting for Jesus becomes a useless exercise in self-delusion.   Without faith, there will be no judgment of our sins.

Can you see, then, that without faith in Jesus, there are no limits on human behavior?   At first glance, that seems like sweet freedom; the uninhibited ability to do whatever we want.   Carry that a bit further and that uninhibited freedom becomes unstoppable anarchy.   Imagine the chaos and complete lawlessness if all 7 billion of us here on the Third Rock did everything we wanted all the time with no consequences.   The depravity you and I can imagine would quickly become a reality of horror without end.  Faith in Jesus is the first backstop against that.    Only with faith does hope become more than just a wish.  Only with faith does just law become a constructive boundary to protect that freedom.

And the longer you believe, the more you learn that it is impossible to have faith apart from Jesus.   Indeed, it’s His Spirit that first touches us when we even think of accepting that Jesus died once for all to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.   You and I can’t even form the desire for that thought without God first touching us saying “I’m here.”  Everything that is good comes from God, and when we even enjoy that goodness, we’re reflecting feelings of satisfaction towards God even when we don’t intend to.   That’s the start of faith and it’s no accident or spurious emotion.  Enjoy a Big Mac?   Thank God.   Enjoy your favorite TV show?   Thank God.  Enjoy music, the company of friends, having the door held for you, a rainy night in Georgia?   You know what to do:   thank God.

You can’t even thank God without having faith in Him.   That faith starts with Him first coming to you, touching your heart, inspiring your soul, engendering good feelings in you.  It’s love because God is all love.  It started because Jesus ho loves us first sacrificed Himself once for all so that our eternal debt could be paid once and for all.  When you believe, that mumbo jumbo the rest of society rejects begins to become the only real truth on which you can build a wholesome life.

For further reading:  Genesis 3:19, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Hebrews 7:27, Matthew 16:27, 1 Peter 2:24, Hebrews 5:9, 1 Corinthians 1:7.

Lord, You are magnificent.   Thank You for touching my heart, for planting the seed of hope to grow into the living organism of faiths.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 2 December 2015

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. Mark 13, verses 7-8.

Watch out and be ready.   Read the signs.

Every day we are looking for signs for the second coming of Christ.   As you can read, it’s something that Jesus Himself told us we need to do.   Watch out and be ready.   Look for the signs and heed them.   Heed them to be ready.

Now, I am not going to speculate on whether or not we are in the end times.   Dozens of generations before ours thought they were because they saw wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, earthquakes, famines and violence.   Remember the fall of Jerusalem less than a generation after Mark’s Gospel was written?   Or the fall of Rome a few centuries later.   The Crusades a thousand years ago, the Muslim invasion of Europe in the 1400s.   The Hundred Years’ War; The Thirty Years’ War; World War I and especially World War II. The generations that lived through those things must surely have thought they were witnessing the end.   So it is with ours.

Maybe it’s never happened in my lifetime or maybe I’m just paying attention to it now but the signs are appearing again.

And the moral of the story is still “watch out and be ready.”   Right now; today.   That’s what Jesus told us.

I can honestly say that I hope it happens.   I honestly hope for the time when this life can end and the life without time can begin.   Perhaps it will indeed happen in my lifetime.   Just today, with ISIS on the move again and with Russia threatening nuclear war with Turkey, wars and rumors of wars are abounding.   I heard a radio ad (not a preacher, an advertisement) speculating on whether or not we are witnessing the start of the war prophesied by the prophet Ezekiel over 2500 years ago. High profile radio hosts are openly talking about how we are in the beginning of World War III but we haven’t faced up to it yet.   Some are saying “end times.”

Watch out and be ready.

Watch out and be ready so that no one deceives you.   Watch out and be ready so that no one deceives you into thinking they are the returning Jesus. He is coming and soon but none of us know the date or time.   All we can understand through our view of the trees is that only Jesus can truly see the whole forest and He will return to govern it when God the Father deems it to be the time. Until then, we have only one job.

Watch out and be ready.   Watch out and be ready by helping others to do the same.   Help others to do the same by using the talents Jesus gives each of us to His glory, for His purpose, in His ways.   Share our stories, use our abilities, do what we can to be Jesus for other people so that they, too, may ready themselves for Jesus’ imminent return. Heed the signs by reading and interpreting the signs.   Be ready to stand, then to leave, when Jesus comes back for you. Watch and be ready.

Lord, I anxiously await Your return.   Until that happens, help me to understand the signs and be ready for You.

Read Mark 13, verses 1-31.