Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 24 October 2017

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”  The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.  Hebrews 12, verses 26-27.

Some words about the end.   Remember that movie line from our last time:   “everything will be alright in the end.   If everything isn’t alright then it isn’t the end.”  Today’s words talk about the end.  The end is coming.

According to the internet, the end should have happened this past weekend when the hidden planet, Nibiru, was supposed to crash into the Earth.   It didn’t happen.   And, if you remember your American history, the Millerites thought the world would end sometime between 1843 and 1844.   It didn’t happen then either.  And REM sang that this is “the end of the world as we know it.”   So far it hasn’t happened, which is good for their record sales.

When the end comes, you’ll know it.   You’ll hear the trumpet.   You’ll see Jesus in the clouds.   You and everyone around you and everyone everywhere will acknowledge that He is God, that all you’ve learned about Him is true, and that He’s back.  Will you be what remains because it cannot be shaken?

In the past, God came with fire and earthquakes and, well, announcing His presence.   Throughout history, He’s made His presence known.   I think about that scene from Forrest Gump when Lieutenant Dan is screaming at God to show Himself, and Forrest says “and then God showed up” as a hurricane starts to blow.   When the storm had passed, the tortured lieutenant was at peace, and God provided a new wealth for Dan and Forrest.  Isn’t that kind of a small picture of what God does?  The majesty of God is an amazing thing.   The power of a storm, the magnificent sunsets and sunrises, volcanoes, vast seas, sun-swept deserts and snow-capped mountains:   nature screams out praise to God simply by existing as He created it.   That’s here and now in a fallen world where His majesty is viewed through the gauzy lens of our sins.   God can do as He pleases; we’re here in the world He created for us.

When the time is right, God will shake it.  What God created by words – by The Word – will be shaken again by His words, by the return of The Word.  Only God the Father knows when; not even the Son and Spirit with whom He’s in perfect union know.   When the Father deems it time, all will be shaken, all will be turned over, all will be moved.   Everything will be turned upside down.

Will you remain?   By accepting Him as your only salvation, you can stand fast.   When the physical and spiritual shaking starts, will you be able to?  When the fallen world realizes its predicament and quivers in terror, will you stand up and welcome this advent?   Will you have put your trust in Him and realize that, once again, He will make all things new as He shakes the world at its foundation?

The end didn’t happen in the 1840s, and it didn’t happen when REM sang about it 20 years ago, and it didn’t happen this weekend.  Today, weathermen forecast the weather for tomorrow and the next few days.   Project managers plan work for the next few weeks, months, and years.  Government bureaucrats march towards deadlines, athletes train for the next game, and kids are planning for Halloween (next week).  And if God deems that, right now, the world should be shaken and time be at its end then that’s exactly what will happen.   Nothing we can do can stop it.   Indeed, if it ushers the return of Jesus, I don’t want to stop it.   I’m ready for the end.   How about you?

For further reading:  Exodus 19:18, Haggai 2:6, Isaiah 34:4, Isaiah 54:10, 1 Corinthians 7:31, Hebrews 1:11-12, 2 Peter 3:10, 1 John 2:17.

Lord, You will shake everything when the time is right.   When You do, I pray I am standing for You, eagerly awaiting Your return.

 

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 11 September 2017

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  Hebrews 12, verses 1-2.

Last time we talked about the Alamo.   Today let’s talk about rebuilding.   You saw the stories over the weekend:  Hurricane Irma smacked the Caribbean and Florida.   A number of people lost their lives, millions of people had their lives impacted (many destroyed), and billions of dollars will be needed to build back.

On Sunday morning, I saw a Tweet about Samaritan’s Purse.   Threading a short time between two hurricanes, Samaritan’s Purse landed an airplane full of supplies and volunteers in St Martin.   Irma laid waste to the island late last week; Jose threatened to do so soon after.  Fortunately, Hurricane Jose turned north instead of passing over the island.  Yet the volunteers from Franklin Graham’s Christian charity didn’t know that would happen when they landed.    Thinking they would have only a short time, the afflicted islanders worked quickly with the frightened volunteers to distribute tons of water, medical supplies, and critically needed food.

In the weeks since Hurricane Harvey, thousands of volunteers have been working behind the scenes to clean up and restore normalcy to the lives of the millions of people affected by that storm.   In the days since the earthquake in Mexico killed 90 people, volunteers and neighbors have been working to bring in food and help to total strangers.   In battling fires in Montana and California, thousands of firefighters have been working around the clock to put out fires so that the lives and livelihoods of total strangers aren’t destroyed.  Every day, ordinary people in ordinary neighborhoods commit their lives to others’ needs so that kids can grow, grandparents can endure, and families can succeed.

They’re all running with perseverance the race marked out for them because many of them, maybe most of them, have their eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.   More than that, Jesus is the ONLY real comfort for those who have been savaged by these acts of a fallen nature.

The writer of Hebrews spent the entire previous chapter citing acts of faith that the ancient heroes of the Bible performed.  He then takes that testimony about those men and calls them ‘witnesses’ to our ability to throw off all that hinders and the sins that entangle us.   After all, they did.   Don’t go off thinking that Moses, Jacob, Gideon and the rest were supermen.   They weren’t.   They were people, sinners in need of a God who could redeem them from the things they had taken into themselves.  Yet they had something in common with those folks from Samaritan’s Purse and those ordinary people everywhere:   faith in God.

Faith in God makes the difference between living an ordinary life where sin entangles and an extraordinary life as an ordinary person throwing off that same entangling sin.   Today is the day after the storm caused so much pain; today starts rebuilding.  Today is also 9/11, the commemoration of a wholly different kind of pain and anguish; today commemorates building back.   Who will you trust to help you run your race?   In whom will you put your faith?

You don’t HAVE TO believe in Jesus.   You really don’t.   It’s a choice and this is a free country.   Most of the world doesn’t believe in Jesus; most of the world thinks this Christian faith is a waste of time, foolish even, given that people have only so much time alive here on the third rock.  Why would they ‘waste’ that on some unseen ancient legend?  Yet if you want to live a life of meaning, you can’t do it alone.   Occasionally you need the help of others.   And, when the chips are really down, you find you need a Savior, someone who can help in ways that relief workers, governments and charities can’t.   You need help to get back into the race.  You need someone to save you from yourself and the terrible choices that we, dearly beloved, make when we gather to get through this thing we call “life.”   Even Prince knew that.

So does Franklin Graham, who has dedicated his life to advancing the Gospel of Jesus.  He does it by helping strangers.   I pray that your life isn’t afflicted today, that you know Jesus without pain or suffering.   But when you do encounter pain, I pray that you reach up to grab Christ’s helping hand.   He’ll get you back on your feet to finish the race set before you.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 10:36, Psalm 25:15, Hebrews 2:10, Philippians 2:8-9, Mark 16:19.

My Lord Jesus, I believe in You and You alone.   Only You have saved me.  Only You are Savior.  Help me run my race today with confidence, perseverance, and grace.   And thank You for the hearts of servants serving You.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 13 September 2016

 In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.” Hebrews 1, verse 7.

One more about the angels. And nature.

The NIV study Bible I use to assist me with these writings says “Psalm 104:4 speaks of the storm wind and the lightening as agents of God’s purposes.”   Specifically, that Psalm says “He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire from his servants.”

Do you know the story of Elijah and God in the breath of the wind?   It’s from 1 Kings, chapter 19.   Elijah the prophet has been zealously “propheting” for God.   He’s bringing it, giving his all, and what has he gotten for it?   Queen Jezebel is trying to have him killed.   He’s depressed to the point of desperation and needs some encouragement.   God tells him to go outside to witness divine power.   Then God sends a huge wind (maybe a tornado), and earthquake and firestorm but God isn’t in any of those.   When God does show up, He’s in a breath of wind, and Elijah is refreshed to resume his duties as prophet.

The connection between Hebrews and 1Kings?   The power is God, not angels or elements. There’s one I don’t consider often enough.

Now, I’m not going to opine on global warming, man-made climate change, or any of that. Suffice it to say that there are those of us who believe in that and those of us who don’t. Mankind is pretty powerful; we have the means to literally move mountains.   Don’t believe me?   Go to the Black Hills in South Dakota.   Or visit NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain, which is literally a series of buildings inside a mountain. We’ve made nuclear weapons (and safe nuclear power), explored deep space, cured diseases, built the entire nation of Dubai, and we can talk instantly all across the planet.   But those aren’t supernatural.   They’re fantastic (and wonderful) but they aren’t supernatural.   They aren’t ‘something from nothing.’   They aren’t speaking creation into existence, or two ‘men’ destroying two immoral cities all by themselves.   They aren’t parting a sea, stopping a river midstream (or the sun in the sky), turning water into wine, walking on water, or any of those things. The greatest feats humanity can offer are uses or manipulations of created nature, not creating nature out of nothing.

Only God can do that.   We can’t.   The angels can’t.   Benny Hinn (or Benny Hill) can’t.   Only God can do that.

And only God can use nature to send His messages.   Sometimes I think that, when we humans recognize beauty, we’re seeing the world through heaven’s eyes. God touches and refreshes us using His nature.   A vista of the Grand Canyon, Maroon Bells in the fall, the view from the Matterhorn, a sunset from your own front porch:   beautiful and refreshing.   And I believe they may just be messages from God.   “Look at the beauty of my creation.   See a reflection of Me and know I’m even more beautiful.”

Then consider hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, tornados; devastation.   These things are part of nature, part of the fallen world.   They would be out of place if this were still Eden; they’ll be out of place in the world Jesus remakes after the end of time. Until then, we’re stuck with them.   Nature itself is frustrated by sin, and while people and their sins today don’t bring on these natural events, our world still suffers from mankind’s original rebellion. Those terrible storms happen because a frustrated nature still rails against its own not-frustrated nature.   The elements themselves react in ways they weren’t created to.

Yet through it God is still over all.   He works miracles in the aftermath.   Perhaps His angels are at work exercising protection; we may never know.   The stories of rescue; comforting grieving families. Resolute will to rebuild, the ability to put forgiveness into perspective:   these are expressions of God’s Spirit at work in the wake of sin’s results. In them, they are God using such forces of nature for His own purposes. In them, He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.

For more reading:   Psalm 104:4, Daniel 7:10, Hebrews 1:14, Zechariah 6:5, 1Kings 19, Genesis 18 and 19.

Lord God, You are mighty over all the world.   You are over nature, more powerful than any force, and ruler of all we know.   Thank You for being the Lord of all creation, and for all the ways You minister to us.