Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 25 October 2017

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.  Hebrews 12, verse 28.

Awe.   That concept comes from Malachi 2:5, which mentions revering God with awe.  When was the last time you really felt awe about something?   One time when I was at sea, I felt in complete awe being caught in the middle of a storm off the coast of Alaska.   And standing on the ridge of the Grand Canyon was awe-inspiring (and awesome).  The courage of my son standing up to give his very real confirmation testimony gave me a feeling of awe.   And now, during my last days on my east Texas farm, when I look out at the simple beauty of morning mists shimmering off the pond my heart is full of awe and wonder at the beauty of it all.

God has that effect on us.  Imagine the feeling of awe at falling at the feet of Jesus when this life is over, of having Him reach down and take your hand and lift you up.   “I’m so glad to see you,” He might say.   Imagine the awe of having the very much alive Jesus speak those words to you.   Of simply being in the presence of the Alpha and the Omega.  Of knowing He chose you and I to be with Him forever.

All that is possible because His kingdom is unshakeable.   The verse doesn’t just talk about the temporal, earthly kingdom here.   No, it’s talking about His kingdom inside us.   We are the church; we are His church and His vessels for carrying Him to the ends of the earth.   We do that because He lives and reigns within us.   When we live our lives following Jesus, we can’t be shaken.   The world around us may quiver, tremble, and quake, but we won’t.   We may get knocked down but we won’t be knocked out.   We may be hurt but we won’t be vanquished.   With Jesus as our lead, we will always advance.

That’s because His kingdom is within us.   Noodle that thought for awhile and you’ll find it’s awesome as well.  It will inspire real awe, real star-struck feelings within you.  He who died on the cross thinking about you, He who faced down the moneychangers and Pharisees and Pontius Pilate, He who walked on water and talked with Moses and Elijah on the mountain, He who was born in that manger, He who told Sarah she was pregnant, He who walked in Eden, He who spoke and made everything appear:  He has built His church on your heart and lives day to day here on this earth through you.   He’s real and He’s now.  When you live in godly ways, you’re letting Him work through you.   When you have mercy, you’re letting Him act out through you.   When you choose real love, you’re letting Him love through you.  You are a knight in His kingdom because His kingdom is alive and in your heart.  The world of hurt and pain can inflict those on you but it can’t destroy what Jesus has instituted within you.   Nothing can.

Yet His kingdom is also physical, tangible, and on its way.  Jesus’ coming kingdom will be a real, physical place here with real, physical work and real, physical actions.   There will be true government that is un-corrupted by sin.   There will be true justice that is measured by love.  There will be true leadership that is exemplified by Jesus on His throne yet walking with each of us.   There will be real people and real angels and real apostles and real work to be done.   To paraphrase my friend, Phil (of Calvary Chapel here in Paris), our personality, passion, character, and skills – core traits of Christian servants – will be put to work in service of Jesus’ real kingdom, even more than they are here and now.   In that day we will live in the kingdom He intended for us all along:  a place for us to thrive in harmony with Him and in unity with others and even nature.   Remember those words about the lion and the lamb living together?   They weren’t poetry.   They were an advance preview of what’s to come.   Real peace in the life we’ve all longed for.

And it is awesome to think of it all.

My friend, Mark (of Water’s Edge in Frisco), is fond of saying “you’re part of eternity now.”   Right on brother.   You and I get to choose that awe right now.  We don’t have to wait for the end of this life to be in awe of Jesus.   We get to do that now because He has made us righteous and worthy of Him now through what He did at Calvary.   That’s more awesome than an Aleutian storm, or a misty morning in Paris, or even the love of my kids and grandkids.   You and I:   we’re part of Him now, and it is an awesome God we can ponder.

For further reading:  Psalm 15:5, Isaiah 11:6, Daniel 2:44, Malachi 2:5, Hebrews 13:5.

My Lord I am in awe of you, of Your love, Your power, Your heart.   Align my life more and more with Yours.

 

 

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 8 August 2017

If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.  Hebrews 11, verses 15-16.

More thoughts on the idea of longing for a country.

As we talked about, the country we long for is indeed with God.   I go back and forth with the idea that “heaven is our home.”   That’s great talk, but what about now?   Here and now, people die.   Here and now, it’s tough to pay the bills.   Here and now is all we truly know about.  I’m all for heaven but what can help me here and now?

Don’t mind me:  as my grandpa might have said, ‘it’s just piss and wind.’  What can help me here and now is quite apparent.   His name is Jesus, and He is the Son of the Three in One Godhead.  His perfect sacrifice made it possible for me to stand in front of my perfect Father and say “forgive me, Father, because I’ve really messed things up.”   Because of Jesus, I know my Father will pick me up and embrace me and tell me “I’m so glad to see you again, Dave.   I love you.”   I know all this because the Spirit Jesus and His Father share teaches it to me.   He has all my life, even in the doubting times.   In the days when I’ve wanted to give in, His Spirit said “one more time.”   In the times I’ve wandered, He has said “follow Me.”   What can help us here and now?   You know.

So what will the city look like?   Beats me.   None of us knows.   All we know is that we’ll see Jesus there in full and we’ll be both known and knowing.  It’ll be beautiful and it’ll be forever.   Personally, I’m hoping for a farm on a cool spring morning, with smells of the earth and growing and life.   I’m hoping there will be fishing in the sun, hot coffee in the sunrise, and fellowship with the loved ones (which will mean everyone).

I hope for those things because some of those things are memories I have from the here and now.  Walking barefoot in loamy black soil and tending good things as they grow.  Of fishing with my pals in the mountains, or with my boys way north in Minnesota, or with my Dad and Grandpa on those same lakes.   I think of mugs of hot coffee with my Hunnie during our morning devotions, or the taste of good coffee from a cool morning campfire pot.   I think about times with my family, and friends I’ve known for decades, and of basking in the love of togetherness.  Good scotch on the rocks, all the dogs I’ve ever owned, waking up to the smell of biscuits and butter, and warm summer nights under a blanket of lush stars.   These are things that warm my visions of heaven, of the country I long for still.  How about you?

Intertwined in all of them, participating in every scene, and holding all these visions together is my friend and Savior, Jesus.   He’ll be there to talk with, and learn from, to listen, to love.  And I’ll get to praise Him with my words and songs and moments.    All my life I have wandered, sometimes wandering very far from where I should have been.   Yet in all those moments, I always hoped for more, hoped for something better than where I found myself.  If that had been my only hope, then I would have gotten what I wanted (and found it eternally lacking).   No, even when I feel I’ve let my God down, He’s never let me down.   Through it all, He’s always brought me back and kept me looking forward, looking forward to that undiscovered country where He lives.

I don’t know where that city is, but I know I’m on the road that leads there.   You and I, we weren’t made for imperfection.  We were made to live in full harmony with God in His heaven.   In that respect, heaven is indeed our home, or it will be.   Until then, we wander here.

For further reading:  Genesis 24:6-8, 2 Timothy 4:18, Mark 8:38, Genesis 26:24, Exodus 3:6-15, Hebrews 13:14.

Lord, I long to be home with You.   Until You call me there, wander with me.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 4 February 2015

Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” – Mark 4, verse 20.

I want to be a farmer.   When I was a boy, I spent a little time around farms and farmers.   Early on, I fell in love with the idea of working the soil to produce a crop.   Or raising animals, the hard work and the simpler pace.   To me, there’s something magnificent about living close to the earth, growing food from it, and sharing that with others so they can thrive.   It’s hard, sometimes unforgiving work, but it’s what I would like to do with my life.   Right now, my wife and I are taking active steps to move in this very direction.

As we’ve discussed before, this matters because farming is a good practical analogy for what we’re supposed to do with the love Jesus entrusts to us. And it isn’t hard to understand.   If you’ve been in love before, or if you’ve ever loved anyone, even a family member or a young child, you know how love grows itself.   The feeling only increases if you nurture it. It’s then becomes even more dynamic when it’s shared.   God’s Word grows when people share it, especially when we let it remake our lives to where people can see how it’s all for real.   When that happens, they want more of it. When they want more of it, they can become closer to God and the crop of love Jesus planted grows that much more.

We can also produce a crop thirty, sixty, or a hundred times what was sown if we let our sinful base instincts take over. Don’t believe me?   Only five or ten percent of 1930s Germans were Nazis, but the entire nation bore responsibility when those few percent bore the worst fruit possible…and millions died because of it. The vast majority of Muslims in our world today are peaceful people who want to live their lives in peace.   Yet there is a small percentage who have misused that religion, producing a hundred or a thousand-fold crop of utopian evil that calls itself “brotherhood,” or ISIS.   Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it is only good that can produce a crop for harvest.

Yet, like the song says, such a crop will be the trampled out vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. Good always triumphs.   Satan and all his petty evil are already defeated. True, those who farm evil, like those who grow illegal drugs, are sowing crops of destruction.   Yet their evil is already overcome by something far more powerful than they could ever envy to be. If you don’t think right, love and Christ are more powerful, then you have much to learn and a very long row to hoe.

Farmers produce good crops.   Even our high-tech world would grind to a quick halt if the food supply ran out. Isn’t it also true that we grind to a halt without love?   Just ask the hopeless people occupied by ISIS or Boku Haram. Jesus loves ALL of us and wants all of us to be with Him in eternity, even those we’d write off here in the world we know.   He wants them to be part of His harvest as well.   We should work to do the same.

Lord, grow a crop of love in me that I can share in my world today.

Read Mark 4, verses 21-23.