Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 18 May 2017

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10, verses 24-25.

I’m building a collection of rocks around the base of the cross we built by my pond.   At our old house, I had built a similar collection of stones from all around the world.   California, Florida, China, Uganda:   wherever I went, I picked up a rock.  They were put in a special planter built for just that purpose, but when we moved I left the rocks there.   Now, I’m building a new collection and it already has rocks from Walt Disney World, the Gulf Coast, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and places all over Texas.   I even have an old chunk of amethyst my Mom had acquired (I believe) at a rock quarry in Arkansas way back when I was a kid.

Somehow it seems neat to me to gather stones from all over the world to place them there at the foot of the cross.   That cross was almost the first project we did when we moved into this house last year.   The day after we took possession, my son, son-in-law, and I cut down a tree in our woods, fashioned it into a cross, bolted and roped it together, and then installed it in concrete.   A few months later, I wrapped it in solar lights so that it lights up at night.   When you drive by our house at night, you can see the cross, reflected off the pond.   It’s our own kind of witness to our friends and neighbors.

What does this have to do with verses 24 and 25?   To be honest, I’m not sure it has anything to do with it.  Then again..

…Then again, maybe it has everything to do with it.  My rock collection is like a collection of people, coming together to worship and make the cross of the Lord look better.  The longer we live here, the more it matters to give glory to God.  There are rocks of different shapes, different composition, different colors.   All together, they’re a mosaic.   They’re a strong base that gives the structure both foundation and beauty.

They’re like a church.   We started going to our home church, Waters Edge Frisco, in 2006, when it was still worshiping in a school.   Eleven years, several pastors, a discordant split, and hundreds of members later, I hardly recognize the place for all the new faces and new directions in which it’s moving.   That’s a good thing.   The people of God are the church, not some building or even some congregation.   We’re supposed to move in the world, yet we’re also called to come together to give glory to God.  When we do, it’s a refreshing thing to see a fresh, new mosaic of people calling that place home while others from the past have gone on to color their new homes with the purpose and freshness then once brought to ours.   That, too, is a good thing, for the body of God is alive.

We go to church to be the church, and the more I grow in faith, the more I value my time with my fellow believers.   We’re like those stones around the cross, bringing purpose, beauty, and strength to worship our God.   The more I grow in my faith, though, the more I see that the worship isn’t about our purpose, beauty or strength.   We get those things from God Himself.   They aren’t ours alone.   They aren’t even ours to give.   They’re qualities given to people to share in God’s greater mission.   All the more as we see the days of the end approaching, it’s a good thing to come together as groups and gather around the cross to simply worship He who was once nailed to it.   In doing so, we encourage each other and build each other up.

When we give glory to Jesus, He shines that glory out over us like the Sun warming the land.

It’s my hope to one day build that rock collection so big that it overtakes the cross.   I’ll have to expand around it at that point.   It’s my hope that friends, family and, better yet, strangers, will look at the collection and ask how it came to be, and what it means.   It’s my hope that, in a pile of rocks, they’ll see a unique glimpse of the Savior.

For further reading:  Titus 2:14, Acts 2:43, Hebrews 3:13, 1 Corinthians 3:13.

Lord, may I be Your rock in a wonderful collection of other stones.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 30 December 2014

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.  When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea. Mark 3, verses 7-8.

The folks in Judea had heard about Jesus performing miracles. And about how He confronted the Pharisees.   And about how His words were compelling yet caring, about how He spoke of the Kingdom of God as a place of real love and brotherhood.   Many of them had seen or met John the Baptist, who spoke about Jesus.   The people of Judea had heard about how people just like them had dropped everything to follow this new rabbi, just to hear what He said.

In 2000 years, what has changed?

I mean, the stories of people who follow Jesus and whose lives are transformed by Him are astounding. One of my heroes is Billy Graham, who has personally preached the Good News of Christ to millions of people in stadiums, churches, and meetings all across the planet.   How many untold millions, maybe billions, of people in history and alive even now had their hearts changed by listening to someone like Mr. Graham, or to a local preacher, a minister, or a servant of the church and then letting themselves ask that question:   “what about all that?”

Yet far more people learn about Jesus from folks like you and me.   It’s the Holy Spirit acting through us in moments of kindness.   Last night, while driving along a narrow highway, an old man driving a motorhome in front of me hit something on the road.   I don’t know what he hit, but it seriously damaged his RV.   When I finally got to the scene of the accident, amidst all the honking, broken pieces, and careless frustration, a young man had stopped his truck and was gently walking the frightened old man around, helping him sort out what had happened.   The vehicles had different license plates, so I can only surmise that the old and young men weren’t acquainted; they were strangers.

Jesus was walking with them.   In a practical moment of fear and need, Jesus reached out through a stranger and helped another stranger.   That happens far more than conversions in a church service or even by people reading a blog like this one.   Yes, those things matter and they can help, yet it is Jesus’ Holy Spirit living out through each of us that most effectively spreads His good news today.

There’s my Facebook friend who turned her life of alcoholism, drug addiction, promiscuity, and desperation into one of serving others with her practical work, her practical words, and her testimonies in a growing Florida church: all because someone reached out to her in her need with a caring hug from Jesus.   There is another friend whose heart was cold towards God for decades yet has only recently begun to warm to Him when she witnessed the real love of believers at a wedding then soon after a funeral. There is the fact that the world’s largest Christian nation is now the People’s Republic of China.   Communist China, where the pagan communist government has worked to stamp out all worship except that of the state and yet the church still grows underground to over 100 million active members.

It’s not about me or you.   It’s about Jesus: just like it was 2000 years ago. It’s Him living through us.

Lord, help me to always see how all in life is about You.   Live through me to reach others.

Read ahead in Mark 3, verses 7-12.