Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 27 September 2017

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.  Hebrews 12, verses 12-13.

These verses strongly echo Isaiah 35, which says “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”   And it carries the echo of Galatians 6 which cautions men to counsel each other wisely and in Godly love, but to be wise ourselves to not be pulled into temptation.

So I’m attending a School of Discipleship and Ministry at the Calvary Chapel where we attend here in Paris.   This week’s lesson was about how to carry out the mission of the church.  In doing that, Jesus followers are encouraged, even expected, to live in ways that edify and glorify God, that are Godly and upright, and can be a good example for others.   That doesn’t mean being goody-goody or snotty:  it means ‘walking the walk and talking the talk.’   It means being honest and moral.  And that’s tough, especially in a poor town full of drug use, poverty, despair, and economic disadvantages.

Every day you live your life like that is like working out hard in the spiritual gym.   It’s like pumping serious iron of the soul.   Every time you say ‘no’ to temptation, you lift the weight, then put it down.  Every time you walk away when you could be confrontational you run the extra spiritual mile.   Every time…you get the picture.

Yet it’s true.  In order to walk a Godly walk we have to choose the best path.   We have to train ourselves up in the ways of the Word.  That requires studying Scriptures.   That requires personal prayer with God.   That requires doing things that Jesus wants us to do:   loving, listening, helping, serving, being selfless.  When all I want to do is buy a six pack and forget my many troubles, God calls me to write these words instead.  To listen to other believers, to share my story and work to serve others.   To walk away, confess my pain, accept His peace.

Man, that’s a tall order.   You better believe, then, our Savior is a tall, tall man.

During this School of Discipleship and Ministry, the pastor is talking about core beliefs of the church, about church history, about mission and vision, about leadership in the Lord.   The center of all he’s taught is Christ and only Christ.   I find that refreshing, and even though change is coming in my life I intend to keep returning to finish out the course.  I find it refreshing because so much else of the world in which I walk is focused elsewhere.   You know yours is as well.   NFL debates, same sex marriage, public corruption, celebrity wreckage, divorce, unemployment, kids having kids and kids aborting kids:   pick your poison.   In 2017 America there’s plenty to go around.   So I find my respite these weeks in going back to God, in focusing on first principles.   First of those is Jesus Christ is God who lived, died, and lives again to redeem sinners like me and you.   He did everything necessary to make that happen, and now He asks us to follow Him.   To follow requires a spiritual workout where you’ll flex muscles of the soul, sinew of the conscience, blood pumping and heart racing to new beats.

Yep:   that’s a tall order indeed.  Are you willing to stand up for the mission?   “I don’t think I can” you might be saying.   It might seem too embarrassing, too inconvenient, perhaps even too risky given the social world we live in.  But let me propose that, if you’re even thinking about it, God’s Spirit is already working within you, calling you to a new purpose, a new mission.   He’s giving you a mission He’s prepared just for you, and He’s going to ready you for it.   Put on your gym shoes, my friend.   We’re in training.

For further reading:  Isaiah 35:3-4, Proverbs 4:26, Galatians 6:1.

Lord, help me to train up more to serve You.

 

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 28 August 2017

 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.  Hebrews 11, verses 32-34.

Where are there great heroes today?   Gideon, who led when nobody else would.  Barak, the warrior who answered God’s call to rally troops and defeated the Canaanite, Sisera.   Samson, the self-centered leader in the days of the Judges, who rejected his selfishness to rally the power of God in his death and, in doing so. slew the Philistines.   Jephthah, the great Israelite leader who conquered the Ammonites yet made a foolish vow, then considered his word to God to be more important than any other word he had ever spoken.

Here in our day, is President Trump a hero?   Hardly, especially since (as one of my relatives pointed out) so many of our countrymen consider him to be a boor, a scoundrel, and “an incomparable cheat.”  How about his predecessor, President Obama?   Hardly again, especially since so many more of our countrymen consider him to be weak, of poor beliefs, and an enemy of liberty.  The leaders of our major churches live in luxury and opulence.   The gulf between the richest and poorest in our country, in our world, keeps growing ever wider.   We all want to believe we are special in God’s eyes yet we, myself included, look across the room and see people of different beliefs, different colors, different places in this world and we consider them aliens.  How must our God feel about us?

Where are the people whose weakness God turned to strength, and who became powerful in battle through the Lord and routed foreign armies?   Where are the men and women of honor and valor who walk the walk and talk the talk for Jesus today?

You saw a few of them on the news this weekend.   They were friends, relatives, first responders working beyond exhaustion to retrieve strangers from the floodwaters in Houston.   They were the pastors in Africa who walk miles between villages on Sunday afternoon just to share a few minutes of Christian worship with people hungry to know more about Jesus.   They’re people who smile at you when you meet them in the streets, mothers who raise their children (and new puppies) while husbands and fathers are deployed overseas.   They are nurses in hospitals, grandparents raising grand-babies, the people who hold open doors.  Ordinary people live extraordinary lives and, very often, just by doing so are heroic in small ways that matter.

Yesterday in church, the sermon text was on the fruit of the spirit.   From Galatians 5, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”   The heroes of the Bible listed above knew these things, knew them centuries before Paul recorded them in his epistle.   The heroes mentioned in our world today know them, too.   Whether any of them, or us, know it or not, they are evidence of God for only from God’s Spirit are these things possible.  Apart from the Savior, they’re just niceties, ways to get along for a short time in a hostile world of hopelessness and futility.  Abiding in the Savior, they’re evidence of His presence.   And they’re the makings of heroes.  When we consider how people of faith live out these good things from God, we can be sure that our God feels only love for us since it is His love that binds all those other things together.

I don’t consider myself a hero.   More often than not, I mess up these words and mess up the message I’m trying to convey.   I offend people who are trying to understand where I’m coming from, and I don’t represent the God of our Fathers in the good way He deserves.   Maybe I’m describing you.  I know I’m describing me.  Yet perhaps there’s someone, somewhere who looks at you differently.   Perhaps there’s someone who see’s through our warts, who looks past our sins and failings, who doesn’t tolerate our cruel words but loves us enough to look past them.  There’s someone like that for all of us; His name is Jesus.   If we see our blessings, we get to see how others live out the fruit of His Spirit and they are heroes whether they do good deeds or not.  A few days ago, I wrote things that offended someone close to me.  For that, I apologize, especially since she’s a hero in my eyes.  I pray that she, and you, would know a hero today.

For further reading:  Galatians 5:22-23, Judges 4-8, 1 Samuel 15:1, 13-20, 2 Samuel 8:1-3, Daniel 6:22, Daniel 3:19-27, Exodus 18:4, 2 Kings 20:7.

Lord, I praise You for the fruit of Your Spirit that lives out in the heroes of today.   They’re my brothers and sisters, and I look up to them because when I see good things they say and do, I’m looking at You in their eyes.