Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 14 August 2018

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NIV).

If you study the spread of Christianity, you see that Paul’s prayer was answered.   A word of mouth proposition, Christianity spread all over the known world in a matter of a few years.  That’s unprecedented.   The faiths of the Norse, Japanese, and indigenous tribes in the Americas never spread out of local areas due to many factors.  Already an established faith at the time of Jesus, it took hundreds of years for Buddhism to spread beyond India.   It also took many decades for Islam to spread out of Arabia and then it happened only through violence.  Yet it took only a handful of years for the message of Jesus Christ to spread from Jerusalem to Assyria, Greece, Asia Minor and all over the Roman Empire.   Within only a few decades, it spread into pagan Europe and up into India.

Good news travels fast.

Mark Twain and Winston Churchill were right:  A lie gets halfway around the world before truth puts on its boots.  Bad news travels fast, too, especially if you’re on the internet.  Yet I maintain that good news travels faster.   Bad times don’t last but they hurt while they’re here.   Yet when good news travels and takes root, it’s there for good.   True, we can misplace that good news but when it travels fast, it travels fast while establishing itself.

The good news of the Good News took root wherever it went.  Moreover, it took root in the face of adversity.   It traveled by word of mouth along ancient roads and trade routes.   It sailed the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, and across the Black Sea.   It climbed mountains and was spoken across language barriers giving new-found hope to those who would open their hearts.  People accustomed to the family of Greek and Roman Gods and the plethora of ancient tribal deities heard, for the first time, that the God of all loved them.   That He forgave their sins, and wanted to live through their hearts and hands.   Revenge was replaced with hope; hope could finally spring eternal.

And all because people talked with each other.   Because people took Paul’s letters and shared them, preserved them, used them as a way to get to know this Jesus.   Because God answered Paul’s prayer.  Word traveled fast.   It still does today.   If you don’t believe that, consider that, in less than 4 decades, over 200 million people have come to faith in the dictatorship of Communist China.   In the years to come, there could (and probably will be) more Christians there than anywhere else on earth.   Good news travels fast and it can put down deep roots even in the harshest soil.

For further reading:  1 Thessalonians 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:2.

Lord, I praise You for Your word traveling fast!

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 18 January 2018

The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.  1 Thessalonians 1:8-10.

Actions really do speak louder than words, don’t they!  Dovetailing off our theme (from yesterday) that people are always watching, here’s the follow through.   When people are watching and we both walk the walk and talk the talk, God’s work is done and the news spreads.

It’s like the dye in the water thing.   You know what I’m talking about.   You get a glass of water and drop in a single drop of food dye.   Without even touching the glass, soon the dye distributes throughout the glass.  It happens even quicker if you stir the water.

It’s like good news spreading like wildfire (which it is).   Yes, the details tend to differ from person to person – have you read the four Gospels? – but the message is maintained.   No, the “telephone game” isn’t always how things work, especially when there are people like me who play that game and deliberately change the message whispered to us.   In reality, the core message is usually preserved as the core message quickly spreads.

Even in bad times, bad news never endures.   Sure, it’s preserved and we remember the bad times; we must guard against evil.  But bad never prevails; it never outweighs the good times.  The good news of Christ’s salvation was known in full at the time of 1 Thessalonians just as it is now.   That’s the best news humanity has ever heard:   that faith in Jesus means we live forgiven forever.  That news took root even in the first century and grew quickly far beyond the confines of ancient Palestine.  The oppressive Romans eventually fell away.  The oppression of Islam hadn’t happened yet and still hasn’t prevailed.   The terror of war, the hardships of poverty, the hatred of racism are all powerless against the good news of Christ.   They didn’t win out with the Thessalonians and they aren’t winning out with us.   Indeed, the end of human history has already been foretold; it’s central to the Gospel.   God vanquishes evil once and for all and restores what evil tried to destroy.

Those actions will speak much louder than anything evil says because people are always watching and listening.  They’re why the Gospel always spreads quickly and why it can always take root in the fertile soil of needful human hearts.

For further reading:  2 Thessalonians 3:1, Romans 1:8, Acts 14:15, 1 Corinthians 12:2, Galatians 4:8, Matthew 16:16, 1 Thessalonians 2:1.

My Lord, I need Your good news today!   Bless others as You bless me through living out Your Word.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 4 November 2015

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Mark 13, verse 10.

Awhile back, my pastor friend, Mark, was talking about the end.   He mentioned that he DOESN’T think we are nearing the end of time because the Gospel of Jesus – the good news that Jesus is God and forgives all sin and died as God’s only perfect atoning sacrifice specifically to redeem us – hasn’t been preached to all nations.   Despite all the new media, instant worldwide communications, and efforts to preach Jesus to billions of people in every language we know, he contends that the gospel still hasn’t been preached to all nations.   There could be (and likely are) hundreds of millions of our fellow humans who haven’t heard about Jesus, who haven’t been given the introduction to Him.

I agree with Mark.

Now, I won’t speak for my friend but I will say I don’t think he’s a millenialist, a believer in the Rapture and Tim LaHaye/”Left Behind” kind of apocalypse.   I think my friend is a typical Lutheran, stressing “be ready now” because we’re part of eternity now. No matter how much we debate how the world will end, Jesus promised it would end and that He would return to bring about eternity.

Yet, here and now, on this earth, believers in Jesus are already sealed as part of His eternity, already a part of heaven. We’re finishing our time here and, yes, determining post-terra firma implications to our eternity by what we say, believe and confess.   But Jesus has already done everything necessary to make possible and guarantee our eternal destiny.   He promised that we would be with Him, that God would accept us believing sinners on behalf of His sacrifice, because of His grace and love. No matter whether or not there’s a Rapture and all that follows, the best lesson we can teach about “the end” is “be ready for it now.”   “Don’t wait; believe and follow Jesus now and be ready if He returns now, millennially or otherwise.”

Keep in mind where this verse is said.   It’s said at the temple just days, even hours, before Jesus will be arrested and unjustly murdered.   The verse itself comes right between other verses that talk about the end times, about watching for signs and standing up for Jesus despite being persecuted.   That matters.

It matters because, here, Jesus is reminding us why He came, why He matters.   He is the good news; Jesus is the reason for the Gospel. Preaching and sharing Him with the world is why He came.   He wants that to be done because He loves ALL people of all races and nationalities and colors.   Jesus wants all men and women to be in communion with Him forever and He was reminding His followers that, before the end of time is brought about, He wants all people to be given the opportunity to follow Him.   So, smack-dab in the middle of telling His friends that they need to watch out and look for signs that (He said) will point to the end of time, Jesus reminds them that the purpose of time is to allow us to share Him with each other.   To bring more believers into Jesus’ eternity.

No matter what you believe about how the world will end, that’s a great first principle to always keep in mind.

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your words about eternity. Thank You for using me to share You with folks who might not know You.

Read Mark 13, verses 1-31.