Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 2 May 2018

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  1 Thessalonians 4:14 (NIV).

This is the central by-product of the entire Bible.   The central fact, the central event, the central purpose of the Bible is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Every verse in the Old and New Testaments testifies to this centrality, specifically the death of Jesus.   God’s plan for salvation was fulfilled – “It is finished” – in that moment on Calvary when Jesus ceased to breathe.   Everything since the fall of Adam and Eve had led up to it, and everything that has happened in history since has happened because of it.

Including the resurrection of the dead.  No, of course that hasn’t happened yet, but it’s coming.  Our loved ones who have died believing in this Jesus they haven’t seen are coming back.   When you and I die in that belief, we’re coming back too.  Make bank on it.   How can you know?   Why can you be sure?

Because He died.   Because He lived and said He would be killed and that He would rise.   Then He died and rose exactly as He said He would.  If the central fact of the Bible is the death of Jesus, then the first by-product effect of that is resurrection.

There’s more proof of this central fact of history than there are of the 18 missing minutes of Richard Nixon’s tapes, what happened on the Grassy Knoll, of Russian collusion, or of what really happened at Roswell.  The death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth are better corroborated than the lives or deaths of nearly every ruler in the ancient world, of nearly every celebrity before modern communication, of nearly every professor or bureaucrat who has ever lived.   If you say you need proof, there is more proof in the four Gospels of the life of Christ than there is of nearly any other person, alive or dead, in all of human history.  That doesn’t even count the works of Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus, dozens of Jewish critics, and hundreds of people of the first and second centuries.

Jesus said He was real and it was proven.   He also said He would die and rise, and that those who believed in Him would live with Him forever.   It was a statement; it was a promise; it was a guarantee.   It was proof that His word was 100% reliable in all ways at all times.  When Jesus comes back, He will raise the dead who have died believing in Him and we will live with Him forever in in a world of wonder that we can’t begin to fathom.

Believe it.   Believe in it.

For further reading:  Romans 14:9, 1 Corinthians 5:3, 2 Corinthians 5:15, 1 Corinthians 15:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

Lord, I believe You will resurrect me.   Thank You for dying the death I deserve, and for promising to bring us all back.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 27 March 2018

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.  1 Thessalonians 3:9-10 (NIV).

This is Holy Week.   Tradition (and Biblegateway.com) say that Monday is the day when Jesus went to the Temple in Jerusalem and scoured it out.   Tuesday is the day of Jesus’ Olivet discourse, and the day when Judas Iscariot discussed betraying his Master with the Sanhedrin.  When you boil it all down, though, we’re speculating.   The events of Holy Week are well documented in the four Gospels, but 2000 years later we still can’t pinpoint exactly some of what happened and at exact times on each of the days.  That isn’t surprising, since we can’t always pinpoint exact times for things that happen in our lives today.  It’s tough to say, but in reality, the specific dates and times of things, even events from the Bible, are just trivia.   If that’s all we focus on, we’ve missed the larger point.

Yet something about this is true whether we know the date and time or not:  we can’t thank God enough for the joy we have in His presence because of each other, especially now.  No matter what’s going on, no matter what day of Holy Week it is, no matter what other trivial things cloud up our lives, we can always thank God for the blessing of other people that He moves into our lives.

Why does Paul say what he said?   You know the answer:   joy.   It’s because the angels in heaven rejoice when we the people love and live as followers of Jesus.   It’s because it pleases Jesus to commune with us, and when two or more of us are together in His name He is there.   It’s because it’s a privilege to tell loved ones about this Jesus and this miraculous, wonderful love He has for them.   It’s because you get to share with other people the news that they’re completely forgiven, as forgiven as anyone ever could be, by the God who created them just to love them.

People are a blessing.   They folks you argue with on Facebook:  blessing.   The sister-in-law who’s hurting:  blessing.   The grandkids you love, the ornery boss, the stranger with whom you strike up a conversation, the homeless man you pass by:  all blessings.   God gives us people in our lives so that we might share the joy of Jesus with them, and then increase His love all the more.

That matters no matter what day of the calendar it is.   And it’s not a trivial matter.

For further reading:   Matthew 18:20, Matthew 21:12-13, John 2:13-22, 1 Thessalonians 3:11.

Lord, I praise You for the blessing of people in my life.   Thank You for blessing me with them, all of them.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 8 January 2016

But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. Mark 13, verses 24-27.

“This is the end, my only friend, the end.”   Jim Morrison sang that in one of his darker moods.   That’s understandable, don’t you think?   The end could be tough to contemplate, especially since Jesus’ words about it seem mysterious. It’s hard to write about these verses because it could be easy to misconstrue them.   Does “gather his elect from the four winds” mean a rapture?   Or does it simply mean ‘from all over the world?’

I’ll take door #2, Monty. The context of the verses around it (as well as similar verses in other Gospels) point to Jesus saying that He would take all believers with Him to eternity at the end of the world.   It doesn’t seem to point to a mass Left Behind-style rapture that is popular with many Christians.    It could also very well point to preaching the Gospel all over the world instead of how believers will be removed from the world. There is much to understand from the entire concept.

Still, you could have endless arguments over all the verses and when you boil them down, they all reduce to “get ready now.”   Just like the other verses we’ve talked about in this section, the gist of the message is “be ready now.”   Be ready now because only God the Father knows that time of Jesus’ return.   It could happen at any moment.

Yet we’re not without clues to remind us to be ready.   The distress; the dark sun; the dark moon; the falling stars; the disorder in the heavens:   all of these things will happen as signs.   They aren’t the actual coming of Jesus:   they’re heralds, reminders that His return is promised, maybe even imminent. To be honest, signs like them have happened hundreds of times in the past and people must have thought it was the end of the world, yet it wasn’t.   I hope they were clued into the idea of being ready.

And when Jesus returns it won’t be in secret, or in mystery, or only to a few people.   As the Revelator said, EVERYONE will see Him in the sky, in the clouds, just as He Himself promises here.   How do I know this?   Because He said so in those exact words and I believe Him. “So if Jesus is explicit about coming in the clouds but figurative in the other words, how do you know the difference?”   Again, context; look for the context.   Get yourself a study bible that cross-references such verses.   Look it up on line.   Most of all, don’t stay hung up on it.   The mechanics or semantics of the message aren’t the message itself.   It is the message – I am Lord and I am coming back – that matters, not the way it plays out.

That way, when Jim Morrisson’s words play out and it really is the end (my friend), you’ll be ready.

Lord, prepare me daily for the end, for Your return, to be with You now and forever.

Read Mark 13, verses 1-31.