Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 31 October 2018

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?). He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap1 Timothy 3:2-6 (NIV).

Today is Reformation Day.   In our culture, Halloween long ago eclipsed the day Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door, but I would submit that what Dr. Luther did was far more important than trick or treating.   Luther’s action made the Renaissance real, made the Enlightenment inevitable, and made the American Revolution possible.  A stretch?   Perhaps, yet those things revolutionized Western civilization and made the life we live possible.   And it all started because God put it on the heart of a German monk to question the authority of the Catholic church: 501 years ago today.

I don’t know all of Luther’s history so here’s a condensed version.   Luther was a monk, a highly educated Roman Catholic who, over the course of his life, began to question practices and doctrines of that Roman Catholic church he served.   In 1517, his angst over how the church interpreted Scripture (and how they were using it for fundraising) caused him to nail 95 theses – questions – to a church door in Germany, asking for someone in authority to debate.  For the rest of his life, Luther lived in persecution.   His questioning became the basis for the Protestant Reformation that permanently changed the Christian church forever.   Indeed, all of modern western thought changed, including the subjects of man’s relationship with God and man’s relationship with government.   While living in fear for his life, Luther translated the New Testament into German so that his countrymen could more easily read it themselves (without the assistance of a priest).

Read the verses again.   You might just see that Luther called the church on the carpet for not exhibiting the qualities of an overseer that Paul outlined in verses 2-6.

Take your kids trick or treating, or stay home and hand out some candy.   Dress up a kid as Martin Luther.  I reject the Satanist and evil intentions of some; Halloween can be good clean fun after all.   Yet take a few minutes today and say a prayer of thanks for a monk 500 years ago who stood up to authority and helped create the world in which you live.

For further reading: 1 Timothy 3:7

Lord, bless Martin Luther and all those who crusade for You.

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Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 15 August 2018

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 2 Thessalonians 3:2 (NIV).

Not long ago I was staying at a home of a friend who has embraced evil.   In rejecting God he has replaced Him with evil and invited it into his home.   Now, I’ve always been skeptical of ‘haunted houses.’   They’re a Halloween gimmick and I never fully accepted the idea of evil living in one place…that is until I stayed there.   I’ve never truly felt such hopelessness, such rage, terror and loneliness, such sadness in a single place as I did staying a few days in this friend’s room.

There was a sinister poster on the wall; I was told from a video game.  The owner kept books about darkness there; books about hating God, about dark arts, about Satanist Aleister Crowley, about philosophy.   It was as if my friend is stewing his mind in twisted ideologies to find meaning.   I was told he didn’t read these things but why have them if not to use them somehow?   In my way of thinking, it’s impossible to keep something this grotesque around you and not be affected by it.

“For not everyone has faith.”

I couldn’t wait to get out of there.   I warned the owner of the house that they needed to face this and do something about it.  And I was harshly confronted by another member of the household in an attack I can only attribute to their vulnerability to a misunderstood evil.  When I left, I called my wife, overcome, and we spent the next half hour talking while I was in tears.

Have you ever encountered such a thing?   I know people who have conducted real exorcisms.   I have seen first-hand the result of what unabashed evil can do to a family.  I once saw my own grandmother seemingly transform through her eyes, in a matter of minutes, from placidness to manic panic in a fashion I could only think of as possession.  She was a woman of faith, yet evil in that moment overcame her.

I write these blog posts to, in my way, share the Gospel of Jesus with you.  That’s a call I believe God put on my heart, and it’s the motivation that keeps me doing them.  I know that some who read them don’t believe in Jesus, haven’t learned about Jesus, and some have even rejected Jesus.  Yet God hasn’t rejected them and He sends people like me and you to them to witness with how we live our lives.   The popular phrase is that believers are to be in the world but not of the world.  Yet here in the world, to not be of it, we constantly need God’s help to deliver us from evil as He Himself once said.   In advance of that help, we must pray.

For further reading:  Romans 15:31, 2 Thessalonians 3:3.

Lord, strengthen me to stand against evil then deliver me from it.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 31 October 2017

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.   Hebrews 13, verse 1.

If you’re a protestant follower of Jesus, then today is a special day.   Five hundred years ago this very day, an obstreperous monk named Martin Luther put his life on the line and challenged the church to a debate.  A professor, Luther strongly disagreed with the Catholic Church’s practice of selling indulgences, which were “get out of hell” declarations the Pope would give you if you paid him enough.   At the time, the church was selling indulgences to pay for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  Luther considered this to be sinful and a bastardization of the Scriptures.   So he nailed 95 debating points (theses) to the door of his local church in Wittenburg, Germany.  Over the next few years, everything changed.   The church split.   The Gospel was finally translated into languages common people could understand.   Mass printing, itself a new industry, soon allowed the mass communication of that Gospel in ways never before possible.   The political power structure that had existed for nearly 500 years was shaken.  And the basis for what we know as “Western Civilization” took a great step forward.

Luther’s point:   we need to love one another as brothers and sisters.   We do that by sharing the love, grace, and forgiveness that only Jesus Christ can give.   It doesn’t come from the church.   It doesn’t come from the pope.   It doesn’t come from having your time in a place they called “Purgatory” shaved off.  It doesn’t come from good deeds.   Forgiveness of sins ONLY comes from Jesus.   Somehow, over time, that message was lost in the traditions, corruptions, and practices of the church Saint Peter left behind.   Luther started the process of chipping off the barnacles and making the ship of faith seaworthy again.

That happened on this All Hallows Eve, October 31, 1517.

In Protestant churches all over the world, the last Sunday of October is traditionally known worldwide as “Reformation Sunday.”  My family used to attend a church in Colorado where, every Reformation Sunday, we held a German festival of remembrance for what Luther did.  Great food, lederhosen, German music; it was fun and good fellowship.   Martin Luther was a hero of the faith, and we who follow the Protestant tradition owe him a debt of gratitude for having the courage to stand up and say “what about this?”   My friend, Jerry, (who I met while attending that church in Colorado) once said something that stuck in my mind:  “every Sunday is Reformation Sunday.”

Noodle that thought for awhile, then take it a step further.   EVERY DAY is Reformation Sunday.

Jesus gives us His Gospel, His Word, as His personal communication to each of us.   He gives us called servants of the church to help us understand it, and He gives us other people to reinforce and build up our belief.   But when you boil it all down, Jesus is talking to each of us individually.   Folks like Dr. Luther help us to understand that talk.   We should stand up to anyone and anything every single day when people and things get in-between ourselves and our Lord.   Every day we should challenge our faith.   Every day we should echo Luther and say “here I stand” and base our stand only on the Word of God.   Everything else, well, isn’t the Word.   Every day, we should take courage from what Luther and others did and rely only on Jesus for our salvation and only on God for everything in our lives.   Every day we should remember the blessings of living in the world Luther helped to shape.

Yet we should also remind ourselves that “there are no Lutherans in heaven.”  There are no Baptists, or Wesleyans, or Episcopalians, or Catholics, or Methodists or Presbyterians or any other flavor of Christians in heaven.   There are only followers of Jesus there.   If you believe Jesus is your savior and that He is the only way to an eternity of love, then the denominational label you wear (or don’t wear) doesn’t matter.   Worship where you’re comfortable and go where you’re led.   Just don’t get too wrapped around the axle about the label.   Indeed, I wonder if Martin Luther wouldn’t be horrified to learn that a large group in the church he founded is named “Lutheran” instead of “believer.”

No matter, all of that started 500 years ago today.   When you get a few minutes today, Google Martin Luther and read up on what he did.   Then say a prayer of thanks for it.

For further reading:  Romans 12:10.

Lord, thank You for inspiring Martin Luther, for all he and so many others did to expand Your church, and for letting me live in a time when I can learn about You from all they have done.  

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 24 October 2017

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”  The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.  Hebrews 12, verses 26-27.

Some words about the end.   Remember that movie line from our last time:   “everything will be alright in the end.   If everything isn’t alright then it isn’t the end.”  Today’s words talk about the end.  The end is coming.

According to the internet, the end should have happened this past weekend when the hidden planet, Nibiru, was supposed to crash into the Earth.   It didn’t happen.   And, if you remember your American history, the Millerites thought the world would end sometime between 1843 and 1844.   It didn’t happen then either.  And REM sang that this is “the end of the world as we know it.”   So far it hasn’t happened, which is good for their record sales.

When the end comes, you’ll know it.   You’ll hear the trumpet.   You’ll see Jesus in the clouds.   You and everyone around you and everyone everywhere will acknowledge that He is God, that all you’ve learned about Him is true, and that He’s back.  Will you be what remains because it cannot be shaken?

In the past, God came with fire and earthquakes and, well, announcing His presence.   Throughout history, He’s made His presence known.   I think about that scene from Forrest Gump when Lieutenant Dan is screaming at God to show Himself, and Forrest says “and then God showed up” as a hurricane starts to blow.   When the storm had passed, the tortured lieutenant was at peace, and God provided a new wealth for Dan and Forrest.  Isn’t that kind of a small picture of what God does?  The majesty of God is an amazing thing.   The power of a storm, the magnificent sunsets and sunrises, volcanoes, vast seas, sun-swept deserts and snow-capped mountains:   nature screams out praise to God simply by existing as He created it.   That’s here and now in a fallen world where His majesty is viewed through the gauzy lens of our sins.   God can do as He pleases; we’re here in the world He created for us.

When the time is right, God will shake it.  What God created by words – by The Word – will be shaken again by His words, by the return of The Word.  Only God the Father knows when; not even the Son and Spirit with whom He’s in perfect union know.   When the Father deems it time, all will be shaken, all will be turned over, all will be moved.   Everything will be turned upside down.

Will you remain?   By accepting Him as your only salvation, you can stand fast.   When the physical and spiritual shaking starts, will you be able to?  When the fallen world realizes its predicament and quivers in terror, will you stand up and welcome this advent?   Will you have put your trust in Him and realize that, once again, He will make all things new as He shakes the world at its foundation?

The end didn’t happen in the 1840s, and it didn’t happen when REM sang about it 20 years ago, and it didn’t happen this weekend.  Today, weathermen forecast the weather for tomorrow and the next few days.   Project managers plan work for the next few weeks, months, and years.  Government bureaucrats march towards deadlines, athletes train for the next game, and kids are planning for Halloween (next week).  And if God deems that, right now, the world should be shaken and time be at its end then that’s exactly what will happen.   Nothing we can do can stop it.   Indeed, if it ushers the return of Jesus, I don’t want to stop it.   I’m ready for the end.   How about you?

For further reading:  Exodus 19:18, Haggai 2:6, Isaiah 34:4, Isaiah 54:10, 1 Corinthians 7:31, Hebrews 1:11-12, 2 Peter 3:10, 1 John 2:17.

Lord, You will shake everything when the time is right.   When You do, I pray I am standing for You, eagerly awaiting Your return.