Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 20 May 2020

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul1 Peter 2:11 (NIV).

You know we can say “no,” right?   We get to say “no” to things that can harm us because the Spirit of Jesus has made us free to do so.

Tempted to mouth off to the guy in the next lane?   You don’t have to.   Surfing to the porn sites?   You don’t have to do that.   Wanting something bad to happen to the woman who got “your” promotion?  You don’t have to do that either.  Flirting to arrange a tryst?  Nope, you don’t have to do that.

Jesus gave us “no.”   We have been blessed with the privilege of saying no, of walking away, of changing our minds, of re-training our thoughts and habits.   The Spirit that Jesus promised us, then gave at Pentecost, has taken up residence in our lives.   Through Him, we don’t have to live by the rules of this world anymore.   The lust, greed, avarice that come with living through our sinful nature can be effectively defeated with that little word, no.

And then the hard work begins.   You know that’s true as well.   It’s tough to work up the courage to say no, but it’s even tougher to stand by it, to let our no’s mean no.  Even when we instinctively know that our sinful desires are harmful to us; that no good comes from our foul language, that affair, my evil thoughts or yours.   Even when we know deep inside that these things can hurt, and even when we also know Jesus lives and breathes through us, it’s still so tough to say no and mean it.   To not backslide.   To not stick a toe back in the pool of sin because, after all, a little touch can’t hurt, can it?

Yes, actually it can.

It can hurt because living in the filth of our sins isn’t what Christ has in store for His people.   He paid for our reservations in a new land, our mansions on a new estate.   We aren’t citizens of this world any longer.   His resurrection paid for us to be resident aliens of Heaven living here on the earth below.    We’re part of it now; we’re citizens now; we belong to Jesus and His Paradise now, and eventually we’ll be there with Him.

Until then, we get to say “no” when our pet sins come calling.  You know they do; you know they will.   When that happens, remember He gave us the freedom to resist, then He stands with us as we make our stand.  Make yours now.   Say “no” today.

For further reading: Romans 13:14, 1 Corinthians 10:14, Galatians 5:16, Hebrews 11:13, James 5:11 Peter 2:12

Savior Lord Jesus, strengthen me when I say “no,” and stand with me to resist the temptations when the sins of my life try to lure me back.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 6 May 2020

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  1 Peter 1:23 (NIV).

My friend, Mark (who is also my pastor), is always saying that “we’re part of heaven now.”   Not just when we die, but here and now, in this temporal life, living on the Third Rock.   We’re not just guaranteed to have a place in heaven because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice:   we’re reaping the benefits of that promise right now.   All that happens because Jesus made it so that we’re part of heaven – God’s adopted children of His Spirit – here where we live now.   We’ve been born twice, once of a physical parent and once of our Spirit-parent.   The life our parents gave us in conception and then birth will perish.   But the life God gives us through faith in His Son allows us to live forever.   Our death from this life is the entrance to the next phase of eternal life.

Yet we’re part of that eternal life right now.   It happened because He who could not be bound by death shared His resurrection with His people who are.

It’s a beautiful thing, you know.   It’s the circle of life as it really is, not just a cool song from the Lion King.   The perishable seeds of our lives give way to the imperishable life of forever.   What’s more, the body that dies on earth will one day be reunited with the spirit that never died but was freed from it for awhile.  Until then, as we live, we produce for God’s community and His Earth.   When we die, the soul is freed to be in paradise with Christ while the body decays here.   And in His good time, the two will be reunited in a life imperishable, living on an earth remade as Eden where sin and pain won’t be present.

We get to live with the knowledge of that now.   What’s better, we get to share that knowledge and especially Jesus’ love with others, helping them to know Him better as well.   He who was and is and is to come, who is God and was with God before all time, guaranteed this for us.   We’re part of heaven now.   It’s how God designed things.  He uses things in this life to refine and, to teach us how to live holy so that we might give love to others and glory to Him in doing so.  We’re part of heaven right here, right now.   Let’s live out today knowing it.

For further reading:  John 1:13, Hebrews 4:12, 1 Peter 1:24

Lord Jesus, You gave us life for here and for later.   You make us part of heaven now so that we might share You with our brothers and sisters.   Teach us the best ways to do this today, then open up opportunities to do it.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 27 February 2020

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  Philippians 3:20-21 (EHV).

You’re part of eternity now even if you don’t think so.   There’s a spot for you waiting in heaven beyond this life, yet it’s guaranteed to you now.   It’s like Jesus put His credit card on deposit at the best hotel anywhere.   More than that, the king of a distant land came to you and I and gave us the keys to His Kingdom.   He invited us to live well here and then join Him when we’re done where we are.

More than that, we’ll be in a glorious body.   Last time I looked in the mirror, a middle aged fat man looked back at me and reminded me that I’d be in better shape if that reflection shed about fifty pounds or more.   Come heaven, this chubby self I now call “me” won’t be chubby (or maybe it will be).   It will be made perfect, in whatever for Jesus has deigned it will be.

Maybe that’s happening right now.   Maybe Jesus is using these days we’re living in right now to refine us here on the fallen Third Rock.  He’s already forgiven our sins.   He’s already purchased eternity for us.   He’s already sent His Spirit into our lives to re-shape us and motivate us.  Maybe part of this Spiritual transformation actually is showing itself in physical ways.

Maybe, actually, is true.   If you don’t believe me, think about reflecting Christ’s kindness to others.   That’s a physical manifestation of a spiritual lesson.   Think about wanting to take better care of yourself; perhaps you’ve heard of the biblical concept that our bodies are God’s temple.  Consider turning away from destructive behaviors to better your place in life…some in the church call that “repentance.”

You see:   it’s true.  It’s true because Jesus spoke only truth.   Yes, He spoke the truth about damnation for those who refuse to know Him.   There’s no denying that.   Yet it’s also undeniably true that He spoke more of love and of our place in His Father’s Kingdom.   Of how He was preparing places for us there.  Of how He has the power to forgive sins and change hearts.   That means transforming our bodies, both through hard work here and glorious miracles in the time to come.   That means living in eternal ways on a mortal earth because eternity matters most.   And that means trusting that Jesus has everything under control, always, even when the world seems to be careening out of bounds.  Even if I’m chubby.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 6:19, Ephesians 2:19, Colossians 3:1, Philippians 3:21.

Lord Jesus, everything is indeed under Your control.   Transform me now, I pray, to serve You best here.   Then welcome me into my glorious being in Your paradise after this life.

Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 26 February 2020

Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.  Philippians 3:19 (EHV).

There’s an ugly truth that we need to talk about:  not everyone will end up in heaven.   It’s true.   It’s not Dave Terry saying it:   it’s the Bible.   Jesus talked about hell, damnation, and eternal punishment over sixty times in the Gospels.   Later on, in verses like verse 19, Paul expands on it.

Yet Jesus talked so much more about heaven, the kingdom of heaven, and the love of.   Indeed, if you read Christ’s words about hell in their context, you see they were said as teachable points; as lessons that contrasted the mercy of God.   It’s not a “do this or else” proposition:   it’s “God loves you so much more so why choose any other way?”

Yet now that we’ve gotten past the “Jeopardy” part of our reading (where we can pass around trivia), we can’t gloss over an important fact:   Jesus means what He says.   He means that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that nobody goes to the Father except through believing in Him.   He didn’t say things just for effect or to hear Himself talk:   He meant them.

That means He meant the part about eternal punishment for rejecting Him.  It’s uncomfortable for us to acknowledge, but it’s true.   I’m in a men’s Bible study by David Platt about how something has to change.   We have to find ways to get the Gospel out to the world because the world desperately needs it.   Because if we don’t, then many, many billions of people may be damned to hell.   He who died to live to prove He is enough for us also wants those unknowing billions to live with Him, too.   They matter.

“But but but,” you may think, “God wouldn’t condemn someone who doesn’t know Him, would He?”   Yes, He may very well.   A friend of mine (who is a pastor) told me that he wouldn’t be surprised if God didn’t find a way to rescue even those who were never introduced to Christ in this life.   That’s most of humanity.   I believe that now, too; at least I’m hopeful it’s true.   Yet if it isn’t, if He insists on what He said about being the only path to a heavenly eternity, then we’re wasting time debating this point of trivia as well.

If Jesus means it – and we have every reason to believe He does – then we had better get crackin soon.  There’s no time to waste in sharing that Jesus loves us.   That He forgave everything.   That anything except Him isn’t of Him.  There’s no time to lose in sharing the truth that eternity doesn’t have to be hell.  Because Jesus means it.

For further reading:  Ephesians 2:19, Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 12:22, Philippians 3:20.

Lord Jesus, You mean Your words.  They are truth.   Let me share You with someone today.

Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 26 August 2019

This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:8 (EHV).

Awhile back I wrote about my uncle (in the context of Titus 2:2); how he is an older man worthy of respect and honor.   Today I’m writing about how he’s dying with dignity and strength.   Those things are possible for him because, decades ago, he decided to follow Jesus and live his life in a way that was devoted to Him, to what is good.   My uncle is in hospice today, and it won’t be long before he leaves this place, and is young again in heaven.

I’m watching from far away while this happens, knowing that he listened to the Apostle Paul countless times in his life.   That good words like Paul’s, here, prepared him for this time when he is readying to meet Jesus face to face.  It was trustworthy for Paul to say that it was honorable, excellent, and able to bear much good fruit for those who follow Jesus to devote themselves to doing what is right, what is decent, what is honorable.

My uncle has lived his life doing those things, and when he dies, we’ll gather around his funeral to remember how a man we loved taught us so many good things about how to follow Christ.   Buzz didn’t earn a trip to heaven; none of us do.   But Jesus earned it for him, made it possible for him to leave behind the cancer and debilitation and loneliness that sometimes plagues us here on the Third Rock.  When the door opens, he’ll walk through and be renewed and be in the presence of He who made it possible.

THAT is the point of Paul’s words to Titus today.   THAT is the point of my uncle following Jesus throughout his life.   The things that are excellent and profitable in this life are from Jesus and because of Jesus and in Jesus.  We aren’t talking A+ on-your-report-card excellent, or Bill & Ted adventure excellent:  we’re talking perfection.   And we aren’t talking about your-best-life-now financial profitable, or YUGE 401K profitable:  we’re talking about souls standing in eternal praise of God.   Here in this world, living lives in thankful praise of Him can earn we followers respect and honor, yet it isn’t for this world that people live such lives.   It’s to praise Jesus.  It is for being part of forever even now…and then after.

My uncle, Buzz Kornmann, understands all this.   I hope he isn’t too embarrassed by my saying it here.   Say a prayer for him, please, and for his family.   And please make it a prayer of happiness and thanks:  like he would.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 1:15, Titus 3:9

Lord Jesus, thank You for good men in our lives who lived to teach us to follow You.

Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 3 July 2019

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.  Titus 1:1-2 (NIV).

Here’s a little more of why God put it on Paul’s heart to write to Titus; part of the purpose for this letter:   the hope of eternal life.

I think of “The Color Purple.”   Great book; great movie.   In the movie, Oprah Winfrey’s character, Sofia, is strong and determined while Celie, played by Whoopi Goldberg, is more withdrawn but steady.  Sofia is bull-headed in everything she does.  Celie is consistently abused, both physically and emotionally, and has resigned herself to that fate until Sofia calls her out on it.   Celie’s response:   this life doesn’t last forever but heaven will.  Sofia’s response to that?   That’s great but what about now?

Wouldn’t that response apply to most of our world.  After all, it’s reasonable, isn’t it?   What about now?   What about me?   Don’t I matter?

Perhaps both Celie and Sofia were right; perhaps it’s a ‘both/and’ situation.   The hope of eternity is a promise, not a wishing well kind of hope.   It’s a certainty, a foundation.   God, who never lies, promised it.   It’s like the law of gravity:   something universal on which we can rely.   It matters now and later at the same time.

God chose mankind to display His grace and His love.  He could have chosen honeybees but He didn’t.  We are the elect, and those who follow Jesus know this.   Why?   Because God, who doesn’t lie, gave Himself in His Son to die for us when we didn’t deserve it.   Because He won forever in heaven for us when we couldn’t.   That means we get to enjoy the peace of that hope right now.   It can change hearts to live with a better outlook…if we let it.   It’s the Sofia moment:   what about now?   Yes, Oprah:  what about now.   The peace of God is for right now, for dealing in love and justice with our fellow man, including those who abuse us.   Including those who are bull-headed.  Including ourselves.

And the peace of God is for our eternity in heaven as well.   It’s for later, for after the elect are given an eternal reward of living in His presence.   Abused people are forgiven by Christ; abusers, too.   And bull-headed people, too.   Jesus did EVERYTHING necessary and possible to open God’s presence to us.  All we have to do is accept it.  The reward for it is heaven, which, as Celie might say, we’ll see in a little while.

For further reading:  Numbers 23:19, Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Timothy 2:2, Hebrews 6:18, James 1:1, Titus 1:3

King Jesus, I believe Your promise.   The hope of heaven is mine now and forever.   Teach me today to share that in how I live this gift of my life.

Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 10 July 2018

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (NIV).

Sad verse; this is a very sad verse.

I read all the “Left Behind” books.  They’re fiction, yet in the scene where Jesus delivers His divine judgment against those who rejected Him, He is described as looking sad.   For those who choose to not believe in Him, it will be a moment of supreme terror and it will show; for believers, it will be shock, and that’ll show as well.  Yet for Jesus, I’m betting the book will have called it right.   I’m betting Jesus will be sad in that moment, maybe even weeping.

Jesus didn’t come to destroy us.   He won’t return with the sole purpose of doing that either.  Even though He will return in mighty justice, heavenly fire, and more power than the world has ever known, that’s not why He’s coming back.   He’s coming back to restore creation to the way He created it.  He’s coming back to permanently restore true love, real harmony, and peace forever.   Jesus is coming back in power and glory to claim His followers to bring them into eternity with Him and it will be the greatest day in history, especially since it will be the last one.

Yet involved in that will be expunging those who chose no part of it.  Those who insisted they know better, those who spurned Him, those who embraced hypocrisy, those who live in hate and worldly pleasure, those who simply don’t care:  they will be punished.   He will unleash His angels to bind and eternally sentence them to be apart from Him.   Oh, they’ll live forever; we are eternal beings whether eternally in heaven or hell.   Yet their forever will be one of eternal punishment, apart from all love, hope, and peace in whatever hell has in store for them.   Whether hell is literal fire or emotional torment (or both) we don’t know.   Whatever is in it, it will be terrible.

I feel sorry for these unbelievers, especially since the Gospel isn’t a game of “I’ve got a secret.”   It’s sad, and I’m thinking that’s how Jesus will feel.   It’s not what He wants; it isn’t what He intended for His children.   He wants brothers and sisters, friends, followers, lovers of His real love.  He wants all of us to be saved, including scoffers.   He wants saints and sinners side by side with Him forever.  But He’s holy and the new Earth refined out of His fire will be holy like Him.  For that holiness to exist, it must be free from all that reject Him.   That means God will punish those who reject Him and who choose to reject the Gospel of Jesus.   And that’s the saddest news ever even as it’s necessary.

For further reading: Philippians 3:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:3, 2 Peter 3:7, 2 Kings 17:18, Isaiah 2:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

Lord Jesus, come quickly and have mercy.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 4 May 2018

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV).

Here’s the Rapture.  Or, if, like me, you don’t believe in the Rapture, here’s how the story ends…or begins.   But let’s do ourselves the favor of not getting wrapped up over details.   The important part is that the story ends with believers going to live with Jesus forever.

What happens to those who don’t believe?  You know.

And that’s a terrible, tough truth to talk about.  ALL people will be resurrected, first those who died in faith in Jesus, then everyone else.  And for those who don’t believe in Jesus there awaits an eternity without Jesus.   He who said He was “the way and the truth and the life” will cast out those who rejected Him (and those things).   Imagine an eternity without a way to paradise, or an eternity without truth (but full of lies).   Consider forever without life and all the vitality and love that is life.

You know:   hell.   That’s how the story ends for those who claim this whole Jesus thing is nonsense.   We get what we choose and those who choose anything but Jesus get their choice.   It’s not what Jesus wants; it’s not what He came for.   But Jesus is all love and love respects free will, and we are creatures given free will.  If we choose the temporal, temporary pleasure of “I know better” then, when time runs out, Jesus will reluctantly grant the reward of our choice and remove Himself from our lives.   Forever.   It’ll be the start of the worst forever you could imagine.

Yet for those who choose to follow Him, verses 16 and 17 describe the start of a different eternity.   It will happen with a shock and the thunderous voice of God and His angels setting things right. Heaven will return to earth and begin to remake what we’ve undone.  He will bring us to Himself, and He will grant us the reward we’ve chosen in Him.   In Him we’ll find life, purpose, worship, brotherhood, peace, music, fulfillment, knowledge, harmony.   Keep throwing glowing adjectives at it and you get the drift.  We’re a part of heaven now yet we only know part of it.   In that moment, we will see it all.

Whether you believe that comes in a single flash or through the Rapture-initiated great tribulation, the end result is forever with Jesus.   That is the only detail that matters.

For further reading:  Matthew 16:27, Jude 9, 1 Corinthians 15:23, Revelation 14:13, Acts 1:9, Acts 8:39, 1 Thessalonians 4:18.

Lord, I so look forward to forever with You!

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 15 March 2018

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith.  1 Thessalonians 3:7 (NIV).

Have you ever thought about the example you set for others?

Stephen Hawking died yesterday.   You’ve probably heard that by now, and how the most brilliant scientist of our age lived his live as a self-avowed atheist.  To many believers this means Mr. Hawking is spending his first full day of eternity in hell.  Other people I know are, like me, hoping Dr. Hawking saw the truth of the Scriptures just before he died and is embracing Jesus in heaven.   Some others I know are angered at anyone insisting we know one way or another.  I’d imagine that more than a few atheists, if they truly don’t believe in God, shouldn’t particularly care.

Me, I’m encouraged when I hear about someone’s faith.

It isn’t up to you or me to know that Stephen Hawking is burning in hell or celebrating in heaven.  That’s up to God.  So I pray God was merciful to this atheist who said God didn’t exist.  We’re supposed to pray for our enemies, right, and unbelievers or dis-believers are, well, enemies of the faith.     Their posture is antithetical to Christ.  If we can’t pray for those people, especially in their greatest moments of need (like dying) then maybe we need a gut check.

So when I hear that there are people in the world who prayed for Dr. Hawking and others like him, I’m encouraged by that.   I’m encouraged to hear about my friend in Uganda who ministers to multiple congregations by both his formal ministry as well as through the way he teaches young people how to farm and garden. I’m encouraged when I think about all the people who celebrated faith not when Stephen Hawking died but, instead, when Billy Graham died a few weeks ago.   I’m encouraged when I meet new people at church who I haven’t seen there before.   And I’m encouraged to teach my grandkids how to say their prayers at night just before they go to sleep.

Because the ways I act concerning these things are examples I set for others.  Other people, like atheists and new followers and grandkids, are watching how I, as a follower of Jesus, act in these times.   The Thessalonians watched Paul and changed their lives to more closely resemble his.   So it is with us today.

I honestly hope and pray Stephen Hawking changed his extraordinary thinking about the truth of Jesus just before he met Jesus.  Scripture is replete with warnings about the eternity of those who reject Christ in this life.   I hope Dr. Hawking “saw the light” before he met the Light. It’s too grim to think otherwise.  One day we’ll each find out.

For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:8.

Lord, have mercy on those who are dying without believing in You.  I pray, change their hearts now.  Use my life as a tool to help do that

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 21 February 2018

 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.  1 Thessalonians 2:9 (NIV).

Usually I write these blog posts the night before I post them.   Last night, I was busy calculating my taxes so I didn’t get to write until morning.   I take that as yet another proof that God knows what He’s doing and is active in even the little details of our lives.

Word came this morning that Billy Graham has died.   I think of a few things when I think of Rev Graham, mostly that I met him once, saw him twice, and turned off the TV when he was on dozens of times when I was a kid.   Today I think that 1 Thessalonians 2:9 is a fitting verse by which to remember him.

The words I write and share here won’t reach 2 billion people, but Billy Graham’s did.   I’ve never met 9 presidents and witnessed the gospel personally to them, but Billy Graham did (indeed, George W. Bush credits Graham for personally ministering to him in a way that let him turn cold turkey from alcoholism and never turn back).   I never traveled behind the Iron Curtain for the specific purpose of talking about Jesus, but Billy Graham did.  I never did this or that or one or the other but Reverend Graham did.

So what? Through it all, Mr. Graham was just like you and me.   He was a sinner.   On his own, he wasn’t worthy to lick God’s bootheels.   Without God’s intervention, he was damned.  Because of Jesus, none of that mattered.   Because of Jesus, Billy Graham got to meet Him face to face today:   just like you and I can when our lives are over.

I once went to a Billy Graham crusade; I once met him in person.   In those days, that was simply another happening to me, another check box I could fill about having done something for God.   I didn’t realize that Graham, as a speaker, was using his platform to tell me what God had already done for me.   In time, I came to admire that, came to better understand it.   There was no decision for Christ I made other than simply acknowledging what Jesus had already done in full.  Yet when that understanding came, it made all the difference in my life.

Today you’ll read a great many things about Billy Graham, then tomorrow the world will move on to its next big thing.   That’s how it goes here, and really that’s how it should be.  But for today, celebrate the kingdom work of a man who used his time to tell us all “Jesus loves you.”  The longer I live, the more I see that’s the most fitting epitaph of all.   Rest in peace Reverend and welcome home.

For further reading: Thessalonians 2:10.

Lord, thank You for this good servant.