Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 30 August 2017

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.  Hebrews 11, verses 39-40.

At the end of all things:   that’s a phrase from the final “Lord of the Rings” movie.   Frodo and Sam have destroyed the one ring and are trapped on a rock amidst a sea of lava.   They completed their mission but now, it seemed, they would perish as Mount Doom exploded around them.   Free of the evil power of Sauron’s ring, Frodo tells Sam he feels liberated, and is thankful to be together with him “here, at the end of all things.”

I like that phrase.   I can’t exactly explain why, but I like the phrase.  Perhaps it’s because we have not yet reached the end of all things, yet the faith I have in my Lord speaks constantly of it.  The words He left for us in His Sriptures speak of them.   Words like these two verses from Hebrews.

All through chapter 11 we’ve read about these heroes who lived by faith and did great things.   Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, all of them:  their greatness wasn’t because of themselves, but because of the God they followed.   Some of them followed Him through works that brought great glory.   Some of them followed Him through works that brought them into eternal glory.

THAT was the point, you see:  following Jesus leads to eternal glory.

That is the point of all Scripture.   That is the point of all human history.   It isn’t to gain knowledge; it isn’t to find renewable energy.   The point of all things isn’t to wield power, or amass wealth, or to travel the seven seas.   It isn’t even to love and be loved in the warmth of your family.   No, the point of human history has always been Jesus Christ.   To follow Jesus is the highest follow the highest calling in all humanity.  To follow Jesus means being made righteous by Him, and to be made righteous by Christ is to be redeemed.

Do you know what is different between you and me and the people of the Old Testament?  It’s knowing Jesus.   We have an advantage they didn’t have.  We actually do get to know Him as He revealed Himself.   None of the heroes of the Old Testament lived in the time of Christ.   They lived hundreds, even thousands, of years before Him.   Yet they knew the triune God of Whom Christ is the Son.  Even as they didn’t know Jesus face to face they knew Him in their hearts, deep in their souls.  And because they lived in a savage world of common brutality, they understood dying for that belief.

What about the world we live in?  We talked just yesterday of how, even today, professing belief in Jesus can cost you your life.   Common brutality 3000 years ago isn’t much different from common brutality and savagery today.  I’m betting, too, that the statistics of believers to non-believers back then weren’t so different from those we have now.  How many people back then truly followed the living God?   If God’s chosen people were the Israelites and to follow God you numbered yourself among them, then there weren’t many.   Just like today.

And still the point of it all is to follow Jesus.   When we do that, we march in the Lord’s Army in lockstep with Jacob, Moses, Gideon and the others.   They did the same thing.   At the end of all things, that’s what matters most.

For further reading:  Hebrews 10:36, Revelation 6:11.

Lord, I praise You for the examples of these people.   Thank You for recording their stories that we can know of their faith today.

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Daily Proverbial, from James, 11 October 2013

 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.  James 2, verse 9.

Forgive me because I messed up.   I skipped a verse.  I moved ahead a verse, preferring it to this one.  Maybe I was committing a subtle sin of favoritism, of omission.   That’s not a trite line:  it’s where we’re going today.

You see, you and I show favoritism in everything we do.   James reminds us of that fact.   I like skim milk instead of 2%; I prefer green to red; “Lord of the Rings” over “Saw” movies.  Perhaps there’s no harm in those choices, but what about I prefer black people to white, or I love me some Christians but can’t stand those Muslims.  Go ahead:   it’s ok to pick the good ball players first; everyone always gets stuck with the lousy players when there aren’t many left to choose.  How does that favoritism sound now?

Personally, I think it sounds typical.  I’ve done it.   You have too.  In verse 8, James reminds us to love everyone, and then, in the verse after this one, he reminds us that one sin means we’re thick with sin and guilty of breaking all of God’s law.  It’s as if we are staring at a crystal bowl of perfectly still water, then we drop a single pin-point bit of dye into it that stains the whole thing.

God won’t be stained.   He’s holy.   He can’t be.   He won’t allow it because, without that holiness, life has no source, no meaning, and no love.

That’s not good enough for me, though.  I’m thick with the idea that I know better.   Just ask me:  I’ll tell you.   Give me long enough and I’ll plan out your day, equip you to do it, tell you how to get it done, and then send you on your way.   I’ll hammer you if you don’t do what I want, too.  It’s what I do for a living and, if you ask my wife, it’s what I do at home; terrible gift and flaw.   Just ask me:  I’ll tell  you that too.  I know better, and I know better than God, right?

Guilty.   Guilty, stained, and damned.  I chose me over God.  

That’s just not good enough for the Lord.   In the same chapter where Jesus uses James to tell us to love everyone, He also says we’re damned if we choose favorites that push Him out of the way.   James warns us about showing favoritism because it’s not just scorning people who Jesus loves:   it’s scorning Jesus.   It’s choosing something else over Him.   And He is righteously jealous, wanting to be our only choice.   He knows that everything else in life is second best and He only wants the best for us.   It isn’t cocky arrogance:   it’s unending love.

Lord, You are my favorite.  You are my only choice.  Show me the errors of my ways and humble me when I become proud.

 

When have you played favorites?

What good resulted from that?

How does it make you feel to walk in the shoes of the ‘un-favored?’