Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 25 October 2017

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.  Hebrews 12, verse 28.

Awe.   That concept comes from Malachi 2:5, which mentions revering God with awe.  When was the last time you really felt awe about something?   One time when I was at sea, I felt in complete awe being caught in the middle of a storm off the coast of Alaska.   And standing on the ridge of the Grand Canyon was awe-inspiring (and awesome).  The courage of my son standing up to give his very real confirmation testimony gave me a feeling of awe.   And now, during my last days on my east Texas farm, when I look out at the simple beauty of morning mists shimmering off the pond my heart is full of awe and wonder at the beauty of it all.

God has that effect on us.  Imagine the feeling of awe at falling at the feet of Jesus when this life is over, of having Him reach down and take your hand and lift you up.   “I’m so glad to see you,” He might say.   Imagine the awe of having the very much alive Jesus speak those words to you.   Of simply being in the presence of the Alpha and the Omega.  Of knowing He chose you and I to be with Him forever.

All that is possible because His kingdom is unshakeable.   The verse doesn’t just talk about the temporal, earthly kingdom here.   No, it’s talking about His kingdom inside us.   We are the church; we are His church and His vessels for carrying Him to the ends of the earth.   We do that because He lives and reigns within us.   When we live our lives following Jesus, we can’t be shaken.   The world around us may quiver, tremble, and quake, but we won’t.   We may get knocked down but we won’t be knocked out.   We may be hurt but we won’t be vanquished.   With Jesus as our lead, we will always advance.

That’s because His kingdom is within us.   Noodle that thought for awhile and you’ll find it’s awesome as well.  It will inspire real awe, real star-struck feelings within you.  He who died on the cross thinking about you, He who faced down the moneychangers and Pharisees and Pontius Pilate, He who walked on water and talked with Moses and Elijah on the mountain, He who was born in that manger, He who told Sarah she was pregnant, He who walked in Eden, He who spoke and made everything appear:  He has built His church on your heart and lives day to day here on this earth through you.   He’s real and He’s now.  When you live in godly ways, you’re letting Him work through you.   When you have mercy, you’re letting Him act out through you.   When you choose real love, you’re letting Him love through you.  You are a knight in His kingdom because His kingdom is alive and in your heart.  The world of hurt and pain can inflict those on you but it can’t destroy what Jesus has instituted within you.   Nothing can.

Yet His kingdom is also physical, tangible, and on its way.  Jesus’ coming kingdom will be a real, physical place here with real, physical work and real, physical actions.   There will be true government that is un-corrupted by sin.   There will be true justice that is measured by love.  There will be true leadership that is exemplified by Jesus on His throne yet walking with each of us.   There will be real people and real angels and real apostles and real work to be done.   To paraphrase my friend, Phil (of Calvary Chapel here in Paris), our personality, passion, character, and skills – core traits of Christian servants – will be put to work in service of Jesus’ real kingdom, even more than they are here and now.   In that day we will live in the kingdom He intended for us all along:  a place for us to thrive in harmony with Him and in unity with others and even nature.   Remember those words about the lion and the lamb living together?   They weren’t poetry.   They were an advance preview of what’s to come.   Real peace in the life we’ve all longed for.

And it is awesome to think of it all.

My friend, Mark (of Water’s Edge in Frisco), is fond of saying “you’re part of eternity now.”   Right on brother.   You and I get to choose that awe right now.  We don’t have to wait for the end of this life to be in awe of Jesus.   We get to do that now because He has made us righteous and worthy of Him now through what He did at Calvary.   That’s more awesome than an Aleutian storm, or a misty morning in Paris, or even the love of my kids and grandkids.   You and I:   we’re part of Him now, and it is an awesome God we can ponder.

For further reading:  Psalm 15:5, Isaiah 11:6, Daniel 2:44, Malachi 2:5, Hebrews 13:5.

My Lord I am in awe of you, of Your love, Your power, Your heart.   Align my life more and more with Yours.

 

 

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 23 December 2016

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5, verse 14.
One more set of thoughts about solid food…and Christmas. We gain strength from solid food. Our bodies – our spirits – gain strength and maturity from consuming things that build us up. Today is the day before the day before Christmas. If you’re a “Friends” fan, it’s Christmas Eve Eve. Have you considered that now is the time you should be hungry? Contrary to the popular Christian idea, I actually think that now is the time you SHOULD want more for Christmas. You SHOULD want the whole big Griswold Family Christmas.
Make sense? Probably not; let me explain. It’s because of Hebrews 5, verse 14.
We’re sinful fallen human beings. Like it or not, our ancestors took onto themselves something they’ve passed down to us through our genes: sinful nature. You have one. So do I. Sinful nature is how we can take a beautiful thing like undeserved grace and make it into a consumer-driven mega-holiday we call “Christmas.” Sinful nature is how we can want more and more stuff and still not be satisfied with it. If you don’t believe me, name for me the big gifts you received each of these last 10 years. Chances are, if you’re like me (and I believe you are), you can’t. We think we can gorge on solid food but we don’t realize that if we eat too much steak when we can only tolerate milk, we’re going to end up gripping the spiritual toilet, barfing up what we can’t handle.
Yet we SHOULD want more, we SHOULD want all the love, peace, joy, and happiness that Christmas represents. Why? You know the answer: they’re love, peace, joy and happiness! Don’t make it tougher than it should be! And here’s the kicker: love, peace, joy, and happiness are food for the mature. They’re food for a weary soul. They’re the simplest, most child-like things we can imagine and yet it takes a mature heart to grasp them. More important, it takes a mature spirit to share them, to give them away. Best of all, it takes a mature soul to give them unselfishly, as undeserved grace, to people who don’t deserve it.
Make no mistake: people don’t deserve it. We spend all year treating each other like crap and yet, at Christmas-time, we say we want to make amends and share that love, peace, joy, and happiness. We say we want to do those things because we want them ourselves. Yes, we actually are pretty slow, dull and dim, and yet even the slowest, dullest, dimmest of us want that love, peace, joy and happiness. News flash, friend reader: it’s a good thing to want them. It’s a good thing to look through all the bad things in the world and focus on what’s right and good, especially at the time of the year we set aside to celebrate them.
They’re some of the best of the fruit of God’s Spirit. Love, peace, joy, happiness: apart from God, you can’t find them. Apart from the Savior in the Manger, you only get stuff, you only get a facsimile of love, peace, joy, and happiness. Real love, honest peace, true joy, and lasting happiness can only be found at the feet of Jesus. When you, crushed sinner, bow at His feet and humble yourself in repentance, He takes your hand and you get to look into His eyes. There you see only love, peace, joy, and happiness.
You should want that. It’s the best Christmas gift of all.
In our house, Christmas season starts, oh, probably around May. It’s the consequence of marrying an Elf. My wife is happiest when she’s doing things for others, and I know of nobody better who demonstrates the love, peace, joy and happiness that are knowing Jesus through Christmas than the woman who was crazy enough to marry me. She plans all year long for Christmas, making lists, arranging finances, solidifying plans, and spreading honest cheer. The season kicks into full gear around October; these last two years it has been exacerbated by this thing called “the Hallmark Channel.” She’s been on the floor organizing presents all afternoon, and in a few minutes we’ll go out to give cookies and candies to our neighbors. It’s her thing; it’s a huge part of who she is and I wouldn’t have her any other way. My Hunnie knows a lot about love, peace, joy, and happiness. In a world set against them, she’s chosen to learn about them from following Jesus.
He’s the same Jesus who, God Almighty, decided the best way to meet His greatest creation, humanity, was by coming as a defenseless baby in poverty, then growing up to teach the world about love, peace, joy, and real happiness. Christmas comes this weekend. It’s a herald for the truly beautiful holiday a few months down the road at Easter.
Merry Christmas my friends. Wishing you love, peace, joy, and happiness…and some cookies and Hallmark movies as well. Feast heartily on them because they are the best food for a maturing spirit.
For further reading: Matthew 4:4, Hebrews 6:1, 1 Corinthians 2:6, 1 Corinthians 3:2, 1 Corinthians 14:20, 1 Peter 2:2, Isaiah 7:15, Psalm 46:10
Lord Jesus, thank You for Christmas, for coming here to live with us, for being our Savior in the manger.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 31 December 2013, New Year’s Eve

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.  James 5, verses 1-6.

Let’s take these verses together today because it’s a fitting day to do so.   New Year’s Eve is a good time to take stock of what we’ve done.   This year has been a tough one for folks I know because the economy is in bad shape, prices are high for most everything, and real unemployment is higher than it has been in nearly 80 years.   And yet, we are wealthy.

Now, if you’re juggling bills like we do, you don’t feel very wealthy.   If you’re having a hard time making ends meet, you don’t feel wealthy.   If you’ve declared bankruptcy, or at least missed payments, or are having to pay minimum balances, you don’t feel too wealthy.   In a depression like this one, it’s hard for even the well-off folks around us to feel wealthy about anything.

Here’s part one of your reality check.  Go to rural China.  Or anywhere in India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh.   Visit most of the nations in Africa, or South America.   Even the poorest of our poor in the Yazoo delta, inner city Detroit, or deep Appalachia are shockingly wealthy compared to how the folks in those other countries live.  Here ends the guilt motivation.

What’s more, the important part of checking reality is to realize what real wealth means.   Have you forgotten already?   Wasn’t it just six days ago that we each remembered how Jesus of Nazareth, God Immanuel, Alpha and Omega, King of Kings and Lord of Lords was born unto us in a humble manger?   If the poorest child in Uganda knows that the sovereign of the universe once rose as a baby from similar privation, then that poorest child is wealthier than the richest man at the bank.

Tonight we bid farewell to an old year come to close, while welcoming an untried new one into existence.  Today, let’s close out our business with what’s done, and weep only now for the misused riches of this year.  Let’s lay them at the manger…and at the cross.  Then tomorrow, let’s begin again in a new year knowing that, as long as we’ve got Jesus, we’ve got all the riches we could ever want.

Happy New Year, Lord.   Thanks for Your blessings, a year complete, and a new gift of one to unwrap.

 

What are you doing for New Years?

Which are you:   rich or poor?

Say a prayer at midnight, a prayer of thanks and a prayer of thankful hope…then have fun.

Daily Proverbial, from Luke, 24 December 2013, Christmas Eve

Luke 2, verses 1-20

This is the best thing anyone could write about Christmas Eve.  

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.   (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.). 

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.   And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.   And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.   For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”

Merry Christmas.