Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 18 April 2019, Maundy Thursday

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.   2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV).

Today is Maundy Thursday.   Think of it as election day.   We are the elected.   Think about that.

How do you obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus?   Everything that could be done to save mankind from the second death of damnation has been done by Jesus.   He did it on Easter Sunday, which we’ll celebrate in a few days.  The ONLY thing you do to put that salvation into effect in your life is believe.   With belief comes love.  That’s it; nothing more, nothing less.  All the work, all the spiritual battling, all the sacrifice, all the love:   Jesus did it all.   The only thing we do is believe.   And not lip service; real belief.   Believing means surrendering to His will, surrendering control of your life to Him.   It means letting His Spirit guide your heart to remake your life away from sinful ways.   It means replacing enmity with amity, questions with understanding, hate with love.

The payoff for it?   Eternal glory.  That eternity starts now, here on the Third Rock, there in your life where you live now.   You participate in it now and will for the rest of your life here, until the time your life here is ended and you move to eternity with Jesus in person.  Then the fun really begins.

And who begins this journey for you?   You know the answer:   God does.   Jesus did from the time in Eden to the last moment of your life.  In love, God is eternally all-knowing.   He knows ahead of time who will end up with Him at the end of time, yet He loves us enough to put aside this knowledge and grant us free will.   You and I don’t HAVE TO believe in Jesus.   We get to.   We get to choose whether or not to believe that He has done everything for salvation or not.

With that comes accepting – or not – that He loved us before we even knew Him.  You and I can love Him because He first loved us, or we can choose to not believe it and allow to be so for God to turn us over to the consequences of our choice.   Love respects choices, and God has that kind of love for us.  He will keep working on us, providing what we need to make the right choice up until the moment we die.   After that moment, it’s too late to decide.   We will all meet Him.   Will you stand in joy for your choices, or fall in damned defeat because of them?   He elected you, chose you, through love.   On this Maundy Thursday, what will you do?

For further reading: Colossians 1:24, Titus 1:1, 2 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Peter 5:10, 2 Timothy 2:11.

Lord, thank You for electing me to be saved.   Help our unbelief.   Forgive our sins.  

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 29 March 2018, Maundy Thursday

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  1 Thessalonians 3:12 (NIV).

This is Paul talking about Jesus, about Jesus making the love of the Thessalonians increase and overflow for each other and everyone else.  Class dismissed.

But before you go, of course I have a few words.   Of course, since it’s Maundy Thursday, I’ll try to put them in that context.

Put yourself in the upper room that night.   You’re a helper bringing food in and out.   It’s a simple dinner, a menu that stretches back centuries.   Jesus and his friends, these famous people you’ve heard about, maybe met, maybe listened to, are here and you’re helping them celebrate the holiest night of the year.  You bring in lamb, herbs, unleavened bread, wine; you watch them as they say the words and ask the questions that Jews have said and asked most every year since the exodus from Egypt.

The overwhelming emotion in the room seems to be reverent sadness.   Given that this is the Passover, that’s appropriate.   But there’s something else afoot there, another emotion at work, something you can’t quite pin down but it’s moving and it’s growing.  Jesus is leading His friends in the mystical seder, and talking with them about sad things, about being tortured and persecuted and murdered.   He’s telling them strange things, speaking about His body and blood, and they are listening intently but don’t seem to really understand.

And then He’s talking with them about love, about incomparable love.   He’s talking about God’s love.   He’s telling them to love each other, to serve Him by serving others, to do as He does.  Jesus then stoops down to do the dirtiest job you know of:  He washes His friends’ feet.

That’s when you get a revelation, a light starts to shine in your head.   “He loves them.”  That’s a pretty obvious thought, but it’s miraculous.   He really, truly, fully loves these people the way only God does.   Jesus is talking the talk and walking the walk by both demonstrating and speaking of His love.   His love is expressed in everything He’s doing, and He’s serving them in ways you don’t expect God would.   But Jesus is doing it anyway and what He’s doing is inspiring, deeply moving, selfless and perfect.   Jesus is showing them, and you, the kind of person you want to be.   It’s life-changing.

And it happened on Maundy Thursday.   That kind of love is what Paul was talking about, the love Jesus would inspire and grow in the hearts of the Thessalonians.  It’s the kind of love that would make a wandering missionary long to see his friends.   It’s the kind of love that changes hearts, attitudes, and lives, both then and now.   It’s for you.

For further reading:   Matthew 26:17-35, Mark 14:12-31, Luke 22:7-38, John 13:1-17:26, 1 Thessalonians 3:13.

Lord, all praise to You for Your love, for the lessons You taught on Maundy Thursday.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 17 April 2017

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.  Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’”  Hebrews 10, verses 5-7

A happy day after Easter to you.   Here in east Texas, it’s pouring rain.   I’m thankful that the rain held off until today because yesterday it would have drowned out everyone’s Easter plans.   On the homestead north of Paris, after church my wife cooked a great dinner while I went outside to do some overdue yard work.   I cut down some nuisance bushes and thinned out plants all around the property, and it gave me time to think about a thought God had put on my brain during church.

Think about Easter Saturday.   Maundy Thursday we understand.  Good Friday we understand.   Easter Sunday:   we get it, and even the days between Easter and Pentecost, when we observe God imparting His Spirit to us so that we can live life as Jesus’ eyes and ears.   Historically we know what happened on those days.   Ecclesiastically we comprehend the meaning of their events.  What about that in-between day?   Who ever thinks about Easter Saturday?

Have you ever really noodled the idea that God provided everything on Easter Saturday?   On Friday, we humans, His ‘very good’ creation, publicly and desperately murdered God who lived among us as a man.   We didn’t just murder Him:   we brutalized Him physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally in the worst ways possible.   If you haven’t watched “The Passion of the Christ,” I urge you to do so because it is as close as you’ll get to actually watching Jesus being crucified.   Me thinks the real thing was even worse.

He who bore that torture had only come to do His Father’s will.   The man Jesus lived perfectly to do that perfect will, then died perfectly on a gruesome torture tree to do that same holy will.  He came to atone for all the things He never did wrong because we, as a people, simply didn’t ‘get it.’   Animal sacrifices, burnt grain offerings, good works, even clean living didn’t atone for sins.   They still don’t and never will.  Yet people clung/cling to them as if doing so will please God and bring us closer to Him.   Perhaps it’s just another way we try to be God instead of living our lives to reflect Him.   Jesus understood all that and yet He still chose the nails so we wouldn’t have to take them.

And still, on the day when Jesus’ body lay cold and dead in the Arimathean’s tomb, God again provided.   Air, water, food, shelter, love, friendship, vocation:   for everyone living on planet Earth that day God still showed up.   Just as He had every single day since He spoke life into being, God provided all that people needed to get through the time between midnights.  The Roman soldiers who flogged Jesus then nailed Him to that cross?   Alive and thriving.   The Sanhedrin that had cajoled a death sentence?   Alive and kicking with hot food in their bellies.   The crowds who cheered and cried as Jesus agonized along the Via Dolorosa?   Alive, breathing, going on about their business.  God.  Still.   Provided, and He provided to those who deserved it least.  Can we even begin to comprehend that kind of love?  In the whole story of Easter and the miracle God provided through it, perhaps that’s the most overlooked miracle of all.  God showed up when we least deserved it.

Like He’s showing up now in the miracle of rain pouring down outside my office door.   It’s filling up my pond, the same pond I wasn’t sure would ever fill again.  Nature really is a miracle, you know.   Watching trees bud and bring forth leaves.   Fish swimming in the pond and young chicks just hatched growing feathers in just a few short weeks.  The sun that warms us and brings weather to nourish and rejuvenate the planet.   These are all daily miracles we see.   They’re all ways God still provides.   If you try to count all the ways God provides for you in just one day, you won’t get anything else done.   That’s a miracle, too.   In the days when we deserve it least, God still provides everything we need.   And after living, dying, and then rising on that day we commemorated just yesterday, He still lives on in our hearts, minds and hands, still saying “here I am” as both identification and proclamation.   That’s the biggest miracle of all.

For further reading:  Hebrews 1:6, Hebrews 2:14, 1 Peter 2:24, Ezra 6:2, Jeremiah 36:2, Psalm 40:6-8, Matthew 26:39, .

My risen Lord, thank You for providing for me when I’ve so not deserved it.   Thank you for life, air, food, shelter, and love.   Thank You for dying for me, then living for me.   Teach me ways to live for You today and every day.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 13 April 2017, Maundy Thursday

Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  Hebrews 10, verses 2-4.

Today is Maundy Thursday 2017.   Today is the reason why animal sacrifices became unnecessary.  Today we commemorate God giving Himself up so that they would no longer be necessary.   That sacrifice we commemorate tomorrow, on Good Friday. But for now, today is a sad day of celebratory mourning, a time when we remember Jesus instituting the miracle of communion and forgiveness while facing the spiritual torment of Gethsemene, then Golgotha tomorrow.

As part of my own remembrance, yesterday I watched “The Passion of the Christ.”   I try to do this every year during Holy Week because it keeps my faith edgy.   The movie is so graphic and rightfully so since it portrays the most graphic murder ever perpetrated on a man.  I kept it on the TV in my office while I worked, and glanced over at it throughout the afternoon.  The more I watch the movie, though, the more I reach the same conclusion.

I feel sorry for Judas.

I’ve written this before but I feel sorry for Judas Iscariot.   He brought his woes on himself.   Nobody forced Him to betray the Son of Man but Judas did it willingly, even enthusiastically.  I know:  he was a greedy, selfish, sinful, detestable bastard.   Conniving, evil, deceitful; sounds like many of my friends and fellow sinners, actually.  No, I’m not equivocating because I’ve never sold out the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver.   My sins are my own and they have denied Jesus as surely as did Judas, Peter, or any of His other best friends who abandoned Him in His most desperate hours.

Yet I feel sorry for Judas because he is pathetic.

When Judas absorbed the guilt of his sins, he forgot all about Jesus.   Maybe it was that he couldn’t bring himself to even think about Jesus or what he had done to his friend and savior.   Perhaps the guilt was too crushing and he simply gave in to the worst temptation.   It’s possible that Judas didn’t understand the new covenant that Jesus had just explained to him in that Passover supper that first Maundy Thursday evening.  Or how it would supersede those sacrifices that dated back to the days of Noah or before.

Whatever happened, Judas snapped and killed himself.   He was cold and dead before Jesus was even nailed to the cross that Good Friday.  I feel sorry for him, have pity on him, and I honestly hope something in him turned back before the life snuffed out of his body.   It isn’t up to me, but I hope there’s a place in heaven for Judas.   If there isn’t a place for people who do things as supremely reprehensible as what Judas did, then there isn’t a place for any of us.   The key is belief.   Judas lost his belief, his faith, in Jesus if he ever really had it in the first place.

He lived in a time when people still fully believed that animal sacrifices atoned for human sins.   The whole purpose of the Jewish temple was to worship Yahweh, the almighty I AM.   Integral to that worship was the Mosaic sacrificial system where doves, lambs, and bulls were slaughtered and brought to the altar.   There was even an annual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, which is still commemorated by Jews today) in which the high priest took that animal blood and sprinkled it on the articles in the Most Holy Place.   By the time of Jesus and Judas, the Ark of the Covenant (God’s mercy seat) was long gone from the temple, having disappeared hundreds of years before.   Yet the Temple still contained a Most Holy Place – a Holy of Holies – where worshippers thought God was still present.  Once a year, the priest went into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled animal blood.

And it did nothing.  Yes, I said that.   It did nothing.   Even from the start of sacrifices it was only faith in God that would bring atonement.   Only God could fully atone for man’s sins because imperfect man could not.   The sacrifices were an expression of that faith, not the actual atonement.  Thus, when Jesus died, He and only He fully atoned as a true sacrifice for the terrible sins of His most cherished creation, man.

This was the world in which Judas lived and from which he committed suicide.   Even as a disciple closely walking with the incarnate God for years, he never made the connection between Jesus and sacrifice.  I feel sorry for him.   “The Passion of the Christ” shows him to be mentally anguished up to the end, tortured by demons, tortured by his sins.   The Bible doesn’t insist that people who commit suicide are damned, though it does paint suicide as a sin.   If Judas felt such terrible anguish that he couldn’t go on, I sincerely hope that, in his final seconds here, he found comfort in repentance and a place in paradise beyond.   That isn’t up to us:  it’s up to God.   Someday, hopefully many years from now, we’ll learn what happened.

For further reading:  Hebrews 9:9.

Lord, I praise You in mourning and celebration for the sacrifice You gave of Yourself.   Have mercy on Judas and others, and .