Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 6 May 2019

Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.  2 Timothy 2:17-18 (NIV).

My wife and I went to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky last week.   If you haven’t seen it, it’s a full-size recreation of what Noah’s Ark may have (even probably) looked like; a three-story museum of what it must have taken to create the Ark, then to tend to the animals, then to repopulate the world.   Ken Ham Ministries, which operates the museum, did a great job intertwining this story of how God saved physical life through the Ark with the account of how God saved spiritual life through the Good Friday Easter ark who is Jesus Christ.

At the end of walking through, it occurred to me that I had absorbed the message:  Jesus is the only way.   It was no surprise, but it was pleasantly shocking how much I agreed with it, how easily I identified with it.  Jesus is the antidote to false teaching.   He’s the opposite of all our sinful experiences.  Jesus as He was, is, and is to come.   Jesus as He is presented in the Bible is the only truth that matters.   In Paul’s day, the gangrenous teaching that Hymenaeus and Philetus had spread had already been overcome by Jesus and His resurrection.   All that Jesus said and taught was the highway to heaven.   Whether we receive that teaching in a tourist attraction, our neighborhood churches, online, or in person is all part of our human experience.

Duh.   Better do it while we can.

Back in Noah’s time, nobody other than his family believed that God had told Noah to build the ark because devastation was coming.   After Noah’s descendants repopulated the world, few believed that God would send His Messiah to redeem us from our sins.   In our world, even though there are over 2 billion Christians, there are also over 5.2 billion non-Christians who think our faith in God’s Son as Messiah is foolishness.   Some reject it as that.   Others, like Hymenaeus and Philetus of Paul’s day, spread false teaching about it for ungodly reasons.   Still others would have you and I suffer or die for our belief in Jesus.   Think ISIS or other radical Islamic sects; think Communists in China, Cuba, and elsewhere.  Think even about dilletantes here in the peaceful US of A.

Noah or now, some things never change.  Through it, the message of the Ark Encounter remains:   Jesus is the only ark, the only way to live through this terminal adventure called humanity.  How will you share that message today?

For further reading:  1 Timothy 1:19-20, 2 Thessalonians 2:2, 2 Timothy 2:19.

Saving Lord Jesus, You are the only ark into eternal life.  You are the only truth.  Forgive me when I’ve failed You.   Thank You for today in which to do better.   Help me to do so.

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 8 November 2018

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demon1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV).

We are a divided world; the division goes far beyond just the United States.   Muslims against everyone else.   Rich against poor (or at least ‘not rich’).  Protestants against Catholics.  Conservatives against progressives.   You get the picture.   We line up against each other over imaginary lines of offense.  Perhaps every generation thinks it has seen things ‘worse than they have ever been.’   I and others of my middle-aged generation seem to be saying that now.

Many of us line up and, in doing so, put our faith in things that aren’t Jesus (or aren’t of Jesus).  It isn’t just new age religions (many of which are actually rooted in ancient pagan religions), and it isn’t just embracing sensuality, materialism, atheism, or even apathy.  Many people just ignore the voice of Jesus’ Spirit talking to them.   He speaks through our conscience, through our knowledge of right and wrong, through nature, through others, through the Bible.   God has a myriad of ways that His Spirit can talk to us and convince us that He is talking.   Yet many people turn off that voice, chill it and drown it out.   Some people don’t even realize it’s Jesus’ Spirit talking to them or moving them in a direction.   Many don’t even think to ask.

How can we tell if something is of Jesus or from Jesus or about Jesus?   You know the answer.   Compare it against what is said in the Bible, especially in the New Testament.   And if you doubt that Jesus is who He said He is, then the first place to stop is your own heart.  Open it and pray.   Talk with God about exactly what you’re feeling, what you think, what you do or don’t believe.   He can take it and you’re worthy.

Start by asking God.   If you don’t feel or sense an answer from Him, go to the Bible.   Find a concordance or go to Biblegateway.com.   Any search engine can give you instant answers to most any question about Scripture you have.   Finally, if your head is wondering, remember those links I shared yesterday:  the first is about how Jesus fulfilled 300+ prophecies about the Messiah (http://www.accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/353prophecies.html) and the second talks about the logical odds that Jesus is who He said He is based on those prophecies  (http://www.goodnewsdispatch.org/math.html).  His words are always true, even when we don’t know.

We may or may not be witnessing the ‘later times,’ but we are witnessing people abandoning faith for whatever scratches their itches.   In the face of that, test what you believe against what Jesus said and did.   If those things line up, it may just be Him talking with you.

For further reading:  John 16:13, Acts 8:29, 1 Corinthians 2:10, 2 Peter 3:3, Mark 13:5, Timothy 4:2

Lord Jesus, I open my heart and ask Your Spirit to talk to me.   I’m listening.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 7 May 2018

Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 (NIV).

Be ready now.  Regarding the Rapture and that whole 7-year Millenialist end times story, it might or might not be true.   We might or might not understand how Jesus will bring about the end of all things and begin something totally new.   There may be a Rapture where believers are snatched up to heaven in a flash and those ‘left behind’ get to endure seven years of worsening hell on earth to fulfill prophecy and give them one last chance (actually seven years of last chances) to repent.   There may very well be a coming time where an Antichrist rises to earthly power, plagues and woes are unleashed, and the battle of Armageddon is waged to Satan’s loss.   It could very well happen that, at the end of all this, Jesus will reign as earthly king here for exactly one thousand years, after which this earth will be burned away and something completely new unveiled.   All this may be true.

Or it may not be.   It may be all wrong.   The end may be just one ending, and the words of 1 Thessalonians 4 may be completely germane to how things will happen.   It may or may not be that Jesus will come back in the clouds – the way He left – and that this event will be the end.   The faithful in Him will be taken to be with Him and the unfaithful rejected and sent away to perdition.  The Rapture and the tribulation and the rise and fall of Antichrist may not happen.

We simply don’t know.  Tim LaHaye didn’t know.   Your pastor doesn’t know.   The Pope (or Pope Emeritus) doesn’t know.   Get the picture?

Be ready now.   Be encouraged by this today.

The Bible simply says that Jesus will return and that we should encourage each other with that knowledge.   Before He came the first time, at least 4000 years of human history passed.   Is it so inconceivable that it would, then, take a very long time for conditions to be made right for the Messiah to re-appear?   It isn’t up to us to pre-game the thing or know the specifics.  All we know is that He said He will be with us in all things until the end of the age and then in person after that.  The Bible mentions a great deal of figurative language describing events that happen to herald that.  But knowing the hour, day and specifics are only up to God the Father, not us.  Is there harm in believing in a Rapture?   No.  Is it necessary?   Perhaps not.   We don’t know.

What we do know is the ultimate end:   that Christ returns.  That’s it.  The lesson?   Be ready now.   Don’t be mired in details.  Be at peace with it.  THAT is the biggest encouragement of all.

For further reading:  Matthew 28:20, Acts 1:7, 1 Thessalonians 5:1.

Lord, how and when you come back I’m ready to meet You now.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 29 March 2016

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.  “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. Mark 16, verses 1-8.

Put yourself in the shoes (ok, sandals) of those women.   In the same way Luke described the shepherds who saw Jesus on the day He was born, “they were sore afraid.” These poor women were grieving, and they had come to the garden tomb after the Passover Sabbath to anoint Jesus’ dead body.   It’s true that they had revered Him as their Lord, the promised and hoped-for Messiah, and the one who would make all things new.   But He was dead now.   The Jewish priests had arranged for His murder.   The all-too-willing Romans had carried out the murder.   The disciples were hiding, afraid for their lives.   And Jesus’ body was buried in a stranger’s fresh tomb.   They had contemplated this thing, probably talked about it, all through the long Saturday Sabbath. Very early on a cool Sunday morning, these three followers of the wandering rabbi went to the cemetery to do their duty.

Imagine their surprise.   Imagine their shock.   Imagine being overwhelmed at what they were witnessing.   Imagine that they were probably scared to death. All they had expected to find was the big stone in front of the tomb, maybe a Roman guard there to make sure nothing was out of place.   Out of place indeed; it was a whole new level of that.

“Don’t be alarmed,” said the angel.   Would you be alarmed if a brilliantly dazzling supernatural man told you not to be?   I’d be speechless. And as if that wasn’t alarming enough, the angel gives them the greatest news since God said “let there be.” “He has risen.”

“He has risen.”

Would you be surprised, shocked, overwhelmed and terrified?   It would be sensory overload, something racing too fast for your brain to fully absorb, like something you dreamed could happen but didn’t really think ever would.   I mean, let’s be real.   The Messiah had been talked about for thousands of years; it was almost like a legend, even in a time when legends were still popularly believed.

And yet here it was, happening in front of their eyes.   Put yourself in their place. How would you feel?

Lord Jesus, I confess I would be scared and overwhelmed like the women were that Easter morning.   Forgive my unbelief and help me to understand more of Your supernatural power.

Read Mark 16.  

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 23 March 2016

They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. Mark 15, verses 27-32.

This past Sunday, on Palm Sunday, Fox TV broadcast “The Passion:”   a live-action Tyler Perry musical drama about the last days of Jesus.   It was told by modern actors, set in modern-day New Orleans, to the tune of modern pop music with very few lyrics modified. One scene acted out one of the verses above.   In it, Jesus has been apprehended and is being hauled away in a police wagon.   He wears an orange jumpsuit, like other common criminals, and is in the vehicle with 2 other men.   One hurls insults at Him; the other defends Him. Later in the show, a crowd is shown screaming for Jesus’ crucifixion, the release of Barabbas, and Mary’s anguish. The drama didn’t show the actual crucifixion, though it was alluded to by a group of pallbearers carrying a lighted cross through downtown New Orleans.

What struck me about the whole TV show was that it was contemporary and believable.   Yes, there was some ‘mushy theology’ involved, some misquoting of Scripture, and some things that were done out of line in how they actually appeared in the account of Holy Week.   Big freaking deal.   We shouldn’t get wrapped around the axle of details when we can consider what was being done.   I’m told that the Monday morning ratings and reviews for the show weren’t good.   They don’t matter.

Someone used their position to share the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection in a way that was modern, understandable, and plausible. But it begs the thought:   would we as so-called modern people do the same things that the people of Jerusalem did 2000 years ago?   Would we heap scorn and murder on the Son of God if He showed up here today?   Would we ridicule Him? Would we demand His death?   Would we nail him up with thieves and criminals?   Would we insult Him while He was dying?

Consider the brutality that is reported regularly in our news these days.   ISIS murders thousands of people – Christian and Muslim alike – in the name of their pagan religion. In Chicago, there are a dozen or more murders every weekend, sometimes every day.   Our presidential candidates are conducting their campaigns by appealing to the most base emotions and experiences of a largely uninformed voting public. Leaders in politics, entertainment and business scorn the public, relying on spin and deception to advance their various agendas while getting richer by the minute.

Would we insult the Messiah as He hung there dying?   You bet we would.

Good ratings or not, God bless Tyler Perry for what he did. Thank You Jesus.

Thank You Jesus, my Lord, for inspiring people to tell Your story, to share the precious sacrifice You made for us.

Read Mark 15, verses 16-47.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 26 February 2016

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14, verses 60-62.

Words mean things, and the way, order, and even the cadence in which Jesus replies to the chief priest here matters very, very much.   Jesus deliberately said exactly what He said to state not only some powerful truths but also to offer the erring high priest yet another lifeline.

Men versus God; the age-old conflict.   Notice how the high priest talks about what men are doing. He doesn’t believe this Jesus is God, that Jesus is the Son of Man who He claims to be.   Since the days of Aaron, it had been the high priest’s life to revere God, to live his life in service to God.   Each priest had awaited and anticipated the coming of the Christ, the deliverer sent to redeem Israel from its sins. Now there came a man who said He was the Christ, who proved He was the Christ, whose followers believed He was the Christ. What does the high priest do?   He falls back on “what did these men x or y?”   Would we do the same?

I am.   That’s a powerful thing. In a way, Jesus was just answering the question in the affirmative; that’s true.   Yet this translation of the Bible says something extraordinary because, when one of the ancient Jews would answer this particular question the way Jesus did, He was (once again) proclaiming Himself to be God by taking on Himself God’s holy name.   Remember that Moses asked God what name he should use when the Israelites asked who God was and God answered “I AM.   Tell them I AM has sent you.”   In being asked if He was the promised divine Messiah, Son of God, Jesus answered not only “yes” but using I AM as His own title.   To an unbelieving priest, that would be heresy worthy of death.

You will see.   This is a promise.   Jesus knew what was happening, that this little drama was going to conclude at Calvary.   He was using what time He had now, with the authorities, to tell them what would happen.   It wasn’t just a prophecy about His resurrection. It was also a promise that they, even though they disbelieved Him, would see Him clearly revealed as who He said He is in the time to come.   It’s a promise for us as well.

Finally, “coming on the clouds,” predicting His eventual post-resurrection return.   It’s not different from how God Himself predicted Jesus’ eventual victory on the cross (now at hand in Mark) from the very instant He confronted Adam and Eve in the Garden. Jesus doesn’t give them a day; none is needed.   Instead, He tells them how to know it’s real, to understand that this is a fact and that God will reveal it in this way in His own due time.

In all of these words, Jesus spoke out of love, offering His beloved, yes the priests, a way out and the hope of salvation even as they conspired to violently end His life.

Lord, thank You for all You said and did for these people.

Read Mark 14, verses 53-65.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 13 October 2015

When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Mark 11, verses 7-10.

To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, we hold these truths to be self-evident.   So did the crowd on that Sunday morning in Jerusalem.   They had heard of this Jesus for years and now He was there in person.   Many in the crowd had seen Him, listened to Him, followed Him, gotten to know Him, and realized that He was the long-promised Messiah.   And there He was, finally, entering Jerusalem to make things right.

For so long things hadn’t been right.   For so long, religion and God had seemed like separate things.   And the Romans and their Herodian puppets had ruled over Israel with iron tyranny.   The countless laws, rules and regulations required by both the Romans and the religious made life insufferable and poverty unending. For so long, things had been so wrong, so far from the life in the land of milk and honey that had been promised to their ancestors.   The Jews of Jesus’ day had been promised a king who would set things right, who would restore the heart of Israel back to what it used to be, what it should have always been.

And here He was:   here was the King who had been promised.   The people in the streets knew who Jesus was because it was self-evident, because a swelling crowd of followers had been growing since He set himself on the road to Jerusalem.   Word gets around in a small town and Jesus passed through many small towns.   By the time He got to the gates of Jerusalem, Jesus was fully known and eagerly expected.   The city expected Him to become its royal leader who would make Israel great again.   The centuries of disgrace and servitude would be at an end.

Yet the crowd also acknowledged the self-evident truth of Jesus’ divine nature.   “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”   That wasn’t something said about the chief priests and Jewish elders.   It wasn’t said about the House of Herod, or the Roman overseers, or even the Roman emperor Tiberius (who fancied himself a god). It would only have been said about the Son of God and that’s who the crowds were saying Jesus was.   They had heard His words; they had heard how He fulfilled hundreds of prophecies, about how He kept God’s promises and how He lived a life without sin.   They had come to know that Jesus was the promised one, seeing how He was unlike anyone else they had ever seen or heard of. They had seen His miracles and heard about the amazing love that He preached.   They had fallen in love with His message of forgiveness, patience, wisdom, peace, servanthood, and following God.   “Hosanna” they all cried and they gave Jesus the kind of welcome due to an approaching king.   They welcomed Him like the King of Kings He was.

And in five days they would want Him dead.

Hosanna to You, Lord Jesus.   Blessed are You who was and is the Lord, who came as the King of Kings serving as the servant of all.

Read Mark 11, 4-11.