Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 28 September 2017.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  Hebrews 12, verse 14.

Here’s another tall order:   live in peace and be holy.  How does that fit in with America’s NFL controversy this week?   Or our political discourse in general since the start of this century?   How well are we living in peace with our enemies and even our allies?   Is there peace in Detroit or St. Louis?   Is there peace at your table on Thanksgiving?   And are you and your spouse at peace (if you’re married)?

Let’s get this out there:   peace is NOT the absence of conflict.   Don’t think that just because we don’t have conflict that we’re at peace.   Yes, I mean that.  Sure, not shooting each other in war is indeed “peaceful” yet there’s all too often no real peace in that.   It’s a good thing to not have someone shooting you, attacking you, berating you, and that condition is indeed conducive to overall peace.  But it isn’t real peace.   There isn’t peace along the DMZ on the Korean Peninsula:   there is only a cessation of hostilities that has lasted since 1953.  There isn’t peace in Sudan.   There isn’t peace in Ukraine.   There isn’t peace in Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, or most of America’s inner cities.

You can only have peace if the Holy Spirit is working within you.   The bumper sticker meme “no Jesus no peace.   Know Jesus know peace” is spot on true.   The only real peace you can know in this world is when you open up your heart and let Jesus crowd out all the rest of the noise.  Sure, there are some true believing folks in all the areas listed above (even in North Korea) but without God’s Holy Spirit in control, the peace we will know is uneasy, tenuous.

That isn’t easy to do.   I have a schedule to keep.   There are Facebook posts that require my brilliance.   My wife and kids aren’t doing what I want them to do.  That guy who passed me on the right was a real jerk!  DO I LOOK LIKE I HAVE TIME FOR PEACE?  Actually, Dave, if the truth is told, you don’t have time to NOT have peace.   Without the peace of Jesus, you got nuthin.

You’ve got nothing without Jesus because, without Jesus, the second half of verse 14 is also impossible.   I’m not holy; you aren’t holy.   Neither Franklin Graham nor Pope Francis (nor even Pope Emeritus Benedict) are holy.   We’re all dirty sinners on our own.  Without Jesus, we still own our sins; owning our sins, we are unholy.   Without Jesus we still own the consequences of our sins.  What’s more, without Jesus you won’t see the Lord.   You won’t see heaven.   You won’t be there.

Don’t get mad at me for pointing that out:   it’s what verse 14 says.  Without knowing Jesus we can’t be holy and if we’re unholy we won’t be going to heaven.   The ONLY cure for that is to put your faith in Christ.  And the way to do that is to say “I believe” and then start walking the walk.  Read your Bible.  Pray constantly.   Be with other believers and be built up by your fellowship with Jesus and each other.   Tithe from a giving heart.   And, most of all, practice what you preach by starting to live your life in ways the Lord has told us to.  Once again, that’s a tall order.   It means giving up the porn, holding your tongue, confessing your dark secrets to the unseen God, and changing the way you act with other people.   Pick your pet sin:  you and I GET TO give up these things and follow Jesus closer so that His holiness can be imputed to us and we may stand with Him in paradise.   These are simply the practices of a follower of Jesus.  If my tone seems preachy, I apologize.

I have no illusion that everyone turning to Jesus would immediately solve the world’s problems.  Perhaps we would still have conflicts, arguments, and hurt.   Or, perhaps we wouldn’t.   Si Robertson once said “it ain’t gun control we need.   It’s sin control.”   Right on brother.  If we all embraced Jesus more and did what He asked, perhaps we’d have more control over those temptations that lure us in.   If we all did better and walking the walk and talking the talk, perhaps the world’s problems would indeed be solved.   Sin control looks a lot like Jesus.

For further reading:  Romans 14:19, Romans 6:22, Matthew 5:8.

Lord, thank You for giving us Your righteousness, for making us holy.   Help us to believe in You more, to practice our faith.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 25 September 2017

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12, verse 11.

No pain no gain, right?   That does seem to be what the verse is saying, doesn’t it?   But here’s the kicker:   you don’t have to be in pain.   You know this is true.   All the pain ever needed was felt on the cross by our Savior.

Why is it that our country, America, seems to have so little righteousness, peace, or even discipline in it right now?   I was one of the fools caught up in debating the NFL national anthem brouhaha this weekend.   None of what I read, or even what I said, seemed very peaceful.   North Korea seems bent on starting a war and we seem more than willing to oblige their intention.   The stock market is in joyful turmoil, seemingly poised to either rise even higher or crash very soon.   Hurricanes, over-zealous media, hyper-sensitivity over small things, differences in beliefs and politics and ideologies, gender confusion, violent ‘protesters’ in the streets:  it seems like we have lost our way.   Or have we?

Isaiah said that “the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.”   Those were his inspired words over 2800 years ago.  In his day, Israel was indeed being disciplined.   Isaiah prophesied the coming messiah who would bring about peace forever.   Yet that peace would come only after great testing.

Let’s be honest:   there are nations in history who have been tested far worse than we of 21st century America are being tested now.   There are times in our history when we have been divided so much that war broke out.   There have been divisive figures all throughout history and history still clocks on today; it will continue to do so until Jesus returns as He said He would.   Until then, we are being disciplined.

Sometimes it hurts.   Death, divorce, unemployment, losing your home, sickness, pain:   they all hurt.   It hurts when God allows them into our lives.  Yet Romans reminds us that “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  Those beautiful verses, my wife’s favorite, don’t tell us “suck it up buttercup.”   Instead, they remind us that God is with us, at work in us even in the hardest times, and even when we don’t like it.   Good comes from bad.   Suffering teaches us about the character God built into us.   And God refines us as we persevere, instilling into us hope as a guarantee of peace to come.   Think of yourself as 10 carat gold being refined by melting into 24 carat.   The impurities are being stripped away, and that hurts.   But it’s for good.   Think of it as medical treatment for a dread condition.   Before the healing can start, the cancer needs to go away.

Right now life is hard.   It’s hard to talk with people.   It’s hard at home.   It’s hard in public and sometimes even in private.   I don’t like the feeling of being disciplined, of having God tear me down to build me up in other ways.     Yet I do know He’s doing it, and that what He does is always good, for good, to produce good.  Gain from pain?   Yes, even when, as Johnny Cougar sang, “it hurts so good.”  But we don’t need the pain because Jesus already felt it.

For further reading:  Isaiah 32:17, James 3:17-18, Romans 5:3-5.

My Lord, the refining You’re putting me through hurts.   Strengthen me to persevere by clinging to You.   Abide with me that I may come closer to You in all ways here.