Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 17 October 2018

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV).

Do you think churches who excommunicate members want them to be saved in the same way Jesus wants ALL people to be saved?  Call me skeptical but I’m betting most congregations practicing excommunication do so with an emotional mix of sadness and anger.  In the middle of that mix it is difficult to remember that the purpose of dis-engaging someone from Christian fellowship is to do something to help heal a breach in their faith.   Congregations don’t enter into this practice lightly, but I’m pretty sure there is un-righteous anger involved in most cases.

And what is Jesus wanting us to be saved from?   If you believe that we are sinners, the answer “sin” comes easily.   Yet there are so many people who posit that, once saved by Christ, we aren’t able to sin again.   Last night, during a Bible study, this subject came up.   We are saved once for all and walk forever in a state of grace no matter what we do, even when we sin.   We are foolish to think that once-saved believers also can’t harden their hearts or disavow the faith they embrace.  Or to choose sin instead of that grace.  Thank the Lord for His Way back.

What good is the knowledge of the truth?  Pontius Pilate is famously quoted as saying “veritas?” to Jesus when Jesus tells him that He is the truth.   It isn’t just the foundation of honesty to which Jesus is referring:   it is Himself.   Paul re-iterates this when he says that our Savior wants all people to have a knowledge of the truth.   In other words, Jesus wants all people to know Him.

Finally, does pleasing God (by praying, or doing other things) earn us points with Him?   To be frank, I can’t answer that; neither can you.   When something pleases God it’s up to Him what He does with it.   We don’t earn salvation; it is freely given by Christ to us because of who He is and not anything we’ve done.   We don’t have to pray for our leaders, but we should as a way to support them and to exercise our faith.   We don’t have to do good works, but we should because this pleases God and demonstrates our faith.   We don’t have to go to church but we should to worship, to build up others, and to be fueled ourselves.   I don’t know if this earns points with God, but I do believe living our fruits of His Spirit pleases Him and spreads His Gospel.   It means we choose Him, choose life.

Choose life; choose Jesus.   That’s the answer.

For further reading:  1 Timothy 5:4, Luke 1:47, Ezekiel 18:23, Titus 2:11, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:5

Lord, there are so many questions that I have.   Help me through them and thank You for my life of grace.

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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.

 

 

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 3 March 2016

Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. Mark 15, verse 1.

You have to start early in the morning if you want to make a full day out of something. Wanna catch the big fish while they’re biting?   Gotta get to the lake early in the morning, before they feed.   Want to finish a bunch of Saturday chores?   Get up and get going early.   Want to put in extra hours on the job?   You guessed it:   up and at ‘em already.

So it was with the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish council. They’d been up all night, conspiring and working out this little charade for Jesus’ mock trial. When Judas came to them with his idea of how to betray Jesus, they probably convened a quiet emergency meeting to decide what to do about it. It took planning, scheming, communicating to make the arrangements so that all would be ready when Judas gave the signal.

That Thursday night, the Sanhedrin, like Jesus, probably stayed up all night. They weren’t sure just when Judas would show up, so they met, ate and drank together, and walked through their plan.   It wouldn’t do to have anything go south, so they rehearsed who would say what and what they would say.   I bet they practiced their lines, talked about the best ways to box Jesus into rhetorical corners.   When Judas showed up and said that his Master would be vulnerable in the garden just outside the city walls, they put their plans into motion.   Summon the guards; pay off the gullible; lie to save face.

A few hours later, the guards bring a tired but determined Jesus to meet with the council and they begin to interrogate Him. The plan is unfolding as expected except for one small detail.  Jesus won’t play along.   He doesn’t answer their questions; He doesn’t meet their scolding, their threats, their violence with the reactions that were predicted. Jesus says nothing, doesn’t act out.   Indeed, His countenance looks like He’s not even angry with His accusers.   Jesus looks like He actually feels sad for them, that He feels worse for how THEY feel that for what they are doing to Him.

This only makes them furious.

Their plan now thwarted, the Sanhedrin elders move to Plan B.   If Jesus won’t talk to them, He’ll definitely talk to the Roman governor.   The goal in this unfolding end-game is for Jesus to die.   The priests know they don’t have that kind of muscle, that only the Roman overseers can order the death of a Judean. Even though He has done nothing to physically intimidate them, they tie up Jesus as if He’s some kind of physical threat, and then they (literally) drag Him off to the governor’s palace.   There, they believe, Pontius Pilate will extract from this ‘Messiah’ the proof needed to sentence Him to death.

That is, of course, if Pilate agrees to cooperate.   That is, you know, if Jesus decides to talk.   Was there a Plan C if Plan B failed?

When you’re conspiring against the King, you need to get up very early in the morning.   Even then, things might not turn out the way you expect.

Lord Jesus, have mercy still on those who conspired against You.   Forgive them and me for our sins.

Read Mark 15, verses 1-15.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 2 February 2016

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over. Mark 14, verses 10-11.

Just after witnessing the woman anoint Jesus, Judas went to the Jewish priests and betrayed Jesus. Maybe he was PO’d that Jesus had encouraged the huge ‘waste of money’ that came with dumping the priceless nard over Jesus’ head.   Maybe he had had enough of all the pussy-footing goody goody do-good nature of Jesus and His “love everybody” message.   Maybe Judas had a bad day.

In reality, he had a really bad day.   One of the other Gospels refers to the betrayal by saying “then Satan entered” Judas.   The day Satan enters you is the worst in your life because only terrible things flow from that.   To be honest, I think Satan entered all of us years ago, as babies.   Ever heard a two-year old say “no?”   Yep:   sin.   They learned it somewhere, and they applied it because Satan had already taken up residence.

A bad day for Judas, indeed, when you betray the Son of Man for a sack of coins.

But do you want to know a secret?   I’ve always felt sorry for Judas; Pontius Pilate, too.   My sorrow for them is (obviously) tempered by my after-the-fact knowledge they didn’t have.   I know Jesus was resurrected.   I know He is the Son of God.   I know the history of the faith and what it means to have His Spirit working in my life.   Judas Iscariot and Pontius Pilate had to experience events in real time.   What we read as history are events through which they lived as they were happening.   They didn’t have Bible concordances and two thousand years of interpretive Christian perspective. We can look down on their terrible choices and we should, yet don’t lose sight of knowing that they made those bad choices without applying any fore-knowledge of just who Christ said He was. They lived through it; we didn’t.

I feel sorry for Judas because he became even more destitute and pathetic than he was before.   I’m betting he was the smartest of the disciples, that he had canny sense and was both analytic and street-wise.   He made a choice to cast his lot (pun intended) with those who sought to kill Jesus.   He knew what the priests had in mind, and he knew that his action was risky.   Perhaps he calculated that he would somehow benefit from this choice, from this betrayal.   Otherwise why do it?   Don’t forget that Satan had entered into Judas, though. With Satan indwelt, all bets would be off.

Yet I feel sorry for Judas because that choice brought him only misery, death and (I assume) damnation. Jesus loved Judas.   Let that sink in.   Jesus Christ loved Judas Iscariot.   Jesus didn’t want Judas to be further deceived by the great deceiver. Jesus wanted Judas to live a life in praise of Him, sharing His Spirit with Judas so Judas could share it with others. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of Judas Iscariot just like He did for yours, mine, and Adolf Hitler’s. And Judas betrayed Him anyway. By Good Friday afternoon, when Jesus died, Judas had already hanged himself.   I feel sorry for him, that the consequences of his choices were so dire and awful.

Lord, forgive all who sin, who betray You with our sins, who let You down.   Forgive and rebuild us, Savior Jesus.

Read Mark 14, verses 12-26.