Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 7 November 2018

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:  He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.  1 Timothy 3:16 (NIV).

In Jesus’ day, people no different than us believed in Him.  People who were ridiculed, threatened, persecuted, confused believed in Jesus.   Sometimes we read these stories from the Bible and we seem to think that they were unusual people, ‘super-human’ people.   Jesus was.   All the rest of them?   Not so much.  The people who lived and heard and believed Jesus in His time were people just like us.  They looked, they listened, they let go, and they believed.   Why is it so tough for us?

You and I have the same information available to us that was available to popes all through history, to Billy Graham and Mother Theresa, to all the billions who have believed in Jesus since He returned to heaven.  Something about Him opened a window into our hearts and we believed.   Not because we’re special or even have special insight but because He is who He said He was.

And it’s beyond all reasonable doubt.   The words of the Bible are plain and they’re available for anyone who wants to read them.   As Paul says, Jesus is proven to be the Son of God beyond all question, not because Paul said so but because Jesus did so.   The mystery of the trinity and of Immanuel incarnate isn’t much of a mystery at all.  It was plainly proven over thousands of years.  Hundreds of Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled only in Jesus Christ; if you don’t believe me, consult this site, then read the verses for yourself:  http://www.accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/353prophecies.html.  Nobody else is possible; mathematically, it is 1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 and there isn’t even a named number for that (see http://www.goodnewsdispatch.org/math.html).

When you put your faith in Jesus, you’re putting your faith in the only truly known or possible Savior in all of human history.   He’s fully God and fully man at the same time.  With only a thought He could compel you or I to follow Him.   But He doesn’t do that.

Instead, the Christ, proven beyond all reason and doubt, calls to us in love and asks us to follow Him.   He doesn’t demand it, command it, or force it.   Instead, Jesus introduces Himself and says “Be loved and forgiven, then share it.”   We don’t have to do that:  we get to do that.   Because of Him.  The people of His day weren’t any different than us.   They simply saw and believed.

For further reading:  Romans 16:25, John 1:14, Psalm 9:11, Colossians 1:23, Mark 16:19, Timothy 4:1

Lord, thank You for proving Yourself.   I believe in You.

 

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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 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.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 19 December 2016

…and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.  Hebrews 5, verse 10.

Still holding off a few more days in talking fully about Melchizidek, although, as you know, we’ve already said a few things about him.   Yet consider the context of why the author of Hebrews says this phrase again, mentioning this (today) obscure figure from Biblical history.   In doing so, I think you might reach a particular conclusion.

The reason why he keeps mentioning Melchizidek is because being that high priest was Jesus’ primary mission here.

Duh.

But think about it.   Yes, Jesus came to save us from ourselves, to forgive all of our sins so as to restore the relationship He intended for mankind.   Yes, Jesus was the only person in all of human history who could do that very thing.   Yes, Jesus taught many things that are brilliant life lessons for us here even today.

It’s because He was our real high priest.

Priests are intermediaries between people and God.   They’re called servants whose calling and vocation is to be God’s heralds in the world.   Pastors and priests proclaim Jesus’ good news by the lives they lead, the words they speak, the actions they take.   They are Jesus’ representatives here; a special elect who intercede for people with God.   Pastor’s carry out church justice, minister to souls, interpret all things Biblical and Godly for those not uniquely called or religiously trained.

Again, duh.

But their primary role is that intercession role.   In this way, priests and pastors are not unlike lawyers, equipped and educated to take matters to and from God on our behalf.   It’s not that they have a special relationship with God that others can’t have.   But it is that priests and pastors have that calling, equipped with ecclesiastical education, that prepares them to interpret God’s word to and for us, and to minister, rebuke, praise, and correct as we all walk along our sinful paths through life.

They learned it from Jesus.   It’s what Jesus does for us now, sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven, interceding for us.   God the Father demands holiness from us.   It was how He created us to be, and He loves us enough to respect our choices even when we’ve chosen paths that take us away from Him.  Every time a contemplation of the justice we deserve crosses the mind of the Father, there’s Jesus right beside Him, in union with Him, whispering, “have mercy once again, Abba.   They made a mistake.”  God’s Spirit moves our hearts to repent; God’s Spirit communicates the love of the Father and Son to us, reminding us to repent, and remembering our sins no more.

Sounds like what a priest does.

The Apostle Peter was a burly, brusque man, used to hard manual labor and worldly ways.  And yet Simon Peter was the man who Jesus chose to lead the church after Jesus ascended back home.  Peter wasn’t formally trained for the job, though he had learned everything He would need to know about the faith directly from the face of the Savior.  But it probably wasn’t the life Peter imagined for himself during those long days and nights spent fishing in the years before he met the Christ.   Our pastors and priests today have university degrees, often learning to speak Latin, Hebrew, and Greek so that they might study original versions of Scriptures.   Even back in Biblical days, the priests in the temples and synagogues were rabbinically trained, spending years under the tutelage of senior rabbis.   None of that was available to Peter.   He had to learn things as he went.  Peter didn’t envision founding what became the Roman Catholic church – and Christianity – but that’s what he and his compatriots did.  Doing so eventually cost him everything.

Yet Peter did it willingly.   He and the other Apostles founded practices and bases that we still use in worship today.  Peter was the first pope, the fisherman and fisher-of-men in whose traditional shoes every pope, priest and pastor have since walked their call.   And Peter modeled his behavior on that of his Savior, brother, and friend, Jesus.   He did so because he understood that Jesus was our true high priest.

For more reading:   Hebrews 2:17.

Lord Jesus, thank You for being the true priest and pastor.   Thank You for interceding for me, for ministering to me, for Your mercy and Your grace, and for all You do.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 4 February 2016

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Mark 14, verses 17-21.

“Every weld is different.”   My son told me that just yesterday.   He attends a small college in Sherman, TX where he’s learning to be a welder. We were talking about his classwork and he remarked that every weld is unique; like fingerprints, no two are the same.   The best a welder can do is to be able to say “that’s a good weld,” then go on to the next one.

Profound.

Really, it truly was a profound statement and I’m proud to be the dad to a son who connects those particular dots (and pieces of metal). Re-read his quote, then consider it in the context of today’s verses.

We’re all different; God made each of us individually and “very good” in His perfect eyes.   Each of us has things that are unique and can serve God’s purposes. Even those who are disabled, dying, downtrodden, no-damn-good-dirty-dog-sinners, and, yes, even politicians have unique abilities and talents that are just as valuable as those of the beautiful people and sanctimonious churchgoers who assume they have it all together. Everything we have is a gift from God, and Jesus as God gives to each of us beautifully.

Even to Judas Iscariot.

It wasn’t that Judas’ gift was his place to betray Jesus.   It wasn’t that Judas was pre-ordained to be a sinner, to be the betrayer of Christ.   That simply isn’t true, and an honest study of these verses and others that corroborate and explain them will lead you to the inevitable conclusion that God never creates us to sin.   God didn’t create Judas to betray Jesus, but when Judas did so, God used it for His redemptive plan.   “But if Judas hadn’t betrayed Jesus then who would have?”   Answer:   I don’t know.   Neither do you, or your pastor, or the pope, or Billy Graham, Benny Hinn, or Barack Obama. The only thing we can assume is that God would have found a different way to redeem His people because that’s what He promised to do.

Jesus loved Judas.   Judas had unique abilities, and was a very good weld. Is it any wonder, then, that such a devoted God would mourn the woe that would come to the man He had created as an individual to love but who would send Him to a cross instead?

Every weld is different and God is a master welder. My son taught me that the way you test a weld is to try to break it.   You drop your welded metal onto the floor and if it breaks, then it wasn’t a good weld and you need to re-do it.   At the Last Supper, Jesus dropped Judas on the floor, and Judas broke.   How unfortunate for him that there wasn’t time for a re-do.   How fortunate for us is the same.

Lord, I pray for the soul of Judas Iscariot.   And I thank You for making me individual, and for loving me that way.

Read Mark 14, verses 12-26.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 6 October 2015

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.  Mark 10, verses 51-52.

Before moving on, there’s something else to be said about these two verses that I feel compelled to share.   It’s the heart of them. It’s not about me.   It’s about Jesus.

Duh!

No, really, I mean it. There’s nothing Bartimaeus could do to make Jesus love him any more; there’s nothing Bartimaeus could do to be worthy of Jesus’ gift of sight, or even the gift of sharing the same airspace with Jesus Christ for just a few minutes.   It isn’t about Bartimaeus receiving his sight in this fantastic miracle of love.   In fact, it isn’t about Bartimaeus at all. If you or I were in the story, it wouldn’t be about us either.

It’s about Jesus loving Bartimaeus and doing something for him. It’s what Jesus did and not what Bartimaeus did.

If you’re like me, you spend more of your time wondering about you’re angle, about what all this means to you, about how you should think or respond or whatever.   Lost in the shuffle of all that selfishness is that monumental statement “what do you want me to do for you” that Jesus spoke to this blind stranger. The creator of the universe, the man with whom Adam and Abraham and Moses all personally interacted, the advocate of Job, the fire in the burning bush and the whisper of life in every living being on the planet walks up to a perfect stranger in a crowd and asks him how He, the Savior, can serve.

It’s not about me.   It’s about Jesus.

Just yesterday, a co-worker and I were talking about how we had led our project with a service attitude.   Not to be beaten-down servants, or to be cowards in the face of weaker people:   we were talking about how proud we were to be on a team where our attitude has been to serve.   To do our best for other people while subordinating ourselves to their goals.   We talked about how this is the true attitude of a Believer, how it’s impossible to be a follower of Jesus without this attitude.   It’s impossible because it’s what Jesus modeled for us.

And because He did it – because He rendered for us the ultimate service of dying in our place, as our punishment – there is nothing standing between us and the majesty of God.   I couldn’t do that; the Apostle Paul couldn’t do that; you couldn’t do that; neither could Bartimaeus, my co-worker, Billy Graham, any Catholic pope, Joyce Meyer or Donald Trump on a good hair day.   Only Jesus could die for us; only Jesus could redeem us.   Only Jesus could show us that all of life is about the supreme gift of love that He is and gave for us and still gives us every day.

Bartimaeus saw that.   He got his sight and immediately followed the first thing he saw, and the first thing he saw was the Savior who served him in his deepest need.   It’s not about Bartimaeus.   It’s not about you.   It’s not about me.   It’s about Jesus and all was, and is, and is to come.

Lord, let all my life be my service to You.   It’s not about me.   It’s about You.

Read Mark 11, 1-3.