Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 30 August 2017

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.  Hebrews 11, verses 39-40.

At the end of all things:   that’s a phrase from the final “Lord of the Rings” movie.   Frodo and Sam have destroyed the one ring and are trapped on a rock amidst a sea of lava.   They completed their mission but now, it seemed, they would perish as Mount Doom exploded around them.   Free of the evil power of Sauron’s ring, Frodo tells Sam he feels liberated, and is thankful to be together with him “here, at the end of all things.”

I like that phrase.   I can’t exactly explain why, but I like the phrase.  Perhaps it’s because we have not yet reached the end of all things, yet the faith I have in my Lord speaks constantly of it.  The words He left for us in His Sriptures speak of them.   Words like these two verses from Hebrews.

All through chapter 11 we’ve read about these heroes who lived by faith and did great things.   Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, all of them:  their greatness wasn’t because of themselves, but because of the God they followed.   Some of them followed Him through works that brought great glory.   Some of them followed Him through works that brought them into eternal glory.

THAT was the point, you see:  following Jesus leads to eternal glory.

That is the point of all Scripture.   That is the point of all human history.   It isn’t to gain knowledge; it isn’t to find renewable energy.   The point of all things isn’t to wield power, or amass wealth, or to travel the seven seas.   It isn’t even to love and be loved in the warmth of your family.   No, the point of human history has always been Jesus Christ.   To follow Jesus is the highest follow the highest calling in all humanity.  To follow Jesus means being made righteous by Him, and to be made righteous by Christ is to be redeemed.

Do you know what is different between you and me and the people of the Old Testament?  It’s knowing Jesus.   We have an advantage they didn’t have.  We actually do get to know Him as He revealed Himself.   None of the heroes of the Old Testament lived in the time of Christ.   They lived hundreds, even thousands, of years before Him.   Yet they knew the triune God of Whom Christ is the Son.  Even as they didn’t know Jesus face to face they knew Him in their hearts, deep in their souls.  And because they lived in a savage world of common brutality, they understood dying for that belief.

What about the world we live in?  We talked just yesterday of how, even today, professing belief in Jesus can cost you your life.   Common brutality 3000 years ago isn’t much different from common brutality and savagery today.  I’m betting, too, that the statistics of believers to non-believers back then weren’t so different from those we have now.  How many people back then truly followed the living God?   If God’s chosen people were the Israelites and to follow God you numbered yourself among them, then there weren’t many.   Just like today.

And still the point of it all is to follow Jesus.   When we do that, we march in the Lord’s Army in lockstep with Jacob, Moses, Gideon and the others.   They did the same thing.   At the end of all things, that’s what matters most.

For further reading:  Hebrews 10:36, Revelation 6:11.

Lord, I praise You for the examples of these people.   Thank You for recording their stories that we can know of their faith today.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 15 June 2015

And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” Mark 9, verse 1.

You and me:   we should be dead by now.   You know it as well as I do that, to paraphrase the apostle, we face death all day long.   Every day that we make it to work safely is a miracle.   Ditto waking up, digesting food, staying healthy from disease, nurturing a beating heart, and sleeping through the night.   Some might say those are simply the outcomes of impossible to predict random acts of chance and interaction.   I say they’re mini miracles that testify to the existence of God in the very details of our lives.

So how astounding is it that God Himself would say that some of those to whom He was speaking would soon see an astounding miracle promised for centuries.   That isn’t some miniature detail anyone would overlook.   It was a big deal, yet Jesus threw it down and, in context of what came next, it was prophetic.

Here’s another throw-down:   it’ll happen to you today as well.

Huh?   First some of that context. Keep in mind where Jesus was. He has just fed four thousand men, healed a blind man, (yet again) confronted the Pharisees, upbraided His friends, predicted His own death, and told people to get on His level regarding what they should expect from their faith in Him. Now He’s saying that not only will people who believe in Him die but that, before they do, they will see God coming in power. As we will see, shortly after this comes the Transfiguration and that display of power Jesus promised.

In my opinion, He also promised a different kind of power to us every day.

Are you thinking about Thor and his hammer?   Or Zeus smiting puny men with thunderbolts from Olympus?   Sauron marching to crush Middle Earth with a million ugly orcs?   Or perhaps a vengeful Allah vanquishing all enemies of Islam with his priestly army of fanatics?   These are the images of god-like beings wielding power that come to mind when we humans are left to our own devices. We think of power as the omnipotent use of force, of the physical being overtaken by the meta-physical, of forces beyond our control or understanding manipulating our lives from a position of strength.

Except that’s not how Jesus worked.   Or works now.   See, He promised the Disciples that He would display His power, and a few days hence He did.   Yet He also promises us the same thing every day.   I believe He delivers on that promise, and I see it in the majesty of sunsets, in the feel of my grandson hugging me around my neck.   I feel it in my beating heart, in the love of my family as we sit at the kitchen table, as I work in my garden where God gives me vocation and food. I see it at work in how He comforts distraught friends, how He turns around destruction to expand His kingdom of goodness, and how He works quietly through we sinful humans by our spreading word about Him.   Do you know Jesus?   Then you know Him in power and miracles.

I think it’s a miracle that we’re still alive to talk about this, given all the ways the world could kill us every day. Turn to Jesus and you see it really is.

Lord, thank You for Your miracles and power in my life.

Read Mark 9, verses 1-13.