Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 7 February 2017

 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.  Hebrews 7, verses 23-25.

We need consistency.   Frankly, consistency is one of the best things about faith in Jesus.   He’s always the same, He is always fair, He is always just, He is always there; hey, that rhymes!   He is consistent, constant, and always present when you need Him (or even when you think you don’t).  As Hebrews 13 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”   Amen to that.  Yet consider this:   Jesus doesn’t need to be consistent.   He doesn’t need that constancy, or fairness, or sameness.   We do.

It has always baffled me why folks reject faith in Jesus.   Why would a decent, upright soul not want to follow Jesus?   Reject Christianity, religion, Protestantism all the live-long day (or Catholicism, maybe even Orthodoxy as well); I may even join you.   Far as I’m concerned, we can sell every church building in the country and use the proceeds to BE the church instead of meeting in one.  Practice of the Christian religion by Christians has given Christianity a really bad name.   If you’re stuck on your liturgy or hymnals, your ‘infallible’ doctrines, your rock band performances (or the cherubic choir), the beautiful sanctuary with the comfy cozy pews, or even your motivated pastor, maybe you need a gut check.   Jesus is about relationship, about discipling, about serving, about love.   None of those other things are really about love, are they?   If your ‘church’ is about the worship service and not worshipping Jesus in service, try walking out one Sunday and trying something different.

All that ragging aside, if anything about your church or practicing your faith is encouraged by the things I’ve derided, then all glory to Jesus and keep on keeping on with them.  They should (and perhaps do) point to Jesus because He’s consistent and constant.   Like a solid reference, we as humans need Him to be unchanging.   Everything not of Him is sin or is, at least, tainted by the possibility of sin.  The more you look at things not of Jesus, too, the more you find they’re inconsistent, transient.   All things aside from Christ are temporary.   They don’t last.   Pyramids?   Slowly decaying.   Scientology?   Please.   Money?   Never enough.   All your possessions?   Nice but when you die they aren’t yours anymore.   Even the land:   please, again; just another possession, and that deed you and I always work for will only be ours for a short time before it passes to someone else.

Standing beside all those other things is Jesus, who remains just as He was and is and is to come.   He’s the same as He was with Peter, James and John.   He’s the same as He was with Adam.   He’s the same Jesus to Billy Graham that He is to you, me, and the strangers we pass in the street.  That matters even more when you then remember that Jesus’ mission is to save souls.   He lived, died, and lives again to reach souls who need Him even when they don’t realize it.  Even when they/we do things to reject Him, He still intercedes with the Father to say “remember, Dad, we love him/her.”  He provides for us because of those intercessions, because He wants with all His being for us to be one with Him and He’ll do anything He needs to in order to give us the maximum chances to be in communion with Him.  Every breath we take in rebellion against Christ is also another opportunity to lay down our arms.  Every new morning He grants is a fresh start to make something new with the life He gives us.

Why not make the most of it?   Jesus is.   We need Him to.   Thanks be that He does.

For further reading:   Romans 11:4, Romans 8:34, Hebrews 13:8.

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your consistency, for interceding for me, for always providing for me.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 5 October 2016

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.  Hebrews 2, verse 10.

One of my favorite hymns is “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”   In it, the lyrics paraphrase Hebrews 2 with the poetic lines “How great the pain of searing loss, The Father turns His face away as wounds which mar the chosen One bring many sons to glory.”

Magnificent.

Indeed, isn’t it true how so many verses in Scripture are memorable because they are poetic?   This one especially sticks with me.   “Bringing many sons and daughters to glory” inspires in me thoughts of mission, and brotherhood, and mercy.   The thought has an almost Gaelic feel to it, as if there are thousands of mournful believers moving through the fog towards a dim light in the distance.  The closer you get to the light, you see Jesus is the light, and that His arms are open, His heart of love on display, His presence evaporating the fog of sin and unbelief.

For years now, I’ve thought of my Christian walk as an active thing, a living, ongoing event.   It has seemed like a movement.   I’ve learned that we’re in a spiritual war, one in which battles are fought on a personal basis every day.  The battle manifests itself in resisting temptations, professing faith, encouraging others in the face of sin and despair.   On one side stands Satan, general of the armies of the fallen.   He uses evil to manifest itself in every dark emotion with which we can be plagued.   Lies, pain, and anguish are the carnage he leaves on the battlefield of human souls.

Yet on the other side is Jesus, meek and mild yet overwhelmingly powerful.   He is humble yet strong, quiet yet unfathomably deep, all peace yet all martial in protecting the peace, justice and love that stream from His very presence.  He only tolerates Satan because Satan allows that peace, justice and love to shine in ways that build up His cherished creation, humanity.  With a thought He could vanquish evil forever.   With depth we cannot fully understand this side of heaven, He gave Himself up as payment for all the evil we embraced and, in doing so, brought many sons and daughters to glory.

I also love that phrase “pioneer of their salvation.”   In my walk of faith, my daily war against the spirits of evil, I get to follow Jesus as a pioneer.   Your life and mine are unwritten; thank you Natasha Bedingfield.  Today isn’t fore-ordained and tomorrow isn’t here yet.   We’re writing our lives as we live them.  What we do in our lives today pioneers the ground on which we build our lives.   We get to use the free choice God gave to each of us to do with what we will.   It’s God’s hope that we’ll look to Him, to Jesus, first and always, as the pioneer who blazed a trail for us.  It wasn’t a wagon train trail through the prairie or a lonely ride across uncharted ocean.   It was living a life without sin, loving all others as He loved His Father, and then dying the death of just, noble sacrifice so that others might live forever.  Jesus and only Jesus blazed that path to God for us.   Buddha didn’t; Mohammed didn’t; L. Ron Hubbard didn’t; our ancestors didn’t.   We don’t today.   Only Jesus.

Only He, who fulfilled ancient prophecy and was incarnate a little lower than the angels, pioneered the path into paradise and, in doing so, poetically brought mankind into that glory.  He did it how?   Through suffering.   The physical torture, the spiritual agony, the abyss of separation from God:  only Jesus did those things and only He persevered in true character through them to guarantee us the promise of hope that is His salvation.  You and I can’t imagine the suffering He endured.  Not even the horrors of concentration camps or the monstrosities of ISIS in our world today can compare to the terror, agony, and pain Jesus endured for our benefit.  It’s simply beyond our compare.   Yet endure them He did and, in doing so, brought many sons and daughters to glory forever.

For more reading:   Romans 11:36, Luke 24:26, Hebrews 5:8, Hebrews 7:28, Romans 5:  3-5.

Lord, I thank You and praise You for bringing us to glory, for pioneering the way into eternity.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 29 January 2015

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?   Then how will you understand any of the parables? – Mark 4, verse 13.

Did you notice the subtle tone in which Jesus confronted, corrected, questioned, loved and taught using only a few words?   Do you do that in your regular communication?   I know I don’t.   I’m a project manager, and I prefer that my communications with people be blunt and direct.   One doesn’t have to be a jerk when communicating with others because the goal is to communicate, to convey and gain mutual understanding. That doesn’t happen too often if I’m directive, accusatory, condescending, or, well, ‘jerky.’

If you read it again, you find that Jesus isn’t condemning the people who were questioning Him.  He isn’t beating them down with their ignorance, or talking down to them as if they were stupid.   Instead, Jesus poses rhetorical questions to them, forcing them to spiritually engage with Him and intellectually examine what it is He has to say.   That seems like a lot for a first century rabbi to do, doesn’t it?   We consider the people before us to have been more primitive, yet this is incredibly complex. That makes perfect sense, you see if you consider Jesus to be exactly who He says He is.

It’s actually one of the things I like most about Jesus: that He says so much in what He says, conveying deep and intricate meanings without talking too much. In the Parable of the Sower, He’s teaching God 101.   God offers His salvation to everyone, but not everyone lets it take root.   He does this by using figurative language to paint pictures that are descriptive and appealing as well as provocative and convicting.   I don’t know of too many modern speakers in our time who can do that very well, but the Rabbi from Nazareth does.

He then asks people about what He’s told them.   They offer questions back to Him, and He demonstrates both His loving humility and His endless patience in hearing them out. Rather than smack them down, He continues to teach. It’s as if He’s saying, “ok, are you with me so far?   Listen up now because this is important.” Rabbis teach rhetorically, but Jesus uses that same rhetoric while making it personal to the person.   Allah doesn’t do that, instead decreeing all that we must do to approach the love he only offers conditionally.   Buddha doesn’t do that, instead, sending us off navel-gazing to look for inner peace where there exists only inner turmoil. Scientology, Mormonism, and any other ‘ology’ or ‘ism’ you can think of don’t do that, confusing commitment with real faith and love. But Jesus does it, and He does it without judging or being unloving to Muslims, Buddhists, Scientologists, Mormons or even Baptists:   all of whom He loves and cherishes and wants for eternity just as He does you or me.

I think what strikes me most about this verse is, once again, how Jesus meets us where we are, here in our sins and wallowing in our ignorance.   He doesn’t use those against us but, instead, looks to walk us past them into being who He sees us to be.   He does it through teaching and questioning, urging us to live the life He has in store for us instead of us just settling for what the world has to offer.

Lord, help my unbelief.   Teach me out of my ignorance.   Forgive my thick skin.   Lead me in Your better way.

Read Mark 4, verses 1-20.