Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 15 November 2017

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.  Hebrews 13, verse 9.

For the last few weeks I’ve had “La La Land” playing in my head.   I’ve heard the catchy opening number – “Another Day of Sun” – playing over and over in my head.   If you haven’t seen the movie and you like musicals, watch it.  And you have to watch right from the opening credits because that opening number sets the stage for the entire movie.  “Climb these hills I’m reaching for the heights and chasing all the lights that shine.   When they let you down.   Get up off the ground.   Then morning comes around and it’s another day of sun.”

That kind of sums up one of the great things about Christian faith.  Jesus is always here, always the same, always a constant.   Every day is a gift, another day of Son in the sun.  We chase all kinds of things here on the Third Rock and they let us down.  Yet to survive, to persevere, we have to get up and try again.  Without knowing Jesus, life is just a senseless drudgery.   With Him, it’s another day of sun.

And in the process of getting through life we get distracted by lots of lights that shine.   They glitter, they’re cool, they’re trendy, they’re the thing; gotta chase em!   Sometimes those lights that shine are bright fires that burn in hostile camps.   Sometimes the things that are cool aren’t so cool when we become part of them.  Sometimes when things let us down we can get crushed.   Not to put an insensitive point on things but “that’s life.”

Here, then, is some more life.  Sometimes in worship we get distracted by thinking we MUST say the Lord’s Prayer every time we are in church.   Sometimes we forget to regard our brothers and sisters as fellow believers even when they royally mess up.  Sometimes we split our fellowship based on things like ‘just when (or if) do the wine and bread of communion actually become the body and blood of Christ?’   Sometimes our friends insist that we are becoming weak in our faith if we don’t do all the things they insist we must do.

When they let you down, get up off the ground and realize these are just shiny things you’re chasing.  Get back in the Son because it’s another day of sun.   Jesus hasn’t changed.   He’s the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow.  No, what’s changed is our position in relation to him.   We’ve moved ourselves away from Him.   We chose something that wasn’t Him and we shifted.   And that’s crazy because He freed us from the need to follow human codes.   He freed us from the constraints of having to prove ourselves to God.

Centuries ago, the early followers of Jesus were genuinely conflicted about what foods they could and couldn’t eat.  Most of them had been raised as Jews, and Jews had all kinds of ceremonial laws about what foods were unclean (and thus forbidden) and those that were allowed.   Many of the foods common to pagan communities in the Roman Mediterranean area were considered unclean, and the early believers struggled with ‘how Jewish’ they should be in observing these ceremonial traditions.   Their Jewish friends, who had a vested interest in seeing the nascent Christianity fail, insisted that these new followers follow all Jewish codes.   First Century Judea had become spiritual La La Land, complete with the tyrannical government controlling the people and the complicit spiritual leadership doing whatever it needed to do to stay in power.

Jesus changed all that.  He made it so that we are free from following anything but Him.   As the Apostle Peter learned, we are free to rise and eat and not worry about whether it’s ceremonially unclean.   All that God has created is good.   And when you realize that, you realize that those old codes would only let you down.   That’s when it’s time to get up off the ground and follow Jesus.   When you do that, you realize that it’s morning and it’s another day of sun in the Son.   And you get to leave La La Land.

For further reading:  Ephesians 4:14, Colossians 2:7, Colossians 2:16, Hebrews 9:10, Acts 10:9-48.

Lord, thank You for making all things possible, for removing barriers we crazy humans put up in your creation.

 

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 7 October 2016

Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.  Hebrews 2, verse 11.

Think about this one.   I mean really, truly, slowly contemplate the idea being stated by this Bible verse.

You’re like Jesus.

Jesus is like you.

You and Jesus, the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-everything creator of the universe, are family.   You’re in His.

You aren’t part of Allah’s family.   In fact, nothing you can do could ever get you close to Allah; you’ll never be good enough.   You aren’t on the same level as the Buddha.   He reached nirvana first and, well, we just aren’t that cool.   Your ancestors did it better than you.  The earth and Mother Gaia are so much bigger than you.   Name one other faith on this planet and, chances are, you and I just don’t measure up.   This isn’t Rag On Other Religions Day:   it’s simply the way things are.

Not so with Jesus.   With Jesus, you’re family.   We’re family.   You and I, we are adopted children.   It’s as if He showed up at court and did everything necessary to fully, freely, finally adopt us as His own children.   Even more, He doesn’t just think of us as children:   He looks at us as brothers and sisters.   Equals, peers, siblings, friends:   we aren’t just family.   We’re on the same level.

Now, let’s keep it real.   Us, we aren’t God.  We aren’t supernatural and we aren’t the Triune God the way Jesus is.   But He asks us to put off thinking like that and reminds us that He came here as Himself, as fully man while being fully God.   We don’t have to understand that mystery.   In fact, we don’t get to.   It’s simply a fact we get to accept.   Yet fact it is.  We can’t do what He does in the supernatural realm and we never will.   We are the created, not the Creator.

But as men, we get to relate to Jesus man to man because that’s how He relates to us.   He reminds us that He lived a full life among us.   He ate, drank, slept, laughed, cried.   Jesus did the same things you and I do except sin.   He lived the kind of life we were designed to live to teach us that it could be done.   He lived the life we could live, that, post-death, we will one day get to live.   And He did it out of love to set things right.

Buddha didn’t do that.   Allah can’t do that.   Neither can the Hindus, the Mormons, the atheists, or any other followers of any other faith.   But Jesus did it.

He did it because He sees us as people, as men and women.   He meets us where we are and asks that we meet Him there in return.   He wants to meet us on a human level because He knows that’s what we can understand.   He knows that He can appeal to our understanding, our hearts and minds, because He is the foundation of all understanding.   Faith in God is the beginning of human reason.   Jesus knows this and wants us to know it too so that we can live our lives here in purpose and love with Him as our guide.

Jesus sees you as His brother or sister because He wants you to see Him as your brother.  He wants to be the person with whom you can confide, and trust, and rely on.   Jesus wants us to know Him as family because family sticks together.   Because family is a bond that matters.   Because a family is the primary unit in every society, and because mankind was designed to live in families.

Seriously think about that.   Seriously contemplate that thought.  Jesus brings many sons to glory because He sees those sons, you and I, as brothers whom He loves and adores.   That’s the best news you’.

For more reading:   Hebrews 13:12, Ephesians 5:26, Matthew 28:10.

Lord Jesus, my brother and my Lord, thank You for loving me as your sibling!

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 18 January 2016

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Mark 13, verse 32.

We’ve talked about this before, about how end times prophecies boil down to our being prepared for the world to end any minute now.   Admit it:   the idea of the world ending, of God calling an end to time and of everything that we know or has ever happened coming to a conclusion seems far-fetched.   It seems preposterous, illogical (worse:   it’s logic-defiant). The end of the world seems contrary to everything God created us for, right?

Wrong.

In fact, the end of time is exactly the event for which God created us.   God created us out of His perfect love and grace.   He created us to be in full communion with Him forever, to enjoy His blessings and share His love with us with Him for all time.   However, the sin that we embraced so long ago stands in-between us and realizing God’s real plan.   He’s holy and can’t have anything to do with our sins.   Enter Jesus, who atoned for our sins and clothed us with Himself so that we can stand in front of the holy triune God blameless and made holy again.   God created us to share His love perfectly, as He does, and in our current state we can’t do that.

Yet when that will happen nobody here knows.   Jesus’ own words in this verse confirm this truth.   He says them just after assuring us that His words are truth and are reliable, that when everything else goes away He and His words will remain.  Jesus Himself doesn’t know.   The Spirit of the Father and Son doesn’t know.   NSA doesn’t know; neither does Barack Obama, Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Donald Trump, Rick Warren, your pastor, your BFF since fourth grade, nor any person we can think of. Only God the Father Himself knows when it will happen.

Maybe it follows that either me or you would think “so why doesn’t He just tell us?”   Kind of presumptuous, don’t you think? Let me answer your question with a question: “would you really want to know?”   Don’t bother digging up the “why” to that question; that’s your business.   But would you really want to know when the end of time is happening?   Wouldn’t it cause some of your passion for life to cease, the very thing that makes humanity into what we are?   If we knew when things would end, how many of us would simply give up and not truly live?   Worse, how many of us would sink further into debauchery in the false belief that this life is all there is, so we’d better live it up now because at X time we’re done.

That’s not what God intended for us at all.

Nobody we can conceive of knows when all this will conclude; perhaps it will happen before you read my next blog entry; even so, come Lord Jesus.   And if it doesn’t, then let’s thank God for another day to make the most of the lives He gives us.   Let’s live today to find ways to advance Him in our lives, to dedicate our time and talents to His work, to be Jesus and share Jesus for someone who doesn’t yet know Him.   Doing that, then it won’t matter when comes the end of all things.

Lord, I praise You that you, my God, have ordained an end to this world.   Come Lord Jesus in Your good time.

Read Mark 13, verses 32-37.