Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 24 October 2017

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”  The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.  Hebrews 12, verses 26-27.

Some words about the end.   Remember that movie line from our last time:   “everything will be alright in the end.   If everything isn’t alright then it isn’t the end.”  Today’s words talk about the end.  The end is coming.

According to the internet, the end should have happened this past weekend when the hidden planet, Nibiru, was supposed to crash into the Earth.   It didn’t happen.   And, if you remember your American history, the Millerites thought the world would end sometime between 1843 and 1844.   It didn’t happen then either.  And REM sang that this is “the end of the world as we know it.”   So far it hasn’t happened, which is good for their record sales.

When the end comes, you’ll know it.   You’ll hear the trumpet.   You’ll see Jesus in the clouds.   You and everyone around you and everyone everywhere will acknowledge that He is God, that all you’ve learned about Him is true, and that He’s back.  Will you be what remains because it cannot be shaken?

In the past, God came with fire and earthquakes and, well, announcing His presence.   Throughout history, He’s made His presence known.   I think about that scene from Forrest Gump when Lieutenant Dan is screaming at God to show Himself, and Forrest says “and then God showed up” as a hurricane starts to blow.   When the storm had passed, the tortured lieutenant was at peace, and God provided a new wealth for Dan and Forrest.  Isn’t that kind of a small picture of what God does?  The majesty of God is an amazing thing.   The power of a storm, the magnificent sunsets and sunrises, volcanoes, vast seas, sun-swept deserts and snow-capped mountains:   nature screams out praise to God simply by existing as He created it.   That’s here and now in a fallen world where His majesty is viewed through the gauzy lens of our sins.   God can do as He pleases; we’re here in the world He created for us.

When the time is right, God will shake it.  What God created by words – by The Word – will be shaken again by His words, by the return of The Word.  Only God the Father knows when; not even the Son and Spirit with whom He’s in perfect union know.   When the Father deems it time, all will be shaken, all will be turned over, all will be moved.   Everything will be turned upside down.

Will you remain?   By accepting Him as your only salvation, you can stand fast.   When the physical and spiritual shaking starts, will you be able to?  When the fallen world realizes its predicament and quivers in terror, will you stand up and welcome this advent?   Will you have put your trust in Him and realize that, once again, He will make all things new as He shakes the world at its foundation?

The end didn’t happen in the 1840s, and it didn’t happen when REM sang about it 20 years ago, and it didn’t happen this weekend.  Today, weathermen forecast the weather for tomorrow and the next few days.   Project managers plan work for the next few weeks, months, and years.  Government bureaucrats march towards deadlines, athletes train for the next game, and kids are planning for Halloween (next week).  And if God deems that, right now, the world should be shaken and time be at its end then that’s exactly what will happen.   Nothing we can do can stop it.   Indeed, if it ushers the return of Jesus, I don’t want to stop it.   I’m ready for the end.   How about you?

For further reading:  Exodus 19:18, Haggai 2:6, Isaiah 34:4, Isaiah 54:10, 1 Corinthians 7:31, Hebrews 1:11-12, 2 Peter 3:10, 1 John 2:17.

Lord, You will shake everything when the time is right.   When You do, I pray I am standing for You, eagerly awaiting Your return.

 

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 9 October 2017

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”  The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”  Hebrews 12, verses 18-21.

Are you seeing as I am that it takes effort and study to understand the Bible?   A few nights ago, a pastor I know said that he thought simply turning to the Bible and picking a random verse for advice was dangerous.   If you randomly pick a verse and expect it to give you life-altering advice, you’re subjecting God to a game of Russian Roulette where you hold the gun against the other guy’s head.  I understand his point, because context matters, background matters.   You may not have a degree in hermaneutics or have a bookshelf full of commentaries, but knowing a little bit about the verses you read might just help you to understand them (and what they’re saying) better.  A good website for this is http://thetorah.com/what-happened-at-mount-sinai/.

The background of these verses is, as you’ve guessed, from the time of the Ten Commandments.  God led the people of Israel to Sinai, His holy place.   There He would minister to them and give them His commandments for how to live in the world.   To protect them, He ordered Moses to set up boundaries so that no one would set foot onto God’s holy mountain in some disrespectful way.  It was for them, not Him.  Why wouldn’t God want His people to flock to Him?   The answer is in the millennial joke:  “it’s you, not me.”   Putting it simply, it was the people’s sins.

God can’t be unholy.   Un-holiness is against His nature.   He can’t tolerate it.  Specifically, it seems like the sin of disrespect would be one He would not tolerate.   For the people to accept His holy law, God wanted to ready them.   So He gave them instructions to follow.   “Stay off the mountain.”  Listen to God and He teaches.  God would speak to them through Moses, and in doing so He would affirm Moses’ leadership over them.   That’s a practical as well as spiritual matter, you know.   2 million souls wandering hungrily in unfamiliar territory needed a leader.  They didn’t need another pharaoh or some strongman:   they needed an authority.   God speaks to them directly from the mountain, but at a distance to gather their attention and to set up some ground rules.  By acting through Moses and by requiring the Israelites to follow directions, God installs Moses as leader and affirms that authority.   What’s more, when God speaks directly from Sinai, He has Moses stand above the people, in-between them and Himself.   He couldn’t have told them any clearer:   “This guy Moses is my spokesman here.   Listen to him.”

Then why would He allow un-holy Moses to stand in His presence?  There wasn’t anything special about Moses regarding his sinful nature.   Moses was a sinner just like the rest of the Israelites.   Perhaps it was that God knew how Israel would rebel in Moses’ absence.   Don’t forget that Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and nights, fasting and being made ready to receive God’s direct commandments.   During that time, Israel defied God and made itself an idol for worship, then they partied like a one-hit wonder on Grammy night.   Moses wasn’t a part of that (reaffirming again his status as above this sin).  Can you imagine the terror of seeing Moses descending from the mountain that first time, carrying two stone tablets, his anger burning stronger with each step down?   Can you imagine the thunder and shaking earth and the fire spewing from the mountain in front of you when God’s wrath was poured out on the rebellious deserters?

It must have been a fearful thing to have been one of the thousands freed from Egypt and then wandering to this strange place in Midian.   It must have been frightening to journey to a mountain where fire, smoke, thunder, and earthquakes were common indicators of the uncommon God occupying it.   It must have been terrifying to see God’s representative coming down to find that you’ve been unfaithful.   And it is always humbling to have to submit to someone’s authority when you know they have every right to rebuke you.

There is a better way.   The better way is to follow as soon as you hear you should.   God never leads people in unjust ways.   His path is always good and for good.   If you want to avoid the stern teaching of a harsh rebuke, or if you fear the fire and brimstone, then live your life in such a way as to make them un-threatening to you.   It really is that simple.  As Billy Currington might have said, thank God for good directions.

For further reading:  Exodus 19:12-22, Deuteronomy 4:11-12, Exodus 20:18, Deuteronomy 5:5 & 25, Deuteronomy 9:19.

Lord, thank You for Your fire, Your high standards, Your good directions, and the hard lessons You taught our ancestors..  

 

 

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 13 February 2015

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4, verses 35-41.

With power in Jesus, we can do anything.

You see, I’m like the disciples: it’s all about me.   Don’t you love how they try to blame Jesus for their predicament?   Nobody forced them to get into the boat; they went willingly.   The sea was an inland sea, and while the squall must have been frightening, please:   get a grip.   They could have made it through. When they discover they might be in danger, they wake up Jesus and rag on Him.   “Don’t you care what happens to US?”   “You chose US!”   “WE matter.”   What does Jesus do?   He saves them, corrects them, rebukes them, and loves them.   He isn’t afraid and asks them, not accuses them, why they are letting their petty fears get the best of them.

There’s a lesson in that:   fear nothing.   As long as we abide in Jesus’ grace, we have nothing to fear.   He even says so:   “why are you so afraid?” Jesus was with them. More importantly, Jesus had imparted faith into their lives.   Faith in God through Him.   Because of that, they need not have had any fear.   Neither should we.   Afraid of walking in the dark? Be cautious but don’t be afraid.   Afraid of the bully at school?   Be prepared but don’t be afraid.   Afraid to face your fears, or face your past, or face the music after you’ve done wrong?   Be ready, but don’t be afraid. As long as you abide in Jesus, fear will flee you and enable you to do magnificent things…

….things such as quieting a storm with simple words of faith.   I personally know men who have participated in exorcisms that have driven out demons.   I personally know people who have spoken healing over others in pain and watched that pain turn immediately to relief.   I personally have known weak people made strong in heart and body.   The commonality in all these things: faith in Jesus. It reminds me of something my pastor said last week:   we seem to forget to take Jesus at His word.   If He says we can do something through Him, He means we can do something through Him.   All things are possible through Jesus.

Yet notice He keeps it real: “SO afraid.” Jesus acknowledges human fear is a natural reaction, not a character flaw.   He sees that we immediately feel trepidation at some things because that’s a physiological reaction to stimulus. It’ a defense mechanism He made into us.   Yet He then says “trust me, not your fear.”   Get over it and get back to Me because I’m bigger than all that.

Lord, You’re bigger than my fears.   Help me to overcome them.

Read the rest of Mark 4.