Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 3 August 2017

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  Hebrews 11, verses 13.

Today’s verse is a powerful conviction of the human race and an even more powerful demonstration of the grace of God.   It’s kryptonite to the world thinking of itself as Superman.  It’s a grace bomb.

Up until now, the writer of Hebrews has mentioned Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham as paragons of faith.   They were men who lived out what God asked them to do.   They weren’t better than anyone else in their day; they weren’t better than you or me.   They simply did a better job at putting all their faith in God.  He said then they believed.  They had faith that, if God said so, it would be so no matter what.  No matter what it cost them (even their lives), no matter what had to happen in the world, no matter anything, if God promised something, it would be so.   His word is more reliable than anything else.  I’ll ask you to back up a bit and consider the unspoken implications of what the verse is really saying.

Faith in God is worth dying for because when you have faith in God you’re a stranger in this strange land.

God created this place to be perfect.   It was perfect for a time, though we don’t really know how long Adam and Eve lived in Eden.  God created Adam and Eve to be perfect and they were for a time, existing in harmony with God and the nature He created.   In the Garden there was perfection and there was even evil.   Yet Adam and Eve lived perfectly with evil present until they accepted evil’s lying proposition.  After that, they (and we) embraced evil in corrupting the perfection of what God had created.   As a result, they (and we) fell out of harmony with God and the perfection He intended for us.

Sin, evil, corruption, sickness, deterioration, death:   those weren’t what the world was created for.   They are the abnormalities that have overtaken the world and made the normal perfection for which it was created abnormal.  We have become abnormal in a world that considers things truly abnormal to be normal.  The way around all this dysfunction, this frustration of God’s good plan, is faith in Him.   Putting our faith in God, in His Son, Jesus, changes the equation of abnormality back into one of true normality.   Disharmony becomes harmony again.

And to have that harmony in full again, unless Jesus returns, we have to die for it.   Loving Jesus fully means being willing to die for Him.  After all, He died for us.

The world of hate that we inherited from Adam and Eve’s idolatrous rebellion thinks itself to be above God.   The men cited here in Hebrews saw past that.   They didn’t have the benefit of the knowledge of Jesus for Jesus wouldn’t be incarnate for thousands of years.   Yet they still put their faith in this unseen God, trusting that He would redeem them from the hatred of sin.  They put their faith in Him doing what they couldn’t.   They hoped He would redeem them in this life, but trusted He would keep His promise whether in this life or the next.

My friend, Bill Brimer, likes to talk about ‘grace bombs.’   This is a big one.   It dropped right in front of you and exploded in your face.   Blew you away, in fact, with it’s power of love.  The ‘you’ that revels in the sensuality of our world is paled by the ‘you’ who is better than all that.   You’re better than all that because God re-made you to be better.   He remade you by redeeming you even when you and I distrusted Him.  His grace overcame our grudges.  He exploded his grace in your face by being His Word, by giving His word, by keeping His word, by being Himself for us.   All we have to do is believe because He does everything else and He does it because of love.   He proved it to these biblical forbearers.   He does it still.   BOOM.   Take that, wannabe Superman.

For further reading:  Matthew 13:17, Genesis 23:4, Leviticus 25:23, Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:17.

Lord, thank You for exploding Your grace in my face, for all You have done and do today.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 14 March 2017

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation.  Hebrews 9, verse 11.

We want superheroes.   Yes, I’m going there.

Today I saw a trailer for the new “Justice League” movie.   I’ll admit it:  I’m sick of super hero movies.   I wish Hollywood would make movies about non-super hero characters.   I know that they do, and that there are dozens of Indie features released every month.   But I live in a town where those features are rarely circulated.   We only get major releases here.   Besides, so many of those Indie movies center on themes that seem objectionable to me.   I don’t want to patronize them.   That, and the ‘eye candy’ popcorn movies are all big-budget, special effects extravaganzas about improbable people doing extraordinary things (hold that thought).  So, like millions of others, I go to the superhero movies and watch them and I’m entertained for a few hours before I’m left hungry, waiting for the next big thing.  Think about it.   The biggest movies (and movie busts) of the last 20 years are movies about Batman, Spiderman, the Avengers, Superman, Iron Man, Thor and the like.

Enter Jesus.   Here’s how Hollywood might write about Him if He were a fictional character.   Boy from small farm town grows up and starts worldwide movement that overturns empires, changes people from within, and performs miracles.   Hundreds of miracles, supernatural feats of every bent.   Seas parting, storms calmed, thousands fed on crumbs, people brought back from death.   At the moment of ultimate victory, the hero is slain only to return three days later bigger and better than ever.  If Jesus were a superhero, what kind of cape would He wear?  Yes, enter Jesus the superhero.   Enter the King, the one who can literally move mountains with a glance.

Except that He can.   He did; He does.   He does it better than Superman or Thor.   He is the true Avenger; His is the only real justice in any league.   He is the ultimate fighter, the muscular warrior in the trenches turning back legions of demons with only His words.   He foretells the future, then executes ultimate justice.  He leads battalions of angels against armies of Satan’s warriors of hate.   And He does it while, in the very next scene, sitting side by side with young kids who simply want a friend.  The life and death and life again of Jesus?   Heroic.   Super-heroic, in fact.

I wonder if Hollywood would make a movie like that.   Actually, they have, but epics about the Bible seem to be passé.  They don’t do great box office anymore.   Besides, purist believers might poo-poo the idea of portraying Jesus as ready-for-Wrestlemania and able to defeat both Lex Luthor and the Joker without breaking a sweat.  If they dump on “The Shack” for portraying God the Father as a black woman, imagine what they’d say about Jesus all muscled out and buff.

Yet that’s the kind of superhero people seem to want.   We LOVE stories about men (and women) who can do extraordinary things, the kinds of things Jesus can do.   We’ll pay big bucks to watch supernatural-type special effects about AWESOME things.  And we’ll cheer like cheerleaders when the good guys show up to clean up the mess and mete out hard justice.

Isn’t that what Jesus does every day?   Jesus is the improbable Savior doing extraordinary things.   Let’s go a step further:  when YOU believe in Jesus, you become an ordinary person living an extraordinary life.   You make the world a better place by living your ordinary life in extraordinary ways because of the extraordinary superhero named Jesus who’s leading you.

To get to here, Jesus went through heaven.   He rendered complete over three hundred ancient prophecies.  He fulfilled every expectation and prediction of the Messiah who would save men from themselves.  Jesus satisfied the need for the earthly tabernacle, the earthly dwelling place of God.  He superseded it by in-dwelling Himself into the hearts of people who followed Him, making THEM His tabernacle, making them His eyes, voices, arms and legs.  He did this for man’s benefit but only by God’s design.   Heaven isn’t some Norse fiction called Asgard:  heaven is a real place, more spectacular than Stan Lee could ever dream.   We want our heroes to be bigger than life, to save us when nobody else can.   The awesome thing is that, in our Savior, we have Him exactly.

But I’ll still go see “Justice League.”

For further reading:  Hebrews 2:17, ,Hebrews 10:1, John 2:19.

Lord, You’re my superhero.   I praise You for Your heroic life, Your superhero heart, Your divine power, Your larger than life persona, Your humble bearing.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 6 January 2015

 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.  Mark 3, verses 11-12.

Now that’s a superpower I wish I could have.  Do kids ever ask you that question:   what superpower do you wish you could have?   Every now and then my son will ask it; usually the conversation turns into joking or bathroom humor when that happens.  Here, however, I’m being serious.   I wish I had the superpower to make impure spirits fall down before me and cry out for mercy.

News flash, sports fans:  I have it.   So do you.

The whole Jesus thing – the “ask whatever you want in my name and it’ll be given to you” thing – is real.  It’s true.  It really is a super-power.   You can use it now.

Our world demands to be taken at face value, that is, at realism.   We are constantly implored to reject the supernatural as being impossible or illogical.  God is dead; Jesus is a myth; faith is a crutch for the weak; religion is an opiate for the masses:  our pessimistic (and Leninist) human nature tells us these things.  Yet isn’t it fascinating that the biggest movies of our time are stories about the supernatural, or super-heroes, or super-powered fantasies.  Why, it’s only the beginning of 2015 and already some smart folks are prognosticating that the biggest movies of this coming year will be about the super-heroic Avengers, Ant Man, and the next installment of the super-infused Star Wars saga.

We crave the ability to make evil cower, to put the demons that haunt us at bay and make them submit.   It’s something that we aren’t able to do on our own because of our own human failings, so we yearn to be better than we are, to have super-human abilities like Superman, Iron Man, Batman, Darth Vader and the like.  How disappointing it is to always find that life isn’t a movie or a comic book.

Yet how wonderful it can be to learn that such power is within us, that such abilities are at our fingertips when we walk the walk of Christ.  I’m not the Son of God; neither are you; let’s not get the big head and think more of ourselves than we are.   Yet the Son of God truly does promise us that what we ask for in His name will be given to us, including the power to make demons cry out in submission to His Name:   just like what happened here in Mark.

Don’t believe me?  Confess your skepticism to the woman who has faced down the demons of her past to finally quiet them.   Tell it to the alcoholic who pushes away the drink instead of swallowing the poison one last time.   Tell it to the man who is tempted to cheat just one more time and then quit, but quits now instead and does something better.   Tell it to the person who prays to God for strength and to whom is given the opportunity to be strong.   All of them – all of us – face down our demons day by day, and with the power of Christ in our voice and in our veins, we battle, persevere, and emerge victorious.   Just like Jesus did and just like He taught us.   That is a super-power I am thankful to already have.

Lord, strengthen me with Your strength, and be my sword, shield, and will in my daily battle.

Re-read Mark 3, verses 7-12.