Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 19 October 2016

For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Hebrews 2, verses 16-17.

Diving deeper into these two verses, let’s talk briefly about Jesus becoming “a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God.”   We’ll only spend a brief time here because, when we get to chapters four through eight we’ll dive into greater detail.  The easy answer to “who is that merciful high priest” is, as you’d expect, Jesus; duh!   But what about his representatives?  In this day and age, is your pastor a merciful and faithful high priest?

Way back in the book of Exodus God established a particular tribe to be His priests.   Moses’ brother, Aaron, was selected to be God’s high priest, and the tribe (or clan) from which Aaron was descended was that of Jacob’s son, Levi.   The men of the tribe of Levi were to be set aside as special for God, serving as His priests.  That seems like kind of an extreme thing by our standards, taking a whole clan of people and saying “they’re mine” but that’s what God did.   What’s more, all Levite men were to serve God and some were to serve Him as ordained priests, offering sacrifices to God in the Tabernacle (and later in the Temple).   Not all Levites were priests but all priests were Levites.   Indeed, Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan describes how a priest and a Levite (different men) walked by the man who had been robbed.   Only a strange foreigner – a pagan and outsider of Jewish law – stopped to show the man God’s love.   It shows that even God’s special people make mistakes.

Just like our pastors today.   I’m friends with more than a few pastors.   More than just a handful read this blog.   More than a handful of them sometimes message me and give me their thoughts on the thoughts I share here.  I take it as a great compliment that men and women of the cloth would take time to try to make sure I’m doing good credit to their calling.  Some of them – most of them actually – send me great feedback that helps me understand perspectives I hadn’t considered, things I haven’t learned.   Some of them send me things with which I disagree; in fact, they piss me off.   And some of them have made mistakes, said things that turned out to be self-serving and selfish.   Some pastors are jerks.

Just like the Levites of yesteryear.   Just like you and me.

When I was growing up, my view of clergymen in general was jaded by the tele-evangelist scandals of the 1970s and 1980s.   Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Robert Schuller:   they were all disgraced in one way or another by their sins.   Sins of adultery, sins of deceit, sins of greed:   they were the undoing of great, self-made men who led huge flocks of believers.   The public and their parishoners held them to a high standard, and these men didn’t make it.   They sinned and, in some cases, rightfully paid dearly.   I mean, they were ministers.   They were supposed to know and be better!

At the same time, I learned from listening to great pastors I personally knew in church.   Guy Newland, Ann Haw, Reuben and Paul Youngdahl:   these were people I knew and learned from, people I listened to and admired.   They were devout, honest, and real.   You’ve probably never heard of them, though if you’re Lutheran you might know about the Youngdahl’s, especially if you’re from Minnesota.  They were sinners, too, but their sins were their own, I’m sure, and not exposed for trial in the court of public opinion.

Just like most of the Levites and just like most of our pastors today.

And yet none of them are Jesus.   None of these good, flawed, even admirable yet sinful priests could serve as a minister of God the way Jesus could.   None of the priests in the Temple of Jesus’ day could stand blameless in the Holy of Holies to atone for peoples’ sins the way Jesus could.   None of them could offer their blood as the real atonement.   No pastor or preacher today could ask for or grant forgiveness the way Jesus does.   No teacher of God’s Word could teach the way the perfect rabbi from Nazareth did.   They know it:   it’s a hard blessing with which to live in your calling.

Yet we need them.   We need men and women to minister to us.   We need people who are called, impassioned, and entrusted with the knowledge of God’s Word to translate it for us.   They aren’t Jesus and neither are we.   Yet we need their talents to help teach us things we might not otherwise learn because theirs is the calling to be God’s merciful and high priests.   More than ever, pastors and priests have more resources than at any time in history to fulfill their good calling.  And, again, more than ever before, perhaps more since any time since AD70 (when Rome destroyed the Jewish priesthood), our world is hostile to their work.   ISIS, atheism, the antagonism of leftism, socialism and communism once again on the rise, an unfriendly media and popular culture, official antipathy:   next time you talk to your pastor or priest, thank them for what they do.   Maybe give them a fist bump instead of a rhetorical fist to the jaw.    Not just anyone can be a merciful, faithful high priest of Jesus.   I can’t; Could you?

For more reading:   Hebrews chapters 4-8, Genesis 14: 18-20, Luke 10:31-32.

Lord Jesus, You and only You are the perfect high priest but thank You for your representatives of the cloth here in our world today.


Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 1 September 2015

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10, verses 28-31.

Read to understand what Jesus is saying here.   This isn’t Joel Osteen; this isn’t prosperity Gospel.   This isn’t bad-hair-and-three-piece-suit preaching from some corny televangelist. Instead, Jesus is saying God will provide for us in all things and all ways and richly, sometimes even in material riches.   The blessings will be even more apparent when we follow Him.

In truth, you don’t even have to follow Jesus for God to richly provide for you. If you are reading these words with sight in your eyes, air in your lungs, and a heart beating in your chest, God has richly provided for you.   You did nothing to deserve it; that’s a taste of ‘grace.’   God created your life out of lifelessness and He preserves you as you are every day of your life whether you love Him or not.   True, some days are better than others; sometimes life really can be terrible.   Some days we feel pretty far from God. But it’s still life, and through each day of it, if we get to 11:59 PM and we’re still alive, then God has provided for us in yet another 24-hour stretch of blessings.   He does this for over 7 billion souls alive on Planet Earth right now, and the vast majority of them don’t even know or believe in Him.

So it stands to reason that, if you let the peace of Jesus rule your life instead of simply the pursuit of prosperity, then your pursuit of life will be richly blessed. Those blessings may come in the form of a fat checkbook or sometimes they may come only as that steady heartbeat; that’s up to God.   It’s up to us whether we trust Him or not.   Either way, you’re blessed and when you let Christ rule your life your cup overflows. Know peace?   It’s because you know Jesus.   Know satisfaction in a job well done?   It’s because you’re using the talents Jesus gave you for some kind of good.   Feel loved?   You’re feeling Jesus.   The list goes on forever. If you have the love of Jesus Christ in your life, you’re richer that Donald Trump on a good hair day. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.

Yet don’t get lost in the fuzzy wuzzy nature of all this.   Jesus also promises persecution.   He promises that, in setting yourself with Him, you will set yourself against the world.   The world doesn’t go down without a fight. For professing your faith, you will lose friends, you will lose family, you will lose things with which you’re comfortable, you’ll become a target.   It’s not because of Jesus:   it’s because the world is a sinful place. It’s because sin in the world hates love in the world, is genuinely terrified of the love of Jesus that shines light into every dark place where sin lives.

Even Joel Osteen knows that.

Lord, thank You for all the ways You bless me.

Read Mark 10, verses 17-31.