Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 25 October 2017

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.  Hebrews 12, verse 28.

Awe.   That concept comes from Malachi 2:5, which mentions revering God with awe.  When was the last time you really felt awe about something?   One time when I was at sea, I felt in complete awe being caught in the middle of a storm off the coast of Alaska.   And standing on the ridge of the Grand Canyon was awe-inspiring (and awesome).  The courage of my son standing up to give his very real confirmation testimony gave me a feeling of awe.   And now, during my last days on my east Texas farm, when I look out at the simple beauty of morning mists shimmering off the pond my heart is full of awe and wonder at the beauty of it all.

God has that effect on us.  Imagine the feeling of awe at falling at the feet of Jesus when this life is over, of having Him reach down and take your hand and lift you up.   “I’m so glad to see you,” He might say.   Imagine the awe of having the very much alive Jesus speak those words to you.   Of simply being in the presence of the Alpha and the Omega.  Of knowing He chose you and I to be with Him forever.

All that is possible because His kingdom is unshakeable.   The verse doesn’t just talk about the temporal, earthly kingdom here.   No, it’s talking about His kingdom inside us.   We are the church; we are His church and His vessels for carrying Him to the ends of the earth.   We do that because He lives and reigns within us.   When we live our lives following Jesus, we can’t be shaken.   The world around us may quiver, tremble, and quake, but we won’t.   We may get knocked down but we won’t be knocked out.   We may be hurt but we won’t be vanquished.   With Jesus as our lead, we will always advance.

That’s because His kingdom is within us.   Noodle that thought for awhile and you’ll find it’s awesome as well.  It will inspire real awe, real star-struck feelings within you.  He who died on the cross thinking about you, He who faced down the moneychangers and Pharisees and Pontius Pilate, He who walked on water and talked with Moses and Elijah on the mountain, He who was born in that manger, He who told Sarah she was pregnant, He who walked in Eden, He who spoke and made everything appear:  He has built His church on your heart and lives day to day here on this earth through you.   He’s real and He’s now.  When you live in godly ways, you’re letting Him work through you.   When you have mercy, you’re letting Him act out through you.   When you choose real love, you’re letting Him love through you.  You are a knight in His kingdom because His kingdom is alive and in your heart.  The world of hurt and pain can inflict those on you but it can’t destroy what Jesus has instituted within you.   Nothing can.

Yet His kingdom is also physical, tangible, and on its way.  Jesus’ coming kingdom will be a real, physical place here with real, physical work and real, physical actions.   There will be true government that is un-corrupted by sin.   There will be true justice that is measured by love.  There will be true leadership that is exemplified by Jesus on His throne yet walking with each of us.   There will be real people and real angels and real apostles and real work to be done.   To paraphrase my friend, Phil (of Calvary Chapel here in Paris), our personality, passion, character, and skills – core traits of Christian servants – will be put to work in service of Jesus’ real kingdom, even more than they are here and now.   In that day we will live in the kingdom He intended for us all along:  a place for us to thrive in harmony with Him and in unity with others and even nature.   Remember those words about the lion and the lamb living together?   They weren’t poetry.   They were an advance preview of what’s to come.   Real peace in the life we’ve all longed for.

And it is awesome to think of it all.

My friend, Mark (of Water’s Edge in Frisco), is fond of saying “you’re part of eternity now.”   Right on brother.   You and I get to choose that awe right now.  We don’t have to wait for the end of this life to be in awe of Jesus.   We get to do that now because He has made us righteous and worthy of Him now through what He did at Calvary.   That’s more awesome than an Aleutian storm, or a misty morning in Paris, or even the love of my kids and grandkids.   You and I:   we’re part of Him now, and it is an awesome God we can ponder.

For further reading:  Psalm 15:5, Isaiah 11:6, Daniel 2:44, Malachi 2:5, Hebrews 13:5.

My Lord I am in awe of you, of Your love, Your power, Your heart.   Align my life more and more with Yours.

 

 

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 27 February 2017

Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.  Hebrews 8, verse 1-2

This is the main point of everything, not just a few verses in the Bible.   You may not want to hear it, but the high priest of heaven – Jesus of Nazareth – is the main point of everything in your life.

We went to two different church services yesterday.   My wife and I attended our home church in Frisco to help set up communion and then to attend worship.   Later, (along with our daughters, their families, and my in-laws) we also attended a church in Prosper where we sat in on a telecast with David Jeremiah, well-known Christian author and minister.   Dr. Jeremiah’s sermon topic was the gospel and how our society is diluting it.   Our society is constantly trying to water down the powerful message that God redeemed us so we could live and love with Him forever.   We of the world constantly try to shift away from that because that message takes away from the focus on us.   We aren’t the creator:  we’re the created.  We aren’t the center of all things:   God is.

In other words, he talked about how Jesus was the main point of everything.

Then, last night, I didn’t watch the Oscars.   I usually don’t, so this year was no exception.   Chances are you’ve already heard about the major errors that happened  when Warren Beatty presented the Best Picture award.   Perhaps Clyde Barrow actually grabbed the envelope and stormed onstage, or maybe someone rushed the action, or perhaps there was some kind of mix-up we’ll never know about; internet conspiracy theorists are already going wild about it.   But no matter what happened, someone actually did hand that envelope to Jack Reed.   Can you imagine how it must feel to be the person who handed Beatty the wrong envelope?  They probably want to drop off the planet today.

That person needs to know that Jesus is the main point of everything.   Jesus is bigger than the Academy Awards.

Or there is someone my pastor friend, Patrick, is following on Twitter.   @SarahTaras tweeted just today “If Jesus’ end game had been moralism, no one would have wanted him dead.  The gospel is not a safe message.   Not then.   Not now.”   Powerful statement there, don’t you think?  I completely agree with her point, though.  The gospel is a radically unsafe message.   It directly challenges all the wisdom of this world in full frontal assault.  That makes it unsafe, threatening, dangerous to the world.   If you believe in the gospel, then you, too, are unsafe, dangerous and threatening.

All that is so because Jesus is the main point of the gospel.   Jesus is the main point of everything.   He is the center of the good news of salvation.   He is the center of real peace after a comedy of errors broadcast live across the globe.   He is the main point of all Christian ministry.  We each rebel and struggle with that idea because the sin in us spurs us on to want to be supreme.   We each want to be the top dog, all the while not realizing that Jesus is the main point of all creation.  He gives life because He is life.   He gives love because He is love.   God has provided everything that we have, think, or know of, and has put His Son Jesus over all of it.   That puts Him smack dab in the middle.

And He’s there whether we believe in Him or not, whether we forget or focus on Him.   He was at both Water’s Edge and Prestonwood yesterday.   He was on stage with Warren Beatty when old Warren announced the wrong film.   He’s with my friend and the woman on Twitter.   He’s reading these words through your eyes.   We each easily forget that Jesus is the center of all things but that only makes it even more urgent for us to regroup and remember who’s in charge.

Lord Jesus, You are the middle of everything.  You are God, You are love, You are the focus of my life.   Abide with me and forgive me, I pray, when I mess up.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 26 September 2016

For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.  Hebrews 2, verses 2 and 3.

What does that mean?  It sort of seems like two different thoughts ‘smushed’ together.

My NIV concordance says that “the message spoken through angels” references God giving the Commandments to Moses at Sinai.  Some reading from Deuteronomy tells that “myriads of angels” accompanied God in giving Him praise when He revealed His law to Moses (who then shared it with the world).  A little online research corroborates that opinion.  What about the rest of the verses?

Yesterday at church the theme was “good enough.”   Pastor Mark talked about how we, as people, constantly strive to prove we’re good enough.   Every religion on earth is a choice between following Jesus or not.   If you aren’t following Jesus, then you’re doing something, anything, to prove you’re good enough.   Good enough for Allah, good enough to reach nirvana, good enough to prove your worth, good enough to make up for things you’ve done, just good enough:   that’s the point of all faiths other than following Jesus.  You’re either a following Christian or you aren’t.

I don’t say this to denigrate other faiths.   It’s just a fact.   If your faith isn’t put in Jesus, you aren’t putting your faith in the only one who can save you from your sins.  You’re striving to do something, most likely to prove you’re good enough to rise above the wrongs you’ve done.   And be real:   everyone does something wrong.   Wrong equals sin.   We all sin; we’re all thick with sin.  There’s nothing we can do to undo the consequences of those sins, both against other people and, as believers, against the righteous justice of God.   If you aren’t following Jesus, you’re doing something to overcome those sins.  THAT point segues directly into verse 3, where the verse talks about salvation.

Only Jesus has atoned for your sins.   Only Jesus can save me, you, or anyone from the eternal consequences of our sins.  God is perfect and just and righteous and all love.   He made us to love us and for us to live in perfect harmony with that love for all time.   Yet, to maintain that just, righteous, perfect love, God can’t tolerate our sins.   He gave us the free will to follow completely or sin.   Being a loving parent, He allows us to choose what we do, including the consequences.  But to maintain His perfection He can’t allow our constant imperfections to taint Him.   If He did, He wouldn’t be perfect, He wouldn’t be God.  That can’t be allowed, and let’s keep it real:   we wouldn’t really want it.

I am not perfect and I’m not just or righteous on my own.   I can’t atone for myself.  I can make some amends for the wrongs I’ve done to God and other people, but in truth I can’t atone for everything.   As an absolute, if I can’t atone for everything then I really can’t atone for everything.   I’m not God.  Neither are you.  We can’t save ourselves from the punishment we deserve:   damnation and separation from God.

Jesus did.

He did and He did it as fully man and fully God all at the same time.   It’s a mystery, THE mystery of the ages, how Jesus lived, died, and atoned for all sins.   He took on Himself the eternal damnation that even the least of my sins deserves and He made it right.   He made unclean man right and righteous again so that we can again live in the harmony with God that God originally intended.   The truly good news of all history is how He saved us from the eternal consequences our sins deserve.   All of Scripture is God testifying through men how He did this.   Those twelve men who Jesus taught during His ministry here inspired dozens, then hundreds, then millions of others to share this good news with others.   The Bible does this.   Pastors, ministries, whole lifetimes do this.   Even our words here together do this.   It’s all because of what Jesus did those thousands of years ago.   On my own, I’m not good enough.   Jesus is and with Him, He made me good enough.

What do two verses really mean?   As it turns out, quite a lot.

For more reading:   Deuteronomy 33:2, Romans 11:22.

Lord Jesus, I follow You.   Thank You for saving me, for forgiving me, for doing what I can’t.   Help me to live in ways to share this message with the world.