Practical Proverbial, from 2 Thessalonians, 24 July 2018

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 2 Thessalonians 2:5 (NIV).

Awhile ago, a minister friend of mine told me he doesn’t think we’re near the end of time because the Gospel hasn’t yet been preached to the entire world.   That’s one of the conditions Jesus established before He returned to heaven:  that His Gospel would be preached to the entire world, to the ends of the earth, so that all might hear of Him before He returns to reclaim His followers.   My friend said that there were still millions of people who haven’t heard about this Jesus.   Knowing that, he said it can’t possibly be time just yet.   I hadn’t ever considered this, but his point was simple and compelling.

And then there are the family members I’ve mentioned over the last month or two.   They don’t know much about Jesus, and what they do know they have rejected.  To them, Jesus is just some mumbo jumbo myth that a bunch of weak-minded dupes with a daddy complex put their misbegotten faith in.  To them, Jesus is just a psychological let-down.  Yet whether it’s by ignorance or rejection (itself a form of stark ignorance), they don’t know Jesus and are, well, out in the cold if the world ends today.

Wouldn’t you like to have sat around the hearth with Paul and just listened?   Or maybe not?  I mean, it sounds like his conversations were deep, weighty stuff.   Paul made tents for a living and instead of talking about his latest Eddie Bauer creation, he would talk with his friends about the end of the world.  From the sound of this verse, he talked a lot about it, about how the man of lawlessness would come and set himself against the Lord.  To Paul, it was deadly serious business.

What would the Thessalonians do if they didn’t know about Jesus, about the peace and hope only He can offer?   What WILL you or I do?

Fact is, most of their world didn’t know about Jesus.   And that is still a fact today.   Most of our world hasn’t heard about Him, or they don’t know much about Him, or they have heard about HIm but our behaviors and attitudes turned them off.   But whether it’s conscious or ignorant, if someone doesn’t know then they don’t know.

What will we do to change that situation?   Will we do what we can to be good witnesses, to use our talents to be kind, to help others?  Will our lives point to Him or away from Him?  If you’ve heard about Jesus and rejected Him (or are apathetic), you’re playing Russian roulette with your soul.  You’re living in damning ignorance.  What will you believe today?   It’s a heavy topic, and we may or may not be near the end, but will you take that chance?

For further reading:  1 Thessalonians 3:4, 2 Thessalonians 2:6

Lord, help me to believe and share this belief!

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 29 September 2016

 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking.  Hebrews 2, verse 5.

What is “the world to come” that’s identified here?

The concordance I use says that this verse is an exposition of Psalm 8.   Psalm 8 is a hymn of praise, exclaiming “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”   A few verses later, the psalter says “you have made them (mankind) a little lower than the angels, and crowned them with glory and honor.”

We as men are a little lower than the angels.   Angels are supernatural beings; on the surface, we aren’t.   Angels can move between time and dimension; as far as we’ve learned, we don’t.  Angels have abilities to manipulate matter that we don’t (or don’t understand); we might not.   Perhaps the biggest difference between men and angels is that the angels in heaven are without sin.   In all the millennia of human history, no angel standing in God’s presence has ever sinned or even thought a rebellious thought against God.  Who knows how long they were around before the earth was created?   We, as men, are chock full of sin.  As the psalter says, we’re a little lower than the angels.

And the angels aren’t saved.   I’ve mentioned this before:   angels who haven’t fallen don’t need to be saved.   They still live in perfect obedience to God’s will, in His presence, enjoying His blessings.   And, as we’ve talked about before, Jesus didn’t die to save fallen angels, but He did die and rise to save fallen mankind.

How beautiful, then, is the mystery of how and why God Himself died and resurrected to give us entrance to the world to come.   Some may say the verse is talking about the earthly world after Eden.   If you think about it, that makes sense.   Angels were present at creation and likely witnessed man’s fall.   They certainly witnessed its aftermath.   Some might say the verse is talking about heaven now.   Some might posit that the verse is also talking about the post-judgement heaven, where God will reunite His glory with a remade heaven and earth so that He might cherish us to live with Him forever.  And the NIV says, also, that the verse could be an argument for Jews of the 1st Century, some of whom were tempted to return to Judaism, which teaches extensively on the roles angels play in the world.

I’ll be honest:   I don’t know.  I’ll be even more honest:   it doesn’t matter to me.

This verse is in a section where the author makes arguments to convince the believer that Jesus is superior to anything or anyone else.  He’s higher than men, higher than angels, higher than anything else created.   All that we know and sense is from Him, and He is and will always be supreme over even the strongest evil.  The world to come, whether the world we’re in now or the world after this life, is still under God’s hand.  It’s good to know that He made men like you and I a little lower than the angels.  And it’s good to be reminded that angels are ministering beings who live without sin.  But what matters more to me is knowing that God is sovereign over all of it, angels and men alike.

If we consider that, then it really doesn’t matter what or where the ‘world to come’ is.

For more reading:   Psalm 8

Lord God, I praise You for the worlds You have made.   Thank You for blessing me to live here, and for making me lower than the angels but uniquely saved by You.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark 11 December 2014

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” Mark 2, verse 18.

That’s not fair!   Have you ever heard kids say that?   Even if you don’t have kids, you’ve probably heard it.   You may have even said it.   Read verse 18 again and admit it:   isn’t that what these people were saying to Jesus?   “How come they get to do this and we don’t?” After 2000 years and billions of other people, what’s changed?

Yet there’s a word that jumps out because it’s used multiple times in this one verse:   disciples.   John’s disciples, disciples of the Pharisees, and (it’s implied) Jesus’ disciples:   what is it about that word that seems so old fashioned?   Dictionary.com defines “disciple” as “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; follower.”   Not every teacher has disciples, and not every student is a disciple.   The relationship goes deeper.   There’s a connection that allows the student to embrace more than just the educational lessons offered by the teacher. The disciple absorbs the instruction, the patterns, the behaviors of the mentor.   In today’s parlance, ‘mentor’ is more commonly said than ‘disciple.’

That’s something I can relate to.   I’ve had several mentors; men and women who taught me things, ways of thinking, ways of performing and behaving, that I’ve adopted as my own. Especially in our so-called post-modern world, it’s more important than ever to have solid mentors.   We each need people to serve as examples for us; folks who think and act in ways we would like to emulate. In the age when families in America seem to be both disposable and disposed of, our young people need solid, virtuous, and experienced mentors from whom to learn the ropes.

If you have a mentor, you are a disciple.   If you are mentoring someone, you have disciples. To be a disciple is to follow.   Not surprisingly, ‘discipline’ is derived from ‘disciple’ because to be disciplined is to both receive correction (including rebuke) and to have adopted the ways of the one to whom you are discipled. Whether you know it or not, you’re following in Jesus’ footsteps.

And that’s not fair, you see, because it isn’t ‘fair’ to give up one’s entire self to be a follower of someone else.   Without descending too far into vulgarity, however, let me remind you that ‘fair’ is a four-letter F word. Life isn’t fair; fair isn’t even fair. Even Jesus isn’t fair.   Jesus is just, and truth, and love, and peace.   When you think about it, ‘fair’ and ‘fairness’ aren’t any of those things.

Neither is being a disciple of Jesus, yet the more I follow Him and the more I share my interpretations of His Word, I find that I don’t care about fairness where He is concerned.   To be a disciple of Jesus, I gladly give up ways I once thought were fine.   I enthusiastically put myself aside so that He can increase in you. I hopefully live now knowing that His hope is more than just a wish.   I thankfully look forward to being in eternity with Jesus and His church because I know I’m part of that eternity now.   None of that is fair, but all of it is just the way it should be.

Lord Jesus, You aren’t fair as the world sees fair.   You’re so much better than that.

Read the whole story again in Mark 2, verses 18-22.