Category Archives: Hebrews

Holding Onto the Grace

Last week I watched my grandkids, and this week I’m still getting caught up.  I have some great thoughts on Malachi 3:12 that I am working on, and I hope to blog about this soon.  But in the meantime, here are some awesome things I have found in Hebrews 12!

Starting with verse 14:

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

This is so convicting for us today.  Are we making EVERY EFFORT to be at peace with people?  It will take being humble, living out verses like:

  • He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth (Isa 53:7)
  • he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant (Phil 2:7)
  • But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  (Matt 5:39)
  • I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.  (Isa 50:6-7)

Going on to verse 15: See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

This verse deals with the sin of idolatry.  Look at this Old Testament reference: “Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison. Deut 29:18

Why do we fall into the sin of putting something ahead of God?  We feel like God is not enough.  We lose confidence that he will take care of us.  We don’t see that we HAVE the grace of God.

This is illustrated by what comes next in the passage:

See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.  Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

What went wrong with Esau?  He did not appreciate his birthright.  He had an awesome inheritance that would include both physical and spiritual blessings.  But he did not see what an awesome thing he had.  The moment he got hungry, all he cared about was meeting his needs.

Do we see what an awesome birthright we have?  The writer of Hebrews goes on to show us exactly what we have:

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.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

This is flat out amazing.  When we contemplate what we have, it really can keep us from being bitter, from turning away from God, and from sinning.

Because it is a very serious thing that we should appreciate what we have, and let this motivate us to make every effort to be holy.

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 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.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

In doing a Greek word study of this last verse about worshiping with reverence and awe, I was surprised to see that the word for “awe” really means “fear.”  So many times in the Bible, we are told that the word “fear” means “reverence” more than it means “being afraid.”  But in this case the word really does mean “being afraid.”

And it makes sense in this context.  God is telling us very strongly that it will not go well for those who don’t treat the gift he has given them as utterly precious.  As it says it Hebrews 2:2, “how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?

We are going to be shaken.  Judgement Day IS coming.

We MUST “be thankful and so worship God acceptably.” Literally, being “thankful” here means that we “have grace.”  The passage has come full circle.   We start out by being admonished not to miss the grace of God, and we end by being advised to hold tightly to it, so it overflows into our heart and into our every behavior, and we are thankful.  Then we worship and serve God in a way that is immensely pleasing to him.

In going through years and years of trials as a Christian, one of the hardest things is to hold onto grace and gratitude, and not let bitterness enter our heart.

One couple who exemplifies the way we SHOULD be is Gary and Christy Roberson.   Gary at one time was in the ministry.  He LOVES to serve God.  But at some point he moved to Atlanta so his children could be in a church where there was a great teen ministry.  He ended up working for many many years in a demanding job that required him to travel. Christy had to work full time at a job that probably wasn’t her favorite thing to do.  (If you’re reading this, and I post the wrong information, let me know.)

They went through many other challenges in life.  Gary was appointed as an elder, but had to step down due to health concerns.  I believe they lost a grandbaby.

But through all of this they continued to serve God admirably.  Gary taught the adult Sunday school class.  They both got with many couples and families and counseled them.  They certainly helped Ken and I in an enormous way with raising our family.

Just recently, Gary and Christy reached a point where they were able to semi retire.  They put out the word that they would like to serve in the ministry at a small church, to receive a supplemental income.  And who hired them?  A small church in Hawaii!

They held onto the grace and God has blessed them in a huge way!

Gary and Christy

This picture brings tears to my eyes.  I am so happy for them.

So let’s all hold onto the grace we have and make sure we NEVER get discontent, never want more, never get bitter.

Life may not be what we want it to be.  Our dreams may feel broken.

But as Christians we are blessed with a tremendous birthright, a marvelous salvation.  That is more than enough.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Grace, Gratitude, Hebrews

Great Stuff in Hebrews 13

walking together

1. Walk with others in their pain.  “Remember those in prison as if you were in prison with them. Remember those who are mistreated as if you were being mistreated.”

I shouldn’t distance myself from others and their problems.  I should try to empathize, and think about what they must be feeling.  I should help carry their burdens. (Gal 6:2)  I should “walk a mile in their moccasins” with them.

This is timely for me because Ken and I were just discussing a talk by Guy Hammond on homosexuality.  Guy has same sex attraction, but is also a Christian.  It is easy to say that the Bible says homosexual acts are wrong.  It is much more difficult to try to understand the person who has a same sex attraction.

My conclusion is that I should not share scriptures with someone without really listening to them and seeking to understand them.  If you’d like to know more about Guy Hammond’s web site and ministry, Strength in Weakness, go here: http://www.strengthinweakness.org/

IMG_4503

2.  Embrace and thrive in every moment. “Don’t love money. Be happy with what you have because God has said, ‘I will never abandon you or leave you.’  So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. What can mortals do to me?’

I can squander my day in marking time, gutting it out, just trying to make it through until something better comes along.  I have to fight the discontent.  I have to believe that I am meant to be right where I am today, and make the most of my time.

God is with me!  He is my fellow worker, as I am His.  There is so much I can do, so much of life to enjoy, so much to squeeze out of every moment.  I need to THRIVE!

water falling

3. Be strengthened by grace “Gaining inner strength from God’s kindness is good for us.”

I can look to my own performance as a source of strength.  When I think I’ve done well, I’m happy.  When I feel like I’ve failed, I struggle.

I have to picture God’s grace like a waterfall, always coming down on me in abundance.  There is so much goodness available to me.  His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  (Lam 3)

sacrificing-at-altar

4. Sacrifice is still important.  “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise. . . ”

Sometimes I make the mistake of thinking that the age of sacrifice ended with Jesus.  We do live in a new age, but sacrifice is still important, just in a different way.  I lay my whole life on the altar every morning.  I give a fragrant offering to God every time I praise Him.

  • you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  I Peter 2:5
  • In view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1
  • Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  Luke 9:23
  • Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thes 5:16-18

man in praise

5. Keep on confessing . . . “the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

I think of confession as something we do when we become a Christian, just as Jesus did: “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession . . . ” (I Tim 6:12-13)

But this verse in Hebrews 13 reminds me that I need to continually confess that Jesus is Lord.  Do I shrink back?  Do I try to make my faith “civilized” and “palatable,” and thus not open my mouth?  The other day I started a conversation with a mom who had twin babies strapped to her front and her back while she shopped.  We had a great little chat, but I didn’t reach out to her spiritually.  I thought she would think I was weird, or that I had an agenda, if I ended our conversation with an invitation to a religious function.

Maybe there was a way of extending an invitation so this woman didn’t think I was weird, but the bottom line is that I can’t be afraid to tell people what I am about, really, what everything is all about.  I realized that I have to make the good confession part of my daily walk more.

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.  Mark 8:38

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Hebrews

Boosts from Hebrews

boost

Random super encouragements I’ve had from reading the GOD’S WORD Translation of Hebrews:

 Through God’s kindness he (Jesus) died on behalf of everyone. (2:9)

  • It is so good to know that God is intrinsically and profoundly kind. 

God is the one for whom and through whom everything exists  (2:10)

  • How can there be a better statement than this?  It’s all about God.

Jesus, who makes people holy, and all those who are made holy have the same Father.

  • It’s all about holiness. It is so hard to wrap my head around the fact that I am holy, but I am.  And I am because of what Jesus did, his creation process in me.

Brothers and sisters, you are holy partners in a heavenly calling (3:1)

  • That’s who my beloved church mates are — partners!  Here are the things we have in common as partners:  we are holy, God has chosen us, and we are citizen servants of heaven.  It’s like the process of being chosen for a sports team, only so much more.  We ARE a team — God’s team!

So look carefully at Jesus, the apostle and chief priest about whom we make our declaration of faith.  Jesus is faithful to God  (3:1)

  • We need to look to Jesus and his example of being faithful to God.  He never did what he wanted, it was all about God.

Therefore, a time of rest and worship exists for God’s people.  4:9  (NIV: There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God)

According to Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, there are two Greek words for rest used in Hebrews 4.  One describes a rest from weariness.  The ark came to rest after many days of voyage.  Israel rested from war after Joshua’s victories in Canaan.  The other describes the rest we have when work is completed, as God rested after the work of His creation.  It is encouraging that it is both of these kinds of rest that we will have in heaven.  We will have relief from a life of trial and striving, and God’s work, of which we are a part, will finally be complete.

We have a chief priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he didn’t sin. So we can go confidently to the throne of God’s kindness to receive mercy and find kindness, which will help us at the right time. (4:15)

  • I love the picture of approaching God’s throne being sure that I will receive mercy and kindness.  Queen Esther was so afraid of approaching her own husband, the king, that she and the Hebrews fasted for 3 days.  I can go straight before Him and He will welcome me with open arms. Even though I have sinned, His heart is overwhelming grace and mercy.  And because of that, even though I have sinned, He will help me!!
  • Side note here — I have been thinking about this verse:  I pray that your love will keep on growing because of your knowledge and insight. That way you will be able to determine what is best and be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. (Phil 1:9-10)  The more I see God’s mercy and kindness, the more I understand his love, the more I will be able to make the right choices.  It all starts with love and mercy!

Leave a comment

Filed under Hebrews, Uncategorized

Weeping and Groaning

Then the Lord said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the leaders of Israel are doing with their idols in dark rooms? They are saying, ‘The Lord doesn’t see us; he has deserted our land!’”Ez 8:12

When we are going through challenges and it seems like the Lord is not helping us, we turn to other things for comfort. often in the privacy of our own homes where no one can see us.

“Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and groan because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.”  Ez 9:4

Our only hope is to be humble and grieve over our sins, and the sins of those around us.  “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.”  But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”  (Luke 5:20-21)

The Pharisees weren’t grieving over anyone’s sins.  Instead, they were indignant and condemned Jesus.  They missed the point, how desperately people needed to be healed, and the real need was forgiveness of sins.

I am consumed with the need to be healed of certain things right now, but what I really need is to remember what my resolution was at the beginning of the year — to start each day with the recognition that I was a sinner, and Jesus rescued me from the slimy pit that I couldn’t get out of.  I am still a sinner.  If nothing else, my trials reveal the crassness of my sinful nature.

“Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him….But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with such scum?  Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.'”  (Luke 5:27-31)

I need to look for those who know they are sinners, and need to repent.  How many grieve over their sin?  There is always a balance between living without condemnation in the grace of God and having Godly sorrow, praying daily, “forgive me of my trespasses.”

Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God…And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses.”  Hebrews 5:1-2

It was important for a high priest to understand the pressures and the agonies of being tempted with sin.

“While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.”  (Hebrews 5:7)

Notice that Jesus takes the same action as was mentioned in Ezekiel 9:4  — he was weeping and groaning.  When trials reveal sins in my life, let me not go to worldly comforts.  Here is the way I should grieve over my sin.

1. Recognizing the seriousness of my transgressions and my temptations, I need to plead to God with cries and tears to save me from this path that will lead to my spiritual death. There needs to be much more fervency in this, not just a checklist mentality like,” Okay, I prayed for God to forgive me, let’s move on.”

2. I need to be deeply reverent towards God.

3. I need to find a way to learn obedience from my challenges.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ezekiel, Hebrews, Luke

The Voice of Love

Today, I planted these seeds

Today, I planted these seeds

Then when they are exiled among the nations, they will remember me. They will recognize how broken I am by their unfaithful hearts and lustful eyes that long for their idols. Then at last they will hate themselves for all their detestable sins.”  Ez 6:9

What a moving description of how our sin affects God!  Other versions of the Bible translate the word “broken” as hurt, grieved or  crushed.  God truly desires and longs for our love.  He is truly hurt when we let our heart be taken up with something else, and He is crowded out and forgotten.  I guess it is like I feel when my husband seems to be consumed by his computer.  I feel neglected and unimportant.  (Although my husband is great, and spends a lot of time with me.  I don’t want to give the wrong impression!)

“See, the day!

See, it comes!

Doom has burst forth,

the rod has budded,

arrogance has blossomed!

Violence has arisen,

a rod to punish the wicked.”  (Ez 7:10)

“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts.”  (Hebrews 4:6)

There is a day of reckoning for all of our choices.  Today is our opportunity to respond to God’s love, and to express love to Him.  I was conducting a discourse yesterday with someone  who is searching the nature of Christianity — how much works play a part, what constitutes hypocrisy.  I asked them, “How do you express your love to God, make Him smile, know Him?  That is what we’re trying to do, not make people be perfect.”  And it is what we’re trying to do — help people love God by not putting anything ahead of God, by just focusing on loving Him above all else. But it so often looks like we’re trying to tell people to be perfect, and make our own lives about works.

The way I love God is to staunchly believe in His love for me, and that He is on my side, and that I can do anything because of that.  My heart will be hardened if I give into discouragement.

“Today, if you hear his voice…”

“He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”  Peter heard his voice and heeded what he heard.  He let down his nets, and it changed his whole life.  It changed the world.  What will Jesus tell me today that could change my life, change the world?  In great love, God has a good positive path for my life.

“While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Although this man doesn’t hear the voice of Jesus at this point, it is the day of opportunity for him as well, and he recognizes that.  He goes to Jesus and asks to be cured.  He isn’t prideful.  He isn’t distracted by other things.  He knows Jesus is the true source of hope for his future.

“Today, if you hear his voice…”

Today, I can walk with Jesus and listen for his voice of love, letting it lead me.  I can express my love to Him by staying on track and enjoying the road trip.

Yet I am a sinner.  After all of the discourse yesterday, after Bible talk last night about knowing who is good by their fruit, I see how short I am of doing what I should do, of expressing God’s love to others, of loving God at all times and not letting my heart be occupied by other things.  I do want to just love God purely, 100%, 24 hours a day.

And God stands ready to transform me.  Yesterday I did my quiet time blog on having bold confidence in God.  Perhaps this confidence extends to how I approach God.  Not only do I need to walk and talk with strength, knowing that God is with me, but when I am weak, I need to come to God with strength, knowing He will help me.  God loves me so much that he has created a throne of grace and an intercessor.  He has created a way for me to be different than the Isrealites, who had stubborn hearts and gave into their apostasy.

Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:14-15

Today, can I despise the sin that breaks God’s heart, God who has done so much to make a way for me to be close to Him?  Can this be the day I approach God with boldness, and ask that He makes me into what I need to be, for Him?


Leave a comment

Filed under Ezekiel, Hebrews, Luke

Confidence that Speaks Boldly

And we are God’s house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. (Heb 3:6)

I just finished reading Deuteronomy and the final words from God that Moses gave to the Israelites.  Now I am looking at Hebrews 3, which compares Christ to Moses.  Just as Moses was a leader over God’s house, His people, Jesus is now the leader over God’s people today.  And Christ is greater than Moses, because Jesus isn’t just the leader, he helped create the house, he drew people to Him and transformed their souls.

The whole chapter of Hebrews 3 addresses the situation of how the Israelites lost faith when they came to Canaan because the city and people were so intimidating.  God called it a sinful and unbelieving heart.  So this part of Hebrews was written to remind us not to be like the Israelites.

First, as in the verse above, we are to hold firmly, “katecho.”  One of the definitions of katecho is to keep a ship going in a direction.  I cannot let the wind and waves, the storms of life, get me off track. I must hold tenaciously to my goals for Christ.

storm-ravaged-ship

Second, we are to remain confident.  The word that is translated “confidence” here carries the connotation of boldness and courage.  It is used to describe how people would proclaim things openly and publicly.  It is also used to describe Peter when he started his ministry, “When they saw the courage (boldness) of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus”  (Acts 4:13) and then later when they prayed for boldness, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”  (Acts 4:29)

So the confidence I need to have is not a quiet assurance.  I am tempted to say I am a Christian and I can keep it on the lowdown if I so choose.  But this word implies being so sure about Christ that I will speak out without fear, that I must speak out.  The whole world, all of life, is about Him.  When He is with me, I can do it.  If I have niggling doubts, if I give into shrinking back because a situation is challenging, I begin to lose faith.  No matter what the situation, I must maintain the course of speaking out boldly that  God will prevail.  “And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us.” (Numbers 14:9)

Third, we are to boast, glory, in our hope in Christ.  Although I am going through trials today, I need to rejoice that His grace will be sufficient to get me through, that he is with me always, that he wants to graciously give me all things, that there will be a way out.  He is my HOPE, the best thing that I have in the midst of my trials!

So I need to see to it that I do not have a sinful and unbelieving heartI cannot allow myself to give into the fears.  Not only is this unfaithful, it is sinful, evil.  I am not saying that, God did.  It is evil to get discouraged. It is sinful to lose heart because of what is going on with me, or the people around me.

So as it is fresh in my mind the huge scope of God’s plan that was revealed in Deuteronomy, I think of how Israel was God’s portion, His treasured possession, a people holy to himself.  God allowed the Israelites to go to Egypt and suffer as slaves, but through that they became a great nation, and God’s greatness was shown in bringing them out of Egypt.  God planned to open the heavens and pour his blessings on them, if only they would be true to Him.  And part of being true to Him was believing that He was with them, so they could go into battle and prevail.

As I was advising someone yesterday, we cannot put our eyes on man and his shortcomings to find faith.  We fix our eyes on Jesus.  Let me fix my eyes on Jesus today, and put my hand to the rudder and not let my trials or fears blow me off course.  Let me speak and act with boldness.  Christ is with me.  I CAN do it.  The situation will work out.  Each place is the place I am meant to be so I must confidently open my mouth, confidently step out.

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life.”  Joshua 1:5

Leave a comment

Filed under Deuteronomy, Hebrews