Running my Unique Lap in the Race of Faith (Part 2)

Well, friends, we have come to the end of our class called "Running the Race of Faith" at Patterson Park Church this fall. Some of you have joined us and followed along. Since we have taken some detours along the way at "A Branch in the Vine," click here for Part 1.

Now enjoy the remainder...and keep on running!

4.  My success in running depends on my focus.

...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of  faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”   Heb 12: 2-3

See Lessons from a Family Vacation: We become like what we focus on.  Glory and grace when we focus on HIM!

5.  Submission to my “Coach’s” training program is key.

--His process is "discipline" (complete child training):

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;

--His motive is love:

For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,

--His method is ruthless, but fatherly:

And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but...

See The Father's Pruning

--His goal is holiness; family resemblance:

He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

--His result is fruitfulness--righteousness, peace:

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

See Return to the Vineyard: Reflections on Growth

--His exhortation is "cooperate":

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Heb 12: 4-13

See Love's Abiding Harvest

6.  I must be a “team participant”.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. Hebrews 12: 14-17

It's so easy to get bitter over life's hardships and the "irregular people" in our lives...even "irregular Christian people."  Yes, there are fellow teammates who just don't get it...actually we may be one of those at times, huh?

I love this quote by Henri Nouwen entitled, "Stepping Over Our Wounds."

Sometimes we have to "step over" our anger, our jealousy, or our feelings of rejection and move on [a.k.a. run on].  The temptation is to get stuck in our negative emotions, poking around in them as if we belong there.  Then we become the "offended one," "the forgotten one," or "the discarded one."  Yes, we can get attached to these negative identities and even take morbid pleasure in them.  It might be good to have a look at these dark feelings and explore where they come from, but there comes a moment to step over them, leave them behind and travel on [a.k.a. run on]. Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen.

Conclusion

Do you see what all this means -- all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?  It means we’d better get on with it.  Strip down, start running -- never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed -- that exhilarating finish in and with God -- he could put up with anything along the way:  cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.  When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that will shoot adrenline into your souls. Hebrews 12: 1 - 3  (The Message)

Running my Unique Lap in the Race of Faith (Part 2)

Well, friends, we have come to the end of our class called "Running the Race of Faith" at Patterson Park Church this fall. Some of you have joined us and followed along. Since we have taken some detours along the way at "A Branch in the Vine," click here for Part 1.

Now enjoy the remainder...and keep on running!

4.  My success in running depends on my focus.

...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of  faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”   Heb 12: 2-3

See Lessons from a Family Vacation: We become like what we focus on.  Glory and grace when we focus on HIM!

5.  Submission to my “Coach’s” training program is key.

--His process is "discipline" (complete child training):

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;

--His motive is love:

For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,

--His method is ruthless, but fatherly:

And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but...

See The Father's Pruning

--His goal is holiness; family resemblance:

He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

--His result is fruitfulness--righteousness, peace:

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

See Return to the Vineyard: Reflections on Growth

--His exhortation is "cooperate":

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Heb 12: 4-13

See Love's Abiding Harvest

6.  I must be a “team participant”.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. Hebrews 12: 14-17

It's so easy to get bitter over life's hardships and the "irregular people" in our lives...even "irregular Christian people."  Yes, there are fellow teammates who just don't get it...actually we may be one of those at times, huh?

I love this quote by Henri Nouwen entitled, "Stepping Over Our Wounds."

Sometimes we have to "step over" our anger, our jealousy, or our feelings of rejection and move on [a.k.a. run on].  The temptation is to get stuck in our negative emotions, poking around in them as if we belong there.  Then we become the "offended one," "the forgotten one," or "the discarded one."  Yes, we can get attached to these negative identities and even take morbid pleasure in them.  It might be good to have a look at these dark feelings and explore where they come from, but there comes a moment to step over them, leave them behind and travel on [a.k.a. run on]. Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen.

Conclusion

Do you see what all this means -- all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?  It means we’d better get on with it.  Strip down, start running -- never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed -- that exhilarating finish in and with God -- he could put up with anything along the way:  cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.  When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that will shoot adrenline into your souls. Hebrews 12: 1 - 3  (The Message)

Running my Unique Lap in the Race of Faith (Part 1)

running the race of faith
running the race of faith

...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus  Hebrews 12: 1-2

God calls us to own our lives...to hug them to our breasts and to live them with all our hearts!  No place do we see this truth more clearly than in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12.

Using the imagery of running, God says that now it's...

...our turn to run our lap in the race of faith! 

And as we run, we each need to remember these truths:

1.  I’m part of something bigger than myself.

Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us... Heb 11:1 - 12:1a

See the  Hebrews 11 blog to meditate on this truth.

Hebrews 11
Hebrews 11

2.  There are hindrances to my running.

...let us also lay aside every encumbrance [weight], and the sin which so easily entangles us... Heb 12: 1b

spider web photo July 2011
spider web photo July 2011

See Caught in the Web.

3.  My lap is uniquely mine.

    ...and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us...  Heb 12: 1c

For encouragement to be who God made you to be and stop comparing yourself to others or letting others deter you by their own insecurity, see: The Green-Eyed Monster and other Fruit Killers

eric liddell
eric liddell

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We’re pilgrims on the journey Of the narrow road And those who’ve gone before us line the way Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses Let us run the race not only for the prize But as those who’ve gone before us Let us leave to those behind us The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

Chorus Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful May the fire of our devotion light their way May the footprints that we leave Lead them to believe And the lives we live inspire them to obey Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone And our children sift through all we’ve left behind May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

The Pilgrim Spirit of Faith (Hebrews 11)

We are so tied to the here and now, aren't we?  But at the heart of the life of faith is belief in the unseen God and trust in His promises that this world is not all there is.  People of faith are "pilgrims," "aliens."

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth...Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.  Hebrews 11:13,16

pilgrimage
pilgrimage

A bumper sticker I recently saw says it well,

We are not human [temporal] beings having a spiritual [eternal] experience. We are spiritual [eternal] beings having a human [temporal] experience.

If our existence on this earth is temporal, then it is temporary.  And according to God, it's fleeting...and we need to come to grips with that if we are to have the correct perspective of life on earth.  So...

...let these Scriptures wash over you, and then humbly worship the unseen God, our Father, Who loves us!

Hear my prayer, O Lord!    Listen to my cries for help!    Don’t ignore my tears.For I am your guest    a traveler passing through,    as my ancestors were before me. Psalm 39:12 NLT

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,    who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,    it will become a place of refreshing springs.    The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. They will continue to grow stronger,    and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem. Psalm 84:5-7 NLT

Your word has been the music of my lifethroughout the years of my pilgrimage. Psalm 119:54

Those who are wise will take all this to heart;    they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.Psalm 107:43 NLT

your life a vapor
your life a vapor

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4:14 NASB

grass of the field
grass of the field

As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer. But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children... Psalm 103:15-17 NASB

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.2 Cor 4:16-18 NASB

So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 NASB

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Who am I, that the lord of all the earth Would care to know my name Would care to feel my hurt? Who am I, that the bright and morning star Would choose to light the way For my ever wandering heart?

Not because of who I am But because of what you've done Not because of what I've done But because of who you are

I am a flower quickly fading Here today and gone tomorrow A wave tossed in the ocean A vapor in the wind Still you hear me when I'm calling Lord, you catch me when I'm falling And you've told me who I am I am yours

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin Would look on me with love And watch me rise again? Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea Would call out through the rain And calm the storm in me?

Not because of who I am But because of what you've done Not because of what I've done But because of who you are

I am a flower quickly fading Here today and gone tomorrow A wave tossed in the ocean A vapor in the wind Still you hear me when I'm calling Lord, you catch me when I'm falling And you've told me who I am I am yours

Not because of who I am But because of what you've done Not because of what I've done But because of who you are

I am a flower quickly fading Here today and gone tomorrow A wave tossed in the ocean A vapor in the wind Still you hear me when I'm calling Lord, you catch me when I'm falling And you've told me who I am I am yours

I am yours Whom shall I fear? Whom shall I fear? 'Cause I am yours I am yours

We are Part of Something Bigger than Us! (Hebrews 11)

Hebrews 11
Hebrews 11

John Eldridge in his book The Sacred Romance says that deep inside of us is a longing for intimacy and adventure.  Here in Hebrews 11, we definitely see both!  The intimacy is with a God who spoke us into existence and now can be trusted to care for us every step of the way (we will see this again in Heb 12). And the adventure...oh my!  We are part of something bigger than ourselves...and that's exciting!  We are in the "race of faith" with a long line of "runners"...some famous, like Abraham and Moses; some infamous and unlikely, like Rahab and Samson; and some unknown, like those who were sawn in two (among other horrors)...people "of whom the world is not worthy," the writer to the Hebrews says (Hebrews 11:38).

What is it enables us to endure, like our fellow runners?  It's faith!  Not the world's kind of faith, which makes faith a work, or a "name it and claim it," or an "entity" in myself that I need to muster up enough of to get what I want.  NO!  As Andrew Murray says, "faith is confessed helplessness, casting itself on God [the living God, the "I Am"] and His promises [which are 'yes and amen!']."

Heb 11:1
Heb 11:1

So the nature of true, Biblical faith has to do with the unseen and the future.  It is confidence in what we don't see:  God & His promises; not in what we do see:  circumstances, people, things, feelings, etc.

And the outcome of faith is that it puts "a smile on God's face"...it pleases Him.  He puts His stamp of approval on us!  In fact, He so loves to see faith that He witnesses to it in us...He testifies to it in His children.  Remember how God boasted of Job?  "Have you observed my servant Job?"  That's what God does when He sees true faith!

According to Spiro Zodiates in his Word Studies in the NT, the words, "to be approved, to obtain the testimony, obtained the witness" are all the same Greek word in the passive voice (which means someone else does it).  The exciting thing is that God "lauds" [dare I say, "applauds"] us and "reports well" of us because of our faith (which faith, by the way, is a gift, Ephesians 2 :8-9; as is everything in life!)

So this means that God is looking for faith, not perfection!  And that is good news to those of us who worship at the altar of "doing the right thing" or "doing it perfectly."  It may sound so right to be trying so hard to be perfect or get it right, but where is God in that picture?  That sounds more like self-effort and a "works with a smidge of God" type spirituality.

Heb 11:6
Heb 11:6

As you reflect on these far-from-perfect-people in Hebrews 11, thank God that, despite your "fluctuations of body and soul,"  you can walk by faith TODAY, because HE IS and He rewards those who seek HIM...step by step...by faith!

Hebrews 11 – Ray Stedman

BY FAITH Keith & Kristen Getty

By faith we see the hand of GodIn the light of creation's grand designIn the lives of those who prove His faithfulnessWho walk by faith and not by sight

By faith our fathers roamed the earthWith the power of His promise in their heartsOf a holy city built by God's own handA place where peace and justice reign

We will stand as children of the promiseWe will fix our eyes on Him our soul's rewardTill the race is finished and the work is doneWe'll walk by faith and not by sight

By faith the prophets saw a dayWhen the longed-for Messiah would appearWith the power to break the chains of sin and deathAnd rise triumphant from the grave

By faith the church was called to goIn the power of the Spirit to the lostTo deliver captives and to preach good newsIn every corner of the earth

We will stand as children of the promiseWe will fix our eyes on Him our soul's rewardTill the race is finished and the work is doneWe'll walk by faith and not by sight

By faith this mountain shall be movedAnd the power of the gospel shall prevailFor we know in Christ all things are possibleFor all who call upon His name

We will stand as children of the promiseWe will fix our eyes on Him our soul's rewardTill the race is finished and the work is doneWe'll walk by faith and not by sight

Mercy Came Running (Hebrews 8-10)

Mercy
Mercy

MERCY!  Ah, what a lovely word.Mercy speaks of compassion, love, tenderness, "thinking the best," overlooking faults and failings...and we could go on.  Those of us who have mercy-showers in our lives are blessed beyond measure! How reflective is mercy of our merciful, loving Creator.  Even throughout the Old Testament, we read of God's tender mercies and loving-kindness toward the children of men.

justice
justice

But there was a "not so little thing" called God's Justice, that is, His holiness and righteousness, that hindered the full expression of His mercy and love to us sinful creatures.  That's where our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, comes in...His Person and His work released us from the just wrath of God against sin so Mercy could come flooding forth upon us.

No where do we see the what's and wherefore's of the mercy of our God better spelled out than in Hebrews, chapters 8 through 10.  There we see the provision God made over generations to show mercy to a stiff-necked people (a.k.a. you & me).

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens… Hebrews 8:1 NASB

As Ray Stedman has so clearly said:

On the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus took a cup of wine, passed it to his disciples and said: "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26:27-28). With those words and that symbolic action, he borrowed the phrase used by Moses when he took the blood of an animal, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words" (Ex 24:8). The contrast was deliberate. Moses used the blood of an animal; Jesus used wine as a symbol of his own blood. Moses spoke of the covenant of the law; Jesus alluded to the new covenant of grace. Moses spoke of God's words which provided for the partial covering of sins so God could remain with his people; Jesus promised the actual remission of sins so God could live within his people forever. It is that excellent new covenant which chapters 8-10 of Hebrews...expounds.

Because of Who He is, Son of God and Man (Hebrews 1-7), what He has done carries infinite weight!  Let's look at what His work entailed according to these chapters in Hebrews:

I.  He is the Mediator of a  New Covenant (8:6-13; 9;17-22), “based on better promises.”

new covt
new covt

Compared to the Old Covenant (Law), The New Covenant is immeasurably more glorious!  No longer is it, "I do it; therefore God does it."  This was at the heart of the Law ("If you obey, I will bless you and be your God.").  Rather now in the New Covenant, it's all about, "God does it: therefore, I do it."

Isn't that the way, Jesus lived His life on earth?

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. John 5:19 ESV

So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. John 8:28

For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. John 12:49

The New Covenant then is all about God and what He has done through the finished work of His Son.  And it's also about what He is now doing in His world, in and through His people.

10 commandments
10 commandments

But the problem is that the Old Covenant proved that we humans are not reliable vehicles of the divine life and ways.  So how can the change take place from the "I do it, so God blesses me" mentality to "God does it, and I'm His instrument?"  That's the beauty of the New Covenant provisions and promises.  Take a look at those amazing truths stated in our passage (Hebrews 8:6-13):

  1. The Law written on the heart (Heb 8:10; 10:10).  No longer are God's ways (the Law) written on tablets of stone (2Cor 3), but now they are written on human hearts.  And even that heart of ours has been changed.  Look at an important cross reference: And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  Ezek 36:26-27 ESV Not only is the Law written on a new heart, but the Holy Spirit is united with our spirit.  He causes us to walk in God's ways...isn't that incredible?!  So now there is the truth united with desire and power!
  2. Intimacy with the Living God (Heb 8:10-11).  Jesus said that the heart of His zoe, eternal life, is that we know God! And this is eternal life [zoe], that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  John 17:3 Since we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the resident Teacher, we know God! The Apostle John referred to this glorious truth in his first epistle: But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know... But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.   1John 2:20-27
  3. Complete Forgiveness of Sins (Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).   And this is primary.  Until sin was permanently dealt with, God's justice and holiness "prevented Him" from uniting with His people.  But now the way is open...Why?  Because...
The_Holy_of_Holies
The_Holy_of_Holies

II.  He is the Minister in the  True Tabernacle (8:2-6; 9:1-14, 23-28)....Jesus entered the True Tabernacle...the Holy of Holies of the throne room of heaven.   And what did He do there?

III.  He Himself is the Offering of a Perfect Sacrifice (10:1-18).

He offered HIMSELF!  He was the perfect, eternal sacrifice because of His perfect, indestructible life (Hebrews 7). He presented His perfect blood so that He could perfect for all time, those who are in the process of being sanctified while on this earth (10:10,14) It's a finished work that is a done deal forever.  It is totally true, perfectly and forever int the eternal realm.

images-4
images-4

But you may ask, "Why am I not experiencing this now?"  The answer is all about faith.  Just as we enter the New Covenant by faith in the finished work of the eternal Son of God, we also live by faith every day of our lives in this temporal realm (Col 2:6-7).  As we run our lap in the race of faith (Hebrews 12:1-4), we fix our eyes on the indwelling Christ.  We surrender to His indwelling, resurrection zoe Life.  Then we experience the glory of the New Covenant:  "God does it; therefore we do it!"  If we begin to live according to our own, even morally "good" way," we go back to OC living, expecting something of God in response to our "good works" (like a reward) or in addition to our "good works" (like help to do what I'VE determined to do).  Then we're back to, "We do it ; therefore God does it."

So let me ask you a question.  What would change for you if you took the risk to abandon yourself to the New Covenant, Indwelling, Risen Christ...ceasing from your own labors, self-effort, good works...and live in His Sabbath Rest (Hebrews 4:9-11)?

Freedom!  Joy!  Fruitfulness!  Rest!

Listen to how two brothers from the past describe this glorious life:

...The most wonderful secret of living a holy life does not lie in imitating Jesus, but in letting the perfect qualities of Jesus exhibit themselves in my human flesh. Sanctification is “Christ in you . . .” (Colossians 1:27). It is His wonderful life that is imparted to me in sanctification— imparted by faith as a sovereign gift of God’s grace...Sanctification means the impartation of the holy qualities of Jesus Christ to me. It is the gift of His patience, love, holiness, faith, purity, and godliness that is exhibited in and through every sanctified soul. Sanctification is not drawing from Jesus the power to be holy— it is drawing from Jesus the very holiness that was exhibited in Him, and that He now exhibits in me. Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation. Imitation is something altogether different. The perfection of everything is in Jesus Christ, and the mystery of sanctification is that all the perfect qualities of Jesus are at my disposal. Consequently, I slowly but surely begin to live a life of inexpressible order, soundness, and holiness— “. . . kept by the power of God . . .” (1 Peter 1:5).    (Oswald Chambers)

If today I am patient, it is not I but He who lives in me who is patient. If today I love, it is not because I try my best to love, for the power of love is not in me.  But it is because there is One who loves in me. If today I forgive, it is not due to my generosity or effort or ability.  It is instead purely due to the One who lives in me and always forgives.  He is my forgiveness. If today I am humble, this does not happen because I remind myself how proud I am and that therefore I need to be humbled.  My humility does not come through suppressing my needs and then determining to be humble.  It is the Person (the Lamb) in me who is humble.  Since He is my humility, I therefore am humble.   (Watchman Nee)

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I love the imagery of this song.  Can't you just visualize our Father God "bursting forth" when Jesus cried from the Cross "Tetelestai/It is finished!/the sin debt, paid in full!" and breathed His last?  Usually we think of us finally being able to come into the throne room of God (Heb 4:16).  But here we see it from the opposite direction -- God "chomping at the bit" (I hope that's not irreverent) to get at us with His loving-kindness and tender mercy.  When the veil was rent, God came flooding out to the world of men.  Oh, embrace Him by faith today!

Mercy Came Running Phillips, Craig, & Dean

Once there was a holy place Evidence of God's embrace And I can almost see mercy's face Pressed against the veil Looking down with longing eyes Mercy must have realized That once His blood was sacrificed Freedom would prevail And as the sky grew dark And the earth began to shake With justice no longer in the way

Chorus: Mercy came running Like a prisoner set free Past all my failures to the point of my need When the sin that I carried Was all I could see And when I could not reach mercy Mercy came running to me Once there was a broken heart Way to human from the start And all the years left it torn apart Hopeless and afraid Walls I never meant to build Left this prisoner unfulfilled Freedom called but even still It seemed so far away I was bound by the chains From the wages of my sin Just when I felt like giving in

Repeat chorus

Sometimes I still feel so far So far from where I really should be He gently calls to my heart Just to remind me

Repeat chorus

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For further meditation:

Hebrews 8-10, Ray Stedman

Oswald Chambers, "Sanctification"

What do you need? He is Able!

The Pope is very much in the news these days with the papal visit to the US. So since we are talking about the Pope, here's a bit of papal trivia: Did you know that the pope is referred to as Pontifex Maximus...the highest priest?  That's what a pope in the Dark Ages decided would be a good title for popes from then on.  He was borrowing from the title for the head priest in ancient Rome at that time.

But maybe this isn't trivia at all!  As you may or may not know, by definition a priest is a mediator.  According to Unger's Bible Dictionary, the term priest is

...used of one who may "draw near" to the divine presence (Exo 19:22; 30:20), while others remain afar off...

And there's nothing trivial about that!  In fact, it means life or death...and I'm talking ETERNAL life or ETERNAL death!

Jesus our high priest
Jesus our high priest

Why?  Because there is only ONE Mediator between God and man, and it's our Great High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ! Human popes and priests and ministers only qualify as instruments of the One Mediator to point us toward HIMSELF!

And our Great High Priest is the All-Sufficient Christ...a glorious truth for all of us!  Do we really get that?  God wants us to get it...that it's all about His Son...He is All It, as I like to say!

But HOW, you ask, HOW is He All It?  In the early chapters of Hebrews, God the Father begins to tell us HOW.  He says that the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, is our Great High Priest Who Himself is ABLE...dynamically so at all times!  In fact, the word "is able" in the Greek is in a continuous tense and is the word from which we get "dynamite"  and "dynamic."

Let's look at three ways Jesus Himself, our Great High Priest, is ABLE on our behalf:

 

  • He is able to save forever (Hebrews 7:1-28). The word "save" is "sozo" meaning to deliver, make whole, preserve from destruction, rescue.  So our great High Priest saves us forever and completely, wholly and entirely...past, present and future.  Why can He do that?  Because His Priesthood is superior to that of any other kind of priest, before or since. It is based on His indestructible, indissoluable life (Hebrews 7:16).  As Spiro Zodiates says in his Word Studies in the NT:The life of Christ is declared as distinct from the life of someone else, life that was not acquired and that cannot be done away with.   It is inherent life (John 1:4 "in Him was life").  His life has no derivation and is interminable. So He always lives to intercede for us...He never stops, because He always lives...He's I AM! So what should we do, dear friend?Come boldly to the Throne of Grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need! Why?  Because we HAVE as our ever-present possession our Great High Priest Who... ...communicating even here and maintaining an everlasting, unchangeable life in us, that lifts our inner experience out of the region of effort and change and failure into the rest of God. Andrew Murray, Holiest of AllBEFORE THE THRONE OF GOD ABOVESelahBefore the throne of God aboveI have a strong and perfect pleaA great High Priest whose Name is LoveWho ever lives and pleads for meMy name is graven on His handsMy name is written on His heartI know that while in heaven He standsNo tongue can bid me thence departNo tongue can bid me thence departWhen Satan tempts me to despairAnd tells me of the guilt withinUpward I look and see Him thereWho made an end to all my sinBecause the sinless Savior diedMy sinful soul is counted freeFor God the Just is satisfiedTo look on Him and pardon meTo look on Him and pardon meBehold Him there the risen LambMy perfect spotless righteousnessThe great unchangeable I AMThe King of glory and of graceOne with Himself I cannot dieMy soul is purchased by His bloodMy life is hid with Him on highWith Christ my Savior and my God!With Christ my Savior and my God!

The Beauty of the Incomparable Christ...the Son of Man (Hebrews 2:5-18)

Incarnation
Incarnation

CS Lewis calls the Incarnation "The Grand Miracle."

The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation...God became Man.  Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this….it was the central event in the history of the Earth–the very thing the whole story has been about. Miracles, “The Grand Miracle,” C.S. Lewis

In chapter 2 of Hebrews, we continue the thought that Jesus Christ is better than the angels...not just because He's the Son of GOD, but because He's the Son of MAN.  What an incredibly important truth for fallen man!

Our destiny that was lost (Hebrews 2:5-8) is now regained in the God-Man Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:9-18).  Here are a couple suggestions for your study of this passage:

  • Go through Hebrews 2:9-18 and see if you can give 5 descriptions of Jesus as our God-Man.  They are listed for you below,* but why not try them on your own first.
  • Spend time reflecting on how your Great High Priest has come to your aid in the past and how you need Him to come to your aid today.  Praise and pray!

*Descriptions of Jesus Christ, the God-Man:

1.  He is my Substitute (2:9)

2.  He is my Savior (2:10-11a)

3.  He is my Brother (2:11b-14a)

4.  He is my Deliverer (2:14b-15)

5.  He is my Helper / High Priest (2:16-18)

The Beauty of the Incomparable Christ...the Son of God (Hebrews 1:1-2:4)

images-2
images-2

Back in 1995 we lived in Centerville, Ohio.  Centerville had a wonderful little post office in those days right behind Bill's Donuts.  In February of that year I stopped by to buy some stamps, noticing a large poster of the current stamp. As I awaited my turn in line, I reflected on the picture of the cherub I saw on the wall.

sistine madonna cherubs
sistine madonna cherubs

"Wait a minute," I said to myself, "I've seen that cherub before, but in a bigger painting."

I had taken art history in college and loved it! So I was wracking my brain to try to remember what painting it was part of. I couldn't let it rest...so it sent me to the library to those big, dusty art books.

Sure enough, here's the painting those little cherubs are part of:

sistine madonna, raphael
sistine madonna, raphael

The cherubs are hardly noticed in this painting.  The obvious focal point is the mother and child...but the mother, more than the child!

"Wow," I thought, "Isn't that just like what we do in our Christian life?  We loose our focal point -- the Lord Jesus Christ!  Rather we focus on all the peripheral Christian things, as good as many of them may be...things like the spiritual disciplines, godly behavior, our motivation, the latest Christian best-seller, the current Christian "band-wagon," the retreat or conference everyone is talking about...the Christian to-do list!

I love this "equation" that says it all:

Jesus + nothing = Everything

Right here in the first chapter of Hebrews, we see the exalted Christ...God's final revelation...the culmination, the fulfillment of all that has gone before.

He's better than prophets and preachers; better than angels and other emissaries; He's God's Son...God Himself!  The Father has spoken in His Son, the Logos, the Word (John 1)!

And as with any speaking, there's the expectation that someone will listen.   So it is and much more so when it comes to hearing God in His Son:

This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him! Matthew 17:5

Why must we hear HIM? He's the Darling of Heaven! He's the Indescribable One, beautiful beyond human words! The Incomparable Lord Jesus Christ! 

He's the One our God describes and compares in the letter to the Hebrew Christians of the first and second century.  And He's the One our God wants US to hear in the 21st century.  So, my friends...

Let us HEAR HIM!

I Stand in Awe by Mark Altrogge

You are beautiful beyond description, Too marvelous for words, Too wonderful for comprehension, Like nothing ever seen or heard. Who can grasp your infinite wisdom? Who can fathom the depth of your love? You are beautiful beyond description, Majesty enthroned above.

(Chorus) And I stand, I stand in awe of you. I stand, I stand in awe of you. Holy God, to whom all praise is due, I stand in awe of you.

You are beautiful beyond description, Yet God crushed You for my sin, In agony and deep affliction, Cut off that I might enter in. Who can grasp such tender compassion? Who can fathom this mercy so free? You are beautiful beyond description, Lamb of God, Who died for me.

(Chorus)


Practical Help in Reading the Letter to the Hebrews

Letter to the Hebrews
Letter to the Hebrews

The letter to the Hebrews can be a bit daunting.  Yes, we have our favorite passages.  Who doesn't know about the giants of the faith in chapter 11 or the exciting challenge to run our lap of the race in chapter 12?  Then there's the assurance that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever in chapter 13.  But what about the message of the entire book? For those of you who would like to understand the message of this Christ-exalting book, there is help!  Here are a few tips for those of you who are reading the letter to the Hebrews.

Please don't get discouraged...do what you can. One of my mottoes of life is "Something is better than nothing."  "All or nothing" used to be my motto...but that is unrealistic, and you'll end up with nothing most of the time.  God wants to speak to us in this glorious word of His. Listen for HIM as you read!

That being said, here are some ideas that, I think, can be helpful.

There are some major warning passages scattered throughout the book...5 of them, in fact.  I have found that if you block off these passages and then read through the book without them several times, it's much easier to get the flow of the author's thought.

Then after reading through that way, read the warnings within the context of the flow of thought.  It is really amazing how you will be able to see why the warnings come where they do.

Here are the passages (I have drawn a box around each of them in my text of Hebrews):

Warning #1 = 2:1-4 Warning #2 = 3:7-4:13 Warning #3 = 5:11-6:20 Warning #4 = 10:26-39 Warning #5 =  12:15-29

After you read and get the flow of thought and then put the warnings back in, take a look at this outline to further help you:

Plan of the Epistle to the Hebrews

Listening via audio can also be helpful. If you have the Bible on CD or MP3, pop that in your player and listen. Here is a link to a youtube audio of Hebrews:

May you be blessed as you read, dear sisters and brothers!

Thy Word

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet And a light unto my path Thy word is a lamp unto my feet And a light unto my path

When I feel afraid And think I've lost my way Still, You're there right beside me Nothing will I fear As long as You are near Please be near me to the end

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet And a light unto my path Thy word is a lamp unto my feet And a light unto my path

I will not forget Your love for me and yet My heart forever is wandering Jesus by my guide And hold me to Your side And I will love You to the end

Nothing will I fear As long as You are near Please be near me to the end

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet And a light unto my path Thy word is a lamp unto my feet And a light unto my path And a light unto my path You're the light unto my path

Sacred Reading: Hearing the Whisper of the Lord

Devote yourself to the...reading of Scripture...  1Timothy 4:13 Why not begin your fall Bible study (no matter what that may be) by reading, reading, and then reading again.

Or as my almost 4 year old grandson Carter and I would say, "Reading?...reading?...how about reading?"

Carter reading
Carter reading

And why should we read?  Because it's by repeated reading that we begin to get the "big picture" of what God is saying in the Bible.   We also begin to notice repeated key truths.

And most precious of all, we begin to hear the Lord speak to us through His treasured words.

As the prophet Jeremiah once said,

Your words were found and I ate them,And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;For I have been called by Your name,O Lord God of hosts.  Jeremiah 15:16

Or as my sweet friend Penny once prayed,

LORD, Your words are so delicious!

During the past summer, a small group of ladies met at BellHOP Cafe in Bellbrook OH every Friday afternoon.  We shared with each other the Lord's "whisperings" from our personal meditative reading in the Gospel of John from the previous week. Then we spent time in worship based on our treasured reflections. Our time with the Lord was so rich!

If you would like to explore what is traditionally called lectio divina, read this short excerpt and click here for the remainder of the article: Whisper of the Beloved (2 pages).

Lectio Divina is like the joyful reading of an ancient pile of love letters. It is a time to listen-- not to dissect, analyze, evaluate or dialogue. It is not studying to learn about the Scriptures; it is reading to listen. Come to this reading and listening as a young lover would-- eager to hear afresh the whisper of the Beloved. Listen to the sound of each word. Read slowly. And rest as you listen.

1098Whisper
1098Whisper

So this week, grab a journal or notebook, your Bible. Chose a book or passage (maybe using different versions for each day) and then just read, read, read -- not books about the Bible. Read the Scriptures!

Write down verses that jump out, thoughts that come to you in the reading...and of course, prayers that rise up.  Write it down.  Trust me, you will forget!  So you will be glad to have recorded what God may be saying to you!

So...HAPPY, RESTFUL READING...and I'll see you later on.

open bible
open bible

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2Timothy 3:16-17

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Here's a link to Bible Gateway. You can read in many different versions at his site. Just enter the passage and the version you want and...voila!

Voice-NT-cover79-204x300
Voice-NT-cover79-204x300

I've been enjoying The Voice, a new translation of the New Testament published by Thomas Nelson. For a free download and short video clips, follow this link:

http://www.nelsonfree.com/voicent

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Bible study
Bible study

If you would like to join us in our fall reading and study in the letter to the Hebrews, here is a chart that will help you as you read through the book of Hebrews multiple times.  Make notes in the corresponding boxes for each chapter as you go along:

Hebrews Reading Chart

This Day, This Word

I'm going to be gut-level honest...I'm blah, feeling bruised and beaten, blank, done... I know it won't last forever...it never does.  But despite all the good things in my life, I'm low.

I'm depleted of energy after teaching 3 days in a row.  I'm facing long and arduous delay after delay in the publication of my Bible study book. I can't even "hire" an agent because I don't have a big enough "platform" (a.k.a. "following). And I've "failed" in a message that should have been an easy success (at least, from my feeble and presumptious viewpoint).

I know this is self-pity to the hilt! Did you see all the "I's"? But to tell you the truth, I don't feel guilty, because I know my Abba still loves me! Yes, even in the midst of my self-pity! In fact, "My Abba is very fond of me" as Brennan Manning used to say.

Can you identify, dear friend?  And do you know that very same truth...your Abba still loves you, even your self-pitying you! He is very fond of you too, so much so that He will meet you in all the mess!

He met me in the midst of my mess the other day...with just a word! Can I tell you about it?

As I was emotionally "crashing and burning" from all of the above listed stresses (and some), I cried out to the Lord,

Jesus, give me something...just a word...please!

Immediately, the words all, every, fullness came into my mind.  I knew them to be key words in my favorite letter of the apostle Paul's, the letter to the Colossians.  As my eyes began to take this beautiful Christ-exalting book of Scripture in, the Holy Spirit "highlighted" a word in chapter 1, verse 17:

...in Him, all things hold together!

Wow! He holds it all!

HOLDS was my word that day.

I sensed that He was saying that all the things in my life that seem to be totally out of control are NOT! Why? Because HE holds them all together!

Then He brought to mind another verse from my other favorite Bible book:

He holds all things by His powerful word! Hebrews 1:3

There it was again...holds.

HE holds it all!

I don't have to do the holding, the struggling, the striving to figure out the why's and wherefore's!  What freedom!

So I embraced my word that day, and walked it out in peace.

What are your struggles, your frustrations, your blankness and doneness?  No matter what it may be or how much self-pity you are wallowing in, cry out to the Lord! Ask Him for a WORD...just one.

He loves you...even your self-pitying, struggling you.  Your Abba is very fond of you.

Then your new "mantra" can be...

This day, this WORD!

May it be so for each of us, O our loving Abba Father! Amen!

PS I'll even let you borrow my word hold and my beloved Colossians to get you started.  Just listen for Him and His speaking voice in the depths of your soul as you wait to receive from HIM!

Hebrews 13: Living an Unshakable Kingdom Life

unshakable kingdom
unshakable kingdom

...we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken...Hebrews 12:28 NIV

Ah, the Unshakable Kingdom! And it's ours!  It's the promise of Jesus in the New Covenant.

Hear our Lord's words,

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Luke 12:32 NIV

But what is the New Covenant?  What is this "ticket" so to speak, into the Kingdom?

The New Covenant is all about the finished work of Christ through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.  It's all about total forgiveness of sins, a new heart that is fixed on loving God, and the indwelling Holy Spirit who causes us to walk in HIS ways...and so much more!  All received by grace through faith, not striving and working!

And as we come to the end of the letter to the Hebrews, we see that living from who we are as partakers of the New Covenant has certain qualities about it:

1.  It's a life of stability (12:15-29). We are receiving a Kingdom that's unshakable, that can't crumble to the ground or be taken over by someone stronger!  And it's right here, right now!  And this kingdom is characterized by grace and freedom and peace...not fear and dread!  It's a kingdom where Jesus is King, and we are His people!

But it's also a kingdom that's not yet!  There will be a time when all will be set right; a time when...

...at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:10-11 ESV

2.  It's a life of brotherly love (13:1-4). We graciously receive and welcome "strangers" -- the invisible, neglected, unknown.  We remember prisoners...those physically incarcerated, as well as those imprisoned emotionally and spiritually.  Hebrews 13:2 says that we may be receiving angels unaware.  But actually, according to the gospels, we serve Christ when we serve the needy. (Matthew 25:31-45)

Phil Yancy, in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, tells about a conversation between a rich American visitor and Mother Teresa.  The American couldn't comprehend Mother Teresa's "fierce commitment to the dregs of Calcutta."  In response to his confusion, she told him,

We are a contemplative order.   First we meditate on Jesus, and then we go out and look for Him in disguise.

Where is He in disguise in our lives?

Mother Theresa with child
Mother Theresa with child

Maybe He's in disguise in our marriages.  Kingdom, New Covenant living is where we do the old-fashioned thing by honoring marriage as God's design...and by treating our spouses as brothers/sisters in the Lord and as friends (S of S 4:9-12;5:1,16).

3.  It's a life of contentment (13:5-6). We live free from "devotion" to money...why?  Because God Himself is our true Treasure!  He says..., so we can say...!

And what does He say?

I will never leave you nor forsake you.

So we can say,

The Lord is my helper;I will not fear;what can man do to me?

4.  It's a life of remembering & imitating  (13:7-8). We remember, and even study, the "exit" from this life of our spiritual leaders.

As John Piper says,

Beware of living heroes; prefer dead ones...Get heroes, especially dead ones.

Why?  They have already heard the Lord's "Well done!" They've made it to the finish line!

So then we can...

...imitate their faith.  Why?  because...Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

He was faithful to them in the past.  He is faithful to us in the present.  And He will be faithful to us and to our children and future generations on into the future!

5.  It's a life of identification (13:9-14). New Covenant living is not dependent upon religious rituals, foods, feasts, etc. (See Colossians 2:16-17).  Our "altar" is the Cross, the finished work of Christ.  And what do we "eat" there?  We eat Jesus by faith (John 6)  and get in Him:  forgiveness, righteousness, joy, peace in the Holy Spirit, hope, and so much more (Romans 14:17; 15:13).

And just as Jesus died outside the "camp" (Jerusalem and the religious establishment of His day), so we are also willing to go against the ways of the "camps" we may be part of, when they conflict with the ways our Lord and King are leading us.

What "camps" are you part of today?  Your church? your friends? your family? a relationship? your workplace?  Do you have to "sell your soul" in order to fit in and feel part of the in-crowd?  I'm here to say, DON'T DO IT!  Go to HIM outside the camp and be willing to bear HIS reproach...no matter what that may mean!

My husband and I have been part of various, what I call, Christian camps -- different traditions, from very conservative to somewhat chrismatic*.  I remember one time moaning and complaining to the Lord,

Lord, I don't fit anywhere!

The Holy Spirit said to my heart,

Congratulations!  You can fit everywhere, because you don't fit anywhere! [Read that a couple times slowly!]

Then He reminded me of Jesus who had no place to call His own, who died rejected and abandoned by even His own.  And I remembered Jesus' "healthy detachment":

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. John 2:23-25 NASB

So our expectations of fitting in can actually lead us to quench the Spirit in our own lives.  So again I say, don't do it!  "Go to Him outside the camp"...and the delightful surprise may be that there are others outside the camp...maybe waiting for YOU!

outside the camp
outside the camp

6.  It's a life of sacrifices (13:15-16). Jesus did the once for all sacrifice!  But we as believer-priests (1Peter 2:4-5) offer up spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.  We are not afraid to acknowledge His name and give Him the credit that is due Him.  As Hosea so colorfully says,

We... offer our lips as sacrifices of bulls.  (Hosea 14:2, alternate trans)

So we put our lips on the altar and let them pour out with praise and thanksgiving and glory to our great God.

And then of course, we have the sacrifice of doing good and sharing...signs of true faith.  As James says,

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works...For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. James 2:18,26 -- but check out all of James 2 ESV

7.  It's a life of submission (13:17-19). We follow God's chosen leaders and make it a joy for them, not a grief.   But we realize that they also have "feet of clay" as do their followers.  So we pray for them that they finish well!

As John Piper says,

If you're watching [living] leaders, pray like crazy that they make it to the end...that they finish well!

We all know of leaders who have "shipwrecked" later in life...let's support and pray!

8.  It's a life of enablement (13:20-21).

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

the Great Shepherd of the sheep
the Great Shepherd of the sheep

One of the richest and most beautiful of benedictions in Scripture tells us that it's not about our adequacy and ability to live this New Covenant life...it's about His equipping and working.  What a relief!  We are His vessels, His instruments.

Remember, the New Covenant basically says,

God does it; therefore, I do it.

Look at these other passages that say it well...and glory!

2Cor 3:5-61Cor 15:10Gal 2:20Phil 2:12-13

9.  It's a life of listening (13:22-25). So we come full circle.  This passage says to "pay attention" (NLT), to hear to listen.  Haven't we seen that throughout the letter?  It presupposes that when God speaks, we must listen...and so a closing reminder.  New Covenant, Unshakable Kingdom living is a life of listening to our Speaking God who has spoken in His Son (Heb 1:1-3)...let us HEAR HIM!

A Mighty Fortress

Our God is, a consuming fire, A burning holy Flame, with glory and freedom Our God is, the only righteous judge, Ruling over us with kindness and wisdom We will keep our eyes on You We will keep our eyes on You

A mighty fortress is our God A sacred refuge is Your Name Your Kingdom is unshakable With You forever we will reign

Our God is, jealous for His own None could comprehend, His love and His mercy Our God is exalted on His throne High above the heavens Forever He’s worthy... We will keep our eyes on You We will keep our eyes on You

We will keep our eyes on You We will keep our eyes on You So we can set our hearts on You Lord we will set our hearts on You!

HIMSELF  by A. B. SimpsonOnce it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord; Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word. Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own; Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.

Once 'twas painful trying, Now 'tis perfect trust; Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost. Once 'twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast; Once 'twas constant drifting, Now my anchor's cast.

Once 'twas busy planning, Now 'tis trustful prayer; Once 'twas anxious caring, Now He has the care. Once 'twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says; Once 'twas constant asking, Now 'tis ceaseless praise.

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be; Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me. Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One; Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.

Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He's mine; Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine. Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail; And my hopes are anchored, Safe within the veil.

simpson-ab
simpson-ab

For the beautiful sermon connected to this poem by A.B. Simpson, a brother from the past, click here.

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For Ray Stedman's commentary on Hebrews 13, click here.Hebrews 13, Ray Stedman, Faith at Work

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Streams of Living Water, Foster
Streams of Living Water, Foster

For an enlightening description of the verious traditions of the Christian faith, readStreams of Living Water, by Richard Foster.  In that book, Foster goes into the biblical and historical backgrounds of the different traditions ("camps"), as well as the strong points to emulate and the pitfalls to avoid.

Hebrews 12: the Father's Sandpaper

It's a precious relationship...but why is it so hard...and painful?  We keep "missing" each other!  Maybe we don't "get" each other? I keep trying to respect boundaries and be "circumspect" in what I say and do...and then it comes:  stuff from the past, mistakes in the present...at times, I am responsible...other times, I feel like I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't.

Not the sweetness and light I keep hoping for!

Lord, why?  Why is it so hard?  How do I navigate this relationship?

Then comes His still, small voice:

This relationship is Sandpaper in My Hands to shine you up...to get those rough places smooth!

 

 

Now how can I argue with that?  Thank you, Lord!

It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects [actually, beats to a pulp!]... At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. Hebrews 12:7,11 Message

Many of you are going through difficulties of every kind...excruciating, even life threatening health problems, mental and emotional heartache, relational stresses, and the list goes on.  We have no idea what the Father is doing in His sovereignty.  But one thing we can count on is that He is shining us up more and more to look like His glorious Son Who indwells us.  So let's embrace Him and our life and believe with all our hearts that nothing is wasted in His almighty, loving Fatherly Hands.

PLEASE click on this link to view an awesome video of this song: Nothing is wasted -- Jason Gray

The hurt that broke your heart And left you trembling in the dark Feeling lost and alone Will tell you hope's a lie But what if every tear you cry Will seed the ground where joy will grow

And nothing is wasted Nothing is wasted In the hands of our Redeemer Nothing is wasted

It's from the deepest wounds That beauty finds a place to bloom And you will see before the end That every broken piece is Gathered in the heart of Jesus And what's lost will be found again

Nothing is wasted Nothing is wasted In the hands of our Redeemer Nothing is wasted

From the ruins From the ashes Beauty will rise From the wreckage From the darkness Glory will shine Glory will shine

Nothing is wasted Nothing is wasted In the hands of our Redeemer Nothing is wasted

From the ruins From the ashes Beauty will rise From the wreckage From the darkness Glory will shine Glory will shine

You might also like to look at "In Pain...two Things I Know"

Hebrews 12: Our Turn to Run!

running the race of faith
running the race of faith

...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus  Hebrews 12: 1-2

God calls us to own our lives...to hug them to our breasts and to live them with all our hearts!  No place do we see this truth more clearly than in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12.

Using the imagery of running, God says that now it's...

...our turn to run our lap in the race of faith! 

And as we run, we each need to remember these truths:

1.  I’m part of something bigger than myself.

Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us... Heb 11:1 - 12:1a

See the  Hebrews 11 blog to meditate on this truth.

Hebrews 11
Hebrews 11

2.  There are hindrances to my running.

...let us also lay aside every encumbrance [weight], and the sin which so easily entangles us... Heb 12: 1b

spider web photo July 2011
spider web photo July 2011

See Caught in the Web.

3.  My lap is uniquely mine.

    ...and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us...  Heb 12: 1c

For encouragement to be who God made you to be and stop comparing yourself to others or letting others deter you by their own insecurity, see: The Green-Eyed Monster and other Fruit Killers

eric liddell
eric liddell

4.  My success in running depends on my focus.

...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of  faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”   Heb 12: 2-3

See Lessons from a Family Vacation: We become like what we focus on.  Glory and grace when we focus on HIM!

fix eyes on Jesus
fix eyes on Jesus

5.  Submission to my “Coach’s” training program is key.

--His process is "discipline" (complete child training):

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;

Father's discipline
Father's discipline

--His motive is love:

For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,

--His method is ruthless, but fatherly:

And He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but...

See The Father's Pruning

A Pruned Branch in the Vine 138_5713
A Pruned Branch in the Vine 138_5713

--His goal is holiness; family resemblance:

He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

--His result is fruitfulness--righteousness, peace:

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

See Return to the Vineyard: Reflections on Growth

fruitful vine
fruitful vine

--His exhortation is "cooperate":

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Heb 12: 4-13

See Love's Abiding Harvest

finish lines
finish lines

6.  I must be a “team participant”.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. Hebrews 12: 14-17

It's so easy to get bitter over life's hardships and the "irregular people" in our lives...even "irregular Christian people."  Yes, there are fellow teammates who just don't get it...actually we may be one of those at times, huh?

I love this quote by Henri Nouwen entitled, "Stepping Over Our Wounds."

Sometimes we have to "step over" our anger, our jealousy, or our feelings of rejection and move on [a.k.a. run on].  The temptation is to get stuck in our negative emotions, poking around in them as if we belong there.  Then we become the "offended one," "the forgotten one," or "the discarded one."  Yes, we can get attached to these negative identities and even take morbid pleasure in them.  It might be good to have a look at these dark feelings and explore where they come from, but there comes a moment to step over them, leave them behind and travel on [a.k.a. run on]. Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen.

Conclusion

Do you see what all this means -- all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?  It means we’d better get on with it.  Strip down, start running -- never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed -- that exhilarating finish in and with God -- he could put up with anything along the way:  cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.  When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that will shoot adrenline into your souls. Hebrews 12: 1 - 3(The Message)

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We’re pilgrims on the journey Of the narrow road And those who’ve gone before us line the way Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses Let us run the race not only for the prize But as those who’ve gone before us Let us leave to those behind us The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

Chorus Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful May the fire of our devotion light their way May the footprints that we leave Lead them to believe And the lives we live inspire them to obey Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone And our children sift through all we’ve left behind May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

Class notes:  MY TURN TO RUN -- Hebrews 12

Homework: Read Hebrews 12:25-13:25 Answer questions in Hoping for Something Better, p. 203-205 Read chapter 10 & Conclusion,  Hoping…

Hebrews 11: the Pilgrim Spirit of Faith

We are so tied to the here and now, aren't we?  But at the heart of the life of faith is belief in the unseen God and trust in His promises that this world is not all there is.  People of faith are "pilgrims," "aliens."

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth...Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.  Hebrews 11:13,16

pilgrimage
pilgrimage

A bumper sticker I recently saw says it well,

We are not human [temporal] beings having a spiritual [eternal] experience. We are spiritual [eternal] beings having a human [temporal] experience.

If our existence on this earth is temporal, then it is temporary.  And according to God, it's fleeting...and we need to come to grips with that if we are to have the correct perspective of life on earth.  So...

...let these Scriptures wash over you, and then humbly worship the unseen God, our Father, Who loves us!

Hear my prayer, O Lord!    Listen to my cries for help!    Don’t ignore my tears.For I am your guest    a traveler passing through,    as my ancestors were before me. Psalm 39:12 NLT

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,    who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,    it will become a place of refreshing springs.    The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. They will continue to grow stronger,    and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem. Psalm 84:5-7 NLT

Your word has been the music of my lifethroughout the years of my pilgrimage. Psalm 119:54

Those who are wise will take all this to heart;    they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.Psalm 107:43 NLT

your life a vapor
your life a vapor

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4:14 NASB

grass of the field
grass of the field

As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer. But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children... Psalm 103:15-17 NASB

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.2 Cor 4:16-18 NASB

So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 NASB

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Who am I, that the lord of all the earth Would care to know my name Would care to feel my hurt? Who am I, that the bright and morning star Would choose to light the way For my ever wandering heart?

Not because of who I am But because of what you've done Not because of what I've done But because of who you are

I am a flower quickly fading Here today and gone tomorrow A wave tossed in the ocean A vapor in the wind Still you hear me when I'm calling Lord, you catch me when I'm falling And you've told me who I am I am yours

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin Would look on me with love And watch me rise again? Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea Would call out through the rain And calm the storm in me?

Not because of who I am But because of what you've done Not because of what I've done But because of who you are

I am a flower quickly fading Here today and gone tomorrow A wave tossed in the ocean A vapor in the wind Still you hear me when I'm calling Lord, you catch me when I'm falling And you've told me who I am I am yours

Not because of who I am But because of what you've done Not because of what I've done But because of who you are

I am a flower quickly fading Here today and gone tomorrow A wave tossed in the ocean A vapor in the wind Still you hear me when I'm calling Lord, you catch me when I'm falling And you've told me who I am I am yours

I am yours Whom shall I fear? Whom shall I fear? 'Cause I am yours I am yours

Hebrews 11: We are Part of Something Bigger than Ourselves!

Hebrews 11
Hebrews 11

John Eldridge in his book The Sacred Romance says that deep inside of us is a longing for intimacy and adventure.  Here in Hebrews 11, we definitely see both!  The intimacy is with a God who spoke us into existence and now can be trusted to care for us every step of the way (we will see this again in Heb 12). And the adventure...oh my!  We are part of something bigger than ourselves...and that's exciting!  We are in the "race of faith" with a long line of "runners"...some famous, like Abraham and Moses; some infamous and unlikely, like Rahab and Samson; and some unknown, like those who were sawn in two (among other horrors)...people "of whom the world is not worthy," the writer to the Hebrews says (Hebrews 11:38).

What is it enables us to endure, like our fellow runners?  It's faith!  Not the world's kind of faith, which makes faith a work, or a "name it and claim it," or an "entity" in myself that I need to muster up enough of to get what I want.  NO!  As Andrew Murray says, "faith is confessed helplessness, casting itself on God [the living God, the "I Am"] and His promises [which are 'yes and amen!']."

Heb 11:1
Heb 11:1

So the nature of true, Biblical faith has to do with the unseen and the future.  It is confidence in what we don't see:  God & His promises; not in what we do see:  circumstances, people, things, feelings, etc.

And the outcome of faith is that it puts "a smile on God's face"...it pleases Him.  He puts His stamp of approval on us!  In fact, He so loves to see faith that He witnesses to it in us...He testifies to it in His children.  Remember how God boasted of Job?  "Have you observed my servant Job?"  That's what God does when He sees true faith!

According to Spiro Zodiates in his Word Studies in the NT, the words, "to be approved, to obtain the testimony, obtained the witness" are all the same Greek word in the passive voice (which means someone else does it).  The exciting thing is that God "lauds" [dare I say, "applauds"] us and "reports well" of us because of our faith (which faith, by the way, is a gift, Ephesians 2 :8-9; as is everything in life!)

So this means that God is looking for faith, not perfection!  And that is good news to those of us who worship at the altar of "doing the right thing" or "doing it perfectly."  It may sound so right to be trying so hard to be perfect or get it right, but where is God in that picture?  That sounds more like self-effort and a "works with a smidge of God" type spirituality.

Heb 11:6
Heb 11:6

As you reflect on these far-from-perfect-people in Hebrews 11, thank God that, despite your "fluctuations of body and soul,"  you can walk by faith TODAY, because HE IS and He rewards those who seek HIM...step by step...by faith!

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Homework: Read Hebrews 12:1-24 Answer questions in Hoping for Something Better, p. 201-203 Read chapter 9,  Hoping…

Hebrews 11 – Ray Stedman

Class notes -- BY FAITH…Heb 11

BY FAITH Keith & Kristen Getty

By faith we see the hand of GodIn the light of creation's grand designIn the lives of those who prove His faithfulnessWho walk by faith and not by sight

By faith our fathers roamed the earthWith the power of His promise in their heartsOf a holy city built by God's own handA place where peace and justice reign

We will stand as children of the promiseWe will fix our eyes on Him our soul's rewardTill the race is finished and the work is doneWe'll walk by faith and not by sight

By faith the prophets saw a dayWhen the longed-for Messiah would appearWith the power to break the chains of sin and deathAnd rise triumphant from the grave

By faith the church was called to goIn the power of the Spirit to the lostTo deliver captives and to preach good newsIn every corner of the earth

We will stand as children of the promiseWe will fix our eyes on Him our soul's rewardTill the race is finished and the work is doneWe'll walk by faith and not by sight

By faith this mountain shall be movedAnd the power of the gospel shall prevailFor we know in Christ all things are possibleFor all who call upon His name

We will stand as children of the promiseWe will fix our eyes on Him our soul's rewardTill the race is finished and the work is doneWe'll walk by faith and not by sight

 

Hebrews 10:24-25 -- CONSIDER...One Another

Let us consider...one another!   Hebrews 10:24-25 When we come toward the middle of Hebrews, chapter 10, we have what I like to call "the Hinge" (10:19-25)...verses that tie the doctrinal and practical sections together.  And right there at the end of "the Hinge" is our second of three CONSIDER's.

As you may recall, the first time we encountered the word Consider, we talked about how the word means to focus intently like a star-gazer would do.  And of course, our primary focus is always to be on our great High Priest, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ -- our Great High Priest and Mighty God enthroned above.

When we look at our third Consider in chapter 12, it will be again our Lord Jesus Christ, who as the God-Man endured the Cross.  But now, sandwiched right in the middle, is our second Consider -- Consider...one another.  Why?  Because if we belong to our Lord, we belong to each other.  That's why I often sign my emails, One with you in HIM, when writing to my sisters and brothers in the Lord.

Last year a posted a fun blog about the interaction between two of my grandsons, Evan & Carter...brothers!  I'd like to share the Bible study section of that post, which I called Am I My Brother's Keeper? right here.  But if you would like to read the stories that go with it, just click on the link.

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Our Abba Father's desire for us His children is that we would be devoted to one another, no matter how much we may disagree and even dislike each other.  We are in the same blood line, the same family!

The way we know we've been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn't love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don't go together. This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves! 1John 3:14-16 MESSAGE

We have a connection with each other that can't be broken, whether we like it or not!  It's a connection as deep as union with each other in the Triune God!  Just as in a human family, the primary connection a child has is with the parents (and thus with each other), so too in the family of God.  Listen to how Jesus prayed the night before He died:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that THEY also may be IN US, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:20-23

As I've been meditating on my union with Christ and my brothers and sisters, I've revisited what are called the One another verses.  Maybe you would like to join me in revisiting them, or perhaps visiting them for the first time.  Then if you care to, pray with me:

Father, empower me through the indwelling Christ, Your Perfect Son, to love my brothers and sisters.  Love them through me.  Understand them through me.  Care about their spiritual, emotional, physical welfare through me, O God.  In Christ's Loving Name.  Amen!

John 13:14 "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.

John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

John 13:35 " By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

John 15:12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

John 15:17 "This I command you, that you love one another.

Acts 7:26 " On the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, 'Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?'

Acts 15:39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.

Romans 12:5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

Romans 14:5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this-- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way.

Romans 14:19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

Romans 15:5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,

Romans 15:7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

Romans 15:14 And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.

Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

1 Corinthians 6:7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?

1 Corinthians 7:5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

1 Corinthians 11:33 So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.

1 Corinthians 12:25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

1 Corinthians 16:20 All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

Galatians 5:26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:4 But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.

Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

Ephesians 5:21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,

Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

1 Thessalonians 3:12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;

1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

Titus 3:3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Hebrews 10:24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,

Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

James 4:11 Do not speak against one another, brethren He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

James 5:9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

1 Peter 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

1 Peter 4:10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

1 Peter 5:5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.

1 Peter 5:14 Greet one another with a kiss of love Peace be to you all who are in Christ.

1 John 1:7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 3:11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;

1 John 3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

2 John 1:5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.

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For an example of how NOT to "consider one another,"  read this post by Frank Viola on Rick Warren's tragic loss of his son to suicide.  It left me speechless! Beyond Evangelical

Class Notes:  THE HINGE

Homework: Read Hebrews 11 Answer questions in Hoping for Something Better, p. 200-201 Read chapter 8,  Hoping…

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Hebrews 8-10, Ray Stedman -- scroll down to read his treatment of the 4th warning...very good!

Hebrews 8-10: Mercy Came Running!

MERCY!  Ah, what a lovely word.  Mercy speaks of compassion, love, tenderness, "thinking the best," overlooking faults and failings...and we could go on.  Those of us who have mercy-showers in our lives are blessed beyond measure! How reflective is mercy of our merciful, loving Creator.  Even throughout the Old Testament, we read of God's tender mercies and loving-kindness toward the children of men.

But there was a "not so little thing" called God's Justice, that is, His holiness and righteousness, that hindered the full expression of His mercy and love to us sinful creatures.  That's where our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, comes in...His Person and His work released us from the just wrath of God against sin so Mercy could come flooding forth upon us.

No where do we see the what's and wherefore's of the mercy of our God better spelled out than in Hebrews, chapters 8 through 10.  There we see the provision God made over generations to show mercy to a stiff-necked people (a.k.a. you & me).

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens… Hebrews 8:1 NASB

As Ray Stedman has so clearly said:

On the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus took a cup of wine, passed it to his disciples and said: "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26:27-28). With those words and that symbolic action, he borrowed the phrase used by Moses when he took the blood of an animal, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words" (Ex 24:8). The contrast was deliberate. Moses used the blood of an animal; Jesus used wine as a symbol of his own blood. Moses spoke of the covenant of the law; Jesus alluded to the new covenant of grace. Moses spoke of God's words which provided for the partial covering of sins so God could remain with his people; Jesus promised the actual remission of sins so God could live within his people forever. It is that excellent new covenant which chapters 8-10 of Hebrews...expounds.

Because of Who He is, Son of God and Man (Hebrews 1-7), what He has done carries infinite weight!  Let's look at what His work entailed according to these chapters in Hebrews:

I.  He is the Mediator of a  New Covenant (8:6-13; 9;17-22), “based on better promises.”

Compared to the Old Covenant (Law), The New Covenant is immeasurably more glorious!  No longer is it, "I do it; therefore God does it."  This was at the heart of the Law ("If you obey, I will bless you and be your God.").  Rather now in the New Covenant, it's all about, "God does it: therefore, I do it."

Isn't that the way, Jesus lived His life on earth?

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. John 5:19 ESV

So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. John 8:28

For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. John 12:49

The New Covenant then is all about God and what He has done through the finished work of His Son.  And it's also about what He is now doing in His world, in and through His people.

But the problem is that the Old Covenant proved that we humans are not reliable vehicles of the divine life and ways.  So how can the change take place from the "I do it, so God blesses me" mentality to "God does it, and I'm His instrument?"  That's the beauty of the New Covenant provisions and promises.  Take a look at those amazing truths stated in our passage (Hebrews 8:6-13):

  1. The Law written on the heart (Heb 8:10; 10:10).  No longer are God's ways (the Law) written on tablets of stone (2Cor 3), but now they are written on human hearts.  And even that heart of ours has been changed.  Look at an important cross reference: And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  Ezek 36:26-27 ESV Not only is the Law written on a new heart, but the Holy Spirit is united with our spirit.  He causes us to walk in God's ways...isn't that incredible?!  So now there is the truth united with desire and power!
  2. Intimacy with the Living God (Heb 8:10-11).  Jesus said that the heart of His zoe, eternal life, is that we know God! And this is eternal life [zoe], that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  John 17:3 Since we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the resident Teacher, we know God! The Apostle John referred to this glorious truth in his first epistle: But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know... But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.   1John 2:20-27
  3. Complete Forgiveness of Sins (Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).   And this is primary.  Until sin was permanently dealt with, God's justice and holiness "prevented Him" from uniting with His people.  But now the way is open...Why?  Because...

II.  He is the Minister in the  True Tabernacle (8:2-6; 9:1-14, 23-28). ...Jesus entered the True Tabernacle...the Holy of Holies of the throne room of heaven.   And what did He do there?

III.  He Himself is the Offering of a Perfect Sacrifice (10:1-18).

He offered HIMSELF!  He was the perfect, eternal sacrifice because of His perfect, indestructible life (Hebrews 7). He presented His perfect blood so that He could perfect for all time, those who are in the process of being sanctified while on this earth (10:10,14) It's a finished work that is a done deal forever.  It is totally true, perfectly and forever int the eternal realm.

But you may ask, "Why am I not experiencing this now?"  The answer is all about faith.  Just as we enter the New Covenant by faith in the finished work of the eternal Son of God, we also live by faith every day of our lives in this temporal realm (Col 2:6-7).  As we run our lap in the race of faith (Hebrews 12:1-4), we fix our eyes on the indwelling Christ.  We surrender to His indwelling, resurrection zoe Life.  Then we experience the glory of the New Covenant:  "God does it; therefore we do it!"  If we begin to live according to our own, even morally "good" way," we go back to OC living, expecting something of God in response to our "good works" (like a reward) or in addition to our "good works" (like help to do what I'VE determined to do).  Then we're back to, "We do it ; therefore God does it."

So let me ask you a question.  What would change for you if you took the risk to abandon yourself to the New Covenant, Indwelling, Risen Christ...ceasing from your own labors, self-effort, good works...and live in His Sabbath Rest (Hebrews 4:9-11)?

Freedom!  Joy!  Fruitfulness!  Rest!

Listen to how two brothers from the past describe this glorious life:

...The most wonderful secret of living a holy life does not lie in imitating Jesus, but in letting the perfect qualities of Jesus exhibit themselves in my human flesh. Sanctification is “Christ in you . . .” (Colossians 1:27). It is His wonderful life that is imparted to me in sanctification— imparted by faith as a sovereign gift of God’s grace...Sanctification means the impartation of the holy qualities of Jesus Christ to me. It is the gift of His patience, love, holiness, faith, purity, and godliness that is exhibited in and through every sanctified soul. Sanctification is not drawing from Jesus the power to be holy— it is drawing from Jesus the very holiness that was exhibited in Him, and that He now exhibits in me. Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation. Imitation is something altogether different. The perfection of everything is in Jesus Christ, and the mystery of sanctification is that all the perfect qualities of Jesus are at my disposal. Consequently, I slowly but surely begin to live a life of inexpressible order, soundness, and holiness— “. . . kept by the power of God . . .” (1 Peter 1:5).    (Oswald Chambers)

If today I am patient, it is not I but He who lives in me who is patient. If today I love, it is not because I try my best to love, for the power of love is not in me.  But it is because there is One who loves in me. If today I forgive, it is not due to my generosity or effort or ability.  It is instead purely due to the One who lives in me and always forgives.  He is my forgiveness. If today I am humble, this does not happen because I remind myself how proud I am and that therefore I need to be humbled.  My humility does not come through suppressing my needs and then determining to be humble.  It is the Person (the Lamb) in me who is humble.  Since He is my humility, I therefore am humble.   (Watchman Nee)

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I love the imagery of this song.  Can't you just visualize our Father God "bursting forth" when Jesus cried from the Cross "Tetelestai/It is finished!/the sin debt, paid in full!" and breathed His last?  Usually we think of us finally being able to come into the throne room of God (Heb 4:16).  But here we see it from the opposite direction -- God "chomping at the bit" (I hope that's not irreverent) to get at us with His loving-kindness and tender mercy.  When the veil was rent, God came flooding out to the world of men.  Oh, embrace Him by faith today!

Mercy Came Running Phillips, Craig, & Dean

Once there was a holy place Evidence of God's embrace And I can almost see mercy's face Pressed against the veil Looking down with longing eyes Mercy must have realized That once His blood was sacrificed Freedom would prevail And as the sky grew dark And the earth began to shake With justice no longer in the way

Chorus: Mercy came running Like a prisoner set free Past all my failures to the point of my need When the sin that I carried Was all I could see And when I could not reach mercy Mercy came running to me Once there was a broken heart Way to human from the start And all the years left it torn apart Hopeless and afraid Walls I never meant to build Left this prisoner unfulfilled Freedom called but even still It seemed so far away I was bound by the chains From the wages of my sin Just when I felt like giving in

Repeat chorus

Sometimes I still feel so far So far from where I really should be He gently calls to my heart Just to remind me

Repeat chorus

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpodVp6LH8s[/youtube]

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Homework: Read Hebrews 10:19-39 Answer questions in Hoping for Something Better, p. 199-200 Read chapter 7,  Hoping…

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Hebrews 8-10, Ray Stedman

Oswald Chambers, "Sanctification"

 

Hebrews: Cares and Confidence

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. Hebrews 10:35 NKJV

Jesus carrying
Jesus carrying

It is God’s will that I should castOn Him my care each day;He also bids me not to castMy confidence away.

But oh, I am so foolishThat when taken unawares,I cast away my confidenceAnd carry all my cares. T. Baird*

...His concern here is...for the children of Abraham. He had to become as human as His sisters and brothers so that when the time came, He could become a merciful and faithful high priest of God, called to reconcile a sinful people. Since He has also been tested by suffering, He can help us when we are tested... ...For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws. He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious, without failing God. So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help when we need it most. Hebrews 2:16-18; 4:15-16 The Voice

anchor for the soul
anchor for the soul

...we who come to God for refuge [are] encouraged to seize that hope that is set before us.  That hope is real and true, an ANCHOR to steady our restless souls, a hope that leads us back behind the curtain to where God is and back into the place where Jesus, who went ahead on our behalf, has entered since He has become a High Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:18-20 The Voice

Jesus my anchor
Jesus my anchor

Sometimes Step by Step Rich Mullins

Sometimes the night was beautiful| Sometimes the sky was so far away Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close You could touch it but your heart would break Sometimes the morning came too soon Sometimes the day could be so hot There was so much work left to do But so much You'd already done

Oh God, You are my God And I will ever praise You Oh God, You are my God And I will ever praise You I will seek You in the morning And I will learn to walk in Your ways And step by step You'll lead me And I will follow You all of my days

Sometimes I think of Abraham How one star he saw had been lit for me (Gal 3:6-14) He was a stranger in this land And I am that, no less than he And on this road to righteousness Sometimes the climb can be so steep I may falter in my steps But never beyond Your reach

Oh God, You are my God And I will ever praise You Oh God, You are my God And I will ever praise You I will seek You in the morning And I will learn to walk in Your ways And step by step You'll lead me And I will follow You all of my days

And I will follow You all of my days And I will follow You all of my days And step by step You'll lead me And I will follow You all of my days And I will follow You all of my days

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Importance of the Warnings to Believers: [based on notes from a sermon by Rob Turner, Apex Community Church c2008]

  1. Believers should never be casual about God's grace.
  2. Believers should never separate works from God's grace [as the result/fruit of grace through faith, not the cause].  Ephesians 2:8-10; James 2:17
  3. Believers can never have any assurance in Christ if they are taking part in [willful] sin.  Hebrews 10:26-29
  4. Believers should see these warnings as a means toward final salvation: perseverance in Christ.

Links for further exploration of Hebrews 6:

Hebrew 6 Warning -- ESV Study Bible notes The Voice -- look at Hebrews 6 in this paraphrase Hebews 5-6, ray stedman -- Ray Stedman commentary When is Saving Repentance Impossible? -- John Piper...this is GOOD!

Class notes:MELCHISEDEK WHO? The Basics and Beyond, Hebrews 5:11-6:20

Homework: Read Hebrews 8:1-10:18 Answer questions in Hoping for Something Better, p. 197-198 Read chapter 6,  Hoping…

*My thanks to my friend Durinda, who slipped me this little treasure when we were studying the letter to the Hebrews…many years ago.