Tag Archives: book of Hebrews

A Flawed Leader part 2

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Like everything else about David, his love for God was big.  It became the central and defining relationship of his life, from the moment Samuel anointed him and “the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.” (1 Samuel 16:13)  After that, God’s will became part of his decision-making process.  The Bible records many times when David “inquired of the Lord” before taking action.  When things looked bleak, David turned to God and “strengthened himself in the Lord.”  When he succeeded, he humbly gave credit to God, saying, “who am I God, and what is my house that you have brought me this far?” (II Samuel 7:18)  When rebuked by Nathan, God’s prophet, he quickly admits, “I have sinned against the Lord”(12:13).  He begs God to spare the life of his child, but when the child dies, he accepts God’s authority without bitterness.  In fact, he immediately “went into the house of the Lord and worshipped.” (12:20)

As a dying man, David’s last thoughts are about the house he wanted to build for God.  He assembles his officials, seasoned warriors and army commanders, stewards and sons and commends the building of the temple to his son, Solomon.  He tells the people to “observe and seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and leave it as an inheritance to your children after you forever.”  He advises Solomon to “know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought: (1 Chronicles 28:9).  The best advice he could impart to those he was leaving was to know, obey and serve God.

David’s history depicts a man who walked and talked with God throughout his life.  To David, God was not a distant authority to be appeased or obeyed out of fear.  God was his rock, his deliverer, the satisfier of his soul.  Read through the Psalms to get an idea of David’s enduring and personal attachment to God.  More than 70 Psalms indicate in their superscriptions that David wrote them.  Many mention specific occasions in his life:  for example, “when he fled from Absalom”  or “when the Philistines seized him in Gaza.”  Others were written as a cry for mercy, or guidance;  they expressed joy and despair.  They recall his days as a shepherd and a king.

David’s leadership and his relationship with God were not perfect, because David was not perfect;  but he had the saving faith “the ancients were commended for” in Hebrews 11.  With confidence in God’s grace he could say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear?(Psalm 27)  Like Abraham before him, David “believed the Lord and (God) counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

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It’s Your Choice

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“This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.'” Jeremiah 6:16

We Lutherans believe that we do not choose salvation;  God chooses us.  However, we can choose how and whether we’re going to progress in our Christian walk.  We can stay at a very basic, elementary level in our understanding and faith;  or we can grow into a greater knowledge and understanding of God’s ways and His will for us.  The way is marked out for us — we have the Holy Scriptures and we have the example of Jesus Christ.  We can study and learn, attend worship regularly and pray;  or we can be content to just coast along.  According to the prophet, Jeremiah, in the verse above, the “good way,”  the way God desires for us will bring rest for our souls.  Too often, though, we refuse to walk in it.  We’re busy.  We want worldly success.  We want to use our free time to amuse ourselves.  This is the easier way, but it doesn’t lead to maturity or bring true peace.

 

The unknown author of Hebrews chides his readers this way:

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.  You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”  Hebrews 5:12-14

The choice is yours —  will it be milk or meat?

 

Turn Around

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“…I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds …” Acts 26:20b

Did you know that the word repentance, as used in the Bible, actually means to “turn your guts (or insides) around”?  Repentance doesn’t just mean saying “sorry” or even feeling sorry.  It means going forward in a different direction — doing an about face.  Many times, maybe most of the time, we really don’t want to do this.  Sometimes we think we can’t  do this, because the sin is so deeply ingrained.  Saying sorry often means we’re sorry we got caught.  We’re sorry our bad behavior was noticed.  We want to look good instead of being good.

In the verse, the apostle Paul is explaining to King Agrippa exactly why the Jews want him to be prosecuted and put to death.  He had the audacity to demand that they change their ways!  He expected them to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, and it made them furious!

True repentance is a willingness to turn away from our sin (whatever that happens to be) and start walking in a different direction, walking towards God’s way instead of our way.  It’s difficult, and sometimes we’ll stumble or even fall.  When that happens we need to get up, get going, and stay focused on the goal.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

Are you willing to turn around?

 

Let’s Go On An Adventure or Fanning the Flame #3

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“He set out, not knowing where he was going.”  Hebrews 11:8

Before my mom went into a nursing home, my siblings and I were doing our best to care for her in her own home.  Each day one or more of us would stop by to make or take her a meal, straighten the house, give her a shower and sometimes take her out for a ride.  One of my sisters said she would say to mom, “let’s go on an adventure” — mom would smile and her eyes would light up.  She loved to get out and just ride around. She didn’t worry because she trusted her daughter to bring her back safely.  Bev said they would explore the country roads nearby, just getting on one and following it to see where it went.  Sometimes they came back out in a familiar location, other times they’d just have to backtrack in order to get home.

Well, our congregation is about to go on an adventure.  The Fanning the Flame program was approved at our voters’ meeting by an approximately 2-1 majority.  Now the hard work and anxiety really start.  We’re setting out on a journey, and we don’t even have the map!  We know we want to end up as a healthier church body, but we’re not sure what that means or will look like. We don’t know exactly what it will require. We may end up with a totally unexpected result.  We must trust the process and trust God.

P.S. I read from two different devotionals today and the theme in each was going out in trust.  This is probably not a coincidence.  The first scripture is at the beginning of this article.  The second is below:

Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’ ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  Matthew 14:28-29

Pray with us friends and readers as we step out onto the water!

All the Loves

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“He who does not love does not know God;  for God is love.”  1 John 4:8

The other night I asked my husband, a pastor, which of the Greek words for love best describes God’s love for us?  Of course, we first thought of agape love.  God loves everyone, regardless of our looks, ethnic background, temperament, intelligence, or worthiness.

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

However, we realized that God’s love is also eros.  In a number of places in the Bible, Israel, and later the church (the new Israel), are referred to as God’s wife or bride.

“Return faithless people”, declares the Lord, for I am your husband.” I will choose you–one from a town and two from a clan–and bring you to Zion.” Jeremiah 3:14

The fact that God is our father, and Jesus our brother,  exemplifies storge, or family love.  Jesus teaches us:

“And call no man your father on earth, for you have a Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 23:9

“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy, are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”  Hebrews 2:11

Of course, philia is part of God’s love nature as well, because through the incarnation, Jesus became our friend.

“I no longer call you servants. because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father, I have made known to you.”  John 15:15

So, God no only is love, His is all the loves, and we find every love and everything there is to know about love in Him.  What a wonderful gift!  Remember, He loves you and so do I!

 

 

More on Brotherly Love

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“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down the beard, running down Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion, For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.  Psalm 133

If you’re part of a family, you know the truth of the Psalm above, and you know what the reverse feels like.  Family is wonderful when everyone is getting along and helping each other– it’s a blessing.  When the family quarrels bitterly, life becomes miserable.  Family members have the power to lift us up or tear us down.

In many places the Bible refers to the church in terms of family.  It is the “household” of God.  We are to treat older people as parents, honoring and respecting them.  We are to treat those of our own generation as brothers and sisters.  When a child is baptized into our congregation, we all take on the responsibility of raising them in the faith.

Unfortunately we don’t always take these “family” responsibilities seriously.  When we don’t agree with someone, or they are rude to us, we just leave, thinking we’ll find a more congenial group;  or we stay and gossip, forming cliques that divide and weaken the body of Christ.  When a brother or sister in Christ stops attending worship or Bible study, instead of calling them up to encourage them and see what’s wrong, we just shrug and say, “oh well” or maybe we think, “the Pastor should check in on them.” We don’t want to risk confrontation or unpleasantness.  When an older member can no longer drive, we consider our own convenience instead of offering them a ride to church.  When a job needs doing, we tell ourselves, we just don’t have the time or the money or the talent to help.

The list can go on and on, and we’re all guilty of neglecting God’s family at times.  It’s true no individual can do everything– but we can all do something, and we should prayerfully consider what it is God wants us to do right now — at this time, in this place, with the family He has given us.

“Let brotherly love continue.”  Hebrews 13:1

Why Wait?

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I have to admit I’m not good at waiting.  When I have a task on my “to do” list, I want to get it done and check it off.  When I’m due to be at an event, I get there early, and I have little patience for those who show up late (i.e. at the last moment.) I’m certainly not alone in my “hurry up” attitude. These days we’re not accustomed to waiting for anything — our cell phones give us instant connection with people, the internet pops up any fact we need with the push of a button, using GPS technology we can check to see exactly where our spouse or child is right now and when they’ll arrive at home. Sometimes I want God to hurry up, as well — fix my problems, show me the right decision, give me a burst of inspiration — or at least let me know WHEN the answers will come.  However, the Bible tells us that some things can’t be known immediately — they’re in God’s hands and they’re worth waiting for.

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“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”  Lamentations 3:25-26

Advent is a time of waiting and remembering the Old Testament prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah, the Savior.  Although they delivered the message, the timing was up to God.  The author of Hebrews says,

“These (the heroes of the Old Testament) all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar …”

Abraham and Sarah, Noah and Enoch and many others never saw the fulfillment of God’s promise, but in faith they trusted Him.  They were willing to wait. It’s a lesson I need to learn. God sent my Savior at “just the right time.” (Romans 5:6) — He’ll take care of my other concerns at the right time as well.  I just have to wait. Advent it good practice.

The Greatest Teacher

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Image result for teach me your ways imageGod, of course, is the greatest teacher of all.  He teaches us through His creation:

“Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. ” Romans 1:20

He teaches us through His word:

“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  1 Timothy 3:16

He taught through the prophets:

“In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets;” Hebrews 1:1

Most of all, He teaches us through Jesus:

“but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.” Hebrews 1:2

Before Jesus made Himself known as the Son of God, he was revered as a teacher.  He taught through sermons and parables, but most of all He taught by His example:

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”  John 13: 13-15

How has God been teaching you?  Readers and authors, I would like to hear about your learning experiences with God.  He loves you and so do I!

 

Changing Relationships

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Last week I went with two of my siblings to my mother’s quarterly assessment meeting at the nursing home.  She has Parkinson’s, high blood pressure, dementia and heart failure.  We spent a good bit of time reviewing end of life decisions …. do we want a DNR (do not resuscitate) order?  do we want her transferred to a hospital for anything other than an acute injury?  do we want a feeding tube or artificial hydration in any situation?  These things are difficult to even think about.

The social worker gave me a booklet to read.  It talked about the difficulties and guilt involved in putting a parent in a care facility.  The thing that struck me most was the statement that at some point, our relationship with a parent changes:  the child becomes the parent and must make hard decisions based on what is best for the parent, even when it isn’t what he or she wants.  It’s especially hard in cases like my mom’s, as her dementia makes it impossible for her to understand why she cannot live at home.

Other relationships change, too.  Our children grow up and we have to learn to become friends and mentors instead of parents.  Friends move and we have to adjust to relating via phone calls, email or letters instead of regular socializing.  Our spouse takes a new job, or retires and we need to change our daily routines and chore assignments.  Sometimes changing relationships have results that are good and welcomed, but other changes are painful and difficult, and almost all change is unsettling.

It’s good at times like this to remember that there is one person whose relationship to us does not change …Jesus Christ.  Oh, sometimes we may think He is ignoring us, but as a friend once told me, “if you feel further away from God than you were last year, who moved?”  The author of Hebrews tells us:

“Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever” Hebrews 13:8

He is our rock and our fortress, the one we can count upon when every other relationship changes.

Reunion Group Relationships

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If you attend a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend, you will be encouraged to continue growing in Christ by participating in what’s called a reunion group.  This is a small group that meets on a regular basis (monthly, weekly, whatever you choose) to talk about how things are going in the spiritual life of the members.

I have been in a reunion group on and off for over twenty years.  The groups change, of course, as people move or their life changes.  The group I am in now meets at our church once a month, and each month we discuss an aspect of our Christian walk:  piety (this covers things like prayer, worship and moments of closeness to Christ), study or action.  Each of us has an opportunity to tell how we’ve been doing in that area and what our plans are for the coming month.  We encourage one another and hold each other accountable.  We pray together and we pray for each other.

Over time being in such a group together fosters strong bonds.  It was my first group that taught me being quiet and shy didn’t mean I couldn’t be a leader and influence others for Christ.  The group I am in now started this blog!!  My reunion group sisters are the kind of friends who will support me, encourage me and jump in to help if I take on a commitment!  They hear my confessions and keep my confidences.  Through the years in reunion groups I have helped to plan congregational activities, organized small group Bible studies, participated in “crafty” projects (that one is a real stretch for me), and had fun in the process.  Rightly lived, a reunion group becomes a Christian community affecting the world.

If you’re not in a group like this, don’t put it off, it’s too important.  You don’t have to go on a Via de Cristo weekend;  you don’t have to call it a reunion group;  you don’t have to do things exactly as we do.  The point is to find a group of others who want to direct their lives to Christ and grow in faith.  Meet regularly, pray together, encourage one another, work together for Christ and hold each other accountable.  In years to come you’ll look back and be amazed at what God has done through you and how you have grown in faith together.

I hope our readers and my sister bloggers will join in by discussing this further.  Have you been in a reunion group (or a similar accountability group)?  How did it impact your spiritual growth?  I want to hear your stories.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us knot give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the day approaching.”  Hebrews 10: 24-25