Jesus, the Word of God

It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, which is the true word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to him. ” C. S. Lewis

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” Hebrews 1:1-2

Our High Priest

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin .”Hebrews 4:15

When we are challenged by the difficulties of life, it may help to meditate on the verse above. Jesus, although God, was also fully human and experienced many of the same situations that we do. For example:

  1. He was betrayed by a friend (Judas)
  2. He felt overwhelmed by His mission (in the Garden of Gethsemane)
  3. He grieved when His friend Lazarus died
  4. He was rejected in His home town
  5. He was tempted by the devil in the desert
  6. He became angry with the moneychangers in the Temple
  7. He allowed Himself to become weak and be arrested
  8. He suffered when he was beaten
  9. He was ridiculed by the guards
  10. He appeared to be a failure when he died on the cross

How did he manage to endure all this without sin? He prayed; He turned to the Scriptures; He trusted God; He kept His mind of His mission and His goal, instead of the esteem of the world.

We’re not perfect, like Jesus. We will sin. But we can follow His example, and be comforted.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Grade Yourself #3

I’ve been thinking a lot this month about grading yourself honestly on how you are doing spiritually — is it possible (see Grade Yourself)  and who/what should you compare yourself to in assigning a grade (see  Grade Yourself #2 ).  I concluded with input from a friend, that each of us should be “graded” against ourselves.  How have we matured in our relationship with God, our good works, our understanding of Scripture over the past weeks, months or years.

Recently I did another spiritual exercise that had to do with imagining my own death.  How would I want to be remembered?  What would I expect to be said in my eulogy.    What are my life goals and have I met them?  This too, is a kind of “grading” or evaluating.  Of course, it is my faith and not my works that save me, but will I feel at all  worthy to hear these words?

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'”  Matthew 25:23

I thought hard about this.  Looking back on my life, trying to grade myself, I would consider three things.  The first is my life verse(actually it’s two verses):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Second is my personal mission statement What’s My Mission?:

“”To keep in mind that I am a pilgrim on a journey to draw closer to God’;  to recognize and respect this pilgrim quality in others and use my God given talents, insights, and resources to encourage them;  to enjoy the life, friends, family and work with which I have been blessed and to be a peaceful and harmonious influence in all of these places.”

Finally, my core values (L. A. T. C. H. On To Your Core Values):

  • Learning
  • Attentiveness
  • Teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Honesty

These are the things I would use to “grade” my life–this is what I would use to see if I had worked toward being the kind of servant God created me to be.

If you haven’t done any exercises like these, I would encourage you to do so.  Knowing what you’re aiming for will help you persevere.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”

 

 

 

What is Hope?

I probably should have written this post earlier in the month, but better late than never!  According to the Bible, hope is an important component of faith.  My Bible dictionary defines it as:

“reliance on God’s blessing ad provision;  the expectation of future good.

The author of Hebrews puts it this way:

 “”Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Hebrews 11:1      

 

In other words,  our Christian hope is not just a wish, it is a confident belief that God’s in charge and he is working all things for our good.       

This hope is based upon the Scripture:

“For whatever was written in former days , was written for our instruction, that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope.”  Romans 15:4

and on the promises of God:

” … in hope of eternal life, which God who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted …. ” Titus 1:2-3

It is described as living (1 Peter 1:3), good (2 Thess.2:16), sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6:19) and is listed as one of the great virtues in 1 Cor. 13:13.  It produces purity (1 John 3:3), patience (Romans 8:25), courage (Romans 5:4-4), and joy (Romans 12:12).  It imparts salvation (Romans 8:23), assurance (Hebrews 6:18-19) and stability (Col. 1:23).

What a wealth of blessing are wrapped into this one word!  No wonder it is mentioned so frequently in the Psalms, as the Lord is praised.

“Let your steadfast love, O Lord be upon us, even as we hope in you.”  Psalm 33:22

Readers, may you always have the hope of the Lord in your life!

Our Anchor

When I first starting working as a buyer, back in 1972, not only were there no desktop computers, there was no such thing as voicemail!  All of our records were manual copies, kept in a file cabinet.  I didn’t have a cell phone or a microwave.

While technology has improved immensely, I can’t say the same for my physical body.  I’m about thirty pounds heavier, I have to dye my hair to keep the gray away, and I have all sorts of aches and pains I never imagined!

A  Greek philosopher, Heraclitus once said “change is the only constant in life.”  That seems about right.  That’s one of the things that makes life uncertain — it’s impossible to predict what things will be like in thirty or forty years.  Our jobs may become obsolete.  Our health may fail.  Our best friend may move across the country.  There could be wars or climate change or natural disasters.  Who knows?

That’s what makes faith so important.  It gives our life an firm foundation because the truths and character of God are certain.  When everything else around us falls apart, those things remain the same.  In our Hebrews sermon series at church, the most recent sermon centered on this verse:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

There’s a big word for this — immutable.  In the book of Malachi, God Himself tells His people:

“”I am the LORD, and I do not change.”  Malachi 3:6

In other places in the Bible we are told that God’s love is steadfast and His mercy endures forever.  These are just different ways of telling us that we can trust God and rely upon His promises.  He knew us in the womb where He formed us, and He will love and care for us until the end of our earthly lives and beyond.  That’s the one thing we can count on.

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. ”  Hebrews 19-20

 

For more posts about the unchanging nature of God follow these links:

A Parent Who Never Forgets

Mercy For Today by Jonathan Parnell– Book Review

 

Strengthen Your Feeble Arms

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.  Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. ”  Hebrews 12:12

My husband has been preaching through the book of Hebrews (my favorite).  A few weeks ago, we heard about the great cloud of witnesses who surround us — those biblical and contemporary saints who went before us and suffered for the faith.  Then we learned about discipline, how we should submit to it because God is building our character through it.  Last week’s sermon started with the verse above.  The therefore means we should pay attention to what has come before.  Because we are one in a long line of saints, because we have endured the Lord’s discipline, we are to continue to be strong in order to encourage others.

I have to admit that lately I’ve been feeling rather weak.  I’m getting older (turning 70 later this month) and this coronavirus situation has dealt a blow.  A month or more of enforced isolation somehow lessened my desire to get out and accomplish things.  Church is more difficult — people are uneasy and quick to accuse others of not doing the right thing, some are not attending at all, finances are suffering.  We’re uncertain about the future, and frankly, I’m not sure I’m up to being an optimistic leader right now.

The verse about tells me that quitting is not an option.  We are to remain strong, not only for ourselves but for others.  Any suffering we encounter is simply a consequence of our sinful humanity, and as the author puts it in verse 4:

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”  Hebrews 12:5

The last chapter of the book closes with a list of things we can be doing no matter how daunting our situation.  Take a look:

  • “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy.” (12:14)
  •  “See to it that no one misses the grace of God, and that no bitter root grows up” (12:15)
  • “Keep on loving each other as brothers.” (13:1)
  • “Do not forget to entertain strangers” (13:2)
  • “Remember those in prison” (13:3)
  • “Marriage should be honored by all” (13:4)
  •  “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” (13:5)
  • “Remember your leaders” (13:7)
  • “Pray for us” (13:18)

There’s more, but this gives you a taste.  There is much to be done.  We’re to continue serving God and serving others — this much is certain.  Weak knees are not an excuse!

For more on the book of Hebrews, see these posts:

Interactive Bible Study -Hebrews Chapter 12

Interactive Bible Study-Hebrews Chapter 13

Thankful for Others –Hebrews Chapter 12

Thankful for Leaders –Hebrews Chapter 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lead On O King Eternal

In times of uncertainty, one of the best thing we can do is follow a trusted leader.  As Christians, we know that Jesus is the one leader who will always fit that description.  In the book of Hebrews  the unknown author tells us to:

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

This theme is also expressed in the hymn, Lead On O King Eternal, which was written by Ernest Shurtleff on the occasion of the graduation of his seminary class (Andover Theological Seminary) in 1887.  Although much of the imagery is warlike, it really speaks of commitment to following Jesus through Christian love and service.

Maintain Clarity — Focus On Your Goal

Part of clarity is being confident of your goal and continuing to focus on it. The author of Hebrews (who is unknown) was keenly aware of this. He was advising Jewish Christians to keep their attention centered on Jesus as their Savior, and not fall back into trying to keep all the laws and traditions in order to earn Gods’ approval. Instead he reminded them:

“…… since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

As Christians, we may be aware of our goal, but as the author noted, there are so many other things that distract us. Sin is always “crouching at our door.” But there are good things that hinder us as well — our family, our job, our friends. Day to day living tends to tangle us up in the expedient — the things that need to be taken care of NOW. While we mustn’t ignore our responsibilities or eschew all pleasures, we do have to keep the big picture before us: God’s picture and our place in it. This quote says it well:

“We live not for ourselves, but for God; for some purpose of His; for some special end to be accomplished, which He has willed to be accomplished by oneself, and not by another; something which will be left undone, if we do it not, or not be done as it would have been done if the one ordained to it had done it. We live gifted with certain forms of spiritual grace embodied in us, for some purpose of Divine Love to be fulfilled by us, some idea of the Divine Mind to be imaged forth in our creaturely state. To devote oneself to God is to concentrate the powers of one’s being to their ordained end, therefore to have the happiest and truest life–happiest, because happiness must be in the accordance of these powers with the law of their creation, and truest because the attainment of the highest glory must be in the accomplishment of the end for which we were created.”

T. T. Carter

How do we know what our particular purpose is?  That’s a topic for another post.  Stay tuned.

For more on the Book of Hebrews, go to these posts:

Interactive Bible Study -Hebrews Chapter 12

Thankful for Others –Hebrews Chapter 12

 



 

Lost

I had a dream the other night about being lost.  In fact, I have recurring dreams of this sort — I’ve lost my purse, my keys or my car.  I’m lost in the Mall or at a school and can’t find my class.  Along with the “lost” feature, I’m also usually worried because I’m going to be late.  I call them “anxiety” dreams, and it turns out they’re not uncommon.  Many people have them.

It recently dawned on me that maybe there’s a reason so many of us feel lost in our dream lives.  It could be quite simple — we feel lost, we worry about being lost because we ARE lost.  It tells us this quite plainly in the Bible:

All we like sheep have gone astray”  Isaiah 53:6

We are lost because we are displaced, never quite feeling quite at home in this life, as Peter acknowledges in this exhortation:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” 1Peter 2:11

We are constantly searching for our permanent dwelling place:

“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Hebrews 13:14

On the surface we may seem comfortable in the life around us, but unconsciously we know that we were meant for something different:  a life described in chapter 21 of the book of Revelation.

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:3-4

Until then, we’ll always feel a little bit lost.  We’ll always be looking for something.  We’ll always be unsettled.  Or, as St. Augustine once wrote:

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

 

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I implore you. –Part 1

Part 1

I begin as the Apostle Paul began; first with greetings and what is admirable and good about our collective statement of faith, then with a reminder of what God’s truth is.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I love that we are so patient and tolerant and want nothing more than to show others the love of Jesus Christ. I love that we are the polite Chick Fil A goers and we fill those large churches with joyful singing. We are a patient, forgiving, and kind group of people. Yet, there is a side that also means love but we call it discipline.

Please then fellow Christians, please stop apologizing to the world for what God says is wrong. Of course God forgives and God loves all His children (believers or non), but would you say that God condones sin? Is Our almighty God okay with adulterous behavior, molesters, thieves, or murder? Of course not! Yet when we tolerate certain behaviors in the church we broadcast to the secular world that very message without meaning to. Yes, forgive within the church and outside the church but please don’t pretend it’s ok. Consequences need to still be a thing. In fact God uses consequences for our good.

1 Corinthians:5

3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Yes, the Bible said hand him over to Satan. Doesn’t sound very kind, but look what it says after that. “So that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” The spirit is more important. We have to start thinking eternally. Again Paul goes on further still saying this:

1 Corinthians:5

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

In other words, as professed Christians, we are told explicitly to judge those who also claim to be followers of Christ Jesus. We are to set the good example and not conform to the worldly ways. Not speaking of daily mess ups that we all have, or even of the renewed in Christ who know of the past condemning life they led; but specifically I (Paul also) speak of the current proclaimed, professing Christian who goes on deliberately condoning (or doing) what the Bible speaks against. In 1 Corinthians chapter 6, we read:

Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

I address this first because I want to remind my brothers and sisters in Christ, that our title comes with responsibility. That having taken on the name of Christ, we now assume representation of Him. Whether on purpose or through our everyday customs that just don’t look very becoming. (Example: cursing) In our lives, appearances do matter. Just like when a teacher tells children to act as best they can, so that the school they attend might be represented in the best light. Why wouldn’t (or couldn’t) adults be able to control their behavior in the same way? Of course mistakes will be made, however, can we say we’ve tried if we’ve already formed an excuse in our minds? If children can be taught self-control, can we not do the same? Shouldn’t we in fact try even harder for the sake of our children and even more so the sake of our Savior who paid such a high price? Our Savior who bought us with His blood? Yes, of course.

Because it is better to be disciplined by those who love you and save your soul, than to go on in polite tolerance thereby risking eternal death. Christians please, remember our beginnings. Remember who we are. Remember that it is an ETERNAL existence we fight for. This life, our church, is but a shadow of things to come. Of things in heaven that our buildings and society pale in comparison to.

Hebrews 8:5

“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”