Monthly Archives: April 2016

Small Doses

Hebrews TLB
5:8 And even though Jesus was God’s Son, he had to learn from experience what it was like to obey when obeying meant suffering. 9 It was after he had proved himself perfect in this experience that Jesus became the Giver of eternal salvation to all those who obey him.

Dictionary Connection:
The Bible gives us a magnificently big picture of God in our world.  Here’s the good news for today; Jesus is God’s application for our daily experience.  When it comes to obedience we need both

1. Noun – practical contact with and observation of facts or events.
2. Verb – encounter or undergo (an event or occurrence).

1. It’s a big thought that Jesus had to learn what obedience was like from his practical  experience. He was fully divine and he proved it, but he was also fully human and that is what he has to share with us.  What if obedience is the remedy that cures us from the dis-EASE of being human?  I know it’s sometimes hard to swallow. That’s the “noun” part.

2. Life is the “verb” part of experience. It requires undergoing Continue reading

Bottom Line of Confidence

Hebrews 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 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. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Dictionary Connections:
con·fi·dence –
1. the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.
2. a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

This dictionary turned out to be the key to my thoughts again this morning. Those two parts of the definition of confidence point out something we deal with in our daily lives; knowing the difference between confidence and self-assurance.

I know other versions of the Bible use the word “boldly” in place of “confidence” but I prefer this one. There are times when my grip on being able to live my faith as well as I speak it has been reduced by weaknesses to the Bottom Line of Confidence.

Those are the times when approaching the throne of Grace and getting to Jesus has very little to do with my boldness or self-assurance. The Bottom Line of Confidence looks more like a determined belly crawl through enemy lines, knowing I need to get to that throne no matter what. I may arrive there looking much worse for the wear but I’ll be there. There…where receiving mercy and finding grace become the reality of what I’m confident in, not how capable and self-assured I am on the approach.

The Mystery of Rest

Hebrews 4:9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

It’s interesting to me that sometimes just adding a dictionary definition to the study of the Word can enhance it’s meaning.

• re·mains – the parts left over after other parts have been removed, used, or destroyed.

What if God is reminding us that Sabbath-rest is an untapped resource that still remains after we’ve read, studied, prayed, taught and served in his name? Those are all good and essential things to do but I think Sabbath-rest is more complicated.

I know how difficult it is to get a handle on rest. Rest in my daily life often becomes the leftover time to do things I don’t have time to do when I’m busy working on something else.

I wonder if the Mystery of Rest is that God defines my work as that which keeps me too busy to dedicate my primary time to him? I do know this “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest…” It’s available. I don’t want to miss entering God’s rest by giving him only the leftovers after I’ve done everything else.

Another Chance

Hebrews 4:7 God again set a certain day, calling it. “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.

It took me several readings of this passage before I caught that word “again” right there at the beginning. “God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.”  It’s Sunday. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just another day on the calendar that ends at midnight with a little church thrown in for good measure. This is the day the Lord has made…for you…again.

Thank God for that one little word, “again,” just in case you missed it the first time. Even if it was a long time ago, that one word “again” means this Sunday is Another Chance for you to hear what God has to say to you personally. This is the [certain] day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it…again.

Imperfect People

Hebrews 3:12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

There’s a warning here about letting your heart be turned away from the living God. It becomes a matter of faith when we recognize our imperfection and our first thought is to cover it up. That’s how “a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” can happen.

Imperfect People aren’t a problem for God. He’s got a good handle on how to deal with them. What does deeply concern him is the ease with which we can make that wrong choice when confronted with our imperfection when the whole purpose of faith is to keep us connected and close to him.

That is a dismal reality that sometimes happens but there’s also hope “Today,” “so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” I saved this quote from Richard Dahlstrom’s writing. “All of us know our inadequacies pretty well – what we need is to be told how much we’re loved, where we’re gifted, where we can shine.”

“We have come to share in Christ” because that is how God has chosen to deal with our imperfection. We can choose to accept his anger and be left out or we can enter into our connection to him and be changed by choosing repentance. Repentance is often humiliating and painful, as pieces of that hardened heart are broken off for all to see.

What if humility and hurt are really the two halves of Grace?  What if God chooses to show us “how much we’re loved, where we’re gifted, where we can shine” through the humility and pain of repentance?  I know for sure that’s the kind of Grace that moves my heart from the pages of a great book to a life of faith connected to the “living” God.

Jesus…The Real Fixer-Upper

Hebrews 3:3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

For much of my life I’ve been a home improvement fan/promoter/nut.  I’ve  spent many hours doing hands-on carpentry, creating some useful and beautiful things and then enjoying the results in my home. Turn’s out it was good training. When I read this passage this morning it became a connection for me between God’s vast wisdom and my real day-to-day life; I am a fixer-upper but “God is the builder of everything.”

God’s tools are simple; his Word, your time and Jesus…The Real Fixer-Upper. Those tools provide ideas; you provide effort and the end result is the shared enjoyment, even delight, in the house you’re building together. “We are his house if we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.”

A Family for God

Hebrews 2:10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

We live in an age where “family” has taken on what seems like new meanings. Blended, mixed and single parent families often seem confusing. The lament seems to be what has happened to the traditional family?  That question made me consider families in the Old Testament when a man had many children by many wives. Wasn’t that traditional…then?

That second question made me think about how easy is it is to be “not Godless, but not Godly either.” That phrase is where I find real value in the stories of those Old Testament characters who’s traditional lives seemed to be such a mess, and in my own life as well. Somehow all our confusing and questionable ideas of “traditional” still are combining to become A Family for God with room available for more imperfect characters.

It isn’t the traditional that God is looking for at all; it’s the Godly. I’m rethinking my use of the word traditional in light of God’s concept of the perfect family: Himself, Jesus and [your name here]. “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.”

Borrowed Truth

Hebrews 2:1 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For since the message spoke through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

I’m not sure why Hebrews seems so difficult. Since everything builds on what has gone before this might be the perfect follow-up to Easter for me. I read and write daily even though I only publish twice weekly. On the surface those few paragraphs seem pretty simple but sometimes it takes me days of re-reading and re-writing to come to some recognition that my words are the truth I now have, minus the fillers and fluff [as much as possible]. Then I wait for information and sometimes affirmation and/or confirmation because God says he’ll do that.

The phrase “pay the most careful attention” was what stopped me in this chapter. Here’s an interesting thing to ponder: Is it really your truth if you haven’t paid careful attention to what you’ve heard and say you believe, or is it just somebody’s else’s truth you’ve borrowed? Something is happening within our family of believers that’s making us vulnerable to drifting away from what we say we believe.  Is Borrowed Truth why it’s so easy to say one thing and do another?

Borrowed Truth, in itself, is not unheard of. It IS how we learn. Remember the Apostle Paul wrestling with that same conflict of his own behavior? Here’s the truth I have for today. We won’t escape this issue in our lives either. What we have to pay careful attention to is that our “borrowed” truth becomes the reality of “bought and paid for” truth that Easter promised each of us it could be. That’s growth.