Category Archives: Sunday

Backwards Cliff Notes on Layers

Hebrews 13 – 9
Throughout the book, we are also challenged to remain faithful to Jesus and follow great models of faith from the Old Testament despite hardships and persecution. These challenges will make us uncomfortable but instead of fearing them, remember that rejecting Jesus is foolish.  Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God’s love and mercy and is worthy of all our trust and devotion.
[The Bible Project]

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All of Scripture is God letting us look into the past to show us how to build our life of faith today.  Usually I read as if chapters are layers that pile up one after another to result in the truth of the book.  Reading Hebrews backwards is like peeling those layers back, one a time, to discover for myself truth that can be built into everyday life AND the future.  So these are cliff notes from my writings on chapters [13 – 9] each numbered and listed without further editing in that same “backwards” order.  My goal is to discover confirmed evidence the Holy Spirit is working through these layers of God’s word to teach me exactly what I need to learn.

         [13] Outside” is where Christ receives your brokenness and disgrace and makes them his own.  It’s the plan of God that we who are outsiders can go to where “new” begins, the Cross.  [12] God has saved the unmerited favor of His Grace IN us.  Living with the reality of that forgiveness is the discipline of Grace that turns faith into action.
          [11] Those ancestors made it into this “By Faith” chapter because their faith reached into the future of US.  That past and their faith has reached beyond time to strengthen our present with the promise of completion for US all as the future unfolds.  US is God’s version of “outreach” at it’s most creative. [10] Today we have God’s incredible exception to those annual sacrifices.   The blood of Jesus and the Grace of God have provided a way to remove the guilt of our sin from God’s memory forever…but our memory is still a natural consequence of sin.   [9] Circumstances are where God begins. Right from the beginning God desired to be present with us because of love.  Right from the beginning when circumstances might have denied that truth, God began.
          √ Confirmed

Memory

Hebrews 10 NIV
• 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.
•14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
• 18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

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These Hebrew worshipper’s sacrifices were an annual reminder for them of the guilt of their sin. They counted on sacrifice for relief from the penalty of sin and to temporarily remove the sin from God’s memory as well as their own.  Today we have God’s incredible exception to those annual sacrifices.   The blood of Jesus and the Grace of God have provided a way to remove the guilt of our sin from God’s memory forever…but our memory is still a natural consequence of sin.  

The memories of confessed and forgiven sins can still hurt when they pop up but they are only meant to remind us to give thanks in that moment for our renewed awareness of the permanence and purpose of His forgiveness and Grace at work in us.  “He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” and “where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”  

In Us

NLT Hebrews 12 and James 1 & 2 [NLT]
Hebrews 12:2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy [or instead of the joy] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame…23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which `speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.  25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking…

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You have come…. x4 to the place that “speaks of forgiveness.”  When we ask God to forgive our behavior His response is the unmerited favor of His Grace.  Forgiveness is the foundation of our faith that becomes this specific discipline of Grace; “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” and “mediates the new covenant between God and people.”  

Hebrews urges “Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking.” The first words I heard as I listened were; “forgiveness” [what only God can do] and “discipline” [what I can do].  Then I heard a familiar echo of those words with these from James 1 and 2 – “faith” and “actions.”   They’re copied below for you to read with ‘forgiveness’ substituted for the word [faith], ‘discipline’ for the word [endurance] and ‘Grace’ as the verb that replaces [actions].

James 1:3 For you know that when your forgiveness [faith] is tested, your discipline [endurance] has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your discipline [endurance] is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing…2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have forgiveness [faith] but don’t show it by your Grace [actions]? Can that kind of forgiveness [faith] save anyone? 

This post has become a perfect example for me of these truths:
ALL the books of the Bible work together for our good.  The Spirit really does link truths from different Scriptures in new and meaningful ways.  Forgiveness and discipline do help explain faith and actions AND faith and actions do help explain forgiveness and discipline.

AND finally the most important truth of all: God has saved the unmerited favor of His Grace IN us.  Living with the reality of that forgiveness is the discipline of Grace that turns faith into action.

Contrasts that Complete

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

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You know the story: Day 1: Light and darkness.  Day 2: Sky and water, Day 3: Land and sky.  Day 4: Day and Night.  Day 5:  Sea creatures and land creatures.  Day 6: Increase, His own image in man and woman, reproductive rights and responsibility.  Day 7: And at last rest.

God chose to highlight the universe He was creating by accenting the contrasts of each day. This is His world system: completeness built from contrasts that complete each other.  In the beginning there was only “sameness” and then God spoke all of these contrasts into being.  Clearly the method God has chosen for His creation to succeed is the ability to see each of those contrasts as part of His complete design. 

Today we are challenged by a world less concerned about completeness than it is with identifying contrasts that separate us.  The adversary’s god is the sameness that blurs the value of the contrasts God revealed.  Our challenge is to remember God chose contrasts, not sameness, to be the elements that would complete His creation and THAT is what He declared good.  

Sin and Should

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Silence

Ecclesiastes 5:1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. 2 Do not be quick with your mouth do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.  God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

“Silence is one of the deepest disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on all self-justification.  One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier. We don’t need to straighten others out.”   Richard Foster Seeking the Kingdom

The effort I spend daily to sort and write my thoughts for these blog posts is my door into the “house of God.” It’s as simple as this: when I’m writing, I’m not talking…I’m listening.  It’s a different kind of listening that let’s you “hear” what God is silently speaking into your heart.

God’s Words have power even when they’re unspoken.  I was so certain what had been silently spoken into my heart was meant for someone else that day but God chose silence for me.  The unspoken Word I’d prepared to support “my” right position and straighten “them” out, changed me instead.  The obedience of silence became a repentance of tears that saved me from using the power of the Word as “the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.”

How, why and when we speak matters.  “Do not be quick with your mouth do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.”  “God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” 

And God Spoke…

Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words:  2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 You shall have no other gods before[besides] me.”

Current events have once again challenged my perspective and driven me back to these words from God’s own mouth, His #1 commandment.  “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”  This is God’s #1…forever!  

God’s “Egypt,” then, didn’t specifically mention the little “g” gods that occupy our “land of slavery” now.  Today our “land of slavery” is defined by vital issues like mass shootings, racism, political affiliation, sexual orientation and  individual rights.  Too often we’ve let those issues lead us to justify any means to an end as long as it’s the end we’ve decided is best.  That’s a sure sign we’ve replaced the real #1 with the god we know best, ourselves.  Over time we’ve let God’s Word go in one ear and out the other.  

God’s #1 purpose is still to remind us the “land of slavery” is real.  It’s filled with vital issues we can’t solve alone.   Only when we’re willing to recognize that fact will He bring us out of the “Egypt” of our own making and make His own #1 commandment our #1 priority too.  “You shall have no other gods before [besides] me.”