Category Archives: Wednesday

The Firsts: Hebrews 1 – Inheritance

NLT Hebrews 1:1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets.  And now in these final days…he has spoken to us through his Son.”  This is it folks, the absolute truth that has lasted through such a long history that it’s beyond our calculation of time.  Christ is “the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised.” [Hebrews 9:15]  

God has promised you a changed life for today and an inheritance for all eternity.  We have this inheritance because “in these final days, he [God] has spoken to us through his Son” not because of all the do’s, dont’s, could’s and should’s we cling to.  “When he [Christ] “cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven” to celebrate your inheritance with you…got it?

The Firsts: Titus 1 – Practice Purity

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,…15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.  In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. [NIV]

The life in which Jesus has chosen to live again for the world to see is ours!      “The hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” is critical to our life today because “to the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.”  The conscious need of those who love Jesus to practice purity in their daily life is the hope of a transformed world view!

We live in a world where we are bombarded on almost every front by impurity and yet the Apostle calls us “to be pure.”  Life in Christ as William Barclay says, is “the offer of God’s power for our frustration, of God’s serenity for our dispeace, of God’s truth for our guessing, of God’s goodness for our moral failure, of God’s joy for our sorrow…we can do nothing except receive.”  

“Now at his appointed season he [God] has brought to light” the reality of our need for purity. Mark 7:15 says “It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.[NLT]”  Isolation isn’t the answer to fighting the impurity of the world around us; choosing to live in Christ and practice purity in it is!  We have Jesus, we have the wisdom of the Scripture, we have the promises of God, and most practical of all we have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us practice purity.  Practice makes perfect.

The Firsts: I Timothy 1 – Victory

MSG 8-11 It’s true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that the law code isn’t primarily for people who live responsibly, but for the irresponsible, who defy all authority, riding roughshod over God, lif, sex, truth, whatever! They are contemptuous of this great Message I’ve been put in charge of by this great God.

This is probably the toughest “first” chapter so far for me.  I struggle with the use of the law.  I want to understand the law as a standard for correction that results in the victory of restoration not a cattle-prod of control but when push comes to shove that’s pretty hard to live out. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “hate the sin but love the sinner.”  That’s the ideal.  That’s easy to believe but that’s also where all the confusion about the use of the law comes into play.   

I found this quote in a commentary: “The demands of the law exceed our ability, and the knowledge of our sin that comes from these demands leads us to repentance.”  That quote revealed some truth to me about my use of the law.  My limited ability to understand the use of the law is as big an issue for me as it is for that sinner.  The reality is the sin the law reveals in someone else has an impact on me.  My response to the law and that sinner makes their sin my issue.  God has planned for the law to correct the sinner, but wait…there’s more.  The revelation of their sin that’s meant to lead their sinful heart to repentance and the use of “that moral guidance and counsel needed” that  “exceeds” my ability…is meant to change my heart too.  The law is not “us versus them.”  Repentance for the inability of my heart to empathize with the needs of another heart is the victory God desires from His law.  Lord, work that victory out in me too please.

The Firsts: I Thessalonians 1 – Following the Footnotes

Grace to you and peace.
V3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and [perseverance]steadfastness of hope [of]in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, 4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 
V5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we [became]proved to be among you for your sake. 
V9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a [entrance]reception we had [to]with you, and how you turned to God from [the]idols to serve [the]a living and true God, 
V10 and to wait for His Son from [the heavens]heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.

Footnotes are used to by translators to give more definition to a translated word or phrase.  There are eight footnotes listed in this short chapter of 10 verses. That was an emphasis that interested me so I read them substituting the dictionary definitions of the translators [footnotes].  They did just what the translators had hoped.

MY THOUGHTS: 
V3 Look at how our persistence to find hope is changed by that small change of the preposition from in to [of].  It’s Jesus’ own hope for us and his presence with God that makes our persistence and hope real and of value.
V5 ends with the footnote explanation of the reality that even the great Apostle Paul was a work in process.  Everywhere he went was still another beginning to be the person God had created him to be among the people God has placed him with.  Isn’t that the reality of what God expects of us: to “become” together? 
V9 We might believe circumstance is just a random force that life throws at us but in reality circumstance is the new access God provides to reveal to us the reality of the difference between the true God and the idols that constantly distract us.
V10 God knows about access!  He speaks with a power only he possesses from his own center of sovereignty to resurrect us from an ordinary life to new access..

There’s a theme here you may have picked up on; the movement of life and circumstance.  It could go either way.  It can be the very opportunity of new growth or it can be the dismal sense that change is just all about loss.  I’m late in posting this Wednesday because we’ve just moved.  You talk about a change in circumstance.  Everything about moving is like putting your faith in what you can’t possibly know but you’re filled with hope.  That’s followed by arriving at the new plaoce and discovering chaos has followed you and all your efforts at control and organization are overcome by the reality of all that “new.”  New chaos is just as exhausting as old chaos but now you’re in a place where you are reminded that God really has resurrected you from what you thought was a normal life to the access of new…again.

The Firsts: Philippians 1 – Practice

[NLT] Philippians 1:27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

Scripture is particularly surprising when ancient words create a bridge to everyday life.  I came across one particular old Greek word in reading what John Piper had to say about Philippians 1: politeuomai.  It’s an action word.
1. to be a citizen
2. to administer civil affairs, manage the state
3. to make or create a citizen
It wasn’t much of a stretch to see in “politeuomai” another more modern-day word…”polit-ics” and that became the bridge of thought for me.  God does have a purpose for our daily life in this world.  He’s created a place for us to practice living as “citizens of heaven, conducting [ourselves] in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.”  Paul reminds us that’s the very reason we have to stand “together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News…We are in this struggle together…” 

Practice can be fumbling, imperfect and often unpleasant BUT remember these two things: 1. everything depends on what we’re practicing AND 2. practice makes perfect.  God has given us this world to practice being citizens.  We have the “privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him” as we struggle with one another to perfect our desire to “live as citizens of heaven” in the midst of an imperfect reality.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man of faith who lived and died for these words he wrote: ”I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.”

The Firsts: Galatians 1 – The In-Between Years

Galatians 1: 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being…21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me. [NIV]

My first thought was the wisdom of Paul essentially tying his relationship to God way back to the womb, the safe place where growth first begins.  We know a lot about Paul’s gift of evangelism.  We know Paul by his fruit that expanded God’s church enough to include the likes of us.  We also know Paul’s history of his dark in-between years and that’s what caught my attention.  Paul’s story is really a story of God’s provision to redeem the flaws of “in-between” years.

The church is our second womb. It’s a God created place full of flawed people with their own in-between years. People that need a safe place to grow. I’ve begun to understand why God would choose to fill his house with those flawed people and still give them Spiritual gifts.  We admire those gifts when we see them work. They’re not just gifts given because they build his church. They’re the same gifts God uses to rebuild the flawed people who find a home there.  

There’s a blessing in knowing I’m a part of the place of rebuilding where what I lack is not the downfall of the church I love.  God has made the church his provision for each of us where your Spiritual gift can become part of my growth as we learn how to expand his Kingdom together.  

Paul writes of that marvelous work of God and his own in-between years that were designed to destroy.  His words are reminders that God uses gifted, flawed people to reveal himself in each of us, in his church and the world. It wasn’t boasting that gave the Apostle Paul the courage to say “…they praised God because of me.”  It was knowing God had taken the dark flaws of his in-between years and made them the reality of his redemption when “preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”  

The Firsts: I Corinthians 1 – Polar Opposites

I Corinthians 1:18 I know very well how foolish it sounds to those who are lost, when they hear that Jesus died to save them. But we who are saved recognize this message as the very power of God.  19 For God says, “I will destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be, and ignore the best ideas of men, even the most brilliant of them.”  20 So what about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. 21 For God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human brilliance, and then he stepped in and saved* all those who believed his message, which the world calls foolish and silly. [TLB]

The Jewish mindset was confidence in the law.  Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because his death on a cross marked him as a law-breaker cursed by God [see Deuteronomy 21:23].  The cross was “useless nonsense” to them.

The Greek’s idea of God was a just and impartial ruler that remained detached from the emotions and influence of his creation.  Therefore the idea that “God the Son” would suffer on a cross to save so many seemed “foolish and silly” to them.  

Isn’t it interesting that the cross was the stumbling block to salvation for each of those polar opposite ideas?  “God in his wisdom saw to it that” the cross could become a bridge. “When they hear that Jesus died to save them” they each have the same opportunity to “recognize this message as the very power of God.”  Even polar opposites can be united through the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ because God *loves them all enough to save them.