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God graciously gives us everything we need for life and godliness.  In our spiritual journey we rely on Jesus Christ from the beginning to the very end.  Everything comes from God.  Christian spirituality is simply following Jesus and receiving from Him.


Reflections on Hebrews


Day 1

God Speaks!

In the past God spoke to our forefathers 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 He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. And after He made purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So He became much superior to the angels as the name he inherited is superior to theirs.  Hebrews 1:1-4 (NIV)

God speaks to us!  He spoke through the prophets many times. This is different. Now God speaks by His Son, Jesus Christ. With the arrival of Jesus, God speaks in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is really remarkable. Jesus is the heir of all things, He made everything that exits, He shines forth God's glory and maintains the universe. He made purification for sins; in Him we have complete forgiveness. He is the exact representation of God. When we look at Jesus we are looking at God. He is now sitting at the right hand of God the Father, the highest position of honor, glory and power.  

We needed another. And He has come. The Word, God Himself, became flesh; the greatest miracle ever.

God speaks and it is wonderful.

Day 2

Graduations, Class Reunions and Time

But about the Son He says "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."  He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." Hebrews 1:8-12 (NIV)

It's graduation time! This past weekend my son, Michael, graduated from Colorado Christian University. It was a fun weekend of celebration, introductions, goodbyes and new beginnings.  Another thing happened this past week, I started getting emails about my high school class reunion this coming summer. There have been other reunions, but this one quickly snuck up on me. I wasn't expecting our 40 year class reunion to come so soon. Forty years sounds like a long time. Am I really old enough to have graduated from high school forty years ago? It only seems like a couple of years since our 20 year reunion. I used to think that people over thirty were old. Now seventy or eighty doesn't seem old at all. I still think of myself as a young man. (When I'm not looking in a mirror.)

Time quickly slips away from us. The years fly by quickly. We live as prisoners stuck in time. The years of our life are consumed too quickly. We grow old. We wear out. We die.

But Christ is someone else entirely. He is outside of time. Like God, the Father, He is eternal. He is always the same. He doesn't wear out. His years will never end. Jesus is not bound by time. He created it. He entered into time so that we could enter eternity. In Christ, there is eternal life. In Christ we are outside the passage of time and much much more.

Day 3

Jesus, Angels and Pastors

To which of the angels did God ever say, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"? Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:13-14 (NIV)

Last Thursday was Ascension Day, the day the church celebrates the ascension of Jesus Christ. (I'm a week late writing about it.) This was one of the most amazing events ever.  Jesus Christ left the place of His humiliation and suffering (earth) to enter glory. He went from being despised and rejected to being enthroned as King of the universe. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He possesses all authority in heaven and earth. He reigns with power. This verse is quotes Palm 110:1, a messianic Psalm which says "The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'" The supremacy of Christ prophesied in Psalm 110 has been fulfilled. Christ is far above the angels. He is Lord and God, seated enthroned on high.

The word angel means messenger. Pastors of the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are actually referred to as angels - God's messengers. In my experience angel is an appropriate term for a pastor. Most pastors that I know (or have known) sacrificially serve and care for people in ways far outside their job description - in my mind they are "angels". (I can already hear comments about fallen angels coming. But I've been blessed and served by many pastors.) In this verse and in most cases in the Bible angels are powerful spiritual beings created by God. They worship and serve God as God directs them. And they were created to serve us. This is one of the many ways God cares for us. Usually I am not even aware of their ministry. They delight in serving God and us.

Jesus rules, he is seated on His heavenly throne. Christ is superior to any angel.


Day 4

Ashamed, Not Ashamed

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. He says, "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises." And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again he says, "Here am I, and the children God has given to him." Hebrews 2:11-13 (NIV)

As a Christian (and Christian worker) many times I have been ashamed to be associated with other believers. I cringe when certain statements made by Christian leaders make news headlines. There are scandals, insensitive remarks and much more that I don't want to be associated with. There also are Christians who are very different from me. They have opinions I don't agree with or habits that annoy me. I have a difficult time calling some people my "brothers" or "sisters" in Christ.

The problem is that I want to look good. I don't want to be embarrassed or ashamed. I want my family, neighbors and friends to think I am a great guy. I want them to think that I am intelligent, sensitive, loving, caring, generous, reasonable and good. I'm afraid that what other Christians do or say will affect how people view me. I could say that I want God to look good, that I want Jesus Christ to be glorified (and I do). However, my real motives are not pure; it's my image I most want to protect.

The truth is, I have a lot more in common with people I'd rather not be associated with than I have in common with God. Yet, Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers or sisters. I have heard over and over since I was a child that Jesus loves us. I've heard it so often that I take God's love for granted and don't understand the full implications. We are so different and so far away from God that only Christ's death could bridge the great abyss between us and God. Jesus came as our Brother, He took on "flesh and blood", He became one of us, suffered death for us. He is not ashamed of me. He is not ashamed of us. This is amazing love.


Day 5

God Shared Our Humanity

Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power over death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels He helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18 (NIV)

I have been thinking a lot about life and death lately.

My Aunt Dorothy (my mother's younger sister) died early yesterday morning. I admired her a lot. I liked being around her. She was joyful, loved life, laughed a lot. All very remarkable considering the many challenges she faced in life. Aunt Dorothy was widowed twice, once as a very young mother. She lost a child. She raised another ten children to adulthood. She was compassionate and caring. Aunt Dorothy seemed to always be taking care of someone. She cared deeply about her family, friends, neighbors and her community. Somehow she found time to serve on her town planning commission, the county unemployment commission and for a while was a lobbyist taking local concerns she cared about to state and national leaders. She died peacefully surrounded by those she loved most, her children and grandchildren. I will miss her.

Jesus Christ shared in our humanity. He is fully God and fully man united in one person. The Lord of the universe humbled Himself by taking on human flesh. He experienced joy, sorrow, grief and death. God loved us so much that He was willing to suffer and die to defeat our biggest enemy, death. He understands intimately what we are experiencing - fear, grief, sorrow, suffering and temptation. There is no sorrow, trial or temptation we will ever face that Christ does not perfectly understand. In His mercy he made atonement for our sins by offering and becoming the sacrifice Himself. He defeated sin and death. He understands and is able to help.


Day 6

Jesus, Moses and Me

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed Him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has a greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are His house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. Hebrews 3:1-6 (NIV)

I like to read. I like good biographies. Especially biographies that tell the stories of people I admire. Stories about my heroes. My favorite parts of the Bible are the stories about people. For some reason the people I identify myself with are the heroes. People like Mary, Paul, Barnabas, Joseph, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, and Moses. I don't identify with Judas, the Pharisees, Peter denying Christ, Joseph's brothers or the thousands of complaining Israelites wandering in the wilderness. I don't think of myself as the bad guy. I'm the good guy, slightly flawed but still the hero. I don't usually even identify myself with people in the crowds that Jesus taught and fed, or with someone He healed. I imagine that if I was there I would have had a lead role in the story. My name might have been mentioned in a positive way.

Moses was one of the greatest leaders in the Bible. He liberated an entire nation from slavery. He led them out of Egypt. He overcame all kinds of opposition. Moses spoke to God as one speaks to a friend. He gave the written law of God to his people. No one was more respected than Moses. Yet, Jesus Christ is far superior to Moses. Moses doesn't even come close to the Son of God. He doesn't compare to Christ.

The truth is I am one who needs to be rescued. My thinking is messed up. I succumb to self-deception. I am not like Moses. (Not even close.) I wouldn't have had a leading role. I am more like one of the unnamed complaining Israelites reluctantly following Moses, a helpless person in the crowd in need of healing, a self-righteous Pharisee, one of Joseph's brothers or Judas. That's why the story of Jesus is so wonderful. Jesus underwent the crucifixion I deserve. God rescues us, redeems us and we get to share in the heavenly calling.


Day 7

God Provides Encouragement

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.  Hebrews 3: 12-13 (NIV)

I'm very grateful for the encouragement that God constantly provides. I don't think much about it, I take it for granted. I've been going to church and Sunday school every week since I was a child. Every week when I attend a worship service I pray, meditate, listen to God's Word read, confess sin, sing praises and remember the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as a part of the service. Every week I am reminded of the gospel and my need for Christ. I look around and see others worshiping, just like me. No matter what has happened during the rest of the week, God graciously provides me with what I need to keep my heart from becoming hard. When I'm spiritually "dry" I still pray, listen to God's Word, confess and think about God's goodness. I am encouraged in my walk with God. I find myself praying in church when it seems impossible to pray. I find myself confessing sin and repenting when I wasn't planning on it. I might not have picked up my Bible all week, but my heart is softened when I hear God's Word read. I'm reminded of Christ's death and exprience His grace in the Lord's Supper. I see others around me and I know that I am not alone.

Every good gift comes from God. The church is God's gracious gift to us.


Day 8

God Sees

For the word of God is living 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. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4: 12-16 (NIV)

My mother used to say "I have eyes in the back of my head." I believed it! As a child it seemed like I couldn't get away with anything. I had no idea how my parents knew, but they did.

The penetrating power of God's Word judges the thoughts and attitudes of our heart. It even shows us sin we are unaware of. God knows us far better than we know ourselves. Nothing is hidden from God. He sees everything. Even our innermost thoughts and motives are open before the all-seeing eyes of God. Yikes!

The author of Hebrews never loses sight of Jesus Christ and the gospel. Jesus, the Son of God, has gone through the heavens and is our Advocate in the throne room of God. Jesus was fully human. He was tempted in every way, just like us - yet without sin. He understands. He is able to sympathize with our weakness.

Normally, no one would dare come close to a holy and righteous God. But because of Christ, we can approach God's throne with joy and confidence. We will find grace and mercy in God's presence.


Day 9

Able to Understand

Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weaknesses. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my son; today I have become your Father." And he says in another place, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." Hebrews 5:1-6

I was really hurting. Spending an afternoon talking with a friend about a very difficult and painful experience made all the difference. It was emotionally healing. He understood. He had been through an almost identical experience. He let me talk and didn't say much at all. I didn't get advice, I didn't need advice. What I got was someone who listened, cared and understood. Something changed after that, I was finally able to forgive and begin to move on simply because someone understood.

Jesus Christ is supremely qualified to be a high priest. Jesus was appointed not as a temporary high priest, but as a permanent - eternal - high priest. The sacrifice He offered was Himself. Unlike other priests, Jesus did not need to offer sacrifices for His own sin. He is perfectly able to understand and gently minister to us because of the suffering he experienced.


Day 10

God Does Hear

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 5: 7-10 (NIV)

Have you ever prayed and received an answer to your prayers that doesn't seem like an answer at all? I have. So did Jesus.

Jesus prayed fervently with tears to be saved out of death and he was heard. How was Jesus prayer answered? In one sense the Father's answer was no, Jesus would have to suffer a horrible death. In another sense the answer was yes, Jesus would rise from the grave never to die again. He was saved out of death and now sits enthroned as King of Kings at the right hand of God. We now have the hope of eternal life because of His death and resurrection. God's eternal purposes were accomplished through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

We experience deep disappointment, pain or loss. A dream dies. We may be close to despair. It seems like our prayers go unanswered. Fortunately, Jesus Christ is a high priest who understands. He does hear our prayers. Our Lord is a God who brings life even out of death.

Day 11

An Anchor for the Soul

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6: 19-20 (NIV)

It is Jesus in whom we believe and trust. He went before us. The anchor of a ship holds a vessel safe and secure even in a dangerous storm with strong winds. We have an anchor for our soul, Jesus Christ. The hope of our salvation is absolutely safe and completely secure, being anchored in the promises of God. Our hope is anchored in God Himself! We have a safe refuge in the promise of God. By God's grace we can cling to the hope of eternal salvation without wavering.


Day 12

He Meets Our Need

But he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.'" Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. Now there have been many priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need - one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priest men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. Hebrews 7: 21-28 (NIV)

Jesus Christ is indeed the supreme high priest. His priesthood is permanent and superior to everyone that preceded Him. And because it never ends His is able to save completely all who come to God through Him! Jesus is constantly interceding (praying) for us - bridging the gap that exists between us and God the Father. The One who personally paid the price for our sin pleads our case before His Father's throne of judgment. He is devoted to insuring our eternal salvation. He begs for the forgiveness we need but don't deserve. Jesus meets our greatest need.


Day 13

The Point Is

The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer gifts prescribed by the law. 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." But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is a mediator is superior to the old one, and is founded on better promises. Hebrews 8:1-6 (NIV)

"So, what's the point?" or "Would you please, get to the point!" I admit that is a question (or statement) that comes into my mind frequently. I might be in a conversation, listening to a speaker, in a meeting or reading an article. I like it when things are clear and concise. I rarely say it out loud, of course. I like to think of myself as a patient person.

The author of Hebrews summarizes the main point he has been trying to make. That is, Jesus' ministry is superior because He sits at God the Father's right hand and serves in God's actual tabernacle. Priests on earth serve in a tabernacle that is only a copy of the real one in heaven. That ministry was valuable for instruction because it provides us with a picture of the real tabernacle. But Jesus ministry is superior because it is not a shadow or a copy - it is reality! His ministry is what actually cleanses us from sin and brings us into a right relationship with the living God. I'm thankful this is reality, I need cleansing from sin.


Day 14

Promises

"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Hebrews 8:10-12 (NIV)

Promises. I've made them. I've kept promises. I've broken promises. I've disappointed people. I've been disappointed when promises that were made to me weren't kept. Sometimes there are good reasons why I can't keep a promise. There are circumstances I can't control. Other times it's entirely my fault. Whatever the reason, I've failed to keep my promise.

God has made a covenant with His people. He puts His laws in our minds and writes them on our hearts. He will be our God and we will be His people. We will know the Lord. God will forgive us. These are amazing promises. Promises God keeps.

God's grace and mercy is central to the gospel. For the sake of Christ, God forgives us and remembers our sins no more. This is the promise of God.


Day 15

Waiting for Him

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that face judgement, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9: 27-28 (NIV)

Waiting. I don't like waiting. However, trusting in Jesus and waiting for him is definitely worth it.

Death is impossible to avoid, every human being dies. However, death is not the end, after death judgment comes. Everyone must appear before the judgment throne of Christ.

The death of Christ settled the issue of sin, judgment and salvation. Jesus Christ was offered as a sacrifice to bear the sin and take the punishment of many. Christ will appear a second time for the purpose of giving eternal salvation. I cannot imagine what that will be like, but it will definitely be wonderful. As children of the living God, we no longer need to fear death and judgment.


Day 16

Encouragement

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not 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 (NIV).

I kept leaving church services discouraged. I liked the people, the music and worship were great and the messages were good. We had moved across the country and were new to the community. I couldn't figure out why going to church was a burden. Maybe I just was missing my friends and my home church. Then I realized that hearing the gospel is what encourages me.

The inspiring messages I was listening to each week always ended with application. Every week I came away with something I should do. It was all true. That was the problem. It was true. There are so many aspects of my life that need to improve (actually they all need improvement). The list is overwhelming.

I am encouraged when I hear about Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. Jesus makes me right with God. I am forgiven because of the suffering and death of Christ. I cannot work my way into God's favor. I have been given Christ's righteousness as a gift. God's grace and favor has been lavished upon us and we do not deserve it.

For some reason every time I hear the gospel or a friend points me to the gospel of God's grace I am encouraged to imperfectly love, care, give, serve and pray and much much  more.

Day 17

Faith and Pleasing God

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Able offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:1-6 (NIV)

When I was a young father my son (a toddler) said "Dad, watch me!", he jumped and I applauded. I was very pleased. He saw I was pleased and jumped again and I applauded again. I was pleased, he was my child. I was delighted. I thought he was the most wonderful and talented child in the world.

I used to think that in order to please God I had to have "great faith". The problem is I don't have great faith. I'm someone who needs God's grace and mercy. I am a child of God who has to depend completely on my heavenly Father. My trust is in a great God and Savior. This is faith (trust) that pleases God.

Our trust is in Christ who died for our sins and rose from the dead. God has lavished His grace upon us. He has forgiven us and has given us Christ's righteousness. We are children of God. We have the hope of eternal life.

Enoch and Abel pleased God because they were His children. Their trust was in Him.


Day 18

The Race

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 persevance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12: 1 (NIV)

My sons all ran track and cross country. I went to their track meets for seven years. I love track meets. My favorite Olympic events to watch are the track and field events. The noise from the cheering crowd witnessing a race helps runners run their best.

We are running a race marked out for us by God. We have the shining example of a vast number of witnesses that have gone before us. Everywhere we turn we find their encouraging example. Like a crowd cheering at a race they encourage us to keep running and finish strong. The author of Hebrews mentions a few of them in chapter 11. Their stories assure us that God is faithful. No one regrets persevering to the end of the race.


Day 19

Perspective

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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12: 2-3 (NIV)

Have you ever wanted to "throw in the towel" and quit? I have. It is easy to "grow weary and lose heart". Whenever that happens I know it is time to get a different perspective on my situation.

When I take time to look at Jesus and consider Christ I clearly see that God loves us with an incredible love. Jesus willingly endured the cross to pay the penalty for my sin. Jesus now sits in authority at the right hand of the throne of God. He was victorious over death, a horrible enemy.

I also clearly see myself as I fix my eyes on Jesus. My sins are not minor violations that can be excused. When I look at Jesus I must come face to face with the fact that I am guilty and deserve the most drastic punishment possible, the death penalty. Jesus loves me and provides what I desperately need, an abundant amount of grace and mercy.

Considering all Jesus endured, I think I'll keep running the race.


Day 20

God's Discipline

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12: 5-11 (NIV)

You've heard the saying "No pain, no gain." That saying comes to mind when I'm thinking about skipping my morning run. I don't like pain. I don't like suffering. It's easy when I am going through hardship to think that God's love for me is a bit lacking.

Suffering is proof that God cares for us. Hardship is proof that we are God's child! Even Jesus, God's son, was made "perfect through suffering" (Hebrews 2:10) and because he "suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." (Hebrews 2:18).

Like a good father, God loves and cares for us by disciplining and training us. His love produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for us.


Day 21

Entertaining Strangers

Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.  Hebrews 13:1-2 (NIV)

It is easy for me to be suspicious of people, especially strangers. In 36 years of ministry I have been stolen from, lied to, threatened and taken advantage of by people I was trying to love and serve. These haven't been just one or two isolated incidences. Loving people is not easy. It is risky. It can hurt.

God cares deeply about the oppressed, refugees, widows, the lonely, the hungry, the poor, prisoners and those who are mistreated. When I see people suffering it is encouraging to know that God cares and loves those who are hurting.

God has surprised me many more times than I can remember. The amazing thing about loving people is the joy it brings to me. Loving people is worth the risk. God also cares about and blesses those who entertain strangers and who care for those who are hurting.


Day 22

You Never Change!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

"You never change!" That statement got my attention. It definitely wasn't a compliment. Anne (my wife) wasn't pointing a positive quality of consistency in me. A few years later one of my sons said, "Dad, you've really changed." That was definitely a compliment.

God never changes. To say that Jesus never changes is a compliment that celebrates His perfection and glory. He is perfect. Nothing can be added to or subtracted from His perfect being. We will never find some hidden defect in Jesus. He doesn't need to grow or improve. If Jesus were to change He would be less than perfect. He would no longer be God. Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever.

As a human being I am constantly changing. Some changes are for the better, some changes are not. I am very imperfect. I do need to learn, grow and improve. Fortunately, we have a God who never changes. We have an unchanging God who constantly is at work in us.


Day 23

Respect and Shame

And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Hebrews 13: 12-14 (NIV)

I like being respected. I like looking good. I want to be viewed as a good person, as law abiding, responsible, a good citizen, a good husband and a really nice guy. I've done a pretty good job at looking respectable. I was known as one of the good kids when I was in school. I was a fairly good student. I vote. I rarely miss church. I don't have a criminal record. My driving record is pretty good too. (I am embarrassed to admit over the years I've gotten two speeding tickets and a couple of parking tickets.)

The reality is I don't deserve heaven. No matter how good I am at keeping the law (and other rules) everything I do and my every motive is deeply infected with sin.

Like a criminal, Jesus Christ was taken outside the city, condemned and put to death. His death brought us salvation. Jesus willingly suffered shame and death for us. As a believer it is a privilege to identify with Christ in his rejection, humiliation and shame. We can do nothing to earn favor with God, we deserve condemnation. Salvation is by grace alone. Christ alone is the source of our salvation.

Our life on this earth is short. Because of Jesus we can look forward to the eternal city that is yet to come.


September 18, 2012

Day 24

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13: 15-16 (NIV)

Jesus Christ suffered rejection, was condemned, beaten and crucified as a sacrifice for us.

I think of sacrifice as involving significant pain, loss or giving up something. Praising God through Jesus and serving are things that bring me joy. They don't seem like sacrifices to me. But with such sacrifices God is pleased.


Day 25

God of Peace

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13: 20-21 (NIV)

I don't like goodbyes. Goodbyes can be painful, sad and sometimes scary. Saying goodbye means I will miss someone I care about or in the case of a move or job change also enter a new phase of life with lots of unknowns. Today I come to the end of the book of Hebrews and say goodbye to one of my favorite books in the New Testament (for now). I have to decide what to meditate on and write about next.

The book of Hebrews ends with this remarkable prayer. It is my favorite benediction to use at the end of a worship service. Peace has been restored between us and God because of the redemption of Christ. That peace between us and God is the result of God bringing back to life Jesus, the great Shepherd of His sheep. Christ the great Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep, accomplished salvation and rose to life. We are loved and forgiven. God continues His work in us through Jesus Christ giving us what we need.

In a world of goodbyes and change we have an unchanging eternal God who gives us peace.

Bob Krepps  2012 all rights reserved
Psalms