Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 13)

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

Father God, as I close out my reading of Hebrews, I end with this benediction and my heart cries, “Yes!” and “Amen.”

Oh, God of peace, God of power over death, God of reconciliation and compassion, continue to be God of provision to me — equip me with everything I need to do your will, for you are my helper who is always with me.

I will continue to enter your holy place with confidence and will keep my eyes focused on you and on your kingdom, and I will live by faith. Work in me, God, that which is pleasing in your sight.

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing me near to the Father. Thank you for uniting with us so we may be united with God forever. You have given us life and I will, indeed, glorify you forever and ever.

God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip us with everything good that we may do your will, work in us that which is pleasing in your sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. 

Amen and Amen.

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Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 12)

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”     (Hebrews 13:1-6)

Lord, in this last chapter of Hebrews you give us practical instructions for the practice of godly living, for living out our faith: love our sisters and brothers in the faith, be hospitable to strangers, remember prisoners and mistreated people, control our sexual passions and live faithfully in our marriages, resist greed and materialism, and be content with what we have. 

How can we do these things? They are not the norm in our culture, in our world. They don’t come naturally to us.

How can we do these things?

To answer that question, to tell us how we can live this godly life — opposite our own natures and the currents of the world — the writer of Hebrews offers us . . . you. Your presence. We can do it because you are our helper and you will never leave or forsake us. We don’t have to provide for our own security or satisfaction. We don’t have to provide for our own safety or happiness or fulfillment. You will do that, so we can be free to love rather than . We can be free to welcome rather than protect. We can be free to give away rather than accumulate. We can be free to submit rather than control. 

How can I love my brothers and sisters? 

God is with me and he is my helper.

How can I welcome strangers?

God is with me and he is my helper.

How can I love my husband and resist sexual temptation?

God is with me and he is my helper.

How can I be content with what I have?

God is with me and he is my helper.

I do not have to provide for my own security or satisfaction.

For God is with me and he is my helper.

I am free to love and give and submit and serve.

For God is with me and he is my helper.

You are with me. Through Christ you, Yahweh — Creator, Provider, Deliverer, Sustainer, Healer, Redeemer — are with me. You will never leave me or forsake me. 

Through [Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (13:15)

You are with me and you are my helper. 

My lips will continually praise your name!

 

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 11)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. . . (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Again, God, this is not a passive faith. Again, through this apostolic letter, you call us to action: lay aside distractions, lay aside sin, run the race. In the verses that follow you give us more specific descriptions of what you mean by laying aside hindrances and sin and running the race. You tell us to struggle against sin, to submit ourselves to your shaping and realignment, to strive for peace with all people, to strive for holiness, to remove bitterness, to refrain from sexual immorality and to refrain from ungodliness. 

Again, God, you call us to a life of action — so much more than “belief” — a life lived deliberately, intentionally, purposefully in submission to you. To help us in this call you, through this writer, direct us to “look to Jesus”, to consider him, to fix our gaze on him. You remind us here that Jesus persevered in obedience to you, Father, and endured hostility, pain, shame, and death with his eyes set on you and on the glory of his mission. You remind us here that Jesus was able to do it because he remained focused on “the joy that was set before him”.

For the JOY that was set before him!

It was looking ahead at joy that enabled Jesus to persevere. Perhaps we need to know more about that joy as we commit to persevering as well. And then as we read farther in the chapter you give us a glimpse of the joy that Jesus saw:

. . . you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.    (Hebrews 12:22-24)

Mount Zion, the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, countless angels gathering in celebration, people’s names written in the Book of Life, you yourself present, your people freed from sin and condemnation, shed blood that brings eternal life, and Jesus in his eternal place as glorious mediator between God and Man , who through his suffering and obedience even to death has opened the door forever and ushered us into this joyous scene.

For THIS joy that was set before him!

Oh, God, give me an understanding of this joyous consummation. Let me taste that joy and know its goodness. Let me taste it now and long for it to come in its completion. Keep it ever before me that I may persevere, that I may live out my faith in everything I do as long as I live. I offer an active, obedient faith to you, Father, as my acceptable worship.

For you have made the joy set before Jesus, the joy set before me. Jesus has opened this joy to include me. His joy is now my joy. Your joy is now my joy. For this joy I will lay aside distractions and sin. For this joy I will run with perseverance. 

You have set joy before ME and I am grateful.

 

 

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 10)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. By faith. . .                 (Hebrews 11:1-4)

We often think of faith as what we believe, an intellectual agreement with the teachings of the Bible, a conviction of the truth of the Gospel. And it IS that — look back at the scripture above. Faith is an assurance, a conviction, and an understanding.

But it’s so much more than that!

Let’s look at the rest of this chapter and see what else it tells us about faith. Here is a summary:

By faith. . .

  • Abel offered a sacrifice
  • Enoch drew near to God and pleased him
  • Noah built the ark, saved his family and became an heir to righteousness
  • Abraham obeyed, left his home, settled where God sent him, held on to God’s promises, received an heir, and offered him up
  • Isaac and Jacob blessed their sons and grandsons and worshiped God
  • Joseph believed God’s promises, anticipating the exodus and arranging for his remains to be taken to the promised land
  • Moses’ parents saved their son’s life by hiding him
  • Moses refused the safety, treasure, and status of Egypt to join his people, left Egypt, and sprinkled the blood to save his people.
  • The Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry land and marched around Jericho seven times
  • Rahab welcomed and sheltered the spies
  • Ancient heroes of Israel conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut lions’ mouths, quenched fires, escaped swords, won strength, became mighty, and defended their nation
  • Unnamed people refused to compromise and endured torture, mocking, flogging, imprisonment, poverty, homelessness, and death.

And why did they live like this?

You can see it scattered throughout the chapter. These people knew that God rewards those who seek him and approves of those who obey. They knew he had an inheritance prepared for them and that his inheritance was worth immeasurably more than temporal comforts. They knew there would be a resurrection. They looked forward to the Christ and the kingdom to come. They had their eyes on God and his promises.

The people of Hebrews 11 knew their future was with God and in God.

And so they lived — so they acted.

Hebrews 11 does not hold up as examples of faith people who merely agreed that God was real and loving and forgiving and then go about their lives as normal merely counting on him to step in at the end and save them from hell upon their death. This “belief” does not constitute faith to the writer of Hebrews — and it does not constitute faith to God. 

Faith is action, action based on belief. Faith (or the lack thereof) affects what we do. Faith is lived out choice by choice, action by action. Faith is doing one thing rather than another — refusing comfort when action is called for, moving in obedience when the way is not yet clear, stepping into hardship when sitting still would be easier. Faith is risk. Faith is living differently than the culture around us. Faith is drawing near to God, trusting him to act, relying on his care, living for his approval. Faith is believing that he notices and that he rewards those who seek to please him and then stepping out to do just that.

Sisters and Brothers, let us covenant to step into lives of faith.

Oh, God, you tell us that faith acts. Let us have faith that moves us to action. Grow in us faith that looks at you, that looks at your kingdom, that focuses on our lives in and with you for all time, and that shows up in how we live. Stir us up, call us forth, move us. And let us live — move, act, respond, speak, lead, abandon, go, stay, follow, obey — for you. Let us not shrink back into mere “belief”, Father — let us live in faith!

 

 

 

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 9)

 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  (Hebrews 10: 19-25)

Jesus, as we’ve read over and over the past few days traveling through the book of Hebrews, you have opened the way for us to enter the very presence of God. You have given us confidence that we are welcome in God’s presence and that we will be received by him. You have offered us forgiveness and we have received it gratefully.

And now, through the author of the book of Hebrews, you have called for a response from us. You have given us some instructions for our participation with God. Because we CAN enter the holy places by your blood, since we have been given access in you, you have asked us to respond.

First, you ask us to use the access provided and draw near to you. It doesn’t do much good to be given a pass if we never use it, for a door to be opened if we don’t walk through it. And it doesn’t do much good to be given access to the Father if we don’t draw near. Let me remember to draw near, Father. Call to me, Holy Spirit. Let me never become content with living life on my own, with just a belief in you but no daily connectedness. Remind me to stop my busyness, to quiet my heart, and to come into your presence.

Second, you encourage us to hold fast the confession of our hope and to not waver. You remind us that you are faithful to your promises. And because you are faithful, I can be also. Holy Spirit of God, let me not waver in my faith. Help me to hold tightly to the hope given me to me in Jesus. 

And third, you call us to live our faith in community. You call us to spur one another on in faith and to not grow slack in gathering with other believers. In fact, you say we should be gathering more often rather than less often as time passes. Don’t allow me to be deceived into thinking that my faith is a private, internal, individualistic matter. Help me, Lord, to stay connected to your Body. Let me be mindful of ways I can encourage my brothers and sisters in love and good works. And allow me to receive their encouragement and correction as well. Let us stick together when it’s uncomfortable, urging one another on in faith. Bind us together in love and commitment to one another and to you.

God, I want to live in the fullness of all you have given me in Christ. With this desire in mind, I ask you again to continually call me to come near to you. I ask you to help me focus daily on your faithfulness, that I too will be faithful. Keep my eyes focused on you. And, Lord, bind my heart to your people, the Body of Christ. Let me be committed to living life in community under your lordship.

Allow me, God, to live in the fullness of all you have given me in Christ.

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 8)

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.            (Hebrews 9:24-28)

Oh, Jesus, thank you. Thank you for putting away sin by your sacrifice. Thank you for removing the guilt of my sin. Thank you for being my High Priest forever. Thank you that you are eternally in the presence of God on my behalf — and that now, through you, I am included, invited, and welcomed into the presence of God. Thank you. My heart and my mouth will thank you all the days of my life!

And thank you for the second part of the promise — that you will come again and in that coming my salvation will be made complete. My salvation will be fulfilled, perfected. For you will come to save those who eagerly wait for you.

Lord Jesus, I love my life on this earth. And I live joyfully welcomed into the presence of God, even as I live here and have to access it by faith. But all the while, under my joy and love for life, I have a longing. I long for the New Earth. I long for the day mentioned here when you will come a second time to complete our salvation, when I will at last see you and our Father face to face. Oh, I do eagerly wait for that day.

So, for today, I’ll live firmly rooted in you. And at the same time I will keep an eye out, looking ahead, eagerly watching for you to come. 

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

 

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 7)

“The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’”

This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.   (Hebrews 7:21-25)

Just a quick thank you this morning, God. Thank you that you are able to save me fully, completely, for all time, perfectly — to the uttermost — as I draw near to you through Jesus. I do draw near with gratitude. Keep me drawing near all the days of my life. Perfect my faith in you. Perfect me in you. For Jesus has brought me close to you and in you, 

I am saved — to the uttermost!