Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 6)

For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.  But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. . . And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  (Hebrews 6:7-8 & 11-12)

Lord, I want to be land that receives your blessing. You have indeed provided rain for me. You have refreshed me over and over and have soaked me with good things — life, love, peace, security, grace, and more. Your rain has nourished me. You have carefully tended me and made me into rich soil.

Remind me, Lord, that land is not nourished for its own sake. The purpose of land is to give life; it is nourished so it can bear fruit. Don’t allow me to be fallow ground, Lord. 

Actually, I guess, good soil cannot remain fallow; it WILL produce something. Something WILL grow in rich soil. Something WILL grow in my life, for you have nourished it. Let it be a good crop, Father. Keep me from bearing thorns and thistles! Instead, produce in me a crop useful for the sake of others, one that blesses your name.

I love how you work! If I am available to you and live faithfully with you, if I abide in you, you WILL tend my soil and, in turn, you WILL grow a good crop in me. Others WILL be fed and your name WILL be honored. And then, the icing on the cake, you say here that I WILL receive a blessing.

This is good from beginning to end, Father! I am grateful to share with you in your kingdom. I will abide in you. Help me to be faithful, to hold earnestly to this great hope in you, to be diligent, to learn from those who have gone before, and to live with faith and patience.

Be glorified, Lord, in the fruit of my life.

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Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 5)

In the days of his flesh, [Jesus] offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:7-9)

It’s strange, Father, to think that Jesus had to learn obedience and be made perfect. He came from you, he came of his own volition, he was born without original sin. This word “perfect” must speak of more than being without sin, for he was that way from the beginning. Why then do you say that he had to be made perfect? Does the word perfect here mean something more? Mature? Complete? Fully prepared? Qualified? 

Because he came as an infant, and because you speak of him learning obedience through suffering, does “being made perfect” speak of the natural process of growth required for him to reach maturity? Is this the perfection you speak of here? Though he was sinless his whole life, did he reach perfection as he lived his life in trust and obedience to you, Father? Was he made perfect as he faced each temptation of the devil and resisted it? As he shirked all the shortcuts and walked the long path of obedience and suffering, then was he made perfect? In this was he being made ready to be the perfect and complete high priest who has been tempted just as we have?

Regardless of what, exactly, “perfect” means, it was accomplished through his reverent submission to you, even in suffering. And in this matured, perfect state, he was able — qualified — to accomplish the work you had for him, that of our “priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek”. Being made perfect Jesus became High Priest, Savior, Messiah, Deliverer.

Now he offers eternal salvation to us — to me. If we obey him. If we along with him reverently submit to you.

I desire this eternal salvation. Father, I want all that Jesus offers me. Like Jesus, I offer up my prayers and supplications. As he did, I submit to you reverently, even when temptations and trials bring me to loud cries and tears. Help me to do so, Lord, for I want to obey. I want to hold firm to the end. I want to grow in Christ toward maturity and completeness — toward perfection

As I submit and obey, I trust you, Father, through your Holy Spirit to lead me there.

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 4)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. . .

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4: 12-13 & 16)

What happens between verse 13 and verse 16??

What happens that takes us from cowering in fear before you, God, as all our nakedness and secrets are exposed and our guilt is before you, to confidently walking toward you to ask for your help? The first scene is frightening. You, holy and perfect, piercing my very joints and marrow, seeing clearly all my thoughts and intentions as if I was naked before you, with nothing hidden. Absolutely everything laid bare. Terrifying!

Yet, the second scene is so welcoming, so inviting, so at rest. You, so approachable, welcoming me into your presence, calling me to come up close so I can receive what you have to give me — what you want to give me — mercy, grace, and help.

How can I move from the one into the other? How can I move past the fear of exposure to approach you with confidence? How can I believe that as I enter your presence completely stripped of my coverings and pretenses, rather than judgment and wrath, you will offer me mercy and grace to help me in my time of need?

What happens in between my fear and my confidence?

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  (Hebrews 4:14-15)

My fear is gone and I can come into your presence because of what is in between! For you have given me a Great High Priest! You have provided Jesus to make sacrifice and intercession on my behalf. You have sent Jesus to draw us near to you. Through Jesus, though you still see me for who I am, you look on me with eyes of love, offering me mercy, grace, and help.

Oh, God, you have done all things well! I will not be afraid. I draw near to you now — unguarded — inviting you to see me. See all of me, Father, and work your grace in me.

And on That Day when I enter your presence in my body, you and I seeing one another face to face, I will come with no fear. Yes, I will be laid bare, all my faults exposed, but I am certain that you will see me with eyes of love, for you have covered me with your Son Jesus. You have sent him to be my High Priest and through him even on that day — and forever and ever more — you will offer me grace and mercy.

I thank you, Lord, for what is “in between”. Confidently I come to you to receive you grace, your mercy, and your help for my times of need.

Today and for all eternity, in your presence, I will praise your name!

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 3)

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.  

As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?  And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?  So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Not all who start finish.

Those who enthusiastically left Egypt did not reach the Promised Land. The same people who witnessed their deliverance by your miraculous and mighty hand later turned and rebelled against that same hand. 

You require more than a good start, don’t you, Lord? You call us to walk with you all the days of our lives. Not all who pray a sinner’s prayer will be saved, but those who persevere and keep ahold of you. 

Father God, like the Israelites I have seen your mighty hand at work; I know your deliverance. Do not allow me to be lured by the world or hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Keep me near you. Through your Spirit correct me, lead me, discipline me, call to me. Keep my heart soft toward you.

Lord, send me friends who will exhort me to keep on. And allow me to exhort my fellow pilgrims. Let us cheer one another on toward you.

Oh, Yahweh, I want to stay near you. I want to abide with you. I want to flourish in your vineyard, firmly attached to Jesus the vine — to grow in you, to draw life from you, and to bear fruit for your kingdom all the days of my life. I want to share in Christ all that has been ordained for me.

Keep me ever near you. For in you is my confidence to the end. In you is life. 

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 2)

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,  and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”  (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Again I am amazed at your plan, Yahweh. Your love and your wisdom are beyond understanding, that you conceived of such a plan and carried it out. In Jesus — coming in flesh and blood to live among and experience all the evils of this world in a frail earthly body like mine, being made like me in every respect, and suffering the wrath of my enemy — in this Jesus, you have destroyed the devil and his power of death and destruction.

And I am no longer afraid! I am not a slave to fear. You have conquered the enemy and have conquered death and you have set me free. You have given me liberty!

I receive your gift and live in your freedom!

Morning Meditations: Hebrews (Day 1)

 …In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.  (Hebrews 1:2-3)

Wow! Father, what a gift you have given us in Jesus! Through him you made all things, with his power he sustains all things, and to him you will give all things. Bearing all the radiance of your glory and your nature, you have sent him to minister to us.

Oh, such glory and power! Father God and Jesus the Son, you have given us so much — all we need to live and love. As I move into Hebrews over the next few days, I look forward to seeing more of your glory and your power and more of the gift I have been given in Christ. Let me be changed by seeing him better.

 

Called In, Sent Out (Mk 3:13-19)

Meditating on Mark — Mark 3:13-19

(I’m reading slowly through the book of Mark, seeking what I can learn about God and about being a follower of Jesus from each passage. I’m also letting my imagination get involved and trying to crawl into each story, to let it speak to me as it will and to respond from inside. I’ve decided to share some of them here as I go along and would love to hear your comments and reflections on the same scriptures.)

“And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” (English Standard Version)

Jesus and the disciples.jpg

I find myself yearning to do great things for God. Oh, I don’t mean great things as in preaching to thousands in stadium events around the world or writing best-selling books that move people closer to God. The great things I long for are everyday great things like speaking and acting in love every day in every relationship and initiating and making the most of conversations that lead the people around me closer to God. I long to bear fruit for the kingdom of God, fruit that will last (from my favorite chapter of the Bible — John 15). I want to be like the disciples here: sent out to preach and teach and heal and to have authority even over the demons that plague people I meet.

My hand shoots up and my heart cries out, “Pick me, Jesus! Pick me to send! Use me, Lord!”

But today I noticed these words: “that they might be with him”.

When Jesus called the twelve, he called them for the purpose of sending them out. He was soon to entrust to them, and to the hundred or so other followers around him, the impossible task of taking the Good News from God into the entire world — the people all around them, the people all around the world, and the people who would come with every succeeding generation. He called the twelve for ministry — to go and to do. He called them to commission them. He called in them to send them out. 

But first he called them to be with him. There were days and months and years of being with Jesus before they were sent out. And that time was spent simply being with Jesus. During that time they learned from him. They listened to him and questioned him and watched him. They saw what he did and how he did it and they learned why he did it and for what purpose. During that time their hearts and minds were transformed, shaped for the sending.

Oh, God, thank you for this reminder! I want to go and do and make a difference in my world. Help me remember to stop and “be with you”. I want to, I need to, spend time with you. I need to know your heart and to be transformed by you. I need to be empowered by your Spirit. I know this comes only by being present with you — conversing with you and reading your Word. 

I come to you, Father, today, to be with you. I will live a life of being with you. I’m yours to teach, to transform, to equip. And I am yours to send in your authority to bear fruit for your kingdom. Call me in, Lord, and send me out!