Daughters of Promise

The Path of the Perfect High Priest

February 18, 2019

Therefore, He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17

Propitiation is a word we usually pass over when it appears in a scripture verse.  It’s intimidating and hard to pronounce but it just means ‘substitute’.  Jesus was our substitute sacrifice.

Man was born with an awareness of his estrangement from God.  Worshippers, even in the world, knew this well.  They would bring their sacrifices; animals, even newborn babies, and kill them at the altar, all for the purpose of appeasing angry gods.  While their faith was misplaced, their conscience was right in know that a god who bore wrath needed to be appeased.  Praise God that He sent Jesus, who bore God’s wrath for us, so that we could appear guiltless before His Father.

William Cowper, a prolific hymn writer, came to Christ through understanding the meaning of propitiation.  Orphaned at six years old, he was sent to a boarding school where he suffered extreme mistreatment by bullies.  He was a frail child with an artistic temperament, an easy target for peers who abused power.  In 1756, when he was just 25 years old, he was committed to an asylum to supposedly live out a life sentence.  He is quoted to have said, “My sin!  My sin! Oh, for some fountain to cleanse me.”  The torment which fed his instability was little more than recognition of His need for forgiveness.

God heard.  He sent a doctor who was a gentle old man, a follower of Christ.  God used him to bring William to faith.  When He shared Hebrews 2:17 with him, the power of Christ’s death washed over this broken young man and he understood the magnificent implications.  He embraced Christ and the powerful experience was captured with his pen.

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;

And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,

Lose all their guilty stains.

Many have ended their lives in suicide because they were overcome with guilt.  Others live out a life sentence of depression and regret as they rehearse their failures like a favorite old movie.  The track record haunts them like a ghost.  Some with OCD scrub their hands till they bleed in order to find a kind of cleansing that brings relief.  All if offered in Christ.  Complete cleansing, one that lasts forever, is offered in the fountain of his blood.

I stand in the flow and, with tears, say thank you. Amen

The Book Of Negroes

February 14, 2019

Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil — and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15

I was riveted some months ago when I watched a South African mini-series called The Book of Negroes.  The true-story revolves around a woman named Aminata.  She was kidnapped in Africa and then became a slave in South Carolina.  She had to survive the complicated times of the American Revolution in New York, isolation in Nova Scotia, and then the treacherous jungles of Sierra Leone, in an attempt to win her freedom.  Aminata was instrumental in keeping records of the movement of slaves throughout the Eastern colonies, chronicling the struggles of each one to try to gain their freedom.  The Book of Negroes exists today in the National Archives in London and Washington, D.C.

The capture of innocent men, women, and children in Sierra Leone, their horrific voyage across the sea, the disregard of their families in the colonies, and the lengths to which mankind will go to enslave others for their own benefit, is both shocking and unforgettable.  It didn’t take long in the dozen episodes to bond with Aminata and to enter into her pain of enslavement.  At the time I watched it, I had the flu and proceeded to watch the whole thing in a day.  All throughout it, at various times, it appeared she was on the edge of freedom – only to be captured again.  The ending is one of the most beautiful endings of someone’s story I’ve ever witnessed in real life or on screen.

Why does the story of slavery resonate in our hearts?  And why should the topic move us to outrage and then to involvement in the cause of setting others free?  There are many reasons but I immediately think of two. 1.) It still goes on today for those who are sex trafficked all around us. It’s at our back door.  2.) And, we know firsthand what it is to be enslaved to our past, enslaved to an addition, enslaved to our enemy, and enslaved to our flesh.

Jesus came to share in our experience with the devil.  He made Himself vulnerable to his temptations, taunting, and torment.  He, who once exercised the power to cast Him out of heaven, became One who suffered under Satan’s schemes.  Why?  To walk in our footsteps.  To prove how much He loves us.  To face the same temptations and show us how to win spiritual battles with His enemy.  To show, through live illustration, the weapons available for our victory.   He came to destroy the works of the evil one and to free those (you/me) who were held in slavery all our lives by fear of death.

It is way too easy to disengage emotionally and read words like slavery and the power of death without feeling anything.  Perhaps I’ve gotten way too used to my freedom and a life that is fueled by the power of the Spirit.  I get lazy and believe that I am the one who is powerful and good, that I am above slavery.  It is good to ask God often to show me who I would be today, and would have been, without Jesus and the power He exercised to free me from slavery.  If He made a movie of my life, perhaps He would show me a different ending ~ the one that ‘would have been’ without the cross and His incarnation.

In all the ways this subject affects me, melt my frozen heart.  Amen

**Too see the series’ preview, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoC3V000e1g

The Shock Of It All

February 13, 2019

Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil — and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.  Hebrews 2:14

Jesus accepted our limitations when He came to earth.  He lived in the flesh and blood shell of a man and though He could have allowed the likeness to stop there, He took on all that went with it.  He was willing to be hungry and thirsty.  He was willing live in a body that succumbed to injury.  He was willing to be weary, lonely, get His feelings hurt, and yearn for deep relationships.  Just because He decided to live in human form didn’t mean He had to partake of the rest of it ~ but He did.

I am not sure I can appreciate what it was like for a perfect God, who lived in a perfect heaven, who shared perfect relationships within the Trinity, who enjoyed perfect worship from angels, to enter into the Fall and experience all the brokenness of mankind.  The Creator who made the Garden a perfect paradise for His creation, the One who grieved as He outlined the specifics of what ‘paradise lost’ would mean, proceeded to live here.  I can’t understand the shock, physically and emotionally, for Jesus to live in a sinful world.

Though He was like me in every way, there was one difference.  He wasn’t a sinner. He was perfect, and as One perfect, I contend that He felt the imperfections all the more.  Once you’ve tasted glory, anything that falls short is so much more jarring.

The older I get and the closer I get to Jesus, the more the images of this earth hurt my eyes, the more imperfect relationships feel, the more painful the contrast between the world and the kingdom.  There’s a reason Jesus said to fix our eyes on Him.  He is ‘home on the horizon’.  Without Him as my focal point, life would swallow me up.  Old age would hold nothing but disillusionment.

Instead, God is gracious to give me tastes of perfection now, glimpses of what is to come.  There are moments when fellowship is the heaven-kind, moments when a friend lays down her life for me and I know it is driven by her prayer life, and so many moments when marriage and family provide a safe sanctuary that can only be explained by our faith.  Jesus makes it all possible because He came, tasted the worst of it, and then died to free me from the slavery of sin and death.  The shroud of hopelessness that plagues this world is not mine to wear.  Though my body and soul groan for life in God’s presence, my spirit is already there.  It is one with Christ, seated in heavenly places.  How much of that I experience depends on how much I feed my spirit.  Jesus survived this earth through His connection with His Father.  My way through the wilderness depends on how much, and how often, I feed the same connection.

You once said, “Look to me and live.”  In every way today holds imperfection, I will look to You, get my bearings, and step in kingdom life.  Amen

My Scared, Scared Heart

February 11, 2019

For in subjecting everything to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. As it is, we do not yet see everything subjected to him.  Hebrews 2:8

When I read some of God’s claims, I explore every possible thing I fear might disqualify me from His outrageous promises.

“I will always love you.” “Really, but what if I do the most despicable thing?  There’s got to be limits!”

“I am more powerful than anything that can hurt you.” “Really, but what about the things I’m most afraid of?  Failure, sickness, death?” 

“I will forgive all your sins.”  “Really, but I can think of a few you couldn’t possibly forgive. I worry constantly that I’m the exception.”

In today’s scripture, the writer treats the subject of Jesus’ authority like that.  He had just written these words in previous verses ~

“He put everything in subjection under His feet.”  But then he adds ~“He left nothing that is not subject to Him?” 

Can’t you hear his thoughts?  “People will wonder ~ but what about this?  Is that really under His feet too?”  Down deep, all of God’s claims seem too good to be true.  The world is a dangerous place.  Most things are more powerful than we are.  People can also be dangerous as the world  becomes unhinged.  Sin is cancerous and I can’t replace what it has eaten away.  Can I really trust that everything is in subjection under Jesus’ feet?

Each one of us has some area of our lives where it appears the enemy is winning.  The current worldview seems irreparable.  It also appears Satan is winning if I live around people who sin against me and aren’t sorry for it.  I feel that way about my own heart at times.  I want to be like Jesus and yet I often take steps backward.  What happened to Jesus’ power?

Jesus didn’t eradicate all evil when He lived here for thirty-three years.  Yes, He came to destroy the works of the devil but He did it in the lives of individuals.  He didn’t come to overthrow the Roman Empire but He overthrew demonic possession in various people and delivered others of a spirit of infirmity.  Sprinkled throughout these miracles were displays of His control over nature, too. If the fullness of time had come, He could have destroyed the Roman Empire with a look, with a breath, and it would have been no contest.

Make no mistake.  “One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Romans 14:11 For now, there is a timeline that is under the feet of Jesus.  We are afflicted, yes, and Paradise has not yet been restored to this earth.  Ah, but the power of sin has been broken for everyone who repents, gives his life to Christ, and lives through the indwelling power of the Spirit.  Paradise, dwelling with God, is mine now.  “The kingdom is here now,” Jesus said.

Oh Jesus, You are biding Your time until all the world sees Your power on full display and bows to Your authority.  For now, I see it.  I bow.  I believe.  The power of sin that once held me captive is under Your feet and I am seated with You in heavenly places.  To You be all glory and honor.  Amen

He Restored What Had Once Gone Wrong

February 7, 2019

For in bringing many sons to glory, it was entirely appropriate that God—all things exist for Him and through Him—should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. Hebrews 2:10 [ESV]

It makes good sense that the God who got everything started and keeps everything going now completes the work by making the Salvation Pioneer perfect through suffering as he leads all these people to glory.  Hebrews 2:10 [The Message]

The Message so beautifully captures this verse.

God got everything started.  He made Adam and Eve in His image.  His glory was on display in their perfection.  No sin marred His reflection.  But then it all went wrong . . .

God kept everything going.  Instead of punishing sin with instant annihilation, His mercy kept everything moving along by introducing a model for the sacrifice for sin. Man could pursue God through repenting and then shedding an innocent animal’s blood in order to receive forgiveness.  It was brutal.  It was violent.  It was grotesque.  But even this severe manner of atoning for sin was imperfect.  A Savior was needed who could finish the atonement through sacrificing Himself.  And then mankind, even Abraham, looked toward the future with a longing for the Messiah . . .

God gave His Son as the Salvation Pioneer.  A pioneer is one who begins, leads, and finishes something successfully.  Jesus did all three.  He created, He made provision for sin up until His incarnation, and then made a way for paradise lost to be restored.  It was brutal.  It was violent.  It was grotesque.  It was not inflicted on an animal this time but on a man.  The cost for sin was displayed on the broken body of Jesus.  He was no innocent victim but fully in charge in offering up Himself.  And then Jesus called out to sinners to look to Him and live . . .

God perfected our salvation through the Pioneer’s suffering.   Future salvation had been secured. Tears, gratitude, and celebration marked the lives of His disciples because He suffered what we could not.  We could not give enough, pay enough, or suffer enough to atone for our sins. Only forgiven people, made holy through the shedding of innocent blood, could become sons and daughters.  Only Jesus could bring many sons to glory . . . 

It’s told so beautifully in Stuart Townend’s modern hymn.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

I do not turn away from the memory of what was brutal, what was violent and grotesque.  Your sacrifice is every before me when I break bread and remember Your broken body.  Thank you for bringing me, just one of your daughters, to glory.  Amen

Face In The Dirt

February 6, 2019

You crowned him with glory and honor and subjected everything under his feet.  Hebrews 2:8

The word subjected does not describe something pleasant.  Prisoners are subjected to cruel treatment.  New military recruits and new fraternity members can be subjected to bullying, even hazing.  When Hebrews says that everything is in subjection ~ under Christ’s feet, Jesus’ rank is being shown.

In ancient times, those victorious in battle would hunt down, and then present the leaders of the opposing army.  Subjecting them to a posture of submission, they were forced to lie face down in the dirt.  The highest ranking commander of the winning army would put his foot on the back of their necks as a sign of conquest.  Usually, they then lost their lives.

Jesus, our conquering King, rules over every principality, dominion, every ruler and authority in high places.  These terms encompass every rank and level of authority in Satan’s kingdom.  While we are no match for the power of the enemy, he is no match for our Commander.  Every one of our spiritual enemies is defeated and in subjection to His authority.  That is comforting when we feel the forces of evil coming against us.  Yes, it is a daily battle.  Yes, I need a daily reminder that the war was won at Calvary.  And here’s the thing.  Satan will act like he still has all the power if I let him.  The church needs to be the church and call his bluff.  We have been given the authority to enforce the victory of Calvary in Jesus’ name.  We use our mouths, with the sword of the Word on our tongues, to put him in his place.  At the name of Jesus, and at the sound of His Word, he trembles and flees.

Remember the movie, The Passion?  At the very beginning, music plays softly and we see Jesus in the garden praying.  It is a lush, blue/green world and all seems peaceful.  All of a sudden, a serpent rounds the trunk of the tree that Jesus is kneeling beside and with a deliberate force of violence, Jesus stomps on the head of the snake.  This is a powerful reminder that Jesus does not tolerate evil.  He threw Satan (and all the angels who defected with him) out of heaven.  He defeated him again at the cross and removed all power and authority from him.  The authority Adam had lost so long ago in the Garden of Eden was given to Satan.  He admitted it outright when he told Jesus to worship him in the wilderness.  “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.  Worship before me and it will all be yours.”   Luke 4:6   Oh, the arrogance!

My father in law, a gifted evangelist, signed every letter with this closing ~ On the victory side.  We do not need to cower in fear in the presence of enemies we cannot see.  There is no suspense.  There is no tug of war.  Victory has already been declared and it’s up to each of us to declare it again and again to this arrogant foe who is hoping we’ll forget the power of the blood of the Lamb.

Martin Luther captured this subjugation in just one line of his hymn, A Mighty Fortress.  “One little word shall fell him.” 

I know my place Jesus.  I am not clever to fight the battle.  I am not eloquent against his cunning speech.  Your name and Your Word are my weapons. It was enough for You and it’s enough for me.  Make me a mighty arrow in your quiver.  Amen

Oh, What They Saw!

February 5, 2019

You made him lower than the angels for a short time; You crowned him with glory and honor and subjected everything under his feet. Hebrews 2:7-8 

The angels were with God before the earth was created.

The angels were with God when he touched this dead planet and everything barren and brown turned green with promise.

The angels watched as Adam took his first breath and as Eve joined him to walk in perfect love.

The angels watched God walk with Adam in the Garden and felt the wonder of God giving man dominion over all living things.

The angels watched as Adam and Eve turned mutinous.  They saw God’s heart break when paradise disintegrated.

The angels pondered the news throughout Israel’s history that a Messiah was coming.  Did they know it would be Jesus?

The angels watched the ebb and flow of obedience and disobedience, blessing and judgement.  Loving righteousness, they wept with their Sovereign.

The angels quickened at the news that Mary was chosen to birth God’s Son. Michael, one of their own, had a story to tell.  Perhaps he prepared them for a cataclysmic change.

The angels were sent to sing and announce the birth of the One they had served throughout time.  He would lie in a manger instead of sit on a throne.

The angels rushed to Jesus’ side in the wilderness.  They served him there just as faithfully as they had in heaven.  They ministered to His frailty; hunger, thirst, and discouragement.

The angels saw Jesus’ miracles and having witnessed much greater things, they thought to themselves, “People haven’t seen anything yet!”

The angels watched the world reject Love.  They saw their King beaten, scourged, and crucified.  I believe the throngs of heaven wept in disbelief.

The angels witnessed and took part in the resurrection.  Their Jesus was glorified and was coming back home.  Was there feasting, singing, and dancing?

The angels celebrated as new children of God were born.  They trembled with joy when they heard the sons of men call their God, “Abba.” 

How could such a thing happen?  A Holy God chose to take on flesh and make Himself lower than the angel’s estate.  The world witnessed humility being defined by incarnation.

They have seen it all, Lord.  They are witnesses to Your glory.  They are still active serving us because of Your love.  Is someone entertaining one today?  Are they singing to the one who is reading this – the one who is weak and afraid?  Are they fighting for another who reads these words and has dropped her hands in battle?  Don’t let me lose the wonder of worlds I can’t see but the worlds You still rule.  I am safe in the arms of Love no matter how chaotic it all appears.  You hold me fast, Good Father.  Amen