You Can’t Always Tell Who is the Strong One

May 24, 2019

For yet in a very little while, the coming One will come and not delay.  But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, I have no pleasure in him. Hebrews 10:37-38

Righteous people live by faith.  Unrighteous people take care of themselves.

Righteous people recognize their need and humbly ask for God’s strength.  Unrighteous people are proud and are repelled by the thought of dependency.

Righteous people prove their faith by persevering in tribulation.  Unrighteous people embrace apostasy when, under pressure, they go back to their old lives.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been surprised more than once by who is strong and who is weak.  I remember childhood bullies.  I’ve had a few of them and I saw them as giants; strong and formidable.  With hindsight though, I see that my bullies were never strong enough to act alone.  They needed to have a group around them to empower them.  Weak indeed.

When I became an adult, I learned more about the strong and the weak through watching good and bad leaders.  I surmised that those who had unwavering opinions and were unwilling to compromise were strong.  People who worked for them had to agree with them on every policy and doctrine.  I know now that these characteristics were signs of weakness.  The louder the bullhorn and the more demanding the tyrant, the weaker they probably were.  Under pressure, everyone knew to duck.

I believed that the weak people were the quiet ones in the group.  They listened more than they talked.  They spoke of their hard times.  They weren’t above asking for prayer. They weren’t the first ones to volunteer to lead but when asked, they did it well and without fanfare.  Under pressure, they remained steady and everyone knew they could trust them.

Today’s scripture reaches back to quote the book of Habakkuk where God is speaking.  What does it mean when God says that someone will draw back, only to experience His displeasure?  This refers to people who appeared to be true in their faith but with the advent of persecution, they threw in the towel and went back to their old lives.  They quickly embraced apostasy.

There’s a lot to think about here.  How do others experience you?  Would they call you strong because you seem self-assured?  Would they call you weak because you are quiet and often share your struggles?  The bigger question is this ~ How does God experience you?  Does He see you as beautifully dependent on Him or does He see you as angry and entitled when things don’t go well for you?  Yes, the journey of faith takes us all through some bad days.  We can have some fainting moments.  True believers lose heart but we don’t defect.  Wouldn’t think of it!  God’s displeasure is reserved for those who pose as believers but suffering proves them to be otherwise.

My strength is real when my strength is in You.  Amen

Have You Thrown It Away?

May 23, 2019

So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised. Hebrews 10:35-36

I can be confident my 401k will stabilize but it may not.  My confidence will not yield any reward and was really wasted.  I can be confident that my house will sell quickly and a move to another state will come off without a hitch.  But when it doesn’t unfold that way, confidence was empty.

A well-placed confidence births endurance because there is never any doubt about the outcome.  What I can be sure of here on earth is a short list, is it not?  But with God, every word He speaks, I can fully trust.  Every promise He makes, I can rest in.  Every prediction that rolls off the pages of scripture, I can count on coming true.  With such 100% assurance, endurance need never erode.  God is good for whatever He put in writing.  No deal is ever broken.  No promise is ever reneged.

If my confidence ever wanes, it is not due to a flaw in God’s character nor is it because anything He has spoken has been disproven.  Though at times it may appear that way, time and history will reveal that the pain of my doubting was completely unnecessary.

But I can be sure of this.  Satan knows God’s character.  Satan knows that what God says is true.  He fears any child of God who trusts God and who challenges his lies with the sword of the Word.  Satan is the great deceiver whose mission is to shake the confidence of God’s children.  If he can cause us to doubt our Father, he has destroyed the quality of our life here and sent us to a lonely place. While heaven is not in jeopardy, peace on earth can be destroyed if we let it him do it.  The essence of faith is trusting what we cannot see.  Our enemy capitalizes on that and argues that if we cannot see it, it must not be true.  Never is his argument more compelling than when we are in pain and find ourselves weary in the waiting.

There is some ‘thing’ that is testing our confidence today.  It is different for each one of us.  As I’m writing, I’m aware of my ‘thing’ and I awakened this morning to face another day of battling for my faith.  I review the scriptures, I meditate on the promises, I listen in the stillness to the reassurances of the Spirit, and my shaky confidence is restored for another day.  I will not ever throw it away because I chose to believe that the middle of my story is really the end of my story.  I live in the middle of the plotline.  So do you.  God hasn’t finished writing the novel yet.  We can be confident of a glorious conclusion.

After watching a great movie, we tell our friends ~ “Wait till you see how it ends!”   Indeed.

I’m watching and I’m on the path. Amen

Let’s Settle Who This Is For

May 21, 2019

For we know the One who has said, Vengeance belongs to Me, I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge His people.  It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God! Hebrews 10:30-31 

There are few passages more dangerous than this one if taken out of context.  Can I really sin, risk God’s anger and judgement, and end up losing my salvation?  Not on your life.  If you are a child of God, your eternal home in heaven with God is secure.  Nothing and no one can take it from you.  Whether an obedient or disobedient child, you are still adopted.

What kind of judgement is being discussed here?  If I take the entire book of Hebrews into account, I remember that it’s a book written to Jewish believers, and if I go back a dozen or so verses, I see that the subject was Jesus’ blood being the only sacrifice that forgives sins.  To willfully reject that brings a type of judgement to a believer. That involves God assessing whether or not His child should receive rewards.  These are:  1.) The privilege of reigning with Christ.  And, 2.) ‘Entering into rest’ (from Hebrews 4) which has to do with receiving a full inheritance.  While going to heaven will never be in question, the loss of rewards and the loss of the inheritance God desires to give, can be jeopardized.

It is one thing to sin out of weakness and naivete, but quite another to sin with an obvious, obstinate heart.  Can a child of God shake their fist in His face and set out to wound God by his actions?  Can a child of God seek to take revenge on his heavenly Father if he believes God has done him wrong?  Let me ask you.  Can an earthly child take revenge on a parent?   Can an earthly child set out to do the very thing they know will inflict the greatest wound to a parent’s heart?  We know the answer is yes.  But at no time is he no longer their child even though the relationship is strained to the max.

The worst willful and most injurious sin against God is to repudiate the sacrifice of His Son.  The most expensive gift for Him to give was the life of His Son.  Spurning Jesus brings about awful consequences; the fallout to even be suffered by a child of God whose home is in heaven.  To have to face the Father, to see the truth of your sin and then weep over your offenses against Him, and then to lose the joy of receiving rewards that you can lay at Jesus’ feet, these will cause a grief that impacts the beginning of eternity.

Staying tenderhearted toward my Father in heaven is a high priority.  Staying humble to believe every doctrine He teaches is also a high priority.  The risk of being high and mighty to commit willful sin is not beyond my sinful heart and I remember that today as I contemplate eternal rewards.

If there are rewards to come, laying them at your feet is a privilege I live and die for.  Amen

Upside Down ~ Calling What Is Holy, Evil

May 20, 2019

Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?  Hebrews 10:28-30 

It is hard to believe, isn’t it, that someone would intentionally, and without reservation, call Jesus an evil person?  The epitome of evil is to call what is holy ~ evil, and what is evil ~ holy.

Yes, I know that some are in the middle.  They don’t know what they think quite yet about Jesus. They believe that they have time to make their decision.  Others are a bit turned off at the thought of Him because of their experience with the church and church people.  But, there are some who hear it all, spend time with some saints, experience the best of a worship service, and go away hating the Son of God.  He is simply repulsive to them.  With eyes wide open and with their heart engaged, they profane Him.  The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of grace, is outraged.  God’s combustible reaction regarding those who vehemently spurn His Son is a justified and righteous reaction.

I’ve heard it said that when we get to heaven and we behold God’s glory, and we understand fully the offense of defaming the person of Jesus, we will agree with the punishment of eternal condemnation suffered by those who reject Him.  (Even if it was the closest of family members and friends.)  It’s hard to fathom that as some of us mourn the death of a loved one who didn’t know Jesus but the statement is worth pondering.  It does suggest that I have no idea how to comprehend and value the holiness of God and the love He offered through the life of His Son.  Hating the Righteous One is simply the worst evil.

If we travel to places hostile to Christianity, we would understand fully what it is to be hated for Jesus’ sake.  The demonic energy surrounding those who are incited to violence at the thought of a Christian is high pitched.  And yet, I have personally experienced vehement hatred against me because of my faith.  When in this person’s presence, I felt despised.  The face I looked into reflected a murderous countenance.  Perhaps you know this personally.  I recall the story a woman who told me what happened the night she got saved.  She was married to an atheist and when she walked in the door to her home after giving her life to Christ, her husband took one look at her and screamed, “What in the world have you done?!”  He knew from the change in her countenance and the presence of the Holy Spirit who walked in with her that something had shifted.  His hatred was immediate. 

It is possible for God to save a persecutor. Look at Saul of Tarsus.  But for each who perseveres in their hate campaign over the course of a lifetime, condemnation is sure.  If you are persecuted for Jesus’ sake today, your reward will be great if you suffer well and pray for your enemy.

The demonic high pitch of hatred is growing around the world. How I grieve for you, Jesus.  Deal with Your enemies, for righteousness sake, and save those who would be saved and make them zealots for the kingdom.  Amen


Do I Need To Fear This Scripture?

May 17, 2019

For if we deliberately sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries.  Hebrews 10:26-27

This scripture has undermined the confidence of more believers than about any other scripture.  It has tormented mothers and fathers of children who once made a genuine decision to follow Christ but no longer walk in His ways.  How then can any of us be at peace if these words have bred fear?  I need to understand who it was written to and what it means.

There are many warnings throughout the book of Hebrews.  This book was written to the Jewish people – many of whom were being persecuted for their faith because they had embraced Jesus, and to many who were still deciding if they should go back to Old Covenant ways and reject Jesus.

These words were for Jews who had heard the Gospel, understood the Gospel message completely, but then turned away from embracing Jesus by going back to Judaism.  All the warnings, previously in Hebrews, were written to this same group of Jewish people, a people who were trying to decide whether or not to put their hope and trust in Jesus.

The message was clear ~ If they kept on sinning by rejecting Jesus, there would be no other sacrifice for their sins.  If they remained in Judaism and contined in the sacrificial system, their sins would not be forgiven as they had been before the advent of Christ.  To reject Jesus is to be eternally condemned, even if Jewish.  To reject Jesus is to become His adversary, even though Jewish.

If I remove this scripture from its context, I wander in the mire regarding someone I know who once believed but lives like an apostate.  Did they really believe and are they really still God’s child?  Those are questions for another day because this scripture is not written to, and about, them.  Hebrews was written by a Jew ~ to the Jewish people.

How hard it must have been, and still is, for a Jewish person (so loved and chosen by God to be His) to understand that if they reject Jesus, they reject Yahweh.  Shunning Jesus as the Messiah sets them up for eternal condemnation.  This idea for a Jewish person is unthinkable which is why Jesus warns His people not to stumble over Him.  The consequences are dire.

Perhaps this ended up in a place you never expected.  I’ve seen this passage send parents, spouses, and friends of wayward believers into fear.  At this moment however, as we understand that this was written to God’s chosen people – in eternal peril – let’s pray for them.  Pray for Israel that their spiritual blindness would be cured by the power of the Holy Spirit blowing over their darkened minds.

Remove the veil, Father, from their eyes.  2 Corinthians 3:16  AMEN

Prayer Guide for Jewish People

What I’m Saying Under My Breath

May 16, 2019

Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works.  Hebrews 10:23-24

My confession is what I say outloud.  My testimony is comprised of far more than the planned three-minute speech I give to a group.  It’s what I say while I live the rest of my life.  Whether I’m reacting to minor frustrations or major upheaval, I’m to neither give in, nor give up, on my faith.  Not for any reason.  Not for even the worst of things.

Just last weekend, I got away for 24 hours to assess an area of my life where faith had become difficult.  I had begun to mutter words of unbelief and complaint.  I spent those hours, late into the night, repenting about what I had been confessing.  God, through the Holy Spirit, asked me this question.  “How has this hard thing benefitted you spiritually?”  Though it was not immediate, God gave me the grace to write a new confession.  With a pen in my hand, I admitted that pain had driven me to God’s arms. Suffering had been my shaping agent, making me more like Jesus.  I had memorized more scripture and cherished more promises because of the darkness of the night.  Since coming home, nothing has changed but I’m back in the fight and have God’s perspective.

When I embrace the promises of God, I don’t expect them to come to pass immediately.  Historically, this rarely happened.  Every follower of God was called to a life of faith, standing on the God’s words even when all evidence begged to disprove it.  Every one of them faltered along the way and while some gave up, others had a fresh encounter with God and got back on their feet.

Where are you today?  Let one who is in the middle of the battle speak to you.  At the center of this struggle is an enemy who weaves together seemingly ironclad arguments against God.  He knows that hanging on is exhausting for us.  He knows that the temptation to give in sounds appealing and even prudent.  He’ll remind us that fighting doesn’t appear to have gotten us anywhere and that if we give up, we can finally have rest from the battle. And part of that is true.  When we give in and cry uncle, the noise of the battle stops.  Initially, there’s quiet and a sense of relief.  But then comes the dark cloud of oppression that accompanies hopelessness. Darkness overtakes us.

Can you imagine how much clearer things would be if you and I could see Jesus, and Satan, standing in front of us right now.  We would be enveloped in the love of Jesus.  And we would be horrified by the sight of Satan.  I need to remember who is speaking what.  It is Jesus that calls me to trust Him.  Looking into His face, that wouldn’t be hard at all.  And if I could look into the face of pure evil, it is the god of this world that perpetrates, and then celebrates, the heinous crimes that make me cringe.  He is the one who calls me to defect.

I remember the face, and the nature and character, of the One who gives life-giving promises and the face, and nature and character, of the one who speaks words that will encourage me to self-destruct.  The Lover of my soul says, “hold fast and confess your faith in me.”

It’s not hard, Jesus.  Amen

How Shocking It Was!

May 15, 2019

Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus,  by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh ), and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.  Hebrews 10:19-22

For me to understand the impact of what it was like to enter the holy of holies where the presence of God rested, I must go back many thousands of years.  I would have to interview a high priest.  This privilege was his only once a year and he prepared himself down to the smallest detail because if he got it wrong, he could lose his life.  This privilege came with great risk.

Imagine with me for a moment that one of the high priests announced that the common man could now enter behind the veil.  God had made the requirements less stringent and the people no longer needed to be afraid.  Who would have dared volunteer first?  Even if the first few came out unharmed, I contend that every person thereafter would still be on edge because the holiness of God and the sinfulness of mankind was so ingrained in their psyche.  No one could conceive that God would sanction such a thing.

Let’s fast forward now to the time the book of Hebrews was written.  The audience were the Jewish people, the very same descendants of those who had experienced the rituals surrounding the temple and the holy of holies.  The words they are reading from this author, though good news, are still hard to really believe and trust.  Do they dare risk eternity and the forgiveness of their sins on the teaching that a human high priest and sacrifices are no longer necessary?

The writer assures them that they can go behind the curtain because Jesus paid for the privilege.  They can enter God’s presence boldly and with confidence.  They no longer need someone to represent them on earth in order to approach God.  Jesus had plead their case to His Father.  He washed away their sins permanently and declared them holy.  As if this wasn’t shocking enough, they were told that entering the throne room is no longer an annual event. There is unlimited access.

There is one thing that I need to keep hearing.  For me personally, it’s not that my sins are forgiven.  It’s not that Jesus tore the veil in two.  It’s not that God has made me holy.  What needs to fully register in this fearful heart of mine is that I can come boldly – all the time, no matter what.  No need to be shy. No need to fear rejection. No reason to dread anger. My experience on earth begs me to argue.  Those in high places move away from the common man, not towards him.  They become less approachable, not more.  Not so with God.  His desire all along was for intimacy.  There was a major bump in the road called the Fall of Man but God removed the curse of alienation through the sacrifice of His Son.  Intimacy has been restored.  It is ‘paradise~now’.

Skittish of Your love, how often have I stayed in the outer courts and missed the joy of Your presence?  Don’t let that ever again be me.  Amen