Are Confirmations For The Weak?

January 31, 2019


This salvation was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, and was affirmed by God through signs, wonders, various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.   Hebrews 2:3-4

How kind God is to His children.  He knows how we are wired and how impaired we are to see and understand spiritual realities because of the fall.  We don’t easily believe things we cannot see.  Kingdom truths are abstract and outside of our human logic.  His thoughts are far from our thoughts.  Faith does not come naturally to us at all so He is gracious to reveal spiritual things creatively and through many people.  Today’s scripture is a good way for me to see how He announces, confirms, and then affirms again in order to build our confidence.

  • Jesus announced that He was the Messiah, that He was God in the flesh.
  • Those who heard Him and believed in Him announced it through personal witness.
  • Then, Jesus confirmed it again through signs, wonders, miracles, and through the display of supernatural gifts He gave to His disciples.

Confidence in God and the assurance that we have heard His voice correctly is important to Him and so very critical to us.  Confirmations are part of this picture.  They are often misunderstood so what is it I’m allowed to ask for in prayer?

It is not wrong to need to hear confirmations about things related to direction. It is not faithless to ask for signs that confirm important decisions. God wants me to get it right.  He promised to be my shepherd and to lead me.  He promised that I would know His voice. He promised that He would plant my steps securely and that I would not stumble.   I think of how many signs God gave His people.  Here are just a few.

God gave the shepherds a sign for how to find baby Jesus.  “You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  He gave the disciples signs about how to find the Upper Room, following a man with a water jug.  He gave Gideon signs with a piece of fleece.  But how does He do it today?  Additional scriptures, His still small voice in prayer, a word from a brother or sister in Christ, a line from a book, circumstantial evidence that has been divinely rearranged, and even in dreams.

Some would warn that the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes asked Jesus for a sign but Jesus rebuked them and called them an evil and adulterous generation.  But they wanted signs to make Him prove Himself and His identity.  That’s altogether different.

Asking for confirmations as God’s child is the privilege afforded to those who call God ‘Abba’. The skeptic, however, is inclined to put God to the test by saying, “If You are really who You say You are, prove it!” This is arrogance from the heart of one who really doesn’t want to humble himself to believe.  God does not bend to whims of the unregenerate.

Thank you for every creative way You have spoken to me.  I’m sure I’m missing many cues but continue to teach me all the times You try to speak in unsuspecting ways.  Amen

The Nature Of Neglect

January 30, 2019


For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?  It was first spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard HimHebrews 2:2

Once unbelievers have been introduced to the Gospel, they should not neglect the salvation Christ offers.  Why?  Because the very nature of neglect is dangerous.

It is just as dangerous to me.  This scripture was also written to believers, to remind us not to neglect the salvation that is still ours today.  If I only see the cross as what was necessary to make me a follower of Jesus, I will miss the essence of sanctification.  The salvation Jesus offers affects every single day of my life and without the cross as my focus, my sin edges toward becoming a stronghold and my conscience hardens in the process.

Paul said in His letter to the Corinthian church, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I Cor. 1:18   Because Peter was writing mainly to believers, ‘’being saved’ refers to my ongoing salvation from sin. Every single day, I am called to do what God has historically done, separate light from darkness.  It starts in my thought life.  Is it a light thought or dark thought?  I decide to nurture the first and shun the latter, or vice versa.  If I choose light, I call upon the grace of God to save me from allowing my dark thought to lead to action.  This is the daily battle.  This is the fight for faith.

So, what about the nature of neglect?  Whatever I choose to neglect will become easier and easier to avoid.  I think about a chore I’m not looking forward to. “I don’t want to do that today.  I think I’ll save that for another day.”  Guess what!  Tomorrow, it will be even easier to put it off again.  Neglect is a cancer.

It’s never wise to put off dealing with sin but the consequences are dire when it involves a person’s eternal destiny.  The decision about what to do with Jesus is high stakes Russian roulette but quite shockingly, most gamble by assuming they will have tomorrow to think about it.  They don’t realize that, by then, they will probably be repelled by the idea.

What changes to your life has God been asking you to make?  Why have you neglected it?  Knowing that neglect metastasizes, confront it today.  It’s not the time to be stubborn.  The only ones that pay for that are you and me!  We may as well announce, “I’m putting off abundant life for another day.”

Neglect doesn’t mean I’ve gotten away with anything.  Lord, help me see that I’ve already paid dearly for the blessings I’ve missed.  Amen

What Words Do I Cherish?

January 29, 2019


Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  Hebrews 2:1

 Because of everything that was just said in Chapter 1, the author urges, “we must pay closer attention to what we’ve heard.’   The message is this ~ Because Jesus was not an angel..  Because Jesus was God…  Because Jesus created the earth…. Because His story, His words, His death and resurrection are paramount to our faith….let these truths move us from just interesting facts to precious and lifesaving realities.  Whether or not his audience (persecuted Jews) listened and heeded his pleas would make such a difference in how they faced the pressures of being outcasts in society.  With their lives at stake, they really needed to be convinced of everything Jesus said.

Whose words do you value?  What makes them important to you?  Did they come from someone who held a prestigious position, or from someone who had a breadth of experience that made them wise?  Perhaps they came from someone you love ~ someone who was precious to you.  Think of it.  That is why we quote famous people.  That is why we quote the elderly who lived well over a lifetime and why we remember the words of those we love the most.

Then there are someone’s last words. I think we all hope that the people we love will say things they need to say before slipping away, something they know we need to hear or they need to confess.  Someone’s last words are important and always internalized, then tucked away, never to be forgotten.

Reviewing all this, I wonder why I’m not quicker to quote Jesus in conversations. “That reminds me, do you know that Jesus said….” doesn’t come out of my mouth often enough.  Out of all people I reference, shouldn’t His words be among the most quoted?  When I choose to be quiet about someone I profess to hold dear, shouldn’t that make me question my affection or how deeply I am persuaded?

The writer of Hebrews says that we must not let important things about Christ drift away.  The picture is one of a piece of pottery that is not carefully made. Consequently, water slips through the cracks, falls to the ground, and is no longer useful or recoverable.  I’ve had seasons where the Word was spoken and went over my shoulder.  I didn’t grab it and value it enough to make it mine.  I didn’t consider it life-saving to me.  How things have changed.  I’ve gotten very picky about my inner world and what I put inside.  I guess that goes with getting older.  Today, I’m more resolved to remember that I am called, in scripture, ‘an earthen vessel.’  Sounds like pottery.  I must let the Potter fashion it as He wishes so that it is well made and nothing of the kingdom leaks out and is prove useless.

Speak.  I’m listening for gold.  Amen

 

Familiarity

January 28, 2019


And did God ever say to an angel, as he does to his Son, “Sit here beside me in honor until I crush all your enemies beneath your feet”?  Hebrews 1:13

Angels do not rest in the presence of God because they are working for Him.  Jesus, however, sits at the right hand of the Father.  Only He can rest.  Only He can sit in repose in God’s company.

We should never get too comfortable around high authority.

There is a story about a man named Lear who was hired to give Queen Victoria art lessons. Things went well, and Lear started to feel quite at home in the palace. He enjoyed standing in front of the fire, leaning on the hearth and warming himself in a relaxed manner, but every time he did that, one of the Queen’s attendants invited him to look at something on the other side of the room, causing him to move. No one explained it to him, but after a while he got the idea: good manners said it was wrong for a subject to have such a relaxed attitude in the presence of their Queen.

Have God’s children become so comfortable around Jesus that we’ve lost respect for His Kingship?  Sometimes, yes.  The balance between intimacy and deference must be preserved.  So, it is imperative that I keep company with believers who are intimate with Jesus, who appreciate that the veil in the temple was torn so that we could draw close to God.  But it is also imperative that intimacy never replace awe so I must also keep company with believers who are hushed by God’s mercy and their own sinfulness.  Intimacy should not take the privilege of proximity for granted.

Being a musician, I want to address worship and liturgy.  Praise and worship is multi-faceted.  Contemporary worship songs accentuate and foster intimacy.  Hymns from our spiritual ancestors accentuate and foster respect.  Liturgy, as in reciting the Nicene Creed, brings a weightiness to our view of God and accentuates and fosters humility. Liturgy reminds us that God is the God of heaven and earth and He is beyond our comprehension.  That kills narcissism.  I was made to worship someone else, not myself.

When I worship correctly, my heart is satisfied, and I am saved from self.  I kneel in respect when in the Throne Room and rest confidently when I’m tucked under His wings.

I draw close to You Jesus but begin on my knees.  Amen

Walk The Trail of Thought

January 25, 2019


You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”  Hebrews 1:10-12

Yes, these verses are beautiful in just their poetry.  Songs have been written from them and Fernando Ortega’s is my favorite.  But the deep beauty and power of this passage lies behind the words. It’s all in the implications of how the writer reached back to quote a Psalm.

Here’s how the history of it unfolds.  Hang with it till the end to join me in finding gold.

  1. The writer of Hebrews spent this chapter talking about Jesus and how much more excellent He is than angels. The topic is Jesus.
  2. To put spiritual dynamite behind his point, He reaches back to quote this section of Psalm 102, a Psalm about God in the power of creation.
  3. Perhaps he has stopped talking about Jesus and started talking about God.
  4. No! He’s continued to talk about Jesus by saying that it is ‘He’ who laid the foundation of the earth.
  5. The point ~ He takes a Jewish text from the Old Testament, a passage about God and one the Jews are familiar with, and by inference – inserts Jesus’ name into it. He wants there to be no mistake about the point he attempts to make. Jesus is God.  God is Jesus.  No angel’s name belongs in these verses!
  6. Since all scripture is God-breathed, God used the writer of Hebrews to give us the true identity of Jesus. While it was announced throughout the Gospels, it has new significance when a book written to the Jews, by a Jew, quotes a Jewish text to describe Jesus Christ.

He is God.  No mere angel.

No angel ever laid the foundation of the earth.  They are creatures, not creators.

No angel can claim the heavens as the work of their hands.  They have not fashioned anything.

No angel can declare himself eternal.  He exists by permission of his Creator.

No angel can roll up the heavens like a garment.  Their power is conferred, not self-generated.

Jesus, You are worthy of my worship. You are to be exalted.  You are God and Your name is above all other names. Hallelujah.  

What He Loves and What He Hates

January 24, 2019


But to the Son, [he said], Your throne, God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.  Hebrews 1:8 

Angels are around the throne but only a King will take up His seat upon it.  God calls Jesus ‘God’ and refers to the throne as His throne. And there-in lies the difference between cults and Christianity.  Cults cannot accept that Jesus is God and they will twist passages quite artfully.  They’ll even change a word in a text to alter the obvious claims of Jesus’ deity.

God, in this stunning affirmation of His Son’s identity, also characterizes His leadership.  ‘Your scepter is a scepter of justice.’  Is this yet to be proven since Christ has not yet come back on earth to rule as King?   Hardly.  God needs only review Jesus’ thirty-three years here on earth.  He reminisces that His Son loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. His passion for one and disdain for the other was obvious every single moment that He lived. In public and in private.  Not only did He never sin in His actions, He never sinned in His thoughts.  He was tempted by Satan, true, but the idea of sin was repelling.

Is it possible for me to be so close to Jesus that the very idea of sin repels me?   I wonder if such a day will come when, every single time, I will hate the thought of it.  Temptations usually appeal because of what sin offers.  Instant gratification.  That’s the allure. Waiting on God can be so unappealing and deferred hope is the harder choice.  I can grit my teeth and choose the righteous way but the only way I genuinely want what Jesus wants is through a heart change I can’t generate on my own.  I am like the child who was told to sit down.  He replied, “I’ll sit but I’m standing on the inside.”  I am often that child who does the right thing but secretly relishes disobedience.

The bracelet, ‘What would Jesus do?’ causes me to consider His choice in my situation.  But righteousness and lawlessness go beyond behavior.  While doing the right thing impresses some people, God sees everything behind it.  He knows what I really think and what I really want.  He knows how I weigh my love for him against the enjoyment I’ll get by sinning.  For Jesus, it was no contest.  He loved His Father, He loved righteousness, and He was holy – without sin.

Lord, I will be tempted to love myself today more than I love You.  By Your Word and by Your Spirit, make my heart like Yours.  I will be tempted where I’m weak so go ahead of my choices with Your grace.  Amen

What Angels Teach Me

January 23, 2019


And about the angels He says: He makes His angels winds, and His servants a fiery flame. Hebrews 1:7

Angels are God’s ministers.  They are like the wind; forceful and unseen.  They are like fire; formidable and powerful.  They are under God’s sovereign control and it is ‘He’ who makes the angels like wind and fire.  They do not shape their own likeness.  It is not in their power to do so.  They do not decide their mission.  It is not their place to do so.

God’s children can learn from angels.  They do not usurp authority from the One they worship.  They know their place.  Jesus is superior to them and they defer to Him.  It is their privilege to be His servants and messengers.

Yet, we assess our gifts and often decide how we are going to use them for God.  We use logic to discern all this but God’s way cannot be driven by logic…. not in the ways created beings can invent.  Faith and logic usually collide.  We serve God with our gifts by faith.

  • If I have a hospitality gift, God’s plan might be for me to entertain one neighbor for coffee instead of hosting a Sunday School class for twenty. Numbers are not a compass for flawless decision making.  How will I know which one is His will unless I come to God in humility and ask Him to show me?
  • If I have the gift of music, God’s plan might be for me to spend time at the piano quietly worshiping instead of ambitiously trying to gain an audience at church. I can quickly forget that my life is about God and me first.  If I don’t worship when I’m alone, how valuable will my public ministry be?
  • If I have the gift of helps, God’s plan might be for me to help an enemy instead of a friend. Decisions can’t be made on the basis of who will appreciate it more.
  • If I have the gift of mercy, God’s plan might be for me to see the need but then withhold comfort so that His hurting child will go to Him instead of to me. How often have I tried to lessen someone’s pain, all the while believing I am doing God’s work, when I am really obstructing it?  Idolatry is rampant when God’s children turn to each other by default.  Second hand faith never sustains.

Upon opening my eyes in the morning, my prayer will resemble that of the angels ~

“Good morning, Lord. I love you and this day is yours.  What do you have for me?  Guide every decision as I defer to You.  Amen”