Daughters of Promise

How Could You Do Such a Thing?

March 18, 2019

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.  Hebrews 5:1-2

Condemnation is a terrible thing.  It’s bad when I inflict it on myself but it’s just as bad when I bring it down on someone else’s head.  If I set myself up to be above them, then I will have a negative reaction when they fail.  I’ll say, “How could you do such a thing?”  This drives the one I am condemning away from the cross, not towards it.  It multiples shame and makes it that much more difficult for that person to accept God’s love and forgiveness.

Choosing a high priest was a serious business.  He was to take sin seriously but within the parameters of his own personal humility.  He was called to serve the spiritual needs of others, not use his position to make them feel small.  He was to deal gently with their failings because he was very much in touch with his own weaknesses.  How easy it was for priests to become drunk with their own importance and create more laws for the common man.  They made their burden heavy and that’s what Jesus condemned!

I am to take this scripture in on a personal level.  In the New Testament, I am told that as a believer, I am part of the kingdom of priests.  I am here to serve others’ spiritual needs, to be an agent of reconciliation, bearing them up with humility and patience.

  • Am I soft on my own sin, excusing my own behavior?
  • Am I soft on others’ sins because my sensitivity is dulled by my own waywardness?
  • Have I found the balance between loving righteousness while living in God’s grace?
  • Do I have an innate understanding of how easily I am tempted to do the unthinkable?
  • Do I offer that same consideration to others?
  • Do people around me find me someone to whom they can confess their sins and share their burdens?

The qualification for priests has not changed.  What has changed is who it is that serves in the role.  It is now you.  It is now me.  If I am authentic on my journey about my own propensity to sin, if I am generous with stories about my need for confession, and if I am brimming over with personal accounts of God’s mercy and forgiveness, then I fulfill the qualifications of today’s scripture.  A brother or sister who has lost their way will find me an agent of healing as they return to cross centered living.  What I daily receive, I can give away effectively.  But what I try to teach outside of personal experience, this will always falls flat.

Show me if my own sin still condemns me.  I need You to be my High Priest today before I can help anybody else. Amen

Going To Someone Who Gets It

March 15, 2019

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. 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 4:14-16

“I can talk to you because I know you understand.”  Perhaps someone has said that to you.  They can tell you’ve lived the very thing from which they are suffering.  With just a few words, you can comfort them.  With just a nod, or a touch, you can bring connection to their isolation.

And what a greater gift Jesus gives!  I may go confidently to Him when I want someone who perfectly understands.  No, I don’t see His face or physically feel His hug or audibly hear His Words.  I can feel so limited by that but getting older with Jesus has shown me that I’m seeking something superficial compared to what it is that He does give to me.

  • He floods my soul with a peace that is felt at my center. No human does that.
  • He makes promises He can, and will, keep. No human can do deliver that flawlessly.
  • I have His full attention for as long as I need it. No human can give that.
  • Finally, He understands what I’m going through in just the way I’m going through it.

Each of us experiences the same thing a little differently according to our history and our wiring.  Because no two people are alike, empathy is imperfect. But with Jesus?  He made us in His image ~ wired exactly as He is wired.  He is a Type A and He is sensitive and intuitive.  He’s a free spirit and He’s well ordered.  He’s each one of us wrapped into One.  When He says He is the perfect High Priest who sympathizes, He does not offer empty platitudes.  He’s inside our skin; thinking, feeling, having been tempted as we are.

Oftentimes, someone tells me ~ “I know just what you’re going through.”  But I’ve wondered, “Do you really have the same thoughts I’m having?”  With Jesus, I know that there is deep, intuitive, and complete understanding.  I will never hear, “I don’t know what your problem is!”  He simply asks me to come if I’m heavy laden and He will give me rest.  There are no qualifications for what I’m heavy laden with.  It means anything and everything.

I used to run to You only when I’d exhausted people.  Now, my spiritual legs take me as fast as they can to You.  No hesitation.  Oh, how You suffered to assure me You understand.  Thank you.  Amen

The Good News and The Bad News

March 14, 2019

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.  Hebrews 4:13

First, the good news ~ If you fear being invisible to God, you’re not.  And the bad news ~ If you want to hide from God, you can’t.

I was born with a need to feel safe, to be under someone’s tender care.  I need to belong and to know that someone wonderful loves me.  It is a relief when I discover that I was not born in a vacuum.  My life was planned, has a purpose, and is lived within close proximity of a loving Father.  At no time am I unloved.  At no time does he take His eyes off of me.  As long as I see God’s character clearly, I am glad that I’m in His view.  It brings security and peace.

But just like Adam and Eve, there are times I want to hide.  I feel woefully inadequate and often pretend to be more together than I really am.  Because I am unwilling to look at my weaknesses, I push all thoughts of transparency out of my mind.  I foolishly think that God can’t see them either yet I am fully exposed whether I believe it or not.

For many, today’s scripture would prompt mockery.  They might not believe in God and, subsequently, don’t believe anyone is watching them.  They believe they are autonomous and in full control of their lives.  One day when they stand before God, they will discover the tragic outcome of the lie.

For others, today’s scripture prompts indifference.  They know God exists but consider Him to be repelling.  They make reckless choices ~ believing that God won’t care somehow.  They do not count on the fact that He sees all things, knows all things, and there will be an account of all things.

Every moment of time I invest in my relationship with God makes me that much more grateful that His eye is on the sparrow – and on me.  It melts my heart.  It draws me.  It tears down my defenses.  Like a small child, I nestle at His breast.  Like a best friend, I recline in close proximity as John the Beloved did.  And here’s the thing.  He never takes His eyes off me and encourages me to keep my eyes continually on Him.  Eyes locked.  Focus unbroken.

When I take my eyes off You, and look down, like Peter ~ I am overcome by the waves.  But You are the lifter of my head. Amen

Striving. A Bad Thing?

March 11, 2019

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.  Hebrews 4:11

I got a note several weeks ago from someone who I’ve grown to care about very much.  She said, ‘Christine, please pray for me.  I’m starting to doubt the love of God.’  She was in very difficult times, and had been for a while, and she was tired of fighting for the faith. Her saving act was to reach out to another believer, admit her struggle, and ask to be reminded of what was true.  I contend that if she had kept her crisis of faith private, she would be further away from Jesus today.

The word ‘striving’ can be associated with something bad but it depends on what I’m striving for.  Trying to earn God’s favor, trying to solve my own problems, trying to make God love me; these are all useless reasons to strive.  But striving to enter the rest God promises?  Absolutely necessary.

Rest in God is the same as peace, trust, and wholehearted belief.  When I became God’s child, I didn’t enter into complete rest.  About my eternal destiny, yes, but about each of God’s promises, no.  I didn’t even know them yet.  Rest is attained by choosing to believe God – one day at a time and one promise at a time.  It is work.  It is a fight.  It takes intentional effort.  To be at rest, I must fight every natural instinct within myself to trust what I see and what logic begs to prove over what God says.  I must face my own unbelief head on and compare it to the outrageous promises of a Father who loves in such a way that I can’t fathom.  His love is the stuff of fairy tales and every promise is completely outside of human experience.

I strive for rest by prayer, meditation, and study.  It requires commitment, personal grit, and a willingness to be humble about my unbelief in the midst of discouragement. Pain begs to corrupt my faith and that is why living in community is so important.  I must have a few to whom I can say (as the letter to me said), ‘Pray for me. I’m at risk of unbelief.’

I guard my own heart and my own faith like I guard the life of a newborn child.  I know how fragile it is, how easily it can be broken.  I need to be the watchman on my wall for no other reason than  I have an enemy who seeks, relentlessly, to cause a breach in my ability to trust God.  He is the rest-thief.

I make this distinction for any of us who might fear falling away from the faith.  I cannot fall away from grace if I am His child.  I am kept by the power of God.  I will enter my promised rest in eternity, unlike the Israelites who never saw the Promised Land.  But I can fall away from the rest God offers while I’m making my way home.  My unbelief, carved out by turning a blind eye to the doubts that creep in one at a time, takes over my internal landscape until it resembles a barren wilderness.  And it’s needless.  Paradise, the kingdom, is here now.  It’s to seize my heart and define my joy but I must be willing to battle my own flesh and the devil for it.  Striving for rest is every day’s agenda.

You told me, Lord. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  He’s the rest thief.  With the sword of Your Word, I defend my faith.  Amen

Rest Then and Rest Now

March 8, 2019

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.  Hebrews 4:9

When is the this ‘rest’ that God promised, the Sabbath rest?  It’s a reference, primarily, to my eternal rest.  I will work as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.  Like it was for them, the work will not be accompanied by frustration, failure, fatigue, even financial restrictions.  I can’t even conceive of what happy labor might be without the influence of the Fall.

Frustration: There will be nothing to frustrate the work; criticism from others, abusive power, lack of resources, disharmony with other workers.  This eternal work will be accompanied by encouragement and complete harmony.

Failure: There will be no such thing as failure.  I will be like Jesus.  Whatever ability I need, I will possess.  Knowledge and skill will be innate. I will see closure wherever I invest my time.

Fatigue: There will be no weariness.  With no stress, and with a glorified body, I will have an endless supply of energy.  I will work joyfully without limits.

Financial Restrictions:  Everything resource I need to work at peak capacity will be available to me.  It will be excessive because God is generous and is the Giver of all good things.

But even now, there can be tastes of the Sabbath rest to come.  How can that be if I live in a Fallen world?  Because Paradise has been restored internally.  I am at peace with God.  In the Spirit, I am one with Perfection.

Frustration: Whatever angst I feel has a release when I offer it up in prayer.  His grace is mine to offset the intensity.  Peace is mine to replace striving.

Failure:  When I fail and condemn myself, others may glory in my shame.  God wants me to know that this need not weigh me down.  If I gave something my good faith effort, I need only draw near to Him in prayer to hear ‘Well done.’  If I’ve pleased the King of Kings, there is rest in His favor.

Fatigue:  I do get weary. He leads me to green pastures. I do get depleted.  He restores my soul.

Financial Restrictions: In the review of my life, I can be tormented by the limits caused by financial restrictions.  Perhaps I couldn’t finish college.  Perhaps I couldn’t raise the capital to start the business of my dreams.  Perhaps I went bankrupt due to poor financial choices or the betrayal of a business partner.  I can be confident that, in this life, I will achieve God’s best for me on Earth as I look to Him to be my Provider.  He is sovereign and loving even when I perceive He may be withholding.  Trusting his character is tested here but my faith can prove sterling when I ask for supernatural help.  His Word provides faith.  His Spirit provides insight.

Lord, I want everything that can be mine in you – now.  But I am also strengthened by everything to come. How you love Your children!  Amen

Sin’s Bedfellow

March 7, 2019

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. Hebrews 4:11

The offspring of sin is deception.  If I sin, I am deceived until I repent and have my conscience cleansed of all sin’s effects.

A child of God will not set out to sin with these thoughts in mind.

“I can’t wait to grieve God.”

“I love unrighteousness.”

“I will pay dearly for this but that doesn’t really bother me.”

What tempts me to sin are the lies that entice.

“I will do it just this one time.  It won’t be a big deal.”

“Scripture does talk about it but not all that much.”

“Other Christians have done it and I don’t see that it ruined their lives.”

“I live in the age of grace and God will forgive me.”

If sin and deception go hand in hand, does deception have an additional bedfellow?  Yes. Hardheartedness.  What I once felt guilty for doesn’t affect me anymore.  And, every time I repeat that sin, I care a little less.

Today, if I am grieved over my sin, I should thank God.  If I feel the heavy hand of conviction, my heart is still feeling the effects of the Spirit of God in me.  Being broken is a gift for it compels me to make things right and to once again have a purified conscience.  Spiritual rest and the peace of God can be restored.

Hardheartedness is a horrible state.  The harder the heart, the more time has passed since the sin, or the more times that sin has been repeated.  When I make a sin a pattern and refuse to acknowledge it, that particular iniquity becomes entrenched over time and turns into a stronghold.  My boundary lines are under siege and I was too busy enjoying my sin to notice how deep in the mire I was sinking.

God’s love for me is never threatened.  No matter how far away I stray, no matter what sin I commit, no matter how many times I’ve committed it, God’s power to save and deliver is greater still.  The blood of Christ and my sin are in no contest.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, disqualifies me from his call to repentance and His offer to forgive.

Don’t let me numb out.  Keep my heart tender and my spiritual senses ~ sharp.  Amen

Entering My Rest

March 6, 2019

While the promise to enter His rest remains, let us fear that none of you should miss it.  For we also have received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith.  Hebrews 4:1

The Israelites never entered the promised land because they stopped exercising their faith.  I can easily look back at their mistakes and think, “You blew it.  Why didn’t you trust God and go out on a limb?  Really?  After all the divine power you saw on display?  And, after such stunning displays of God’s faithfulness you still chose to doubt and disobey?” 

But then I wonder, am I doing any better today?  What I say I believe and what I’m willing to risk for ‘what I say I believe’ are two different things.  Believing isn’t enough.  Without exercising faith to prove it, I’ll never enter my rest either.  God is not pleased just because I say the right words.  The only thing that counts is whether or not I obey through faith.  “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

What words of God don’t I follow up with action?  I’m not talking about the big things like going to the missionfield.  I’m referring to forgiving when I don’t feel like it, trusting God when I’m called to step into the dark, waiting for God’s answers instead of moving ahead with my own solutions, following God’s prompting to attend a small group when I am shy of the intimacy, trusting God with my children and not feeling the pressure to save them; these are the kinds of things that lead to blessing.  In every place I fear, I trust.

I can be eloquent in speaking of God’s ways but my words are just the empty clichés of a sage unless I support my words with personal stories.  Faith in action is what will be contagious.  Sermons given without the history of personal application are lifeless.  Listeners can tell the difference, too.  I recall what the crowd said after encountering Peter and John.  When they saw their courage and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  Luke 4:13 

When I stop acting out of my flesh, trust you instead, oh – the stories I have to tell.  I get two things.  I see You move on my behalf and I get to experience rest from the turmoil.  Don’t let me live by my soulish defaults.  Amen