If I Could Just Go Myself

April 10, 2019


We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.  Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20

The anchor was a very popular icon in the culture of the early church.  Inside the catacombs, there are at least 60+ pictures of them.  As persecuted believers fled there to hide from those who were hunting them down in an attempt to annihilate them, the reminder that Christ was their anchor in the storm gave them strength and comfort. 

The writer of Hebrews says that ‘hope’ is found in the inner sanctuary, behind the curtain of the holies of holies but, in the old covenant, only the high priest was able to go there.  No one else enjoyed the privilege.  No one else felt the wonder of standing in God’s presence.  The hope that He experienced, he hopefully passed on but that would have been second hand. 

There is no comparison strong enough to really capture that but imagine that your best friend went to stand near the Matterhorn, or he stood on the shores of Lake Louise in Alberta.  You’d heard about both places, even seen pictures, but you could only dream of going.  Your friend returns and though you can see how it impacted him as he talks about it, and though your imagination is certainly enlarged, it’s still not the same as if you’d bought a ticket and gone there in person.  The most powerful things in life have to be experienced personally to really get it.      

Jesus coming removed all our limitations. Now, you and I have access that millions before us never had.  I don’t have to hear from someone else what God’s presence is like.  I don’t have to wonder how being near Him would affect me.  I don’t have to hear a priest’s stories and yearn to experience what he experienced.  I can gain the strength I need from God personally.  I can go behind the veil myself, right into His presence, and talk to Him as much as I want.  I can stay there as long as I want and feel the power of His indwelling Spirit filling my spiritual reservoirs.  After a season in prayer, I am energized to face my life.  I know that He is my anchor because I’ve felt the hopelessness of living outside of His presence. 

My anchor. My eyes are on You.  I hold fast.  Amen

Refuge From The Avenger

April 9, 2019


It is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.  Hebrews 6:18

 Have you ever been the object of revenge?  Perhaps you did something awful but later regretted it when you considered what this person might dish out in return.  What’s even worse is when we are innocent of the crime and yet we are their object of hatred.  What happened was an accident, but they believed it was intentional.  Maybe you’re hiding from your avenger.  You avoid certain stores, you abstain from family gatherings, all because someone has it in for you.  Perhaps you live reciting the verse, “God is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?”  This strengthens your inner man before entering the presence of the one who does not want you to prosper and would celebrate your demise.

Would it surprise you to know that God made provision for the man who needed to avoid his avenger?  Somehow the knowledge of this in the Old Testament escaped me.  (The announcement of this provision is found in Numbers 35 and Joshua 20.) If someone killed another person by accident, and his friends and family were out to get him, there were sanctuary cities instituted by God for the one who took another’s life by mistake.  He could go there, present his case to the elders at the gate, and then take refuge inside the city walls.  As long as he remained there, the avengers couldn’t harm him.  After a period of time, he could return to his home as an innocent man.

Each of us faces an avenger.  I have an adversary simply because of whose I am.  Satan doesn’t just hate me for being me, he hates me because I am the child of God, his enemy.  He seeks to kill and destroy and, indeed, you and I would be dead were it not for God’s protection.  Satan would love to have carte blanche except I am hedged in behind a boundary line set by God.  He is my refuge!  He is my sanctuary!  No accusations from Satan will stand.  Christ has declared me forgiven no matter what evidence Satan has against me.  He, the avenger, cannot prevail.

What is it you’re running from?  Maybe you’re afraid of God’s retribution?  Maybe you’re afraid of your own shame and guilt, brought about mistakes you’d give anything to erase.  Run to God.  I do, believe me.  Based on the inspired Word of God, I declare to you that He is our refuge.  He is the safe place when the past seeks to undo us.  He is the sanctuary when others seek to do us harm.  He is our hiding place when our mind and heart need concealment.  He is our fortress when the arrows of accusation fly.  He is our haven of rest when the atmosphere is threatening and frenetic.  Who stands at the gate to plead our case?  Not the elders. It’s Jesus!

“I go to prepare a place for you,” you said.  It’s here now and you knew your children would need You.  Amen

Swearing By Myself

April 8, 2019


For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater to swear by, He swore by Himself: I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply you. Hebrews 6:13 

A person stands in a courtroom and takes an oath.  He has been summoned to be an important witness in a case. Either the prosecution or the defense is counting on him to strengthen their case.  But he will not give his most honest and accurate account without first taking an oath.  He must swear by someone greater than himself, someone by whom all parties present fear and respect.  That is the reason all swearing in ends with, ‘So help me God.’  A person giving testimony is saying that if they stood before God Himself, their account would match what they are about to say.  (Though it is disturbing how many lie under oath.  Getting caught is more about what the law will do to them for perjury rather than displeasing the God they swore by.)

If I am trying to persuade another person of the veracity of my story, I might pick someone we both highly respect and encourage the other person to check out my reputation.  Checks and balances are good for society. God made a promise to Abraham and to underscore His perfect intentions, He swore by Himself.  There was no one greater by whom He could swear.

Does this have anything to do with you and me?  Oh yes.  The next time the circumstances of life beg to disprove one of God’s precious promises, I will remember by whom He swore it.  It is a righteous and holy God that spoke the words.  He is incapable of lying and reneging.  All I need to do is review the covenant God made with Abraham.  Even though the people of Israel were unpredictable when, and in whom, they gave their loyalty, God still continued to keep His promise.  Even though they build a golden calf, His promise was still good.

If Jesus came today in person to where we are, looked us in the eyes and made a vow, we would forever hold it dear and believe it to be irrevocable.  Though we have not seen Him, He has made us promises with our names on each one of them.  No matter my ups and downs, no matter my crises of faith, no matter by lapses in obedience, no matter the degree of my anger against Him at times, no matter how needy, no matter how doubtful, no matter what ~ God’s promises are solid and will prevail.  He swore by Himself.  This is love – unmoved.  This is covenant – unshaken.

You whispered my name and said, ‘I promise.’  I whisper your name and say, ‘I believe.’  Amen

Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” Genesis 50:19-20

Oh, for me to have a Genesis 50/20 perspective on all things done against me, from the petty to the catastrophic. Oh, for my initial reaction to be confidence in God’s redemptive power instead of anguish.

There is no evil that wins in my life if I press in to seek redemption. No evil done against me takes God by surprise. Ever. He saw it ahead of time and planned long ago how to wield authoritative power in order to transform it from a ‘Calvary’ to a ‘resurrection’. To seek it, to expect it, to believe it, is my dilemma when it appears my life has been taken from me. This describes the ultimate battle for faith.

Does this mean that I don’t feel the pain of betrayal? Does this mean that my right to cry out from the pit (as Joseph did) is spiritually unbecoming? Not at all. Jesus cried so deeply that the stress He felt made Him sweat drops of blood. I, too, acknowledge loss. I grieve. But underlying all of it must be a trust in a God that does not let evil have the last word. Pain should never cause me to back up from God – just draw closer.

If two scriptures could marry, consider wedding together Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28. The first explains why the latter is true. Because any evil done against me God uses for my good, all things work together for good to those who love God.

At this very moment, you may be a victim of evil scheming. The perpetrator looks all-powerful. Your present circumstances predict defeat and a bleak future. This is the time to don the eyeglasses of faith. A Genesis 50/20 vision can be the lens through which you view your circumstances today. Through your tears, you can proclaim that this is not the end – but simply an invitation for God to pronounce new life.

Joseph was a dreamer ~ then a slave ~ then a prisoner ~ but finally a ruler. The one who lived this story is the one who preached to his perpetrators, “You meant evil but God meant it for good.” He realized this truth after his deliverance but Jesus, the One who makes all things new, predicted His own resurrection long before His death. Redemption ruled His perspective in the midst of His darkest times. It can also rule mine.

I cry but I don’t despair. Permeate my mind and heart with a default response of faith in Your goodness. Amen

Spiritual Therapy

April 4, 2019


Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.  Hebrews 6:17-18

Since God is my sanctuary, I must do everything to develop my spiritual life.  Why do I need to do this?   Because there are chinks in my armor and the weak spots need strengthening.

I’m willing to do it in the physical realm.  Following surgery, there is physical therapy. In education, a student weak in mathematics sits under a tutor.  A special needs child requires special needs intervention for his area of challenge. Whatever is weak needs concentrated attention.

In the spiritual, the process is the same. If I’ve got an anger problem, I can’t just throw all the responsibility on God to fix it.  “Lord, heal my anger today.”  I’ve got to commit time and attention because all growth is cooperative.  It takes effort to know God and it takes effort to know myself.  I believe that Christian maturity is this ~ Knowing the truth about God, knowing the truth about me, so that the truth about God can impact the truth about me.

I can know a lot about God but little about my own heart. My spiritual life can be comprised of a Christian education without a thought to my inner world.  The result is that I will know a lot but feel little. I will live shut down and my faith is little more than an intellectual distraction rather than something transformative.

Here are some examples.  An extrovert needs to learn to be quiet.  An introvert needs to learn to reach out.  A peace lover needs to learn to be bold with the truth.  A debater needs to learn when to be quiet and pray instead.  A merciful person needs to know when not to offer help and a person with little mercy needs to express compassion.  So, for me, an introvert and a peacemaker, I must learn how Jesus balanced alone-time with people-time.  I must uncover when Jesus attempted to bring peace and when He introduced conflict.  Until I know Jesus, I will not have a mirror.

Moving beyond personality types, there are sins that cripple us.  Why do we tend to self-pity?  Why do we need to control?  Why are we angry?  Why do we brood?  Why do we need attention?  These questions require prayer, reflection, the disclosure of the Holy Spirit, and feedback from people who know us well.

I need change only the Spirit of God can successfully bring about.  But I can’t say, “Change me.”   That’s ludicrous.  I must prepare the ground for His Spirit to move.  On a Sunday morning, a pastor does not ask God to preach his sermon for him.  He does His part to prepare, consecrate his heart, and then he gets to deliver it clothed in God’s power.

God uses the reflection of His Son to show me my own heart.  He shows me what to confess so that I am full of His Spirit.  Resurrection power can be mine with some personal investment.

I lay down my pride.  Amen

He Completes Me

April 3, 2019


I am complete in Him Who is the head over all rule and authority—of every angelic and earthly power  Colossians 2:10

I remember flying from New England to Atlanta some years ago. It was turbulent and way too stressful to think of reading.  Even music didn’t appeal. I finally closed my eyes and said, “Lord, teach me something powerful that I do not know.”   Slowly, God gave me this picture.  I saw the Spirit of God move into my being – like He did when I was 7 yrs. old and I asked Him to be my Savior.  “I am in you and you are in me,” He said.

Then He let me see what that looked like.  I was like a puzzle piece that He set in place inside His heart.  (It was a space only I could fit into.)  I could see the edges of me, but with time, my puzzle piece began to get fuzzy…like the edges were dissolving.  Soon, I was no longer definable. I had melted into the person of Jesus.  We were one. 

This morning on the way to a dentist appointment, I heard Alistair Begg describe the privilege of being ‘in Christ’ another way.  He talked of wrapping up the smallest infant in layers of blankets.  They are tucked round and round the child and the baby is not even seen from across the room.  You know that somewhere in those blankets, there is a baby.

Somewhere in Christ, tucked in the many layers of God, there is you.  There is me.   The more like Him we become, the more blurred the lines.  This is a deviation from Hebrews but something I’m feasting on today.

 

 

When I Drag My Feet

April 2, 2019


For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 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 6:10-11 

‘Sluggish’ is an interesting word and carries the picture of someone dragging their feet.  Do you know anyone who drags their feet on most everything you suggest?  You knew before you mentioned something that you would get resistance.  Nothing you come up with is a great idea.  They see themselves victimized by it somehow.  Now, they might comply but you know they’ll be negative the whole time.  You might say under your breath that it would have been easier to just do it alone.

It’s very humbling to realize that the sluggard can be me. Am I the one dragging my feet where the ideas of God are concerned?  Do the things that excite God excite me?  Does every suggestion from scripture appeal to me or am I the one trying to find excuses to get out of it?  I’ve lived some of my life complying with the commandments of God as if He were unreasonable and I was a victim.  I wanted to do what I wanted to do.    

Paul knew that sluggishness is a temptation.  He said, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9 

What’s the fix for my contrary spirit?  It would appear that I should rise up, give myself a good talking to, and just stop being lazy.  That would be the biggest mistake.  That’s the legalist in me.  I try to talk myself into doing what is right and behave appropriately.  So, what’s wrong with that?  I must realize that this is not a behavioral issue but a heart issue.  God doesn’t want, nor deserve, a whiny child.  He wants a friend/partner who engages with His redemptive plan joyfully.  His ideas are energizing if the Spirit of God is large in me.  If they seem like a drag, my need for quiet time with Jesus has never been greater.  Our love life has been starved by everything else that seemed more appealing.

You don’t need me to do anything.  You invite me. It’s a privilege to be asked.  Fill my heart with joy for every single thing you place in front of me today.  Amen