Daughters of Promise

Five Words. What Do They Mean To You?

January 9, 2019


After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.  Hebrews 1:4

The first five words ~ powerful words ~ and so simply said that they could get lost in some quick read of Hebrews.  Yet, in the history of this world, never were a few words more important.  Our greatest human need is to have our sins forgiven.  Without someone to forgive us and purify us, we face an eternity apart from God in a place of torment.  It is the future home of those who don’t want God.

Many have speculated about what the goodbye was like when Jesus left heaven and came to earth.  The coming separation between Father and Son had to be excruciating to face.  They both knew what Jesus was coming to do.  Atoning for the sins of the world lay in front of him and since God is not bound by time, the Trinity could look into the tomorrows and see them as if they had already happened.  They knew who would believe.  They knew who would betray.  They knew the fickleness of Jesus’ family.  They knew the many devices their enemy, Satan, would use to try to stop Jesus’ mission. 

While the goodbye had been difficult, going home was quite another scene.  Jesus ascended, left his disciples on a hillside, and was gone from them.  While absent from humanity, He was back in company with His father.  Were there tears of joy?  Did they both review 33 earth-years to try to capture the wonder of what just happened?  For them both, there had to be great relief and unfiltered joy.  From the time Adam and Eve sinned and left paradise, God knew His Son would die.  But, much of history needed to be lived before it was the right time for Jesus’ incarnation.  There was the agony of waiting amidst the carnage of animals being slaughtered in the temple.  There was the anticipation of a ‘once and for all’ sacrifice instead of a temporary covering of sin.  There was a longing in God’s heart for intimacy with His creation that only could transpire when the holy of holies was accessible.  

Mission accomplished was celebrated when Jesus returned and sat down at the right hand of His Father. The salvation of mankind was now possible and as I’m writing, I marvel that the world as a whole hasn’t recognized the gift and knelt before the feet of Jesus in gratitude.  Yet, before Jesus ever left heaven in the first place, He knew how few would want the gift.  He perceived the narrow gate and the wide gate.  He saw the throngs who would be incensed at the suggestion that they were sinners and needed a Savior.  But He also saw the ones who would hear The Story, see His glory, and believe.  The holy trinity, in celebration, could see one sinner, on his face, or on her knees, awestruck with the wonder of such a gift of redemption.  It was you and it was me.

Yes, before Jesus ever came, the God-head saw you. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit saw me.  They called us by name thousands of years before we lived and by grace, we heard the song.

I review the story and I tremble with wonder all over again.  Amen

I Can’t Hold Things Together

January 8, 2019


He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.  Hebrews 1:3

God is a God of order. Jesus, God in the flesh, holds all things in place. As the Word, He once spoke and all things came into being; perfectly connected, in perfect working order, one molecule perfectly connected to the next one.  There cannot be the slightest disorder in what God creates because He is perfect and everything He touches is perfect. 

Because I am not divine, I can’t consistently hold things together nor can I speak anything into existence. I can’t orchestrate even one element of my life and make it run with perfection.  I can’t speak over people and cause them to change or to walk in a perfect state of sanctification.  I can’t even make myself do it! 

I can’t make anyone love me who doesn’t love me.  You know the frustration and the pain of that, right?  Who doesn’t!  But the one whose love I need the most already loves me deeply and completely.  Just one small implication of today’s scripture is that God holds his love for me together and not one thing can break it, not even my disobedience. He declared His love, backed it up with the giving of His Son’s life and He will not, and cannot, end it.  The covenant He spoke into existence rules and upholds it. 

How do I internalize this?  I am motivated, in a new way, to let the God who holds the universe together hold my life together by arranging and directing everything that pertains to me.  Anything I build on my own, as well planned as I think it may be, is flawed and fragile.  It is simply disordered because my mind and ingenuity have been touched by the fall.  I realize this morning that when I am in control of my life, never am I more insecure and vulnerable.

God begs for my obedience because He longs for my world to be touched by kingdom order and divine security.  He tells me the kind of person to call a friend, the kind of person to marry. He tells me how to function in a business, or even how to live as a good citizen. He tells me how to exercise the power I have over others and even has a lot to say about how to exercise leadership within a ministry or organization. As long as I follow His lead, I know that His plans, done His way, will be upheld by the same hands that sustain the universe.  Today, my prayer is this ~  

“Speak Holy Spirit.  Declare Your Word over me and the life You gave me. Amen”

What’s The Good News In This?

January 7, 2019


In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. Hebrews 1:2

Jesus has been made heir of all things – which means that He has been made heir to everything on earth as well as everything in the galaxies and beyond.  And why shouldn’t He own it?  He created it. 

Those who possess wealth and power evoke an awe among the inhabitants of the earth.  Someone may be the richest man in the United States, or in England, or in China but when they die, they will leave it all.  And how puny is their estate when their influence is exercised over just a country or hemisphere.  They cannot rule the heavens nor did they have any part in speaking over empty space to create something.  

I am one of many who got up very early to watch the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  It was pomp and circumstance at its finest.  Yet, how insignificant was it in contrast to our King Jesus sitting on His throne.  And wasn’t the pageantry dull compared to what it will be like at the future wedding feast of the Lamb.

God the Father said of His Son, Jesus, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession” Psalm 2:7-8 Jesus doesn’t just own land masses.  He owns humanity too, through His willingness to die to pay our ransom.  Though we are created beings, we were mutinous in our allegiance and became captives of His enemy.  At what great cost He made it possible for us to return home.  

I remember today that the One who is over all things has the power to keep His promises. No one can assure me of something that they don’t own or control.  Jesus has the power and authority to bring about each and every promise He has made. No matter how big or small, it’s not the slightest bit difficult.

I don’t feel that I need more good news than this but there is more.  Hebrews 2 will go on to announce that as His daughter, I am a joint-heir with Jesus.  What Jesus owns, He will share with me.  It’s really outrageous.  I am not powerful.  I am not a Creator.  I am not omnipotent.  I am not dazzling with glory.  I am a pauper made rich by the love of my Savior.  He is extravagant in what He chooses to give – whether forgiveness, abundant life, or the treasures of heaven. 

What can I say, Jesus?  No one gives more than You. I’ll never understand Your love.  Amen

In Person Always Trumps Second Hand

January 4, 2019


IN PERSON ALWAYS TRUMPS SECOND HAND

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.   Hebrews 1:1a

How many times, prior to meeting someone, has an acquaintance assured me that I would just love this person – in person.  They told stories and anecdotes about them, even telling stories about their bold exploits for the kingdom.  At the end of all these descriptors, I felt like I kind of knew the person but nothing could have really prepared me for how I would experience them in person.  Sitting in someone’s presence was far more powerful than hearing about them second hand. It wasn’t that they were mis-represented but stories were limited in their impact.

Throughout the Old Testament, prophets experienced God in various ways.  Dreams, visions, and even God’s voice in the wind, revealed pieces of Him as Yahweh but there was no complete picture because the revelations were partial.  Until Jesus came, no one had ever been with God.  When Jesus said that He and His Father were one in the same, He was assuring those around Him that they were experiencing God in the flesh.  Finally, there was a first-hand knowledge, an up close and personal encounter. 

Not all of who God is was revealed in Jesus.  The apostle John told us that there was no way an infinite number of books could tell the stories revolving around the life of Jesus.  They would remain a mystery until the day you and I no longer ‘see in part but, instead, stand in His presence for ourselves.  Mystery will vanish and His glory will be on full display.  With glorified bodies, we will have the capacity to behold Him.  For mortal flesh, it is too much.

In the next verses and chapters in Hebrews, you and I will experience Jesus in a new and deeper way.  The implications of His life and what His incarnation meant will be showcased through new phrases and words that can take our faith to higher levels of confidence.  I am praying that we will trust Him more, believe fully that we are forgiven, be assured that He lives now to pray for us, and find a new kind of grit for living in faith instead of sojourning in the land of unbelief.

Holy Spirit, don’t let us miss anything.  Please.  Amen

Why Hebrews Stands Out From All Others

January 3, 2019


Introduction

Embarking on Hebrews at the beginning of this New Year invokes the memory of tackling Romans in 2010.  God had clearly spoken to me at a Desiring God Conference in Minneapolis about stepping up to teach a book with theological substance, a book that would cause me to think as well as feel.  It took a year to go verse by verse.  I discovered that I loved a book that had previously intimidated me.    

Hebrews can be equally daunting though I am in a different place than I was nine years ago.  I have come to know a faithful God who, through His Spirit, reveals things a little bit at a time and only as needed.  Mornings are no longer a crisis.  If I do my part and come to the throne as a beggar for truth, God will open the door wider to a world that is not perceptible unless the Spirit guides me.

Knowing the author of any book is beneficial.  With Hebrews however, we do not get to know who wrote it.  There are speculations but no proof.  He was no lightweight, however.  He was Jewish as evidenced by his references to his Jewish heritage.  He was also Greek-speaking.  Skilled with the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this would have made him a Hellenistic Jew. 

And though he was obviously an intellectual, he was not lost in his head.  He did not have a need to prove that he was brilliant.  He was a passionate intellectual.  The very reason for writing the letter dispensed with an aim to write a dispassionate discourse on sophisticated theological arguments.  The Jewish people were suffering horrific persecution and they needed courage and a reason to persevere.  It’s hard for us in the Western world, at least until now, to understand the pressures and temptations of living in the face of persecution.  (I can cave if I think I’m going to be ostracized. I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be to align with Jesus if your family and friends might die because of your confession of faith.)

The persecuted Jewish people didn’t need to go to school. They needed to know that Jesus was who He said He was.  They needed to be comforted by knowing that He remained with them, through the indwelling Spirit, to hear their prayers and meet their needs. 

It is not unlike why it’s important for me to take on a book like this in this New Year.  While study is beneficial, I am not a professor with degrees behind my name.  I am a shepherd and a teacher who has been called to ministry because of a life lived with Jesus.   I need to study so that I know – that I know – in whom I have believed.  These times in our world call for a foundation of spiritual steel.  You agree?  You looking for a fresh wind?  You wondering how you’re going to deal with the complicated issues in your home, in your own heart, and in your extended family?  You second guessing your career or call to ministry?  Hebrews has something to say and is full of surprises for any one of us who need to go deeper for trust and divine wisdom.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  Matthew 7:24-25

The coast of Maine showcases many 100-year-old homes, some of them lighthouses.  They are nestled securely in the cliffs that grace the shore.  They have withstood the test of time in spite of the many elements that battered them.  I’m sure the occupants have had some tense moments as hurricane force winds howled outside. But most likely, these homes never moved an inch.  Any damage was cosmetic.  Paint chipped, shingles flew away, and a window shattered.

Oh, that my spirit were that unmovable.  Neither a phone call nor any tragic news delivered to me would have the capacity to uproot my connection to God and my belief in His love and sovereignty.  I would be like that house, its foundation built into the immovable cliffs, and nothing could rock me off my foundation.

How do I arrive at such a place of stability?  “Hearing and doing”, Jesus says.  Just hearing the truth, making notes, and pondering profound words in the stillness of the day is not enough.  Words form suppositions – yet unproven.  Yet, I am often content to bask in good teaching and take pleasant head trips amidst interesting facts.  I take copious notes, expand and challenge my mind, and assume that I’ve grown.  Not true.

It is not until I test what I learned by putting it into practice that my new beliefs will be cemented into my spirit as truth.  I need to relax into them, knowing that I am testing them against the storms of real life.  Every time I trust them in the laboratory of experience, my foundation strengthens.

God is going to call each of us to new places in the coming year.  He spent 2018 planting new seeds of truth in our spirits.  We might have thought that learning them was the point of it all.  But the real learning will come from future experiences when we take the seeds and sow them in the soil of what lies ahead.   I need never fear a new journey.  The truths are not untested hypotheses.  Because God spoke them, they are true.  I can also know that many before me have tested them and stood strong.  In this next year and beyond, the Lord is my rock and my fortress.

There are things I say I believe, Lord, that will be scary to put into practice.  But, I’m no longer content to save risk for another day.  Now is the time, Lord!  Amen

My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.  Psalm 119:81

The hope of a new year lies in expanse.  Something not yet resolved may be resolved within the confines of this next calendar year.

Right now, someone is waiting to get well.  Someone else is waiting for a job.  An anxious mom is waiting for inner peace.  A harassed spouse is waiting for intervention.  Someone very ill is waiting for a definitive diagnosis.  Someone else is waiting for deliverance out of crushing circumstances.  All are waiting for the fulfillment of a Word.

I can never know if the salvation I seek is of the immediate kind, the kind that will come in the next twelve months, or is of a distant kind.  The prophets waited on a word and it stretched their eyes to distant horizons.  Abraham believed but he never got to see “the Word become flesh.”  Yet, the hope of it sustained him.

All my hope lies in God.   The knowledge of salvation, now or in the future, sustains and comforts me.  I do know this ~ I will live to see His Word fulfilled over the next fifty two weeks.  My hope is well placed because His promises are solid.  In whatever ways my faith is stretched, in whatever ways salvation waits on some distant horizon, God will give me grace to wait.  He will fill my heart with the Word of promise and with the hope that comes with things He speaks.  I don’t need to see it come true today to know joy.  I just need to know and believe the One who says that it will come true.

Creation groans for the revealing of the sons of God.  In the waiting, His Word continues to pulsate in my spirit with the kisses of promise.

Your Word simmers beneath the surface of my heart. Ever warm, I feel its comfort. Ever powerful, I feel its hope.  Amen