pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Persevere

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-3

Verse 2: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”.

The book of Hebrews was written during a time of intense persecution for Christianity. Violence and torture and death were daily possibilities. In this section of the book the author takes some time to remind the Hebrews of the heroes of faith. In chapter ten he begins with Jesus Christ and then proceeds on to Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, … in chapter eleven. He is reminding them of all those who have been faithful through challenges and sufferings and trials to encourage them to do the same. This is the “great cloud of witness” that is referred to in verse one of today’s passage. Almost 2,000 years later we all have names that have been added to the list. Some are famous and well-known but most are personal – parents and grandparents, mentors, fellow church goers…

The encouragement given today in our text is to throw off the things that hinder our race and to rid ourselves of those things that entangle us. For some it is fear or doubt or worry that hinders and entangles. For others it is pride or ego or selfishness. For others still it is status or position or possessions. The list of things that can hinder and entangle is long and varied. The writer of Hebrews understood this. So the first encouragement is to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us”. To persevere means to keep going no matter what. It means to keep at it even in the hardest and most difficult times. The next question that comes to mind, once for me and still for many, is this: what is the course we are to follow? We find the answer in verse two: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”. Jesus set the course. He marked the race. That is why he is the “author”. He is also the “perfecter”. He who was without sin gave us the example to persevere after. We are called to focus on Jesus so that we “will not grow weary and lose heart”. As we run our race today, may we keep our eyes and our heart on Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord, as I seek to run the race you lay out before me today, may I run faithfully and obediently. May I see as you see. Guide me by the power of the Holy Spirit this day. Amen.


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This Anointed King

Reading: Psalm 45: 1-2 and 6-9

Verse 2: “You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever”.

Today’s Psalm has the description “a wedding song” in the heading. It is a celebration of a royal wedding. Although we only read a handful of the verses that comprise this Psalm, we do get the flavor of the occasion. There is a king and his royal bride, a palace, an anointing, music, and the guest list includes daughters of kings. The clothes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia and are woven with gold. We get quite a picture of what the events looks and feels like.

Depending on who and when this Psalm was read or recited, one might have envisioned David’s royal wedding or perhaps Solomon’s or some other king of Israel. Maybe one’s mind even slips to a more recent royal wedding with all of its pomp and circumstance.

The Psalm can also be read another way. Like the author of Hebrews, we can read this Psalm and envision Jesus as the king. In Hebrews 1, this Psalm is used to point to Jesus. It is one of about 8 Old Testament passages that the author uses to connect the words that “God spoke to our forefathers” to the “words spoken to us by His Son” in the last days. This connection plays well with our modern understandings of the New Testament being the fuller revelation of the Old Testament and of Jesus as the fuller revelation of God.

When read from the perspective of Christ as the King, verse 2 has a whole new meaning. Hear Christ in this verse: “You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever”. Yes, Jesus is the most excellent example – He who was without sin. And, oh how Jesus’ lips were anointed will grace. The words of healing and forgiveness that Jesus spoke and continues to speak to us today flow with grace. And, yes, Jesus is the one blessed forever. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. Jesus is forever King.

Lord God, may this anointed King, this King with grace anointed on His lips, may King Jesus reign in our hearts each and every day. Amen.


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Choice

Reading: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

As the Hebrews stand on the edge of the Promised Land, they face a whole new life.  It is a life unlike any they have known or heard about.  It is a life that contains options, choices, freedom.  All of the stories they heard as children were of slavery in Egypt and of God’s redemption.  As slaves, the people had to follow Pharaoh’s orders or they died.  Even when God redeemed them and Moses led them out of Egypt, they were ‘free’ but we’re very dependant on God.  They wandered for forty years in the vast desert, dependant on God for everything.  On the occasions when they tested out freedom, like when they built and worshipped the golden calf, the consequences were dire.

What lay ahead was the land of milk and honey.  The land would provide their food.  The toil of their own hands would also play a role in what seemed to produce the crops.  Instead of being the only people isolated together in the desert, now rheyb would live in and amongst many different tribes.  Each of these tribes brought and offered choices.  Who to fight with, who to intermarry with?  Who to shun as outsiders, whobto kneel beside at the altar to an idol?  The Hebrews entered a new land flush with choices and freedoms.

We too live in a land flush with choices and freedom.  We too live as aliens amongst many different tribes.  Not only this, but we live in a world of tolerance and acceptance.  The ‘just do it’ and do whatever you need to to find success mentalities are poor examples of these good ideals.  And to add to this, the list of what our culture idolizes is long.  It is a tough time and place to be a devout Christian.

Each day, we too face the choice that Moses presented to the Hebrews: choose life through God or choose death through the world.  When we choose God, we are choosing the narrow road.  Our choices are not unlimited but are bound by God.  All of our choices and decisions must be filtered through lens of ‘What is God’s will in this’?  How we speak, act, and do must also be aligned with God’s will.  When we choose life through God we are choosing life in Christ.  When our choice is Jesus and we choose to declare Him the Lord of our life, we hand it all over to Him, surrendering all that we are.  When we choose life in Christ, we are choosing to become slaves to His love, hope, mercy, compassion, …  And what a life of freedom it is!  There is a choice to be made.  What is your choice?


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Into a New Way

The Book of Hebrews seeks to connect the Jews living under the old covenant to the new covenant ushered in by Jesus Christ.  In today’s passage the author explains that the old way of animal sacrifices only cleans that outside of a person but that through the new sacrifice, through the blood of Jesus, we are cleansed on the inside.  We are reminded that we are cleansed so that we can serve the living God.

Throughout Hebrews is this idea of ‘living’.  We are exhorted to have a living faith that is guided by the Spirit and not bound by manmade rules and laws.  Living by the Spirit can feel dangerous and wide-open.  Living by religion can feel safe and known.  But too often ‘religion’ is typified by rigid practices, by entrenched traditions, and by requirements that feel a lot like laws.  Like sheep tightly confined to a pen, religion asks one to go through the motions, to check off the boxes.  Religion becomes little more that Sunday worship and an occassional prayer.

By contrast Hebrews call us out of our old ways of living by religion and into new way of living by faith.  Faith is guided by the Spirit.  The Spirit moves in unexpected and surprising and unknown ways.  For typically neat, in-the-box people, this is scary.  Religion with its known boundaries is safe.  Jesus did not call us to religion, but to faith.

When Jesus sais, “Come, follow me”, He did not say where or how or when.  He simply said, “Come.”  He knew that the Spirit would lead.  May we each step out, take ahold of the hand of the Holy Spirit, and see where Jesus takes us today.

Scripture reference: Hebrews 9: 11-14