Monday, November 30, 2009

2 Peter 3 -- Are You Ready?

As I write this I am looking out the window at a gray and rainy day. If the weather people are correct this is how the last day of November for 2009 will go. As we welcome December first it become very real that Christmas is nearly upon us. Soon all the conversations will at some point turn to the question of whether we have all our Christmas shopping done. The real question that is being asked there is, are you ready? I wonder if we are ready for Christmas? Not the gifts and parties and all that. Are we ready to celebrate the coming of Christ to our world?

In 2 Peter the conversation is around the second coming of Christ. But whether it is the celebration of Christ's first coming, or the triumphal return of Christ, the question remains the same, are we ready? No matter what the so called experts say, and no matter what all the predictions might point to, we do not know when the hour will be upon us. Therefore we must always be ready for that moment. This is where being ready to celebrate Christmas collides with the second coming. Being ready means having our lives centered around Jesus Christ. There are many things which would distract us and draw our focus from Christ. Being ready means being deeply connected to God through Jesus Christ. Are you ready?

The moment will come when it is too late. That moment is not know by anyone except God. For this moment however, there is time to get ready. We have time to get our lives centered around Christ. We have time to get connected with God. So put down the credit card. Do not get that shopping cart. First, stop and ask God to meet you. Then follow what God puts in front of you. Conform your life to the life Jesus showed us in the Scriptures, and you will be well on your way to being ready.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

2 Peter 2 -- False Teachers

It seems as though as long as there has been time, there has been the potential for people to teach about God in false ways and for false motives. What we read in 2 Peter 2 was not the firs occurrence of false teachers. The Old Testament is filled with false teachers. All through the New Testament we find false teachings. Since the Biblical record was established we can look through the history books and find false teachers about the things of God. Even with it being nothing new the questions remains, why?

The list of reasons is as varied as it is long. Some do it for personal gain. Others doing it in good faith that what they are teaching is pure. Still others knowingly deceive. Whatever the reason or the time, there will be false teachers. They key is not figuring out why, or how to eliminate them. The key is keep ourselves from being sucked in. Emotion, desire and weakness can cause us to follow after teaching which we know is not godly. We must find ways to recognize and test what we are being taught so that we might discern whether it is godly or not. The first and best measure is to look in the Scriptures. All things must be consistent with the Holy Scriptures, if it is not, the teaching is false. Just because we do not like what is being said is not a reason. The test of scripture is the ultimate measure.

For those who would be false teachers the future is not good. Destruction and death await. The same goes for those who forsake God and follow after the false teachings. The signs of false teaching are all around, and God will go through great lengths to show us the truth, i.e. Balaam's donkey. We must submit to the guidance of God, and test everything that we might not fall prey.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

2 Peter 1 -- Keep Going

You know the day. It has been one of those long days where motion was constant. From the moment you stepped out of bed until the moment you find your bed again it has been go. There is something so satisfying about that moment. It seems as though we could stay in that moment forever. In our journey with God we have the same thing. We work hard to enter into a disciplined journey, curb the things which need it, and initiate the things which need it. The point comes when we are ready to sit back, relax and let our faith work for us.

Peter warns us not to do do this. We are in fact on a journey and we need to keep going. This does not mean we do not stop every once and a while to take in the view, or catch our breath. It means we continue to add to and build upon our faith. There is not a point when we are done. Being Thanksgiving, there is not a time when the little red timer pops us letting us know it is turkey time. The journey we are on is an effort. In the midst of the effort we find joy, peace and love, but it is an effort nonetheless.

The rest of our earthly pilgrimage is to be one where we continue to grow in faith, love and hope. Days when we are tired and just do not what to keep going. Take a few moments to catch your breath, rest a little, and then keep going. When on a journey that is the key to getting to the place of calling, keep going.

1 Peter 5 -- The Lion

One of my favorite places to go with my children is the zoo. The excitement the girls show, wait not show, they ooze, catches me every time. From the pacing tiger to the lazy alligator they love them all. The local zoos we go to do not have one of my favorite animals, the lion. There is just something about the lion which draws me in. It is a combination of fear and wonderment. This majestic animal who could tear me limb for limb also captures me. I love watching the shows which track the lion in the African Safari. Some poor unsuspecting wildebeest will be grazing and then wham the pride of lions is upon it. Before the attach there is a strange organization, followed by an intentional prowl, then the pounce.

Peter warns that Satan is the same way. This is where I break from liking the lion, love the lion, not at all a fan of Satan. The hunting technique is the same however. We go about our daily lives, doing what we always do. Often we are unaware of the danger which lurks around us. Satan is on the prowl like the lion. Measuring us up, planning and plotting for the opportunity to pounce. Like the wildebeest, we are oblivious to the fury that is about to be unleashed in our direction. Peter says be alert.

I do not thing we need to run around in fear of Satan, "Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world". Still we have to be aware that he is out there looking to have us for lunch. Fear is one of the greatest tools used by Satan to keep the Body of Christ at bay. Fear does not need to be our response. Awareness and connection with God are the ways we overcome.

May we know the lion is on the prowl. May we also know the Lion of Judah is a bigger, stronger and more powerful lion. May we be aware of the threat, but also the victory we have in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

1 Peter 4 -- What Makes You So Different?

There is an expectation that life will be easy. I am not sure where this expectation comes from, and I am pretty sure this expectation changes depending on the culture you emerge from. Here in the West, the expectation is life should be easy and when it is not we are really good a complaining. Peter seem to know that people would expect life to be easy, and that we would be confused when it was not. Most of his letter is spent reminding us that living for God will bring challenge and suffering with it. Yet, we fall prey to the idea that life should be easy.

What makes us think we will so different than all those who have come before us? Better yet what makes us think that we should have it any different than the One who sets us free, Jesus Christ? Sure because of Jesus we do not suffer in sin, that was cared for at the cross, but we suffer at the hands of those who knew how we use to be. A nasty gravitational like pull exists in our society which pulls us to a life filled with all the earthly pleasures. It is not that God does not want us to have any earthly pleasures, it is simply we must pursue God more than these pleasures.

For centuries the people called Christians have faced persecution and trail of many kinds. Living for God through the grace of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit will cause you to be at odds with the standards of this world. If it does not, then it is time to take a good look at your journey and see how closely you are walking with God. It seems pure pride and audacity to think we should have it different than all those who have come before us. The only time when the persecution and trail will end is when Jesus returns. Until then we can expect life to have challenges. The easy life is a myth the world offers to sidetrack humanity. The good life is not found in the stuff acquired, rather in the path followed.

May we all join the cloud of witnesses who remained faithful in the face of trail. May we know that part of our unity with centuries of followers before us, is the suffering, trails and tribulation. May we count is all joy to be considered worthy of suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 23, 2009

1 Peter 3 -- Suffereing For Good

The beginning of this chapter starts on a subject many are afraid to handle nowadays in the Western world. This hesitancy comes in part because of how the short passages have been lived out. Often the focus is heavily upon the role of the wife to submit. This is short sighted for two reasons, one there is plenty of evidence in the scriptures that husbands have some work to do as well. The second is our understanding of submission. We have taken the word to mean a form of weakness. This is not the original intent, it means yielding to a husband, but not simply allowing whatever the husband wants.

However that is not the focus today. This idea of suffering for doing good. Few things fly in the face of modern Western culture more than the concept of suffering for doing good. Evidence is seen early in life when we are encouraged to do the right thing in classrooms and school yards. While there might be some accolades from teachers, much suffering comes at the hands of peers for those who are the "good" kids. Rarely is doing good or the right thing rewarded in our culture. Yet the prevailing thought of many is if I do good things, I should get rewarded.

Peter tells us that we do in fact get rewarded, but it is a different kind of reward. Like Noah, our reward is from an eternal perspective not an earthly one. I cannot imagine the ridicule and out right persecution Noah faced as he was building the ark. I am sure Noah suffered for doing what was right and what God called him to do. The same is true today. The culture we live in has a distorted view of what is good and right, and often in conflict with the call of God. When we begin to follow God more than culture, we will suffer. The reality is we are all going to suffer in some form, why not suffer for doing what is godly and eternal?

Doing the good and right thing might be difficult. We must still however, continue to do it. Additionally we must not look around us for encouragement and support, sometimes our only support in doing good is from God. May we be found as people of God doing what is right.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

1 Peter 2 -- Cornerstone

The stone that the builders rejected has now become the chief cornerstone. In many forms and variations this quote has echoed through time. In the world of the church we know the chief cornerstone, or capstone, is Jesus Christ. A building is not complete without the capstone, and the capstone was the primary identifier of the building. It is not an easy job being the cornerstone, but it is the role Jesus plays.

All people must decide what they are going to do with the cornerstone of faith. Will we be counted in the people who celebrate Jesus, or will we be counted in the people who reject him. As the writer here in Peter says, those who believe will see Jesus as precious, those who do not will see Jesus as a stumbling block. Filled with all kinds of rules and regulations. For those who reject the cornerstone, all they will see in Jesus is someone who limits their freedoms, and someone who's name has been used to justify horrible things. These people will not see the true Jesus.

The true Jesus gives us freedom, but not as we are accustom to having freedom. Freedom in Christ comes from denying ourselves and the desires which rage with in. The greatest freedom is not defined by being able to do whatever we want to do, it is defined by not be captive to whatever we do. When we allow our desires to drive what we do, often the result is guilt and regret. If we allow Jesus to be our cornerstone, the completing force and primary identity, we will follow his ways. His ways lead to life, fullness and freedom.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

1 Peter 1 -- Be Holy

If that isn't a big challenge for the morning. Be holy, because I am holy. Many mornings I have trouble being awake much less holy. Ah, but if it is up to me I cannot find holiness, it is only through Jesus Christ that we find this holiness. It is helpful to look back a little in this section to see where the writer describes what it would mean to be holy. We are not left to simply guess we are given clues to what the holy life is all about.

The starting place is with Jesus. Without the sacrifice of Jesus, we do not stand a chance. From before the dawn of creation Jesus was selected for the work of making us holy. That is pure and presentable to God. If we are going to live into this holiness we must have a life characterized by a few things. Self control, the hope of grace in Jesus, non-conformity with evil desires, and to follow our leader. The section of Peter where this is outlined begins with some very important words, prepare your minds for action.

So often in our faith journey we sit around and pontificate about the great meanings of who God is and who we "ought" to be. People spend their entire course on this earth contemplating these lofty things and never find them. Why? The have prepared their minds, but not for action. There is a perfect balance to be found between knowing and doing. When our primary mode of operation is knowing God, we often know about God, but do not know God. When our primary mode of operation is to always be doing, our faith can lose its foundation. There must be a middle, and there is.

This middle is not easy. We must find time to think, ponder and study the things of God, while at the same time allowing the study and thinking to produce in us action and fruit. The holiness Peter refers to is totally about the work of Jesus Christ making us holy. It is also totally about being people who become like Jesus in our holiness though being about the things Jesus was about. Confused yet?

Being holy, is not about the knowledge of God, it is about knowing God, and doing what it is that God is about in our world. Are we being holy?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

James 5 -- Waiting

One of the hardest things for me to do is wait. Whether it is at a stop light, at the grocery store, or for things to develop at the church. Waiting seems to produce in me an anxiousness which is not always helpful or healthy. The ultimate waiting game is waiting for the return of Jesus to establish the fullness of the kingdom of God.

In the Western world I am not sure we anticipate this quite the same as other places. In our comfy Christian worldview we are not challenged much for holding to Christianity. Sure there may be criticism and name calling. I know people who have lost jobs because of the faith relationship with Jesus. Yet, I am not sure there are many people in the Western world who are at risk of their life because of Christ. Often it is not felt that we need Christ to return because we are doing just fine on our own. And they say people don't believe in myths anymore. For the audience James was written to this was a huge issue, an issue of life and death.

Most of the early followers believed they would see Jesus return in their lifetime. Couple that with a culture that was hostile to those who followed Christ, and you have a lot of suffering. People would hold fast to Christ, the government and other religious organizations would pressure and persecute the followers. All of the persecution would have gone away if they would simply give up on their Jesus. James reminds them to stay strong, and be patient in waiting for the Lord.

I wonder how many people think Jesus will return in their lifetime? I mean not as a theological possibility, but as an actual belief. Do we live our lives with a patient endurance, ready for that day at any given moment? How might we live differently if we truly expected Christ to return in our lifetime. What would life be like if we lived in a place where our life was in danger because of that belief? Funny in a place and time when there is room for people to safely hold that belief many have abandoned it, and in the time and place where it was not safe, many clung to it for life.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

James 4 -- You Can't Always Get What You Want

Very few are the people who do not have a running list of things they want. The list is complete with both material and non material things. On this list there are hopes and dreams, plans and desires. For the follower of Christ there is an appropriate tendency to bring these things to God in prayer. We pray fervently, with great hope of what God will offer to us. What do we receive? Nothing, or at least not what we have desired.

I know it seems simple and has been said before, but believe it or not what we want is not always in our own best interest. Have you ever had the experience of getting exactly what you were looking for, only to find out it caused more trouble that did good? The reality is we should take all of who we are to God and offer it up. This means our list, hopes, dreams and desires, however, we must remember that it is God who is in control not us.

Especially in the Western world we think we are in charge. What we do, where we go, all the details of life seem to indicate we are in charge of our lives. This is a false perception. Ultimately God is in charge of everything, and allows us choices, but we do not always make the best choices. When it comes to our list, it is not bad to have a list, we must remember that it is up to God if the list becomes a reality. We might have a three year plan to see the list come to reality, but we have no way of knowing what life will be like tomorrow, much less three years from now.

So, what are to do, give up? Yes and no. We should never stop striving or having a list. At the same time we should remember who is in charge of the list. Life does not always play out as we want, some would say rarely does it. If we submit ourselves to the author of life, God, than we might not get what we want, we will get what we need. Hey that is catchy, I think someone should out that in a song, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you get what you need." too late it is already there.

Let us thank God that we do not always get what we want, and that God offers to us what we need more. May we have the faithfulness and courage to choose what is being offered to us by the great God of the universe, and see it is what we need.

Monday, November 16, 2009

James 3 -- Watch Your Mouth

Humans are verbal people. No matter what the language or dialect, people communicate through verbal means. This is not the only way communication happens, yet it tends to be primary in our culture and many others. The words which come from our mouths have great potential. These words can build up or they can hurt. Words have the ability to enlighten, or they can cause greater ignorance. Whenever we have opportunity to speak, we have great ability to impact those who are hearing.

When you think about the words you say, are they carefully selected, or are they from the top of your head. If you are like me the answer depends on the situation. There are times when I carefully select the words, other times when I do not. No matter what the situation, it is important that we are mindful of our words. Those who are followers of Christ are to watch their mouths.

It use to be the grandmother rule could be invoked. I no longer use that rule. It seems no matter who you look at the potential for poor of foul language exists in all of us. The times when those impure words jump from my mouth, I feel a sense of loss. It shows my connection with God is not as strong as I would like it.

After spending a few moments scolding myself, I quickly move to seeking God. Only with a connection with God can I offer pure and holy words. Without God my words quickly become tools of hurt, pain and ugliness. The closer I grow with God in my journey the less I find these words coming out of my mouth. The frequency they come to my mind is sad, but even that is becoming less as I journey closer.

May we all watch out mouths today. May we speak words of purity and encouragement. May only praise of God come from our lips.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

James 2 -- Faith and Works

How is it that we can tell whether someone has faith or not? They can tell us all about their faith. How much they love Jesus, and how great they think the commandments are. It is easy to talk a real good faith, but is that the measure? James would say no, and I would agree. The best measure of a persons faith, or relationship with God through Jesus Christ is found in their actions.

James proclaims that faith without works is dead. The relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ is seen in the actions we take. When we look at the life of Jesus the gospels tell of his death and resurrection, but most of their effort and energy focus on his life, how Jesus lives, the actions he was about. Had Jesus simply said I am the Son of God, the Messiah, the One you have been waiting for, and had not works to support it, people would not have followed. Claims alone will not get you very far, we must put actions to our claims.

While we are putting actions to our claims there is an important truth which cannot be overlooked. Our actions alone will not get the job done. If we do all the right stuff, minister with the people God brings our way. If we major in deeds, but do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ we are lost. It is through the grace of Jesus Christ alone that we enter into a full relationship with God, no amount of good deeds can do this.

So we see it is the two working in harmony. We must claim and accept the grace of God offered through Jesus Christ. We must also have that claim produce in us all kinds of good works for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

James 1 -- Killing Sin

"Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when fully grown, gives birth to death" v15.

Wow, James sure lays it out clearly. Those impure desires which show up in our lives if allowed to grow and develop will give birth to sin on our lives. Sin starts with impure desires. We have a chance to cut sin down before it takes root. Many people do not live mindful of their desires, or even measuring whether their desires are pure or not. This comes from the fact that an increasing number of people live totally out of their desires. If we test our desires, and find ways to stop the impure, or unholy desires, then we stop sin before it can be born.

What happens when one gets through? When desire gives birth to sin then what. The way James lays this out, even that is not terminal. Once sin blossoms into life, we can still keep it from resulting in our death. This is where Jesus comes into play. We can put sin to death through Jesus before it has a chance to invade our lives and lead to our destruction. Once again this does not have to be terminal. Sin which is not dealt with will grow, and rule our lives. This will ultimately lead to death. It does not have to. Kill sin while it is still young and has not grown to control our lives.

Take some time today to look at your life. Where are you having desires that are not godly and pure? Where have you allowed sin to grow? It is not too late. As long as you have breath, and the Lord waits for the return there is time to embrace life. The scary part is we do not know how much time we have. The hour and day of the return and final judgment are not know. We cannot do anything about that. What we can do is be sure we are ready at any given moment. How are we ready, we put sin to death, before it has a chance to grow and kill us.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hebrews 13 -- Just In Case

Here the writer concludes the letter titled Hebrews. In this last section labeled chapter 13, we find a whirlwind of encouragements. It is almost as if the writer were running down a list of things they wanted to make sure and say. With so many different things thrown in it is hard to focus on any one. We must consider them as a whole, as a just in case I forgot to mention something here is a list.

Prayer plays a big role in this chapter. Praying for others, the imprisoned, those being mistreated, the writer themselves. There is a call to remain true to the teachings of Christ and not get drawn away. We find an exhortation to obey and submit to leadership. This hodge podge of encouragements comes together to offer words of how to continue in the covenant of Christ.

These words are not simply locked in a time long gone by. These are words which are important for us today. We must continue to live the eternal covenant which we are sealed to through Christ. It matters how we live out our faith. It matters whether we simply recognize Jesus as Savior, or if we journey to have our lives look like his. Keep on walking the journey.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hebrews 12 -- Discipline

Just the mere presence of the words causes all kinds of issues for us. Whether it is the correction of a behavior, or the commitment to engage in a process of health, discipline is usually high on the to do list and low on the follow through. Discipline is one of those words and ideas which has become outdated in some circles. Yet here we find in the Scriptures Hebrews 12 and a discussion about discipline.

The writer is clear, no one really enjoys discipline when it is going on. Usually there is a measure of pain and dissatisfaction with discipline. Oh, but when we come through the round of discipline and look back we are often thankful. When it comes to discipline in our lives the way we experience the discipline of God has a lot to do with how experienced discipline in our formative years. Some were fortunate enough to live in homes where discipline while tough was done with great love and grace. Others lives in homes where discipline was metered out higher of the tough and lower of the love and grace. While others still had to deal with brutal discipline, often physical, and an absence of love and grace. It is easy to transfer the way we were disciplined to the way that God is going to discipline.

I am going to focus on those who experienced a very harsh and unloving discipline in their formative years. When folks in this group experience the discipline of God, there is an increased focus on the pain and suffering. This is the only way they know discipline to function. There is an expectation of God simply beating them, and moving on. That is not how God disciplines. The pain may be there, the suffering may be there, so won't God. We have heard it said, "This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you." In earthly terms, that is not always real true. When it comes to our godly correction, the hurt and pain are equal. God is not looking for ways to get us, and to have to go through trial. God would rather spend all the days in delightful conversation. We, humanity, tend to stray from the plan and the result is discipline. It breaks God's heart to see us in pain, yet God knows that is how we will learn and be trained in the ways of following.

Discipline is painful, none of us really look forward to it. Yet, without discipline we would be even more trapped in the endless cycle of going our own way. Remember when times of discipline come, find a way to see God with you, growing you, longing to see you become more of who you are designed and created to be.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hebrews 11 -- By Faith

Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the Hall of Faith. References to many of the faithful described in scriptures offered to us as examples of faith. While I would like to play editor with the list to be include a few others like Ruth, and Deborah, possibly Esther, the list stands before us a testament to what faith in God can produce.

Each of the individuals listed were ordinary people. They may have been elevated to great position, however, they were anybodies just like you and I. The thing which qualified them for this list was not their greatness, it was the faithfulness. In the midst of big challenges and overwhelming odds, these people trusted God more than they trusted what they could see right in front of themselves. Faith was the qualifier, not results in and of themselves. By faith these men and woman lived as examples to us all what happens when everyday people have faith in God.

God may be calling you to build an ark, to sacrifice that which was promised, to put it all on the line. What you are able to see right in front of you might be telling you to do something else. What will you do? Faith is having more trust in what is unseen than in what is seen. Circumstances can seem huge, and too much to overcome. The visual mountain in front of us could cause us to give up. It was Jesus who said if you have faith even as small as a mustard seed you can tell that mountain to move, and it will. I do not rule out God's ability to move a physical mountain, however, I cannot help but wonder if Hebrews 11 is connected with the prayer that moves mountains.

What mountains are you facing today? Do you have more faith in the mountain or in God? Where you place your faith will have everything to do with how you view the mountain.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hebrews 10 -- Let Us

Here in Hebrews 10 we have a series of let us statements. Let us draw near to God with sincere hearts. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. Let us consider how we may spur one another on in love. Let us not give up meeting together. Let us encourage one another. Essentially all these things encourage us, the followers of Christ to live together in a community of hope. A place where the community does not simply coexist, rather it thrives as it comes together to be the people of God revealed through this earthly pilgrimage.

This is not a series of may yous, no it is a series of let us. While each individual must do their part, it is the community that must work together in such a way that the love of Christ is evident to all those who would see this community at work. I wonder what it would be like to find a community that together drew near to God, that lived out the hope found in Jesus Christ. What would happen if a community of people spurred one another on in love, met together regularly simply to be together with God. How would it work for a community existed to encourage one another in the relentless pursuit of God with reckless abandon.

This has been the challenge to the church, The Body of Christ for centuries. For centuries the challenge has been amplified because of the same reason, humanity. Only through the power of Jesus Christ do we play well together. Left to our own devices we bicker, and take sides. We make the journey about us instead of being about God. It is easy for us to think we are the primary actors in the drama, everyone else is the supporting cast including God. As Francis Chan has stimulated us to think, what if we are a part if the movie God is watching. This life is so not about us and our desires. It is about a community of people becoming the people God intends us to be. This is not and cannot be an individual journey. This is one of the reasons the writer of Hebrews reminds, Let us.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hebrews 9 -- Gruesome Truth

The topic of sacrifice is never a pretty topic, especially when it comes from the Bible. It seems whenever sacrifice is mentioned in the scriptures it involves blood and the sprinkling of blood on things and people. This conjures up some pretty gruesome images. Could you imagine the next time you are gathered for worship is the pastor started sprinkling blood on everything including you? I am not sure there would be many people in church, and I am pretty sure the pastor would have an all expense paid trip to talk with the local authorities.

Still the Old Testament is filled with images and instances of blood. What is more, the images are connected with our redemption. Each year the high priest would take the blood of pure animals and use it to enter in the Most Holy Place and seek atonement for himself and the people. For centuries this happened. So why doesn't it happen today? Well scary as it is, there are some religious traditions and practices in the world who still carry this on. I do not mean in far off lands where people do not know better. Right here in these good ole United States there are groups in the name of religion who engage in blood sacrifice. Why not in the Christian church?

While the high priest had to go annually to offer the blood sacrifice, Jesus cared for this issue once and for all time. This is part of the whole new covenant. The old covenant required the gruesome act of offering blood. The new covenant still requires such a thing, however Jesus offered his own blood as an eternal sacrifice. Jesus' sacrifice is real, and the blood which flowed from him on the cross was real. The gruesome truth is without that reality we remain hopelessly lost. However, we need not shed more blood, because Jesus' blood still covers our sin.

Human reality has not changes. We are a rebellious bunch who thinks we know best how to navigate this world. Our greatest sin is how often we lean on our understanding more than trust in God. Because of this the gruesome truth remains, sacrifice is necessary for our righteousness. Let us be thankful we no longer need to have actual bloodshed at our gatherings.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hebrews 8 -- New vs. Old

When the New International Version of the bible describes what happens to the old covenant of God with the people the word choice fascinates me. Hebrews 8:13, "By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." For centuries this has caused more controversy and challenge than realized. The tendency is to try and make the new just like the old.

The place this challenge is most easily seen is in our clothes. Say your favorite pair of jeans gets to the point where there is no hope of continuing to wear them. When the search for a new pair of jeans commences we look for jeans that look and feel just like the old favorite ones. There is one problem, this is an impossible task, the old ones are obsolete and soon will disappear. The need for new is often clear and not debated. The great debate begins when we try to ensure the new is just like the old.

For centuries God had a covenant with the people. This covenant was based in the law given to Moses. The covenant through Moses was actually initiated in the covenant with Abraham. Nonetheless, the covenant of God called people to live their lives according to the laws. If the laws were kept, righteousness would be found. The old covenant didn't work. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, if the old covenant would have worked there would be no need for a new one, however, the old did accomplish the goal of God, so a new one was established.

The new covenant is not law based, rather it is grace based. Founded in Jesus Christ, the new covenant offers righteousness. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we find the offer of grace for life. There is still a call to holy living, and there are still standards by which the followers of Jesus are to live, only in the new covenant there is grace. the old covenant is still important, we must learn all we can from the former things. We cannot however, live in the former things we must live into the new.

Whether it is clothing or our covenant with God, the old cannot be held onto for dear life. God is doing a new thing do we not perceive it? (Isaiah 43). The new is among us, may we embrace it, and remember there is always a new, to our old.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hebrews 7 -- High Priest?

This is the section of Hebrews where the original audience is very clear. All the talk about a high priest is enough to make a Gentile, and most protestants more than a little creeped out. To really understand this section we must understand the role of the high priest in the Jewish tradition. The high priest is the one who would be the intermediary between God and the people. When there was sin to be atoned for, the high priest would offer sacrifice on behalf of the people. When there was prayer to be lifted, the high priest would burn incense and offer the prayers of the people. The Old Testament, more specific the Levitical, standard was to have only persons from the tribe of Levi to be the priests. The most glaring Old Testament exception is Melchizedek. He was a of God in the time of Abraham, before Aaron and the order of Levitical priests.

In the scriptures we meet Melchizedek before the giving of the law. Long before the captivity in Egypt, the exodus, and the giving of the law, God recognizes Melchizedek as a priest. Abraham also recognizes him and gives a tenth of the plunder from the recently won battle. This is a priest outside of the law. Jesus is a priest in this line, not the Levitical line. Outside of the giving of the law.

When the writer of Hebrews sets their sites on the law the Jewish audience would be outraged. The writer is saying that Jesus is bigger than the law, and the law has flaws in that it cannot make someone perfect. To say this would be controversial is among the top ten understatements of all time. It was through the law that righteousness was found, or so thought the Jews. The writer of Hebrews offers a different idea, Jesus.

It is through Jesus Christ that we are made right with God. Jesus as the High Priest. The one who offers sacrifice on our behalf, himself. The High Priest who goes to God on our behalf. Only through Jesus Christ can we be made perfect. The law failed in its attempt to present us to God without a blemish, Jesus Christ is the only way that can happen. Human priests are weak, and will let us down. Jesus, the ultimate priest will never let us down as he is perfect in every way and for all time.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hebrews 6 -- On Your Side

There are many challenges in life. When adversity and challenge show up it often shows up with a team of people. Some of those people are there to cheer you on, while others are there to work for your demise. The times when things seem most bleak and it seems like those who are against you are far greater in number and size than those with you it can start to feel very lonely. The writer of Hebrews reminds the readers then and now, there is someone on your side. Through the promise of God, God is on our side. God longs to see the best for us, and is our advocate and counsel through the Holy Spirit.

God sees the best in us in each situation, in fact that is why Jesus was sent to this earth. Not because all God could see is our brokenness. Rather because God could see the best in us, and knew to bring out our best there must be an atonement for sin. Our best is often marred by sin. The best in us can get buried and bruised. Yet God will look through it all and see the very best. After all we are created in the image of God. That image is perfection, and God is working through Jesus Christ to bring that image to the surface.

God is on our side. This is not a political statement. It is not a statement that says my God is better than your god. It is a statement that says the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who sent Jesus, the God who calls us today is on our side and wants to see our very best shine through. Through Jesus we have an advocate with God, a high priest working on our behalf. The high priest presents us to God at our very best. This is the promise of God for the people of creation.