5.9.15–>”It’s Easy to Drift: Hebrews 2:1-4″

Spiritual Drift

boat drifting

Hebrews 2:1-4

We must pay the most careful attention to what we have heard so that we do not drift away from it.

I’m no maritime expert, but from what I comprehend, it is very easy to drift at sea. The instruction manual looks something like this:

  1. Do nothing.
  2. Repeat.
And the sea will take you wherever it chooses. Pretty simple. Pretty easy. It’s just that you may not like where it takes you.

It is easy to drift in life, from God. Just do nothing about it. Do not pursue God or get to know Him more deeply. Ignore Scripture, ignore other Christ-followers…

The sea in this particular metaphor, of course, is the world’s system and ways that are not God’s ways. There’s a saying, “If you don’t program your mind, the world will gladly do it for you.” I think of what would happen if I did not do my best to model and teach the ways of God to my two girls. If I just let whoever they run into, internet, movies, corporations, religious people (the ungodly kind), etc. teach them the ways of life and the world and God. What if I did nothing? If I did not pay careful attention to the task of fathering? Well, they would probably grow up to be big butt-holes. Yes, I said that.

Same with ourselves. If we’re not training ourselves in godliness in some manner and degree, do we think we’re gonna get miraculously filled with the truth and presence of God somehow? That someone will gently approach us in our sleep and put that big Matrix tube thing in our head and download it for us so we don’t have to do any work?

For many, we give God our leftovers, never the main meal.

We must pay super careful attention to what we’ve heard from Jesus. He has shown us the truth of God like no one else ever has. This is the message of Hebrews. And if that is true, it has huge implications.

“Many rift because they lack a solid grasp on commitment and personal responsibility. This problem is exacerbated in Western culture by the concurrent, contradictory longings for both autonomy and status as victim.”
-George Guthrie

“Whatever causes us to overcome all hindrances is handsomely rewarded when we break through to the glorious sunshine of His blessed presence.” -A.W. Tozer

In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria

5.8.15–>”Not a Christless Spirituality: Hebrews 1:5-14″

The Superiority of Jesus

jesus-with-the-angels

Hebrews 1:5-14

And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

About the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom..”

He also says, “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.”


 

I like to imagine an archaeological dig unearthing a manuscript by this author that has commentary to this letter, and it reads something like, “Look, what I’m saying is that this man Jesus is the supreme, ultimate being of the universe. He is of superior authority and position in comparison to anyone or anything, including angels. HE IS DIETY!”

This is really what he is saying here in Hebrews 1. It about as clear as it gets in Scripture, this proclamation that Jesus is, in fact, equal with God. This is a very basic tenet of the Christian faith. May never lose hold of it!

This is that very offensive claim that sets the Christian faith apart from all others. Everything is subject to Christ. All spiritual creatures and spiritual experiences are subordinate to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And no spiritual creature or experience can be substituted for Jesus Himself. We do not make spiritual experience, or spirituality itself, our primary objective or focus. We are made to experience God through Christ in reality, but not to worship the experience.

There is much beauty and similarity in Buddhism, but here is where we differ sharply. We are not about a mere emptying of ourselves and attaining a higher consciousness, but first and foremost about loving the person Jesus Christ. What is interesting is that when we love Him with our whole selves–body, mind, soul–we will have emptied ourselves, filled with Him, and will be living at a much higher level of consciousness as a result.

Being in love with spiritual experience is not the same as loving and serving Jesus Christ and can even eclipse Christ.

“In that he is Savior, may he deign to save us from sin. In that he is high priest, may he deign to reconcile us to God the Father. In that he is king, may he deign to give us the eternal kingdom of his Father. He is Jesus Christ our Lord, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, God for all ages. Amen.”       -Bede

In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria

5.7.15–>”God Actually Communicates With Humans: Hebrews 1:1-4″

God Communicates

Jesus universe

Hebrews 1:1-4

In many ways and by many means God spoke in ancient times to our ancestors in the prophets; but at the end of these days he spoke to us in a son.

He appointed this son to be heir of all things; Through him, in addition, he created the worlds.

He is the shining reflection of God’s own glory, The precise expression of his very being; He sustains all things through his powerful word. He accomplished the cleansing needed for sins, And sat down at the right of the Majesty Supreme.

See how much greater he is than the angels: The name he was granted is finer then theirs.

To say that this opening to Hebrews is theologically packed is quite the understatement.

My goodness this says a lot!

Something to keep in mind from get-go, is that there are four main concepts running through the whole book of Hebrews that may help in grasping it a bit better.

  • God is a communicator
  • His communicated word is effective (it changes lives)
  • His now exalted Son is the ultimate means of His communication
  • The Christ-following community is the immediate recipient of that communication
We as Christians believe that God has spoken to humans and that He revealed Himself most fully through the person Jesus who lived in Palestine in the first century A.D. And that He still speaks to us today through His Son Jesus who is not a dead guy of the past, but a powerful presence now.Look at who it is we follow and worship. Not just some enlightened hippie from the desert who walked around a lot. Look who this author says this Son is:
  1. Heir of all things. Jesus said that all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth. His inheritance is the meager WHOLE CREATED ORDER! We are to understand from Scripture that this royal inheritance has been inaugurated in Christ’s coming to earth, and will be consummated at the end of the age.
  2. Through Jesus God made the universe. This is what Scripture affirms here and elsewhere such as John 1:3. We actually believe that Jesus was the agent through whom God created the heavens and the earth.
  3. Jesus is the shining reflection of God’s own glory and the precise expression of His very being. Jesus provides us with a true and trustworthy picture of God. If you want to know what God is like, the answer is Jesus Christ, for it is He who revealed God to us most precisely. Jesus showed us God and cleared up any misconceptions on who YHWH really is.
  4. Jesus sustains all things through His powerful word. This should probably be understood in a managerial sense. “The action speaks of the continual organization and carrying forward of the created order to a designed end, an activity ascribed to God in Jewish writings.”*
  5. Jesus accomplished the cleansing needed for sins. What Jesus has provided is a permanent forgiveness that leads into the very presence of God. This is something that can be provided by no other human, though we often act and live as though someone can, don’t we! The only thing that can truly heal a human soul was and is provided by one person, Jesus Christ.
  6. Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Majesty Supreme. Jesus has been exalted to an exceptional position of authority and honor where He still resides today.
  7. Jesus is greater than the angels. Remember He was made a little lower than the angels for a while during His walk on earth to accomplish His work. Then He was exalted back above them as He was before. (There may have been some angel worship going on in these early Christian communities, thus the author’s charge here.)
Soooooo, God has communicated with humans through the centuries, but ultimately through His Son Jesus who has been exalted to the pinnacle position of authority and majesty. I guess that’s all I had to say…Other than a little mathematical equation because I LOVE math:Jesus+Nothing=EVERYTHING!

BOOM!


 

*George H. Guthrie

In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria

5.6.15–>”Have You Read the Book of Hebrews Lately?”

What We Crazy Christians Believe

hebrews

Have you ever gone through the book of Hebrews? My goodness, it’s quite the manifesto. I’m not sure what the word “manifesto” means, but it seems a majestic word which this epistle is worthy of!

At the beginning of 2015 I felt strongly drawn to study/meditate through Hebrews. And it has been amazingly awesome and rewarding. And I feel it is time to share the awesomeness of this deep well of cosmic truth and reality.

If I were a preacher about to preach through Hebrews, I would title the sermon series “What We Crazy Christians Believe.”

This epistle (fancy word for “letter”) was written to Christians most likely in Rome around the mid 60s (not 1960s). Persecution was very much on the rise just for being Christian, and even threat of death was looming. Pause for a second–WE CANNOT RELATE TO THIS. Stop and think about this. You may have someone come to your house tonite and take you to prison or just shoot you in the head. For being a follower of Jesus. Ok, un-pause.

Understandably, some of these Christians were losing their faith. Thinking of turning away from it all. What’s the point? To say the least, these Christians needed some encouragement. To keep going and persevere in their faith. And this writer delivers this amazing letter to help bolster their commitment to Christ through reiterating what we believe, in whom we believe, why we believe.They were discouraged and were slipping into spiritual lethargy which could lead to abandoning their Christian confession altogether. Many were thinking of just going back to their old ways of Judaism which was safer and more comfortable than this new wacky thing called Christianity.

Though our circumstances are much different, for which I am very thankful, the principles are the same are they not? We are lulled into spiritual lethargy via our surroundings. We are tempted to go back to our old comfortable ways, no matter how destructive. What’s the point? Why pursue Christ? We have all we need here in America don’t we? Plenty of food, clothing, housing, friends, shopping, sports, churches…you name it, we got it and plenty of it! We do not need to depend on God for much of anything here and today.

Or do we?

Perhaps we don’t know what we’re missing due to the numbing effects of the great idol of comfort and convenience at whose altar we bow low, reverently, and consistently.

If we knew the greatness of Christ in even the smallest measure, we would bow the knee to Him bemoaning every second we wasted before we did so.

Persecution and a blurred picture of Jesus was leading to the drifting of right thinking and living for these early Christians. Therefore, the author’s challenge was to encourage a group of discouraged believers drifting from real Christianity by bolstering their commitment to draw near to God and to endure in commitment to Christ.

What is so beautiful about this letter is that the answer, at the end of the day, is to simply draw near to God and find pleasure in His presence–which was won for us through Jesus. Jesus died to bring us close to God and be with Him in a real experiential way.

That alone is what heals and undergirds perseverance. We just encourage each other in this. No one gives peace but the Prince of Peace.

God with us.

Drawing near to Him who is already there waiting for you to do so.

That is Life, and Life abundant indeed.

hebrews-supremacy-of-christ

In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria

5.5.15–>”Forfeiting God’s Care”

 vengeance is mine

Colossians 3:13

You must bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against someone else, you must forgive each other. Just as the Master forgave you, you must do the same.

I came across this story yesterday which the desert monastics would tell their students:

A brother who was insulted by another came to Abba Sisoes and said to him: “I was hurt by my brother and I want to avenge myself.” The old man tried to console him and said: “Don’t do that, my child. Leave vengeance to God.” But the disciple said: “I will not quit until I avenge myself.” Then the old man said: “Let us pray, brother.” And standing up, he prayed, “O God, we no longer need you to take care of us since we now avenge ourselves.” Hearing these words, the brother fell at the feet of the old man and said, “Forgive me, Abba. I am not going to fight with my brother anymore.”

When we take matters into our own hands, such as vengeance, we essentially forfeit God’s care. It’s like the tough guy in the movies who leaves the hospital early, ripping off his monitor wires and what not. “No thank you, experts in medical and trauma care. I got this.”

Isn’t this what we do with the ultimate Expert?

“No thanks, Lord of the Universe and Keeper of Souls. I believe I know better how to take care of myself as well as how to handle this situation.”

This is what we say when we go against God’s clear and loving guidance and mandates.

I love what Dallas Willard use to say to philosophers who said they did not think they needed to follow Jesus or His ways to be happy or live life well. Willard would simply ask them, “Well who did you have in mind?” If they said themselves, he would congratulate them and admit that he did not trust himself in order to follow his own heart, as it would no doubt lead him astray at some point. It was funny, too, I once heard him say that if you’ve found someone else to follow to give you life, that Jesus Himself, in His polite gentleness, would probably say, “Great! Good for you! Go right ahead then.”

In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria

5.4.15–>”Is Life a Gift or a Chore?”

Your Worldview

Life-is-a-Gift

“Life is a gift, not a chore.”
-Anita Moorjani, near death experiencer

Getting upset when life is not perfect–perfect meaning everything going exactly how we want it to go–is kind of like being angry with dirt for never being clean enough.

What’s the point?

How we see life and all of our circumstances depends upon our worldview, what we think the meaning of life is, or, if it has one.

Do we see life as a gift or a chore?

Is it a chore? Merely perpetual BS to trudge through? Put your boots on every morning in order to get through another day’s crap with your greatest hope being to just survive.

Or is life a gift from a good God who wants nothing more than to be close and bring us to Himself through whatever circumstance meet us?

Or is your worldview that life is suppose to be a “Perpetual Disneyland?” If so, then it makes sense that you’re constantly frustrated. Because things will go “wrong” everyday. Probably every hour. So you can keep fighting against this, which is very difficult. Why? Because it’s so hard to be, and make, everything perfect. I’ve tried. It’s extremely tiring.

So maybe the point is not to bring about perfection.

Maybe it’s to be brought, eventually, one step at a time, to God.

Perhaps every single circumstance of every single day–good, bad, indifferent, planned, unplanned, joyful, tragic, euphoric, depressing–is a chance to be brought closer to God, along the way gaining ever sharper and sharper vision to see God everywhere, for that’s where He resides. Everywhere, at all times.

So the question could be, “Is life the sum of our circumstances, or is it how we see them?”

Maybe it’s not about never being sad as much as it is about keeping our attention on God while experiencing sadness and, consequently, living a fuller, deeper, richer life in God.

No matter what happens to you today, God is with you, desiring to draw you closer to Himself.

Will you pay attention?

Will you let Him?

Or will you choose to focus on your circumstances and yourself?

In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria

5.1.15–>”Everything Belongs?”

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“Everything Belongs” is the title of a book written by Richard Rohr. I enjoy his writing immensely because it is so thought-provoking. He’s one of those authors I read and think, “I don’t know if I agree with this,” but then I keep reading and he brings it around in such a unique and thoughtful way that it just makes me say, “Ohhhhhh, wow. Yeah.”

I was sharing with a friend last week that I believe the reason I’ve so enjoyed shocking people over the years by ridiculosity is not only to get a reaction out of people, though that is very gratifying, but deep down I want authenticity. I want people to think. I want to be provoked to greater depth. To be jolted out of the doldrums of the cliche and mindlessness of conformity.

Talking with my friend Jim yesterday, we were sharing with one another how easy it is to go a little numb via our readings, as good as they can be.

“Just talk to me.”

This is what Jim and I hear God saying to us sometimes. Not “Stop reading” necessarily, but just “Don’t ever stray from talking to me, from hanging out with me, from spending every moment together and experiencing all of life with me.”

When in this healthy mode, you see that “everything belongs.” By this I mean, you are not ego or agenda driven so much and can actually see God working in the minute and ordinary of everyday. You’re not living in that numb pragmatism, and therefore, you’re able to enjoy whatever comes your way, taking the time to converse with God about every interruption and see what He may be showing you or doing in it.

Maybe everything does belong, and it is our limited vision that drives us to frustration and madness, thinking things like flat tires or cancellations don’t belong. Well perhaps those are the very places God has something not only for us, but for those around us (through us) in the midst of those “frustrations.” Could those be the very places of healing and blessing that we are constantly missing because of our egos, and seeing only through the lens of my self-serving itinerary for the day?

Oh that I would be single-mindedly focused on You in the present moment, listening to what You are saying in it.

In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria

5.2.15–>”Credo ut Intelligam”

NPG D23949; St Anselm after Unknown artist

Hebrews 11:6

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.

“Credo ut intelligam” is a Latin phrase meaning “I believe so that I may understand,” and is a maxim of Anslem of Canterbury. It’s based off of a saying from Augustine of Hippo–crede, ut intelligas–“Believe so that you may understand.”

Anselm wrote that it is faith that enables us to understand, not understanding that enables us to have faith.

Good old fashioned belief.

Will we ever really understand? Can we understand God through reasoning alone anyway? Isn’t it only through love and faith that we can even begin to grasp the tiniest aspect of the mystery of God.

Trying to understand first seems to be a false premise or foundation for approaching the Almighty. It’s like we’re on the wrong channel trying to tune in to our favorite show. YHWH is on channel 7, the Faith and Love station, and here we are on channel 92, the Intelligence and Reasoning station exclaiming, “Why the hell aren’t they showing ‘I Love YHWH’??!?!?”

Jesus never said, “Figure this out, comprehend all of this mystery, and then come to me.” Thankfully, He said, “Come to me if you are burdened, worn out, at the end of your rope.” This is key. So key. A broken and contrite heart He will NOT turn away (Psalm 51:17). C.S. Lewis said that a man dying of thirst in the desert does not need to understand the molecular workings of H2O in order for it to restore him to health. He needs only but to drink it.

Reading Psalm 107 this morning, I was taken with this pattern of getting to the end of all options, calling on YHWH, and being rescued. There’s a belief that there is, in reality, only one option anyway. Some of us just need to exhaust more options than others before settling in on the true one.

Maybe we just need to switch over to channel 7. The protected channel (or path) of trust. Could it be that simple? True belief is abandonment. Surrender. Trust. Reliance. Confidence. Dependence.

Confidence that He will answer. Abandonment to His choice of how He will answer. It is eager anticipation for His response. HIS response.  His deliverance. Trusting in His mercy. It may not look how we think it will look or even want it to look.

At any given moment of our lives, we are trusting something. This is irreducible reality. We are always tuned in to some channel, some voice–be it the fear channel, the History channel (obsessed with our past), the apathy channel (if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice)…We can channel-surf ourselves to death.

Is the point of our life to understand everything? Or is it to share in the Life of God via trust in Him, and then to grow in our understanding?

AnslemCanterbury

In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria