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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

February 2014

Hebrews 5:11-6:12 – Giant Babies

Hebrews 5:11-6:12

If there is anything we’ve learned about Hebrews, its that the author loves to create a tapestry of themes.  It makes the book a little complicated, but unbelievably rich.  This morning I want to focus on the first half of today’s passage.  I love the imagery the author of Hebrews uses.  He compares these believers to babies who are stuck in infancy despite the fact that they should be full grown Christians. They need milk when they should be enjoying a big steak.  We all know babies are super-cute, but there’s nothing cute about a 30 year-old man acting like a baby. That’s what was happening here.  These believers have had time and many opportunities to mature, but have remained infants.  The author wants them to know that its time for these believers to stop splashing around in the shallow end and really dive into the faith.

The scathing admonition begs a question of us, are we growing up as believers?  We take our children to the pediatrician to make sure they’re growing at the right rate, but are we growing at the right rate?  Can we look back at the last year and see a pattern of growth or do we just see more of the same?  Let’s grow up in the knowledge of God’s Word, let’s grow in our dependency and love for Him.  Let’s put away our favorite sin and trade it for a life of freedom in Christ.  The author of Hebrews is clear, we need to grow up!

Who is Jesus?

Hebrew 4:14-5:10

I remember a time when I was trying to figure out this whole prayer thing. Growing up greek-ortodox (similar to catholic faith), I became familiar to the many saints we celebrated in our tradition. And let me tell you there are many, sometimes 3 or 4 saints a day, some of them minor but some of higher importance. And of course above else you had Mary, the mother of Jesus. The way I learned to pray was more of a process, kind off like I know a guy that knows a guy that can talk to someone and finally your message will be heard. I mean no disrespect to the many saints that are part of the christian tradition, but would it not be easier to go straight to the main guy and pray?

This is where Jesus comes in as the high priest, the mediator between God and man, the one that said: ask whatever you want in my name. You see sometimes we get caught in the whole who can pray better; you can pray better than I can;  and why not, the prayer of a pastor or priest is definitely  more powerful than mine. This is something that is very common in Christianity, because we have not yet discovered and understood who Christ is.

So, who is Christ? The High Priest, the one that sacrificed himself, the perfect mediator, the one that stands in that gap we call separation from God. Because of who Christ is, we can stand before God and bring our supplications, prayers knowing that we are heard received in his presence, not because of what we have done, but because of Christ.

AS you go about your day today, I would like to encourage you to think about your relationship to the Christ, your High Priest.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Today…

Today’s Passage:  Hebrews 4:1-13 (CEB)

I’ve been watching the Olympics this past week-the joy and exuberance of the winners…and the tears that come with those who just missed out…but what is so amazing is the enthusiasm…the determination…the commitment…

Yesterday Craig talked about avoiding the land of unbelief and today we see that the promise is still available.  Our writer is urging the congregation not to be left behind and the words of Psalm 95:7 ring out again, “Today, if you hear his voice, don’t have stubborn hearts!”  The Israelites heard but they didn’t share the faith they heard…  The promise of God’s rest (a synonym for salvation now, today, and in the future), is offered new and alive today in the preaching of the gospel of Christ…preaching done on Sunday morning…preaching done by all believers in their witness to the Living Christ…today.  Each day is a new “today” where people can hear God’s Word and reap the blessings God has promised since the beginning of time (note the Genesis 2 words).

Today…what is important is to understand what our author tells us about God’s Word. Here…he is not saying that Scripture is the Word of God, or that Scripture contains the Word of God, or that Scripture becomes the Word of God…As you already know, our author believes all these to be true but here he is linking God’s Word and faith together. He is telling us about what God’s Word does.  Maybe you didn’t notice, but “faith”, a very important word in this book, is used for the first time in verse 2.

These verses reminded me of a week or so ago – Tari and I were making dinner together…I was cutting up veggies and all of a sudden I saw red – I didn’t feel a thing.  I had nicely cut the tip of a finger.  This is the image in Hebrews 4 in how God’s Word acts in our lives.  It’s sharp enough to go straight in – almost without realizing it and the difference between the kitchen knife and his Word is that there is nowhere to hide – we are exposed before God.

So…..let me ask this question…how are you preaching TODAY!  The thrust of this passage has great encouragement for all – but it has expectations as well…maybe you need help from someone else…like this blog…or you could be helping someone else…like with this blog!  Or your interactions with those you work with, have coffee with, etc.  To spend time with Scripture and with Jesus, the written and living Word of God, is to know that gentle but powerful touch, like a very sharp kitchen knife that produces surprising and alarming results…with God’s Word there are no accidents…God’s Word is alive !!  TODAY is a new today!!

Hebrews 3:7-19; Stay Away from the Land of Unbelief

Hebrews 3:7-19 NIV – Warning Against Unbelief – So, as the – Bible Gateway

Chapter 3 begins by reminding us to remember our calling and to fix our thoughts on Jesus.  The believers are wavering in their faith due to opposition and adversity.  Throughout the book of Hebrews there are five warnings against abandoning belief in Jesus. This is one of them.

When we fix our thoughts on Jesus and are faithful to him we live our lives in the land of belief.   Yet, like people of faith in times past, we can hear his voice, understand his will and then choose to harden our hearts and say no to what Jesus wants.  The danger this passage warns against is making unfaithfulness a habit and hardening our hearts, our character, against God so that we abandon our faith.

If so, we enter the land of unbelief.  Entering the land of unbelief is likened to the Israelites in the wilderness. The Israelites faith fizzled on their journey to the promised land.  We can read about their unbelief in Exodus and Numbers.  Almost immediately, they started to think; that is believe that they were  better off as slaves in Egypt than they were as free people in their wilderness journey to the Promised Land.  All too quickly, they worshipped an idol. They frequently made complaints against Moses and God.  When they got to the edge of the Promised Land they did not believe they could enter and receive God’s gift.  Finally, God had enough and they were punished.  They did not enter the Promised Land and enjoy God’s rest or reward. 

This passage reminds me of Jesus in his home town.  “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:5-6).  Jesus was astonished by their unbelief.  Hebrews 3 reminds us to have faith in God, to put our trust in Jesus, and to fix our thoughts upon him.

So, start this day by asking God to enlarge your faith in Jesus.  Let us live in the land of belief.

Even Moses Isn’t Worthy…

Hebrews 3:1-6

We are now a little over a month into the new year.  At the beginning of every new year we get the long list of new laws that are to go into affect with the new year.  Here in Illinois alone we have new laws on concealed carry of weapons, cell phones in cars, speed limits, and my favorite new one that I found on the WGN-TV website is that drones are not allowed to be used to interfere with hunters and fishermen.  There are also all of the legendary laws supposedly still on the books according to www.dumblaws.com.  Those include things such as in Cicero, it is illegal to enter town while driving a car, or that it is a fine for mis-pronouncing Joliet as Jolly-et.

Just like our current and former laws can be confusing, the Laws of Moses were also difficult and burdensome for the Hebrew people.  I mean, there are over 600 laws in the old testament that the Hebrew people were expected to abide by in order to be obedient to God.  I can’t imagine how difficult and maybe even stressful it could have been to try to follow all of those laws.

Thankfully, we have had Jesus to hang our hat on for the past two thousand years or so.  Because God was so gracious to send Jesus to dwell with us, to be part of humanity, and to suffer a humiliating death, we have life eternal.  In this passage, Paul is basically saying that, although that Moses was a pretty great guy, he was no Jesus.  According to Paul, Jesus in the architect of the house of God, and is greater than the church itself.  Moses is just a mere part of that house, just like the rest of us humans.  But we only can become one of the building blocks of the house of God through our faith and courage in Christ our Lord.

May we always be faithful and true to Him.  Amen

Matt Blaser

Hebrews 2:5-18 – Salvation through the God/Man

Hebrews 2:5-18

This passage gives us a doctrine of monumental importance, the humanity and divinity of Christ.  Before we get to that point there’s a thought progression that gets us there.  Verse 6 asks a question I’ve often wondered myself (quoting Psalm 8)  Why would God bother with mankind?  The answer: because God created the human race with dignity, just a little lower than the angels as we see in verse 8.  As a result of this dignity God desired to save mankind, to bring His “sons and daughters to glory.”

So what does God do?  God pioneers a way to bring His sons and daughters to Himself.  He sends Christ.  Christ became fully human so He could die in our place. As a result, we not only have salvation but we have a high priest who understands being human.  We don’t serve a God who is unable to understand the human predicament; the temptation to sin, the loss of the death or the hardship of life.  We serve a God who not only loved us enough to provide a way but understands our hardship.  Praise God for Jesus, the God/Man who atoned for our sins and is now the perfect high priest!

Pay Attention

Hebrews 2:1-4

How many times have we heard the message of Christ spoken to us? How many time the prophecy has tugged on our hearts? How many times have we been confronted with doubt or questions?

When you put those questions in the context of the Hebrews, and try to understand how that second generation of believers dealt with their faith struggle, it becomes easy to understand why we experience the things we do when it comes to the word of God.

A struggling faith, a faith that asks questions and searches for answers each day, it’s a good type of faith. It’s a faith that does not take things for granted, because it takes a personal shape, it connects with audience of here and now.

Whatever your faith journey is today, the message it’s simple: pay attention! because that message of Christ is alive and well, it is a message that will continue to challenge you and help you grow.

Pay attention.

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

“The voice of God so that all would know Jesus…”

Welcome to “The Letter to the Hebrews”…our study up to the start of Lent.

Let’s get the most asked questions about this book out of the way first – to clear the decks for the really important reading we will do.  The questions…Who wrote the book?  To whom was it written?  Many authors have been suggested over the centuries:  Apollos?  Barnabus?  Luke? Clement of Rome?  Priscilla?  Silvanus?  Paul?  And “To the Hebrews” but where?  Rome?  Jerusalem?  Colossae?  Were they Gentiles?  Jews?  Both?

For me…I find that Origen’s answer from the 3rd century still stands firm today when he said, “but who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows”.  So, let’s put these 2 questions to the side and, together, read God’s Word.

Written more like a sermon than a letter, Hebrews is like a Preacher preaching to a congregation that appears exhausted…tired of serving the world…tired of worship…tired of Christian education…tired of the spiritual struggle.  In short, they are losing confidence.  To this congregation, believed to be second generation of baptized believers (2:3-4, 6:4-5, 10:22) – a church in crisis over the delay in the final return of Christ…a church experiencing persecution – some imprisoned, confiscation of property…public abuse and ridicule…to this congregation this letter is written.  A letter that transcends the centuries.

To this church comes the opening of “The Letter to the Hebrews”:  TODAY’S PASSAGE (Hebrews 1:1-14, CEB)  The importance and heart of Hebrews is in this opening – God spoke long ago…God spoke through the prophets and God spoke to us by a Son – Jesus, who walked this earth…God speaks!  Jesus…Prophet, Priest and King.  So begins Hebrews grounded in the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Christ – Hebrews is a book to deepen your relationship with Christ who is described as follows: 

  • Christ is genuine…
  • Christ is absolute Deity…
  • Christ is the light of God’s glory…
  • Christ is the exact expression of God’s nature…
  • Christ is the eternal Son of the Father…very God of very God
  • Christ is Creator, Sustainer and End…by Him it was made…He upholds it…He is the heir.

God’s voice is a living voice so, come…read Hebrews to know Christ…to live in Christ for the letter to the Hebrews presents Jesus to all who seek to know him!!  Listen for the voice of God in His Word  to come alive in all of us through this very special book!!

Psalm 130- Praying, Waiting, Hoping…

Psalm 130 NIV – A song of ascents. Out of the depths I – Bible Gateway

The Psalmist is praying, waiting, and hoping for God’s redemption.  The original occasion for this Psalm may be the Day of Atonement; that day in which the High Priest enters the holy of holies in the temple to pray to God for the sins of the people, the nation of Israel.  In the Book of Psalms, it becomes a pilgrims prayer on the way to Jerusalem, anticipating worship in the temple.  It’s a Song of Ascents; one to sing ascending up to Jerusalem.

The Psalmist, cognizant of the holiness of God, is aware of the depths to which sin lowers a person and therefore, the need for forgiveness.  The awareness that God is the redeemer provides encouragement to pray.  How great to know that God forgives!  Awake each day and give thanks to God for the forgiveness which we have in and through Christ Jesus, our Savior.

It is worth it to wait on the Lord when you know that the Lord forgives and is full of redemption.  The Psalmist waits with expectant hope.  The watchman waits for the morning, knowing the darkness will pass and the light of the new day will dawn. And so we read of the Psalmist’s intensity of longing with confident expectation  in God.

The Psalm ends in verses 7-8 with a testimony of hope in the Lord.  The Lord is the God of unfailing love.  For with God there is full redemption; the Lord redeems all of our sins.  It’s worth it to pray, wait, and hope in the Lord for God comes through for his people.

So, today, take time to pray, wait upon the Lord, and hope in God.  For “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Read Isaiah 40:28-31 with this Palm and be encouraged!

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