Tag Archives: Hebrews

More Bite

I was being the good husband. There were tree branches and limbs that needed to be cut down and cut up. While I’m not the handiest handyman around the house, this is something I’ve done and can do. So I readied our chainsaw and got to work. Things rolled along smoothly for a while – until the chain got stuck and came off the blade. Still no problem – I’ve put the chain on before. I had to loosen everything, take the chain off completely, and then put it back on and tighten it. So I did that – and began to cut away again – except that the saw wasn’t cutting. After some looking I discovered that the teeth of the chain were facing the wrong direction; therefore they had no bite. Thus my lesson for that day: when it comes to chain saws, “If you want more bite, face forward.”  It would be nice to tell you that once I removed the chain again and put it back on everything was fine – but I kept getting it wrong and it took several efforts – and a great deal of time – to get it right. (Remember I said I wasn’t the handiest handyman!) I suppose there are some lessons there as well but I do not want to digress.

So back to the direction of the teeth. The principle, “If you want more bite, face forward,” is not limited to saws. If I want to have more bite in my witness, more bite in my testimony, more bite in confronting the darkness of our world I must face forward. I cannot turn my back or assume that “If I live right the world will notice.”  The letter to the Hebrews is both instructive and inspiring. Hebrews 12:2 states (NLT), “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”  The chapter follows the great ‘Hall of Heroes’ in chapter 11. After offering this long list of inspirational Christian witnesses, the author is ready to make his application. I think Eugene Peterson put it well in The Message: “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3) “If you want more bite, face forward.”

Such living, exemplified in Hebrews 11 & 12, will take a big bite into our world.





Such living will cut down the rotten limbs, clear away the sinful brush, and make room for the good healthy branches to grow and produce richer fruit. So how is it with you?  How big is your bite? How great is your impact? Which way are you facing? Is it time to strip down, face forward, and start running – no spiritual fat or parasitic sins?  Is it time to focus your eyes on Jesus? Is it time to go over His story again? After all, “That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” “If you want more bite, face forward.”



Sailing Through Life – Part 6 – The Key to Stability

It stopped me in my tracks. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. We were in port and for the first time I got a look at our anchor. Wow! It was huge! Like I said, I should have figured that, but then I hadn’t really thought about it. Even big ships need anchors – and they need big ones. (1)

That’s when it hit me. Rowboat anchors will not suffice. The cruise line could have used rowboat anchors – but the boat would not remain stable and would eventually drift away. Big ships need anchors – and they need big ones!

It also shouldn’t be surprising that God knows all this as well. The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote:

“For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying: “I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.”
Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.
Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:13-20 New Living Translation)

The young Hebrew Christians were facing difficult trials and heavy suffering. They were impacted financially, relationally, emotionally and physically. The temptation to go back on their conversion experience, to back off from their witnessing, to become a ‘quiet Christian’ was great. So the author reminds them they should and could remain stable. In essence he told them to take a look at their anchor – their hope in Jesus Christ. “Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” How can we be sure? “It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us.” They were anchored to the one who sits on the throne in the presence of God. Paul put it this way: And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:6)

What a valuable reminder! Stormy situations surround us. Loved ones are ill and we can’t seem to help them get better. The cost of medical care is draining finances. Family relationships are difficult and fragile. Job pressures are mounting. And consider the shouting voices, the shameless bullies, the evil-filled terrorists, the selfish politicians, the biased newscasters, the revenge seeking popularity. Think of the increasing pressures to keep one’s faith quiet, the hate-filled crowds that want to violate an individual’s freedom of religion by verbally – and sometimes physically – beating them into submission. Reflect on the pressure to let children and grandchildren be schooled each day by anti-faith and anti-traditional morality school boards and teachers. Just try to stand up for traditional marriage or for a ‘natural’ definition of maleness and femaleness. And on and on it goes.

Am I being ‘too political?’ It probably depends on who you talk to! I believe I’m being realistic. The storms of life are constant and we have those moments when we wonder if we can hold our ground, if we can stay in the port of our faith. That’s when we look at our anchor. “Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us.” The amazing thing is when we look at our anchor we don’t see an anchor like that pictured above. We see Jesus. He is our anchor of stability.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace. (2)

Intently look at the picture of Christ as you slowly repeat the Lord’s Prayer. Then gently close your eyes, or look at a wall, or into the sky. The Lord will appear and reappear to you. (3)

(1) Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash
(2) Helen H. Lemmel
(3) From Donald W. Bartow – © 1982 Life Enrichment Publishers

Who You Gonna’ Talk To?

I established last week that for guaranteed relief the number to dial is 8-476-634-7223 (THRONE GRACE). Your call will be answered from the throne of grace. Yet there is even greater news.

Your call will be answered by Jesus. No operator or assistant will put you on hold or tell you Jesus is not in or ask if you want to leave a message. Your call will always be answered by Jesus. And what’s so great about that? Jesus is the great high priest. He is, first of all, a priest for us. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.”(Hebrews 4:14-15)… “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered…” (Hebrews 5:7-8) We need someone who understands us, who can identify with us, to represent us at the throne. That someone is Jesus. He makes the ideal priest because He came all the way into our world and our lives. Jesus meets us where we are so He can act before God on our behalf. The very Son of God has come all the way into our situations, understands our weaknesses and temptations; He has totally identified with us.

At the inhuman prison in Germany every Friday the Nazis made the prisoners completely undress for medical inspection. The women were humiliated at having to march by grinning guards. On one of those mornings Corrie TenBoom wrote, “Yet another page in the Bible leapt to life for me. ‘He hung naked on the Cross.’ I had not known – had not thought…the paintings, the carved crucifixes showed at the least a scrap of cloth. But this, I suddenly knew, was the respect and reverence of the artist. But oh – at the time itself, on that other Friday morning – there had been no reverence. No more than I saw in the faces around us now. I leaned toward Betsie, (her sister) ahead of me in line. Her shoulder blades stood out sharp and thin beneath her blue-mottled skin. ‘Betsie, they took HIS clothes too.’” Jesus is the ideal priest for us.

And Jesus is also the ideal priest for God. “We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God…” (Hebrews 4:14) He comes to us on God’s behalf; He represents God. “No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. “And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:4-6) Jesus is someone who not only understands, but who can also help. “Such a high priest meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” (Hebrews 7:26-8:2) Jesus not only understands – He can help. Jesus puts us in touch with God; He has clout with God.

There’s an old story about a man walking down the street – let’s call him Pete. Pete fell into a hole. The walls are so steep he cannot get out. Pete hears someone walking by and hollers up “Can you help me out?” The walker was a doctor so he wrote out a prescription, threw it into the hole, and moves on. Hearing another person walk by Pete shouts up “I’m down in this hole. Can you help me out?” The walker was a pastor so he writes out a prayer, throws it into the hole, and moves on. Pete hears another person walking by and hollers up again. This walker is a friend of the man so he jumps into the hole to be with him. Pete exclaims, “Are you stupid? Now we’re both in the hole!” His friend replies, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.” Jesus is the Priest for us and for God; He’s been in our holes and knows the way out. He not only understands, but he can help.

Jesus, in fact, has already helped us – for Jesus purchased our salvation. Since only one who is holy could enter into the presence of God, only Christ could enter. “…once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…” (Hebrews 5:9) In Him the Scriptures are fulfilled. In Him we can return to our Father. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son? The young son greatly offended and disowned his father by claiming his inheritance early. He then wasted it all on lavish, foolish, sinful living. When he finally realized the error of his ways he returned home to his father – who raced out to greet him with open arms, and threw a feast to celebrate his return. Because of Jesus, we can always return to our Father.

Jesus is the source of salvation for all who come to him. Jesus left the eternity of heaven to carry our sorrows and bear our sins, and to taste our death. And when He did: “…at that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely, he was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:51) And He was – and is. For fast relief dial up the throne of grace and speak with Jesus, the great High Priest.

Who You Gonna’ Call?

It’s frustrating, isn’t it? You need help and dial an appropriate phone number and all you get is recorded options; there is no live person to assist you. And when you do finally reach a live person, they claim they’re not the person who can help you and they put you on hold while they transfer you to someone else.

How great it is that, when it comes to getting help and relief in life, there is something, Someone, so much better! The letter to the Hebrews ties right into our age of tele-communications by providing a formula by which we can contact live Divine Aid. The number to dial is 8-476-634-7223 (THRONE GRACE). To tap into divine aid, dial the throne of grace.

Hebrews 4:16 –  “Let us then approach the throne …”  What a marvelous invitation: approach the throne.

While we’ve never really seen throne (1) we do have some impressive descriptions. Consider the Psalms.  “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth (Ps. 8:1) “…the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes behold, his eyelids test, the children of men.”(Ps. 11:4) “…the Lord sits enthroned forever over the flood. The Lord sits enthroned as king forever.”(Ps. 29:10)

The prophet Isaiah shares his vision: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:1-4) The apostle John, in Revelation 4 and 5 provides yet another glorious description. The overall impression is that the throne is the seat for, the primary residence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. It is clear that the throne is the center from which emanates the power that sustains and controls our world. From this throne the Almighty, Holy God rules all worlds – at His voice heaven resounds with praise and hell trembles. And it’s at this throne where our Divine Aid begins!

But better still – this throne is THE THRONE OF GRACE. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence…” (Hebrews 4:16) John’s vision includes this description. “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.” (Revelation 4:1-3)

Notice the throne is surrounded by a rainbow. (2) God’s grace is complete and full! This is not the great white throne of judgment – this is a throne of grace! God’s sovereign power and dominion are rooted in love and grace. Our Divine Aid is rooted in love and grace. From the throne we will receive loving favor, even if we are utterly undeserving. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords has a grace-filled heart! To dial the throne is to tap into grace!

This certainly changes our view of prayer. As the John Newton penned:

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay;
Therefore will not say thee nay.
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much;
None can ever ask too much.

We do not dial up the throne to beg as a pauper or to settle for scraps; we approach expectantly to receive grace. For relief the number to dial is 8-476-634-7223– the throne of grace.

And there’s more! Who do you think we get to talk to? Check in next week for more!

(1) www.iStock.com… Throne-iStock-587816160

(2) https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisdubai/2579335447/

Good Roots

Before last week’s 50th reunion reflections I considered “Those Never-Ending Weeds” and “More About Those Weeds.”

I wrote that there was one more weeds blog to come. This is it. The question that crossed my mind in identifying and uprooting those weeds was “How do I identify and uproot the weeds in my life?”

The answer is “Develop a good root system.” A strong root system crowds out unwanted growth. The prophets repeatedly told the Israelites how to do so. When they spoke to the nation about sin their most frequent opening statement was something akin to “The Lord spoke to me” or “The Lord our God says.” It was their way of reminding God’s people that the only way to identify the sinful weeds was to look at our lives from the eyes and heart of God. Jesus demonstrated this principle during His temptation in the wilderness. Each time Satan tempted Him Jesus responded “It is written…” (Matthew 4:1-11). He evaluated the tempter’s offers through the lens of God’s words. That’s why the Psalmist wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) He understood that we identify the weeds only when the Word of God has taken root in our hearts. A strong root system crowds out unwanted growth.

When we look at our lives from the perspective of God’s Word we see more clearly that the foundation of most every sin is pride. In my book “7 Habits of Highly Healthy People – Antidotes for the 7 Deadly Sins” I pointed out, “As William Barkley wrote, ‘Pride is the ground in which all other sins grow.’ Think about it. Pride grows:

Envy – we are unable to permit the success or excellence of another
Anger – we cannot tolerate those who frustrate our plans, purposes, and desires
Greed – we need to possess more to be worth more and impress more;
Lust and Gluttony – we need to satisfy ourselves (or escape from ourselves)
Sloth – we lack love for ourselves and others

Pride is at the root of all of these sins. Pride is a powerful sin… “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.””(Proverbs 16:18)

Only when we have a good root system deep within our hearts can we spot our pride that leads to other sins. So with the Psalmist we need to hide the word within our hearts. The author of Hebrews described the dynamic vividly when he wrote “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

I’m learning how to identify and somewhat control the weeds in our yard and garden. In doing so I’m also re-learning how to do the same in my life. I’m recommitting myself to hiding the Word in my heart that I might not sin. A good root system will do the job.                           As Psalm 1:1-3 paints the picture: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” Good roots – blessed life. Sounds like a plan.