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Category Archives: Hebrews

Hebrews 10:31-39

It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.
Hebrews 10:31-39

Dear God, the other night I heard a woman say that she was tired of all of the persecution the church is under right now. I’ve got to tell you, at least living in this part of the country, I feel zero persecution. There is certainly nothing happening in our entire country that rises to the level of what is described here. We are absolutely soft.

But what I want to look at are the first words of this passage: “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Why is it terrible? I think the author is saying that I am no longer my own. When I submit my will and my life then I am yours and sometimes that will lead me to places I don’t want to go. I have to deny some things that bring me immediate gratification and exchange them for humility and service. I have to love you and other things more than myself. I must discipline myself to throw off the sin that entangles me and press on towards the goal you have set for me.

What do I get in exchange? Mercy and freedom. Peace. Joy. There is no other source for such things.

Father, no, for me it is not a terrible thing to be in your hands. You are good and I am grateful for you. My life has not turned out as I had hoped or dreamed, really in any way. But I wouldn’t trade it. I have it better than I deserve. Please reveal to me how you would like to use me today to love others and serve you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

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Posted by on September 24, 2019 in Hebrews

 

“The Valley Song (Sing of Your Mercy)” by Jars of Clay

“The Valley Song (Sing of Your Mercy)” by Jars of Clay

You have led me to the sadness
I have carried this pain
On a back bruised, nearly broken
I’m crying out to You

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

When death, like a gypsy
Comes to steal what I love
I will still look to the heavens
I will still seek your face

But I fear You aren’t listening
Because there are no words
Just the stillness
And the hunger
For a faith that assures

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia

While we wait for rescue
With our eyes tightly shut
Face to the ground using our hands
To cover the fatal cut

Though the pain is an ocean
Tossing us around, around, around
You have calmed greater waters
Higher mountains have come down

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy
I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia

Songwriters: Aaron Sands / Charlie Lowell / Dan Haseltine / Matt Odmark / Stephen Daniel Mason

Dear God, this Father’s Day is less painful for me than past Father’s Days have been, but I still found myself being very aware this morning that Father’s Day and Mother’s Day can be very painful for some. I know several people who are experiencing their first Father’s Day without a child that they lost–some within just the last couple of weeks. I know some who have children leading lives that grieve their parents. Frankly, there are countless reasons Father’s Day can be painful for people, including having lost their own father.

With all of that in mind, I came across this song this morning. I’ve had it on my playlist for a long time, but I really stopped to listen to it while I was driving on a road trip earlier this week. I think it works because it doesn’t gloss over pain or tell me that my job is to push through to the other side. It simply says that sing of your mercy through my pain.

You have led me to the sadness
I have carried this pain
On a back bruised, nearly broken
I’m crying out to You

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

As I pray all of this to you, I am thinking about three friends, in particular, who are experiencing the grief of having lost a child in the last year. One of the things I learned when watching my wife go through the loss of her mother is to encourage people to allow themselves to be sad. Don’t try to be the person who is handing it “well.” Just let it be sad. For these friends, I sing these words this morning.

When death, like a gypsy
Comes to steal what I love
I will still look to the heavens
I will still seek your face

But I fear You aren’t listening
Because there are no words
Just the stillness
And the hunger
For a faith that assures

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia

“But I fear you aren’t listening because there are no words. Just the stillness and the hunger for a faith that assures.” Sometimes, all we have is a faith that is beyond what we can see (Hebrews 11:1). And I believe that this is when we really have the Holy Spirit groaning for us with utterances beyond words. Our advocate and our helper is with us, walking with us, and praying for/with us (Romans 8:26).

While we wait for rescue
With our eyes tightly shut
Face to the ground using our hands
To cover the fatal cut

Though the pain is an ocean
Tossing us around, around, around
You have calmed greater waters
Higher mountains have come down

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy
I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia

I love that the spirit of this song is to simply sink into the pain and wait on your healing. And yet, in the midst of the pain, we keep singing. We sing of your mercy that leads us through valleys of sorrow to the rivers of joy. One day, there will be not just one river, but many rivers of joy for us. There is a hope. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2019 in Hebrews, Hymns and Songs, Romans

 

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Hebrews 12:1-3

Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Dear God, “the sin that so easily entangles.” What is that sin? Probably the easiest way to name it is to go to the “acts of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21a:

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”

That’s a pretty good list. These are, indeed the things that entangle us. I would add lethargy and self-indulgence to it as well. I don’t know that Paul intended this to be a complete list, just one that everyone could relate to.

So how do we “throw off” these things? Part of it is good old self-discipline, but it’s not about disciplining ourselves not to do these things as much as it is disciplining ourselves to pursue you. When I discipline myself to pursue you then I get the fruits of the Spirit that Paul goes on to mention in Galatians 5:22-23a:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The idea isn’t that I can discipline myself into these things, but that I “[fix my] eyes on Jesus” and “run with perseverance.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) That brings me to the question, what does fixing my eyes on Jesus look like in my everyday life?

About a month ago, I put a question out to friends on social media: What things do you do to pursue your relationship with God? Here are some of the answers I got back:

  • I like to study with my first cup of coffee in the morning. I make my coffee then sit at our old antique family table with my Bible study book. First, I put in my earplugs. I do this because I am easily distracted. Putting those plugs in my ears seems to take me to a different place. I begin with a sip of coffee and a prayer. In this prayer, I ask God to open my eyes as I study his word and be open to hearing his voice. I usually add in there that I pray that I would act on what he is teaching me through his word. I take this time to ask for special requests–i.e. persons that have asked for prayers. After praying and listening to him, I am ready to begin my study. I usually have a study book. I make sure I look up all the scriptures in my Bible and read them. I prefer to read a scripture out of the Bible instead of just reading it out of a book. It somehow makes me feel closer to God. I usually study anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. I end my study with a prayer of thanksgiving for his word and for his grace.
  • Weekend Mass–our family prefers Saturday, 5p at St Francis in Stonewall. But we attend Sunday Mass, too. We’ll try to catch the Life Teen Mass at St Mary’s more often since my son is in high school and that’s his cohort. And I enjoy the contemporary Christian songs their choir performs.
    Daily Mass: St Francis has noon Mass on Wednesdays. I attend first Wed of month because the priest has anointing of the sick and we also have a luncheon.
    When I’m in Comfort at noon time I catch Mass there but that’s infrequent –4 times over past year.
    I attend the school Mass at St Mary’s about once a month. And I catch the Tuesday noon Mass at St Mary’s about once a month.
    Bible studies: the one I started today is Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire (free videos emailed to me). This morning was an hour video about St Francis of Assisi. I think each day will be different…. I’ll find out.
    And we’ve done 2 recent Bible studies at St Francis through Formed.org. 6 week studies. Recent one was about St Paul’s letters to the Philippians.
    And… I’m trying to read the Bible more. After all these years of being a faithful Catholic I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I haven’t read the Bible cover to cover. I’m working on it.
  • This is what I have been improving on to pursue a closer relationship w Christ: I am early riser so I use this quiet time  for prayer in our parlor to thank God for another day of life and multiple blessings and then out the door for a 3 mile run, sometimes recite verses from memory or simply enjoy beauty and majesty of His creation and remind myself how incredible that God would take time to create me and know me even before I was formed in my mothers womb. After returning, my wife and enjoy reading our bible and share scripture readings while drinking our coffee. I think God delights in us when we reach out to him by quiet time, prayer, scripture reading or simply acknowledging him.
  • Not listing all the obvious answers, for me music and spending time in His creation help keep me connected. Small group Bible studies best help me grow, which is different for me than staying connected.
  • I have not been much of a person to get up and go to church these last few years.  But God has put me in the path of Al-Anon.  I believe my purpose is being filled by supporting that group and the fellowship.  It is a very spiritual program.   I have learned to meditate.
  • Prayer Walks…..both listening for His nudging and lifting up petitions.
  • I get up around 5:30 in the morning, get some coffee and sit in a chair in my living room. I read God’s word, sometimes I use a devotional, sometimes I don’t. Right now I’m doing a read through the Bible plan, but God has led me to a more intensive study of Romans 12. I pray, on my knees, beginning with the Lord’s prayer, and then for God to guide my day, then for my family (husband, children and grandchildren) and then for others as God leads. Sometimes I journal but not consistently and my journaling takes on various forms. For example, right now as I read through Kings and Chronicles I’m keeping a list of the Kings of Israel and Judah to keep it all straight in my mind. Aside from this very specific time. I try to listen for God’s voice and pray throughout the day. I try to read Christ focused books (both fiction and non fiction), listen to podcasts, listen to sermons. P.S. I’m not perfect at any of it.
  • I actually “wrestle” with God and talk to him very matter of factly…of course about why [my son] was taken from me.   I’m honest with him about my current emotional state…He knows anyway, so why not say it out loud…example “God I’m right now I’m more excited about getting to see [my son] again than you or Jesus…I know that’s not right, but I also know you are big enough and love me enough to work with me…help me feel differently and work through this feeling!”
  • I feel close to God when I work in my garden, because it is a vehicle for spiritual and emotional connection.. you are already on your knees… and you push a seed into the earth, add water, and wait, and in time the miracle unveils itself. It might not be as dramatic as being witness to the creation of the universe, but it is as close as most of us will ever get to witnessing a miracle firsthand when the green shoot unfolds out of the seed and pushes through the earth.  The whole process – from seed to fruition to dying-off and then renewal in the spring, is a metaphor for human life death and resurrection. It makes me feel close to God.  Oh, and also, sometimes I drink too much and lie on my back in the driveway and yell at him.

As for me, these nearly daily prayer journals are a big part of my fixing my eyes on Jesus and running to finish. I also pray with my wife almost every day. While I attend church, it’s one that ministers more to my wife than it does to me, so I don’t get as much out of that. But I think it is good for our marriage that we worship you together. I have found myself longing for a certain kind of challenging preaching, so I listen to Andy Stanley’s sermons through my podcast app while I’m exercising, driving, or getting ready in the morning. I have a Christian friend with whom I speak nearly every Friday morning and we talk about our lives. And my wife and I are in a couples group through our church that meets once a month.

Yet, with all of that, I still find myself sometimes in the middle of sin that entangles. And there you always are with grace for me. You love me. You forgive me. In fact, you are the one who is able to throw off that sin that easily entangles me and helps me to run to finish this great race.

Father, help me to be the embodiment of your child. Help me to be more and more like Jesus and the example he set for me. Help me to love richly in your presence, regardless of my physical circumstances. And use my life to bring your will and kingdom to Earth, as it is in Heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2019 in Galatians, Hebrews

 

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Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11:1
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Dear God, sometimes you come through when I don’t even know I have to have faith for something.

I made a hard decision at work a couple of months ago that impacted a lot of people negatively. It hurt me and it hurt others, but I knew it was the right thing to do. It was what needed to be done. And now, two months later, for reasons completely unrelated to why I made the decision, I can see a broader picture of why it had to be made. You knew that something was coming down the track that I couldn’t see, and it seems to me from my earthly, human perspective that you have provided for the need that our organization has. Thank you.

And now my life of trying to have faith in you continues. There are people and things for whom/which I pray every day. Sometimes it feels like the prayers are going unanswered, but my faith tells me to keep praying. My faith tells me that you are listening, but that you plan is bigger, deeper, and more complicated than I can imagine. My faith tells me to be at peace, press on in my pursuit of you, and keep praying.

Father, please just be with me today. Help me to avoid mistakes. In the penitent prayer, I say that I have sinned in what I have done and what I have failed to do. Help me to not only do the right things, but also help me to not miss the right thing to do as well. Do it all for your glory and not mine.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2019 in Hebrews

 

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Hebrews 12:1-2

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Dear God, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus…” How hard is that? Well, it turns out that it’s actually pretty hard.

I woke up this morning, and part of my habit is to look at my phone, check the time, and then open up my USA Today app to see what’s happening. They have a “Five Things You Should Know Today” article that I like to read. Today, however, I decided that I would start by looking a the http://www.biblegateway.com verse of the day. It turned out to be Hebrews 12:2. Since I felt like the verse needed the context of verse 1, I decided to combine the for the purposes of this prayer.

When I read the verse, I thought, yes, I need to keep my eyes focusing on Jesus and part of that is getting myself to read scripture first thing instead of the “Five Things [I] Should Know Today.” Really, what’s more important anyway. Will knowing that news change my actions today? Can I do anything to affect change on what is happening around the country or the world? No, probably not. There is a small chance that I can respond to something by financially supporting a cause around the country, or see something happening somewhere else and get involved in that cause locally, but 95% of the time the information is not something that I NEED for my day.

Scripture, however, is another story. YOU are another story. You should be my first read. You should be my first thoughts. You should be my all in all. I should keep my eyes on Jesus/You/Holy Spirit—my God. You are what I NEED for the day. You are what I SHOULD KNOW. That is how my life will make a difference.

Father, help me to be mindful of this lesson and to live in its importance today and every day. Show me how to keep my eyes on Jesus throughout the day, all day long. Give me wisdom tonight, especially, as I advocate for a cause with some people I’ve never met, but for whom this could be a divine appointment.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2019 in Hebrews

 

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Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Hebrews 12:1

Dear God, when I first read this passage this morning it made me think about cycling and how much difference a few pounds makes on a bike. People will spend thousands of dollars on a bike that is 5 lbs. lighter than regular one. I’ve always joked that it’s cheaper for me to just lose the five pounds myself. But when your climbing hills, you can definitely feel the difference five or ten pounds makes.

Then I thought about a story I heard yesterday during a presentation on ethics. It was about a guy who committed over $2 billion (with a “b”) in hospital finance fraud. The irony was that he was a self-professed Christian who even had a Christian TV show. Apparently, however, at one point during his investigation, he started attending a black church with the goal of being more sympathetic to any potential black jurors (I think he lived in Alabama). At what did his sin encumber him so much that it overtook him? I wonder what he would say now about his life and the choices he made. Were you ever really his God?

Father, I know I have sin in my life. I know that I met mistakes, judge people, tell little or big lies, etc. all of the time. As I think about ethics and what this passage is telling me, I submit to your authority, ask for your grace, and worship you for your glory’s sake.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2018 in Hebrews

 

Hebrews 11:1

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Hebrews 11:1

Dear God, there are all kinds things for which I pray and try to muster enough faith. There are the obvious things like physical wellness/healing of others or myself, financial provision for others or myself, etc. but I would say the area where you are really drawing me into a deeper level of believing in the evidence of things I cannot see is with my kids. They are grown now and making their way in the world. I pray for them every day. My wife and I pray together nearly every day and we always pray for them. But we rarely “see” the outcomes of our prayers.

Lately, however, I feel like you are showing be how the best outcomes for people come from struggle. There is a line somewhere between helping my children as a parent and getting in the way of what you are trying to do to answer my prayers and develop them as people. Sometimes it can be hard to be patient. It can be hard to tell them no. And it can become hard to pray when I don’t “see” the fruit of my prayers.

Father, all of this is to say that you are helping my unbelief. For years I have joined the father talking to Jesus who said, “I believe, help my unbelief,” but now I am feeling my faith crowding out my unbelief. I still have a long way to go, but I know enough about where I’ve been to appreciate where I am now. But I’ll try to be better tomorrow.

I pray to you with much love and gratitude in Jesus’ name,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2018 in Hebrews