Monday, Jul 29, Heb 4:14-16

14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

As a child, it was hard for me to see my parents as anything other than perfect.  As I grew older, I realized that my parents were once children also, and faced many of the challenges of childhood that I had to face.  Because they faced some of the same challenges they were able to help answer many of my questions.  Jesus, our high priest was also one of us, ‘yet he did not sin.’  If He can do it, I just might have a chance also.

Tuesday, Jul 30, Heb 5:1-6

4And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was. 5In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” 6And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

Arrogance!  Every time I do something well I look in the mirror with pride.  I might even wear a clean shirt the whole day just to add to my goodness.  God offered Jesus the job of high priest, yet He showed no pride at all.  Did I do something wrong, when I showed pride, or did Jesus do something right when He did not?

Wednesday, Jul 31, Heb 5:7

7During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

My kid usually asks me for money.  Lately, I have my excuses prepared before she asks, therefore my response almost sounds natural.  When I think of the words ‘reverent submission,’ I think of being nicer to someone than I would be to myself; as if I am putting their interest in front of mine.  Misleading my daughter hardly satisfies ‘reverent submission.’  Yet Jesus ‘offered up prayers’ in ‘reverent submission’ and because of that God heard Him.

Thursday, Aug 1, Heb 5:8-9

8Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…

Which is easier to do, enduring suffering or obeying Jesus?  I remember once I tried to see how far I could run. I was surprised that the more days a week I ran; the further I was able to run.  I learned how far I could run just by running more often.  This passage suggests that Jesus learned obedience from enduring His suffering.  I’m not sure how much suffering I want to endure just to learn how much suffering I can endure.  I may never have to find out since Jesus endured for me and all I have to do is obey Him.  

Friday, Aug 2, Matt 26:37-39

37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Once at work, someone said that people rarely live up to their resume.  Some of their claims exceed their abilities.  No one will notice however, unless something comes up that requires the skill they don’t have.  They may then ask to be excused.  Although Jesus asked to be excused, He was qualified for the job and He did it!

Saturday, Aug 3, Matt 26:40-41

40Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Easier said than done!  I often tell myself that I can be perfect: no pride, no greed, no selfishness.  That’s the intent.  Yet pride, greed, and selfishness show up every day.  While I haven’t given up yet, this passage gives me relief to know that mine is not the only willing spirit that sometimes fails.

Monday – August 5th

Hebrews 9:1-2

1Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.  2A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place…When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 

Because we live in the time of the second, or new covenant, instituted by Jesus, I find that I forget how difficult it must have been to keep all of the laws, regulations, and guidelines originally set for the proper worship of God. Only the priests could enter the Holy place, and only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies. Imagine if the only way your sins could be forgiven, whether or not they were intentional, was when a group of priests did absolutely everything required under the law and at the exact time in the exact way to atone for your sins! While the temple administrations were the way God taught the Israelites to be His people, it also acted as a barrier not unlike a door. Only the priest could open the door and enter in. If you or I had opened that door, we would have been struck dead because we had dared to approach God in such a personal way. How would you feel if this was your only access to God? 

Tuesday – August 6th

Hebrews 9:9-10

This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various baptisms, regulations for the body imposed until the time comes to set things right.

I don’t often think about just how much freedom I have in the forgiveness of my sin. I don’t ponder what it would be like if I didn’t have a familial relationship with Jesus such that I could ask for forgiveness and know that my sins are forgiven, that I am washed clean, and helped in my endeavors to be just a little bit better. In the old system (the first covenant), the actions of the priests made their flesh pure and temporarily prepared them to encounter the manifestation of God’s presence in the tabernacle, but it did not lift the psychological burden of sin. Now imagine for just a moment that you had to carry your guilty conscience around with you day in and day out. I can only speak for myself, but I know that this would eventually feel like a crushing weight. Ponder this as you move through your day remembering each little infraction, intentional or unintentional, and then be thankful that we are no longer living under this first covenant. 

Wednesday – August 7th

Hebrews 9:11-12

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtainingeternal redemption. 

Jesus, as the new high priest, is serving in a tent that hands did not build, and that is not part of this creation in which you and I live. Rather, Jesus is serving where God actually dwells, He is face to face with our Creator. And what is more important is that his blood offering was so pure, so perfect, that it satisfied God for time and eternity. I am often overwhelmed by the magnitude of that sacrifice. I never feel worthy and I often feel that Jesus must have had some others in mind when he stepped through the portal of a painful death to obtain eternal redemption for me and for you.  But then, if we had to be measured by our worthiness, if we were still under the constraints of the old covenant, all of us would be found wanting.  This is the miracle of the second covenant.  Now when God looks at me, He sees the blood of the lamb that covers me, and washes me clean. While I may feel unworthy, it is by Christ’s righteousness that I am made whole. 

Thursday – August 8th

Hebrews 9:13

13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.

This is I!  I work hard at trying to be a “good Christian”, but my works are just like the blood of the goats and bulls – I may look clean on the outside and how others view me, but inside my works are but filthy rags.  There is nothing you or I can do that will cleanse us from our mistakes, sins, or bad behavior. This does not mean we do not try because as children of the living God, redeemed and made holy through the blood of the lamb, we are called to walk in the Spirit and show by our actions God’s love for others and us. But it is also a good reminder that our works alone will not reconcile us to God, we need our high priest Jesus to do that redemptive work once and for all.

Friday – August 9th

Hebrews 9:14

 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,so that we may serve the living God!

Go back and read Monday’s scripture reflection again. Think about that barrier that closed door and now look at Jesus as being the open door. God wanted to open that door so He sent Jesus as the mediator, whose divine love overcame that barrier and flung open the door, which our human sins had closed. Through his death and resurrection, we are now open to a renewed relationship with God. Never doubt that God desires a relationship with you and only asks that you walk through this open door so that you too can live a transformed life.

Saturday – August 10th

Hebrews 9:15

15 For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

To summarize this week’s reflections, Jesus, as our high priest, instituted a new, permanent, and forever covenant. Jesus’ blood sacrifice cleanses the external and internal so that we can now offer our whole selves to God, just like he did. You see, it’s not really about what we do – the same action can be a dead work or a glorious praise – but it is about our willingness to surrender. Ask yourself this question: Are you doing works just to do the work or are you doing them because you have surrendered to the living God? Only when we surrender ourselves completely, accepting the gift of God’s grace through Jesus, does it become possible to serve the living God with a living faith. Surrender and know what it feels like to be alive in Christ.

Monday, August 12

Hebrews 11:1-2

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

“Confidence in what we hope for.” It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?  If we are hoping for something, then doesn’t that mean that we don’t know for sure that we will get it? If we are sure about something, then we really don’t need to hope; we already know what is coming. This can be one of the things that give us difficulty when defending our faith: we are confident that Jesus is Lord, yet we are still hoping for him. What if someone asks you, “How do you know that Christianity is true and not just a story carried through history to help people ‘feel better’?” It’s like explaining how you know you are in love: you just know. Is it possible to get it wrong? Yes, of course, but our confidence is strengthened by the stories told, not only in the Bible, but also by others throughout history that have held the same things in confidence. 

Tuesday, August 13

Hebrews 11:3

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Many people are sure that a random assembly of elements set off by a “big bang,” changing through many millennia is how our world came into being. They weren’t there to see it and yet they believe it strongly. They have faith that it was so. Others believe that God existed before the world and He created it from nothing, simply by speaking it into existence. They were not there to see it either but they have faith that it is true. Both sides of this argument have information to support their beliefs, but do they have “assurance of what we cannot see”? No, none of us do. Still, people will believe what fits in with their own worldview. The worldview held by most Christians is that our experience supports the belief that what is told in the Bible is true, whether literal or in literary form, therefore what it says about creation is also true. We would all agree that the world was indeed formed somehow, because we see that it is here today. Whatever we believe, we could agree that something was formed of nothing and it is uniquely beautiful and intricately fashioned. 

Wednesday, August 14

Hebrews 11:8

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  

With faith, we can do things we might be reluctant to do otherwise.  The author of Hebrews writes this particular chapter telling of many people who did the unthinkable by acting on their faith. Abraham, a man in his nineties, was without any children. He was called by God to pick up his belongings and move his entire household to a place that was completely unknown to him. Few people would have thought that was a good idea at the time – and at his age! He acted on his faith: he knew that God had shown favor to his ancestors who followed God’s lead, and he had faith that God would be there for him, too. Because of his faith, Abraham was rewarded not only with many descendants, but he was promised land for them as well. Have you ever felt pulled in a new direction and believed God was leading you to something new? How did you respond? Did you make a list of all the pros and cons and assign a weight to them all, or did you just act in faith? Were you rewarded for acting in faith?

Thursday, August 15

Hebrews 11:13-16

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Verse 13 seems a little depressing at first: they were “all still living by faith when they died, and they did not receive the things they were promised.” Hmmm. So why are we doing this ‘living by faith’ stuff? The verse goes on to say they saw the things and welcomed them from a distance. Maybe they realized that the things they were hoping for were good, but not the final goal. The ultimate goal of faith is to be accepted into something even better: a heavenly place. The people living by faith lived with hope. They lived in a positive way instead of living without hope. 

Friday, August 16

Hebrews 12:1-2

12 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.

As we saw in the previous passage, life does not always go according to plan, even for people of great faith. Life can get messy. The picture of faith that we see in these chapters from the letter to the Hebrews is that faith does not always fit into a formula. There are times when it leads us to great accomplishments or victories; just as often it requires us to grit our teeth and hang on with all we’ve got. The author of Hebrews does not say that one kind of faith is better than another; both rest on the belief that God is in ultimate control and will indeed keep his promises – whether in this life or the next. Run with perseverance! Many have gone before us, and Jesus set the ultimate example. 

Saturday, August 17

Matthew 5:8-10 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he told us which people are ultimately blessed, and many of these may seem unlikely to succeed by human terms: the meek, those who mourn, those who are persecuted because of their relationship with God. These people may suffer here on earth. However, I believe he is telling us that the people who live by faith will be blessed – perhaps here on earth, but certainly in heaven. People who are merciful, people who are pure in heart and the peacemakers may know more joy now than others and they can still hope for an even better life in the kingdom of God. 

Live with confidence in this hope!