Friday, November 30, 2012

Hebrews 4:8-10

Summary retelling of Hebrews 4:8-10

The author reminds us that the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness did not go into rest, because God’s Word tells us to not harden our hearts today.  In other words, human beings have not yet found permanent rest and there is still time for people to receive God’s grace.  Thus, there is also a future rest to come.  There will come a time when we will rest from our works permanently.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Today we can see the third type of rest. Yesterday we talked about past rest – that is, rest we felt when we become a follower of God.  We also spoke about present rest, knowing that we rest in God’s hands while we go about our present work.  Today we hear about future rest.  There will be a time when our work here on earth is over.  There will come a time when we will rest permanently in God.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll do nothing in heaven; it means that the work we do will be completely and totally work done with and for God in his presence.

What do you think about when you think of eternity?  If you had any hope of what eternal life will be like, for what would you hope?

Second Thought:
The author also seems to indicate that we have not entered into permanent rest yet.  We may be doing God’s work here on earth, but we are also living among the world.  There is more work to do.  The final day of judgment has not yet come.  There are people who still need to hear about God and His love. 

What work do you still need to do before you enter into the future rest?

Third Thought:
As we talk about work to do and the time we have left to do it, we should also talk about motivation.  The author of Hebrews doesn’t mention this, but it is an important part of the conversation.  We can do God’s work.  We can even look forward to God’s rest.  We can take solace that we rest in Him now as we anticipate His greater rest to come.  But we don’t work for that motivation.  Our motivation is obedience to God.  We work because God desires it from us.  We don’t work for our own glory or so that we can earn a reward.  We work for God’s glory because we are His people.

Do you always work for God’s glory?  When we don’t work for God’s glory, how do those times make us grateful for repentance and forgiveness?  How lucky are we to still know that we have an eternal rest to come in spite of our imperfections and occasionally flawed motivations?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 4:11-13

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hebrews 4:4-7

Summary retelling of Hebrews 4:4-7

The author of Hebrews makes a point to remind us that even God rested from the work of creation, but again He reminds us that those who are not in Him will not rest with God.  Some will enter God’s rest, but there are those who will not enter it because of their disobedience.  However, we are reminded that the ability to enter His rest is not yet closed, because we are told that “today” we are not to harden our hearts.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
I mentioned yesterday that we would talk about rest.  So far, we’ve had two mentions of rest.  (There’s a third to come tomorrow).  The first one I’m going to talk about is the one from this passage.  God rested at the work of creation.  This is a comparison to our rest knowing that our salvation is secure in Christ.  God worked; then He rested.  That doesn’t mean that He didn’t work again – certainly He has done much work since the creation of the world!  But He rested in the midst of His work, knowing that the work in the future to come would get done as it needed to get done.  This is a type of “past rest.”  As God rested after creation, we can rest because we are in God.  We know there is work yet to be done.  But there is great relief that comes the moment our salvation is at hand and we recognize it and grasp onto it.

Think back to the first time you knew that you were saved – did you feel at ease?  Think back to a time when you felt incredibly close to God – how would you describe the state of your being inside of you?  How would you talk to others about the comfort that you know is within you because you know God?

Second Thought:
The second type of rest is one we first saw back in the end of chapter three.  We are told that as the Hebrew people are coming out of Egypt God says to them that they will not rest because of their disobedience.  Thus, we can see a second type of rest: the Promised Land is also resting in God.  Those disobedient Hebrew people were never at rest their whole lives.  But those Hebrew people who entered into the Promised Land did find rest throughout their life.  In the same way, we can find rest in our present.  If we are following God and doing His will, we can be at rest right here and right now.

Does it help you to realize that you can rest in God right now?  Have you ever had a time when you were consumed by worry and fear and doubt?  How does knowing that you can find rest in God right now help you think about those times to come when you will have worry and fear and doubt?

Third Thought:
Again, notice the importance that the author of Hebrews places upon obedience and disobedience.  Certainly we are not saved because of our obedience.  Without Christ, our obedience is worthless.  However, we can find ourselves not saved because of our disobedience.  God has given us the opportunity to enter with Him in rest.  But we can fail to enter because we wish to obey our own desires rather than being obedient to God’s desires.  Dietrich Bonheoffer says in the book The Cost of Discipleship, “Only those who obey believe, and only those who believe obey.”

What do you think about Bonheoffer’s quote?  Do you think that only those who believe (receive grace) can truly be obedient to God?  Do you think that only those who are truly obedient to God are the ones who truly believe?  How does this line of contemplation make you think about your own life?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 4:8-10

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hebrews 4:1-3

Summary retelling of Hebrews 4:1-3

The author tells us that the path to being in rest with God is still open to us.  However, we shouldn’t take it for granted.  We should fear for one another and do all we can to make sure that we reach that rest.  Remember that the Gospel of God’s grace goes out to all people equally, but not all people are willing to hear about it and respond.  Those who believe enter God’s rest, but those who do not respond to God’s gift of grace will endure His wrath and not enter into His rest.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
The idea of “rest” is going to be an important idea – and in fact tomorrow we are likely going to look at three ways of thinking about “rest” in God.  So today I want to set up that conversation by getting us to think about what rest in God means.  Remember that rest in God is ultimately our goal.  Being with God is rest from being with the world.

When you hear the expression “rest with God” what do you think about?  Do you think about this life?  Do you think about the life to come?  What else goes through your mind when you hear the words, “rest with God?”

Second Thought:
It is God’s desire that all people will come to know Him.  Yet, God also gives us the ability to reject Him.  If He didn’t, then our love would not be true love because we would have no option except to love Him.  Thus, we can say that the Gospel goes out to all equally, but it does not root in all equally.  Some hear and respond to great depths!  Others hear and have no response.  This is a sad reality for me – and I only know a small percentage of the people who have ever lived. I can only imagine how God feels knowing every person who has ever lived and how vast the number is of those who have heard but did not respond.

How does this line of thinking really make us ponder the need for evangelism?  How does this line of thinking really make us understand the importance of knowing the Word of God?  How does this point help us grasp the importance of applying faith to our life correctly and being humble about when we mess that up?

Third Thought:
This part of Hebrews is very clear.  Those who are in God will enter His rest.  Those who are not in God will not enter His rest.  Of course, we must remember that only God can make the decision between who is truly in Him and who is not truly in Him.  That decision is not ours to make – especially as we look at other people.  However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be clear in our teaching and warn people about the importance of being in and with God.  While I have no right to look at another person and tell them they are definitely not going to Heaven, I have every right to look at them and talk to them about how one receives God’s grace and becomes obedient to God so that one secures the promise of eternal life.  The same is true for all Christians.  We have every right to talk about grace: receiving it and responding to it.

Do you have confidence that you are in God?  If so, why?  If not, where can you find out how to become confident?  Is being confident in your salvation important enough to you to act on it right this moment?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 4:4-7

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hebrews 3:16-19

Summary retelling of Hebrews 3:16-19

We now hear a very specific accusation.  The archetype for those who heard and hardened their heart is the generation that was taken out of Egypt via the exodus.  They saw God’s hand at work, yet they continue to provoke God with their sinful behaviors.  We are reminded that God swore that they would never enter his rest but would wander the wilderness until they died.  Because of their unbelief, they were unable to enter God’s rest.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Think about the generation of the exodus.  Here is a group of people who cried out to God for help.  They saw the plagues.  They saw the parting of the Red Sea.  They saw the pillar of fire and the cloud.  They saw the manna from heaven.  They saw the water from the rock.  They saw all of these things.

If you look again at that list, do you think seeing all of those things would convince you to follow God?  Would you have to see all of them?  Why do you think (or don’t you think) that seeing such miracles would help you believe?

Second Thought:
Now realize for a second that the people who saw all those things are considered the worst generation – most faithless generation – of Jews to ever live.  They saw all those things yet they still wanted to make the Golden Calf.  They still wanted to sacrifice to foreign gods.  They still didn’t believe God could take them successfully into the Promised Land.  They had every reason to believe in God; yet they had no faith.

Why do you think they lacked faith?  Is it possible that seeing all those miracles actually made them numb to the potency of God?  Do you think their problem was with what their eyes saw our how their heart processed what they saw?

Third Thought:
God did not let them enter into His rest.  They wandered the wilderness until all of them were dead.  This should be a passage that causes a bit of anxiety within us.  We are no strangers to Jesus and the Gospel story.  Yet we are no strangers to sin, either.

Do we ever see God at work, yet find ourselves sinning shortly thereafter?  How does this portion of Hebrews prepare us to think about forgiveness?  Do you think the Hebrew people who wandered the wilderness were repentant regarding their rebellion?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 4:1-3

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hebrews 3:12-15

Summary retelling of Hebrews 3:12-15

We are told to take care against evil and unbelief.  It is evil and unbelief that pulls us away from God.  However, it is the exhortation of one another that keeps our hearts from being hardened against God in favor of the deceptive nature of sin.  So long as we hold our faith to the end, we shall indeed share in Christ.  We then get a repeat of the first line of the psalm that we heard yesterday.  If we hear the voice of God, do not harden your heart. 

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Evil and unbelief are the enemies of faith.  Evil is doing an action that is contrary to God’s ways.  Unbelief is the motivation that leads to the doing of evil.  When we lose sight of God and God’s ways – when our unbelief is stronger than our faith – we easily stray into the path of doing things that we should not do.

If evil comes fundamentally from unbelief, what is the cure against evil?  If evil comes from unbelief, what is true of the condition of our heart and mind when we voluntarily choose to sin?

Second Thought:
Exhortation helps us from having our hearts hardened.  Now, we need to be clear here.  We cannot keep one another from sinning.  Only God can do something that incredible.  However, what our exhortation does to one another is remind us about the importance of paying attention to God.  We encourage one another to draw close to God and it is God who empowers us to refrain from the sinful passions of our hearts.

What does this passage tell us about the importance of spiritual community?  Why is it important to have spiritual friends and mentors?  Do you think it is easier to live when you have spiritual friends or when you don’t?

Third Thought:
So long as we have faith to the end, we shall share in Christ.  By sharing in Christ, the author means the resurrection of the dead into eternal life in the presence of God.  We are given eternal life through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.  But we as human beings are also given the free will to accept or reject that gift.  We can accept it or reject it at any time.  Those who do not end their life rejecting God and His salvation will indeed share in Christ.  Thus, we should not harden our hearts against God.

What other passages can you think about in the Bible that speak about needing to remain faithful?  What other stories indicate the need to continue in faith?  Do you think this is an easy task or a difficult one?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 3:16-19

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hebrews 3:7-11

Summary retelling of Hebrews 3:7-11

We hear a quote from Psalm 95:7-11.  It basically says that if we should hear the voice of the Lord we should not harden our hearts.  We should not be like the wandering Hebrew people in the wilderness after the exodus.  Although they saw the work of the Lord for forty straight years, they continued to test Him.  Their actions provoked the Lord and convinced the Lord that they would always be rebellious and would never learn God’s ways.  God promised Himself that they would not enter eternal life and rest with Him.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
This whole section is on the hardening of our hearts.  I think this may be one of the most crucial conversations that two believers can have with one another.  We must be sure to help everyone understand the importance of having an open heart towards God.  We must be sure to remind people to be ready to accept what God is doing.  We should want to look for God rather than lift up our current belief or opinion.  We need to be open to God rather than closed in on ourselves.

How open are you to God?  Is there anything God could ask of you that you would refuse Him?  Is there any circumstance that you could find yourself that you would cease looking for Him?

Second Thought:
The Hebrew people did more than just doubt.  They actively tested the Lord.  They rebelled against Him.  They actively did not pursue His ways and instead pursued the desires of their own heart.  They made it difficult for Moses to lead them.  They grumbled and complained at the generosity of the Lord.

Do you ever do these things?  How do you think God feels about you when you do them?  What helps you to stop doing them once you recognize your guilt?

Third Thought:
Eventually God determined that there was no helping that generation of Hebrew people.  Eventually God was determined to let those Hebrew people go their own way and choose their own path.  The depth and frequency of their sin was enough to convince God Himself that there was no hope for them.

How sad is it to hear the depth of the sin of the Hebrew people whom God led out of Egypt?  How does it make you feel to know that God eventually washed His hands of them and let them go their own way?  What can this realization teach you about your own walk with God?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 3:12-15

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hebrews 3:1-6

Summary retelling of Hebrews 3:1-6

The author now turns to compare Jesus and Moses, and he asks those of us who consider ourselves subject to a higher calling to think about Jesus as God’s apostle and high priest who was as faithful as Moses.  We are then reminded that Jesus has more honor than Moses because Moses merely passed along what he heard and served in God’s house whereas the world and God’s people were created through Jesus.  Finally we are told that we are a part of God’ house if we hold fast to the faith.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Remember that books of the Bible are named for either the author or the recipient.  {Examples: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are named for their authors; Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians are named for their recipients.}  Hebrews, then, is a book named for its recipients.  This is a book written to a Jewish community regarding Christianity and Christian thought.  Given this, we should remember that there is nobody in Jewish thought who is greater than Moses.  Moses spoke to God face-to-face.  Moses received the Law directly from God.  For a Jew, Moses is the epitome of human closeness to God.  Thus, in this chapter the author of Hebrews is attempting to say a very powerful thing to a Jewish audience.  Jesus – the Jew who was rejected by the leaders of His own people – is closer to God and therefore a greater person than Moses.

In what way is this claim challenging to the audience?  In what way is this claim very radical to the audience?  Do we as Christians ever take for granted the claim being spoken here and miss out on the truly radical nature of the author’s words?  What does this passage tell us about not being afraid of the Gospel and promoting the Gospel to anyone anytime regardless of the risk?

Second Thought:
The author makes a really cool point.  Yes, Moses is great.  But all that Moses did was to be a servant.  It was God’s Law – Moses merely heard and repeated.  It was God’s tabernacle, Moses merely served within it.  Moses didn’t do anything original; he merely did what God told him to do.  {Which in itself is a great feat for a human, mind you.}  On the other hand, Jesus was a part of creation.  In dying on the cross, Jesus brought salvation and the Holy Spirit directly to the human people.  It wasn’t just God’s Spirit that he breathed upon the disciples; it was legitimately His Spirit as well.  Yes, Jesus absolutely obeyed the Father.  But Jesus wasn’t merely passing along the solution.  Jesus was the solution.

Have you ever thought of Jesus in these terms?  Why is it important to remember that Jesus is the solution and He is the answer?  Why is it important for us to realize that like Moses we are simply servants to His calling?

Third Thought:
We are a part of God’s house if we hold fast to the faith.  We must hold fast.  We must obey God.  Sure, there is sin and even after we receive Christ and His Spirit we are not perfect.  So we must also be truly repentant.  We are not saved by our works at all – we are saved by Christ’s work.  But God does have an expected response from those who are saved.

What is dangerous about preaching a Gospel of salvation without also preaching about our response?  What happens within people who are told they are saved but who are not challenged with expectation about how those who are saved should act?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 3:7-11

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hebrews 2:14-18

Summary retelling of Hebrews 2:14-18

Jesus came to be flesh and blood so we – the children of God – might be freed from the power of death and its master, Satan.  In conquering death he has delivered all of us who are in bondage to sin because of our fear of death.  Jesus did not come to rescue the angels, but mortal men.  He has become our high priest before God, able to rescue us when we are tempted by the things of this world because He knows what it is like to overcome temptation.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
There is something to pause and rejoice about in this passage.  We are freed.  We are saved.  We do not have to be in bondage to Satan.  God sent Jesus in human form so that we could know true life, not this temporary life of mortality.

How do you live out the fact that you are saved?  Does this thought enter into many of the decisions that you make?  How often do you rejoice at your salvation?

Second Thought:
 Our bondage to sin is fundamentally tied to our fear of death.  It is easy for our perspective to rest upon death as the end.  Since we see our life as terminal, we want to do as much as possible before we die.  We want to have as much as possible before we die.  We become slaves to the things of this world because our perspective is limited.  However, when we see our life as eternal – because Jesus freed us from death through His own death and resurrection – we don’t have to chase the fleeting things of the world.  We have an eternity to experience life and all that God has in store for us.

Have you ever thought, “I need to do this before I die?”  Have you ever heard of the “bucket list” idea?  Not that there is anything wrong with setting goals and accomplishing things, but can you see how our fear of death can help to put the wrong things on our “bucket list?”

Third Thought:
The author tells us that Jesus can indeed help us when we are put in the path of sin.  Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted.  He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness.  When He was arrested He could have called down a legion of angels to prevent His death.  He knows what it is like to have absolute power at His fingertips but choose righteousness instead of fulfilling His desires.  If we trust Him, He can show us the way of righteousness as well.

How difficult do you think it was for Jesus to know that He had absolute power and instead of saving Himself He chose to help humankind?  Do you think you could choose to behave righteously time and time again if you had the power of God at your fingertips?  What does your answer reveal to you about your nature?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 3:1-6

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hebrews 2:10-13

Summary retelling of Hebrews 2:10-13

The author reminds us that creation exists by God’s hand and for God’s purposes.  We are brought into glory through the perfect suffering of Jesus Christ.  He is the initiator of salvation.  We who have been sanctified all come from the same place.  This is why Christ can call us brothers, because He has come and proclaimed God to us and we have placed our trust in Him.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
I don’t think anyone who believes in God struggles in understanding that we are created by God’s hand.  We also know that we are created for God’s purposes.  However, this is a point that while we might understand it we have some difficulty putting into action.  We often want to pursue our own agenda.  Or we want to live life by what we think is godly standards but it is primarily a compromise between what we really want and what God really wants.  It is difficult to stay truly focused on implementing the belief that we are created for God’s purposes.

Why is it so easy to believe in God but so difficult to stay focused on doing His will? 

Second Thought:
The author calls Jesus the “initiator” of salvation.  Another way to translate this word is pioneer, founder, or originator.  Salvation begins with Jesus. It starts with Him.  Without Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, there would be no salvation.

Here’s a really deep question, since I’m sure we all have agreed for some time now that Jesus is the source of salvation.  If salvation starts with Jesus’ death, what was the point of all the sacrificing to God in the Old Testament?

Third Thought:
We are brothers and sisters to Jesus.  We are not brothers and sisters to Jesus because He became flesh, though.  It is not our similar humanity that makes us brothers and sisters.  It is our spirituality that makes us brothers and sisters.  It is God coming and dwelling within us once we have responded to His free gift of grace and mercy.  Our spirituality is what ties us to one another and to Christ.

Do you put much emphasis on your spiritual ties to one another?  Besides God, who is most important in your life?  What ties you to that person (or those people)?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 2:14-18

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hebrews 2:5-9

Summary retelling of Hebrews 2:5-9

The author reminds us that angels were never given the promise of reigning.  Then the author quotes Psalm 8:4-6 and reminds us that human beings were created a little lower than God with the purpose of setting everything under our feet.  We are reminded that God has not put anything outside of our ability, yet we do not see the reality of humanity being able to control creation.  However, we do see Jesus who came to earth and was able to control creation while also bringing us salvation.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
We often think of angels as the most powerful beings out there {besides God, of course}.  We think of angels as being able to do anything, be anywhere, even to know the mind of God.  Indeed, they are very special beings and they have an incredible track record for consistently being able to do the will of God {Better than humanity, that’s for sure}.  But the author of Hebrews is making a strong point here.  God never put the world under the dominion of the angels.  The angels are God’s servants.  They do not reign with God, they serve God.

How can this passage help us understand the primary differences between angels and human beings?  What are those differences?  Does understanding these differences help you also understand why it is dangerous to teach little children that when we die we go to heaven to be angels? 

Second Thought:
The author quotes Psalm 8:4-6.  Although mankind was put in control over creation, the reality is that we do not yet have control.  We cannot even control ourselves much less creation around us!  We cannot control the beasts, the plants, the weather, etc.  We can guide it and force it along a certain path for a while.  But we certainly cannot control it as we were supposed to according to God’s mandate in Genesis {and repeated in Psalm 8}.

Why do you think we cannot control creation as God intended? 

Third Thought:
Although we cannot control creation, God sent to us the first fruit of salvation: Jesus Christ.  In Him we see the perfect human {although don’t forget, He is fully human and fully divine}.  In Jesus we see someone who could control creation.  As His disciples and others said at more than one occasion, “Even the wind obeys Him!”  He was even the master over death.  We see that although we cannot rise to the state that God intended for us, God made Jesus a little “lower” for a time in order to show us His plan.  As we often pray on Sunday mornings, God sent Jesus to bring salvation and to be a model for what God truly desires of us.  He is the completion of what we cannot be in our sinful nature.

Have you ever thought about Jesus’ ability to do things like controlling the wind as a fulfillment of God’s charge to humanity at the time of creation?  How great was Jesus that He truly could control creation?  What does it say about those who rejected Him when He was alive and they could see for themselves what Jesus could do?  What does it say about people now who hear about what He could do and still reject Him?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 2:10-13

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hebrews 2:1-4

Summary retelling of Hebrews 2:1-4

The author reminds us that we must pay close attention.  If we don’t pay close attention, we risk drifting away from our faith.  He then tells us that God’s revelation by His messengers – that is, the Old Testament – was very reliable in pointing us to our sinfulness and our need for the forgiveness and grace that comes through Christ.  Furthermore, if we neglect such a witness, how will we ever escape the condemnation that comes through it?  We know that this witness is trustworthy because it came from God, is attested by the faithful, and it is proven by the work of the Holy Spirit who is in those who receive the testimony.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
The author’s first point is really significant.  When we neglect things, we get worse with them.  I hate that it is this way, but it is absolutely true.  Ask any runner what happens to them if they stop running for a month. As any student what happens to their ability to learn over the summer.  Ask any employee what the first day back from a vacation is like.  When we neglect things, we drift away from mastery over them.  The longer we neglect something, the greater the drift.

Is faith something from which you want to drift away?  What does this section seem to be telling us about ensuring that we obey the marks of discipleship (Studying God’s Word regularly, praying regularly, worshipping regularly, giving regularly, serving regularly, and relating spiritually to others regularly)?

Second Thought:
The author then points out that the witness of the Old Testament is true.  God’s Word teaches us about the nature of our Creator.  The Law reveals to us our sinful nature.  The prophets reveal that a savior is coming that we desperately need.  These are the overarching points of the whole of the Old Testament. 

Can any of us deny that human nature is self-centered?  Can any of us deny that there is a self-monger living within?  Can any of us deny that we cannot rely on our own righteousness and therefore need a savior?  Do you agree that the Old Testament in reliable – especially in these matters?

Third Thought:
The author finally points us to the fact that we are not alone in understanding the truth of God’s Word.  The faithful who have come before us believed it.  They believed it because they saw God revealed through it.  They believed it because they saw the Holy Spirit working through those who believed it and came before them.  We have a great tradition of faith to which we can adhere.

Have you seen God at work in people around you?  In whom?  In what ways?  Have you seen God at work in the faithful people who came before you?  In whom?  In what ways?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 2:5-9

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hebrews 1:13-14

Summary retelling of Hebrews 1:13-14

The author then reminds us that God has never asked an angel to sit at His right hand in ruling authority.  Neither has God promised to make the enemies of an angel a footstool under their feet.  The angels are ministering beings sent out to accomplish God’s will, not to determine it.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Angels do not rule.  They have a wonderfully blessed purpose as God’s messengers, but they do not rule.  It is Jesus who was given the call to sit at God’s hand.  {For the record, note that it wasn’t us, either.}  Jesus is the one who has God’s authority.  Jesus is the one who holds God’s scepter.  Jesus is the one who was sent into this world to establish His kingdom.  Jesus – neither us nor the angels – is in charge.

Do you live this way?  Do you submit to Christ?  Is Jesus really in charge in your life?

Second Thought:
I’m going to make a bit of a stretch in this point, but I really think it is valid.  The author tells us that God has never said to an angel that He will make the enemies of an angel a footstool.  Here’s the stretch: could that be said because the angels don’t have enemies?  Now, I don’t mean to imply that angels don’t have beings that are working against them.  Clearly scripture – especially Daniel and Revelation – indicate that there are very real opponents to angels.  But here’s my more subtle point.  Are not the opponents of angels really enemies of God?  Is not anyone who opposes that which God is trying to do an enemy of God?  What this really means, then, is that none of us have “personal enemies.”  Those that we typically think of as our enemies are not really “our” enemies if we are doing the work of God.  So long as we are doing the work of God, people who oppose us are God’s enemies.

Does it make a difference whether someone is “my” enemy or “God’s” enemy?  If someone or something is an enemy of God, then who is ultimately responsible for fighting the battle?  What can this point tell us about the importance of doing God’s will all the time?

Third Thought:
The angels have a specific task.  They are the messengers.  They are the ones who bring God’s will from the throne of God to creation.  They are the ones who fight the spiritual battles as we see in Daniel and Revelation.  To make an analogy, they are the spiritual worker bees.  Their role is important, but like us their role is not to rule but to obey. We obey in the physical realm; the angels obey in a more spiritual realm.

When you think about angels, do you think of them as rulers or as workers?  Do you think of them as leaders or as followers?  Are they beings of great power?  What can we take away from this passage about how beings of great power can still be humble servants?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 2:1-4

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hebrews 1:10-12

Summary retelling of Hebrews 1:10-12

The author now quotes Psalm 102:25-27.  He says that the Son was present at the laying of the foundation of the earth.  He even says that the heavens are the work of the Son.  Although the earth and the heavens fade away, the Son remains.  In fact, the earth will be changed like clothing while the Son remains the same.  The years of the Son will never end.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
The idea that the Son was present at the beginning of creation is not a new one.  John 1:1 gives us the same theology.  The world was created through the Son.  As we discovered on an earlier day, if the world was created through the Son, it only makes sense to think that the world was redeemed through Him, too.  So often we mistakenly think that Jesus came “into existence” when he was born to Mary.  However, the Bible tells us that Jesus was present at creation.

Why is it important to see Jesus as having been present for the whole life of creation?  Why is it significant to see the Savior as one who wasn’t begotten just to save but one who was begotten in order to save that which was created through Him in the first place?

Second Thought:
The author is clear to tell us that the heavens and the earth will fade away.  This world – this universe! – is not permanent.  It will pass away.  This theology agrees with the theology of Revelation 21.  What will not fade away is Jesus Christ!  He is permanent.

If the world will pass away, what is it reasonable to conclude will happen to those who are of the world?  If Jesus Christ is permanent, what is reasonable to conclude will happen to those who are in Jesus?

Third Thought:
The world will be changed like garments.  The author makes it seem so effortless.  We change clothes with little thought.  But, the Son doesn’t change.  The Son is the same today as He was when He died.  He is the Same today as He was when the world was created.  He will never end.

How does it make you feel to think that this world will pass away?  How does it make you feel about the world and the things in it?  How does it make you feel about Christ to know He will never change?  To which would you rather belong: something that will last forever or something that is destined to end?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 1:13-14

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hebrews 1:8-9

Summary retelling of Hebrews 1:8-9

We are reminded that the throne of God endures forever.  The scepter that is always in God’s hand is the scepter of righteousness.  God continues to love righteous behavior and hate wicked behavior.  Because of this, God has anointed His Messiah with the oil of gladness more than anyone else.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
The first expression – which deals with the Messiah’s seat upon the throne of God – illustrates the point we studied yesterday.  The Messiah sits upon the throne of God.  Therefore, the Messiah must be higher than the angels.  The angels serve the throne; they don’t sit upon it.  For the record, it also shows us that the Messiah is greater than human beings, too.  We don’t sit upon the throne; we serve the throne.  Jesus is greater than humanity and the angels.

Why is it important to remember Jesus’ place upon the throne?  Why is it important to remember that we will not have a place upon the throne?  Why is it important to remember that angels don’t sit upon the throne, either?

Second Thought:
The scepter in a king’s hand represents his authority.  When an edict is made, the scepter is present.  When a person would come into the king’s presence to beg for forgiveness – or even his life – the king would demonstrate forgiveness by extending the scepter and often even touching the person with his scepter.  Thus, the scepter represents the king’s rule and his authority to rule, judge, and forgive.  We hear here that the scepter in the hand of Jesus is the scepter of righteousness.  God has approved of Jesus.  God demonstrates that everything Jesus does is righteous.

Do you take Jesus’ righteousness for granted?  What does it mean to say that everything Jesus does is righteous?  Does it mean everything that Jesus asks us to do is righteous?  If so, why don’t we obey more than we do?

Third Thought:
God has anointed His Messiah with the oil of gladness.  Moreover, God has anointed Him more than anyone else.  God is exceedingly proud of His Son, His Messiah.

Same questions as before.  Do you ever take the fact that God is exceedingly proud of His Son for granted?  What does it really mean to say that God is gladder with Jesus than with anyone else?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 1:10-12

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hebrews 1:5-7

Summary retelling of Hebrews 1:5-7

We are reminded that God has never said to the angels, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”  Neither has God ever called Himself the father of the angels.  In fact, the angels worship God’s Son; thus Son must be superior to the angels.  We are then given a quote from Psalm 104:4, which implies that it is the angels who serve the Son. 

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Jesus is God’s own Son.  The word “begotten” is used intentionally here.  This is a word that literally means “to come from procreation.”  The angels are created beings.  We as human beings are created beings.  But Jesus is not a created being.  He is literally begotten of the Father.  He is of the same essence as the Father.  It is natural to think that Jesus is superior to us and the angels since while we and the angels are created, He is begotten.

What does it mean to you that Jesus is begotten?  What does it mean to you that Jesus is not created but of the very same essence as God?  If this is all true, why is it important to understand that our salvation only comes through Jesus and not through the angels or one another or ourselves?

Second Thought:
God has never called Himself the Father of the angels.  Clearly, He is the Father of Jesus.  Jesus teaches us to also call God our Father.  Thus, we are different from the angels.  We should not think that when we die that people “become angels.”  We should not want to become angels.  We are heirs with Christ to having God as our Father.  We have been given the most incredible privilege – a privilege we surely do not deserve.

What does it mean to you that you are able to be called the children of God because of Jesus?  Have you ever heard someone teach that when people die they become “angels in heaven?”  Why is that teaching not a teaching that we want to promote in the least?

Third Thought:
The angels serve Jesus.  We know this.  They minister to Him when He is in the wilderness after being tempted by Satan.  We also hear in the Gospel of Luke that when Jesus was praying right before his arrest that an angel came and ministered to Him.  When Jesus is arrested He mentions that if He desired He could call legions of angels to come and save Him.  This seems to be the purpose of angels.  They are a part of the heavenly realm to serve the divine will of God.

Have you ever thought of angels as divine messengers of God’s will? Have you ever wanted the power to have angels serve you and do what you want?  Why is it important to remember that the angels are created to serve God’s will and not ours?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 1:8-9

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hebrews 1:3-4

Summary retelling of Hebrews 1:3-4

Here we learn than Christ radiates God’s glory out into creation by being the source of sustenance for creation through the power of God.  Immediately after dying on the cross Jesus went to the right hand of God.  He is superior to the angels as His name is more superior to theirs. 

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Notice that the author of Hebrews talked about the glory of God’s work through the prophets in the prior verses.  But that glory cannot compare to the radiance of God’s work through Jesus.  There can be no doubt that Jesus is superior to the prophets.  The prophets may have pointed those who would listen towards Jesus.  But Jesus was the object of the prophets’ speech.  He was the source of salvation come into the world.  The prophets knew that the Messiah would bring salvation, but only Jesus knew how that salvation would come and only Jesus would be able to accomplish it.  As great as the work of the prophets was, Jesus is absolutely superior to the prophets.

Why do you think the author of Hebrews makes the point that Jesus is higher than the prophets?  Does that seem like a “no brainer” to you?  To whom might that not be a “no brainer?”  How often do you think about how great Jesus is?

Second Thought:
Jesus is the sustenance of creation.  The translation you use probably says that Jesus “upholds” creation, which is a fine translation.  However, the Greek word here means “to continue or sustain in the current state.”  Jesus isn’t just supporting creation on his back.  He isn’t just holding us in His hand.  He is literally sustaining us.  He is literally the spiritual life that is coursing through our souls.

What does it mean to you that Jesus sustains creation?  What does it mean personally that Jesus sustains you?  How does it change your life to believe that it is Jesus who sustains you?  How does this make you different than much of the world that does not believe that Jesus is sustaining them?

Third Thought:
Immediately Jesus ascended into heaven.  Jesus died for our sake, He was raised into new life by God the Father, and then He ascended into heaven.  If nothing else, this should demonstrate to us that He is superior to all of us.  We cannot die for the sins of another person.  When we die, we wait to be raised until Christ comes back.  We will go into the presence of God, but we will wait for that reality.  Christ got it immediately.  He was the first fruit into new life.  Jesus now sits at the right hand of God as a demonstration of His greatness.  According to what we’ve read thus far in Hebrews, Jesus is greater than anything in creation.

Do you live as though you believe that?  Do you live as though Jesus is better than anything else in creation?  How much is Jesus the center of your focus in this life?  What are the things to which you are susceptible to putting ahead of Jesus?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 1:5-7

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hebrews 1:1-2

As I have done in the past, let me post a little background information on the book we are about to read together.  This information comes from the ESV Bible:

The letter to the Hebrews was written to encourage Christians in a time of trial. It does so by focusing on the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. While God spoke in the past “many times and in many ways,” he has now spoken to us “by his Son,” Jesus Christ, who is the “exact imprint” of God’s nature and who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (1:1–3). Jesus accomplished complete salvation for all who trust in him (1:1–10:18). We dare not “neglect such a great salvation” (2:3; 5:12–6:20; 10:19–39). Rather, in our faith and in our everyday living, we should imitate the example of Christ and of those on the honor roll of faith (chs. 11–13). This letter, whose author is unknown, was probably written between a.d. 60 and 70.  {Aside: it should be noted that there are some who make a strong case that Paul is the author of this book.  I am quite undecided on the issue of authorship.}

Summary retelling of Hebrews 1:1-2

The author begins by reminding us of the ancient days - days when God spoke to His people through many prophets in many various circumstances.  God was trying to get His people prepared for the coming of His salvation.  Now He has sent us His very own Son, who is the heir of all things.  It is through His Son that this entire world was brought into existence.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
The prophets.  I can’t read this passage without hearing the 7-word anthem from the musical Godspell called Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord (see link: here).  But this is precisely the work of the prophets.  They weren’t about predicting the future; the prophets were there to tell the people around them about God, God’s ways, and the coming of God’s salvation.  What I love about this passage is the fact that the author is mindful of the many ways that God has tried to speak to the world.  There were scores of prophets.  There were kings.  There were ancient stories of faith.  In many ways God tried to tell the world about Him.

How many ways can you think of that God used to try and tell people about Him in the Old Testament?  What does it say about God that He tried so many ways?  How does this make you think about all the many ways that God tries to get your attention in just your life?

Second Thought:
The author reminds us that it was through Jesus that this whole world was created.  This passage sounds an awful lot like the opening verses of the Gospel of John.  But here’s some really neat symmetry.  It was through Christ that this world was created.  So why shouldn’t it be through Christ that this world was reconciled back to God?  This just goes to show us the importance of Christ.  We wouldn’t be here at all without Him.  We wouldn’t be able to be in a relationship with God at all without Him.  Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Do you ever undervalue Jesus?  What does it mean to you that this world was created through Him?  How often do you honestly thank God for Jesus, for His part in creation, and for His part in salvation?

Third Thought:
Jesus is the heir of salvation.  He was the perfect man.  He was the one who knew God.  He is the one who died for our sake.  He is the sinless and unblemished lamb that is led to the slaughter for our sake.  He is the true heir of salvation.  Nobody comes to the Father except through Him.

What does it mean to be an heir?  What do you think it was like for Jesus to live here in this world while being perfect?  What do you think it was like for Jesus to go to the cross for an imperfect world while knowing that He was perfect?

Passage for Tomorrow: Hebrews 1:3-4