Approaching God

You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. – Hebrews 12:18

There should be something different in our approach to God than those who were called out of Egypt.  They faced God through physical manifestations; ground shaking, fire, smoke, loud noise, storms and so forth.  There is no wonder why they trembled and were afraid even to hear God speak.  But that is no longer the way.  It is not because we have become more sophisticated or scientifically savvy.  It’s not because God has come up with a better plan after figuring out that that didn’t work.  It is because we are told that, “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”  (John 4:23).  There is no longer a temple in Jerusalem or Gerizim, there is no mountain to approach or animal sacrifices to make.  Those are no longer appropriate and to desire them requires us to reject what God has offered.

Lord help us as we seek to come close to you.  Help us to be true worshipers of you.

Too Late

You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears. – Hebrews 12:17 NLT

The apostle Paul reminds us that everything written in Scripture (he was talking about the Old Testament) was for our benefit by teaching and warning us. (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11)  Then Esau forfeiting his birthright should give us pause.  This part of Hebrews is a stark reminder that the grace that God has offered us can be rejected, blocked and even given up.  And maybe even a more dire warning in this story is that there is a point of no return.  There is a place where after rejecting God’s gift of eternal life through his Son, we are rejected by God.  It becomes too late to repent.

We shouldn’t try to determine exactly where that point is for others, only God can make that call.  But we have been given enough warning signs to stay away from that black hole where no one returns.  Be careful not to take for granted the gift that God has offered to you.  Treat it as the most precious thing that you will ever receive.

Lord, help us today to appreciate what you have done.  Let us place this gift in our heart where it will be seen and known by others.  Amen.

Don’t Be Like Him

See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal. – Hebrews 12:16 (NRSV)

Don’t be like Esau!  (reread Genesis 25 for a refresher)  Wow, how would you like to be remembered like that?  I guess there are lots of ways to be famous and plenty of examples in our world today.  (Let your imagination wander for a moment)  But Esau’s choice made him into an example of how not to live and earned him the label of ‘immoral and godless’.

Godless has a fairly straightforward meaning of living without God.  It is used to describe someone who has no interest in God.  But what makes him immoral?

When that word appears in the Bible we normally jump to sexual sins.  We even get the word ‘pornography’ from the Greek word used here.  But there’s nothing in the story about sexual sins.  His immorality is the same as all of our immoral acts.  He had an ‘itch that he had to scratch.’  He put the need to satisfy his immediate and temporal desire ahead of his eternal birthright.  This is immorality.  It manifests itself in all sorts of ways (use your imagination here), but it has the same underlying cause:  not trusting God.

I like to remind couples before I perform a wedding that when they say ‘I do’, they cannot possibly know what they are agreeing to.  There are lots of twists and turns coming in a marriage that you cannot predict or control.  The same can be said about choosing to follow Jesus.  It requires trust of what lies ahead.

Check for Weeds

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. – Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)

At first glance the instruction seems to be the typical ‘be a helper to those around you’ type of message.  You know, make sure that others are walking in the right direction and understand what they are supposed to be doing.  But after a little closer inspection we can see that somehow I (or you) are responsible for God’s grace getting to those around us.  We have the ability to block God’s grace.

Eugene Peterson uses the image of letting a weed go to seed in your garden to help us understand the bitter root defiling others.  I am in a constant battle in my little garden with purslane.  It is a little weed that isn’t too impressive as far as weeds go, but it is persistent.  Just let one of those plants go to seed and you will be fighting them for a while.  I read that their seed can remain viable in the soil for 40 years.

A little bitterness in our soul is like that.  It is hard to root out and once it gets going, it spreads to others.

Lord, help me today to root out anything in me that would stop your grace from flowing to those in need of it.

Living in Peace or Holy Living?

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. – Heb. 12:14

Living in peace and being holy are not mutually exclusive, nor are they the same.  We often hear the saying, “going along to get along”.  It has the idea of conforming to the surroundings in order to fit in and be accepted.  We have unfortunately adopted this as the means to living in peace with everyone.  This is another one of those currents we face as we walk through life.  Scripture warns us to not conform to the world’s patterns, but to live holy lives (Rom. 12).  It may seem like a contradiction to live a holy life in an unholy world (it really is).  But given the options:  being accepted by those around us or seeing the Lord should make the choice easier.  When seeking to live a holy life becomes top priority the ‘live in peace’ part works itself out.  There will be many who do not like to be around holy people and there may not be peace in their presence.  Take a look at Jesus’ life if you don’t understand what I’m saying.  He is the Holy One and there was and is a great majority of people who are not at peace with him.  

Lord, help me to seek a life of holiness before anything else.  Let me not forfeit the gift of your eternal Presence for the temporary comfort of this world.  Amen!

Firm

If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all. – Isaiah 7:9b

I cannot begin to count the number of hours that I have spent working on our house this year.  My wife and I decided to purchase a home in Lynn last year.  So, at the end of November, we became the proud owners of a house that our son and his family rent from us.  It has been wonderful in many ways; having our children close, getting to know our daughter-in-law, taking care of our grandson.  So, if I seem to be whining about working on it, don’t give me any sympathy.  All of the work I have done to the house is nothing compared to the rewards I have already received. Continue reading “Firm”

Unfinished

This day has been going on for nearly 16 hours and there are things left undone. Time does not wait for anyone. Therefore the advice from the apostle, ‘making the best use of the time.’ When I think back over the day, there is some time that I could have used more wisely. There is some that could have been used in different ways. But, that is behind me forever now and I have opportunities that will come tomorrow. Lord, give me the wisdom to use time wisely. Amen.