Monday, December 28, 2009

Philippians - Part 5

Chapter 2 in Philippians includes a poem or hymn that summarizes the key point in the whole book. (My paraphrase of verses 5-18)

“You should approach life the way Jesus did. He did not hang on to every good thing heaven offered and he, as God, rightly deserved. He gave all that up in order to take on all the pains and deprivations of human life. Not only that, but he took on the role of a servant to the rest of humanity and submitted to the Father’s plan, up to and including execution as if he were a criminal.

That’s why God rewarded him with the throne above all thrones and will cause everyone that ever lived to praise him.

So then, you should continue to strive to live this completely selfless way. The same God that provides you with the desire to do this also provides you with the strength to do it. Sacrifice yourself for the sake of others without grumbling about it or harping on your great sacrifice. That will make you blameless children of God that will shine like lights in the world. That will also cause me great joy because it means by desires and labors for you have been effective. And we can rejoice together that God is using our sacrificial lives to accomplish his purposes.”

Then Paul gives two examples of people who sacrificed themselves to serve God’s people and purposes. Paul describes Timothy and includes this phrase. “Others are busy with their own concerns, not those of Jesus Christ.” The clear meaning is that Timothy approaches life the way Jesus did; in selfless service of others. Paul ‘s second example of a selfless life is the man the Philippian church sent as their messenger to Paul, Epaphroditis. “He risked his life in order to serve me on your behalf.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Philippians - Part 4

As Paul continues to explain his current situation, he mentions that people were preaching more boldly because he was imprisoned. “Some are preaching from good motives. Others are preaching out of a striving for personal advancement and hoping that their preaching will add to the misery in my imprisonment.” Either way, Paul was happy because whatever their motives, they were preaching the good news of Jesus. Paul’s attitude is amazing, but I find it very intriguing to wonder why someone that knew the truth well enough to preach it, would preach with the hope of harming Paul?

My best guess is this. These preachers with selfish ambition were promoting doctrines Paul would oppose. I suspect that these people were teaching something closely akin to the health and prosperity teaching common on television these days. If they were promoting this false doctrine along with the gospel it would make Paul’s chains more painful because he clearly disagreed with the teaching: Even more so because if the teaching were true, it would disqualify Paul as a man of God. Paul’s faith had placed him into persecution, beatings, and imprisonment… even while he had been in Philippi. If Christ will provide health and wealth to those that obey him and have faith, then Paul was a spiritual failure.

This hypothesis would explain the strong emphasis in this section and throughout the epistle on the necessity, importance, and joy of suffering for Christ. It would also explain how the advocates were preaching with the motivation of making Paul’s suffering worse. It would pain Paul for the false doctrine to be promoted in his absence. But it would also pain Paul for the credibility of his testimony to be undermined.

Ponder the import of these excerpts from the first two chapters, if Paul was being undermined by the teaching that if he was right with Christ and had enough faith, that he would be prosperous and wealthy.

“You were partners with me in my imprisonment.”

“You have been given the priviledge to suffer for Christ, as you are encountering the same conflict you saw me face.”

“Instead of being motivated by self-serving goals or pride, you should each be humble and moved to treat others as more important than yourselves. You should be concerned about the welfare of others, not just yourselves. Your attitude should be that of a servant who sacrifices for others, like Jesus did.

“Timothy is a reliable example of someone who thinks of others not himself.”

“Epaphroditus risked his life to serve me on your behalf.”

The teaching out of “selfish ambition” is not identified. I’m just taking an educated guess as to what it was… but either way the clear teaching is that we should be servants of Christ and His people, living and working on His agenda, not our own.

“For me, to live is Christ.” Can we honestly say that?

Philippians – Part 3

After the introduction, Paul writes about his situation. He was in prison, basically waiting for the verdict whether he would live or be put to death. The most frequent observation is summarized in Paul’s statement. “If I am allowed to live, I will live for Christ. If I am put to death then I have a huge personal benefit.”

Since Paul lived his life completely on Christ’s agenda rather than his own, in one sense he lived like he was dead already. “For me to live is Christ.” He was not living for his own personal goals, agenda, or benefit.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Philippians - Part 2

In the first few verses, Paul introduces himself and gives a few quick thoughts about the church to which he is writing.

“I always pray with joy in my every prayer for all of you because of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.” (1:4,5)

What was their participation? They had sent a financial gift, but it was the first one they had been able to send for quite some time, so participation “from the first day until now” doesn’t seem to fit. Their participation was so great that Paul viewed them as partners.

“I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel all of you became partners in God's grace together with me.” (1:7)

So…. First discussion question… what form(s) did their participation and partnership take?

They prayed for him. (not stated, but assumed)
They loved and him. (1:16)
They suffered for Christ like he did. (1:29,30)
They served on Christ’s agenda, not their own, like he did. (2:4,12)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Philippians - Part 1

As we begin our look at this letter. Let’s start with what we know for sure about Paul’s history with the group of people to whom he was writing. Acts 16: 11-40.

Paul’s previous experience with these people is important to understand his perspective on the issues he writes to them about.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How many people should you ask the following questions?

Do you see any of these in me... always, often, sometimes, rarely?

Love and affection for others.
A deep Joy even in hard situations
Peacefulness – the absence of frantic living
Patience when things aren’t going well
Kindness to everyone
Meekness / humility
View relationships as opportunities for self-pleasures
Fixate on false hopes
Envy and rivalry
Anger and a temper
Divisive and quick to join a division
Prone to numbing and the pretense of happiness (drinking, drugs, partying, etc)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Calling

I was talking recently with several people that are considering major career decisions or changes in career directions. I’m always considering a career decision. So I found it an easy discussion to join.

Later, I read a commentator whose point was that God’s "calling" is too often used to refer to the ministry, when it should be used for a "calling" to any career just as easily.

It got me thinking. If God has a unique calling for each life, why does it sometimes seem so difficult to find? Why would he call me to X and then keep it completely hidden from me? Why would he hide “X” behind so much confusion and searching? Maybe I misunderstand something central about the whole thing.

Maybe a calling isn’t typically something that you hear, or know, or discover, or a particular place, or job. Maybe we are all called to find joy and live in loving response to the infinite love of God’s perfect love for us. Called to love, called to serve, called to joy in whatever place or way we work.

But a part of me is restless for more of God’s joy in my life. So a part of me will always wonder if I would find more fullness in the next job, next adventure, next day. And I may… but not because I have found my place or calling, but because I have found more of my God.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Somebody ate our outreach program!

Lessons in a small church:

When your outreach plan is to give gifts to the neighbors, don’t set a cake intended for outreach on a counter near where the church dinner is being served.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prayer – In one billion, three hundred forty nine million, six hundred seventy eight thousand, four hundred and eighty-twelve lessons.

Lesson 7

I hate planning. All planning is a waste of time because no plan ever works as intended. You always have to adjust on the fly so it makes sense to me to just fly by the seat of your pants to begin with.

Plans I have had that did not work out (yet) include:
 A plan to win some lottery and give 90% to charity and buy a Caribbean Island with the rest.
 A plan to make homemade ice cream.
 A plan to win the world cup with a secret play I called “the transverse, tangential, superplay.”
 A plan to write a blog about how prayer can change things when God has a specific plan for the universe and His plan is unalterable.

Sometimes when a plan doesn’t work I just shrug and adjust, like the time I drank “ice cream soup.” Sometimes I get thoughtful about what I can learn from the ruined plan. And sometimes I sit in a corner and sulk for weeks on end with intermittent, blubbering sobs crying that I want my “banky.”

This morning, I had the plan about the blog (the fourth one listed above). I decided to run an experiment about asking people for things that were already unalterable. I decided to ask my wife very sweetly, “Honey, would you please be extra kind to me yesterday?” Like most of my plans, it didn’t work. I was expecting her to be puzzled and confused. I had a great blog planned about it. Instead, she grinned and said “OK.”

This was one of those times when a plan failed and I became thoughtful about it. My wife has a unique sense of self-confidence. She is happy to inform anyone that she is “practically perfect in every way.” She could say “OK” because she is completely confident that she was especially kind to me yesterday. After all, she let me hang around with her…and she’s right, that makes for a good day.

It struck me that God is fairly confident that He is good and kind to His children. I wonder if asking God to bless me, or to bless missionaries, or to do His will, seems kind of silly to Him. Do I expect there is any chance that He would ignore His own character and promises and not bless missionaries? If I quit asking God to bless the missionaries, would He stop blessing them? Of course not! He has promised that he will bless and protect those that are serving Him with their lives. He’s not going to break that promise because I fail to pray for it. But should I bother praying for it when He has already promised it? Does it imply a lack of faith in His goodness if I must ask Him to be good?

I also wonder if part of the way He accomplishes His goals for me is by teaching me to pray for what He has already willed. Does praying that He would bless the missionaries, when He has already promised He would bless them, help me to join in union with Him by joining in union with His purposes and His plans?

Finally, I wonder if God wanted me to have my blog plan this morning, have my plan ruined by my wife’s sweet grin, and learn something valuable anyway. If that’s so, then as unlikely as it seems He might have a plan that’s better than my plan of winning a lottery and buying a Caribbean island too.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Prayer – In one billion, three hundred forty nine million, six hundred seventy eight thousand, four hundred and eighty-twelve lessons.

Lesson 6

I worked out today. I changed into athletic gear and then warmed up by walking up a flight of stairs to where the weight machines were. I marched right up to a machine that twists your abdomen like the rubber band on a wind-up propeller, toy airplane. I’m sure I’ve seen it in a museum about torture devices used in the Spanish inquisition. I set the weight at a level I thought would be an impressive challenge for a body builder… and started talking to the guy on the next machine over about which college football team he preferred. He was wearing an Auburn t-shirt, but he is a graduate and fan of LSU. The incongruity was as mind-bending as the impact that machine was designed to do to my stomach.

Meanwhile, a 125 lb. engineering student with a pocket protector asked if he could do a set on the machine I was “using.” I let him. He increased the weight and did a quick set of 20 reps. At that point I noticed that one of the televisions in the room was set to a soccer match. Well, I had to know what game it was, so I sat on a machine that was supposed to strengthen the long muscle that runs between your little finger and your knee cap. I didn’t want to distract myself from the match, so I set the weight at zero and continued to watch. After the match ended 40 minutes later, I had completed 18 rigorous sets of 2 reps each. I showered as a matter of principle, not because I had actually broken a sweat, and went back to work.

Tonight I saw 2 slices of leftover cheesecake in the refrigerator. Yeah, I’m on a diet but since I “went to the gym” today, I decided I deserved the little indulgence. Besides, I can work out again tomorrow and it would sill leave one more piece of cheesecake. On the other hand, if anyone eats that cheesecake before I get to it tomorrow night, I’ll be livid at that affront. I deserve that piece of cheesecake after the effort I put into working out.

Jesus told a story in Luke 17 about a slave that worked all day and when he came home he wouldn’t think of taking it easy. He first prepared supper and served his master. It would be silly and inappropriate for the slave to get the first seat at the dinner table, ahead of the master, just because the slave did what he was supposed to do all day. I think he was teaching something similar when he said “give us this day our daily bread.”

If Billy Graham were to pray for something, it seems like God would be practically obligated to give it to him no matter how silly, selfish, or sinful it might be. After all, Billy Graham has earned that answered prayer from all the hard work he has done.

I think maybe part of what Jesus was teaching was, “Just because you submit to what is best for God’s honor and reputation; just because you submit to His will being done on earth, it does not entitle you to health, wealth, and prosperity.” By submitting, you haven’t done anything as special as you might think. Submitting to God is just right and necessary, not so virtuous as to deserve preferential treatment. You are still entitled to no more than the provision of your basic needs, which He will do because he is a good master, not because you deserve something wonderful.

A sense of entitlement is incompatible with humble submission. Well, my cheesecake is gone. I think I’ll go hide that second piece to save it for tomorrow.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Prayer – In one billion, three hundred forty nine million, six hundred seventy eight thousand, four hundred and eighty-twelve lessons.

Lesson 5

Henry Kissinger once said “Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.”

I saw a movie called “Funny People.” I thought it should have been called “Depressed people who are ruining their own lives by making one self-absorbed decision after another with no regard for the impact of their decisions on others or the long-term impact of anything. They drink, abuse drugs, exploit others sexually and tell hundreds of offensive and disgustingly crass stories they consider “jokes” as pitiful and fruitless attempts to hide their emptiness and despair.” It might have trouble fitting on the poster, but I believe in truth in advertising.

The movie had five stars from some critic. The only good thing I can say about the movie is that we asked for extra salt on the popcorn and got a large so there were free refills. This gave us an excuse to leave the theater often. Other than that, it was offensive and depressing.

But it had a really good reputation. Reputation is a funny thing. Your reputation is not really who you are, it’s who people THINK you are. And who people THINK you are controls how they act around you and respond to you.

Socrates, Captain Kangaroo and nearly everyone in between has said something to the effect that you should act in a way that will create the reputation you wish to have. So, the McDonalds guy I was so impressed with really wasn’t as brilliant as I thought.

If you want a good reputation, the only course of action that makes sense is to treat others really well. Do what’s in their best interest. So, I’m very safe when I ask God to give me whatever will do the most for his reputation (to “hallow” his name). He even says that he does things in order to protect and enhance his own reputation (See Isaiah 48: 9 and 11 for good examples). It’s all neat and clean on paper. The problem is - I am not neat and clean.

I’m often petty and self-centered. So as soon as I figure out that God will want to do things that will improve his reputation, I start calculating how to use that to my advantage. I think it’s smarmy, but on the other hand, Moses did it too (See Numbers 13:12-14).

I may be going out on a big limb here, but I suspect that praying for his name to be “hallowed” as a manipulative, sneaky way to get whatever I want is somehow missing the point. In fact, it’s the same, self-absorbed thought process that made all the “funny people” so depressing. It’s just using God the way the characters were using sex, drugs, money, fame, “humor,” and each other. I suppose that using Him for my selfish needs is not consistent with desiring that his name be hallowed. I wonder if 90% of my prayers give the other 10 percent a bad reputation?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Prayer – In one billion, three hundred forty nine million, six hundred seventy eight thousand, four hundred and eighty-twelve lessons.

Lesson 4

I decided it was fun to watch people’s reactions when I asked them to tell me which purchase would be of greatest benefit to the store, and why. So, a few days ago, I stopped to pick up something for a headache. I asked the clerk if it would be better for the store if I bought the normal bottle of generic acetaminophen that cost $3.79 or the large bottle with twice as many pills for $5.49. He suggested the small bottle, because clearly the store made more profit per pill. I thanked him, smiled, and then bought the other, larger bottle. I decided not to be angry at him, because he was just answering my question honestly, and I was able to make the better purchase by doing the opposite.

Later, I decided I wanted a candy bar (The other well-known cure for a headache). I stopped at a store near my office and asked the clerk which candy bar she would rather me buy. Without a second’s hesitation she said “Baby Ruth.” I asked, “Why?” “Because I like them,” was her logical reply. I decided not to clarify that I wanted to know what would profit the store best. I was afraid she would suggest gummi something. So I bought a Baby Ruth…..but I didn’t completely trust her. Just to be safe, I bought a Snickers, too. On my way back to my office, I ate the Baby Ruth and as it turns out, I liked it. It had enough peanuts I was able to justify it as health food.

I had one clerk this week that made a real effort to find out what I liked and what I wanted before he would answer my question as to which product he wanted me to buy. He asked if I liked chicken. He asked if I liked beef. He asked if I preferred spicy foods. He finally suggested the Big Mac. I would be willing to ask that clerk to sell me whatever he wanted me to buy, again. He didn’t just pull his personal favorite from thin air and expect me to like it. He found out what I liked, what I needed, what I wanted, and then told me that’s the one he wanted me to buy.

Then I realized that the last clerk was the smartest. Of all three places, when I asked them what I could buy that would benefit the reputation of the store the most, he got it right. He realized that the one that would cause me to trust that the store operated in my best interest was the one that would increase its own reputation. He gave the most insightful, best answer of the three.

I wonder, when I pray "make your name honored, revered, set apart as better than all others," is God as smart as that McDonald's guy?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Prayer – In one billion, three hundred forty nine million, six hundred seventy eight thousand, four hundred and eighty-twelve lessons.

Lesson 3

So, I’ve said that I think prayer is essentially asking for stuff. Fortunately, I’m very good at asking for stuff. If you are reading this, please send me money. See? I told you I was good at it.

“May your name be revered and honored” is a kind of strange thing to ask. I talked to my bank this week. I asked about some services they offer. I asked what those services would cost me. I asked what paperwork was needed to apply for those services. Funny thing is, I never asked, “How could we set up this account so the bank gets a great reputation and makes a huge profit?” I was afraid he would tell me.

I have a theory that if I eat something that is better than an alternative I am eating healthy. So ice cream that’s sugar free is basically health food. In fact, it’s so healthy that it’s almost like taking a vitamin. Last night on the way home from work, I stopped at the grocery to buy ice cream. I considered what flavor I wanted. I considered what price was best. I considered which variety was sugar free so I could get my vitamins. I even considered what flavor my wife might enjoy. I did not ask the grocery manager “which ice cream should I buy in order to benefit the store and enhance its stature?”

So, this morning, I decided to try it. I stopped at a gas station. I went in and asked the clerk “would it be better for you if I bought a Diet Coke or a Diet Pepsi?" (I needed some health food in my breakfast). The clerk needed to have her hearing checked. “Pardon?” she replied. I repeated my request. “Come again?” I said it again. Then her brain stopped. “I don’t understand.” I said it very slowly, because we all know that saying the incoherent slowly and loudly makes it completely understandable. “Woooooouuuld iiiit beee betteeeerrrrrr foooorrrr yyyoooouuuuu….” At that point she looked past me to help the next customer. For some reason they both looked at me like I was a lunatic. Immediately after she helped him she had to tend to something in the back room. I assume she must have gotten a call or something.

The point is… it’s a strange request to make. You can ask all powerful God for whatever you want. (Cars, houses, and chocolate all come to my mind quickly.) So you ask for His reputation to be advanced. Maybe it’s just me, but it kinda seems logical if God wanted his reputation advanced, he could do it, with or without me asking him.

In fact, now that I think about it, while I didn't ask my banker how the account change could benefit the bank, but I’m pretty sure he was thinking about it without me asking.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Prayer – In one billion, three hundred forty nine million, six hundred seventy eight thousand, four hundred and eighty-twelve lessons.

Lesson 2

My second grade Sunday School teacher taught us the Lord’s prayer. When she got to the part about “Hallowed be thy name," I thought it had something to do with Halloween. I imagined Jesus carved into a pumpkin. I had seen a cartoon of Ichabod Crane and I had visions of the headless horseman thundering in the dark, holding a pumpkin with Jesus’ face carved into it. He threw it at Ichabod and it hit him in the head. The result was that Ichabod got saved and knocked into the river… which I took as his baptism.

You may be surprised to learn that “hallowed” was not a word I used a lot when I was 7. You may also be surprised to find out that it’s still not a word I use often. I use the word aardvark more often.

Anyway, my Sunday School teacher said that “hallowed be thy name” was adoration. But if you listen carefully it sounds more like a hope. “Please grant my desire that your name be revered.” If adoration was intended, Jesus would not have said it the same way he said "thy kingdom come," in which He was asking for something.

It’s a request. “Please grant my desire that your name be revered.”

If I told my wife, “you are beautiful to me.” That would be adoration. If I said, “I request that you be beautiful to me,” it would be a well earned instant ticket to sleeping on the couch, but not adoration.

Similarly, “forgive us our trespasses," is not confession, it’s a request.

Rule of thumb: If you can put a "please" in the front, or the end of the sentence, it’s not adoration, confession, or thanksgiving, it’s a request.

Prayer – In one billion, three hundred forty nine million, six hundred seventy eight thousand, four hundred and eighty-twelve lessons.

Lesson 1

Once, I tried to read a story in Spanish. I couldn’t do it. So I asked my daughter, a Spanish major, to translate it. I discovered something amazing. The story said pretty much the same thing in English that it did in Spanish. I guess that’s because translation means getting the text to say in the second language what it already said in the first.

We all know that in old English, “pray” meant to ask, or request, or plead, or beg, or petition for something. It’s because the Greek and Hebrew words that are used mean ask, or request, or plead, or beg, or petition for something. A careful scrutiny of the above will indicate that THEY MEAN THE SAME THING, and THEY MEAN TO ASK.

Prayer is not “adoration, confession, thanksgiving.” Before your heresy alert goes off, please note that I didn't say that you shouldn't adore, confess and be thankful. Adoration is essential. Confession is an important command. Thanksgiving is the only appropriate response much of the time. But none of them are prayer. Praying is asking for something.

So, I pray thee, hunt through the scriptures and find any reason to think that praying is anything more than asking.

Monday, June 01, 2009

God wants you rich

The TV preacher was describing a visitor to his office.

“He said to me, ‘I don’t believe all that stuff you teach about healing and about God wants people to be rich. But I want you to take this gift and build another orphanage in central America.’ Then he gave me a check for ten thousand dollars.” The TV preacher then said “HAAA!” It was half laugh and half contemptuous ridicule. He continued “when you put your faith in God, he will have your enemies put money on your desk.”

He repeated that several times while the audience stood and applauded. I was offended by the arrogance he exuded as he strutted and mocked the donor. But I was also offended by the crowd that supported him. I wondered why none of them thought enough to ask a few questions.

“If the guy had ten thousand dollars to give, wouldn’t that mean, according to what you teach, that God had blessed him? How else could he have gotten the money? Why would God bless him for his faith, when he disagrees with most of what you teach?

The donor displayed “true religion” by caring for the orphans. The donor demonstrated several of the fruit of the Spirit. The donor demonstrated faith in God for God to give him the money in the first place (according to your teaching). Why would you call one that demonstrates true religion, the fruit of the Spirit, and faith that God honors, an “enemy?”

Fundamentally, the donor that was scorned and ridiculed was clearly a better example of Christ than the scornful, judgmental, arrogance of the TV preacher.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Conversational Prayer

I have been doing some searching on the topic of "conversational prayer." I have been distressed to notice that 95% of the time the topic is a technique for a group to pray together in a way that resembles a conversation more than a monologue rather than an exploration of developing and maintaining an ongoing conversation with God.

I'm a big fan of a group prayer technique that engages the soul of every person. I'm a much bigger fan of living in conversation with God.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 18 meeting plan:

We will hear a de-brief from the prison ministry trip. We’ll hear from each one “the thing that impacted me most about the experience, was….”

Then we’ll talk about the curtain in the Temple.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Mixed Motives

As you know, I have been teaching that we all tend to misunderstand the most driving need in our heart. I tend to misunderstand my own need as “to have my contribution noticed and be respected because of it.” So, last night at church I wanted to give a quick review and then open the time for discussion. I wanted to give us each a chance to hear from one another…. “The false hope that most often calls my name is….”

I spent the entire time on the review. Why? Was it just poor planning on my part? Was it just that I let the discussion go too far before bringing us to the scripture? Or, does my fallen heart play a role?

One reason I spent the entire time on review is that I am genuinely excited that I am increasingly seeing this simple message on every page of Scripture. When I get excited about truth, I really want to share it. It’s a good thing to enthusiastically share what God has been showing me more and more clearly. But there may be another motive at work. Think with me about my personal risk / reward paradigm.

RISK: If I ask for others to talk and they talk about unrelated things, it proves that my teaching has not been clear. It proves that they are not being gripped by the point I am trying to drive home. I cannot possibly experience respect based on my contribution, if folks can’t even remember clearly what my contribution was !!!!! The risk is great.

REWARD: On the other hand, if I spend our entire time, reviewing again the basic ideas I want you to grasp, the potential reward is great. If I point it out again in another 3 or 4 passages, you might begin to notice (like I am) that this truth is on nearly every page of the scripture. You might even be impressed that I am pointing it out to you so clearly.

So, did I teach out of love for God, His truth, and you? Or did I teach out of self-protection and self-promotion? The answer, I think, is “yes.”

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hebrews 7

Hebrews Chapter 2 verse 5-18

Up until this point in Hebrews, the key idea has been that Christ is a better messenger of God’s truth than prophets or even angelic messengers, because he is God. The next several sentences are each easy to understand their clear statements, but seem pretty unclear about how they fit into the stream of thought in Hebrews.

It’s may be easier to understand if I “cut to the chase.” I think the thought in Hebrews moves to a complementary idea. Not only is Jesus Christ a superior messenger because He is God, Jesus Christ is also a superior messenger because He became human. It’s hard to understand because the plural words in the original, don’t translate well into English. To put it simply, most of the time the word “him” is used it should be understood as plural. It’s not talking about one man (Jesus) it’s talking about all of mankind. The Contemporary English Version is clearer than most others.

6 Somewhere in the Scriptures someone says to God, "What makes you care about us humans? Why are you concerned for weaklings such as we?
7 You made us lower than the angels for a while. Yet you have crowned us with glory and honor.
8 And you have put everything under our power!" God has put everything under our power and has not left anything out of our power. But we still don't see it all under our power.
9 What we do see is Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels. Because of God's wonderful kindness, Jesus died for everyone. And now that Jesus has suffered and died, he is crowned with glory and honor!

The point is that we humans are built to have dominion over creation, but because of sin we do not. “But we see Jesus” who was made human like us and has been glorified and returned to full dominion and authority. He became human and led the way for all humans to be restored to the dominion. That’s why verse 10 calls Jesus the “pioneer” or “firstfruits.”

14 We are people of flesh and blood. That is why Jesus became one of us. He died to destroy the devil, who had power over death.
15 But he also died to rescue all of us who live each day in fear of dying.
16 Jesus clearly did not come to help angels, but he did come to help Abraham's descendants.
17 He had to be one of us, so that he could serve God as our merciful and faithful high priest and sacrifice himself for the forgiveness of our sins.
18 And now that Jesus has suffered and was tempted, he can help anyone else who is tempted.

Jesus Christ, perfect God became perfect man. As such his message to us is much better than the Old Testament message. He is God. He is Man. He has pioneered the way for mankind. He is a superior messenger because his life, death, resurrection, and glorification IS the message of good news for all of us.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hebrews 6

The fifth truth about Jesus is that he is the sustainer of all things. The word "sustainer" comes from the concept of “carrying.” He carries all things. It’s also in the present – active tense. He is doing it now.

The sixth is that he accomplished cleansing for sins. Notice that cleansing is more than forgiveness. Forgiveness means overlooking the problems, while cleansing means eliminating the dirt, washing it away, removing it. Additionally, the verb is in a tense that English doesn’t have. It basically means that it is happening now and will continue to happen. Our cleansing was done on the cross, but it is also being done now. He is washing you and me clean, now.

Finally, the seventh, and finally, he sat down at the right hand of Majesty.

Seven truths about Jesus
Heir of all things
Creator of the world/ages
The light from God’s radiance glory
Representation of His Essence
Sustainer of everything
He accomplishes cleansing of sins
He is seated at the right hand of the Father

Seven truths that should leave us blessed, grateful, and amazes: If we really let these truths sink in, worship will spring spontaneously from our hearts.

It’s a good time to read the rest of the chapter (Hebrews 1). The author had the same reaction.