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Sunday, June 25, 2017

HEBREWS 13:8

"Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday, today, and forever."



Who else can this be said of?   As for man, we know that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)  But not Him.  "One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. " (Hebrews 4:15) Sin changes everything.  But not our Lord. 



This means from the Beginning.  When God said, "Let Us make man in Our image" to Proverbs 8, "To Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing (playing) always before Him, Rejoicing (playing) in the world, His earth, And having my delight in the sons of men."  Jesus is the same one who made us while playing around and still delights in us. 


He has not changed from the Beginning up to now.  It means He more than kinda-sorta likes us, loves us, which is incomprehensible  He delights in us. I think He is itching to get His hands back on us to keep playing, molding us into who He wants us to be: the One who changes not, changing us to conform to His image. 


Even when we get old and forget yesterday and barely can remember things today, we can still be assured of our forever, because of Him.  Men die, but He ever lives to make intercession for us.  He is "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world."  (Revelation 13:8)  That means way back then, as He was rejoicing in the creating of the earth, delighting in the sons of men, there was the shadow of the cross because of our sin.  Only in heaven will it be finally gone when we join the throngs of the redeemed singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy!"  "And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'" (Rev. 21:5)



"Jesus Christ the same yesterday--In all past times there was no way to the holiest but through the blood of Jesus.  Today--He is the lamb newly slain, and continues to appear in the presence f God for us.  Forever--to the conclusion of time, He will be the way, the truth, and the life, none coming to the Father but through Him; and throughout eternity." (Adam Clarke)




Didn't I mention recently that one of my favorite verses is James 1:17.  "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."  When we get to heaven, this Father of lights will be our only light.
"And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb...(for there will  be no night there). (Rev. 21:23, 25)


We have no idea of the bondage of those who worship idols whose supposed whims, changeableness keep people in the bondage of fear trying to placate them.  But we have in this verse the assurance that He is unchangeable.  He says it, He means it, and we can stake our lives on it, because He staked His life for us on the cross. 



Saturday, June 24, 2017

HEBREWS 13:7

"Remember those who led you,
who spoke the word of God to you;
and considering the result of their conduct.
imitate their faith."

Remember.



Captain's Row, Alexandria, Virginia
built by my kin, Captain Harper in 1700's.

There is something about ancestry.com that has opened up an avenue to remember our forefathers.  To me it is fascinating to find those who fled for their lives for their faith and those who were martyred, those who came with bravery on the Mayflower to become some of the first to step foot in the New World to escape persecution of Old England--seeking freedom to practice their faith, to those who were already here as Native Americans, to those who fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and some who were imprisoned, died, or fought on the right or wrong side of the Civil War.  (Be sure your sins will find you out!)  You see, our lives leave a trail and you never know who will follow it, even if it only leaves crumbs.


But more specifically, the writer says to remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you.  Hmm.  Can you think back to those who led you or spoke the Word to you?  It was interesting to me whose names or images popped up, those people in my childhood and teen-hood who were pivotal in turning the weather vein of my life until it was fixed to be blown only by the wind of the Spirit.  Then in adulthood there are many who enriched my life.  Actually, I have been blessed to have been married to one of the best preachers of the Word I've ever heard.  What a blessing to not only have heard, but have seen the godly example he leads. 



Adam Clarke puts it in context when he says, "This clause ('Remember them which have the rule over you.') should be translated, 'Remember your guides, who have spoken unto you the doctrine of God.'   Theodoret's note on this verse is very judicious: 'He intends the saints who were dead, Stephen the first martyr, James the brother of John, and James called the Just (Jesus' brother).  And there were many others who were taken off by the Jewish rage.  'Consider these, (said he,) and, observing their example, imitate their faith.'  This remembrance of the dead saints, with admiration of their virtues, and a desire to imitate them, is, dead saints, with admiration of their virtues, and a desire to imitate them, is, says Dr. Macknight, the only worship which is due to them from the living."






Remember this letter is to the Hebrews who also were living under persecution and even to the point of imprisonment and death to stand for their faith.



He continues, "Considering the end of their conversation.  'The issue of whose course of life most carefully consider.'  They lived to get good and do good; they were faithful to their God and His cause; they suffered persecution; and for the testimony of Jesus died a violent death.  God never left them; no, He never forsook them; so that they were happy in their afflictions, and glorious in their death.  Carefully consider this; act as they did; keep the faith, and God will keep you."


The opposite of this verse is remembering those who have been bad examples by the tainted lives they've lived.  I think of a pastor in a district where we served. who was committing adultery, whose pulpit was destroyed when a beam  fell from the ceiling and smashed it; his sin was almost immediately revealed.  Hmm.  I think of standing and walking out from a church assembly when a pastor who had committed adultery, and within five years of being caught, had been "restored," stood before the assembly reading the Scriptural charges for new ministers.  I withdrew my membership, not so much from the local church, but from the denomination leadership who weakly lifted up such men as godly examples.  We left this denomination for that and many other reasons, when we could not follow them any longer.)  There are always hypocrites, but lifting them up is dangerous, like Ananias and Sapphira who were struck dead in the sanctuary for their double life: "Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart?  You have not lied to men but to God." (Acts 5:1-6)



Remember those whose lives we can look at with admiration of their virtues, worthy of imitation; and since God never forsook them, they were happy and glorious.  "Keep the faith, and God will keep you."

In other words, we look to Christ who is our example, but we are also encouraged to look at the heroes of the faith.  Who do you look up to?  Remember them.  For me, I also remember my godly mother and grandmother, wonderful examples and inspiration.  Their saintly lives were not perfect, but they never fell off their pedestals in my eyes. 


My we be the kind of example that inspires faith.










Friday, June 23, 2017

HEBREWS 13:6

"so that we can confidently say,
'THE LORD IS MY HELPER.
I WILL NOT BE AFRAID,
WHAT CAN MAN DO TO ME?'
(Psalm 118:6)

 
We remember that He said He will never desert us, abandon us, drop us.  Remember He said that He had our names inscribed upon His hands--with His wounds He endured for us.  As we already looked at, He has sent the third person in the Trinity, the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Helper to be with us forever.  So.....



"I will not be afraid!"

Declare it.  Say it with confidence! Stand like a warrior.  It doesn't matter what the color of our skin, the nationality, whether man or woman, but it does matter if we are a believer.  We have joined the army of God and will not be afraid.  This is a prayer I have prayed over those who have been deployed, but it is just as true for a mom staying home with little ones, for the one by or in the hospital bed, those trying to balance their checkbook, those at the Rescue Mission, those brand new to the faith or one of us old timers.  Just remember it is not in our own strength.  It is not possible without the Lord as our Helper.  We need the Holy Spirit.

One example of being filled with the Holy Spirit is boldness.  He can take away "man fear."  It is walking so close to God that the answer to the question, "What can man to do to me?" is the confidence that everything you experience has gone by the throne, like Job, but even so, he chose to cling to God.




What can man do to us?

Now we must answer the question, "What can man do to us."  Umm, Jesus showed us by His example sometimes it resembles a cross, like most of the Apostles found out and some Christians tortured by ISIS are still finding out.  For some of those who have suffered are documented in Fox's Book of Martyrs. 


Here's a short English history lesson from the mid 1500's...Sickly King Edward died young and a 16 year old Lady Jane Gray was pushed quickly to be crowned Queen.  She reigned four days.  After a battle in London, Mary, a Catholic, took over the throne and began her persecution of Protestants.  Here are young Lady Jane's last words before being beheaded after having been in thrown in the Tower of London...



"I die a good Christian woman, and that I look to be saved by no other mean,
but only by the mercy of God and the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ."
Then she read a Psalm in English and offered herself up.


Bloody Mary

Queen Mary began having Christians imprisoned, tortured, and burned at the stake--men and women--for reading Tyndale's translation of Scripture, or reading Luther's books, for not attending mass, opening defying her or the pope, or even for reading the Lord's prayer in English, No one was exempt who did not recant from their faith, from villagers to university teachers to those high in government. 

Here is what  one martyr said as he was to be burned at the stake, "Be merry, my brethren, and lift up your hearts to God; for after a sharp breakfast I trust we shall have a good dinner in the Kingdom of Christ."  Another said, "Oh, ye papists, Behold!  Ye look for miracles; here now you may see a miracle for even I feel no more pain than if I were in a bed; for it is as sweet to me as a bed of roses."  Of course, others suffered terribly and their friends would heap on more fuel to the flames to get it over with more quickly.  One man's fire was fed by piling on forbidden books, one of which he caught  as they were thrown, and he read aloud from it until he no longer could see.  (One martyr was named Jolley and another of my husband's family members may have been as well--Hubbard, and possibly one on my side as well, Sharpe.)  May we not be called to suffer like these, but even if...


My favorite song right now is by Mercy Me,
"Even If You Don't"

Some of the lines are...

"What will I say when I'm held
to the flame like I am right now?...
I know you're able
And I know you can
Save through the fire
with Your Mighty Hand,
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone."
It is well with my soul.

I know the sorrow
And I know the hurt
Would all go away
If You just say the word,
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone.
Cause I know You're able
And I know You can
Save through the fire
With Your Mighty Hand

You've  been faithful,
You've been good
All my days, Jesus
I will cling To You
Come what may.
Cause I know You're able
And I know You can
Save through the fire
With Your Mighty Hand,
But even if you don't
My hope is You alone.
It is well with my soul,
It is well with my soul.