Friday, September 30, 2016

Drifting Away...

We have a little Waverunner that stays on its lift, its "perch", at my mama's lake cottage.  When we leave at the end of the summer season, we raise it up on the lift as high as it will go.  Why?  So that when the fall/winter/spring deluges of rain come, it won't drift off its perch and be found who-knows-where across the lake.  (This has happened more than once, by the way.  Thank goodness for precious and kind neighbors!)  When the little boat floats off its lift, it doesn't immediately appear, marooned in some distant location. drifts there slowly, incrementally, but inexorably moving away from "home".


This is the Greek word "apostasia", from which we get our English word, "apostasy".  It is defined by as "a standing off".  Others have described it as "falling away" from the truth.  It is a tragic word because it means that, while a person knew the truth at one time, for a variety of reasons he or she drifted away from truth or rejected it outright.

In Hebrews 2:1, the preacher warns in his sermon of this very tendency.

1Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

Recently, an area minister of celebrity status has made headlines by modifying his theological positions (or appearing to) on two key issues.  The first bit of significant drift occurred at a pastor's conference a couple of years ago.  On this occasion, when he was speaking there, he made comments that lent legitimacy to homosexual feelings and practice, thereby downplaying the potential for such temptations to become sin.  More recently, he has made comments from his pulpit calling into question the Bible's inerrancy (that is, whether or not it is free from error), or appearing to do so. The reaction from the Christian public was swift and condemnatory, which is a testament to how committed we are to being on the watch for apostasy.  (See the hyperlink under the Sources section below, where that pastor clarifies his position.  Apparently, because "the Bible says so" is not enough for most people, anymore.)

On a personal note, I began a ladies Bible study this week.  The materials were written by a women's Bible teacher of great renown.  Thus far, I have found no "drift" in her Bible study.  Some of you are laughing out there...."How dare I", right?

Hold on, now!  I am right to "pay close attention", because none of us is immune.  Take the original recipients of the Hebrews sermon-letter.  They had begun to drift into apostasy about who Jesus was/is.  Some were coming to believe that He was/is merely an angel.  The "therefore" at the beginning of verse one, here in chapter 2, reminds us to think about that particularly heinous apostasy the sermon-letter was written to counteract.

Listen!  If the apostate slip-and-slide can happen to the early Christians, it can happen to any minister of the gospel, to any Christian Bible study icon, to any lowly Christian blogger ... to anyone who names and claims the name of Christ.

Apostasy is quite insidious.  Sometimes it does occur in one big event, such as when someone is deeply hurt and, in a reactionary move, shoves faith violently aside.  More often, though, it is a gradual process of deception and rationalization.  It could go something like this:
1.   Daily time in Bible study and prayer are pushed aside for more pressing matters.
2.   Regular church attendance drops off.
3.   Deception presents itself, usually in the form of an influential "expert" or friend or family member.
4.   The reaction is "Oh, it's just this once."
5.   Or, the reaction could be, "That's not so wrong."
6.   Little sins and/or sinful attitudes occur.  Example:  "A loving person would not call this sin."
7.   Little sins become big sins.
8.   Enslavement results because the sin becomes a spiritual stronghold.
9.   "I can't break free" becomes the prevailing belief overriding everything else, and the process of enslavement is perpetuated.

This is but one example of apostasy occurring, and where it leads.
The author-pastor will go on to elaborate in subsequent verses how, specifically, we can "pay much closer attention" and what consequences, if we don't, we might endure.

Precious Father, by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we remain true to the precepts of Your Holy Word.  May we pay attention to our course with diligence so that we do not drift away and miss our intended harbor!  In Jesus' name, amen.


Cockerill, Gareth Lee. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012. Kindle edition.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Old Clothes

Today, the Lord apparently wanted me to have a ready-made illustration to ponder during my devotional time.  I had to laugh as I read today's verses, Hebrews 1:10-12 (NET).

“ You founded the earth in the beginning , Lord , 
and the heavens are the works of your hands .
They will perish, but you continue .
And they will all grow old like a garment ,
and like a robe you will fold them up
and like a garment they will be changed,
but you are the same and your years will never run out .”

When I got dressed this morning, I put on some old clothes.  Although our weather is beginning to turn "Autumn-ish", we are still wearing warmer weather clothes here in the South.  I turned to an old pair of shorts and matching top that I purchased 25 years ago.  No lie.  They still fit.  They still feel good.  They are comfortable.  I have some other clothes that I still wear occasionally, from the same decade.

But, eventually, all clothes grow old.  They wear thin, develop moth holes, rip.  When that happens, we "change or exchange" them.  In other words, we either tear them up for cleaning rags.  Or, we donate them.  Sometimes we simply throw them away.

The same is true of all creation, everything Jesus Christ made in "the beginning".  It is all aging, deteriorating, "perishing".  One day, the Ageless One will "fold up" the heavens and the earth and then create brand, spanking new ones.   Yes, it will be no more difficult for our omnipotent Savior to "roll up" all creation than it would be for us to roll up a bunch of clothes to take to the thrift store.

Bruce puts it like this:
"As one man in his lifetime outlives many successive suits of clothes, so God has seen and will yet see many successive material universes, but He Himself is eternal and unchanging."
Can you even imagine that?

This quotation in Hebrews is from the Old Testament, Psalm 102:25-27.  Let's look at those verses (in the NET version) for comparison (just so you'll believe me, lol!)

In earlier times you established the earth; the skies are your handiwork.     They will perish, but you will endure.  They will wear out like a garment; like clothes you will remove them and they will disappear. But you remain;  your years do not come to an end.

Our clothes don't last forever.  Our bodies don't either.  However, our spirits are eternal and will live somewhere after our bodies are long gone.  By the grace of God, each of us gets to choose where our spirit's next (and final) destination will be.  It will either be in torment in Hell, apart from the loving God who longs to rescue us with salvation in this life.  Or, it will be with our Savior, to whom we surrender our hearts and lives while wearing this mortal body.

He is eternal.  From ages past and through ages future, He remains "very God of very God", exercising his Personhood within that extraordinary enigma we refer to as "the Holy and Blessed Trinity".  God in Three, Creator, Sustainer, Universal Heir...Eternal God.

Oh Lord, as I contemplate Your beautiful creation, Your magnificence on display, I am stunned to realize that it is but a mere shadow of how great You truly are.  It is but a poor token of Your might, power and beauty.  How blessed I am to serve "the only wise God, my Savior, to whom be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever, amen." (Jude 1:25)


Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1990. Kindle edition.

Cockerill, Gareth Lee. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012. Kindle edition.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Oil of Joy

This morning I woke very early, after having dreams of my dog, my younger son, numerous strangers and ... snow.  Yes, it WAS what I ate just before going to bed!  My riotous stomach bore testimony.
As a remedy I anointed my body with healing oils...DigestZen and Frankincense, Purity and Lavender.  No doubt my clothes this morning smell of those healing oils, which certainly settled my rebellious innards this morning.

In looking into the next two verses of Hebrews 1, that would be verses 8 and 9, lo and behold we find a reference to the "oil of joy".  Hmmmm....take a look.

8But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

Although I dabble in healing oils for my health's sake, my oily practices are completely different from the ceremonial anointing described here.  These verses are actually a quotation from Psalm 45:6-7

 6Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
7You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
8All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;

When a regent, usually a king, was appointed officially for his office, he or she was anointed with special oil, to mark and signify the occasion. (See Exodus 29:7)  In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is often pictured by oil.  You may recall the phrase "receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit".  When we become Christ's we receive the Holy Spirit, that is, we are then forever marked, forever sealed as His, forever "anointed". (1 John 2:27)

Our joyful anointing at our salvation experience is reminiscent of (and due to) Christ's greater anointing.  He is the "fullness of God", wrapped in flesh and, therefore, has always possessed God's Holy Spirit within Himself.  However, according to our bounds of Time, He was also anointed at His Baptism, when the Father spoke and the dove that represented the Holy Spirit descended.  And....

Some characterize these "anointing" verses as being fulfilled after Christ Jesus completed the earthly "work" God the Father asked Him to do.  In other words, Jesus was "set above your companions" when He ascended to Heaven.  Although it helps us to understand things in a linear, time-bound progression, and I agree with this interpretation, it has always been so.  Jesus has always been God and He has always been "above all and before all" creation.  Yes, He did "love righteousness and hate wickedness" as the God-Man, with the ultimate expression of this being His obedient death on the cross.  But, He has loved righteousness and hated wickedness, before Time and will do so forever.

As an earthly descendant of King David, Jesus was and is "the last David".  David, the Old Testament king, was promised that his line of descendants would never end (2 Samuel 7:11-17)...a pretty amazing promise, if you ask me!  Mary, Jesus's mother, was a descendant of David, which made Jesus one also, as far as His physical body was concerned.  In this way, Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise God made to King David hundreds of years before Jesus' birth.

Jesus, according to Psalm 45 and Hebrews 1, received the oil of joy from God the Father because He (Christ) had triumphed over the sin that had kept mankind enslaved since Eden.  He had finished the earthly work His Father had ordained that He do.

When we receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit, it is not to hide our spiritual treasure in a jar, or bury it in the ground, hoarding it for ourselves.  No, our gift is to be used to bring God the Father glory, as did the Son, our Savior.  When we live out our own salvation, we find ourselves "anointed" with the oil of joy, the beginnings of "well done, you good, faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of your Lord!"  (Matthew 25:23)

Father, thank you for anointing me with Your Holy Spirit and equipping me for service with spiritual gifts.  I pray to use them today for Your glory and Your good pleasure.  Thank you for being the Source of the only true joy to be found in this earthly life.  Oh, how I look forward to worshipping You forever!   In Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Ministers and Messengers

There is a lot of "lore", shall we say, out there concerning the nature of angels.  I say, "lore", because most of it is extra-biblical, fanciful and just plain untrue...the stuff of fairy tales.  Movies have been made about angels, books written, as people have tried to transform the truth of these spirit beings into a more pleasing fiction.

Here, in the first chapter of Hebrews, the writer expounds extensively on the incomparable differences between angels and the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ.  In so doing, we find these two verses that give us insight into the nature of angels, these created spirit beings.

7Of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”

13And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

14Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

In verse 7, the author quotes Psalm 104:4.  Other verses that speak to the creation of angels are these: Nehemiah 9:6, Psalm 148:2, 5; Colossians 1:16-17.  Luke 20:6 tells us that, although angels were created, they do not experience "death" as we know it.

In fairy tales, there is the character the "shape-shifter".  This mythical being has the ability to change his or her physical shape into anything he or she so desires.  Myths often have a small root somewhere in reality, and this one may have sprung from the reality of angels, who are directed by God to appear in our mortal world in various forms.  Fortunately, in the Scriptures, angels are mentioned at least 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 in the New.  So, there is ample information from the most trusted source, to well-inform us!

Here, in Hebrews, as earlier in Psalm 104, the scriptures testify that they appear most often like the wind (a common Biblical euphemism for "spirit") or at other times as "flames of fire".  In other words, we are most often unable to detect them with our human capabilities.  We find angels at other places in the Bible taking on human likenesses when they appear to humans on earth, in the likeness of grown men. Here are some of those:

Genesis 18, 19
Zechariah 5:9
Mark 16:5
Hebrews 13:2  (the famous "have entertained angels without knowing it" verse)

The Bible also describes special classes of angels, who have visible characteristics suited to their purposes.  These include the seraphim (Isaiah 6), cherubim (Ezekiel 1) and archangels (Daniel 10:19, Jude 9).

Other characteristics of angels include:
***radiant with light (Matthew 28:2-4, for example)
***superhuman strength (Psalm 103:20, 2 Peter 2:11)
***possessing other-worldly knowledge (2 Samuel 14:20, Matthew 24:36)
***ability to suddenly appear/disappear (
***sometimes with wings (Isaiah 6:2, 6; and Daniel 9:21), but most instances do not mention wings
***messengers of God between Heaven and Earth (Greek: aggelos and Hebrew: ma'lak)
***caring for God's beloved ones

Functions of Angels:
Well, I'm out of time, and don't want to or need to do an angel dissertation!  Here's a helpful website I was using for this post, if you want to delve into this topic further.  Basically, angels minister to humans in a variety of ways, at God's direction, including at times delivering His messages.

Father, thank you for how you direct your ministering spirits to intervene in our lives.  In Jesus' name, amen.


Cockerill, Gareth Lee. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012. Kindle edition.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

No Mere Angel

Please forgive my two-day hiatus.  I had "Hebrews shock", lol!  Seriously, I knew that this book was going to be quite a challenge, but it has taken me a couple of days to process.  The last blog post took me four hours at least, to write.  And, I simply cannot allow a morning devotion (and blog) consume that much of each day.  So, after reflecting, I realized that I need to pare down the amount of Hebrews for each morning and, accordingly, each post.  That being we go!

Our text for today is Hebrews 1:5-6 (ESV).

5For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son,

today I have begotten you”?
6And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

The central focus of this verse is its laser-beam focus on the Father-Son Godhead relationship.  This was established in the Old Testament in Psalm 2:7, in 2 Samuel 7:14 and later in Mark 1:11. Although these verses can also find fulfillment in the physical, human lineage of David, this is merely a type (or representation) of the relationship between the first and second Persons of the Trinity.  In one sense, the writer of Hebrews is making the point that Jesus was no mere angel.  But, beyond that, he was teaching the readers deep truths about the Godhead, the Three-in-One.

There are a couple of things that, on the surface, make this verse confusing.  At various places throughout scripture, the angel band was referred to as "sons of God".  (See Genesis 6, for example, which describes the angels who rebelled.)

But, these verses underscore that huge difference between being called "a son" and "the only begotten Son", the latter which the angels worship as God (because Jesus IS God).  See Deuteronomy 32:43.

Even more troublesome that that is the statement, "This day have I begotten Thee" (King James Version).  Was Jesus not God until that "day" when He presented Himself before the Father's throne? (See Revelation 5) --- if you have time, go read it right now!)  Was Jesus "created"?  This verse would seem to convey both of these heresies....

Again we find our human selves so very influenced by and blinded by the concept of Time.  It is a construct that God has provided to us so that we might make order and sense of our physical world. In the spiritual world, however, there is a disconnect.  The spiritual world transcends Time and basically makes it largely irrelevant outside our physical existence.  God is not bound by Time, nor is He overly concerned with it.

For example, I was born over 50 years ago.  But, don't you know that God knew me before I was conceived in my mother's womb?  The Gena that is my spirit, my true self, He knew prior to my conception.  He chose me to be born to Betty and Gene all those years ago.  He designed this body which houses me.  I was Betty and Gene's appointed daughter long before my birth onto this Earth.  I will be their daughter after my mother's death, as I am my deceased father's daughter even now. However, when my father passed on to be with the Lord, I inherited material blessings from him. When my mother passes on, I will inherit materially from her.  Does this make me any more their daughter? Only in the sense that I did receive and will receive the prerogatives and full material benefits of "daughter-ship".

Similarly, although the comparison is somewhat ridiculous, Jesus was God's Son "from before the beginning until past the end" - - "Alpha and Omega", Jesus said of Himself.  However, as Bruce puts it, ...
"...he who was the Son of God from everlasting entered into the FULL exercise of all the prerogatives implied by his Sonship when, after his suffering had proved the completeness of his obedience, he was raised to the Father's right hand." (emphases mine..)

Yet, in John 3:16, we read, "For God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotten Son...." God's decision to "give" was made before man was ever created!  And, the Son was "only-begotten" even then!
Yes, the Son was "begotten" from "the time that was no time" and He will remain the beloved, only-begotten forever.
"From everlasting to everlasting, You are God!"  (See full text of Psalm 90:2).  Oh well, here it is! (ESV)

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Hallelujah!  What a Savior!  Let's savor and celebrate these magnificent truths today!

Father, thank you for Your holy Scriptures, which You divinely put together to teach us the truth about Yourself, Your Son and Your Holy Spirit.  Those of us who worship You in spirit and in truth praise You today for who You are, in all your majesty and power and glory!  To Him, whose Name is above every name, is due all our humble adoration and praise.  Amen.


Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1990. Kindle edition. 

Cockerill, Gareth Lee. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012. Kindle edition. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Last Word

Sometimes I just have to shake my head....
Isn't God the most mysterious, and the most awesome?  Here I sit with my brand-spankin'-new Hebrews commentary (ch. 1-8) by William Lane, the third of the ones I'm using in this Hebrews study.  I have discovered that Lane is quite beyond me, although I will use it as I study this great Bible book.  Lane's book is the most meticulous and the most highly organized of the three. However, I will spare both me and you from things like, "The Woven Intermediary Transition".  SERIOUSLY! Who ever would have thought this is how I'd be spending my time, these days?

So, without further ado, Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV).

1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

God has spoken....One of the more puzzling aspects of the Bible is how God chose to reveal Himself in various ways to the human race, His most cherished creation on the Earth.  At first, before sin entered this world, He communed with Adam and Eve on a highly personal level.  After sin was committed, and the world began its inexorable disintegration toward ever-increasing rot, God made a promise of a Redeemer (Gen. 3:15 - - the protoevangelium) and then separated Himself from mankind-at-large.  For a while, He spoke to individuals, such as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses. Later, He spoke through prophets, "signs and wonders" (burning bush, parting of the Red Sea, etc.), works of mercy/judgment, and through the Old Testament writings.  Then, there was (and I find this fascinating) a very long period of silence, where God did not speak to the Hebrew people at all.  400 years of silence.  Wow, that is a long, hard road.   And, then, of course, during that time, many priests and scholars "added on" to the Scriptures heaps of religious traditions.  By the time Jesus came of age the Hebrew people were heavily burdened by such "traditions", many of which were not "of God" at all.  Many served only to enhance and protect the power of the men who were of the ruling, priestly class.  Accordingly, these additions made during the so-called "Silent Period" are not revelations of God at all.

Then....Jesus.  God's ongoing disclosure of Himself continued through the revelation of His Son, the Last Word, the Fulfillment of the Promise.  He is the perfect, visible expression of who the Godhead, the Three-in-One, is/are.  In Jesus, all the prior, present and future promises of God are met with YES!

And, what else specifically do we learn about Him here in the opening verses of Hebrews 1?
Cockerill finds it helpful to imagine these first two chapters as like a conversation between God the Father and God the Son, as the Father affirms the Son's eternal Sonship and as the Son affirms His identity with God's people.  The first four verses, which we are studying today, serve as an introduction to the first two chapters.

1.  He is the Universal, "Alpha-Omega" Heir of all He created.  (See Psalm 2:8).
The author of Hebrews reaffirms this again in 2:5-9, the famous "all things under His feet" passage. The Greek word that we see as "world" above is actually much more broad than merely our world or even our universe.  It actually means "ages" or eons.  It connotes eternality, no beginning, no end.

2.  He is Creator and Sustainer (See John 1:3 and Proverbs 8:22-31).
Not only did He create all things, both visible and invisible; He also sustains them, or holds them all together.  He "holds it in the road".  When I was little (around age 9), I have vivid memories of sitting on my Daddy's lap as we rode down country roads.  It was so exhilarating to learn to drive with my Daddy!  Of course, he emphasized the importance of "holding the car in the road".  If it were not for Jesus, the entire universe would fly off into hundreds of trillions of pieces (probably more!)
Just as Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, spoke the "worlds" into existence, He likewise moves them along their appointed courses by the power of His spoken word.

3.  He is the Wisdom of God.  (Wisdom 7:25)
In the Alexandrian tradition, which heavily influenced Hebrews' author, where the personification of God as Divine Wisdom was studied and celebrated.  It was an idea with heavy Greek influence.  In fact, there are seven books called "the wisdom books" translated as part of the Septuagaint (Old Testament translated into Greek).  The "Book of Wisdom" and the book of Sirach are two of the seven which did not make it into the Protestant Bible.  So, if you don't recognize that "scripture reference above, that's why!) The others are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon (Song of Songs).

4.  He is the Radiance of God's Glory and God's Flawless Replica.
Cockerill, of the three commentaries, does the best job (in my limited mind) of expounding on this statement.  He says that "as 'the radiance of God's glory' the Son is the 'out-shining' of who God really is."  Radiance goes beyond mere "reflection".  God's glory is often pictured in Scripture as being "resplendent with light".  :)  See Exodus 24:16-17; 40:34-35 and 1 Kings 8:11.
The phrase "exact representation" is like when coins are pressed.  Each one is the same as the one pressed just before it.  Or, when a clone is made.  As a clone is genetically the exact same as the original, even more so is Jesus Christ, the exalted, eternal Son: an exact replica of God the Father and God the Spirit.

5.  He is our Sin Cleanser.
Now the author shifts our attention away from the cosmic deeds of our Savior to His intensely personal deeds on our behalf.  Here we reflect on how He did what no one else was qualified to do, and that He did it willingly.  This redemptive work will be explored more fully as we move on through Hebrews to examine Christ's role as our High Priest.

6.  He Rules and Reigns.  (Psalm 110, Ephesians 4:10, Philippians 2:9)
Because of the completeness and finality of Christ's finished work in His first Advent, He has now sat down beside the Father in Heaven to continue in His role from there.  The "right hand" was a designation understood in the first century to connote "co-rule".  From that vantage point and position of authority, the Son shares the Father's power without limitation.  This "sitting down" in such an exalted position also serves to put distance between the Son and the angels, to contrast the two as more different positionally than night and day.

In these several confirmations and commendations, we see Jesus exalted as God in His roles as Creator, Prophet (The Last Word), Priest and King.

The word "inherit" is a troublesome word to us time-bound mortals.  It speaks to us as to something that became ours after a period of time.  However, in its usage here in verse 4, it refers to the Father's divine, eternal decree, made in what we would call "eternity past", the only way we can describe (with great limitations) the "no beginning, no end" of the Godhead, Three-in-One.  That Christ Jesus "inherited" is an ageless facet of His Personhood within the Trinity.

Apparently, "angel worship" was a prevalent heresy that bedeviled the early Church.  We have already seen its influence in the Colossian church, as we studied that book recently.  If you recall, certain ones among the Colossians were led astray by the false teaching that Jesus was merely an archangel.  Hebrews 1:4 clearly "busts that myth".  In the verses we will examine in the next post, the author elaborates on that theme.

Enjoy this beautiful musical rendition of these verses today:

Dear Jesus, Your name is lifted higher, and we bless You, Lord.  Who can compare to You?  No one! You are God of all the ages.  We thank and exalt and praise Your Name, which is above EVERY name, the only Name by which we can receive eternal salvation.  Amen.


Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1990. Kindle edition. 

Cockerill, Gareth Lee. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012. Kindle edition. 

Lane, W. L. (1991). Word Biblical Commentary: Hebrews 1-8. Texas: Word. Print.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Dating Hebrews

As you might have guessed, this is not a post about romantic entanglements.  We continue on in our study of the marvelous book of Hebrews.  Thank you for journeying with me.

One of the most beautiful characteristics of the book is the way the writer exalts the Old Testament as a divine oracle, from beginning to end. Cockerill calls the OT "the bone and marrow" of Hebrews. The book is filled with 28 quotes from the Septuagint (the Old Testament translated into the Greek language).  Those quotes are not treated as allegories but instead as "types" of the true Messiah, Jesus Christ and of His gospel.  The author delights in showing how the Aaronic priestly system and the Melchizekan priesthood foreshadowed the coming of and the ministry of Christ, who is the fulfillment of Father's Old Testament revelation of Himself.

In fact, the book of Hebrews magnificently, without wavering, affirms the all-sufficiency and sole- sufficiency of Jesus Christ as, not only Savior, but as Son of God and High Priest.  In fully fleshing-out Christ's role as High Priest, Hebrews makes a unique contribution to our biblical canon and our Christian theology.

How is Hebrews similar to other books of the New Testament?  Cockerill points out that there are commonalities with 1 Peter, because both emphasize perseverance in the face of persecution.  The book opens in a way similar to the first few verses of the gospel of John.  Both books emphasize Christ's being the Son of God.  There are parallels between Hebrews and Stephen's speech in Acts 7.

Let's turn now to when Bruce and Cockerill believe Hebrews was written.  Bruce bases his belief on a date of around 65 A.D. on the fact that in 70 A.D., the Jerusalem temple was destroyed.  This cataclysmic destruction ushered in a dispersion of Christians to other parts of the world and also ushered in a time of extreme persecution, neither of which is mentioned in the book of Hebrews.
Cockerill wryly quips that attempts to date Hebrews "have been legion and have appeared to engender almost as much confusion as the biblical demoniac by that name (Mark 5:1-20)".
He then goes on in a more serious manner to offer three possibilities:
Scenario 1
The book was written to Gentile Christians late in the first century.  Due to the fact of the audience being Gentile, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem would have been of scant concern. (Cockerill finds this argument unconvincing.)
Scenario 2
The book was written to Jews, but after the fall of the Temple. Those who hold this position contend that hearers would have been "up in arms" had the writer's claims of the insufficiency of "the old Levitical order" been made while the Temple was still standing.
Scenario 3
(This is the most widely-held position.) The book was written to a largely Jewish-Christian audience before the aforementioned fall.  In support of this date, Bible scholars point out that the book describes the sacrificial rituals in the present tense.  Almost certainly, had the destruction already occurred, the author would have mentioned such a cataclysmic event.  Finally, the writer of Hebrews advocates vehemently that the old sacrificial order has been abolished, in God's scheme of things, and must be abolished in Christian practice.  To fail to abolish it denies the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Were the Temple already destroyed, there would be no need for such vehement argument on this point.
Cockerill's position is that it is impossible to date the book more precisely than a range of 50 to 90 A.D.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Dear ______

In the last post we explored the authorship of the book of Hebrews and delved into its overall shape/structure a bit.  Hebrews is unique in the New Testament, due to its oral character, its carefully crafted design, its use of high-brow Greek, its interwoven exposition (what the Scriptures say) with exhortation ("So, then this is what we should do in light of that.")  It is a beautiful sermon, written by a master preacher, with the intent that this sermon be sent as a letter to fledgling churches.

About those small congregations...who were they?  Who were the intended recipients of the Hebrews sermon/letter?

Cockerill points out that it is important to draw a conclusion about whether Hebrews was written to Christ-followers with Jewish ethnicity or to Christ-followers with Gentile heritage or to a mixed group of Christian believers.
Like the authorship of the book, it is impossible to determine this conclusively, even though it began to have the "address" To the Hebrews in the latter half of the second century.   The writer of Hebrews does not utilize any type of ethnic distinction to help us figure this out.  He disparages neither Jews nor Gentiles.  The author seems to be addressing one Church Universal - - the people of God throughout history up until and including our present day, one long, continuous, faith-based salvation.  It treats Christianity as a natural manifestation/metamorphosis of Judaism.

Within that, various Bible scholars have extrapolated various theories of the intended recipients of "Hebrews".  One of the more intriguing theories, according to Bruce, is that, because of the intense focus on the Levitical/Aaronic priesthood, the letter was intended for highly-educated Christians who were formerly Jewish priests and who would have a natural interest in the writer's arguments.  Others have taken this even further to assert that the intended audience was a group of converted priests called "Esseno-Christians", including members formerly of the Qumran sect.  (You may be familiar with the discovery in 1947 of a large number of ancient Biblical manuscripts in the caves of Qumran.)  Hebrews' author pointedly corrects some doctrinal errors commonly held by the Qumran sect, which lends credence to this position.  Bruce seems to lean toward this view.

Some additional conclusions can be drawn.
1.  In the very first verse, the author refers to "our ancestors", which could mean genetic ancestors or spiritual ancestors, or both.
2.  Many references in Hebrews presupposes the hearers' familiarity with the Aaronic/Levitical and Melchizedekian priesthoods, as well as the sacrificial system of the former (7:11-19; 10:18).
3.  The group of believers addressed were well-known by the author.  This group was also highly educated and well-versed in classical Greek, as this was the language of the sermon/letter.
4.  Finally, this group of believers had endured some form of persecution, although not martyrdom (12:4), obviously, and had begun to waver somewhat in the face of it.
The author does warn against true believers (whether Jew or Gentile) being swayed by two groups of people - -
***those who "serve in the Tent", that is, those who refuse to abandon the Aaronic priesthood for the all-sufficient Melchizedekian priesthood of Jesus Christ.   (A subset of this group is those who wanted to relegate Jesus Christ to the position of some type of "archangel", as opposed to his true status as the second person of the Trinity.)
***those non-Christians of "the world" who marginalize-persecute Christians for their faith and stance in the modern society of any era.

So, to whom was this sermon/letter written?  Inconclusive.

As a final note that hearkens back to the last post, I noticed in reading Bruce's commentary a school of thought existed that Aquila and Priscilla had authored Hebrews, with Priscilla being the dominant partner.  They instructed Apollos, were closely associated with Timothy, hosted a church in their home in Rome...This could explain the name of the author disappearing from church memory, given the patriarchal views of that day.  I found that fascinating!

Father, while all this is interesting, it matters more to me that you intended the book of Hebrews for me and for all who love Your name.  Thank you for how You guided the assimilation and accumulation of the Holy Scriptures, Your sacred Word, so that we might be instructed and shaped more and more into the image of Your blessed Son.  In Jesus' name, amen.


Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1990. Kindle edition. 

Cockerill, Gareth Lee. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012. Kindle edition. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Well, it is a joy and a comfort to be back in the "blogging chair" again.  My blogging had been somewhat hindered by my personal journey through some deep waters recently.  What they were (and are) is not cogent to our interaction here at RDM (Resplendent Daughter Ministries).  At any rate, I have been unable to be with you for a few days, and I have missed our time together.

Another factor in my absence has been my reluctance to delve with you into the book of Hebrews. This has had to do with the fact I find the book extremely "deep" and intimidating. Years ago, when our boys were young, and living at home, we had family devotions together most nights.  One of the last books I read through with them was Hebrews.  What a mistake!  They had not the slightest idea what the book was about (and I was nearly as flummoxed as were they....)

However, I have now armed myself with some commentaries which I am sure will be helpful; and, being so armed, I am very excited to begin this study.  I expect to learn a great deal about this wonderful book.  (Hopefully, you do too!) We will be in Hebrews for some several months, I expect.

As for the commentaries, my blog is not a "scholarly work".  So, I am not going to wear myself out with references.  I'll list the sources I consult in my "Sources" section, as I customarily do in my posts, along with the relevant page numbers.  If you are inspired to dig further, feel free.  If you will look at the sources for today's post, I will list for you the commentaries I plan to use in my study of the book of Hebrews, in the days ahead.

The first question that almost always arises about this book is, "So, who wrote it?"  There is good reason for this question; it inspires many opinions.  My answer is (and I'm in good company here):
"I don't know."  Let's explore this conundrum a bit.  The question has been asked for centuries.

Many Bible scholars believe that the apostle Paul wrote the book, but other "contenders" for that honor are:  Luke, Clement of Rome (a first century student of the apostles Peter and Paul), or Barnabas (Paul's co-laborer and co-missionary) or Apollos (a first century preacher prominent in Ephesus and Corinth).  The author does not claim to be an apostle, or the authority of an apostle, which would seem to indicate he was not one.  Hebrews 2:3 states that the author had received the gospel from "those who heard" the Lord Jesus.

It was of interest to me to learn that Martin Luther argued for Apollos as the author of Hebrews, due to the description of him in Acts 18:24-19:1.  The passage describes Apollos as a powerful preacher, highly educated and with a deep love for his flock.  These attributes fit well the writer of Hebrews.

Despite the inability to conclusively determine it's authorship, Hebrews was always valued for inclusion in the biblical canon by all of the early church councils, despite their obsession with including into the canon only those works written by men who had had direct contact with the risen Jesus.  That is, there has never been any doubt as to whether or not it should be included in our "Bible".  The reason for this is that it stands alone as a "masterwork" of Scripture.

The book of Hebrews, rather than being akin to the somewhat intimate letters of Paul, is a intricate creation of a brilliant theological mind.  It takes the form of a sermon, rather than a letter (although in chapter 13 there are some "letter-ish" closing remarks).  For this reason, Cockerill, in his commentary, refers to the author as "the pastor".  The book is first mentioned when it was quoted by Clement of Rome in his epistle of 1 Clement, around the end of the first century.  It is also quoted by such second century church leaders as Origen, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus and Gaius.

The writer of Hebrews was an Old Testament scholar of tremendous merit.  He was also well-versed in Greek...not the conversational Greek, but the scholarly Greek that was only mastered by the highly-educated.  Hebrews uses 169 Greek words which appear nowhere else in the New Testament. Both the theological content and the literary form of the sermon have been so intricately wed, they cannot be separated from each other.  

In the original Greek (so I am told, lol!), the book reads like an oral sermon, beautifully blending exposition and exhortation.  It features grandly-constructed sentences, alliteration, wordplays, internal rhyme, metaphors and evidences of rhetorical argument. It is the finest example in the New Testament of a sermon which might have been given in a early Church "Christian synagogue".

I hope our journey through Hebrews will excite, intrigue, challenge and delight you.  (Today's source was exclusively the Cockerill, Introduction, sections IA and IB.)

Father, regardless of who wrote Hebrews, thank you for giving us this tremendous book of Scripture! Please teach us truths which will help us to grow deeper in our faith and will make us even more effective for Your kingdom!  In Jesus' name, amen.


Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1990. Kindle edition. 

Cockerill, Gareth Lee. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012. Kindle edition. 

Lane, W. L. (1991). Word Biblical Commentary: Hebrews 1-8. Texas: Word. Print.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cake Fail

While browsing on a friend's site this morning I was reminded of an anecdote from my past I thought I'd use in today's post.

Once my first cousin,Clayton, was coming over for dinner. I was young and single, living in an apartment alone and not the most accomplished cook at that point. I had decided to make a bundt-type of cake for dessert. The problem was: at the last minute I discovered the only bundt pan I owned was a microwave bundt pan! At this point, I already had the batter made and ready for the pan. And, he was going to arrive in about a half hour. I figured there was nothing to do but to try to bake this thing in the microwave. So, I nuked it for several minutes. When it came out, I thought with great relief, "SUCCESS!" It looked AWESOME! When Clayton arrived, we laughed about the whole thing....until I cut the cake, which by now had begun to sort of....sink. Yep, you guessed it! What looked pretty on the outside was doughy and yucky on the inside with a crunchy, inedible crust on the outside.  What mortification!!

Now, where did this whole thing go wrong?

  • First, it went wrong because I did not plan ahead.  I knew I had a bundt pan, but did not remember it was only for use in a microwave. (In fact, I had never used it before!)
  • Second, it went wrong because I used wrong methodology to finish/cook the cake.
  • Third, it went wrong because I judged the outcome based on the initial appearance.

Of course, there are life lessons to be learned here.  There are times in life when we find ourselves "in a pickle".  Sometimes, that pickle is of our own making (as was the case with my cake fail).  Other times, it is not.  Regardless, we have to choose how to proceed.  There are usually two choices:  the right one and at least one wrong one.

The "wrong way" seems oh, so seductive!  "It won't matter if I compromise my values just this once!"
When we choose wrong methodology, we always end up with unsatisfactory results.  Even when things "look good" or it seems we've "gotten away with it", we never do.
We can do a whole series of "rights", but if we finish with a "wrong" the whole cake can fall (and often does).

There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death.
Proverbs 14:12 (NET)

Another way to put it is like this:

The right thing, done the wrong way, leads to a bad end.
It is never right to do wrong, in order to get a chance to do right.

All true words of wisdom, no matter how you slice it!  ;)

Father, You have shown us by Your Word how to live.  The problem is we often don't want to live according to Your precepts.  We fall for the devil's "work-arounds", "short-cuts" and other deceptions because they appeal to our sinful natures.  Keep us, Lord, walking in paths of obedience, truth and wisdom, as we seek to walk...resplendent!  In Jesus' name, amen. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Misapplication of Grace?

I've often wondered how frequently the apostle Paul was haunted by his own past, after becoming a Christian.  Perhaps his spiritual ability to receive and to communicate the grace of God sprang from that grace liberally applied to his own life.  As a reminder, Paul (while named Saul) had many Christians killed for their faith, while he zealously persecuted the Christian movement.  He had much to be forgiven.

(If we are honest with ourselves, don't we all?)

This morning's news program featured a U.S. Congressman who was railing against the fact a certain public figure had committed numerous legal transgressions.  Yet, no action has been taken or is being taken against her.  She is unrepentant.  There seems to be, increasingly, an uneven, one-sided application of justice in our country, a "misapplication of grace".  Those who are of a certain political persuasion or social class or of "greater value to society" are apparently "above the law".

This misapplication of grace is rather prevalent in our country.  Admittedly, it is a conundrum.  As a parent, for instance, it is very hard to know when it is best to hold our children responsible for bad decisions and when to "rescue" them, when to give grace.

For some, the story of Onesimus rankles.  It bothers them that this thief is being "let off the hook". To them, Onesimus will always be defined in light of his mistake; he will always be viewed a thief.  Of course, we do not know all the details of the story.  We do know this, though, that Paul is requesting
a.  to pay the debt Onesimus owes his master, Philemon
b.  that Philemon treat the returning Onesimus as a brother in Christ, as opposed to merely a slave.

The entire book of Philemon is a picture of God's grace to each of us.  The heart of the letter is love, the "law of God the Son".  Paul, here, represents our Triune God.  Onesimus represents every repentant sinner. Philemon represents the Church.

1.  Paul represents God.
He does not force Philemon to accept Onesimus although, with apostolic authority he could have ordered Philemon to obey.  Paul instead reminds Philemon that it was through Paul's ministry he was led to Christ.  He appeals to Philemon on the basis of love.  Father God treats us the same way.  He does not force.  He invites.   He appeals.  He beseeches.
Paul also represents the Father in that he pays the price Onesimus owes (vs. 18-19), just as Jesus Christ, God the Son, did for us.

2.   Onesimus represents slaves like we (are/were).
He had gotten himself into a situation from which he was unable to free himself. He owed a debt he could not pay.  In trying to fix his own situation, he only made it worse.  However, upon hearing the gospel from Paul (which is not to say he had not already heard it in Philemon's household), he accepted God's "fix", God's solution to his sin problem...salvation through grace/faith in Jesus Christ.
So, Onesimus is not being "let off the hook".  Rather, a tremendous price was paid by God to "make things right" for him positionally and eternally, the price of God's own Son.  Being accepted in Christ does not automatically free the new believer of the consequences of sin here on Earth, as we all know. Physical scars remain.  Nor does salvation cause us to never sin again in this world.  Sin ever seeks to again enslave us, pursuing us as a cheetah pursues a gazelle.

3.  Philemon represents the Church, the brotherhood of the saints.  Oh how hard it is to model ourselves after the character of God, according to His Holy Spirit who lives within us!  Perhaps Philemon struggled with this as well.  Satan tempts us to deal with each other harshly and with an unforgiving spirit.  Again, the key here is that Onesimus was a changed person, a repentant brother in Christ.  Nowhere in Scripture is the covering-over of sin applauded. This letter is not advocating overlooking sin or condoning a lack of confession or repentance. True restoration must contain those elements before restorative grace can be applied to one another and fellowship reaffirmed.
May we never be a Church that defines repentant sinners in light of their sins.  Instead, may we "remember them against them no more" (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12)

I am reading a book that contrasts the Muslim faith with the Christian.1  The writer, a former devout Muslim, now a devout Christian, points out that Muslims struggle mightily with the concept of the Christian God's grace.  It is totally foreign to them.  "Why obey if you are already forgiven everything?"  The Christian's answer:  the law of love.  He/she who has been forgiven much, loves much.  (Luke 7:47)

The Bible does not tell us whether or not Philemon received the transformed Onesimus as he would receive Paul, who led the both of them to faith in Christ.  But, I imagine he did.  May we do the same.

Father God, I have so much for which to be forgiven, day in and day out.  But, I marvel at Your eternal grace, which has covered all my sin.  I pray that I may never make you ashamed of the grace You so lavishly poured out on me.  May I be even more emboldened and empowered to share that message of grace with others, who don't yet know You, who so desperately need to hear it, who so deeply desire to turn from their sins and find their eternal salvation (their soul's rest) in You.  In Jesus' name, amen.


1   Qureshi, Nabeel (2016). No God but one: Allah or Jesus?: A former Muslim investigates the evidence for Islam and Christianity.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Labor Day and Lake Church

I can't remember the last time I was at "lake church".  That's what my family calls it; some call it "boat church" because folks journey there in their boats, tie up and then sit down with coffee in hand, dog by the side, on the hard, back-less benches.  It's a non-demominational, Christian service, held on Sunday mornings at Moccassin Creek State Park, from May-October, in an open-air pavilion.  On this Labor Day weekend, the place was packed.  SRO.

It was a thrill to be greeted by a fellow graduate of the Habersham Central class of '75, Locke Arnold, who is now a successful businessman in the area.  After mother and I were seated beside my godparents on the front row, a man asked if he could join us.  He was there with his wife and a bunch of teenagers, who sat behind us.  Turns out, he is John Weir, whose family's place is right around the bend from ours. He used to be called "John Mahlon", after his daddy, Mahlon Weir.  The Weirs, like us, have had a place on Burton "forever", it seems.  They also know my godparents, the Congdons, who sat on mother's other side today.

The keyboardist who played the old hymns was J.P. Miles, who lives at the end of our cove. Can't remember the last time I saw him.  The song leader declared that J.P. was playing everything at "78 speed", which was largely true.  I leaned over and commented to John that the young folks present would have no clue what that reference meant....We sang several old hymns - - - "Victory in Jesus", "I'm So Glad to Be Part of the Family of God", "I'll Fly Away, Where Could I Go But to the Lord", "He Keeps Me Singing".  The message was brought by a Baptist minister from Clayton.  He preached compellingly on the story of Jonah, and gave an invitation to accept Jesus as Savior, at the end.  I'm always glad for that.  Every Sunday "boat church" invites a different guest minister who brings the Word.  As I listened, I sometimes would turn and gaze out over the lake, taking in God's beautiful creation.

Today I was thinking about how grateful I am that in our country we can go just about anywhere and still have fellowship with folks who worship our Savior.  And, we can do it boldly, with joy, full-out in the open with no fear of persecution.  I'm also grateful for "place" - - the privilege of still getting to worship with my mother and godparents and neighbors here on this beautiful lake in North Georgia, that so many call "my second home".

Jesus said,

28 “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 
29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 
30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Happy Labor Day weekend, Y'all, wherever you are...

Friday, September 2, 2016

Remembering, Thanking, Watching

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a high school reunion with my husband, who was a teacher and administrator at those folks' middle school "back in the day".  One of the most cool things was to get to meet some of his former students who are now my Facebook friends!  At any rate, we enjoyed hearing how my husband had been an influencer in the lives of these folks, which is something we hear often.  He was an amazing educator, who influenced for the good many, many young lives.

Then, this morning, one of those alums posted an article that will be in tomorrow's Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper (print edition - - it's online today). 1 What an amazing story, that brought me to tears!

In the Spring of 1971, the high school had hired a football coach who was highly acclaimed.  The football team had a longtime losing record; so, they were very excited to get this "excellent catch".  (I'm sorry....regular readers to this blog know that puns just happen to me...) Although hired in the spring he immediately began to put the next fall's team "through the paces", working them hard!  In those two weeks that April, he really worked them hard, which heightened the disheartened players' expectations for a winning season, come fall.  He really made an impression on those boys.

In God's divine plan, though, this coach was involved in a serious traffic accident two weeks after starting to work with the team.  Due to brain damage, a long recovery began.  The team got a new coach, and life moved on.

Fast-forward to the present, 45 years later.  The students believed that the short-tenured coach was long-dead.  No obituary could be located, however; and, it was discovered he is still alive!  Though still severely impaired, he has lived a fulfilling life over the intervening years.

It would be easy to read about his life and say, "What a shame!"  But, listen to this...

Two years after the accident, the coach was well enough to hitchhike a ride home.  He was picked up by a high school student, who shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him.  His testimony now is that God spared his life so that he could live that moment with that high school driver, so that he could receive new life, eternal life through Jesus Christ, his Savior!

It is because of the Sovereign Father's mighty plan that last weekend, 45 years later, a 70-year old former football coach, with garbled speech, was able to gather with 80 former students, whose lives he impacted so mightily in two short weeks. He was able to share his testimony of what Jesus Christ has done for him.  And, I imagine that he deepened their understanding of every blessing that belongs to believers in Jesus Christ.

4I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6I pray that the faith you share with us may deepen your understanding of every blessing that belongs to you in Christ. 7I have had great joy and encouragement because of your love, for the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.
Philemon 1:4-7

Paul wrote these words about his friend, Philemon, but surely the hearts of the gathered classmates and the heart of the old coach were similarly refreshed as they remembered and thanked each other, for their brief time together.

How often we fail to realize the sovereign workings of our perfect God!  How often we question and fuss and fume and rail against Him when His plans differ from ours!  How often we fail to realize the impact of a single encounter or a brief one, for that matter!  We truly do not realize what God is doing, through our most mundane, everyday moments.

From this day forward, let's be more thankful and more watchful, careful to use every moment of our lives to show God's love to our fellow man, to live out the gospel of Christ, to tell of what He has done for us.

Dear Jesus, I thank you for the life and testimony of this great man of God, this former teacher/coach/football player whose greatest "claim to fame" is that he got to meet and know You. By his own testimony, "this world is not his home; he is only passing through..."  Dear LORD, I am so humbled!  Give us all hearts full of thankfulness, gratitude and love to see our acquaintances, friends, family, and even total strangers come to know the love that is ours, the perfect love that can be theirs as You.  In Jesus' name, amen.


Staples, G. B. (2016, September 1). Life With Gracie: Accident derailed coach's life but his journey inspires others. Life With Gracie: Accident Derailed Coach's Life but His Journey Inspires Others. Retrieved September 2, 2016. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Baggage, Beauty and The Bride

When I awoke this morning I lay in bed and began to pray over a number of requests, my own and also those of others.  One that laid heavy on my heart was the small group of "home missionaries", Christian brothers, who are leaving town this morning to minister to flood-ravaged Denham Springs, LA, as well as their wives and children left behind.  Denham Springs received over 20 inches of rain over a 3-day period last month, more than they normally receive during the entire month of August.

One of my friends, who is also one of those wives, wrote eloquently on her Facebook page late last night that it was 11 years ago today she and her husband moved into the home of dear Christians in Denham Springs, as a result of Hurricane Katrina.  They lived there, in their home, sleeping on mattresses on the floor, for a year.  She spoke of what a blessing it was, because she was able to see firsthand how to "do ministry", how to be a "minister's wife".  Now, eleven years later, her husband is leading the team to go and BE the Body of Christ to them and their flooded church.

Such beauty!

On the morning news program a young singer (14 y.o) I'd never heard of was there to sing.  Her name is Mara Justine.  She is a beautiful child, seems to have a delightful spirit, and can sing like an angel.1 Honestly, this girl has "got it".  Long, long auburn hair, peaches-and-cream skin, huge smile, gorgeous voice....beautiful!

Mankind, God's second most amazing and beautiful creation!  Come on...ask me...."What's the first?"

His People...The Church.  Not the local church, per se.  We all know that the local church can be, but I am referring to the larger Church, what the old-time saints referred to as "The Church Universal". That sounds all "new-agey", now, doesn't it?  But, the term simply means "the total number of believers in Jesus Christ, scattered around the world, including the saints who have gone on before us and those yet to join us".

Jesus calls us His Bride, because He loves us so.  As such, He asks that we love one another.  When we do, we show our incredible beauty!  Don't you know?  It is HIS incredible beauty, at work IN us, and shining through us.

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

The law of Christ is the law of love.

Today, we begin the very short book/letter of Philemon (25 verses), another lovely example of the Body of Christ at work.

The book is titled, Philemon, because he was the immediate recipient, a friend of Paul's who lived in Colosse.  Paul wrote the letter from house arrest in Rome.  Actually, the letter concerns a man named Onesimus, a slave who apparently robbed his master, Philemon, in Colosse and then went "on the lam" to Rome, where he hoped to lose himself in the crowds there, to "disappear".

Providentially, though, he ran into Paul, who led him to salvation in Jesus Christ.  Those of us who know Jesus Christ as Savior understand the supernatural power of God to transform a life forever. This is what happened to Onesimus.   The Body of Christ gained a new member.  I look forward to meeting Onesimus one day, when I join him in Heaven.

We all either were or are the runaway slave, Onesimus.  Christians were, before they met and accepted Jesus as their Savior, lost and owing a debt they were unable to pay.  They realized with joy and gratitude that Jesus paid all of their debt...that all they had to do was to accept and receive it.  ("It is finished!", Jesus cried from the cross...)
Those who are currently firmly planted in the camp of unbelief today are Onesimus, enslaved by their own pasts, shackled to a unshakeable burden of sin, trapped, on the run from God, seeking asylum, thirsting for peace, craving relief from their bondage.

Ah, but like all of us, when we become His, we bring our assorted "baggage" with us.  Onesimus had some serious "junk in the trunk".  Jesus Christ forgave him all his sins, forever; but, Christ's forgiveness did not negate the earthly consequences of his thefts.  The law at the time demanded that he be executed for his thievery; however, it was within the control of the offended master to either hand him over to be prosecuted or decline to press charges.


Can you guess what happened?  We'll explore the story more fully tomorrow.

Father, thank you for the love you show us, in all our life's circumstances.  Thank you for how you demonstrated your love for us most fully, through the gift of your Son, Jesus.  Please give us daily opportunities to share that love with this crippled world, so that they may see You and come to know You.  Please bless my brothers, who are traveling to LA today, and most especially bless the people of Denham Springs and surrounding areas who are struggling mightily to overcome the aftereffects of this terrible flood.  Make Your name glorious, precious Lord! Let Your marvelous, mighty works be known in all the Earth!  In Jesus' name, amen.