Lent: Matthew 11

What a blessing it is to walk with our Lord, living our lives in His Word each day during this time of Lent.  I hope to share thoughts about the daily readings from Hebrews and Matthew.  (Past posts may be accessed by clicking the Home page footer “Lent:  Walking with Christ.”)


In chapter 11 our dear Savior deals with doubt.  John the Baptizer, his greatest supporter sent to prepare His way, is really troubled.  John had been imprisoned by Herod Antipas for speaking the truth, callling everyone to repent especially Herod.  Herod had taken his brother’s wife as his own and John had not minced words in revealing Herod’s sin.  Jesus was doing all these miracles and yet John remained in prison.  Perhaps John’s supporters (and John himself) were discouraged and filled with concern whether Jesus is really the one! 


Certainly John and his followers had their doubts.  “Who doesn’t” I can hear you thinking!  They had not necessarily rejected Jesus.  Doubts arise when faith is present.  Doubts do not negate faith.  In the face of doubt, faith spurs us on for reassurance and strength.  John did exactly what we need to do when we doubt:  God to Jesus.  When heaven seems too good to be true, when we have those moments when we think Jesus could be nothing more than a myth, when we are imprisoned by our circumstances that cause us to blame God, we need to go to Jesus for reassurance.  Just as with John, Jesus will not turn us away.  When He points us to everything He has endured for us, everything He did to demonstrate His divine powers – His voluntary death in our place, His victorious resurrection, His presence with us through thick and thin – we are reassured that we can rely on all His promises and trust Him to carry us through and safely bring us home one day to heaven.  John was a great man indeed!  But Jesus points to lesser ones in God’s scheme of things that He makes great as they trust in Jesus.


Jesus offers rest to the weary!  Sure, that’s you and me!  Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:26-30).  Faith isn’t an accomplishment possible only for the educated folks of our world.  It is God’s gift by the Holy Spirit for the least, last and lost.  Even a little child can believe and be saved.  Worldly wisdom can become an obstacle to such faith, but little kids don’t have that problem.  We too should remind ourselves that our heavenly Father is pleased to deal with us that way!


The weary and burdened are the ones to whom Jesus chooses to reveal the love of the Father.  These are the same people Jesus described earlier in Matthew as the poor in spirit, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mt. 5).  Those who acknowledge their sinfulness and realize that it’s a burden too heavy for them to bear, they are the ones Jesus promises rest.  He turns us to His Word and Sacraments.  This rest is His gift that only He can give!


We are yoked to Jesus!  That yoke we have received is the whole of Christian life and hope.  We have Christ in our lives so that His commandments are no longer a heavy burden that weighs us down.  Instead, they are expressions of God’s will in which we delight.  With the forgiveness and strength of Jesus, we seek to live according to them as expression of our love for Him.  We will bear some crosses along the way, but they become faith uplifting as they help us to understand what Jesus endured for us.  We have his promise of strength to lead us through and the truth that good things will come even in the midst of challenge!


May the words of the hymn by William Dix be prayful reality for us…


“Come unto Me, ye weary, And I will give you rest.”

O blessed voice of Jesus, Which comes to hearts oppressed!

It tells of benediction, O pardon, grace, and peace,

Of joy that hath no ending, Of love that cannot cease.


“And whosoever cometh, I will not cast him out.”

O patient love of Jesus, Which drives away our doubt,

Which, though we be unworthy Of love so great and free,

Invites us very sinners To come, dear Lord, to Thee!  Amen.

Lent: Matthew 7 & 8

Jesus Christ, Superstar!  Do you remember the Rock Opera from from the 70’s?  As Jesus comes down from the mountainside that’s what the following crowds thought He was!  He spoke with authority and now His Words will take action.  After all, talk is cheap, but when they are backed up by loving, powerful action, you have Jesus Christ, Superstar!


First Jesus heals a leper.  Outcast, prohibited to be with those he loved with the incurable disease of leprosy, Jesus was his final hope.  His words to Jesus is a model prayer:  “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  So we pray to our Lord, “If it be Your will.”  Whatever He decides will be right for us.  Jesus quickly and powerfully revealed that His will was also the lepers will.  He said the words, “be clean” and the leper was healed.  What compassionate power!  That’s the Savior to whom we pray!  Whatever our prayer we can lift it up to Jesus and according to His will, He works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).


Second, the centurion (commander of 1000 soldiers) was awestruck by his and our Super Savior.  A humble man who truly understood authority had a servant at home suffering with illness.  Luke tells us in his account that this centurion, despite being a Gentile, had helped in building the Jewish synagogue in Capernaum.  Could he have been a believer?  Jesus Himself affirms that He has not seen such great faith anywhere in Israel.  Jesus came for Jew and Gentile alike!  The centurion certainly knew his own sinfulness, not even wanting Jesus to come to his house.  The centurion’s faith speaks, “Just say the word and he will be healed!”  He shared his need with Jesus and trusted Him to do what was best!  So can we!


Third, He continues on showing everyone that He is the Son of God, not only through what He spoke but the miracles He performed.  He has the power of God to heal physically in temporal time and to save for eternity.  He heals Peter’s mother-in-law.  Yes, Peter was married!  His wife was a recipient of Jesus healing.  Don’t you just love how she is healed immediately serves Jesus as if she had never had the fever.  I would love to see us do that after recovering from the flu!  What a Super Savior who has carried us through Covid 19.


He goes with His disciples across the sea of Galilee in a boat!  When I visited Israel in 2017 I had opportunity to do the same.  True to the lake’s reputation, our trip started on calm waters which quickly became rough.  With Jesus in the boat, no matter how rough the waters, all He has to do is speak the word and the storms cease.  We have the advantage over those disciples of old who were in the boat with Jesus because we know that He is the Son of God, our Super Savior who willingly died for our sins, rose again on the third day!  He has said the Word for our lives so that through faith we will come through every storm through life.  He has promised that one day He will come again to take us and all believers to Himself in heaven.  Our arrival at our heavenly destination is just as certain as was the disciples’ safe arrival on the opposite shore!


Prayer:  Lord Jesus, You are our Super Savior!  Through the storms of life lead us to present to You in prayer our every need, knowing that according to Your will, You will work all things for our good.  In Your precious name we pray.  Amen.

Lent: Matthew 5 & 6

What a blessing it is to walk with our Lord, living our lives in His Word each day during this time of Lent.  I hope to share thoughts about the daily readings from Hebrews and Matthew.  Please share your thoughts with me via email at holyfaith@verizon.net!  (Past posts may be accessed by clicking the Home page footer “Lent:  Walking with Christ.”)


Matthew 5 and 6 takes us into Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  No doubt it is the most famous and often quoted sermon ever preached.  It is perhaps also the most often misunderstood as well.  It is not a summary of the whole Christian faith.  As a matter of fact, it’s safe to say that a person who claims to find all their religion in the these chapters is misguided.  If we read this sermon without an understanding of the rest of the Bible will lead us in dangerous directions.

 An unbeliever is likely to interpret Jesus’ words as a prescription for making oneself righteous and earning a place in the kingdom of God.  When he takes a close look at the requirements, he may decide it isn’t worth the effort.  Or he may take only a superficial look and convince himself that he is capable of saving himself by his own efforts.  There is no way that we can produce the righteousness God demands of us.


Take the Beatitudes (statements of blessing) that introduce this sermon.  They don’t tell us how by our own effort to become blessed.  Instead they describe the blessedness that already belongs to all who believe in Christ.  They don’t describe eight kinds of believers.  They present eight ways in which all Christians are blessed because of Jesus.  All Christians are poor in spirit.  They all mourn and are meek.  They all hunger and thirst for righteousness and are merciful and pure in heart.


As we examine ourselves, we have to confess that we possess these characteristics only to a limited extent.  We are made to realize that we forfeit many blessings because of our sin, failing to live up to the ideals Jesus expresses here.  Jesus is perfectly each of these.  With faith in Him, we are better able to possess these blessings and to grow in our walk with Him.


Chapters 5 and 6 are full of so many truths for us.  I love Jesus’ use of salt and light to describe His disciples.  Jesus has salted our lives with His forgiveness and grace.  As we possess His love and forgiveness through faith and practice those blessings in our lives, we season our families, our relationships, our church and so on.  As Jesus is the perfect Light of the World and especially the Light of our lives, He enables us to let our light shine before others as they see the good works the Father causes to happen through us that they then praise Him (5:13-16). 


How about Jesus’ admonition for us to love especially our enemies (5:43-47)?  No small task, right?  Just look how Jesus loved his enemies.  As he was lifted on the cross the first words of His mouth were “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”  Wow, compassion despite the pain!  We can never love our enemies to Jesus’ level.  That’s why His words really hit home, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Jesus makes us His friends with His forgiveness and empowers us to pray for our enemies.


So many other gems from our Lord.  Jesus teaches His disciples to pray (6:5-14).  He blesses us with the perfect prayer we know as The Lord’s Prayer.  Jesus reminds us of the treasure of heaven and the challenge of our hearts being open to the Lord instead of the world.  Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.


He then ends the teaching shared in His Sermon on the Mount with the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders.  May we not only read these words of Jesus.  We need to put them into practice.  We are saved by faith in Christ alone, but saving faith always finds ways to give witness through good works.  It’s like a person who builds his house on the rock.  The foundation is firm and solid, not like sinking sand!  1 Corinthians 3:11 says, “No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  May we receive Christ’s forgiveness and grace and put His words to work with His compassionate heart within us!


May the words of “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” be the prayerful conviction of our hearts:


My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

No merit of my own I claim But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.  Amen.

Lent: Matthew 3 & 4

With chapter three we see the transition from Old Covenant to New, from OT prophecy to fulfillment of all prophecy in Jesus.  We hear of John the Baptizer out in the Judean wilderness, baptizing in the Jordan River.  John’s message of repentance echoed the call of all the OT prophets.  Soon Jesus would take up calling His people to repentance.  Repentance involves a change of mind and heart that leads to a change of direction in daily behavior and life.  The full definition of repentance includes recognizing our sin as disobedience to God’s commandments, feeling truly sorry for our sin, having the sincere to amend our sinful ways, and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation.  It’s not a one-time act but a life of repentance and forgiveness.  In his 95 Theses, which mark the beginning of the Reformation, Martin Luther declared that the entire life of a Christian is to be characterized by repentance.  So there is no such thing as an impenitent Christian.  Repentance includes all our sins, even those which we may not be aware, and Jesus’ forgiveness is complete.  When He forgives, He forgives it all.  Anything less would be of no value, because the guilt of a single sin means condemnation and separation from God (James 2:10ff).


John the Baptizer calls upon us to “repent for the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is near.”  This phrase is only in Matthew’s gospel some 33 times.  This kingdom of heaven is a present reality for all of us through faith in Jesus.  It is our certain hope as well when life’s earthly journey comes to its end.  The Kingdom has arrived in Jesus and is central to Jesus’ teaching and the purpose of His saving work.


John has been used by the Lord to prepare the way for Jesus.  Matthew uses the prophet Isaiah (40:3) to show how John fulfills this task for Jesus.  Just as the road would be smoothed and even straightened for an approaching monarch, so John’s hearers were to clear away everything that would be an obstacle to Christ’s coming to them.  I am reminded of the author of Hebrews bidding us “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”   Of course that happens through what John calls us to do, repent and be baptized, where the Lord is at work to make straight the paths for us.  Some claim John’s baptism of repentance is different from baptism after Jesus’ arrival.  But that’s just not true.  They are both “the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit… (Titus 3:5).  Whether John was God’s agent or one of the disciples or any other modern-day Christian pastor, it is the Holy Spirit flowing from Father and Son that works its efficacy!  It makes us part of that Kingdom of Heaven and marks us as God the Father’s own!


“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.”  Finally the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world has arrived.  Here is the one whose sandals John was not worthy to untie.  John understandably suggests Jesus should be baptizing him.  Maybe John had within the question that so many of us have, “Why does the sinless Son of God need to be baptized so that His sins are washed away?  Jesus stands as example to remind us how important baptism is for our lives.  Jesus needs not so much to have His sins washed away as to stand into sinful life with each of us.  In my trip to Israel I was able to celebrate my baptism standing in the Jordan River sprinkled with water and blessing by Bishop Steinbronn.  The water was so muddy that it left dirt marks on my navy jacket.  I like to think of Jesus baptism as His beginning to bring our sins into Himself.  It’s as if the process begins for His receiving our sins into himself.  As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”


No sooner does He come up out of the river for Him to face the temptation of the evil one in ways we cannot even imagine.  After all, sinful folks like you and me are easy prey for the devil.  Just imagine how the devil must have pulled out all the stops to conquer the sinless Son of God.  Jesus stands firm in each temptation, parrying each of the devil’s thrusts with the word of God.  The sin of “me-first”, so familiar to humankind Jesus proclaims the importance of God’s Word Deut. 8:3).  Trying to shake Jesus’ confidence in who/whose He is Jesus responds “Do not put the Lord Your God to the test (Ps. 91:11-12).  Against the sin of power and control Jesus spoke the truth of the First Commandment, “Worship the Lord Your God and serve Him only” (Deut. 6:13).  So we, too, have the armor of God (Eph. 6) to put the devil in his place.


We are Jesus’ disciples!  As we hear Him call Peter and Andrew, James and John to follow Him, Jesus’ voice affirms us in our callling.  They were fishermen and so Jesus calls us to be fishers of people.  While the Bible uses the word “follow,” knowing Jesus’ mercy and great the picture in my mind is the invitation to walk with Him.  That’s what we are doing this Lenten time as we are in the Word!  We are Walking with Jesus and, if you are like me, there are many times in this journey in which He carries me.  You know the poem “Footprints in the Sand.”  Whey I am weak, when I am overcome by it all, when I struggle to find words to express the way I feel, He’s there carrying me!


Prayer:  Savior Jesus, walk with us this Lent and always.  Carry us in Your loving arms when the going gets tough.  Lead us to the cross and, beyond it, to the glorious resurrection.  In Your precious name.  Amen

Lent: Matthew 1 & 2

With the encouragement of the unknown writer to the Hebrews in our minds, we turn now to the Gospel of Matthew.  The author of Hebrews has reminded Jewish-Christians of the superiority of Jesus as our High Priest.  We don’t have to ceremonially sacrifice with all of its bloody mess.  Jesus has entered the God-made Holy of Holies with His blood, dying once and for all, paying the price to buy us back and make us right with our God!  In Matthew we hear the “Good News” (Gospel) of all Jesus has done for us.


By way of background, this Gospel was written by the disciple Matthew.  I believe that this Gospel was written before the others.  After all, Matthew was an eyewitness to all Jesus did.  He had to rely on none other to record this inspired record of Jesus’ life.  Since he was a tax collector in Capernaum, he was accustomed to keeping accurate records and was familiar with Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  Matthew tells us how Jesus found him at his tax collector’s booth and said, “Follow me.”  Tax collectors were a sinful lot, skimming off the top of the proceeds they collected for Rome for their own pockets.  Matthew followed, repenting his sinful ways and allowing Jesus to change his life.  Matthew was so filled with joy that he threw what I like to call a “Matthew party,” inviting his friends and neighbors to meet Jesus.  So the Holy Spirit used Matthew to write this wonderful Gospel


Matthew wrote this Gospel especially for Jewish readers.  I think the readers of Hebrews would benefit from this Gospel.  As Hebrews was full of OT references, so Matthew refers to and quotes from the OT more than 60 times.  The first book in the NT, Matthew bridges the OT prophets and their fulfillment by Jesus and moves us from old covenant to new. This is a great Gospel for any of our Jewish friends open to Jesus to dig into.


With Hebrews’ Hall of Faith in chapter 11 still ringing in our ears, Matthew starts his Gospel with a genealogy to prove Jesus is the son of David.  Starting with Abraham he goes through the family tree all the way to Jesus.  God’s Son existed from eternity but had to be born a human like you and me.  In this genealogy Matthew shows us how this happened in accordance with prophecy.  Through folks in Hebrews’ Hall of Faith and with others like evil Ahaz, we see how God traced this gift of the Messiah.


The Gospel of Matthew shows us the faithfulness of Joseph!  What a great stepfather, empowered by Jesus’ heavenly Father to care for Him.  Joseph had every earthly reason to push Mary away.  By the law of the day her life could even be taken.  But Joseph was a righteous man and he wanted to do what was best for all.  His heart was open to his God and I think he truly loved Mary.  Joseph received welcome news from the angel of the Lord in a dream.  Joseph’s doubts of Mary’s faithfulness were completely dispelled.  This special child would be called Immanuel, which means “God with Us” and Joseph would have the privilege of caring for God’s Son, the promised Messiah, who would bear the name Jesus (“God Saves”).


In chapter 2 we see God’s care for Jesus using Joseph and Mary.  The Gospel of Matthew alone tells us about the visit of the Wise Men.  Wealthy scholars and counselors to kings in Persia, they have been searching the heavens for sign of the Savior to come.  They begin their journey at the time of Jesus’ birth and probably arrive a year or so later.  Going to evil king Herod, murderer of many family members and others that fanned the flames of his jealous rage, he tries to dupe the Magi into letting him know where this King of the Jews was.  You know the story well.  The star leads them to the house where they worship the child Jesus and give to him their gifts.  The first Gentiles like you and me to worship Jesus.  The gifts they gave praised him as their King (gold), Priest (frankincense) and Sacrifice (myrrh used in anointing dead bodies.  So the Lord calls us, wise men and women that He has made us, to worship Him and to offer our gifts to Him.


Those lavish gifts given by the Magi would be the earthly means for Jesus’ protection.  Warned by God in a dream, the wise men turned their backs to evil king Herod and went home another way.  The angel of the Lord also warned Joseph in a dream to leave Bethlehem and go to Egypt for safety.  Isn’t it wonderful how the Lord works?  Those lavish gifts became the means by which the Immanuel – God with Us | Genesis Bible Fellowship Churchholy family could make this trip.  As Herod vented his rage, murdering the male children of Bethlehem, Jesus was safe to carry forward our salvation. 


So we have Immanuel, “God with Us.”  As wonderful God’s salvation plan worked in Jesus, He has a plan for our lives.  We have means as well.  Yes, earthly means for us to carry on our lives in blessing others.  But more importantly we have Means of Grace, the tools through which God’s Holy Spirit brings to us His undeserved love.  The Word of God we read this Lent is the “power of God” for those who are being saved (1 Cor. 1:18).  Baptism is the “living water” that cleanses us from our sins and clears our consciences (John 4).  Our Savior’s Supper is the body and blood of our Risen Savior to fill us with courage and strength of live for Jesus.  Thank God we walk with Immanuel this Lent and always, “God with us”, working His saving plan for our lives!  

Lent: Hebrews 12 & 13

What an awesome trip through the Old Testament’s Hall of Faith in chapter 11!!  How important persistent faith is for them and for us!  It’s as some massive cloud of heroes surrounding those Jewish-Christians tempted to leave the Christian faith.  It’s as if those heroes are shouting from the pages of the Bible to them and us, “Don’t give up!!  Keep on keeping on!  You’re on the right track!”  And so the author of Hebrews ends his letter with wonderful words of encouragement living that faith!


I love the athletic picture the author vividly uses to urge his readers on.  In the Greek world of the ancient Olympics he uses a Greek word for race from which our English word “agony” comes.  No pain no gain, right?  The author is talking about a contest that involves the pain of getting in shape, the exertion and struggle then in the race, and as I am constantly reminded being an older guy, the pain beyond the contest.  He uses the present tense that means we should keep on running.  This contest of living our faith is life-long and requires perseverance.  It’s not so much a 100-yard-dash as a marathon.


Not only do we need to run with perseverance, the serious racer eliminates all that can hinder him.  Any extra weight, whether of body or clothing, can only slow the runner.  Greek racers ran in the scantiest clothing, some even nude.  And so we need to heed Hebrews and throw off the sin that so easily entangles.  We can only do that through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.  I always think of Paul as an academic who enjoyed (rather than participated) in athletics.  Paul understood Hebrew’s picture of the Christian life, though.  Paul writes in Philippians 3:13-14, “One thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”


But alas, that great cloud of witnesses can only encourage us, but not strengthen us.  For that strength and stamina we need to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”  Again it’s the present tense to remind us that we need to keep on fixing our eyes on Jesus throughout our lives!  He’s the author and perfecter, the One who writes, strengthens and perfects our faith all the way to heaven.  From A to Z he is both the object and the cause of our faith, giving us something to believe in and the faith to do so.


I love Hebrew’s statement of joyous intent regarding Jesus’ lifesaving work for us.  He endured the cross!  As we walk with Jesus this Lententime we feel the pain.  We may give something up for Lent, practicing spiritual discipline that may hurt us a bit.  Maybe, as Hebrews shares, there’s something happening in our lives that God has allowed.  After all, we are His sons and daughters and there’s a lot of teaching our heavenly Father has for us.  It all points us to Jesus who even scorned the cross’ shame and did it all in joy.  Even as he suffered he felt and was motivated by his love for you and me.  What joy he had, despite the pain, in working our forgiveness and empowered lives as Christians!


The unknown author to Hebrews then closes in chapter 13 with encouragement for us to live that very same love and to live it with JOY!  As Jesus love for us is the same yesterday, today and forever, He gives all sorts of practical applications for us to love one another!  In that time of persecution, when everyone was afraid and uncertain of who might be friend and enemy, Hebrews encourages folks to love as brothers and sisters.   (Look at John 13:34, 1 Thes. 4:9, 1 Peter 1:22 & 1 John 3:11.)  So we, too, here the encouragement to love our brothers and sisters in the faith AND strangers as well!


In our so doing, we may even entertain strangers!  During Hebrews time of persecution, many were forced to flee from their towns because of danger.  There were many who also traveled about during these tough times sharing the Good News of Jesus.  Not only would they benefit from hospitality, but the ones who offer it will as well.  Great was Abraham’s benefit in Gen. 18:3 and Lot’s in 19:2 when the strangers they invited into their homes turned out to be angels.


We probably will never entertain angels through our good works for others.  Caution needs to be practiced as we help those we don’t know.  Yet Christian hospitality is the work of those who are Christ-like.  Jesus said in Matt. 25:40, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers/sisters of mine, you did for me.”  May our lives, families, church and country be welcoming to the stranger!


May the author’s blessing for his readers especially be upon us (v.20-21) – May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen

Lent: Hebrews 10 & 11

What a blessing it is to walk with our Lord, living our lives in His Word each day during this time of Lent.  I hope to share thoughts about the daily readings from Hebrews and Matthew.  Please share your thoughts with me via email at holyfaith@verizon.net!  (Past posts may be accessed by clicking the Home page footer “Lent:  Walking with Christ.”)


As we move into chapters 10 and 11, the author of Hebrews shares with us what we are to do with this supreme treasure that is ours because our Great High Priest has entered the Holy of Holies with the sacrifice of Himself.  Just read 10:19.  “Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place… and since we have a Great High Priest over the house of God… let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess…  Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together… but let us encourage one another…  Therein is the Christian life with direct access to God, first He to us through His Word, the washing of Baptism, the Body and Blood of the Great High Priest, which then second spurs us on to draw near to Him in prayer, living the faith He has given and nurtured, living lives filled with good works helping others.  With faith holding onto God with His promises fulfilled in Christ, it is a life filled with confidence, encouragement, fellowship and divine strength!


Focusing in chapter 10 on the necessity of faith, Hebrews 11 then gives us perhaps the grandest chapter in the Bible on faith.  The author doesn’t pretend to say all there is to say regarding faith.  He gives us a definition and then a visual description of faith.  Before us He sets the heroes of faith, women and men who had faith’s 20/20 vision and as a result trusted God’s promises of what they could not see with their natural eyes and endured persecution which they could not have borne with their own strength.  A walk through of this “Hall of Faith” will do the reader of any century much good.


What is faith?  It’s not some blind leaping into the dark.  Nor is it some uncertain hoping for the best, disregarding facts and assuming all will be well.  “Faith is being sure of what we hope for.”  “Being sure” is having solid confidence.  Faith brings the future into the present because it makes things hoped for as real as if we already had them.  Christ coming again and our future lives with Him in heaven are not only hoped for, but real and certain to the believer.  Faith is “being certain of what we do not see.”  Though we have not seen creation or the crucifixion, though we weren’t present to witness the flood or the Savior rising from the tomb on Easter, though we have not heard His actual voice forgiving us our sins and promising His future return, yet we believe.  For the believer faith is a sixth sense making the invisible seen and certain.


The author then points to the faith-filled heroes of the Old Testament.  Through them he shows his readers that faith trusts God absolutely, that faith is convinced what God says if true and what He promises will come to pass.  These saints of old trusted in God’s promise of the Messiah (chosen One) to come, we trust in the Risen Christ who has come.  They looked forward to the one way New Testament to come, we live knowing that it has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ our Savior!


Read through Hebrews Hall of Faith in chapter 11 again.  Here are a few awesome insights that jump out at me:

            —  God does not play favorites with faith.  There are men and women, a deceiver like Jacob and a prostitute named Rahab.  Each a sinner and a saint, just like us!

            — v. 5 mentions Enoch.  Only other place in the Bible is Genesis 5:18-24.  Thought to have been taken by God to heaven before an earthly death.  Elijah and his flaming chariot is the only other to be received into God’s house before dying.

            — The faith of Abraham, trusting in God’s promises as he leaves Ur with an uncertain future!

            — v. 19 and the sacrifice of Isaac.  As a father of an only-begotten son I have always struggled with how Abraham was able to carry God’s command forward.  It was only when enlightened by Hebrews and this verse that says “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead.”  Abraham knew that even if God took his son, He was able to raise the dead and Abraham would be with Isaac again.  What a powerful type pointing to the sacrifice of God’s only-begotten!

            — The prostitute Rahab in v. 31 ends Hebrews list, yet how many more heroes there were that could have been included!


The chapter ends commending these heroes for their faith.  Yet there was a promise ahead that has been fulfilled now for them and for us in the coming of Jesus.  At our 40th Anniversary we put up a Wall of Faith with pictures of each confirmation class over the years.  Yes, we are part of Hebrews’ Hall of Faith.  Or better said, we are God’s heroes of Holy Faith!  Our name comes from Jude 20, “build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”   May we live our faith in Jesus!


Prayer:  My faith looks up to Thee,

            Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine.

            Now hear me while I pray; Take all my guilt away;

            O let me from this day Be wholly Thine!  Amen.

Lent: Hebrews 8 & 9


What a blessing it is to walk with our Lord, living our lives in His Word each day during this time of Lent.  I hope to share thoughts about the daily readings from Hebrews and Matthew.  Please share your thoughts with me via email at holyfaith@verizon.net!  (Past posts may be accessed by clicking the Home page footer “Lent:  Walking with Christ.”)


What a wondrous High Priest we have in Jesus!  With Jewish-Christians tempted in the face of Roman and secular persecution to leave Christ and return to Judaism, and with the importance of the earthly High Priest vivid in their minds, the author of Hebrews blesses them and us with an awe-inspiring vision of the greatest High Priest we have!  He serves in the divine tabernacle/temple/church that God has created:  Heaven!


You see, earthly priests of the tribe of Levi served in the earthly, man-made temple of God.  Of course it has its place to strengthen faith-lived lives.  The temple was filled with ritual ceremony based upon the old covenant.  Priests would perform ritual sacrifice over-and-over again, with the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies once a year on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  There had to be life for life.  The offering of blood and its sprinkling on the people symbolized the atonement (at-one-ment) that God wanted His people to have with Him.  It pointed to the Jesus to come.  But it was all simply a shadow of the Father’s house, a reflection of what Jesus came to do.


It was all based on the Old Covenant which was flawed.  The flaw wasn’t present by God’s design.  The Old Covenant worked in and of itself.  Jeremiah (some 600 years before Christ), quoted by the author in vv. 8-12, says it well, “…they did not remain faithful to my covenant…”  It was a two way, conditional (Ex. 4:8), and sinful humankind just cannot live up to it to be at one with God.  The fault didn’t rest with the covenant.  God found fault with sinful people!

God, in His all-knowingness and in His love for humankind, from the beginning planned for a new covenant.  The word translated here “covenant” can mean a two-way conditional contract or it can be translated “will” or “testament.”  God already had a new covenant or last-will-and-testament in His divine will for us.  And it would require a Mediator, Jesus, who would shed His own blood to make things right with His and our Father.  God has written the boundaries of His will in our hearts (the Law) so that with the forgiveness of our God (Gospel), offered by our great High Priest, we can live in Christ’s strength, keeping the Law (yet imperfectly) out of love for our Lord.  He establishes a New Covenant, a one-way last will and testament from Him to us, giving us the inheritance of everything He has earned on the cross.  We have His Supper where He is both Host and Food.  He sets the table and Himself gives us His body and blood, are foretaste of the Feast to come.

 Jesus entered the Holy of Holies in God’s temple once.  On a Friday we call “Good” only because of the forgiveness we now receive, Jesus willfully, in love with us gave His life once and for all on a cross.  We will mournfully remember in Tenebrae (darkness) His sacrifice in just a few short weeks.  The Yom Kippur above every Yom Kippur, when Jesus proclaimed “Father forgive them” and “it is finished” within the action of His loving sacrifice, everything for us to be free from sin, guilt, and death has been and remains completed for us!  Remember the earthquake that split the thick, metal mesh curtain covering the entryway to the Holy of Holies?  We have direct access to our God, He to us and us to Him.  And then Jesus signed, sealed and delivered His last will and testament by His glorious resurrection!  All of God’s promises for us are fulfilled in Him.


Christ is the One!  Because of our Great High Priest, as God said through Jeremiah so long before,  “I will be their God, and they will be My people…  For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  How hard that is for us to do, right?  How often the words are shared by those flawed with sin: “I will forgive them, but I can’t forget.”  Yet our omniscient, all-knowing God, who could remember every itty-bitty detail of our most egregious sin chooses to remember those sins no more!  If God has so let go of our sins because of His Son, we can too with one another!


Pray with me:  Jesus, we thank You for being THE High Priest for us.  You sacrificed Yourself once-and-for-all so that we are forgiven and right with our God.  Continue to bless our Lenten walk.  Empower us to love and forgive each other as our God loves and forgives us.  It’s all because of You!  In Your name.  Amen.