Lent: Walking with Christ



Hebrews 1


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!


To start, just a few background thoughts …  There’s a bit of uncertainty regarding the background of Hebrews.  We don’t know for sure who wrote it.  Some suggest Paul, but the style of composition and Greek just isn’t right.  I personally like Barnabas as the author, after all he was a Levite and would have known much regarding priestly function.  His name means “one who encourages” as Hebrews is a letter of encouragement to its hard-pressed readers (13:22).  Martin Luther thought it might be Apollos, the Alexandrian born pastor of the early church, learned in Scripture and eloquent in speech.  Even the German theologian Harnack has his two cents to share suggesting that it was Priscilla (with Aquila the leaders of a house church in Rome).  Harnack suggests that’s why the author’s name has been lost. He suggests that women were not allowed to teach in the church so that a great cover-up took place.  In the end the words of the early church father, Origin, are certainly true:  “Only God knows who wrote Hebrews.” 


It’s also not known for sure who the recipients of this letter were.  The letter itself doesn’t name them.  There are clues within though.  The readers were a group of Christians with whom the author, as shared in 13:19, had once lived and with whom he hoped to be reunited.  They had been Christians for a while, as 5:12 shows, but were in danger of growing complacent and leaving the faith.  They had suffered persecution and were in danger of suffering it again as 10:32-34 indicates.  They also seemed to have been of Jewish background because of the letters many Old Testament quotes and frequent references to the worship life of God’s Old Testament people.  It’s thought that this letter was written at a time of persecution for Jewish Christians in the Roman world.  The Roman empire allowed Judaism at this time, while challenging, even to the point of death, anyone who had converted to this new heresy called Christianity.


What we can be certain of and thankful to God for is the Spirit inspired work of this nameless one who wrote with incomparable skill and beauty about Jesus whos is the way to God and the source of forgiveness and love that encourages us and gives us eternal life.


So the writer to the Hebrews, more quickly than any other epistle, gets to the task in today’s reading.  Without any introduction or greeting, the author directs the readers’ focus.  It’s as if he just can’t wait to share the superiority of Jesus Christ.




Jesus is the perfect revealing of God for us!  At the end of all, He is the heir, the owner of all.  At the beginning of all, He is the Creator.  He is the glory of God (remember our celebration of the Transfiguration two weeks ago).  All of God’s attributes radiate forward from Him.  He perfectly represents all that God is, bringing God into focus for us.  He preserves the world through the power of His Word.  And during this Lent we especially see Him as our sin bearer.  That’s the most amazing glory of all:  the Sovereign Lord became our Sacrificial Lamb!


So that we find comfort and encouragement!  After all, we are tired and challenged just like those Jewish-Christians.  We hear the exhortation to look to the Lamb.  In a world that is often pushing against our faith, with the devil prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, we are strengthened to keep the faith.  Already in Lent we have this view of the victory of Christ.  During this time of Lent may we lift up our eyes to the Lord!


Hebrews 2


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!


How our unnamed author is like a pastor in chapter 2.  In many ways, Hebrews is like a pastoral message!  Having stressed the importance and superiority of Christ, he turns to concern for his readers.  “Don’t drift away,” he exhorts.  Fishing in Canada, I was out to catch walleye on a super windy day.  While trolling by allowing the boat to blow in the winds direction, I focused on my fishing rather than my location.  Having blown so far adrift, if not for my compass I would never have returned to the safety of our cabin.  We have the message spoken by angels.  It’s the Ten Commandments which Jews firmly believe was given by God to Moses with the involvement of angels (look up Deuteronomy 33:2, Acts 7:38, Galatians 3:19).  How easy for us to lock in on the immediate goals of our lives, drifting further and further from God’s will for our lives.  Yet not having the compass, the Way back (the Truth and the Life, Jn. 14:6), God’s Plan of Salvation (GPS) is even worse!  This way of salvation is announced by Jesus, superior to the angels.  He is both Messenger and Message.  He comes not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28).  How important for us to stay on course, allowing Him to create clean hearts and renew a right spirit within!


For we are the objects of God’s grace.  In love He made us a little lower than the angels.  He place us over His “good” creation.  As some angels fell from heaven into sin, so humankind in league with the chief fallen angel messed it all up.  Yet Hebrews, quoting Psalm 8, points us to Jesus whom we can see in God’s Word.  Even when circumstances around the world and in our lives are difficult, we trust He who tasted death completely so that our salvation is secure.  He calls us sister and brother !!  Think about that for a moment!  Say with me with all your heart, “Thank You, Jesus!!


He even knows the temptations the evil one puts us through.  This Sunday our Gospel presents Jesus after His baptism tempted in the wilderness.  Just think how the devil must have turned up the heat when he tempted the sinless Son of God.  We are easier prey.   It’s all too easy for us to give in to his deception.  But Jesus is there for us.  He keeps us firm not in who we are but “whose” we are.  In the face of the devil’s temptation we can declare, “I am a baptized child of God, a sister or brother of the Savior Himself!”  Live confidently this Lent and always in the forgiveness and strength of Jesus!


Prayer:  Lord Jesus, keep us from drifting from You.  Keep us on course with our faith focused on You:  the Way, the Truth and the Life.  When the evil one tempts us, help us to stand in Baptismal grace.  Empower us to live confidently in You!  In Your precious name.  Amen.


Hebrews 3


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!


As our walk with Jesus continues in our daily readings of Hebrews, we move to chapter 3.  Jesus is greater than anything and anyone!  We are the objects of God’s grace!  Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life!  He is with us through temptation so that we can focus our eyes of faith on Him!  Thank You, Jesus!!


I love the way the writer of Hebrews addresses his readers as “holy brothers (and sisters), who share in the heavenly calling.”  Those words define who we are as well!  We are brothers and sisters of Christ, united with the writer and each other through our faith in Him.  We are “holy”, forgiven and set apart to be people on Christ’s mission.  We are called by God to be about this mission, so it comes from heaven!  And of course, its goal is the final home we all have in heaven with Jesus!  It’s all because of Him!


As Jesus is greater than angels, so He is greater than the key leader of Israel, Moses.  Of course that was radical news to Judaism.  Moses was God’s man to lead His people out of Egypt.  In Moses, God’s people saw the wonder and power of God (the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of manna and quail in the dessert).  It was Moses who had received from God the Law, the Ten Commandments, the center of Jewish focus.  Moses was so key in Jewish thought that He’s the OT figure most referenced in the entire New Testament.  But for these Jewish Christians to leave Jesus and turn back to the Moses of Judaism… yikes!!  What a disaster!!  The Law cannot save!  Only Jesus can (Acts 4:12).


So the writer of Hebrews exhorts his readers and us to “fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and High Priest we confess.”  This is the only place in the Bible where the descriptive word “apostle” is connected to Jesus.  But just think about it.  “Apostle” means “sent one”, one who comes with a message from another.  He is the Messenger.  He’s also our High Priest.  The High Priest was the one who entered the Holy of Holies in the temple once a year on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  As that act symbolized the atonement that the coming Messiah would bring, we know Jesus as the Christ (Messiah in Hebrew), “the anointed One” sent from God into this world all because of His love and gracious will for all of us to have eternal life (John 3:16)  We are right with God because of Him!


We hear God’s voice in His Word and turn not our hearts away from the living God.  The writer quotes Psalm 95 emphasizing a heart check right now:  “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”  Yesterday I wanted to take one of the “to-do’s” off the list.  The kitchen sink needed to be re-caulked.  But when I found the tube of caulk it was so hard it was good for nothing.  The task remains.  Jews viewed the heart as center of the entire being.  Sin is a heart problem.  For the heart that has experienced the blessings of the Lord to deliberately turn from Him and shut out the Holy Spirit?  What a spiritual disaster!!  For such a heart, the task of softening remains on the Spirit’s list.  The danger is that the Spirit can be shut away for eternity!

May we this lent hear the Lord’s voice calling us to repentance:  “Turn to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding with steadfast love!”  Than respond to His forgiveness and love, carry out our calling as “ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20) for the true apostle Jesus.


 Prayer:  Lord Jesus, we praise You for being both apostle and High Priest.  Not only do you reveal to us a message of God’s love in Your Word, You embody that message all the way to the cross.  Keep our hearts open to You this Lent and always.  Help us to be Your ambassadors through what we say and do!  In Your precious name.  Amen.


Hebrews 4-5:10


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.”)


I’m thankful for the schedule’s catchup day on Sunday!  I have been fighting a cold, thankful that it’s not covid.  With a rough night last night due to the coughing, I’m thankful for Pastor Dennis covering for me this morning!  God is good and blesses us with His servants!


My poor body needed rest!  God created all things in six days and on the seventh day He rested.  He declared all that He had made “good” and this includes that day of rest.  We wander from resting on the Sabbath.  In our hurry-up, get-it-done world there’s just no time.  But in God’s plan He sent an important example for us:  to rest from our labors, turn to Him, and find eternal rest!


In our next section of Hebrews (4:1-5:10) the key word is rest.  It’s there 8 times in chapter 4 and the encouragement of the author’s pastoral heart.  Again the author starts with a word of caution.  “Be careful that none of you fall short of (God’s eternal rest).”  That rest isn’t only about the safe place throughout life for us to gather our spiritual breath (the Holy Spirit is that breath).  The author is also talking about an eternal rest which is heaven itself!  God rested on the seventh day after creation in perfect contentment and infinite satisfaction.  He wants to share it with His children.


The challenge is that many folks, OT and us, hear the promise.  Promise is another word important to the book of Hebrews.  We find it fourteen times in Hebrews, more than any other NT book.  In the OT that Lord promised a land and a Savior.  The promised land was delivered by God through His servant Joshua.  Yes, God’s people enjoyed an imperfect rest in the earthly place God delivered.  But in the Savior an eternal land is delivered.  He came to be our High Priest, to be both messenger and message, and to give His life for us.  He did it all so that we have an eternal place in His heavenly kingdom.  The pastor of Hebrews holds forth that promise and warns that we need not only listen with our ears but believe with our hearts.  Listen to Jesus in John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”


Today is the day for us to believe the promises of God!  Jesus words are true for you and me, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).  Through faith we come to Jesus through His Word and Supper and there we find the forgiveness and rest we need!


We have the Sabbath for that special day to be strengthened.  Sabbath means rest.  For the Jewish faith it’s Saturday.  For you and me, empowered by our faith in Christ, the Sabbath is Sunday.  The early church moved it to the first day of the week because the heart of our faith is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Not only did Christ rise on a Sunday (Easter), the church was born on Sunday (Pentecost).  Alleluia, Christ is risen…  He is risen indeed, alleluia!  May we gather on Sabbath Sundays, midweek Lenten devotions and in our individual devotions around God’s “double edged sword”, His Word, convicting us with His Law and giving us the message of the Risen Savior Jesus to share in our world.


Prayer:  Lord Jesus, may the words of the hymn be true for us –

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,

Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,

Overcoming daily by the Spirit’s sword,

Standing on the promises of God.


Standing, standing, standing on the promises of God my Savior;

Standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God.  Amen!


Hebrews 5:11-6:20


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.”)


In this section the author’s pastoral heart keeps shining through!  He had so much to share with them regarding Jesus as our High Priest.  There was a problem though.  It wasn’t with the subject of the presentation.  It was with the hearers.  “You are slow to learn,” the author scolded, using a word that means “dull” or “numb.”  Ears that were eager to listen had become dull and unhearing.  The author isn’t griping at his hearers, rather he is getting them and us ready to hear of Christ glorious priesthood and what it means for a believers life.  He seeks to open ears and hearts!


At this point in their faith walk they should have been teachers.  But Hebrew’s pastor encourages them in the elemental truths.  With the persecution they were enduring, many of the foundational teachings were being called into question in their minds.  The author doesn’t abandon the ABC’s of the faith.  He lifts them up and encourages his readers to build on those truths.


We know the fundamentals!  The first is repentance.  The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).  Repentance is that 180 degree turn from self to our Lord.  He works sorrow over our sins within us.  He turns us to Jesus who is the answer for our sins.  And He gives us strength to fight against doing that sin again.  Lent is all about repentance.  But it’s also secondly about faith.  As we walk with Jesus in His Word, faith is what reaches out to hold onto Jesus and His work for us.  And third, instruction in the truths of what is ours in baptism.  We are blessed in so many ways with new life springing up every day as we live the truth of whose we are.  Finally, the fundamental of resurrection and judgement.  It’s going to be one or the other for each of us.  The resurrection of Jesus is the very heart of what we believe. As Romans 6:4 says, Our sinful self has been buried with Christ in His death so that as Christ is risen we have strength to live our lives in Him!  So we can grow and build upon these fundamentals in our walk with Jesus.


So a person dare not turn their back on the Holy Spirit.  Known as the unforgiveable sin, Hebrews 6:4 gets into this challenge a bit.  Land that receives the water of life brings forth a crop.  But land that receives that same water and produces weeds and thistles is in danger of being cursed.  So those who have received the life-giving water of Jesus, to then turn their backs on Him, are in danger of being locked into “the wages of sin.”  I know what you are probably thinking.  How can omnipotent God, full of love and forgiveness for us, have a wrong that He will not forgive?  The truth is Jesus died for that sin, too.  God wants to forgive even that sin, but can do no more for a heart shut tight from His love.  Thank God we are open to Him.  In verse 9 the author encourages his readers (including us) of greater things ahead as we grow in faith filled by the Holy Spirit.  Our lives are anchored in Him!


Prayer:  Lord Jesus, our lives are anchored in YOU!  May our hearts remain open to Your Holy Spirit that we may ever grow in faith and build upon the elemental truths in true spiritual maturity.  Walk with us this Lenten time and always.  You are our certain, living hope.  Amen.


Hebrews 7


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.”)


Wow, does the author dig into the whole High Priesthood of Jesus!  And then the whole Melchizedek thing.  What’s up with that?  Don’t get frustrated with Hebrews here.  Let the beautiful picture unfold!


It’s difficult for us to realize how central the priesthood was to the Jewish faith and how tightly the faith of the Jews clung to it.  The appeal to leave Christianity with the ongoing persecution of Jewish-Christians was strong and some might think the priesthood was a good fall back for them.  To counteract this pull the author of Hebrews convincingly shows the superiority of Christ’s priesthood by pointing to Jesus office and showing how he was a priest after Melchizedek and not the later order of Levi.


There’s not a whole lot know about this guy Melchizedek.  Almost 2000 years before Christ’s birth we find him first mentioned in a seeming inconsequential scene with the esteemed patriarch of Judaism:  Abraham.  Then there’s nothing more until 1000 years later when David picks up his name in Psalm 110:4.  Now it’s almost 70 A.D. and he shows up in Hebrews.


Four short verses over 2000 years and yet what awesome conclusions Hebrews draws from them.  The entire Bible is so Christ-centered.  In both Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 the author of Hebrews sees Melchizedek pointing to the Jesus of the NT.  Those Jewish-Christians, tempted as they were to return to the Levitical priesthood for comfort and truth, should take a long look at those four verses and what they say about Jesus, the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.


We don’t know much about the person of Melchizedek.  I guess it’s not really important.  What these verses do tell us is that he is a type of the coming Christ.  In Genesis 14 Melchizedek meets Abraham after rescuing Lot and such from the kings of the east.  He is called the “King of Salem” and the “Priest of God Most High.”  King of Salem could be King of Jerusalem.  Priest of God Most High means that even though he ministered in idol infested Canaan, he held to faith in the true, living God!  He is both King and Priest, something that the Levitical priests never were.


So much points to the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood.  He blesses Abraham.  Of course the greater one blesses the lesser one.  That speaks volume to a Jewish person; the great patriarch Abraham is blessed by the even greater Melchizedek.  Significant also is his name.  It means “King of Righteousness” while King of Salem means “King of Peace.”  He was not just a king, but one whose kingship was in harmony with his priesthood.


So our Jesus!  He is in perfect harmony as our heavenly King and Priest.  Christ’s name, as Jeremiah 26:3 reminds us, is “the Lord our Righteouness.”  He came to do what we cannot, to live the perfect life and die the righteousness earning death for us.  Through faith in Him we are right before our God.  We have peace no matter what!  The Risen Lord in His Word comes to us and greets us with the words, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you!  Yes, how important this Melchizedek guy as we understand where he fits into God’s salvation plan for you and me!  Pointing to Jesus, we see the sacrifice that gives us direct access to the Holiest of Holies, our heavenly Father.


May our prayer be the first stanza of “Lord, Whose Love through Humble Service:


Lord, whose love thorugh humble service Bore the weight of human need,

Who upon the cross forsaken, Offered mercies perfect deed.

We, Your servants bring the worship Not of voice alone, but heart.

Consecrating to Your purpose, Every gift that You impart.  Amen.


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.


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.  Yes, we are part of Hebrews’ Hall of Faith.  Holy Faith’s 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.


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.


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, em powered 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 holy 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!


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 Y our 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