In Step. In Unity. In Boldness.

Father of lights, Lord of Creation, Author of my life, Sovereign over me,
Please grant us the strength today to stand in service of You. Purify us from all the filth that clings to this sin-drenched, mortal life. By the blood of Jesus, poured out over us, cleanse us from human brokenness & chart a pathway through the wilderness of our hearts that they might become springs of life by the power of Your Holy Spirit at work in us. Remember our sins no more, as You have promised, and grant us confidence in Christ, united together, to step boldly into the day You have created and lay at our feet. We pray this in Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.

Hebrews 10:11-25
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Paul reminds Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7) that God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity, but a spirit of power through Jesus Christ. There is boldness that should inherently come from being made pure by the blood of Christ, and by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. There is a confidence (not an arrogance) that should come from knowing whose we are and what it is that we are up against. There is  a strength of character that comes from walking with Jesus, as He works His will in us day after day after day that should exhibit that handiwork and the Master Craftsman behind it.

If Jesus grants us the confidence to enter the holy places by His blood, how much more so those places where He already holds victory over the enemy? Why should we cower in fear? Why should we worry? If we have been washed with pure water, why would we not walk in that newness of life, throwing off the faithlessness that used to bind us, but that binds us no more?

This is one of the reasons why the author of Hebrews is encouraging us to continue gathering together. This is just one reason why it is good that we look other Christians in the eye, shake their hands and give them hugs. We need to be in the presence of other people who have seen victory at work in their own lives. We need to see people whose faces have been lifted up to heaven, whose eyes have looked upon the cross and we need to stand in boldness with them as we unite in Christ, our Great High Priest, and stand in bold assurance against the schemes of the enemy.

Standing alone is wrong & dangerous. God did not design us or example to us this stand-alone mentality. Instead, we are gathered together with our people to receive this encouragement: God has the victory. He is in charge. He loves us dearly. He has paid the price. He will bring change about in us. He will see change happen in the lives of others through the work He is doing in us today. We are meant to be together, walking in the rhythms of grace together. Praise God for that.

Father of lights, Lord of Creation, Author of my life, Sovereign over me,
Please grant us the strength today to stand in service of You. Purify us from all the filth that clings to this sin-drenched, mortal life. By the blood of Jesus, poured out over us, cleanse us from human brokenness & chart a pathway through the wilderness of our hearts that they might become springs of life by the power of Your Holy Spirit at work in us. Remember our sins no more, as You have promised, and grant us confidence in Christ, united together, to step boldly into the day You have created and lay at our feet. We pray this in Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.

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Beyond the Shadows of Life

Lord, do not let us accept what is temporary in place of what is eternal. Do not let us look in the dim mirror and prefer what we see over what is true. Father, unfold our hearts within this life to long for what is yet to come so strongly that all we see here is what You are pointing to eternally. Let us shake off then, what is temporary and pursue what lasts. Amen.

This morning we continue our meditation on our Great High Priest, Jesus. We have seen His heart as we read through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd parts of His High Priestly Prayer in John 17. And so we return to this place in Hebrews where we get to sit & listen & be reminded of who it is that serves as our mediator. This is mystery to me, wrapped up in grace beyond measuring, that God would be the go-between for us and Himself in this way. We are certainly unworthy, we can see and feel that every day. It’s not hard to see the evidence there. But His grace catches us off guard and reaches down deep within us and offers up this wonderful, expectation-shattering truth. Read through this reality slowly, listening to God’s love song over you. Listen to the words of the prophet Zephaniah and then listen to the author of Hebrews explain how God brought that to pass. Rest and be reassured in the rhythms of grace in the song of God over you.

Zephaniah 3:17
The Lord your God is in your midst,

    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Hebrews 8:1-13
“1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,
a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.

Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

Lord, do not let us accept what is temporary in place of what is eternal. Do not let us look in the dim mirror and prefer what we see over what is true. Father, unfold our hearts within this life to long for what is yet to come so strongly that all we see here is what You are pointing to eternally. Let us shake off then, what is temporary and pursue what lasts. Amen.

Psalm 119:57-64 // ח Khet // Considering God’s ways over our own

“57 The Lord is my portion;

I have promised to keep Your words.

58 I have sought Your favor with all my heart;

be gracious to me according to Your promise.

59 I thought about my ways

and turned my steps back to Your decrees.

60 I hurried, not hesitating

to keep Your commands.

61 Though the ropes of the wicked

were wrapped around me,

I did not forget Your instruction.

62 I rise at midnight to thank You

for Your righteous judgments.

63 I am a friend to all who fear You,

to those who keep Your precepts.

64 Lord, the earth is filled with Your faithful love;

teach me Your statutes.”

Psalm 119:57-64

— 

Take stock in what you do. What are your priorities? How do they list out? Who or what is on top?

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that it is supposed to be God, but often we find ourselves struggling with that top position belonging to…ourselves. We seek a false “comfort” and “control” over submitting to God, because listening to Him means we’d have to change. Instead, we need to be willing to be used by Him to do what He desires as He grows and changes us into whomever it is He desires us to be.

Read through David’s words again, and ask God to hear what is coming from your own heart.

Read it more slowly, a third time, piece by piece, and ask God to work a change in your heart, to work willingness into your spirit. 

Read it a fourth and final time, making this desire your real prayer today. 

  

Psalm 119:17-24 // ג Gimel //

“17 Deal generously with Your servant

so that I might live;

then I will keep Your word.

18 Open my eyes so that I may contemplate

wonderful things from Your instruction.

19 I am a stranger on earth;

do not hide Your commands from me.

20 I am continually overcome

with longing for Your judgments.

21 You rebuke the proud,

the ones under a curse,

who wander from Your commands.

22 Take insult and contempt away from me,

for I have kept Your decrees.

23 Though princes sit together speaking against me,

Your servant will think about Your statutes;

24 Your decrees are my delight

and my counselors.”

Psalm 119:17-24

Read this psalm again, grasping David’s passion for the Word of God.

Read it a second time, considering your own.

Read it for a fourth and final time, speaking to God, thanking Him for the great and awesome gift of His Word and the certainty provided within its judgments. 

  

Acts 10:9-16 // Open doors

“9 The next day, as they were traveling and nearing the city, Peter went up to pray on the housetop about noon. 10 Then he became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he went into a visionary state. 11 He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all the four- footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”

14 “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common and ritually unclean!”

15 Again, a second time, a voice said to him, “What God has made clean, you must not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into heaven.”

Acts 10:9-16

Peter was just being honest & working from his undertanding of God’s expectations, and was following the Law as it was laid out from Moses, who had received it from God. He was trying to be obedient. He was trying to be good & live properly, desiring to honor God in his body. God had given the Israelite people a different diet as a part of their being ‘called out’ from the other nations. They had to wear certain things, do certain things and eat certain things as a part of their national, cultural, spiritual identity. There were certain things that a Jew just did not do, eat or partake in. These are the things that idenitifed them as belonging to God. 

So, when Peter heard, “Get up, kill and eat.” what he heard was “Defy every part of who you are, and leave behind what God has called you to be.” and so his natural response was, “No!” Again, he was trying to be who he thought God wanted him to be. There were rules and expectations, laws, statutes and decrees to follow. They were just as much a part of him as the hair on his head & the toes on his feet.

But God had a plan to open doors for them and to grow His church through them, and that meant that it was time to look beyond just their Jewish neighbors and to expand into the Gentile nations surrounding them. Cornelius had just received a vision to unlock and turn the knob on his side of the door, and now Peter was receiving the vision to unlock & turn the knob on his. God was opening doors.

Again, Peter, being a ‘good Jew’ wouldn’t have even considered going into Cornelius’ house if God hadn’t done this, it was a part of his personal wiring. But God desired for Peter to make a personal connection with Cornelius and his family and that couldn’t happen from being standoff-ish and remaining on the front step. There had to be an open door and a collision between these two cultural worlds. The distinctiveness between the world and those who followed God were not going to be on a racial line anymore, but drawn on a line of love for all and an obedience to the heart & will of God. There was going to be a called-out-ness to them, but not through diet or dress anymore. This was going to be based on the heart, and so for Peter, the one with the barriers, God had to directly address those old habits, teachings and concerns. There was noting really spiritually wrong with not eating pork, iguana or beetle meat. Those animals were not evil or corrupt. Those laws were simply a part of their separated lives, and those doors were opened now.

We have a tendency today to draw lines and close doors that God never desired to be drawn or closed. “I won’t go into that part of town.” or “I don’t associate with those kind of people.” are things that shouldn’t come out of the mouth of a Christian. The only people that we are told to disaccoiate with are those who have been taught & know God’s expectations & have instead chosen to live in defiance of Him, people who are undergoing discipline by the elders of the church. Even then, that is for the purpose of restoration and a desire for them to understand what they are missing and how they have stepped outside of HIs will. But no social group, racial group or any other human separation should keep us from sharing the Gospel with anyone walking this earth. 

If tomorrow, you meet a homosexual, gluttonous member of ISIS who is a habitual liar and gossip…they need to hear about Jesus & God’s redeeming grace through Him. Even if that person represents everything that you cannot stand, whatever their combination of sins may be, there cannot be a locked door in the way that you have set up. God desires that they would have their hearts changed and that they would follow Him. He deisres to give them His mercy and grace and to offer them forgiveness…and He wants to communcate that through you and through me. If we are going to GoLove people, this cannot just be a mental acknowledgement that this needs to be done, but we must take it to heart and live it out personally. God has opened the doors for the Gospel message to spread to anyone and everyone, it is not for us to close them because we are uncomfortable. We must trust in His heart and do as He says. We cannot refuse for someone else what we have been afforded in Christ. That is not our desicion to make. The doors are open. W emust scatter seed and live in obedience to out Master’s call. 

  

Psalm 119:9-16 // ב Bet // The Word Leads to Purity

“9 How can a young man keep his way pure?

By keeping Your word.

10 I have sought You with all my heart;

dont let me wander from Your commands.

11 I have treasured Your word in my heart

so that I may not sin against You.

12 Lord, may You be praised;

teach me Your statutes.

13 With my lips I proclaim

all the judgments from Your mouth.

14 I rejoice in the way revealed by Your decrees

as much as in all riches.

15 I will meditate on Your precepts

and think about Your ways.

16 I will delight in Your statutes;

I will not forget Your word.”

Psalm 119:9-16

Purity is not stumbled upon accidentally. It must be intentionally sought out and pursued. 

Read this passage again, a little more slowly, listening to what David is saying.

Read it a third time, putting yourself in His place, thinking about your own pursuit of purity.

Read it a fourth time, making it your prayer & ask God to do the purifying work in you that needs to be done so that He is glorified.