John 9: “Light of the World”

What does Sensodyne and Aquaphor Have in Common?

One of the things my wife loves about me is that I can get dressed and ready for the day without having to turn on a single light! It’s true! I was used to doing this for my roommates since I was a religion major and had 7:30am – 8am classes in college. Most of my roommates were slackers and had cake majors that let them sleep in till like a 11! Okay, so maybe that’s not completely true, but the getting ready in complete darkness is true.

I only had one instance where a little more light would have gone a long way. Early in my marriage I got up one morning and started to get ready as I normally do, but this time I left out a BIG step. I forgot to put in my contacts. My eye doctor will tell you, if I don’t have my contacts in I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a bunny rabbit and a mountain lion.

You’ll never know how hard it is to see until you mistake your Sensodyne toothpaste with you’re tube of Aquaphor. Needless to say, my mouth was not left minty fresh, however my teeth where now treated against the harsh effects of winter…

There are two things that would have been REALLY helpful for me that morning; light and the ability to see clearly.

This leads in nicely to the story of the blind man found in John 9.

John 9

Right off the bat we have the disciples asking what seems to be an insensitive question: (v. 2) “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” You have to remember, the belief in those days what it was possible to be born guilty of specific sin. Example, a child is judged to be guilty of idolatry if their mother worshiped false God’s while pregnant. Strict Jews believed that a fetus could sin in the womb.

Jesus insures his disciples that this man didn’t sin, (v. 3) but this happened so that the work of God, might be displayed in his life.” He then makes an interesting comment in verse (v. 5) But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

We’ve heard others as well as Jesus reference that he is the light of the world, but to this here is actually extra special. Let’s cover one more point of the story, then will come back and make reference to the significance of his comments.

After Jesus makes a mud pie (v. 6) and smears it over the eyes of the man, he instructs him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. After the blind man went and obeyed Jesus’ command, he came home seeing.

Okay, so lets look at why this is important. In Chapter 7 we learn that Jesus is the Water of Life or better phrased, “The Living Water.” We also know that the timing of this declaration was important because it was during the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths, where the final day would have centered all around the theme of water. But do you know what else was celebrated during the Festival of Tabernacles; the “Illumination of the Temple”

Illumination of the Temple

During the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) there was a great ceremony called the “Illumination of the Temple,” which involved the ritual lighting of four golden oil-fed lamps in the Court of Women. These lamps were huge menorahs/candelabras (seventy-five feet high) lit in the Temple at night to remind the people of the pillar of fire that had guided Israel in their wilderness journey. All night long the light shone their brilliance, it is said, illuminating the entire city.

Jesus is the Light of the World, the source of illumination to bring the lost out of darkness. In the moment when Jesus is declaring that he is the Light of the World, he’s pointing to the giant menorahs set up in the temple to commemorate God’s light that led the people of Israel out of slavery and into freedom.

John 8: “Defender of the Weak”

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I have a fond story of my dad that I’ve never shared publicly, probably because it happened at one my weakest moments as a kid.

Growing up I was never the strongest, fastest, or best athlete on my street. There were five, yes five, boys on my block that grew up within months of each other. The birthdays started in April and rolled right on through till August in our neighborhood. One day we were out playing street hockey when a teenager decided to play with us. It wasn’t uncommon for the older brothers to come and play hockey with us, but while we were elementary school, the older kids took it a little easy on us since they were in middle and high school. This particular older boy however served more  as the neighborhood bully than anything else, and decided he was going to come out and beat up on us younger kids.

After getting knocked down a couple of times, I got really hurt when he checked me into the side of the house where we were playing. I got really hurt and gingerly started to skate for home, which was only two houses down. As I was skating home my dad was getting home from work and saw that I was crying and holding my head. After finding out what happened from me he walked over to the boy and began to give him a lecture on his obvious difference in size. One thing you have to know about my dad is he wasn’t just larger than life in my eyes, he was actually 6′ 3,” 250+ in everyone else’s eyes as well!

I remember him yelling at this boy and at one point even picked up the hockey ball and through it into the net just inches from the teenager in question. At that moment I didn’t care that I broke an unwritten street rule and would potentially get beat up because my dad defended me. I didn’t care because I watched my father defend me against an outmatched and outsized opponent. I remember thinking, “that’s my dad.”

In John 8 we find one of the most famous stories of Jesus encountering two things:

  1. The righteousness of the Pharisees
  2. Sin

The break this story down there’s a couple of things we need to know. First of all, the woman was literally caught in the act of adultery (v. 3). This makes for a very testy situation since there are direct consequences to this action. Here’s another thing that we need to be aware of; this woman was used to lure Jesus into a trap. They knew, and he knew that they were trying to catch him up. But here’s the first problem, where was the man? The law of Moses indicated that both the woman and the man were to be held accountable. So here’s the trap:

  • Don’t Stone Her = Violate the Law of Moses
  • Stone Her = Breaking Roman Law

So what does Jesus do? Of course, he writes in the sand! What every ordinary person would do…write in the sand. We have no record of what Jesus wrote, but here’s some of the speculations:

  1. The sin of the Pharisees
  2. The Ten Commandments
  3. Exodus 23 regarding lying

 

John 8:7-10 (NLT) 

Think about ultimately how Jesus defended this woman. She was obviously caught in the midst of sin, but instead of beating her up more than she had already experienced, he defends her and exercises love and compassion. Here’s a key takeaway: Jesus loved her, but he didn’t approve of her sin. It’s important to know that love doesn’t equal approval. You can deeply love someone, but it doesn’t mean you approve of their sin. The reality for us is found in Jesus’ admonishment of the woman. He didn’t say, “Go and commit adultery no more.” He said, “go and sin no more.” Sin is sin no matter how big or little we deem it. Her sin that was made public is no more or less sinful than the sin you commit in private.

In this case, Jesus was the defender of the spiritually weak. He communicated to her that she was more important than what she did wrong.

 

1 Peter 3: “Pink Shirts and Evil Days”

Pink Shirt Day

I few years ago in Nova Scotia a freshman gets ready for his first day of school. As he’s going through his closet he finds a pink shirt, he grabs it, puts it on, and heads off to school. As this new freshman is walking down the halls of his massive high school, he’s suddenly grabbed from behind, thrown to the ground, and kicked a couple of times by the school bully. The bully said some really mean and hurtful things, but the gist of what he said was, “don’t you ever wear pink again.”

As the freshman is laying there in the hallway two Juniors get on their knees next to him, and as they’re helping him they say, “hey, we saw the whole thing, will you wear that shirt again tomorrow?” “Are you kidding, did you see what just happened to me?” Yeah, wear the same shirt tomorrow, don’t worry we got your back.”

That kid had a choice, but what he didn’t know is that those two juniors had a choice as well. The two Juniors later that day would go onto social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email) and tell the entire school to wear pink the next day. This high school in Nova Scotia (1,400-1,500 students) rallied and over 1,370 students showed up to school wearing pink the next day. They made a huge declaration that there would be no more bullying at their school.

Nova Scotia caught wind of this and declared the first day of school “Pink Shirt Day” as a day dedicated to Anti-Bullying. In 2012, the United Nations caught wind of “Pink Shirt Day” and declared the official Anti-Bullying day to be May 4, which is recognized by over 25 countries worldwide including the US, Australia, and Great Britain. All because two Juniors stopped to help their neighbor, a freshmen kid who got beat up because he wore the wrong color shirt to school.

But what if this wasn’t how the story went? What if the young freshman just had enough and went home to find a gun, returned the next day to school, and take care of the problem? In this particular story evil was repaid with good, but that’s unfortunately not the norm.

“Don’t repay evil for evil.”

In our 1 Peter passage today the “you” in verse 8 are Christians. The call of Peter is for Christians to be of one mind. Christians sympathizing with each other. Loving each other as brothers and sisters. As we keep reading we get to the meat of verse 9, “Don’t repay evil for evil.”

1 Peter 3:8-12 (NLT) Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. 10 For the Scriptures say,

“If you want to enjoy life
    and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
11 Turn away from evil and do good.
    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
    and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
    against those who do evil.”

If this sounds familiar it should. Paul when writing to the Romans said: Romans 12:17-18 (NLT) 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

The Challenge Today

With the presence of evil is all around us, and I’m sure you’ll encounter it at some point today. When evil walks into our lives, we have a choice. Our choice is to either repay that evil with more evil, or to repay them with a blessing.

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
– John Wesley

 

Mark 2: “Roof Crashers”

As we begin today I want you to be aware that this reflection is inspired by the writing of John Ortberg in his book, “Everyone’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them.” John Ortberg is one of my favorite authors and I recommend any of his writing, especially my favorite book, “Love Beyond Reason.”

Alameda County Study:

A group of Harvard Social scientist conducted the most extensive research study on community a few years back. They tracked the lives of 7,000 people over nine years.

Researches found that the people who were in isolation were 3 times more likely to die then people who had strong relationships. People who had bad health habits such as: Smoking, poor eating habits, obesity, and alcohol, but had strong social ties, lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits but were isolated. If you think about it, it’s better to eat Twinkies with good friends then to eat broccoli alone. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that scenario any day of the week.

Robert Putnam the Harvard researcher says that if you are not a member of a group but decide to become a member, you will cut your risk of dying in half.

An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported the results when 276 volunteers were infected with a virus that produces the effects of a common cold. The study showed that people who had strong emotional connections did 4 times better fighting off illness then those who were more isolated. These people were less susceptible to colds, had less virus, and produced significantly less mucous than isolated people. This means it’s true what they say, unfriendly people really are snottier.

Roof Crashers

There was a guy in the bible that had one of the best group of friends of all time. His relationships with four guys would be the envy of any close-knit groups. In fact, these four friends were the only thing this man had. We find his story in Mark 2

Mark 2:1-4 (NLT) When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home.Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 

Picture this with me… Jesus is in the room teaching as many people as could fit in the room when suddenly mud, thatch, and straw starts dropping on their heads. Suddenly light starts to stream in from the ceiling and people begin to realize that there is a hole being ripped open through the roof. Then as people were sitting there looking up they notice a silhouette of something being lowered down. They must have wondered what it was, when they realized, it’s a person! Scripture indicates that Jesus was looking up at the hole in the ceiling as well.

Mark 2:5 (NLT) Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

If a bunch of guys ripping through a roof in order to lower a paralyzed man to Jesus isn’t amazing enough, if you’re not careful you’ll miss another amazing fact! This is the only story in the entire bible where it was the faith of others that healed someone else of their sin!

The four men knew the best place for their friend was at the feet of Jesus. They were willing to do whatever it took, even breaking open a roof, to get him there.

The Challenge Today

Our reflection of Mark 2 raises two important questions:
Who are you carrying? Who is carrying you?

Who are you carrying?
Are you the type of friend that would be willing to do anything to get your spiritually paralyzed friend to the feet of Jesus? Here’s the other challenge, when you get there and Jesus looks at you, will your faith be strong enough to heal your friend?

Who is carrying you?
The other portion of this story is recognizing that we all have a mat? Our mat’s all look different and come in all shapes and sizes, but at the end of the day, we not only need to carry another’s mat, but we need people who will be willing to care our own. Think about this question today, do you have have people in your life who are mat carriers for you when you need it; and more importantly, if Jesus saw their faith, would their faith heal you?

James 4: “Humble Yourself”

Humility

Did you hear about the minister who said he had a wonderful sermon on humility but was waiting for a large crowd before preaching it?

Many years ago, Christian professor Stuart Blackie of the University of Edinburgh was listening to his students as they presented oral readings. When one young man rose to begin his recitation, he held his book in the wrong hand. The professor thundered, “Take your book in your right hand, and be seated!” At this harsh rebuke, the student held up his right arm. He didn’t have a right hand! The other students shifted uneasily in their chairs. For a moment the professor hesitated. Then he made his way to the student, put his arm around him, and with tears streaming from his eyes, said, “I never knew about it. Please, will you forgive me?” His humble apology made a lasting impact on that young man. This story was told some time later in a large gathering of believers. At the close of the meeting a man came forward, turned to the crowd, and raised his right arm. It ended at the wrist. He said, “I was that student. Professor Blackie led me to Christ. But he never could have done it if he had not made the wrong right.”

James 4:5-10 (NLT) Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud
    but gives grace to the humble.”

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

Humble Yourself

C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

This section of James’ letter is considered by many to be the climax. You can almost tell by the power of his words that James has something to say! When challenging his readers on the meaning of scripture, James points out that scripture communicates God’s desire that we would remain faithful to Him. He then highlight the verse from Proverbs 3:34 (NLT) “God opposes the proud
    but gives grace to the humble.”

With the application of the word “so” at the begging of verse 7 James is about to communicate how we are called to be humble:

  • (v. 7) Humble yourselves before God
  • (v. 7) Resist the devil, AND HE WILL FLEE FROM YOU!
  • (v. 8) Come close to God, and GOD WILL COME CLOSE TO YOU!
  • (v. 8) Wash your hands
  • (v. 8) Purify your hearts
  • (v. 9) Let there be tears
  • (v. 9) Let there be sorrow and deep grief
  • (v. 9) Let there be sadness and gloom instead of joy
  • (v. 10) Humble yourselves before the Lord, AND HE WILL LIFT YOU UP IN HONOR!

Do you notice how this list begins and ends? Humility.

For Today

Are you in need of grace today? As we’ve read today in scripture, God gives grace to the humble. It’s powerful to consider that your humility gives space for grace. When we humble ourselves before the Lord we recognize who has all the power and control in our lives. In God’s economy, the lower you get, the higher God lifts you up!

Hebrews 10: “A Hope Built on Nothing Less”

Cursed with Hopelessness

John Maxwell talks of a small town in Maine that stood in the way of a proposed hydroelectric dam. All the residents were told that their town would be submerged by the dam and they would have to pack up all their belongings and relocate.

As construction began on the dam, a curious thing began to happen in the town. All improvements ceased. No one painted their house. Roads and sidewalks were not repaired. Long before the dam was finished, the town looked shabby and abandoned. One resident noted, “Where there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present.” The town was cursed with hopelessness because it had no future.

Truth About Hopelessness

There are very few things that are more debilitating than hopelessness. A person with a small amount of hope has at least a spark that could ignite a flame. A person without hope not only doesn’t have a spark, but every match they touch is soaking wet.

It’s a sobering thought to consider that there are millions of people right now who, because of a lack of hope in the future, have given up on the present. But the writer of Hebrews is looking to change all of that. Instead of being hopeless, the writer encourages his listeners to “hold tightly” to the very thing they’re not sure they have…HOPE!

Hebrews 10:23 (NLT) 23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 

If we’re honest, it won’t take long to realize that we hold tightly to a lot of things in this world, and typically, hope is not one of them. In fact, we can probably name at least two or three things that can trump hope by far. Think about it, hope isn’t going to pay the bills, money does that. Hope isn’t going to feed your kids, food does that. Lastly, hope isn’t going to load the dishwasher, kids, I mean…

Hope In Scripture

It’s interesting to note that hope in the scripture is a little different then the hope we’re accustomed to. Hope for us is a kind of wishy-washy unsure optimism: Like I alluded to earlier, we tend to think…

  • I hope he/she likes me
  • I hope I get the promotion
  • I hope my car doesn’t run out of gas
  • I hope I shut the garage door this morning when I went to work… (no seriously)

In scripture, and during this time, hope is not wishy washy, hope is defined as a strong and confident expectation. So when we read in scripture about hope, it would have the connotation of expectancy or belief of certainty. On the opposite side, a loss of hope would have as much confidence in the certainty, in this case, of death.

Here’s the great news about Hope: Whether positive or negative, hope in scripture is never passive. Hope is always dynamic and active. What do you need to hope on Jesus for? Not a hope of wishy-washyness, but a hope of certainty that God shows up on time, every time.

Closing

Not only does the writer encourage us to hold unswervingly (NIV) to hope, but he also indicates that God can be trusted to keep his promises. Now this is where the writer of Hebrews begins to drive down his listeners street. The reason I say that is because this is exactly the point the writer’s been making! Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were all promises kept by God dating all the way back to Genesis.

The first verse of the great Hymn, “My Hope is Built On Nothing Less,” says it all:

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame (my own merit),
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Hebrews 7: “Melchizedek, a Sign of Christ

You may be thinking, why is it important to know about a man named Melchizedek? Well, it’s not a matter of why it’s important, but rather how important it is to know about a High Priest who…

  1. (v. 1) Blessed people without being blessed himself
  2. (v. 3) No record of having a father or mother
  3. (v. 4) Received a tithe (tenth) of all that Abraham had taken in battle (long before tithing was mandated)
  4. (v. 6) Wasn’t a descendant of Levi (where we get the tribe of priests)
  5. (v. 8) Never died but instead “lives on”

My hope in this reflection is to slightly (as there’s more that can be considered) lift the veil on a biblical character that is only mentioned three times in the bible, but yet is important as a foreshadow to Jesus.

Why the Author Points out Melchizedek

Remember that the authors intention in this book is to convince Jewish Christians that there’s no need to go back to their ritualistic past and old laws. By raising the importance of Melchizedek, the author is building a case for Christ and showing that Jesus fulfilled the purposes of Judaism. Because the author has to engage the old covenant and Jewish history, the writer of Hebrews has to prove that Jesus is superior in every way to the Jewish traditions and laws; hence his now attempt to show that Jesus is more superior even over Melchizedek.

The name Melchizedek first appears in Genesis 14:18 where Melchizedek appears as the King of Salem. As you’ve read through Hebrews these past couple of days, you’ve run into a familiar phrase, “…in the order of Melchizedek.” This phrase is repeated not only in Hebrews but also in Psalm 110:

  • Psalm 110:4
  • Hebrews 5:6
  • Hebrews 5:10
  • Hebrews 6:20
  • Hebrews 7:17

One of the most important reasons for this phrase, “…in the order of Melchizedek,” is to show that Jesus wasn’t limited by the standards of the Levites, and didn’t come from the Tribe of Levi, but instead, as we know, Jesus came from the Tribe of Judah. Jesus is considered a priest in the order of Melchizedek because, like Melchizedek, Jesus was not a descendant of Aaron, and so would not qualify for the Jewish priesthood under the Law of Moses.

Melchizedek, a Sign of Christ

When we’re learning about Melchizedek, it’s important to remember that he is type, a sign, and a foreshadow of Jesus. Pastor and writer Steven Cole wrote, “Herveus (a 12th century writer, cited by Philip Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews [Eerdmans], p. 251) applies the truth here to Christ by saying,

If Melchizedek, who was a sign and shadow, is preferred to Abraham and to all the levitical priests, how much more Christ, who is the truth and the substance! … If a type of Christ is greater than he who has the promises, how much more so is Christ himself!

If Melchizedek could bless Abraham, how much more is the Son of God ready and able to bless those who draw near to God through Him! If we want God’s blessings, we should seek them in Christ, because “as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes” (2 Cor. 1:20). What do you need from God? Eternal life? Yes! Forgiveness of sins? Yes! Inner peace? Yes! Hope? Yes! Joy in the midst of trials? Yes! Grace to endure? Yes! Victory over sin? Yes! Healing from past wounds? Yes! Jesus is the perfect high priest who dispenses God’s blessings to those who have His promises. Draw near to Him!”

Conclusion

The writer of Hebrews drives a large stake in the ground and says to his listeners, Melchizedek is great, but Jesus is greater! Moses was great, but Jesus is greater! What the High Priest was limited to do, Jesus is not bound! This is why we remember the words of Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT): 

14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

 

 

Hebrews 6: “HOPE… As an Anchor For Our Souls”

Dropping Anchor…Literally

Growing up I had the opportunity to go fishing with my neighbor Bruce. To this day I still can’t figure out why he would take me, especially considering that it seemed like I always did something to mess up our trip. Well, this trip for Blues and Catfish under the Commodore Barry Bridge in Philadelphia would be no different. As we pull up to the bridge, Bruce is coaching me through how to release the anchor on the boat:

  • Wait for me
  • Wait till I’m in neutral
  • Watch the waves
  • Don’t put out too much line at first
  • Don’t throw the anchor, just drop it off to the side.

Suddenly he yells, now, now, now… What do I do? Well, I was so surprised and excited I threw the anchor out in front of the boat, to which Bruce says, “I told you not to the throw the anchor, and especially off the front of the boat. Well as he was putting the boat in reverse and watching his prop, I watched the anchor line uncoil and slip right over the edge of the boat and sink over 40’ to the bottom of the river. Bruce turns around and says, “Go ahead and tie off the line to the bow cleat…awkward”

You know, anchors don’t work very well unless they’re attached to something.

Hebrews 6:19 (NLT) 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. But the question is, what exactly is “this hope?” In order to answer that question you have to go back to verses 13-20

Hebrews 6:13-20 (NLT)

The scripture here is pointing to the fact that we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. But the question remains for us, why would the writer talk about God’s Promise to Abram as a form of hope? To answer that question we have to look back at the covenant between God and Abram in the desert.

Genesis 15:7-12, 17-20 (NLT) 

Blood Path

To walk the blood path was a huge deal, it meant that your life was indebted to the person you walked with through the path. That night Abram realized God was “cutting a covenant”, and as the scripture says, Abram became paralyzed by fear. God’s covenant terms were clear. He would bless the world through Abraham… as long as Abraham lived in perfect harmony with God’s ways. But there was one problem; Abraham knew that he couldn’t be perfect and that his sins were like spitting in the face of God. So while he looked at the gruesome blood path, Abraham recognized the high price for breaking the covenant terms. Walking that path would be like signing his own death sentence. Remember, if you break the covenant it will cost you your life. That’s when God did something extraordinary. What God did is the hope that’s an anchor for my soul!

If we’re not careful we’ll miss the hope, but when you stop and reflect, you see it in Genesis 15:17 (NLT) After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking fire-pot AND a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses.

THIS IS THE ANCHOR OF HOPE! God wants us to be in a covenant relationship with Him, but He says to us, I’m going to walk the path for myself and for you! And in that amazing moment, God took Abraham’s place to die if he couldn’t keep his end of the bargain. You have to remember that this wasn’t just a covenant between Abraham and God, but like God said in Genesis 15:18 (NLT), this is a covenant between Abraham and ALL of his descendants, which includes us.

He walked it for you…he walked it for me. In fact, He still walks it for you…for me. Could you imagine the excitement of these early Hebrew Christians? To know the forerunner, Jesus, has entered on there behalf.

Jesus is an anchor of hope for our soul.

Hebrews 2: “Jesus LOVES the Little Children”

Written by a Baptist minister, C.H. Woolston lived with his wife Agnes in East Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1880; and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1900. Jesus Loves the Little Children is one of the most recognized children’s songs around the world. Although by current standards to be a little non-P.C. (politically correct), it still conveys a timeless truth for us today.

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, and yellow, black & white
they’re precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

We Are ALL God’s Children

Now when we hear this, or read this, we tend to think that it’s only referring to the actual “age” of a child. News flash… we are all God’s children! Consider this: Being a child of God isn’t predicated on your love or devotion to God. Your status towards God is irrelevant, because at the end of the day, you’re still his child. In fact, this reality wasn’t any more clear for me then when I was reading out of Hebrews 2.

Hebrews 2:14 (NLT) 14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood.

What an incredible reality to consider today! It almost seems like this is a type of “no brainer” comment by the author of Hebrews… Well, it would only make sense that God would send his son in the form of a human being, I mean, considering his children are human beings and all…

But Hebrews 2 doesn’t stop there. In fact, we learn even more about our “childlikeness” when we read (v. 5) thru (v. 8)

Hebrews 2:5-8 (NLT)  And furthermore, it is not angels who will control the future world we are talking about. For in one place the Scriptures say,

“What are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    or a son of man that you should care for him?
Yet for a little while you made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them authority over all things.”

This reference is actually from Psalm 8, so lets go there and take a look at what the whole chapter reads:

Psalm 8 (NLT) 

But even after reading this there is an important reality that the write of Hebrews is pointing too. Just look at the way he casually mentions in (v. 6) that “For in one place the Scripture say.” This isn’t a lazy approach on the part of the author, it’s just the author doesn’t care as much as where it came from or who wrote it, but instead is more concerned about who it’s about… God. Ultimately, that the point the author is trying to make… creation, salvation, christlikeness, childlikeness, is only possible by God through Jesus.

Hebrews 2:9-10 (NLT)  What we do see is Jesus, who for a little while was given a position “a little lower than the angels”; and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone. 10 God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

And the ultimate point for us today is made write here in Hebrews 2:11 (NLT) 11 So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.

So today, go and be a child of God… because you are precious in his sight!

 

Matthew 27: “At The Cross”

At the Cross

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

[CHORUS] At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

[CHORUS] 

“Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed,” Isaac Watts (cr. 1707)

A Little Church in Anderson, Indiana

Bill and Gloria Gaither live in Anderson, Indiana where Bill grew up. Amazingly, Bill actually grew up in the Nazarene Church there in Anderson where I’ve had the privilege of singing with my college choir in 1999.

While sitting in the sanctuary of this little farm church in Anderson, Indiana, a man told stories of how Bill would get up on Sunday nights and ask permission to play a song that God had laid on his heart. Sometimes they would be original songs like, “He Touched Me,” or “Because He Lives,” but to man’s recollection, one of the most powerful times was when Bill got up to play the great Hymn, “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed.”

Later Bill would record a popular version of this song entitled, “At the Cross.”

Because in the reflections we will encounter the cross four times in the Gospels, I would like to do something unique each time. Today I simply want you to watch/listen to the words and reflect on the power of this song.

Place Yourself At the Cross

While you listen, place yourself “At the Cross.” Imagine Jesus hanging suspended between heaven and earth as a man who at that moment had no home. Picture as he agonizingly stretches upward against gravity just to capture what little air could enter his lungs. Look over to see and hear the mocking voices of the Pharisees, Governor’s Guards, and the crowd.

Don’t miss the moment or opportunity today to be reminded of the lengths Jesus’ went through for you. He didn’t die on the cross for himself. As we read yesterday, Jesus could have called twelve legions of Angels to come and rescue him at a moments notice… but he didn’t. He didn’t call in the angels. He didn’t walk away in the Garden. He didn’t numb himself to the pain and agony of not only the cross, but the brutal beatings of the guards even before making the journey to Calvary. No, he went to the cross, and that is where we meet with him today.

At the Cross

Even though the Gaither Vocal Band only does two verses, there are more verse to this great Hymn by Isaac Watts.

Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in
When Christ, the mighty Maker died
For man the creature’s sin

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness
And melt my eyes to tears

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe
Here, Lord, I give myself away
‘Tis all that I can do