Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hebrews 9-13: Unswerving

From Garden to City reading:  Hebrews 9-13

I left the house with excitement yesterday morning, thinking about my detailed lesson plans and my very creative writing prompt.  Thanksgiving filled my heart, and the words of Psalm 16 came back to me, "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance."

I'm teaching.  I get to take classes.  I write, and a few people read what I write.  I have an amazing husband and kids.  And friends.  I love God.

And then I remembered I have felt this way before, usually right before something crashes.  Life never stays perfect very long.  Not that I'm a pessimist or anything, but no matter how good things are, they're never perfect.

Let's just say that my detailed lesson plans had some gaps in them, and my prompt wasn't as clear as I thought.  And I could feel my students' confusion and disinterest.  I had a hard time getting them to engage in discussion.  Two students fell asleep.  I let them go early.

And I walked away defeated.  Who said I could be a teacher?  Why would anyone one to hire me?  How could I have thought I could write curriculum? I spent the afternoon catching up on episodes of Law and Order, SVU.  Now I'm even more behind on lesson planning, essay grading, and homework for my visual rhetoric class.

I also didn't want to go to my Life Group last night.  Not an option since I'm the leader of the group.  I felt unprepared.  I wanted to sit on the couch, watch House Hunters International, and escape to a Caribbean island or the south of France.  Sometimes the easiest thing is hiding in my house.  Sometimes that's the worst thing.

Just walking in the door changed my attitude.  We all come from different stages of life and we have different backgrounds, but none of that matters.  Really, there's just something about connecting with people who want what I want--to know God, to seek him, and to serve him.  As we looked at Scripture, shared our disappointments, frustrations, and struggles, my defeatist mindset faded away.

God is greater than whatever I'm going through.  I can trust him.  I can depend on him.

This morning I read Hebrews 9-13.  I really like the book of Hebrews, and even before reading the passage, I wondered what I would write about today.  I love chapter 11, which talks about faith.  I quote Hebrews 12:2 all the time, about fixing my eyes on Jesus.  Later on in Hebrews 12, the author discusses considering hardship as discipline, another theme of my life.  Or about God's faithfulness.  Or worship.

And then I actually opened the Bible.  Always a good plan.  God's voice, through His written word, really is "living and active" (Hebrews 4:12).  He really does sustain all things, including me, "by his powerful word" (Hebrews 1:3).

I don't think I've ever read chapters 9-13 in one chunk before, and reading this section together gives me new perspective on the passages I mentioned previously, the passages I gravitate toward over and over.  In Hebrews 1-9, the author describes Jesus, his power, and his divinity.  The author establishes the necessity for a new covenant, a new way of salvation.  In this section, Jesus is everything.

And then, after having made his (or her) case, the author sums up what he just said, saying, "Since we have confidence that we can enter God's Kingdom through the sacrifice of Jesus, and since we have a great priest who understands everything and provides a way for us to really connect with God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith" (10:19-22).

Everything's in place.  The sacrifice has been made.  Jesus is God, and he understands us.  He is the bridge connecting us to a most holy and awesome God.  Before, only the priest could connect to God, and only once a year, but now we all can.

So let's draw near to God.  With confidence.  With boldness.  With humility and awe.

The problem is, we can't see Jesus, and we can't see God.  We only know they are there by faith.  We believe, but after a while, believing can get hard.

And this is it, this is the thing that stood out to me this morning.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  (10:23-25)
Sometimes it's hard.  Sometimes we lose sight of God's promises and even his presence.  He just seems so far away, if he even exists.  But he does.  And so the author says, "Don't give up.  Jesus is everything we've ever hoped for."  And instead of checking out, draw near to God.  Seek him.  Talk to him.  Spend time in his Word.  Spend time with other people who also want to draw near to God.  They'll encourage you.  And you will encourage them.  We need each other so that we don't lose hope.  We need to challenge each other to love more deeply and serve more fully.

So, hold on to your confidence because you will be rewarded.  It doesn't feel like it now, and we can't see it right now, but we can depend on God's promises.  (10:35-39)

In fact, that's what faith is all about (11:1-2).  Believing when we can't see.  Once we can see or hold the object of our faith, it's not really faith anymore.  And yes, faith is hard.

So don't give up.  And when you get tired, fix your eyes on Jesus (12:1-2).  And when you get discouraged because of difficult circumstances, remember that God will use these circumstances to strengthen you (12:7-13).

Don't give up.  Draw near to God.  Spend time with people who will encourage your faith.  Serve God and serve others.  Worship God!  Give him a sacrifice of praise.  Even when it's hard, keep his name on your lips, share your faith stories with other people (13:15-16).

As I got ready for Life Group last night, I knew I had nothing to give away.  I wished I could get a do-over on the day.  I wished that I had come home and spent time in the Bible, or journaling, or praying, instead of watching television.  There are no do-over.

I'm glad we had Life Group last night.  I needed my community of faith last night.  I needed to sit with these women and examine God's Word.  I needed their encouragement, and I needed to be "spurred on toward love and good deeds" (10:24).

Once again, I have hope.  I'm living by faith.

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