But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9: 11, 12

 

Over the years of our existence upon this earth, people have done many things that have been intended to win God’s favor and to secure our places in His presence. Some of this effort was even a part of what God dictated to us to do, and much of it has been made up by various ones of us out of our own creativity or by virtue of some other motivation. Most of us still engage in activities and in personal rituals that we think will improve our status or position in God’s eyes. We attempt to avoid the deep soul-level commitment to Christ and the personal surrender to Him that is God’s real requirement and we attempt to do works that will demonstrate our goodness to the world and thus do the same in God’s view of us. When we think and act like this, we are engaging in human futility as we attempt to do for ourselves something that Christ has already fully accomplished for us.

 

As we are in Christ, so we are also in God’s favor. When we submit our lives to Christ’s authority and thus to His direction and will, we are living out our lives in the center of God’s righteousness and are walking in His holy path. There is no need for purification prior to this journey, for Christ has accomplished those sacrifices for us. Also, we do not have need for ritual cleansing as a result of our contact with the world, for Christ’s blood provides a permanent form of such restorative touch. It does not wear off, become tainted by the world, or grow less effective over time. Christ grants His people the gift of a continuous and unending, thus an eternal, covering of right standing before the absolute holiness of God. As we have given ourselves to Christ, so our state as people who are dead in our sins is transformed into one in which we are granted spiritual life for the balance of our days on this earth and a place in the presence of the Lord for all of eternity to come.

 

All of this is a small part of what Jesus accomplished by and through His obedience to the Father in giving up Himself to be sacrificed on the cross. We have been redeemed from our rightful places as eternally condemned beings, and we have been granted the extraordinary gift of place and position in God’s kingdom come into our world while we are also provided with assurance of a future of dwelling for eternity with Christ in Heaven. There is both freedom and responsibility in all of this. We are free from the need to frequently and regularly be going before God to seek His forgiveness for our sins so that we can engage in serving Him and in order to remain secure in our eternal status. Yet, we are now obligated to obediently serve Christ and to follow His righteous way of thinking, speaking, and acting; so, the gift of life comes with a holy and a heavenly purpose for our lives attached to it. All of the days of our lives and each of the actions and interactions that are contained within them are to be dedicated and carried out as servants of Christ. Thus, each of our lives can serve as a blessing to our world that is given in the name of Christ, our perfect High Priest and Savior.

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Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful to all God’s house.

Hebrews 3: 1, 2

 

What does it mean, to consider Jesus? When something or someone is given consideration, they are looked at closely, regarded seriously, and valued for what or who they truly are. This is a part of what we are being asked to do here, and it seems to me that this is something that we don’t do nearly enough of in the normal course of life, either. I fear that I don’t take the time that I should to really look at Jesus, for this means that I am taking my eyes off of the many other things that attract or that draw them in. When I stop to reflect upon what I put time into and grant my attention to, there are many lesser objects that gain substantial amounts of both my time and my focused thought and emotional investment. How much of that personal capital could have been invested in knowing Christ better and in listening for His will and way of living to be imparted to me?

 

Moses is given here as an example of a person who was able to filter out the noise of his world and who thus kept his eyes upon the Lord when others turned disastrously away. Now Moses was far from a perfect person. He had his own times of doubt and certainly did not always lead well. Yet, he did remain true to the Lord’s calling for his life, and he was a faithful servant of the Lord’s will. He continued to step out in faith in front of the people that he was to lead, and Moses did continuously point them toward God and into the direction that He was taking them. This was true even hen that direction was hard and the end goal of a new home was not so easy to see. Jesus is like Moses in His faithfulness to God’s will and direction, and yet, Jesus is far greater than Moses in that He never doubted or faltered in His execution of the Lord’s desires for Him.

 

We are never directed by God to focus our attention or our worship upon Moses, for he is nothing more than an example of another human who followed God. Instead, we are directed to look upon Jesus and to worship Christ as our true Lord and the Savior of our souls. He is the one who takes us out of the wilderness of our sinful and lost states and brings us into the eternal presence of God in a state of redeemed holiness that reflects Christ’s own glory. This is the one person who has walked upon this earth who is worthy of this sort of deep and continuous consideration. Jesus is our example of absolute faithfulness to God, and He is also our true and courageous guide through the troubles, trials, and distractions of our days and into the glory of service to God and to His Kingdom. So, when I place priorities on my calendar for this day, let me choose to fill the page with, “Consider Jesus!”

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 3: 24

 

God is the one who actually created the status of nomadic traveler, of sojourner, of refugee. He sent Eve and Adam out of the place that He had designed, fabricated, and established for them to dwell in peace and in close communion with Him, and the Lord then expelled them in a moment of frustration and of anger. Or was that really how it went down? God was certainly hurt and frustrated by the way that these people who were so close to Him had rapidly gone off on their own and rebelled against His rather simple and very clear instructions. But, if God knows all, did He not already understand that this was to happen? God’s anger is terrible as has been depicted and demonstrated on many occasions in history, and this scene in Eden does not look anything like that sort of anger being poured out onto these people. Rather, what God does here looks more like love and care than does it appear to be motivated by some darker emotion.

 

God’s real intent and desire in sending them out of the garden and into the harsh environment of the world was redemptive in intent and in nature. Inside of Eden they were living and operating in an environment that was guarded, safe in all ways, and that contained the means for achieving eternity by direct personal action. That is, by eating the fruit of the tree of life. To the east of the garden, the part of the world where they were sent, everything was different. Inside of the garden they were required to work, and this effort was promised to bring forth bounty and to always be rewarding as everything there was done for the sake of God’s kingdom on earth. On the east side, they would also need to work, but the results were far less certain. The sweat of their brows would provide for what they needed to survive most of the time, but their efforts would also see failure, and their spirits would know frustration and pain.

 

The hardships and the challenges that came to Eve and Adam and to all of their descendants was not a form of punishment that God placed upon them. Instead, it was the direct result of their desire to be the ones who were calling all of the shots, to be in control, and to determine the direction that they would go and the means of getting there. They wanted to be like God. What they didn’t realize was that this authority and power carried with it great and terrible responsibility. So, they were sent by God out into the world to experience the weight of that responsibility on their own, and we, as their descendants, also experience what it means to make our way in the eastern regions without God. However, the Lord doesn’t leave us on our own without the ability to come back to Him and into the love, care, and protection of His presence in our lives. Christ runs after our refugee hearts, and He gives Himself in exchange for our souls. As we repent and return to the God of our creation, Christ brings us back into God’s Kingdom and grants us the heart-deep peace of that eternal garden as our new and lasting home.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Jude 24, 25

 

We have all seen what it is like in a courtroom. This may be true from real life experience or these impressions might have come to us through television or film. There is one word that generally does not describe the scene in that place, and that word is joy. The exception to this is probably when the verdict is pronounced, and then. sometimes joy or joyous describes the prevailing party. This verse depicts a different sort of courtroom where the outcome, the verdict, carries a much more significant weight than does the one that can be handed out in any human court of law. In God’s court, each of us is held accountable for the life that we lived, for the righteous conduct of our days, and to the decisions that we made in regards to our relationship with the judge, God Himself.

 

Frankly, no one passes the test of the high standard of righteousness that God sets for us. Every one of us fails as no one is worthy of being in the presence of the pure and holy being that is the Lord. However, this same pure, holy and righteous God does not want to be separated from us. He designed and created each person on this earth with the desire and intent of enjoying a relationship with us that would continue into the infinite. So, God came into our world in the person of Jesus. He brought to us an answer to our guilt as Jesus took upon His absolutely blameless and innocent self the punishment that we deserve. With our guilty verdict proclaimed upon Christ, God allowed our death sentence to be carried out upon Himself so that when we appear before the seat of judgement after our days in this world are completed, the verdict that we will hear is innocent, and we are set free to enjoy the eternal presence of the Lord as we dwell in His glorious realm.

 

Although living for eternity in God’s presence is an extraordinary outcome to the highly flawed and blameworthy lives that we all live, it is not all that Christ grants to us through His sacrificial acceptance of our verdict of shameful guilt. In Christ, we are set free from a form of slavery that oppresses the soul and so subjects the heart and mind to its bondage. Christ redeems us from that life-long captivity, from that pre-sentence incarceration, so that we can live out our days breathing the free air of God’s Kingdom on earth where our lives are given great purpose and meaning as we are called by Christ to serve His redemptive mission. It is Christ’s grace that makes us, sinful and disobedient as we may be, suitable for this service. He pours out His righteousness upon us, and so, we are found to be blameless, and God joyously pronounces us to be fit for service to Him.

This is how one should regard us, s servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

1 Corinthians 4: 1

 

By definition, a steward is a person who takes care of things, who manages them and who keeps order. Stewardship is the process of maintaining this well-thought out and orderly operation. Paul thinks of himself in this manner. He sees his calling and that of others who, like him, are following Christ by entering into the lives of others as they bring the truth of God’s Word and the direction of His Spirit to the forefront in all aspects of life and of living as being to stewardship. As they work in service to Christ and His Gospel, they strive to restore the order in this world that was lost in our sinful departure from God’s righteous path. We ate the fruit, but instead of God-like wisdom, we obtained a godless capacity to wreak havoc and bring about unceasing chaos. As we attempt to control everything ourselves, life seems to proceed as if we have covered our fragile world with grease and our hands with rubber mittens.

 

We fumble our way through it all and break precious things along the path that we travel. Mostly, we pour out ungodly or other-god oriented views of how this world should be managed as if they were a new and a more informed gospel. We say that we value order and seek after peace, but the fact is, we do not truly desire either. Order and peace are foundational qualities that God designed into the form of life that He created for this world to enjoy. These are aspects of that creation intent and execution that we turned over and tossed out in our rejection of God’s authority over us, and that have been lost in the world that we have claimed as our own. Yet, God does not leave things that He loves in disarray and confusion. Jesus came, and He pronounced the renewed presence of God’s kingdom of peace. Christ brings that peace into our lives as He restores us to the unceasing relationship with our Creator that was ours to enjoy in God’s plan for this world.

 

The possibility of living in a state of deep-seated peace with God and of dwelling inside of the orderliness of His vision for the universe is one of the great mysteries of the Kingdom of God. The evidence that we see around us does not support the existence of this peace and order, but the testimony of God’s people tells of its reality. This is why Paul understood the vital importance of the role of steward of these great mysteries of life in Christ. He presented them to the people that he met and to us in his letters. God’s Word does the same with the entire narrative of God’s vision, intent, and execution of redemption and restoration for all who will come to Him. So, like Paul, we too are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of this faith that leads to a life. This is a life that stands apart from this world, and so, it joins in the chorus of testimony, along with Paul and all who have come before us, to these great mysteries of peace and order, of life in Christ.

Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1: 1, 2

 

The proverbial phrase, “You are what you eat,” has been around for a long time. It has been adopted and adapted into the title for books, lectures, television programs, songs, and other forms of popular expression. I think that its wide-spread use is an indication of the fact that there is truth contained in these words, for it may not be literally and absolutely accurate but it does convey a sense of functional reality. What we put into ourselves does directly and significantly effect how we live and even, to some extent, who we are. The author of this psalm is talking about something more important and considerably greater in its life-altering capacity than any of the meat or vegetables that we might encounter. He is speaking about the consumption of truth, righteousness, and all the rest of what is entailed in truly knowing God.

 

We all face this same choice. We can listen to the voice of God or we can select other ones to fill our minds and hearts. In fact, we will hear a wide range of input as we go about life, and we will all be subjected to good ideas and to poor ones in this process. Not everything that is said in the name of God will be true and useful, either. However, all of God’s Word is true, everything contained within it is holy, and the counsel of the Holy Spirit is unquestionably reliable. So, even when the words come from within the context of the church or out of the mouths of people who share a profession of faith, there needs to be a form of testing of the validity and the value of those ideas and concepts. That testing always involves holding the idea or direction up to the template of God’s Holy Word of truth, allowing His Spirit to reveal the application of that truth, and then in evaluating all of this prayerfully within the fellowship of trusted fellow followers of Christ.

 

The Lord has provided His followers with a truly marvelous banquet feast of truth, and the life that we are given by ingesting it is remarkable as it makes all of the difference in the joy and the peace that we will know in our journey through our days. Yet, at times we still decide to dine at the table of the unwise or, even worse, we fill ourselves up on the deadly counsel of those who stand in opposition to God and to His righteous way. In these times, Christ’s invitation to turn to Him, to repent, and to take a seat at His table of grace, love, and life remains open for us. The Lord invites each of us to come, sit in His presence, and be filled to overflowing with the law that brings life and by its hope and promise of eternity. This is a place where we are granted the opportunity to meditate deeply upon Christ, to be filled with His presence, and to prosper and grow stronger for this day of service to God’s kingdom.

 

 

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1: 13

 

Regardless of whether we are prepared or not, action will come our way. It might be physical in its nature or it could just engage the mind; yet, it will be there. This world is like that. There are forces at work in it that cannot be stopped and that will not be silenced. Some of them are determined to upset us and to send our journeys off track. They are subversive when it comes to following God’s will and desire for the lives of His people. Other action causing agents are more benign in their intent, but they are still disruptive when we are ill prepared for their presence.

 

The best that we can do to handle it all is to enter into God’s wise counsel and set the focus of our hearts and minds on Him. This sort of preparation doesn’t just happen; rather, it comes about because we have purposed and planned to be made ready for whatever comes our way. The Holy Spirit within us does the real work of this preparedness as we yield ourselves to His will and meditate upon God’s Word. Through this process of purposeful surrender our minds and our hearts enter into the sort of peace and calm that allows for them to function with the clarity and the confidence that Christ desires to grant to us. This is how we gain the foundation that is needed to walk through this world upright and balanced.

 

This equilibrium that was established by preparation for the day is maintained by keeping the focus of the eyes of our heart on Christ, Himself, as we go out into the storm. Every day in Christ is one in which we travel forward with the hope of eternity in our hearts and with the grace that we know with certainty will restore all that is broken and lost in this world to its creation glory upon our minds. Thus, the forces that bring about today’s action are tamed and brought under the control of the Spirit. It is in this manner that we become people who engage with it all for the sake of God’s kingdom and who provide the support and the peace of the Savior to others in their times of turmoil and trial.