Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6:18-19 ESV

so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,

God calls us to hold fast. The motivation for holding fast is not loss of salvation. It is not God's anger or disappointment. It is not fear or uncertainty. The motivation for holding fast is the unchangeable, faithful promise of God. I hold fast to him because I am secure in him. I hold fast to him because he gave me his word and he cannot lie. I hold fast to him because he is faithful. My faithfulness depends wholly on his faithfulness.

Father, thank you that my salvation rests in the sure and certain truth of Christ's work on my behalf. He died for me and rose again. He has entered into the most holy place of your presence and is waiting there for me. May my life imitate the the faith and patience of those who have gone before me, not to gain your favor, but because I stand in your favor because of Jesus.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hebrews 5

Hebrews 5:11, 14 NIV

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Jesus is a high priest who knows our weaknesses. As any good High Priest, he did not seek the glory of the position, but was appointed to it by His Father. He personally experienced the pain and struggle of obedience. He knows our frailty.

The problem lies not with our high priest, but with ourselves. Failing to practice distinguishing between good and evil, we have lost the ability to understand God's word and God's ways. We have settled for either legalism that never has to actually discern, only blindly stay in the box defined by whatever law we're taught, or by licentiousness that justifies bad behavior and excuses sin.

What is interesting is that both groups pride themselves in their position. Legalism revels in the thought that they are obeying God, without giving any thought to whether God actually set the standards they passionately defend. Licentiousness revels arrogantly in their "freedom," assuming that God, in his grace, approves of whatever they decide to do. Somewhere in the middle is a living, active relationship with God that has learned to rest in Christ, listen to him, and discern by his leading what is actually good or evil.

Because we have failed to practice discernment, we have lost our ability to understand God's word and God's ways. How many of our churches are filled with people satisfied with milk, unable to appreciate, or even accept the meat of God's word? How many of us in that condition actually believe we are eating meat? Father, forgive me for my own hard heart. Strip away the arrogance of my own ignorance and give me a heart capable of meat.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hebrews 4

Hebrews 4:9-10, 16 NIV

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

There remains a rest for the people of God. That is one of my favorite verses in scripture. Believing God, walking with God, trusting God is about rest. It seems that we so often make it a striving, working, guilt driven faith. God says it is a faith of rest. The power of God's word and the assurance of access to God's throne is directly related to this rest. "Anyone who enters God's rest also rests from their own work."

That doesn't mean that commitment is meaningless. It doesn't mean that obedience is unimportant. But commitment and obedience flow out of rest, not the other way around. Israel failed to enter God's rest, not because they disobeyed, but because they failed to believe. Their disobedience resulted from their unbelief. Commitment and obedience result from what we choose to believe. Rest is foundational to the Faith. If we are not walking in rest then we do not understand the faith we claim to embrace.

Father, forgive me for the times I have tried to push through on my own power. Forgive me for how often I have allowed my life to be filled with anxiety, fear and tension. Jesus, you are my Sabbath rest. Today may I rest in you.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hebrews 3

Hebrews 3:6, 13, 19 NIV
But Christ is faithful as the Son over God's house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.
So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
Christ is faithful. Therein lies our hope. Our hope does not lie in our faithfulness, but in his. We enter into it by faith. This does not undermine the concept of obedience, it enhances it. Why do we obey? Because we believe that he is faithful. "We are his house, if indeed we hold firmly...," but, it's not obedience to which we firmly hold. It's not holiness or godliness we are gripping. We hold firmly to "our confidence and the hope in which we glory." We rest not in our faithfulness, but in his.
Sin, on the other hand, leads to disbelief. We become "hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Sin has a way of doing that. Little compromises harden us to bigger compromises. Compromises cause us to doubt. When we stand looking in the mirror we see failure which leads to doubt, which leads to more failure. That is why this chapter begins not with a challenge to examine ourselves, but with the challenge to, "fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest." Heb 3:1
Yes, we are told to examine ourselves in 1Corinthians 11, but we are more often told to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. I sometimes wonder if we, as "believers", spend too much time examining ourselves and too little time focused on Jesus. After all, our hope is in him, not in us. Our faith is in his faithfulness, not in ours. My faithfulness depends on his faithfulness. His faithfulness does not depend on mine, and for that I'm grateful.
Father, thank you for your faithfulness and for the security I have in Christ. May I never trust my faithfulness. May I always rest in yours.
By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hebrews 2

Hebrews 2:14, 16 NIV

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—

For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants.

Here is a most amazing truth. Mankind was made "a little lower than the angels," and yet "it is not angels he helps." God never sent his son to take on the form of an angel in order to redeem angels. He did send his son to take on the form of man: "... he too shared in their humanity." He did send him to "break the power of him who holds the power of death." He sent him to "make atonement for the sins of the people." (Heb 2:17) Because of that "he is able to help those who are being tempted." (Heb 2:18)

Why did God provide a savior for mankind, but not for angels? Why did he send a redeemer for us and not for them? Is it because of the nature of their fall, which was different from the nature of our fall? One man fell and passed on his depravity to his children. Angels fell as a group and do not procreate. Mankind fell through the influence of an outside agent, Satan. Angels apparently fell without that influence. I don't know if this is what makes the difference, or if it has to do with how we were created and why we were created. What I do know is that for some reason, in the sovereign love of God he sent us a redeemer who became like us in order to save us. For that I am grateful

Father, thank you for your incredible love and faithful redemption. Today may my life reflect that love to others.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hebrews 1

Hebrews 1:4, 14 NIV

So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Angels are sent to serve those who are saved. Jesus came to save us. Angels are created beings. Jesus is God, Lord and creator. The point of this chapter is not to put down angels, but to exalt Jesus. There is a chorus with the line, "Jesus is my friend." That is true. Jesus said to his disciples, "I have called you friends." But he is not only our friend. He is also King of kings, Lord of lords, and God of all creation and so we also sing, "God of wonders beyond our galaxy, You are holy, holy. The universe declares your majesty. You are holy, holy, Lord of heaven and earth.

Jesus, I fear that I am sometimes inclined to worship your creation more that to worship you. May I see you today when I look out the window or glance up at the clouds. Today may my life be characterized by worship directed toward you alone.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Isaiah 66

Isaiah 66:3, 19 NIV

But whoever sacrifices a bull
is like one who kills a person,
and whoever offers a lamb
is like one who breaks a dog's neck;
whoever makes a grain offering
is like one who presents pig's blood,
and whoever burns memorial incense
is like one who worships an idol.
They have chosen their own ways,
and they delight in their abominations;

"I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations.

Two thoughts stand out in this final chapter of Isaiah. First, worship is not worship unless it is from a pure heart. "But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a person." This is strong language. How is it possible that one who offers a required sacrifice to God is like a murderer? Sacrifices are unacceptable to God unless they come from a pure heart. Evil is not imposed on us from the outside. It comes from the heart. The beauty of the gospel is the offer of a new heart. The heart of mankind is incredibly deceitful and bent on selfishness and wickedness. Only God can change that. External acts of worship cannot make us acceptable to God because they don't change the heart. Worship must start in the heart. Worship must come from a heart that is pure before God. True worship, then, begins in the humility that recognizes that we have nothing offer God except that which first comes from him.

Worship is not worship unless it is from a pure heart. Second, God will restore his people and they will carry the light of his truth to the world. "They will proclaim my glory among the nations." If the heart of mankind is incredibly deceitful, the grace of God is even more incredible. That God would choose to use those who are so bent on evil is amazing. That God would graciously change the hearts of those who are so unacceptable to him, that he would choose to use them to take the message of his glory and grace to a fallen world is beyond words.

In the mean time God has chosen to use us, the church, a  bunch of redeemed sinners to proclaim his grace and glory to our world. As those who have put our faith in Christ as our only hope, may we worship and serve from pure hearts in humble dependence on him. If you have not trusted in Jesus as your savior and only hope of acceptance by God, if you have not put your faith in God to accept you because of Jesus death and resurrection in your place, I encourage you to do so today.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, September 3, 2012

Isaiah 65

Isaiah 65:1-2 NIV

"I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me;
I was found by those who did not seek me.
To a nation that did not call on my name,
I said, 'Here am I, here am I.'
All day long I have held out my hands
to an obstinate people,
who walk in ways not good,
pursuing their own imaginations—

God, in grace and mercy, revealed himself to a people who had not been seeking him. He called them out, set them apart and blessed them, but they failed to follow him. They consistently pursued other gods and violated his laws. Because of his love for them, however, he will not completely destroy them even though that is what they truly deserve.

When someone does something nice for another person they don't necessarily want to be paid back for their kindness, but they do appreciate a little appreciation. Sometimes just a "Thank you" is all that's needed. In this case Israel not only neglected to thank God for his blessings and protection, they actually attributed his blessings to other gods and figuratively spit in his face.

No one would blame God if he elected to respond by removing his blessing. That is essentially what he will do, and yet...

Isaiah 65:1-2, 8 NIV

This is what the Lord  says:
"As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes
and people say, 'Don't destroy it,
there is still a blessing in it,'
so will I do in behalf of my servants;
I will not destroy them all.

I don't think we truly understand the depth of the offense our sin is to God, nor do we understand the breadth of his grace and mercy. It brings to mind the old chorus, "Why should he love me so? Why should he love me so? Why would my savior to Calvary go? Why should he love me so?" The answer? He shouldn't, but he is a God of mercy and grace. His love is not earned or deserved. It is lavished upon those who do not deserve it.

Pride might keep us from accepting a love we have not earned or deserved. Humility revels in it. Which explains why the scriptures say that God resists the proud but shows favor to the humble. Father, today may I listen well. May I walk in humility before you, and may I truly revel in your grace and glory.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Isaiah 64

Isaiah 64:1, 3-4 NIV

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!

For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

My first thought, in reading the verses above, was that God making the mountains tremble didn't work out all that great in the past. When the people of Israel encountered God at Mt. Sinai, under the leadership of Moses, that is exactly what they experienced. They responded by running to Moses crying out, "You go talk to him and tell us what he said. We don't ever want to see him like that again." At least that's my loose translation.

Reading farther in this chapter of Isaiah, however, I realize that the force of this chapter is not about the lack of seeing or experiencing God. The focus of the chapter is in the fact that the people of God have not been experiencing God because of their sin. It is in this very acknowledgment and confession that the experience of God can really begin.

I read a blog the other day on myths of evangelicalism. The first myth addressed was the idea that we are not good enough for God, that we don't deserve his love. The author's take on this was that because we don't feel like we are good enough for God we therefore somehow miss how much we are loved by God. Personally I think that's sad because somehow feeling like I deserve God's love does nothing for my relationship with him. It causes me to take his love for granted. Of course God loves me. Just look at me. What's not to love. It is in recognizing that I am not good enough for God and yet he lavishly loves me that I begin to truly appreciate and enjoy his love.

In Isaiah 64 enjoying the love and power of God begins with acknowledging personal and corporate sin. Knowing and experiencing God's power and presence is contingent upon first admitting guilt. Father, forgive us for our faulty theologies that somehow make us feel like we deserve something from you. Our only hope lies in your grace. Today may we be honest enough to recognize our own guilt, acknowledge it freely to you and experience deeply your forgiveness and love.

By His grace,
Rick weinert

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...