Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hebrews 3

Heb 3:18-19 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (ESV)

I find these verses fascinating. God swore that the "disobedient" would not "enter his rest." But then the author of Hebrews concludes, "they were unable to enter because of unbelief." I think most of us would have concluded, "they were unable to enter because of disobedience." What the author understands is that ultimately obedience and disobedience are not about what we do. They are primarily about what we believe.

What we believe, who we are truly trusting, is at the heart of the Scriptures and the gospel. In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve chose to believe a lie rather than believing God's truth. That resulted in them eating fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in disobedience to God's command. What we do is based on what we believe. The Christian life is ultimately not about sucking it up and doing the right thing. It is about faith.

Here is a conundrum. We enter God's rest by resting. We don't enter his rest by trying really hard. We don't enter his rest by praying the right prayer. We don't enter into his rest by impressing him. We enter into his rest by trusting him. Obedience flows out of faith.

Father, forgive me for my lack of faith. Forgive me for how often and how quickly I default to trust in my own failing efforts when you have already provided  all I need. Today may I walk by faith and find rest in you.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, June 28, 2013

Hebrews 2

Heb 2:14-15 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (ESV)

The deliverance we have in Christ is so much greater than the deliverance Israel experienced under Moses it is like comparing a cluster of grapes with a single raisin. Moses deliverance led the people out of slavery in Egypt. Jesus deliverance leads us out of slavery to sin. Moses deliverance led the people into a lifetime of freedom. Jesus deliverance leads us into an eternity of freedom. Moses deliverance led the people away from the fearful Egyptians although they were to repeatedly encounter other fearful people. Jesus deliverance leads us away from the fear of death.

There are many things people fear. We fear failure. We fear looking bad in front of others. We fear rejection. We fear physical and emotional harm. We fear pain and discomfort. Ultimately we fear death.  But... Jesus deliverance is an exodus from those things which cause us fear. "Perfect love casts out fear" 1 John 4:18 says, speaking of our love for God and God's love for us. Hebrews 2 reminds us that we lived in a lifetime fear of death, but that we have been delivered from that fear through Jesus death and resurrection.

Death is not a good thing. People were not designed nor created to die. Death is the consequence of mankind's sin. Because of our rejection of God's authority death has filled this earth. It is rightly horrendous to us. But the deliverance of Jesus, offered us by grace through faith on the basis of Jesus own death, brings us to a point of peace with death because death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:56). In Christ there is more to life than just this life. We live in that hope and expectation.

Father, I confess that sometimes this life with it's fears and anxieties fill my vision and I lose sight of eternity. Today may I walk in the peace of your deliverance whatever I face in this life. Thank you that my life goes beyond this life.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hebrews 1

Heb 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (ESV)

There are angels. In this chapter they are called winds, a flame of fire, and ministering spirits. Were we to see an angel we would likely be inclined to worship as the Old Testament prophets who fell on their faces when an angel appeared to them. But the angels' response was always to lift them up and point them to God. Angels are not to be worshiped.

The truth of this first chapter of Hebrews is that there is one who is worthy of our worship. He is higher than the angels. He is creator and sustainer of all that exists. He is the Son who laid aside his glory for a period of time to come to this earth as a man. His glory has now been restored.

Were we to see an angel we might be tempted to worship. Were we to see the Son in all his glory we would fall on our faces as a dead man. The apostle John, who had been so familiar with Jesus when he was here on this earth, fell at his feet in fear when he saw Jesus in the first chapter of Revelation. Jesus is higher than the angels.

Even this chapter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is insufficient to truly express the greatness and glory of the Son. I'm not sure that it is possible to express that truth in language. Some things are so big, so incredible that they can only been seen and experienced, not really expressed in words.

That brings us to worship. We to often think about worship as something we experience, but that's not really true. The down side to that way of thinking is that worship becomes man-centered instead of God-centered. It becomes about the music instead of about the God of whom and to whom we are singing. True worship comes as we bow the knee before Him and simply acknowledge his greatness. I fear that what we most often call worship is something far less. I suspect that we have a great deal to learn about truly worshiping our God.

Father, just reading the description of your Son in this first chapter of Hebrews is amazing. Teach me to worship.

Heb 1:10-12
And, " You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end."

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ezekiel 48

Ezk 48:35b And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There." (ESV)

With these words, "The Lord is There," the book of Ezekiel ends. This final chapter describes how the land will be allotted and laid out with the prince, the priests and the temple at the center. "The Lord is There" is particularly significant because earlier in Ezekiel's prophecy he watched the glory of the Lord leave the temple and the city. The Lord was clearly not there. For all of the apocalyptic and cryptic visions of Ezekiel, he ends with a clear, simple statement of promise and hope. There will be a day when it can again be said of Israel and Jerusalem, "the Lord is there."

What does a nation and a city look like when God is in her midst? Much of the final few chapters of Ezekiel are dedicated to communicating just that. But that raises another question. What does a life look like when the Lord is there? Perhaps the best description of that is listed in Galatians 5. God called it the fruit of the Spirit.

Fruit can be imitated. People can hang wax fruit on a tree, stand back and say, "Look at what a fruitful tree I have." But that doesn't make the tree fruitful. It only makes it fake. By the same token, people can fake the fruit of the Spirit, at least for a time. We can grit our teeth and try real hard. We can put on an act that is contrary to who we really are. But when the Spirit is active, when the Lord is there, genuine fruit results and God is glorified.

Father, forgive me for how often I have been willing to settle for "wax" fruit in my life rather than truly allowing you to be at the center of who I am. Today may I walk in humble dependence and may those around me truly see the fruit of the Spirit.

By His grace,
Rick weinert

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ezekiel 47

Ezk 47:22 You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native- born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. (ESV)

This chapter has two main sections. The first 12 verses talk about a river flowing from the temple of God, and its influence on everything around it. The last 11 verses talk about the land and inheritance. Reading through this chapter three things caught my eye. First is the river. Second are the trees growing along the river. Third is the fact that non-Jewish "sojourners" are given a part of the land inheritance.

The river reminds me of Jesus words to the woman at the well. "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me  a drink' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water" and "whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (Jn 4:10, 14 ESV)

Rivers grow as they flow. Springs and tributaries feed into them and they grow larger until they dump into the ocean. In this case the river grows from a trickle to a river that cannot be forded within the distance of about a mile with no mention of springs or tributaries. Where the river flows it brings life. The river originates at the temple of God and brings life to a dead sea. That is the impact of the gospel growing and bringing life wherever it goes. That is the Spirit guiding, energizing and producing in believers the fruit of the Spirit.

That is the miracle of Jesus life. He takes dry, dead people and infuses them with his life and they bring life wherever they go. Which brings us to the trees along the river. These are not normal trees. They too produce life. They bring forth fruit every month and their leaves are for healing. There is no life too broken that it is beyond the healing grace of the gospel.

Finally we come to the inheritance of the land. This is the fulfillment of a promise God mad to Israel. Yet, "sojourners" are given a part in the inheritance. Early in the church there was a question about whether a gentile could truly be saved unless he became Jewish. God's answer was clearly a "Yes." Jewish ritual was not required for salvation. Here we have another indication that God's grace is not limited to a particulate people group. There are huge lessons here, but perhaps first is the lesson that people don't need to be like us in order to be saved.

That was hard for the early Jewish believers to accept. If we are honest, it is hard for us as well. But that is the nature of the gospel.  Salvation is not about what we do. It is about the miraculous grace of God that flows from the throne of God and brings life wherever it goes to whomever will believe. God is no respecter of persons. Neither, then, should I be.

Father, thank you for including me in your grace family. May every life I touch sense the grace of your gospel in my life.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ezekiel 46

Ezk 46:24 Then he said to me, "These are the kitchens where those who minister at the temple shall boil the sacrifices of the people." (ESV)

Imagine that you are an Israeli stuck in a foreign country. You know that a foreign power controls your homeland. You know that the temple where you are to worship your God has been destroyed. You know that the walls of your capital city have been destroyed. The best you can hope for is to survive. How would you read Ezekiel's words in these final chapters?

He describes the layout of the city and the land surrounding it in the previous chapter (45). In this chapter (46) he describes active worship in the temple. He also describes a prince who is active in worship and who does not take advantage of the people. I would suspect that for those hearing this prophecy from Ezekiel it is almost more than they can hope for. It is contrary to everything they see and experience.

Perhaps therein lies much of our problem as believers. We talk about faith, but much of our faith is predicated upon what we can see, feel and experience. The author of Hebrews wrote that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)  We talk about faith, but we don't walk in faith.

Faith is not wishful thinking. Faith has no power in and of itself to produce miracles. But, faith is grounded firmly in the word and promises of God. In the midst of dark days and hopeless situations we need to hear clearly from God and we need to hold firmly to his word and his promises. We need to look beyond the fog of failure, the darkness of lost hope and the bleak landscape of a broken life to embrace the truth and life of God by faith.

Father, forgive me for my faithlessness. The problems and obstacles of life too often are more real to me that you are. Today, by your grace, may I walk by faith.

By H is grace,
Rick Weinert

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ezekiel 45

Ezk 45:1 "When you allot the land as an inheritance, you shall set apart for the Lord a portion of the land as a holy district, 25,000 cubits long and 20,000 cubits broad. It shall be holy throughout its whole extent. (ESV)

Two things strike me from this chapter. First, there is to be a section of land at the very heart of Israel set aside as holy ground for the Lord. Second, the Prince is a central figure. In the original Mosaic Law there was no mention of the role of the Prince or King, but here it is the Prince that is to provide the major sacrifices and offerings.

I've been reading this chapter over and over for several days. These final chapters of Ezekiel are hard to draw practical applications from. That being said, it is certainly true that we need to make sure that the Lord is at the center of all that we are and all that we do.

It is one thing to say that God is first priority in my life, but that actually just makes him first among many priorities. He is not just to be one of many priorities in my life that I give precedence to, he is to be central. When God is central then all priorities, values and decisions in life are ordered by him and around him. When he is first, then once I have given him enough time and energy I am free to give the rest of my time an energy to whatever priorities I have left in life. There is a difference between God being first in my life and God being central. Setting aside this holy ground at the center of Israel is a great picture of the necessity and importance of God being at the heart of all I am and all I do.

As for the Prince providing the sacrifices and offerings, Jesus is ultimately the Prince of Israel and the one who has already provided the sacrifices and offerings through his own death and resurrection. That is the very reason we ought to make sure that he is central to all we are and all we do.

Father, forgive me for how often I begin to think of you as simply one priority among many. Today may I live with you at the heart of all I am, all I do, and all I think, say and see.

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...