New and improved

Hebrews 8

The new and improved promise.

The letter of Hebrews was written to first century Jewish Christians. They were familiar with the ceremony and practices in the temple. The writer was reminding them that Jesus is the new way of life. What he brings to them and us is a vast improvement over the past.

“But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said[b]:

“The days are coming, declares the Lord,

when I will make a new covenant

with the people of Israel

and with the people of Judah.

9 It will not be like the covenant

I made with their ancestors

when I took them by the hand

to lead them out of Egypt,

because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,

and I turned away from them,

declares the Lord.”

The new covenant will include God writing his laws on our minds and hearts. And….

“No longer will they teach their neighbor,

or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’

because they will all know me,

from the least of them to the greatest.

12 For I will forgive their wickedness

and will remember their sins no more.”[c]

13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”

The new and improved way to God is through Jesus. We no longer need the flesh and blood of animals to pay for our sins. We have the sacrifice of Jesus. We no longer rely on a line of men just as fallen as we are to go to God for us. We can go to Jesus who is our priest and our mediator and our sacrifice. He lived the human experience and did not miss the mark, he did not sin.

Jesus, he knows us, knows what it’s like to be us, loved us enough to die for us and stands before God the father on our behalf.

Repeat after me: Jesus loves me. That is what this book is all about.

(Originally posted 12/14/19)

Tis’ the season

I have already used this picture once today but I think it is an amazing shot that encapsulates so much of the meaning of Christmas for my wife Mary and for our family.

First, it’s dark. Winter is dark up here in the northern part of the U.S. We only get about nine hours of sunlight. There is snow on the tree. Along with being dark in the winter, it is cold. If we get precipitation at all, it comes in the form of snow and ice. There is a moon. I can’t think of any significance for the moon and Christmas, but it is a mostly full moon, which is mentioned in the poem “The night before Christmas”.  “The moon on the crest of the new fallen snow, gave luster like midday to objects below”. There is the star. It is a star that my Wife Mary has looked at and cherished every Christmas of her life. If it was just a star shaped light it wouldn’t be that special, but it symbolizes another star, a star that led wisemen to seek a new king. That king was Jesus. That Jesus became the king of my wife Mary’s heart, then my heart, then our children’s hearts and now our grandchildren’s hearts.

Christmas is special to us because God became flesh and dwelt among us. He lived a perfect life, and died the death we deserve to pay a debt we cannot pay. He was raised to life and now lives forever to intercede for us.

Mary wrote a song about a special Christmas memory from her past. She doesn’t mention it in the song, but the star was shining over her little town that night, symbolizing another star that shown over another Bethlehem Ephrata, that led wise men to seek a king.

Please click on the link and listen to Mary’s song, “Merry Mary” and remember all the Christmases, especially the first one, when Jesus Christ was born.

 

Looking down the hallway of history

When my wife Mary and I were first married we moved to Vancouver Washington because I was going to school across the river in Portland Oregon at Concordia College. We were very young and very newly married and Mary was pregnant with our honeymoon baby. She was homesick for her home town of Ephrata and would cry herself to sleep over the thought of missing out on her favorite Ephrata Christmas tradition, the giant star being lit on top of the hill that overlooks the town.

The town of Ephrata is named after the town of Bethlehem. An early traveler to our sleepy little whistle stop looked around and said the setting reminded him of the town of Bethlehem. The name is found in a prophecy about the coming messiah being born there, found in the minor prophets book, Micah, chapter five.

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.”

Micah 5:2 – NLT

I’m not sure when it started but for as long as my wife has been alive, seeing the Star on the hill over Ephrata has been a meaningful experience.

The town elders who installed the star were prompted to by the story found in the book of Matthew. Wise men followed a star and found Jesus in Bethlehem.

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’ ” Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

Matthew 2:1-8 – NLT

This mornings bible reading took me to Micah 5, then as I was leaving for work the fog that had blanketed our town overnight, lifted just enough for me to see both the star on the hill, and a waning moon, framed by our weeping fir covered in snow.

It was like looking down the hallway of time. I saw the Old Testament prophet speaking words about his coming messiah, then the fulfillment of that prophecy at Jesus’ birth, then the connection of our little town to that town by a stranger passing through, then my personal connection to the star through my wife who has never missed a Christmas seeing the star on the hill.

Yes, even the year we were in Vancouver, God provided a way for Mary to see the star over Ephrata, which symbolizes the star over Bethlehem, which was the sign to the wisemen that the savior, the King had been born.

The angels said it best, “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Luke 2:8-14 – NLT

For Harold, husband, father, grandpa, great grandpa and all around good guy

My father-in-law was a really good man. He lived his whole life serving others, doing the right thing, even when it hurt, going the extra mile just because it was needed. He rescued people, he rescued dogs and cats, he put out fires, he served in the national guard going and doing whatever needed being done. He was a selfless servant. He didn’t ask for much in return. In the 40 plus years I knew him I rarely saw him angry.

When Mary finished her first album her dad looked it over and asked if his favorite song was on it. He loved Mary’s song that she called “Glory”. Mary told him that Glory did not make it on the album because it was more of a Christmas song. His response was a little out of character, he actually got a little miffed and said, “Well then, make a Christmas CD!” At first we scoffed at the thought. The recording process was expensive and time consuming but eventually we came up with a plan and of course we knew whatever else we put on the album, “Glory” had to be among the songs listed.

Harold passed away before the project was finished. We believe because of his faith in Jesus, that he is now experiencing in person, what we can only imagine, the Glory of the great God of the universe. God is a great and powerful and awesome God, but he showed his grace and mercy to us in sending us his son Jesus to die in our place, to pay for our sin which separates us from God.

If you have a few minutes to relax, please click on the link and listen for free to Mary’s dad Harold’s favorite song, “Glory”. If you like the song, please share this link with family and friends, you are our distribution system.

Merry Christmas, and Harold, thank you for your serving heart and hands.

Snow? It’s Snowing!

Ah to be a kid again and to be thrilled with the white stuff. It snowed last night, probably close to 2 inches so now our bleak winter landscape has a fresh fluffy white blanket and everything is beautiful. It is lovely, the snow tends to make me grumpy because of the impact it has on me. I have to shovel the walks, scrape the windows of my truck, drive slower than normal, walk carefully around the campus at work. So now I am the grumpy old man grumbling about how snow inconveniences me.

But what if I could see the fresh snow like it looks to a kid? Kids love snow, it creates a playground. Every flat surface is slide, every hill is a sledding hill. The white stuff becomes a builders master lego set with every shape possible, the warriors among the children have an inexhaustible arsenal at their fingertips.

Our granddaughter Molly wrote a song about the joy of snow. Click on the link and listen for free. If you enjoy the song, please share with your family and friends.

Merry Christmas and I hope you find multiple reasons to enjoy the season.

 

Being sawn and being seen

I am reading a book titled “Redeeming Sex”

By Debra Hirsch

In chapter 7 she writes this:

“Apparently the Gospel doesn’t involve God simply obliterating our history. God is a redeemer not an eraser. Our past, in some way , will always be with us, always a part of who we are and have become, an inextricable part of our life narrative. “

The book is not so much about sex as an act but about sex as gender and how Jesus helps us through the minefield of gender identity and how we can love people no matter what.

Before I read this I was at Church. We have a wall at church that is purposefully rustic. I felt like God said to me, “look at this wall” and I said “ok, I’m looking,” and he said “no, Peter, look at this this wall and let it teach you something about me,”.

The wall is paneled with boards from pallets. The colors, size, shape and texture of each board are all different. As I gazed at it, I was looking at the boards first as a whole, as the entire wall, then individually, as boards that make up the wall. I noticed two distinct patterns on the wood. On some boards there had straight lines cut in. Others had curved lines cut in. I then realized that these patterns were made by the saws used to cut the wood. The boards with the straight lines had been cut with a band saw which has a straight blade and cuts in a straight line. The boards with the curved lines had been cut with a circular saw which spins on an arbor making the half circle lines.

I see this wall like a picture of our church, we are an assemblage of people from all over and we are all in varying states and places in our life, different shades, different textures, some of us are knottier than others but we all need each other to complete the wall.

We have been cut out with different methods. Our life’s have been sliced and shaped by different means. We carry the marks of the saw with us.

When Jesus was traveling south to north he made an unusual travel deviation. Unlike the other Jewish travelers of his day,he went through Samaria instead going around it.

He ended up at Jacobs well, a spot that would be special to both Jews and Samaritans.

While he was there he bumped into a woman with a dubious past and a scandalous present.

During their conversation Jesus exposes his knowledge of the woman, her past and present and is unoffended by her life and lifestyle and racial lineage.

“Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?” Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?” Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

John 4:5-26 – NLT

This woman had both a past and a present that made her an outcast but Jesus sought her out. She will go on from this point in the story to tell her whole village about Jesus because he knew about her life yet loved and cared for her anyway.

God is not an eraser. Our “saw lines” stay with even after we encounter him and his grace and mercy.

In his letter to the believers in Rome Paul wrote this:

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

Romans 5:6-11 – NLT

God is not an eraser, he is a redeemer, I hope that brings us relief and hope. Maybe we can find someone who needs to hear about this God we serve who seeks us out, while we were yet sinners.

24/7 Support

Hebrews 7

There are 2 history lessons here but I won’t go into them now. The story of Melchizedek and the story of the Judaic priesthood. Great stories, must reads. Maybe later.

I’m excited to share this next section because it encapsulates Jesus’ mission.

“And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:

“The Lord has sworn

and will not change his mind:

‘You are a priest forever.’”[b]

22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely[c] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”

That part, vs 25 Jesus saves completely, and he always lives to intercede for us.

At work we have a tech support contract for our control system. They offered 2 levels. Entry level was support M-F 8-5. We run 24/7. Most break downs for some reason happen in the middle of the night. We took option 2, for the 24/7 support. Jesus is on 24/7 for each one of us. He saves us completely and then is there to support us all day, and all night.

We have 24/7 support. That is good news. He is there to support us and as we saw recently, he understands our situation. He has been where we are, yet without messing up.

Jesus help me come to you with my problems and concerns and junk and yuck and thanks and good reports. I tend to hang onto them too long trying to fix it myself. Help me ask for help.

(Originally posted 12/11/15)