Forever Priest

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

A priest is a person who stands between God and man.  At times he will speak to people on behalf of God, and at times he will speak to God on behalf of people.  We call that latter part intercession.  While the Bible teaches that all believers are “priests”, we often look to older brothers (pastors) who will help us on our way in life.

One of the problems with priests is their lack of longevity.  Priests die. There may be a pastor in your life that you appreciate and look to from time to time, but that pastor is a simple human being just like you.  One day he will be gone.  Many of us looked to Pastor Chuck Smith for guidance, but a few years ago, Chuck passed away, and we can no longer lean on him. Some of you look to me for encouragement, but one day I too will be gone.

Jesus is a different kind of priest.  Jesus is a forever priest.  Even after He ascended to heaven, He never stopped being a priest. He is still at work praying for us. It’s good to have people in your life to help you along the way, but beloved, don’t neglect the One who will never leave you.  Be sure your dependence is upon Him.  He is always there for you.  He’s praying for you.

Love that Refreshes

For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother. (Philemon 7)

As Paul thought about his buddy Philemon from Colosse, he found himself grinning. What was it about Philemon that brought Paul joy?  It was Philemon’s love for others.  The Greek word translated “love” (agape – “a-GAH-pay”) is an unconditional love that is demonstrated by action.  It’s about making a choice to value another person and then doing something about it.

Philemon’s “love” was special to Paul because the hearts of those in Colosse were “refreshed” by him.  The word translated “hearts” has to do with the seat of a person’s emotions. The word translated “refreshed” speaks of a person being allowed to pause from their labor and given a chance to recover and rest.

While we all have “needs”, there are some folks that are nothing but “needy”.  Even when their life is going relatively well, they focus only on themselves and how they can get the attention of others. They are a drain on the emotions of others.

Philemon didn’t drain others, he refreshed them.  He focused on encouraging others more than on his own needs. People were built up rather than depleted. Hanging out with Philemon was like being on an emotional “retreat”. May your love refresh those around you.

Welcome

Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7)

It’s been said that Sunday morning at 10:00 is the most segregated hour in America.  It’s sad but probably true.  It seems that it’s our tendency to want to hang out with people who are like us.  It’s not always a racial thing, though sometimes it is.  Sometimes we prefer people who are in our same age range, our same family status, or our same financial ballpark.  Though this may be what makes us comfortable, it’s certainly not God’s heart.

Isaiah was writing in a time when the leaders of Israel were lazy, greedy son-of-a-guns (was that possible in 700BC?).  The priests had developed strict rules about who was allowed into the Temple precincts.  Those who were “different” were not welcome. God replied that there was a day coming when all those who were “different” would be accepted and their prayers heard.

The place where God’s people gather is supposed to be a place where all are welcome.  It is a place where those who are hungry and thirsty for God find not only Him, but acceptance with God’s people.  Keep your eyes open for the stranger.  And welcome them.

Fear Not

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10)

There are certainly plenty of things in this life that cause fear and anxiety.  Natural disasters seem to be everywhere.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and floods.  Nations rattling their sabers. And then there are the things a little closer to home.  Relationships are stressed, families struggle, and finances seem a bit short.  Even closer can be the health issues we might be facing.  Sometimes it all can seem just a little bit overwhelming.

There is Someone who wants to take you through the things you are facing.  It’s true that with just a word, He can make all the problems disappear.  Yet He might not choose to keep you from the difficulties.  Sometimes He prefers to walk with us through them.

You may no longer have a parent you can talk to, or a friend who knows the answers to what you are facing, but you don’t have to be alone with your fears.  God longs to be an intimate part of your life.  He wants to help guide you through the days ahead.  He delights in His children.  He wants to take us by the hand and remind us that He not only knows what we’re going through, He wants to take us there.  Hold out your hand and grab His.

Not Shallow

And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

The apostle Paul didn’t spend much time in the city of Thessalonica (Acts 17), but during the few weeks he was there, a small, vibrant church was born.  The church took root in a city that was not open to the gospel.  It took root in a hostile environment.

That hostility against the gospel didn’t keep a few from believing.  They received the truth about salvation through Jesus Christ with much joy.  Even after they were persecuted, they kept believing.

Jesus told a parable about how some people are like shallow soil.  When the seed of the gospel is planted into their life, they are joyful at first, but after persecution hits they wither away (Mat. 13).  The Thessalonian church was not made up of shallow Christians.

Today the gospel is not a popular topic.  Some folks become quite hostile when you mention the name of Jesus.  The Thessalonian church is instructive in two aspects.  First, it’s a challenge to us who believe.  Don’t be shallow in your faith.  Deep faith endures hard times.  Second, don’t be discouraged. Even in days of persecution, there will be some who will respond to you sharing the gospel, and they too will believe.

Judgment

Behold, the day of the Lord comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. (Isaiah 13:9)

Many people hear about God’s coming judgment and quickly turn away.  Some mock Christianity as using fear to keep the drones in line. Some “Christians” feel as if they should spend their days yelling at “sinners”.  Would you mind if I shared two thoughts?

First, I know of very few people who wouldn’t like the idea that “bad people” will finally get what they deserve.  It’s not an uncommon thing to wonder how evil people can get away with doing bad things.  Well, they won’t.  There will be a day when they will face God’s judgment. It may not come as quickly as we want, but it will happen.

Second, God’s “anger” is not like our anger.  God isn’t happy when a person is judged. God “takes no pleasure” when a sinner dies (Eze. 33:11).  Our wrath demands judgment “now”, while God’s anger is patient, hoping that a person will turn around. The fact is, God doesn’t actually want anyone to perish. He wishes everyone would turn around (2Pet. 3:9).  God even went so far as to send His own Son to be a sacrifice for our sins so we wouldn’t have to face judgment, if we will only turn to Him and believe.  Judgment is indeed coming, but our loving God has made a way out.

Belonging

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me. (Song of Solomon 7:10)

It’s called the “Song of Solomon” or the “Song of Songs” (1:1).  One translation calls it “Solomon’s Finest Song”.  It might be a bit racy in parts, but hey, it’s all about love and marriage.  Solomon’s song is a duet, a husband and wife singing to each other.  Some have suggested it’s also a picture of how God loves us, with Jesus as the Groom and the church as His bride.

Marriage is at it’s best when both husband and wife are careful to nurture their desire for each other. Desire isn’t a constant in marriage.  It’s something you must work at.  Proper cultivation involves both how you talk to each other, as well as the things you do for each other.  It involves doing the right thing whether you “feel” like it or not. There are not too many things in life greater than knowing that you are the “desire” of another, and they are your desire.  Mutual desire produces the security of “belonging”.

The same ideas apply to our relationship with God.  God certainly doesn’t have to do anything to maintain His love for me because it never changes.  I am the one who needs to work at what I say to Him and what I do for Him. Cultivating intimacy with God leads to me to realize I truly belong.  There is nothing better.

Enjoying Life

Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. (Ecclesiastes 5:18)

Toward the end of his life, when he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon was still a wise man, but the years tempered some of his ideas on life.  He didn’t quite look at things through the rose-colored glasses of his youth.

Solomon had seen people who lived their entire life working for more, more, more and still being unhappy.  He had seen wealthy people who lived in constant fear of losing their treasure.  He had seen both rich and poor people who were continually jealous of what others had.

When it all came down to it, all these people were miserable.  Solomon concluded that a wise person was one who learned to enjoy what they had. He wasn’t talking about living a wild life of sinful pleasures but learning gratitude for the blessings of God.  You may not feel like you have much, but you do have gifts from God. Your spouse is a gift.  Your children are a treasure.  Your job is a blessing.

Stop looking at what others “have”.  Stop comparing yourself to others. Learn to enjoy what is yours.

Validation

But as God’s ministers, we commend ourselves in everything: by great endurance, by afflictions, by hardship, by difficulties, (2 Corinthians 6:4)

Validation comes in all shapes and sizes. If you get your parking stub validated at the doctor’s office, you receive the blessing of free parking during your visit.  At a high school reunion, we might hope to impress our classmates and show that we made something of ourselves.  At pastors’ conferences, pastors like to talk about the size of their church, with all humility. of course.  Some people make sure they share their witnessing exploits at church functions so others will give them validation. Paul was aware that to some of the Corinthians he needed a type of validation, yet the validation he offers doesn’t sound like the typical stuff.

Paul didn’t boast about how easy his life had become as a Christian, but how much pressure (“affliction”) he was under.  He didn’t brag about his great wealth, but the poverty (“hardship”) he faced.  Paul didn’t list “smooth sailing” on his resume but that, at times, his life seemed caught between a rock and a hard place (“difficulties”).  Chief on Paul’s list of accomplishments was that he endured.  As hard as things were, he didn’t quit.  What really matters in life?  God loves the one that hangs on.  Just hang on.

Why

“Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends, For the hand of God has struck me! (Job 19:21)

Are you going through a rough time right now?  Do you know someone who is going through a rough time?  How do you respond when difficulty arises?

It seems to me that both Job and his friends were asking the same kind of difficult questions we tend to ask when going through a trial.  The questions are typically all about the “why”.  Job wonders why he is going through such pain.  Job wonders what he did to deserve such trouble.  Job’s friends were wondering what kind of sin Job must have done to bring such trouble.  They felt it was obvious that Job needed to repent of some secret sin.

There are certainly times in life when we need to face up to the consequences of our bad behavior.  Yet the lesson in the book of Job is not that sin leads to difficulty, but that righteous people will sometimes suffer.  Job was a righteous man.  God was proud of Job.

Be careful my friends of going down the rabbit hole labeled “why”.  If the answer is not readily apparent, it might be better to stop pursuing something that’s not there.  Job’s friends needed to learn compassion, not criticism.  Job needed to continue to trust God, even though he didn’t understand the “why”.