The Great high Priest, The Author of our Salvation.

I see a large flower covering my whole breast and as I look It is opening up and displaying the most beautiful colours, with a gorgeous scent coming from it.

“Yes I am opening up your heart like a flower so that My beauty can be displayed there and as the flower matures it will produce fruit – so keep your roots anchored deep into the “River of the water of life”, so that you can continue to draw sustenance from Me – through My Holy Spirit flowing up the stem. The flower represents Me and my relationship with you and as it opens the aroma of My love can come out to draw people to Me and as it opens up My beauty can also be seen and presently it will mature and produce fruit – the fruit of the Spirit. That fruit is mainly to be enjoyed by those around you, while some fruit focusses on preparing you to bear fruit so that you can be an appropriate vehicle for it to others, like peace, patience and an attitude of love and acceptance which purpose to change you – and then your joy, kindness, your gentleness are there to give others a soft landing when they come to you – and all this comes from Me – from My Spirit emanating from the Tree of Life, so allow Me to produce that fruit this week in you, so that you can be a blessing to all those around you.

Now back to reading Hebrews. Just to pick up on the melody line so far. The letter has been written to Jewish folk who are in danger of drifting away because they are ignoring such a great salvation Heb 2:1,3), which they have apparently experienced, therefore to Jewish believers who have converted to Christianity. The writer then focusses on the nature of this “great salvation” and especially on Jesus who is the author (or pioneer) (Heb 2:10; 12:2) of it , to show how important He is. In fact this whole action describes His mission to earth. Ignoring it is tantamount to ignoring Him and by deduction His Father.

Last time I suggested you meditate on what could cause one to drift away. Here are some thoughts on that. According to this book the readers were in some way facing persecution. For us in the affluent West it could simply mean being left out by your peers of their social circle. Elsewhere in the world it could be much more serious even separation from families and in extreme cases death. Then there is just the tendency to not take one’s Christian walk all that seriously, so the person doesn’t read the bible and pray regularly, stops meeting with other Christians and the great joy of the first discovery of this “salvation” pales (Heb 10:24,25).

In the West I think one of the greatest dangers to appreciating our salvation is, personal affluence and privacy, in the words of Francis Schaeffer. Having “everything” often devolves to thinking you need nothing from Jesus so you stop depending on Him and your community. Maybe you have thought of other reasons.

Now to 2:5-18. As the writer launches in to describe why this salvation is so great, he focuses initially on the humanity of Jesus the author of our salvation. He is at pains to show Him as lower than the angels, as we are (in status), as a brother vs 12, 17, as one who had to place His trust in His Father v 13, as having flesh and blood, like us v 14, having to face the fact of death, with the fear that Satan brings with that. All this was necessary so that He would experience life, suffering and death just as we do and therefore it qualified Him as our High Priest v17.

Notice that His suffering is both Physical as He tasted death on our behalf v 9 as well as from being tempted v 18. Here I think especially of the temptation in the desert and the Garden Of Gethsemane, but obviously not only those. Perhaps we underestimate how serious that was and how serious temptation is for us. Just think of the Lord’s prayer.

So I ended up pondering this. I should be more serious in identifying temptation and at the same time appreciate the Priestly understanding and help I can get from Jesus who understands and helps me because He has been there.

Do Not Drift Away.

I have been singing “Let there be dancing”.

I see in my mind’s eye a vast crowd dancing with joy – “Yes Ian that is what your joy should look like – letting all constraints go and dancing in worship with your whole body – that is true joy, expressed physically – like David did when the ark was brought into Jerusalem – let all your constraints go, let your intensity, your striving to be the right person, your fear of doing and being wrong = unrighteousness, let all that go – I have set you free – to really dance with Me and appreciate Me – from the deepest core of your being – and when testing comes – receive it with the joy that overflows with the certainty of My relationship with you – and know it has a purpose – to produce character – which in turn produces hope which is all-encompassing and fulfilled in eternity – so let go and let’s dance”!

Just a small note of testimony: I believe that I have been experiencing a small personal revival here in my quiet corner. Writing the stories of my Vet career, I have reached the part where I describe my conversion and then also Emily’s. This has covered three stories, so far. Writing about those most moving times reawakened in me again the sense of the reality of Jesus as He turned my life upside down. It has been as if He has been sitting here with me while I have relived those moments and times that it was almost as if it was all happening again. Often the emotion has overflowed with such tears that I could scarcely see the computer screen.

Now at last to Hebrews. I have many times been involved in discussions about whether it is possible to “lose your salvation”. Then passages like Hebrews ch 6 are raised. Here I wish to warn everyone that one should never seek to understand a difficult concept on the grounds of a small piece of scripture completely on its own. One should look at the broader context and preferably keep in mind what the overall message of the whole book is, and then fit your query in to that if it is still there.

Now reading Hebrews 2:1-4 today, we see this paragraph acts almost like a window through which to look at the whole book. With the very strong admonishment “Pay more careful attention” the writer gives the main message of Hebrews: “So that we do not drift away“. Now as you will probably have seen in people you know, “losing salvation” usually does not happen suddenly. It happens slowly over time as the person drifts away from all that Christianity means.

So what is the counter for this? The reader must pay attention to what he has heard and from who? So the writer starts with angels, but I suggest, only in as much as he has been comparing angels with Jesus in the previous chapter (this should be seen in the light of a counter to teaching and practice which appeared to be commonplace in putting them into a position of worship, equal to or higher than Jesus, whom the opening chapter is of course really about). So if the message of the angels was binding, warning of punishment for any violation, “How much more” 2:3 is the message from our Lord Himself, confirmed to the reader by those who heard it directly from Him (the Apostles) and confirmed by signs, wonders and miracles (described especially in the gospels) and, listen carefully, “the gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will”. Where are those gifts visible? In the local church, functioning effectively as a body where everyone exercises his/her gift.

So, stop and think, where can we access this message in 2021? And what is the teaching about?

Well this is a description of the New Testament scriptures, of course, which should be linked with the statement in Heb 1:1, the Old Testament scriptures and then the Word Himself 1:2,3. And the statement has everything to do with salvation! 2,3. That is the key issue about Christianity and our relationship with Jesus isn’t it, and it is exactly when we drift away that we lose our focus on that most important issue. In fact it is so serious, if you read 2:3 again that it is as if you are ignoring Jesus (God) Himself.

As the book unfolds, we will see how the writer expands on this theme and eventually ending with a wonderful cloud of witnesses in ch 11, who through thick and thin kept their faith and continued to believe and be obedient. And the answer in 12:2 to all who read this book, because we are all in some way, in danger of drifting, “Let us therefore fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith”. Reflecting back to ch 1 where He is beautifully described.

So why not ponder this question for next time: What are the main reasons for people drifting away in 2021?

And for myself, I must diligently keep my eyes fixed on Him, because the devil is like a hungry lion who prowls around seeking to devour even the most devout, if they let their guards down.

Let’s Read Hebrews.

As I become quiet a picture comes into my mind – a picture from a video I saw recently of a swarm of birds – sweeping and swooping in unison into the most amazing shapes – all coordinated and moving at exactly the same instant – as if they were mechanically programmed, yet each one was a free bird flying on its own power.

“That is what My kingdom is like – you can’t see it, but just as those birds function in pure harmony, so My kingdom functions – completely designed and guided in an unseen way. You cannot see My kingdom because it is completely integrated into the community – but just as that swarm functions to produce a beautiful result to please Me – so My kingdom is functioning to give Me pleasure. So just know that you are part of that – you are there by My grace – you are there in unseen harmony with many others – to produce the music of praise for My glory – so open your arms like wings and take off and fly this week – with wings like an eagle, trusting Me to control the swarm and the environment in which it flies – TRUST ME!”

Today at the beginning of the beautiful month of October, having spent September dipping into a few psalms, I have decided to start reading Hebrews. I have chosen Hebrews because the problem of Galatians, where the Jewish believers were being tempted to go back to seeking to be justified by the law, is similar to the one addressed in Hebrews, where we can build on our understanding.

Today, before I start reading in depth, I stand back and ponder the overall message of Hebrews and why and who it was written to. As the name suggests it was written, not to pagan gentiles, but to folk who had been strongly Jewish before being converted. They were still immersed in their national character, as Jews, yet had received and welcomed Christianity. However they were in danger of drifting back into their Jewishness, making that more important than their newfound Christian faith and as such drifting away from Christianity completely.

The main theme of drifting away is counteracted by the strong message of perseverance 12:1. It is true to say the only test of real Christian faith is perseverance. Many people “receive Christ” with great joy and can become involved in all sorts of Christian activities and yet years later all that seems to have evaporated. I have experience of that in my own family, where one person even went on a Christian evangelistic tour, as a student and stood on stage giving her testimony, yet today denies the faith completely, immersed instead in the “New Age”, philosophy and is completely “fey”.

The writer counteracts that with one very strong message, which he obviously builds on. That is the message of Christ (Hebr 1:3), much like the same message in Colossians 1:15-17. It is the true diamond of Christ which wins our hearts, not a lot of doctrine, while doctrine is really useful to understand how everything works out in our lives and communities and I’m not despising it. The best counter for the faltering heart is to be presented with the radiance of Christ Himself.

Why don’t you join me in the next weeks as I read, slowly through this fascinating letter and get a new appreciation for the wonder and beauty of Christ and let us be inspired afresh by the challenge presented in it’s message?

Psalm 23, Still New.

My thoughts are wrapped around the idea, “I need to humble myself before the Lord”.

Christ, the glorious Christ, is the tipping point in history – everything that went before Him was looking forward to His coming in His humanity, to make the ultimate sacrifice of Himself – yet in that moment – that weekend He has never been more glorious – and everything that has happened since then is a reflection forward of that moment in time and in history. “Yes and you are right, you must humble yourself before Me – but not maybe as you think – you need to recognize that everything you are and have are from Me, it is only when you are truly humble that you can recognize this, recognize the huge, huge gift I am giving you ‘in Christ’ – the robe of righteousness. Now listen – this doesn’t reduce your intrinsic value, you have inestimable value – because I created you and died for you – but your value, as high as it is – is no more than the value of every child of mine. You all look different and have different gifts and personalities – but don’t estimate anybody’s value on that – rather regard all others as better than you – then you will be a useable servant for Me. – Come here and let Me give you a big hug.”

My reading today is Psalm 23. How do I read this Psalm which I know and love so well, that I still hear the Lord speaking to me from it afresh today?

Reflecting on it – this Psalm goes from intimate conversation about God and His relationship with David to addressing God personally (V 4b). It reflects implicit trust, through the most difficult times – looking forward to a banquet – the ultimate expression of fellowship – once again based on God’s covenant love ‘chesed’, (v 6 ).

There is a sense of peaceful serenity, of personal attention from God – anointed with oil. Now, can this Psalm have been written by the same person who wrote Psalm 22? Seeing himself there as God forsaken, torn apart reviled by friend and foe.

# It is only in understanding the deeper meaning of Psalm 22 that Psalm 23 actually becomes real to each one of us. Christ has personified Psalm 22 in Himself. He has taken all that Psalm 22 represents upon Himself so that we can experience the intimacy, the beauty, the nearness and protection of being ‘in Him’. Now remember we still have this dark valley, but we have this beautiful promise that He will be there guiding us and protecting us – walking with us right to the blazing light which shines at the end of the valley.

There is always a fresh word from the Lord even from the passages which we know by heart, if we will listen to Jesus.