Joshua: Week 2 {Also, “How Do I Apply Joshua to My Life?”}

By | February 25, 2021
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Joshua Bible Study

It has taken me a bit to get through these chapters, but here is the second week of my Joshua study. I’ve learned that studying a narrative is quite a bit different than studying an epistle. In a narrative (especially Hebrew narrative it seems), the stories build and jump from scene to scene (kind of like a TV show or movie) to build suspense and make a point. You really have to read larger chunks of Scripture sometimes to get the full picture. Thus, this week’s study covers 7 chapters. Here is a pdf of this week’s study: Joshua_Week 2.

One of the issues I’ve considered as I’ve read in Joshua (as well as books like Exodus, Leviticus, or Numbers), is what my purpose and goal is as I read. If my goal is to find something to apply to my daily life (for me it would be homeschooling my kids and being a good wife, church member, etc.), it’s kind of disappointing to spend time reading through a list of kings that Moses and Joshua conquered and destroyed. Can’t wait to get to that list of land allotments, right?!

But wait–chapter one had some great verses that I can apply to myself and maybe that can get me through the rest of the book! If I leave out the part about getting land, I can focus on the being strong and courageous part and God’s being with me and giving me success if I meditate on his commands and obey him (Joshua 1:5-9).

I think a better perspective when we read Scripture is to say “What is God, through the author, communicating?” rather than “What can I apply to myself to get through today?” When we read to figure out what God is saying, we have a much clearer understanding of the text. So instead of viewing the promises to Joshua and Israel of God’s presence and blessing on them, contingent on their obedience to the covenant, as they conquer the land, as something we try to apply to ourselves (as nice as that might sound, except for the complete destruction of our enemies, of course), we simply view it as a record of God’s words to Joshua and a divinely inspired history of God’s marvelous acts and working out of his plans. And then we can use those words as a template to view the entire book. When the people wholly obeyed, God gave them success and prosperity (e.g., Jericho, for the most part). When they did not obey, they failed (e.g., Ai the first time).

While we can be assured of God’s presence for ourselves from other passages of Scripture (Hebrews 13:5), and we should be meditating and obeying Scripture (Colossians 3:16-17), this is not the immediate application in Joshua for believers today (although Joshua can to a certain degree illustrate and example some of these truths for us today).

Perhaps a better “application” for me today from Joshua is this: Look at what God has been promising to the people of Israel since his promise to Abram: I will give you this land. Look at the obstacles God has miraculously overcome over and over again to bring them to and out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and finally to this land. Look at how God is true to his word. Look at how God repeatedly shows mercy to his chosen people. Look at how God’s plan of redemption was at work. I have a promise-keeping, powerful, merciful God!

I may not have a personal “promise” to claim for the day, but I do have the God who keeps his promises as my God. When I worry about my children’s behavior or a friend’s health or the state of our country, I can be confident that God is sovereign, he is merciful, and that he has a plan that he will without fail cause to happen. My view of myself, my home, and my world is more rightly aligned because my view and understanding of God is greater.

 

When I Don’t Know How to Pray: Praying Through the Lament Psalms

By | February 15, 2021

In our teen Sunday School class, my husband has been teaching on how to read and understand the various types of Psalms. The past two weeks we have looked at the lament psalms. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the verb lament in three ways: 1) to mourn aloud; 2) to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for, often demonstratively; and 3) to regret strongly.  As a noun, the dictionary defines it as 1) a crying out in grief; 2) a dirge, elegy; and 3) complaint.

We have all experienced grief, regret, or complaints to some extent. We talked in our class about how we sometimes view difficulties or try to encourage someone else in the midst of difficulty. For example, one might try to encourage another to “look on the bright side” of a difficulty. Or one might focus only on how one should view a trial (i.e., as a means of endurance and growth resulting in joy as taught in James 1). While these encouragements can be helpful and should be brought to our or another’s attention  eventually, the psalmists example a different initial approach in their prayers.

My husband explained that laments often contain the following elements:

  • Appeal to God
  • Lament (complaint/mourning)
  • Prayer request
  • Expression of trust in God
  • Vow to praise God

These elements may or may not all be present in every lament psalm, and they may be in any order.

The lament psalms are helpful to see how different people responded to difficult circumstances. They did not try to present their situations in the best possible light; they laid it out in all its painful details. They often requested that the situation be taken away or resolved. They mourned, but they also looked to God. They trusted him in spite of the circumstances, and they vowed to continue to praise him even when not knowing how God would respond to their requests.

Psalm 13 is a perfect example of a lament psalm. Verses 1-2a are examples of the appeal to God. 2b record his specific lament/complaint. Verses 3-4 are his request to God. Verse 5 expresses his trust in God, and verse 6 his vow to continue to praise God. Even if a specific prayer was not answered in the way requested, at the very least they could praise God for his salvation, something never taken away.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. (ESV)

We concluded by practicing how we could use these prayers as a template for our own prayers during our own specific difficulties. So, let’s use the example of a severe illness and insert this specific situation into the prayer (in brackets and bold print).

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall [my illness continue]?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    [take away my illness],

[strengthen my body

and keep those around me healthy]

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

I thought this would be such a helpful exercise for someone really struggling deeply. Sometimes in these moments it is hard to think clearly, and simply following a lament prayer as a template for one’s own prayers would be beneficial. It can also guide how we help others by not minimizing the horribleness of a situation. Instead, we can recognize and verbalize how difficult another’s trial is, then move on to pray with them and help them as the situation requires.

 

Taco Tuesday: It’s What’s for Dinner!

By | February 10, 2021

I thought I would occasionally share not just a good recipe I’ve used successfully, but a whole meal that works together well and tastes great. That way, if you’re looking for a new meal, here’s everything in one spot. I love to cook, but sometimes figuring out meals is painful, especially when you meal plan/shop two weeks at a time like I do. Typically, when I find a good main dish I like, I stick with the same sides every time, varying the vegetables based on what’s on sale/fresh. So here’s the first “It’s What’s for Dinner” post. . .

Once upon a time, I liked Taco Bell well enough. Then, I moved to Rockford, IL and was introduced to real Mexican food, and let me tell you. . . there is no comparison to the real deal. I don’t claim to make legit Mexican food, but these tacos are much closer to the good stuff than those I used to make (and sometimes still do, because they’re kind of in another food “genre.”)

Main dish: Slow cooker pork tacos with corn tortillas

Side dishes: Lime cilantro coleslaw; chips and guacamole/salsa; limes, cilantro, and green onions (optional)

Slow Cooker Pork Tacos

One of my favorite cookbooks is 100 Days of Real Food: Fast & Fabulous  (You can usually find it used for a really good price here!) I use the recipe for her Slow Cooker Shredded Pork and Bean Tacos. I didn’t want to share her recipe here to protect copyright, but I did find a similar recipe on her website: Pork Carnita Tacos. This is very similar to the recipe I follow.

I recommend adding paprika and chili powder to your spices, as well as a jalapeno with the onion to make it taste a little spicier. (I leave out the black beans recommended in the cookbook, because I don’t like the mushy texture of the beans in the slow cooker.) I also do one additional step that I think makes these tacos fabulous! I line a cookie sheet with tin foil and place some or all of the meat on the pan. Then I put it in the oven on broil. You can leave this in as long as you’d like (just watch it!), but everyone in my family loves it when the edges and fat pieces get crispy. I honestly think this is what make this recipe so delicious!

Stovetop option with leftover pork: If you already have pork leftovers from a roast or pulled pork or something, I’ve also frequently followed this incredibly quick and easy recipe for the stovetop: https://www.mrshappyhomemaker.com/pork-tacos/. There is no need to broil this recipe as the meat gets crispy enough in the pan.

Warming corn tortillas: Although you can use either flour or corn tortillas, we like corn for this meal (or you could skip if you’re low-carb). If you heat a nonstick pan, simply place the tortilla in the heated pan and warm on each side for 15-30 seconds (depending on how hot your pan is). Keep an eye on it, or they might burn. Have a tortilla warmer or bowl handy to keep them warm while you heat the others.

Lime and Cilantro Coleslaw

Again, this recipe is from 100 Days of Real Food: Fast & Fabulous. This recipe was also not on her website, but I found two that were similar on other blogs, one of them being dairy free (which is great for my youngest with dairy allergies.) The coleslaw tastes great on the side, but it is amazing right on top of the taco as well.

This recipe is almost exactly like the one I use: https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/cilantro-lime-slaw/. I use sour cream instead of yogurt. When I make it, I mix the lemon juice, honey, and salt ahead of time and take a little of that to mix with a separate amount of coleslaw for my dairy-free daughter. Then I add in the sour cream and mix the rest up for the family. I’ve used both coleslaw mix (easier and faster) and chopped cabbage and carrots (cheaper). Both work great.

If you’re dairy free, this recipe is very similar and would work great as well: https://midwestfoodieblog.com/5-minute-cilantro-lime-slaw/.

Chips & Guacamole/Salsa, Lime, Cilantro, and Green onions

These sides are optional but tasty. We like to put a little bit of guacamole on the tortillas then the coleslaw to hold things together. Then we add the meat topped with freshly squeezed lime juice, cilantro, and green onions.

Guacamole: For every 2 avocados, finely chop about 2-3 Tbsp of onion (or lesser amount of onion powder, to taste) and about 1/2 roma tomato. First, mash the avocado with a fork or potato masher, sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper (to taste), along with about 1 tsp of lemon or lime juice per 2 avocados. Mix thoroughly, then gently fold in tomato and onion. You could also add chopped jalapeno and/or cilantro.

Muy Bien!

The Biblical Role of a Pastor’s Wife

By | February 4, 2021

I am currently proof-reading my husband’s master’s thesis on pastoral transitions, and I started to think again about the biblical role of a pastor’s wife. As I read through his paper, I saw a good pattern for establishing a biblical perspective on a debated issue. The role of a pastor’s wife has been debated by many for years. Even in 1914, a pastor had to clarify,

“A minister’s wife has no more call to public duty than any Christian woman in the congregation.”[1]

So, I thought I would use the pattern I saw my husband using in regard to what Scripture has to say about a pastor’s wife. First, I looked for any texts directly addressing them. Next, I looked for examples of pastors’ wives. Since deacons and pastors are the two offices in the church, I briefly looked at what Scripture says about deacons’ wives. I then touched on a pastor’s wife in her roles as a wife, a woman, a member of the church, and a believer.

Pastor’s Wife: Direct texts

A pastor must be the husband of one wife. Thus, a pastor’s wife must not be married to a man who is a pastor and has another wife. 🙂 (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6)

A pastor must manage his own household well. A wife is part of her husband’s household and should thus complement him in managing the home. (1 Timothy 3:4; cf. Titus 2:3-5)

Pastor’s Wife: Biblical examples

The apostle/pastor Peter was married (Mark 1:30). Jesus’ brothers, some of whom were evangelists, had wives whom they brought with them on their ministerial journeys (1 Corinthians 9:5).

No pastor’s wife in Scripture is named, but it is interesting to me that many other women in the church are named by name, none of them being married to a pastor to my knowledge. (Cf. Tabitha/Dorcas—Acts 9:36-42; Mary the mother of John Mark—Acts 12:12; Rhoda—Acts 12:13-15; Eunice & Lois—2 Timothy 1:5; Lydia—Acts 16:11-15, 40; Damaris—Acts 17:34; Priscilla—Acts 18:2-3, 18-20, 24-26; Romans 16:3-5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19; Phoebe—Romans 16:1-2; Mary in Rome—Romans 16:6; Junia (or Junias?)—Romans 16:7; Tryphaena, Tryphosa, & Persis—Romans 16:12; mother of Rufus—Romans 16:13; Julia & sister of Nereus—Romans 16:15; Chloe—1 Corinthians 1:11; Euodia & Syntyche—Philippians 4:1-2; Claudia—2 Timothy 4:21; Apphia—Philemon 1:2; and Nympha—Colossians 4:15.)

Deacon’s Wife: An inference for pastors’ wives

Though the understanding of whom the text is discussing is debated, 1 Timothy 3:11 says that deacons’ wives should be dignified, not slanderers, sober-minded, and faithful in all things. Though not addressing a pastor’s wife, these characteristics should certainly be true of a pastor’s wife as well.

Pastor’s Wife: A helper to her own husband

Any wife is to help her husband in whatever role in life he has. (Genesis 2:18, 20)

Wives are to be subject to their own husbands. (1 Peter 3:1)

The pastor himself has many qualifications in his role as elder/overseer/shepherd of the local church in which he serves (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9):

  • above reproach,
  • the husband of one wife,
  • sober-minded,
  • self-controlled,
  • respectable,
  • hospitable,
  • able to teach,
  • not a drunkard,
  • not violent but gentle,
  • not quarrelsome,
  • not a lover of money.
  • He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,
  • He must not be a recent convert,
  • he must be well thought of by outsiders.
  • his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination,
  • He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain
  • a lover of good,
  • upright,
  • holy,
  • and disciplined.
  • He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

If the wife is to be a helper to her pastor-husband, she has plenty of opportunity to help her husband manage their household, train their children, be hospitable, grow in character, etc. Beyond helping him personally in these ways, any further help that the pastor may request of her in the church is simply his prerogative (as opposed to help that is expected of her by the members of the church).

Pastor’s Wife: A woman in the church

“3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3-5 ESV).

A pastor’s wife may be young or old, and her role in the church will vary depending on her age and stage in life. If she is older, she should be an example of godly character and teach younger women the practicalities of being godly wives and mothers. If she is a younger woman, she is to learn from the older godly women in her church and follow their example and instruction.

Pastor’s Wife: A member of the church

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6 ESV).

 

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12 ESV).

 

“But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-27 ESV).

Just like every other member of the church, the pastor’s wife is a member of the body of Christ. Just like them, she has her various gifts given to her by God that enable her to serve and care for the body out of love for the body.

Pastor’s Wife: A believer in Christ

The fundamental identity of a pastor’s wife is that of any believer—she is in Christ (Colossians 3:3-4). Thus, as a believer, she should put to death what is earthly and

“Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:10-11 ESV).

Here there is neither pastor’s wife nor “just a member of the church,” but Christ is all in all.

She lives a life that is characterized by

“Compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body” (Colossians 3:12-15 ESV).

She does this not because she is a pastor’s wife who should set an example, but because she is in Christ and loves her Savior and the body of Christ.

Conclusion

I am still young-ish (40 next year) and have been a pastor’s wife for only about 9 years. I have never been held up as “first lady” or my husband’s “assistant.” I’ve never been degraded because I can’t play the piano. I’ve enjoyed friendships within my church, some closer than others. I have rarely felt pressure from others inside the church to be anything more than I have been. Perhaps the greatest pressure comes from my imagined expectations that others have of me and my own awareness of my shortcomings and weaknesses. I can be encouraged to know that God has gifted me to serve the church and my family as he sees fit, and I can do that to the best of my ability.

I will close by allowing another to speak for me.

“Since there is no special office of ‘pastor’s wife’, it is easy for a pastor’s wife to inherit a set of (undefined) expectations from her congregation, and because she lacks the self-assurance that comes from having a clear sense of her identity in Christ, she feels duty bound to ‘just accept’ all the roles she thinks others expect her to play. As a result, she labours under a burden too heavy for her to bear, and forfeits the joy of serving Christ in the way He created her to serve. . . . If a pastor’s wife finds her identity in Christ, it will set her free from external pressures to serve Him as He created her to do, that is, in keeping with her God-given spiritual gifts. As she becomes aware and confident of her identity as a woman of God, she is free to use the unique personality and special gifting.”[2]

 

“The ideal, from a biblical perspective, for the pastor’s wife is that of any woman who is specifically influential in her conduct, to function effectively as a woman of God, to support her husband, and be an active member of the local church. Older women would have much to offer the younger pastor’s wife in equipping her with the knowledge of homemaking. The older pastor’s wife would have much to offer younger women within the church as a mentor or advisor. This ministry is valuable and necessary.”[3]

 

For further reading. . .

https://churchanswers.com/blog/ten-unfair-expectations-pastors-wives/

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-pastors-wife-and-her-primary-ministry/

https://thecripplegate.com/an-open-letter-to-elders-wives/

 

 

 

[1] Anna Droke, The Diary of a Minister’s Wife (New York: Eaton and Mains, 1914):61–62, quoted in Leschenne Rebuli and Kevin Gary Smith, “The Role of the Pastor’s Wife: What Does the Bible Teach?”Conspectus 7 (2009): 113.

[2] Rebuli and Smith, “The Role of the Pastor’s Wife,” 110.

[3] Ibid., 114.

Joshua: Week 1

By | February 3, 2021
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Joshua Bible Study

As I mentioned, I’ve been working on studying Joshua. Some have told me that they would like to participate in the study, so I will be sharing it here. I’m enjoying the study very much so far. I hope you will be encouraged as you read of God’s faithfulness to his promises.

Week 1 covers the first five chapters. I’ve written it in a five-day format.  I will post each new week as it is completed. I hope it is a help to you in your study. As always, I’m happy to hear feedback.

Here is the pdf: Joshua_Week 1

Lessons from the Life of Thomas

By | February 1, 2021

John records three statements by Thomas that give us a window into who he was. Considering these statements in each of their contexts provokes three good reminders for us today.

We should be determined in our service for Jesus.

Leading up to Thomas’s first statement, Jesus wanted to go to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead. In doing so, He would show Himself to be the Resurrection and the Life, a sign that He was the Son of God (John 11:25–26; 12:18; cf. 20:30–31). Bethany was near Jerusalem, and Jesus’ recent time there ended with the Jews trying to arrest and stone Jesus (John 10:31, 39). Thomas heard that Jesus wanted to return and was determined to go with Him but made a dark prediction: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). In the larger narrative of John, Jesus indeed would die, and according to history, Thomas was martyred as well. While Thomas was quick to assume the worst, he was nonetheless determined to follow Christ. Our determination should be the same.

We should be devoted in our love for Jesus.

John 13:32–33 records Jesus’ announcement to the disciples that He would be leaving to a place where they could not immediately go. He then spoke of His Father’s house, that His disciples would eventually be with Him there, and that they knew the way to get there (John 14:1–4). Thomas was confused, however: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Jesus patiently clarified that He Himself was the Way to the Father (John 14:6–7). Though not fully understanding, Thomas’s questions showed a devotion and love for Jesus that could not allow him to bear being apart from Jesus. Like Thomas, we should be just as earnest to maintain our devotion and love for Him.

We should be delighted by our belief in Jesus.

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the ten disciples in John 20:19–23. Thomas, however, was absent and wanted tangible proof that Jesus was alive (John 20:24–25). Eight days later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and the ten, inviting Thomas to feel His wounds (John 20:26–27). Thomas simply exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). In response, Jesus gently rebuked him and said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). While an appearance of Jesus could aid the faith of those who believe, true belief means having certainty in what is not seen but said in Scripture to be true (Hebrews 11:1, 3, 6). We should faithfully believe in Jesus, His Word, His resurrection, and that He is coming again. This faith in what we cannot see will bring us blessing now and even greater joy to come (1 Peter 1:8–9).

Is God My Treasure?

By | January 27, 2021

While reading a book a while ago (Because He Loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick), I came across a quote from another book that I read a long time ago. It is a wonderful book that I highly recommend, The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. I wrote this quote down in my journal when I first read it, and I have read it many times since:

The man who has God for his treasure has all things in one. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight.

I love this, but it is SO convicting. My happiness is an indicator of how much (or whether!) I am treasuring God, regardless of my abundance of or lack of earthly pleasures (sinful or not). What I treasure reveals where my heart is, as Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:19-21:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I am a nurse, so I am used to looking at symptoms to try to figure out the cause of the symptoms. I can be discontent, angry, complaining, lacking joy, etc. But these are merely symptoms of a deeper problem. Sinful words and actions are the symptoms of a heart problem (“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” Matt 12:34). They reveal that my heart is treasuring my own plans, earthly treasures, sinful pursuits, etc. –  but not God. If I was truly treasuring God, I would have “all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight” no matter what.

So, what do we keep in our treasure boxes? Our hearts will always reveal what we treasure by what our words, thoughts, and actions express. May we all have hearts that reveal that God truly is our Treasure!

Complete 14-Week Hebrews Bible Study

By | January 26, 2021
This entry is part 16 of 16 in the series Hebrews Bible Study

I’ve had a couple of ladies ask me for permission to use my Bible study for their own ladies’ studies. One of the ladies is looking into translating the study into Spanish! I’m so excited to share this resource with others!

I have arranged the weekly questions into  a 5-day/week format, making it a little easier to stay on track throughout the week and leaving room to write answers. If you are interested in doing the study, this might be an easier format for you to use, if you are willing to print over 100 pages! 🙂 I hope this is a blessing to you! Here is the pdf: Hebrews Complete Bible Study

I also remembered I had written a hymn text about 18 years ago(!) after having read through Hebrews. I thought I’d share (with some minor edits), as it sums up some of the beautiful truths of Hebrews.

 

“His Throne is Forever”

{December 16, 2002}

 

Made lower than angels, Christ died on a tree.

He suffered through death, then was crowned with glory,

So that through God’s grace He might taste death for me

And loose me from sin and its chains of slav’ry.

 

Alike to His brothers in all things but sin,

Our High Priest is Christ, with great mercy within.

To appease God’s wrath over men and their sin,

Christ suffered and died for all those who know Him.

 

The priests, although many, could not meet God’s goal.

We have greater hope in Christ’s high priestly role.

This hope we do have made to anchor the soul,

Both sure and e’er steadfast and unchangeable!

 

The source of eternal salvation is God.

Be wary when lightly His grace you do trod,

For, though great in mercy, He handles a rod.

Therefore, we do fear in the presence of God.

 

Eternal salvation for us Christ did gain;

And now at God’s right hand forever He reigns.

Drawn near unto God, as His sons we’ll remain,

And ever in heaven will sing this refrain:

 

Refrain:

Christ is God’s Son; His throne is forever;

Heaven may perish, but He will remain.

All hail His name, our mighty Creator

And praise Christ Jesus, who’s always the same.

Final Thoughts from Hebrews

By | January 26, 2021
This entry is part 15 of 16 in the series Hebrews Bible Study

At the end of my questions for Hebrews 13, I encouraged those doing the study to summarize things they learned/deepened their understanding about God and themselves and how they could change. I thought I’d post my summary here.

What struck me was that our response to all that Jesus is (as I’ll note in part below) was summed up in part by our reverent and acceptable worship and service of God. Our works that evidence our faith are part of the means by which we persevere in our faith. The practical commands that are given as being part of our service to God and part of our perseverance in the faith  are things like show hospitality, be generous, care for the imprisoned and mistreated as if it were you imprisoned. I think I’ll write more on some of these ideas later, but I was struck by the “everyday” nature of our perseverance. We don’t always (usually!) persevere by amazing feats of faith in which we stand in lion’s dens. We persevere in doing good to the elderly in our church, teaching others to be faithful, being hospitable to the travelling missionary, writing a check to a struggling family in your church, visiting shut-ins, etc.

This is in part how I plan to apply Hebrews in my life. As I stand amazed that I can enter the presence of God because of the blood of Jesus, my gratefulness, my focus is on him. The values of my life shift as I realize how passing this world is. My love for the Savior is reflected in my love for people. Especially as my youngest is no longer a baby, I am looking forward to expanding my ministry to include more visiting and encouraging those in my circle.

Below are my summary thoughts on Hebrews.

This book has been a celebration of Jesus Christ—we were asked to consider him, to look at him while we endure and finally to give glory to him forever. (I could have listed more, but I chose to focus on the broad, main themes the author presented.)

Consider Jesus:

  • Superior to angels
  • Sitting at God’s right hand
  • Sovereign of everything
  • Founder of salvation
  • Merciful and faithful high priest
  • Superior to Moses and the Old Covenant
  • Obedient Son
  • Perfect Sacrifice
  • Founder and Perfecter of the Faith
  • Enduring completer of the race
  • Unchanging
  • Great Shepherd of the sheep

Looking to Jesus, I should:

  • Pay close attention to what he says
  • Exhort each other to continue in the faith, strengthen those who are weak and tired
  • Fear lest I fail through disobedient faithlessness
  • Live with the mindset that this earth is temporary and heaven is my forever home
  • Strive to persevere and hold fast with confidence
  • Draw near to God (Jesus died for this purpose)
  • Lay aside sin
  • Run with endurance and be strengthened when I get weak and tired
  • Not get tired, weary, and discouraged
  • Strive for peace with everyone
  • Strive for holiness (essential to see God)
  • Not refuse God’s words
  • Be grateful for all God has done, has given me, and has for me
  • Offer God awe-inspired and reverential worship and service
  • Love fellow believers
  • Be hospitable to strangers
  • Care for those imprisoned and mistreated as I would want to be cared for
  • Instead of being covetous, stingy, and greed, be generous
  • Honor marriage
  • Remember former spiritual leaders and imitate their faith
  • Obey and submit to current spiritual leaders in a way that makes it a joy for them to shepherd me
  • Not be led away by strange, unbiblical teachings
  • Be willing to suffer reproach and shame for Christ
  • Do good
  • Pray for others
  • When I am overwhelmed, I should look to Jesus. I can be reminded that God will powerfully and effectively work faith and these works of faith in me through Jesus Christ. His blood is effective for my salvation and my sanctification.

To Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews Bible Study Week 14: Chapter 13 {The Final Chapter!}

By | January 25, 2021
This entry is part 14 of 16 in the series Hebrews Bible Study

{Updated to add: This post and many of the previous posts were part of an online Bible study over the book of Hebrews that I hosted in the past on my previous blog. I am reposting here to make the resource available to anyone interested.}

This is it! We’ve reached the last chapter in Hebrews. We started the week of Jan 20, and here we are just over 3 months later, nearly finished with the book. I hope you have been as awed as I have at God’s great love for us shown in Jesus, as well as been encouraged to continue to endure in your faith. If you’ve reached the end of the study (whether it’s now, in 5 weeks, or 5 years from now), would you mind just commenting below? There is something very sweet about studying God’s Word together. It would be an encouragement to me and to others to hear from you!

If you came to the end of this study and said something like, “That was nothing special; I could do that on my own,” then I have accomplished my purpose for this online study. Bible study always takes work, but it is not impossible work. I hope you’ve been encouraged and emboldened to embark on your own studies. If you still feel like you’re not quite ready to do your own, I recommend one of the studies by Jen Wilkin. I’ve done her 1st Peter study, read a couple of her books, and listened to her speak.  You can also join in on her current study here. I don’t always agree with Jen, but for the most part, she is a great teacher and teaches straight from the text.

I also have written a few Bible studies for my former ladies group (Colossians, Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus). If you are interested in those, mention something in the comments below. I will also be formatting this Hebrews study into a weekly study with questions for 5 days a week of study.

I will say that studying a narrative like Genesis is very different than studying an epistle. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth is a good book to help you understand the Bible’s different genres. Perhaps I will do another study like this, if people are interested, on Deuteronomy in a few months (I’m finishing up Numbers after this). I’d really like to get to Isaiah in the near future as well, which I admit is a little intimidating, but I know it will be good!

Well, enough of my rambling. . . Let’s finish up Hebrews! Chapter 13 is full of commands, ending with a beautiful benediction (sung at my wedding!) and final greetings. One of the questions I ask is what connection chapter 13 has to the rest of the book. It’s important that we don’t separate these commands from the doctrines that have been so beautifully and powerfully presented. It is the truth of the doctrines that motivate us, that allow us to work out our faith in practical ways. Both faith without works and works without faith are dead. Let us respond to the truth of what we have learned with both humble worship and fervent obedience!

Hebrews 13 Questions and pdf: Hebrews 13 Questions

1. What should continue?

2. What should not be neglected? Why?

3. Who should be remembered? In what way and why?

4. How should marriage be viewed?

5. What should be undefiled? Why?

6. How should our lives be characterized according to v5? Why?

7. Because God promised to not forsake us, what can we confidently say? (Note the source of the quote.)

a. What is the Lord?

b. Because the above is true, what should our response be?

8. What is the connection between the command in v5 and the reasons for the command in vv 5-6?

9. Who else should be remembered?

10. What should be considered?

11. After we consider the above, what should we do?

12. What is true about Jesus Christ? (How does this verse fit in with the commands surrounding it?)

13. By what should we not be led away? Why?

14. What strange teachings may have been related to foods do you think? And what benefit does devotion to foods have?

15. What kind of altar do we have? (With what aspect of the Levitical sacrificial system do you think this might be contrasting? Cf. Lev 6:24-30)

16. After the high priest made atonement for sin in the holy places with the blood of the sacrificed animal, what was done with the rest of the animal?

17. The author compares this Day of Atonement sacrifice with Jesus’ (“So also Jesus. . .”). How did Jesus suffer? What do you think this means? Why did he do this?

18. What should be our response? (This answer might help answer the above.)

19. What do we not have here, and what is “here”?

20. Instead, what do we seek?

21. What should we then do through him?

a. Who is “him”?

b. What is the connection (note the “then”) between verses 14-15?

c. What should we offer? How often?

d. A sacrifice of praise to God could also be described how, acc to v15b?

22. What else should not be neglected? Why? What is such generosity considered to be?

23. How should we respond to our spiritual leaders? Why?

24. In obeying and submitting to our spiritual leaders, we allow them to lead how?

25. If spiritual leaders groan in their caring for us, how does that effect us?

26. How do all of these commands in chapter 13 connect with the rest of the book?

27. What request did the author make of his readers in vv 18-19?

28. What was the author’s view of himself and those with him?

29. After asking for prayer for himself, the author closes his letter with a prayer for the Hebrews.

a. How does he describe God? What did God do?

b. How does he describe Jesus?

c. What does he ask that God do for them? (How does the description of what God had already done regarding Jesus bolster what the author is asking God to do for his readers?)

d. For what purpose did the author pray that his readers would be equipped with everything good?

e. What did the author pray that God would work in them all?

f. Through whom would this good work be accomplished in believers?

g. Who would then receive the glory forever?

30. The author appealed that his brothers would do what? Why?

31. What did he want them to know?

32. Whom did he want them to greet?

33. He sent greetings from whom?

34. What did he want to be with them all?

Closing Questions (I encourage you to actually write the answers to these questions out. It will force you to really verbalize the vague feelings and thoughts you have in response to what you’ve learned.)

1. Take a look at your book theme you wrote at the beginning of the study. Was it pretty accurate? Adjust it if you need to.

2. Did you learn anything new about God/Jesus during this study?

3. Was a truth you already knew about God strengthened?

4. Has your appreciation for and worship in response to a certain truth about God deepened?

5. Have you learned something new about yourself? How have you already responded to what you have learned? How should you respond to what you have learned?

6. What are you going to study next? 🙂

 

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

 

4.29. 20 Updated to add: Spoiler Alert! Below are my notes, which I do not recommend reading until you’ve completed your week’s study on your own. I think I will write one more blog post about my final thoughts on the book, which will include some of my thoughts of application.

13:1-17. Worship and Everyday Life

“Following on from 12:28–29, the passage suggests that an important dimension to our worship is serving others in the way that God directs (16). However, it is also true that we serve God by offering him praise through Jesus Christ, in every area of our lives (15). When the writer turns again to show how Christianity fulfils and replaces the way of worship associated with the tabernacle (10–14), it becomes clear that traditional ways of thinking about ‘religion’ must be radically transformed by the gospel.”[1]

13:1-8. Chapter 13 continues the thoughts of chapter 12. We are to lay aside sin and run with endurance, looking to Jesus who ran before us and knowing that God trains us through difficult things so we may share his holiness. As a result, we ourselves should be strengthened and strengthen others, strive for peace and holiness. We have an approachable God because of Jesus, and we should not ignore their words. Instead we should be grateful for the kingdom he’s given. We should respond with service and worship characterized by reverence and awe, because we see who God is. We should also respond in the following ways outlined here in this chapter:

We should continue to love our brothers, our fellow believers.

We should be hospitable to strangers. I think the author is alluding to the example of Abraham who was very hospitable to strangers who turned out to the Angel of the Lord, accompanied by two angels (cf. Gen 18-19).

We should remember those imprisoned and mistreated as if we were in the same situation and because we are one in Christ. I think the thought here is treat them how you would want to be treated, with compassion and care.

We should honor marriage and be sexually pure, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

We should not love money and instead be content with what we have. Following verses that have just spoken of showing love, hospitality, and care to others, this command would be essential to being able to be generous in this regard. Why should we be content? Because God has said he will never leave or forsake us (cf. Josh 1:5). This truth of God’s not forsaking us gives us confidence to claim the Lord as our Helper, so that we will not fear what man can do to us (cf. Psa 118:6-7).

There is a connection between being content/not loving money with confidence in God’s presence and help/lack of fear of what man can do. People who love money and are discontent are not satisfied with the presence of God. If their satisfaction is not in him, then they are placing their satisfaction and trust in man’s currency. This is never stable (and also indicates that one is living for this present world rather than the next) and can lead to fear. “The secret of such contentment is learning to trust God for what is needed (as the quotations from Dt. 31:6 and Ps. 118:6–7 indicate).”[2]

We are to remember our former spiritual leaders—those who spoke God’s word to us. We are to consider the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith.

The author reminds his readers that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I had difficulty understanding exactly how this connects to the commands surrounding it. Maybe when we remember our former leaders, sometimes we are disappointed and can be encouraged that Jesus is always the same? Or perhaps that Jesus is always the same, so we shouldn’t be led away, in contrast, by diverse teachings (v9)?

One commentator helped answer my question:

“This verse at first appears unconnected to the context and is so taken by some. However, there is indeed a connection. It can be viewed as providing the grounds for the exhortation to follow in v. 9, or the grounds or reason for the preceding statement in v. 7. It is best to see the verse as transitional, connecting to both v. 7 and v. 9, stating the object of the former leaders’ faith and the grounds for the exhortation in v. 9. Earthly leaders of the church come and go. They live and they die. However, Jesus lives forever, unchanging and unaffected by mortality or anything else that would hinder him from providing leadership, counsel, encouragement, strength, and whatever else might be needed by his people. . . . This verse implies at least three truths: the divinity of Christ; the immutability of Christ; and the constant faithfulness of Christ to his people.”[3]

13:9-10. We should not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, one of which would be the teaching that the heart could be strengthened by food (I’m thinking the belief that OT food laws should be continued), which bring no benefit to those who follow them. Grace, on the other hand, does strengthen the heart.

The OT priests used to be given the meat of most of the sacrifices as their payment for their priestly work (cf. Lev 6:24-30). We, however, have an “altar” from which none may eat. I think this refers to Christ’s death on the cross contrasted with the priestly sacrifices and all the food regulations that went along with it.

“Certain foods, and maybe some kind of ritual meal, were being presented to the readers as helpful for the nourishment of their spiritual lives. Yet, it is by God’s grace, and not rules about food, that our hearts are to be strengthened (cf. Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 8:8; Col. 2:16, 20–23). Food laws are among the ‘external regulations’, now surpassed and outmoded by the work of Christ (9:10). . . . Those Jewish priests who minister at the tabernacle, and who are authorized to benefit from its sacrifices (e.g. Lv. 7:5–6; Nu. 18:9–10), have no right to eat from the altar of the new covenant. They, along with anyone else attached to that way of worship, are pursuing the ‘shadow’ instead of the reality (8:5; 10:1).”[4]

13:11-14. When the high priest burned his day of atonement sacrifice and brought the blood into the Most Holy Place, the carcass of the animal was then brought outside the gate to be burned. Even the one who brings the carcass to be burned must wash his clothes and body before he can re-enter the camp, because of the uncleanness (cf. Lev 16:27-28). Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice of his body was also “outside the gate,” one of uncleanness, shame, and reproach. We need to be willing to share and endure his shame and reproach. We do this by having the right perspective: we seek the city to come, recognizing that earth offers no lasting habitation.

“The death of Jesus marks the end of a whole way of thinking about religion and worship. Christians who have been cleansed and consecrated to God by the sacrifice of Christ must no longer take refuge in holy places and ritual activities but must go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore (13; cf. 12:2–4). For the first readers, this meant breaking decisively with Judaism and identifying with the one who was regarded as cursed because of the manner of his death (cf. Gal. 3:13). The place of Christian service or worship is the uncleanness of the world, where there is unbelief and persecution![5]

13:15-17. Because we have been cleansed by Jesus’ sacrifice, through him we can continually offer sacrifices that are acceptable and pleasing to God (cf. 11:6) in this new covenant: praise to God/lips that acknowledge his name, doing good, and being generous to share what you have.

This mention of generosity in contrast to a discontent love of money in v5 made me think how important these truths are. Generosity recognizes the temporary nature of this life/earth. It recognizes the shame of Christ’s death and a willingness to share it. It recognizes the presence of God and evidences trust and faith in him.

We are also commanded to obey our current spiritual leaders—our pastors, and we are to submit to them because they watch over our souls as those who must give account to God for their watch-care over us. We need to obey and submit to them in such a way that their care for us is a joy and not done with groaning. Those who have a pastor who groans over them have no advantage in his care for them, because they have made it a difficult, painful thing for that shepherd to care for those particular sheep. In other words, make your pastor’s job a joy by not fighting his leadership (as long as he himself if following Christ and scripture); this will be to your advantage.

13:18-25. Personal Messages and Final Blessing

13:18-19. The author asked for prayer, being sure that he and his fellow laborers had a clear conscience and desire to act honorably. He asked them to earnestly pray so that he could be restored to them sooner.

13:20-21. After asking for prayer from them, he prays for them: May the God of peace who raised from the dead the Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip them with everything good to do his will, working in them that which is well-pleasing in God’s sight. This is done through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever.

God has the power to raise Jesus from the dead. (I noticed that this is the only mention of the resurrection that I recall in a book that repeatedly talks of the death and ascension of Christ.) That same God equips believers to do God’s will. It’s not an empty promise!

Jesus cares for us as a Shepherd cares for his sheep (cf. 1 Pet 2:25; 5:4). He is both Shepherd and the Lamb who was sacrificed that his shed blood can be the means by which we can be well-pleasing in God’s sight. What is it that God works in us that is well-pleasing? He works faith in us (cf. 11:6) and the works of faith (v16).

This whole book has been about the superiority of Christ, so it is a fitting end to give glory forever and ever to Christ.

13:22-25. His final words are an appeal that they bear with his “hard to explain” (5:11) word of exhortation, which was “brief.” He informs them that Timothy has been released from prison and tells them that he hopes to visit them with him soon. He greets all the leaders and saints. He sent greetings from those in Italy and concluded with a prayer that “Grace be with all of you.”

 

[1] Peterson, D. G. (1994). Hebrews. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1352). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Allen, D. L. (2010). Hebrews (p. 612-613). Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group.

[4] Peterson, 1352.

[5] Ibid.