“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NLT).
I used to wonder how Jesus could understand groups like women and the elderly since he experienced life as a man, and a young one at that. But now I believe he does understand. He was very close to his mother. He experienced human emotions, weakness and temptation. As Creator, he gave us unique gifts from his own nature and character. In the case of women, he gave us nurturing instincts, compassion, softness and emotional strength, all of which we need to be mothers. He treated women, children and older folks with dignity and respect.
In Jesus’ time on earth, he fully experienced humanity and when he died, he took all the suffering, frustration and pain of humanity into and upon himself. He redeemed us from start to finish, male to female, child to adult. He gets us.
“This [praying for all people] is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4, NLT).
Because we’re human, we often forget God isn’t like us and assume he looks at people in the same way. We think those who’ve committed atrocities can’t or shouldn’t be forgiven and must suffer in some kind of hell. Some look at their lives and hope they’ll be forgiven but are afraid of God’s anger. And some are afraid for those who don’t accept Christ, agonizing over their fate or perhaps wondering if God casually writes them off without another thought.
This verse gives another wonderful clue about God. He doesn’t want anyone to spend eternity away from his presence. God really does love everyone and his desire is for each and every human being to accept his love and come to him as a Father. And if he desires everyone to be saved, he just might be powerful enough to make it happen. Is anyone out of his reach? Is death stronger than God? Is any sin too great that God would wring his hands and give up, admitting defeat? I think not. What God wants, it makes sense God will get.
“Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:14, NLT).
This clue about God is fairly obvious. He is so generous and gracious he filled Paul with faith and love even though he had been hunting down and killing followers of Christ. God’s generosity is so vast no one can out give him. His graciousness is so immense we can’t do or think of anything he can’t forgive.
God isn’t stingy and doesn’t withhold his blessings. Unlike what some think of God, he isn’t like us – he’s completely free from meanness and has no smallness of mind or character (the opposite of generosity). He provides for everyone, even those who don’t acknowledge his provision, because with God, everyone’s included in his umbrella of magnanimity.
“The Lord has given them special skills as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple, and scarlet thread on fine linen cloth, and weavers. They excel as craftsmen and as designers” (Exodus 35:35, NLT).
The Bible is the primary communication in which God reveals himself, but finding out who he is can be like searching for treasure. The Bible is full of clues about his nature but you have to aware and looking. When I first read this verse, I marveled that God would bother to give the people working on the Tabernacle special skills they would need for building such a structure. He didn’t do it just because he’s picky or because he can only be satisfied with the best.
I believe God gave them special skills for two reasons: the first is because he enjoys creativity. He is not just the Creator, but a being of creativity, one with imagination who has fun making things. The second is he wants us to enjoy that part of his nature, which he has also given to us. By giving the people special skills, he was giving them more of himself so they could experience the excitement, wonder and joy of creating something beautiful.
“And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest” (Hebrews 3:1, NLT).
Many people of my generation (I’m a boomer) learned about Jesus in Sunday School. We were shown the artist’s depictions, told the stories and often participated in Christmas plays. For most of us, that’s as far as it went. We realized this Jesus had little relevance and got on with life.
This verse in Hebrews tells us to think carefully about him or as other versions say, to consider him, to focus or think hard about him. The second verse of Hebrews 3 in The Message says he is the centerpiece of everything we believe. As a child, what I learned about Jesus wasn’t entirely accurate, which is partly why I wasn’t impressed. We must get to know him as he really is and not rely on stories we heard long ago or snide comments from God-hating authors and celebrities. Getting to know him, the most important thing we can do, requires real thinking, hard questions and the courage (from the Holy Spirit) to seek the truth.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep” (John 10:11, NLT).
Hardly any of us can relate to what shepherds do, unless you live on a sheep farm. The closest I’ve come to sheep is seeing them by the side of the road a few times, eating lamb (which I really don’t like) and wearing woolen clothing (it itches). But when Jesus called himself a shepherd, even the city dwellers had some idea of what he meant, and they would immediately think of Psalm 23.
A shepherd is totally responsible for the welfare of his sheep. He watches over them with tender loving care, making sure they are fed, comfortable and safe. If necessary, he might put himself in danger to protect them. Would a shepherd actually die for his sheep? I kind of doubt it, but Jesus said he is a good shepherd and he did exactly that. We don’t have to know much about sheep and shepherds to know how much he cares.
“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:7-8, NLT).
Kindness is something everyone values, but is so rare we often find ourselves surprised when it happens. We don’t normally think of God as being kind, but since it means of a “good or benevolent nature or disposition” it makes perfect sense. Not only is he kind, he is the source and origin of kindness.
When you are kind to someone – when you show them consideration or helpfulness – you are expressing the love of God. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he showers us with it. As you enjoy the showers of God’s kindness today, don’t keep it to yourself. Let a little splash onto someone else.
“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1-22-23, NLT).
It’s common when someone in authority in a church makes a mistake or a poor decision for people to not only stop going to church, but turn their backs on God as well. This has always puzzled me as I learned a long time ago during a difficult time in my denomination that what the leaders do is no reflection on God.
Jesus is the head of the church no matter what the body does. If every church leader fails and every church shuts its doors, he remains the head of his body and will never let us down.
“And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth” (John 17:3, NLT).
Many Christians, and people observing Christians, have the idea the way to heaven is to do certain things – be good, turn the other cheek, go to church – and to stop doing other things (you fill in the rest). But nothing we do or don’t do will make any difference – we can’t earn our way to heaven.
The way to eternal life is really very simple: to know Jesus and his Father, which has nothing to do with our behavior. The Amplified version expands on the word know: to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand. Wouldn’t it be great if we could help people understand that being a Christian is about knowing and loving God and our fellow human beings, not performing for him?
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” (Matthew 6:7-8, NLT).
Does God hear our prayers only if we’re good enough or if we say the right words in the right way? Does he wait to listen until we are in the correct position or we reach a quota of minutes? God doesn’t wear ear plugs until we get all our prayer ducks in a row and then pop them out when we’ve completed some magic formula. He knows what we need even before we do and often answers before we ask.
God is always listening and not just listening, but knowing and anticipating. He doesn’t have to wait until we’ve prayed about something before he can act. Praying doesn’t release God’s power. He wants us to pray because he wants us to participate in what he’s doing and he wants us to learn to care about others as much as he does. God hears, but his hearing is so much more than what we define as hearing; it’s what author Walt Wangerin called a divine and merciful awareness. We don’t have to wonder if he’s listening – he not only hears our words, he hears our hearts as well.