words

A New and Living Way

lightstock.com

lightstock.com

Life is full of symbolism but most of it is taken for granted. A clock or watch tracks time, yet time is an abstract concept marked in life by the rising and setting of the sun. Nowadays we use emoticons in place of words.

The Bible also contains much symbolic and figurative wording. This requires some thought and reflection to understand what they represent and mean. Understanding them brings insight of the truth they represent.

The book of Hebrews is a guide for understanding the Old Testament (covenant) in light of the new relationship with God believers experience through trusting in the Lord Jesus.

Just as the curtain in front of the Most Holy Place in the temple tore apart from top to bottom when Jesus exhaled His last breath on the cross, a new and living way opened up for all who trust in the Lord (Matt 27:50-51).

Scripture

Brothers and sisters, because of the blood of Jesus we can now confidently go into the holy place. Jesus has opened a new and living way for us to go through the curtain. (The curtain is his own body.) [vss 19-20]
We have a superior priest in charge of God’s house. We have been sprinkled ⌊with his blood⌋ to free us from a guilty conscience, and our bodies have been washed with clean water. So we must continue to come ⌊to him⌋ with a sincere heart and strong faith. [vss 21-22]
(Hebrews 10:19-22 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

Jesus has opened a new and living way for us to go through

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are Christian believers now free to do and in what way?

  • Why are believers able to enter this holy place of God's presence? 

  • What are the symbolic things Jesus does for believers that make this possible?

  • What is the final exhortation given here? In what way are we to come to the Lord?

Reflection...

The Christian faith is not a set of religious dogmas or mere beliefs. It is an ongoing personal relationship with God the Father through trust in His Son Jesus.

This relationship is made available by what Jesus did on the cross (atonement) for all humanity, all those who would trust in Him personally.

The way into God's presence is open but is only accessible with a sincere heart and strong faith—an honest, open and trusting heart (Heb 10:22). His poured out blood cleanses our conscience and the pure water of God's truth washes and renews our mind.

Jesus opened the way to God and He leads us through that way as both our Savior and High Priest who continually intercedes for us (prays on our behalf). It is a new and living way of life.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you understand the symbolism of the curtain and holy place of the temple?

  • Can you picture in your mindthe torn curtain and the way opened to God?

  • How does all of this encourage you personally? Have you experienced the freedom of God's forgiveness and acceptance?

  • Are you making time each day to enter into God's presence? Do you have this confidence deep in your heart?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

The Real Deal

"He's the real deal," is a common expression to affirm someone's credibility. This expression is often applied to an athlete or someone with great talent or used to confirm some claim or observation about a person.

Over the past 45 years, my wife has loved on and cared for hundreds of children. Many people along the way have noted her gift with and love for children and their love for her.

I've seen it in her as Mom and Nana and in her work in church nurseries, in our ministry overseas, and in her current work at a preschool.

Words need to match action for a person to be the real deal. The opinion of others isn't enough, people need to see it for themselves. In other words, it should be obvious to all.

Dead Flies and Foolishness

Does anyone like flies? I haven't met anyone who does. Perhaps the Lord of the flies (the devil) does, but I'm pretty sure that's a metaphor to describe an evil ruler.

Ever notice how one pesky fly can ruin so much? When a fly lands in your glass or on your food, it's just unappetizing. A fly buzzing around your face is both irritating and distracting.

There's good reason King Solomon likened flies to foolishness. In ancient writings, a fool was a person who lacked good judgment or moral integrity. We have all had those moments in life.

Scripture

A few dead flies will make even the best perfume stink. In the same way, a little foolishness can ruin much wisdom and honor. The thoughts of the wise lead them the right way, but the thoughts of the foolish lead them the wrong way. Fools show how foolish they are, just walking down the road. Their minds are empty, and everyone knows it. Don’t quit your job simply because the boss is angry with you. If you remain calm and helpful, you can correct even great mistakes. [vss 1-4]

Here is something else that I have seen in this life that isn’t fair. It is the kind of mistake that rulers make. Fools are given important positions, while the rich get jobs that are not important. I have seen servants riding on horses, while rulers were walking beside them like slaves.[vss 5-7]

If you dig a hole, you might fall into it. If you break down a wall, you might be bitten by a snake. If you are moving large stones, you might be hurt by them. If you cut down a tree, you are in danger of it falling on you. But wisdom will make any job easier. It is very hard to cut with a dull knife. But if you sharpen the knife, the job is easier. Someone might know how to control snakes. But that skill is useless if a snake bites when that person is not around. [vss 8-11]

Words from the wise bring praise, but words from a fool bring destruction. Fools begin by saying something foolish. But in the end, they speak nonsense. Fools are always talking about what they will do, but you never know what will happen. People cannot tell what will happen in the future. Fools aren’t smart enough to find their way home, so they must work hard all their lives. [vss 12-15]

(Ecclesiastes 10:1-15 ERV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 10]

Key phrase—Words from the wise bring praise, but words from a fool bring destruction.

[bctt tweet="Words from the wise bring praise, but words from a fool bring destruction"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How is foolishness likened to dead flies and contrasted with the wise?

What are some ways that foolishness is given importance that doesn't make sense?

How can wisdom benefit any person with any given job? How do the examples given relate to what's said before them?

What else are we told about fools and foolish talk?

Reflection...

Careless words can undo great accomplishments and a person's good standing in life. This is all the more true with today's near instant media exposure. It can be like one loose thread when pulled that unravels the whole garment.

Much in life is beyond our control. When something is unfair we can choose to react or respond. Reaction requires little thought (if any), is driven by emotion, and tends to make things worse rather than better.

A wise response requires applied wisdom. Instead of an emotional outburst, wisdom can produce a passionate, yet measured counter to what's wrong.

Dead flies stink. So also foolishness. This is where wisdom is needed. Only the wisest of all—God—is able to remove what is foolishness in us, if we're willing to allow Him to do so.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

When have you said or done rash things you've regretted? What prompted these?

How do you handle situations where you're criticized, treated unfairly, or insulted?

Have you learned how to handle criticism and insults in wiser ways than before?

Do you have people in your life who are good examples of wise living? Are you willing to learn from them and their example?

Why Do We Bother?

Optical illusions are fascinating. From the illusionary designs of MC Escher to those squiggly line prints with some hidden image. Illusions can also be frustrating. You look and look and look, but just can't figure it out.

How about the classic lost in the desert movie? Someone with tattered clothing and dying of thirst crawls through the sand towards a mirage thinking it's water. Of course, it's only heat waves that appear as rippling water.

The endless cycle of everyday life can seem illusory. As if, no hope exists of any break or improvement in the monotony of the mundane. That's when we need to see beyond the illusion.

Scripture

There is a tragedy that I have seen under the sun. It is a terrible one for mortals. God gives one person riches, wealth, and honor so that he doesn’t lack anything he wants. Yet, God doesn’t give him the power to enjoy any of them. Instead, a stranger enjoys them. This is pointless and is a painful tragedy.[vss 1-2]

Suppose a rich person wasn’t satisfied with good things [while he was alive] and didn’t even get an honorable burial [after he died]. Suppose he had a hundred children and lived for many years. No matter how long he would have lived, it [still] would have been better for him to have been born dead. A stillborn baby arrives in a pointless birth and goes out into the darkness. The darkness then hides its name. Though it has never seen the sun or known anything, the baby finds more rest than the rich person. Even if the rich person lives two thousand years without experiencing anything good—don’t we all go to the same place?[vss 3-6]

Everything that people work so hard for goes into their mouths, but their appetite is never satisfied. What advantage does a wise person have over a fool? What advantage does a poor person have in knowing how to face life? It is better to look at what is in front of you than to go looking for what you want. Even this is pointless. [It’s like] trying to catch the wind.[vss 7-9]

Whatever has happened [in the past] already has a name. Mortals are already known for what they are. Mortals cannot argue with the one who is stronger than they. The more words there are, the more pointless they become. What advantage do mortals gain from this? Who knows what may be good for mortals while they are alive, during the brief, pointless days they live? Mortals pass by like a shadow. Who will tell them about their future under the sun? [vss 10-12]

(Ecclesiastes 6:1-12 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 6]

Key phrase—Better to look at what is in front of you than... looking for what you want

[bctt tweet="Better to look at what is in front of you than... looking for what you want"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What is seen and lamented upon as a tragedy?

What common pursuit seems to elude people living on the earth?

What seems to be like "trying to catch the wind"? Why do you think this expression is used so often in Ecclesiastes?

In all that's said about "pointless" talk, who do you think is stronger than us "mortals"?

Reflection...

One of the difficulties in reading through Ecclesiastes is how it reinforces a sense of hopelessness to life. Many people throughout the world struggle with hopelessness. Some take their own lives because they lack hope.

Yet, throughout refugee camps and impoverished or oppressed areas people can be found who hang tenaciously on a hope that things will get better. These are people who have little to nothing to hold in their hands, and who don't know if they will eat much in a given day.

It is often affluent people who struggle most with depression and suicidal thoughts. Why?

Every person wants meaning in life, even those most cynical among us. We need hope more than things. We want significance in life rather than fame and fortune.

When we find ourselves lost in the illusion of hopelessness, it's time to look to the One above it all—God.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What one thing seems to lead to a sense of hopelessness in your life?

How do you cope with the routine of life? Do you like it or struggle with it?

What are ways you find solace and hope within the mundane routines in life?

How do you see beyond hopelessness and cynicism, or are you able to do so?

A Glimpse of Eternity

Would you like to live forever? Lots of research goes into extending life and being healthy. What age do you hope to live to? I'm not so sure I want to reach 100. I've seen the adjustments I need to make as I grow older, and it isn't always fun.

But I do long for eternity, just not in this physical body. Life can be hard when we look at it too closely. When we're zeroed in on what we do work-wise, it can be self-defeating. We need a sense of hope beyond the routine of life, or the walls begin to close in on us.

Why do we have this desire to live a long life? Why do we want to know the future? Could it be that eternity is planted in our hearts?

Scripture

What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.[vss 9-11]

So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.[vss 12-13]

And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again. [vss 14-15]

I also noticed that under the sun there is evil in the courtroom. Yes, even the courts of law are corrupt! I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.” [vss 16-17]

(Ecclesiastes 3:9-17 NLT) [Context– Ecclesiastes 3]

Key phrase— He has planted eternity in the human heart

[bctt tweet="God has planted eternity in the human heart"]

Digging Deeper...

How do these verses reflect the continuing tone of this book of wisdom?

What is said that counters this circular and cynical tone? How can these opposing thoughts exist at the same time?

Why would God want people to fear Him? What do you think is meant by this?

What are we told God will do concerning what is good and evil? When will this happen?

Reflection...

The continuing theme of Ecclesiastes is the attempt to answer the question—What's the purpose of life? The tone of the words is mostly cynical, and yet, thoughts of contentment are inserted intermittently.

Many philosophers have lived and died pondering this question of life's purpose, often without resolve. The quest of answers and adventure spurs research and exploration beyond what we know already. And yet, the cycles and seasons of life continue on and on.

A number of years ago, a missionary wrote a book based on research into the culture, beliefs, and history of people groups spread across the globe. He found recurring themes of experience and visions of expectations. He observed that, indeed, God planted eternity in the hearts of humanity.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Are you able to see God's beauty in your life, the life of others, and the world around you?

Do you find contentment in simple ways to help you navigate life's routines and difficulties?

Do you have a longing for the truth and a sense of hope? If not, do you know where to turn to get these?

How can respect and awe for God help us handle the anxieties and doubts that rise up in our hearts and minds?