How Is Hebrews Like a Lasagna?
The Book of Hebrews has three interdependent, repeated themes that are layered like a tasty lasagna.
Every chapter in Hebrews gives reasons for or examples of confidence in God. Layered between these truths and testimonies are stories of people who are being implored to persevere in both faith and relationships.
So, what does this have to do with us today?
Hebrews 3:7–8a reads, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (emphasis added). A hardened heart is “a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12b). An unbelieving heart may be evidence that one is not persevering in faith, while relationships with other believers are key to maintaining both perseverance and confidence.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first (Heb. 3:13–14).
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Heb. 10:23–25).
Chapters 12 and 13 give more examples of how our day-to-day interactions help us persevere in the confidence of our faith. Admittedly, maintaining relationships is difficult with restrictions on gatherings, quarantines, and fragile health. However, we can ask God to give us ideas on how to do this day-to-day, as we all need meaningful, life-giving connections!
I believe that’s why the themes in Hebrews are layered like a lasagna. God knows the weariness life on this earth brings, and He wants to remind us—again and again—just how big, powerful, and understanding He is. At every turn in in this book He redirects our attention to Him, reminding us that we are not alone in this journey.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Heb. 12:1–3).
#Fail: Now What?
“This is my story. This is my song,” are lines from the hymn “Blessed Assurance.”
Peter’s #Fail Story
Remember Peter, before Jesus’ arrest? Jesus had said, “Satan has asked permission to sift you as wheat. I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned, strengthen the others.” (See Luke 22:14–33.)
Peter’s reaction? “I’ll never deny you. I’ll go with you unto death.”
Jesus knew better. Within hours, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, let alone admitting to loving this man he’d trailed for three years. Peter, and the other disciples with him, failed. Feared. Fled. They locked themselves away, where one night, Peter said, brilliantly, “Let’s go fishing” (John 21:1–13).
Fishing? Didn’t they leave those nets to follow Jesus?
Right. That life segment ended badly. Plan B became Plan A, and off they trundled, shaking out their nets and casting them into the waters. One long dark night in a rocking boat…these former fishermen fished. All night. And they caught nothing.
Plan B. #Fail. Plan A. #Fail. Now what?
When the sun rose, silhouetted in the shadows stood a man. “Haven’t you any fish?”
Busted. More #Fail.
But wait. At the man’s command, the washed-up fishermen again threw in their nets, hauling in such a huge mess of fish it made history. There on the beach, Jesus invited Peter and company to breakfast—into relationship, into forgiveness, into calling.
It’s there that Peter’s song and story changed.
Unless we know the backstory, his future successes—thousands of people added to the Church, passion, death threats, courage, conversion—seem overwhelming and unattainable. Only the superstars, the #Success people, experience such astounding triumph. Not true.
Peter’s accomplishments are most meaningful in the context of his greatest failure.
The “if-onlys” of failure riddle all of our lives. If only I hadn’t made that mistake, failed in that relationship, dropped that ball, betrayed that person. If only.
Failure became part of Peter’s story—the part that gave him credibility to “strengthen the others.” Without failure, forgiveness is not applicable. What’s to forgive? Resurrection means nothing. Breakfast on the beach, that miracle of sustenance and provision, is just a nice picnic.
Without the #Fail, who could relate to Peter? But because of it, others witnessed the power of Christ in and through him. Transformed from someone who feared, failed, fled—into someone inviting people to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
#Fail. It’s a great common denominator among all who dress in skin and bones. But when failure leads to forgiveness, to a turning point over a charcoal fire at sunrise, when we deserve nothing—our stories offer others hope.
What’s your story, your song, your past imperfections, your present forgiveness? Where have you failed, been found, been forgiven?
“I have prayed for you”—not that you will not fail. Because you will. “I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned, strengthen the others.”
#Fail. #Success. The ultimate turnaround.
Turns out, we are super qualified. And that story will sing.
This article was adapted from the original published in Indeed magazine, March/April 2018. © 2018 Jane Rubietta. All rights reserved.
Jane Rubietta loves words and the Word. She is a Master Instructor and coach, speaks internationally, and is the author of 20 books. Her newest release is her debut novel, The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis. See JaneRubietta.com for more information.
Convenience or Community
I don’t know why I clicked on the link. In fact, today I don’t remember where I saw the link. But what I read has captured my attention for over a month and shaped my contemplations that have resulted in this reflection.
The link I clicked led to a November 2, 2018, Business Insider article about Starbucks. The article reported that more than 80% of the new Starbucks locations opened in 2018 in the United States were drive-thrus. When one considers that the coffee chain’s original brand appeal was a focus on community, providing a place for coffee lovers to gather and connect, the rise of drive-thrus has caught the interest of the business industry. To explain the decision, Starbucks officials cite the reality that in recent years an increasing proportion of customers prioritize convenience over community.
What do I prioritize? Convenience or community? The gospel, of course, puts a priority on community. The incarnation of Jesus was definitely not convenient! The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Immanuel. God with us. God values community. Furthermore, the walk of faith is often not convenient; the call to obedience is often costly. (Hebrews 11)
In contrast, our culture values convenience. We love efficiency and ease. When we feel the need for community, today’s digital world gives an opportunity to be connected like never before through a variety of social media platforms. I must admit, I love the convenience of keeping in touch with ever-increasing numbers of friends and acquaintances. I love the opportunity to write a reflection each month that is delivered digitally. An online community has value, but we are created for more.
As we begin a new year, as we contemplate fresh starts and priorities, I challenge each of us to move beyond convenience, placing a priority on true community. Members of our Alliance family who serve cross-culturally are challenged to sustain an impactful, meaningful presence. I am inspired by that goal. What does this require? Time. Availability. Authenticity. A willingness to be inconvenienced.
In 2019, I want to be available for others. I don’t want to settle for “drive-thru” relationships alone. Yes, I will continue connecting through social media. I will continue to post, share, and comment. I will participate in an online community. But I will also walk across the street to greet a neighbor. I will pick up the phone and invite a friend over for a cup of coffee. I will take the time to chat with the cashier at my local grocery store. With God’s help, I will “make the most of every opportunity.” (Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5) This, my friends, is a wise investment.
Women Impacted by Jesus – part 12
Did you get up early to watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle? I didn’t see the event live, but I watched video highlights with unexpected delight. Afterwards, I was struck by comments of genuine admiration regarding the wedding gown, the music, the sermon, and so much more. In this age of meanness that is often expressed on social media, it was refreshing to read kind and sincere words. One individual singled out for admiration was Doria Ragland, the mother of now Duchess of Sussex, Meghan. Ms. Ragland was lauded for her resilience and dignity. One young woman in Chicago even wrote a poem which was shared on her Facebook page the day after the wedding. The last time I checked, her post had 6,500 comments and 28,900 shares. That’s the influence of genuine admiration!
In Luke 11:27-28, we find an interesting exchange. As Jesus is teaching, a woman in the crowd calls out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” Matthew Henry describes this woman as “affectionate, honest, well-meaning.” She was impressed with Jesus’ excellent teaching, and was saying, in essence, “Your mother certainly must be proud of you.” Have you ever received a similar comment when you accomplished something exemplary? I have.
Jesus does not deny the woman’s statement. It was true. Mary was blessed by God, a fact she herself declared in her “Magnificat” recorded in Luke 1:46-55. Instead, Jesus takes the interruption as an opportunity for instruction. He responds, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
I don’t know how the woman received Jesus’ response, but I hear Him inviting her to a similar blessing. Essentially, Jesus is saying, “You can be blessed, too. Hear God’s word and obey it. That’s what my mother did. You can do the same.” The inclusive nature of the gospel is profound. “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39) For you. For all. Hear God’s word and obey it. This is your pathway to blessing.
What about you? Do you have genuine admiration for a woman of faith? Praise God! Affirm and bless her. But be careful not to give celebrity status to an individual. Instead, focus on the gospel message demonstrated by the person and work of Christ. Blessing is available for all who respond to God’s message with repentance and obedience. Jesus said so himself.
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)