the immortal covenant


“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” [Hebrews 10:16 NIV]

I suggest that this is the covenant that has always been in effect. Every other covenant is but a shadow of this one. All others are an outward refection of this inner reality. God has always been in the business of inner laws. Always been in the business of inner transformation and not external compliance.

Yet throughout history humans have placed a focus on the things that one can see with their eyes. Wanting covenants and laws that govern external behaviors but are impotent to change hearts and minds. Such is the temporal covenant. The one envisioned with earthly imaginations.

Yet since the beginning there has always been an immortal covenant at play. One that is spiritual in nature. Invisible to the eye but powerful to affect the nations. Such was the focus of the sermon on the mount. Following God has never been about external covenants but about inner renewal.

Teach us Lord to hear the voice of your immortal covenant deep within us.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

really bad religious math


when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire ... with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased ... I have come to do your will, my God.” [Hebrews 10:5-7 NIV]

So often religious activities are not the ones that please God. Doing things 'for' God is not the same as the Lord doing things through us. In a sense it is all about hidden motives. Things done out of religious obligation wreak of bad motives. Yet the works of the heart seem very different.

Jesus came into the world not to become a leader who would teach us to do religious things. His command to 'do this in remembrance of me' was not an injunction to begin a new form of religious sacrifice. The 'this' he spoke of was sharing a meal together and not a religious sacrament.

So why is it that we humans seem intent on doing religious things that are not really a part of God's will? Could it be that such activities help us to live 10% of our life as religious and 90% as secular? Is it really all about wanting our will for the 90%? Perhaps it is just really bad religious math?

Help us Lord to live 100% of our lives for you and the things that you desire.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

transactional forgiveness


It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. [Hebrews 10:4 NIV]

I think that it is not unusual for humans to make forgiveness a transaction. We do not want it to be free. We want to do something to earn it. The whole Jewish sacrificial system is built around this idea of offering sacrifices to be forgiven. Some even see the cross in this light.

In contrast to this concept, a bruised and beaten Messiah cries out from the cross “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” This intercession destroyed the whole idea of transactional forgiveness. In a few words God the Son showed us what it means to forgive.

In its purist sense forgiveness is a gift that we give each other. We do it with no expectations. With open hands and hearts we choose to embrace the one forgiven as if they had not sinned against us. There is no act more divine. Nothing greater that shows our love for God and each other.

Lord. Help me to forgive. Help me to release the past and walk in forgiveness.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

religious shadows


The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. [Hebrews 10:1 NLT]


Shadows are two dimensional in nature. They give us an idea about what we are looking at but not a complete picture. And, depending on the position of the light source, shadows can misrepresent the image that is projected. Such is some of the imagery in the scriptures.

Scriptural passages are sometimes skewed by cultural shadows that falsely envision God as a wrathful and avenging warrior. The ministry and teachings of Jesus shone a bright light on such shadows. In Christ we understand that we no longer need to rely on shadowy images of God.

In writing to the Colossians Paul tells us that Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. And earlier in this letter the writer tells us that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. In reading these verses we understand that we no longer need to rely on shadowy depictions of God.

Help us Lord to reject shadowy images of you and embrace the reality of Christ.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

spiritual and physical rebirth


He will come again, not to deal with our sins,
but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. [Hebrews 9:28 NLT]


Salvation is a two phased process. It begins with a spiritual birth - eternal life begins this side of heaven. Salvation is then consummated with a physical rebirth when we die. The spiritual part of us takes on a resurrected body that will never die ... never get sick ... never feel pain.

Hope is born when we are spiritually born and is realized at our physical rebirth. One who has not been born again cannot grasp that reality? For such a one this physical existence is all that there is. There is no hope for anything better. Yet hope reigns for those who eagerly wait for him.

Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus! Thank you for the Blessed Hope that we share Lord.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

dead vs living sacrifices


Indeed, according to the Law ... sins are forgiven only if blood is poured out. ... Christ also was offered in sacrifice once to take away the sins of many. [Hebrews 9:22,28 GNT]


In a spiritual sense, I find these to be odd verses. They surface a few questions:
  • Were the death of sacrificed animals required for God to forgive sin?
  • Was it necessary for Jesus to die in order for God to forgive?
  • Did Jesus die because of our sinful actions or to forgive those same sins?
When the writer of Hebrews compares Jesus death to that of sacrificial animals he does with a certain paradigm in mind. To the Jews God had to be appeased before he could forgive sins. The temple system embraced such sacrifices. Yet is that a really valid concept and image of God?

I suggest that the sacrifices that God requires are living ones. Paul says as much in his letter to the Romans. In a very real sense Jesus birth and ministry were such a sacrifices. His death on the cross was a living sacrifice. Dead sacrifices cost us very little while living ones cost us much.

Afresh dear Lord, I offer myself to your service.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

no food poisoning in heaven


These gifts and sacrifices deal only with regulations for the body—food and drink and various kinds of ritual cleansings necessary until the time comes to make things truly right. [Hebrews 9:10 VOICE]

Humanity has learned much about sickness, diet and environment since the times of Moses. Diseases like trichinosis and salmonella arise when meat is not properly prepared. In that respect health codes have always been needed to protect the consumer of such foods.

These regulations will be needed as long as our food is of this earth. Yet we err if we believe that these rules, like the forbidding of eating pork products, have anything to do spirituality. Despite what Moses wrote, one can eat bacon or pork ribs and not suffer spiritually.

That said, I believe that there will be a time when food will not make us sick. There will be no food poisoning in heaven. Things physical and spiritual will be made right. Love will rule that day and every tear will be dried. The former things will have passed away and the new will come.

Blessed be you Lord Jesus Christ. You are working everything for our good.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the journey from Javert to Valjean


That first tent symbolizes the present time, when gifts and sacrifices can be offered; but it can’t change the heart and conscience of the worshiper. [Hebrews 9:9 VOICE]


This verse paints a picture of two forms of religion. The former, one of external adherence to rules. The latter, an inner transformation. Sadly, the former is much more prevalent than the latter. I know. At age 26 I had an inner change yet chose a life lived adhering to rules and principles.

I sometimes think of my life as the inward journey from Javert to Valjean. In Les Misérables, we learn of Javert, the policeman who loved the law, and of Valjean, the broken man who found extravagant grace from a bishop. One lived a life of obedience to the law. The other a life of love.

In the end, Javert finds no life in the law. He kills himself instead of changing. Valjean's life ends being surrounded by loved ones. His life was marked by an inner transformation of heart and conscience. The story reminds me that serving God is all about serving with love, mercy and compassion.

Renew me again dear Lord that I might serve you with all of my heart.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the way into the most holy place


The Holy Spirit used this to show that the way into the most holy place was not open while the tent was still in use. [Hebrews 9:8 GW]


It seems that every sect has a designated holy place. Jesus addressed this when he spoke to the woman at well. Her perspective was that the place of worship was important. Jesus corrected her indicating that how we worship (i.e. in spirit and in truth) is more important than where we worship.

In reality, for a believer the holy place of worship lives within us. Paul told the Corinthians that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within us. In that sense, a tent or building is not needed to talk to God. The way into the holy place is the way of the heart. The way of listening to God's voice within.

Open our eyes and our ears Lord to your presence in our lives.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

erased as though they had never existed


I will be merciful when they fail, and I will erase their sins and wicked acts out of My memory as though they had never existed. [Hebrews 8:12 VOICE]

In the late seventies a young friend asked me how it is possible for God to forget. I do not remember how I answered her. In retrospect I think much of the question hits to the heart of who we believe God is. Is he like an accountant demanding a balancing of the moral books. Or is he something else?

I think that we find the answer in words like love and mercy. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul tells us that love is kind, patient and keeps no record of wrongs. I believe that these words describe God. He is not like us. His very nature is to forgive in such a way that no record is kept of the offense.

This concept challenges us because we simply want God to be a better version of us. Forgiveness comes hard for us so we think that it comes hard for God. We need penance to forgive so we think God needs it too. We see the sin when we forgive. God sees wholeness and restoration.

Help me to be like you Jesus. Patient. Loving. Kind. Keeping no record of wrongs done to me.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

Knowing God


Never again will everyone teach his neighbor or his brother by saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because all of them will know me, from the least important to the most important. [Hebrews 8:11 ISV]

The idea of knowing God is a somewhat controversial topic. Is it possible for the finite to grasp the infinite? The temporal to embrace the eternal? Or perhaps the idea is more about knowing God and letting his example, in Jesus, influence the way that one lives in a fallen world?

In my thinking it is a bit of both. We are first introduced to God when we are spiritually born. Our lives from that point is all about growing in a relational knowing of God. We see him in the lives of others. Biblical lives. Lives of friends. We come to know him as we experience his spirit.

The idea is that we grasp the infinite and embrace the eternal one day at a time. Our eyes are opened to the invisible as we encounter the divine each day. Knowing God is a progressive experience that changes us at a very deep level. And in a very real sense it is impossible to un-know God.

Thank you Lord for revealing yourself to us through the Holy Spirit.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

inner laws


This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people. [Hebrews 8:10 NRSV]



This verse shouts to me of the new birth. It screams out to us about spiritual transformation. In one sentence the writer has cut through all of the superficiality and hit the heart of what it means to be God's people. A people not of denomination or affiliation. A people of the Spirit.

Such a people answer to a higher power because they follow a higher law. These have received the promise of the new and good heart. They have entered in a covenant named Jesus. Such a people are able to hear and see differently because they are inwardly different. They are transformed.

Teach us Lord to follow the good heart that you have placed in us.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

a covenant named Jesus


Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. [Hebrews 8:6 NRSV]

The concept of divine testaments and promises is woven throughout human history. There seemed to be such communications in Eden. When the floodwaters receded God spoke such words to Noah. Abraham was made promises by God. And Moses received a testament on the mountain. Genesis, the first biblical book, is filled with covenants. It teaches us about the prevailing concept of God.

That said, it seems consistent that a person writing to Hebrews would speak of "a better covenant" with "better promises". It does make me wonder though. Is the concept more human than divine? Is it simply an evidence of a human legal mindset? Is it possible that we have gotten it wrong? Is the better covenant not really a covenant at all? Is it actually a manifestation of God himself?

When Jesus spoke of coming to fulfill the law was he not speaking to how the law was an imperfect reflection of the heart of God? Do we not see the flaws in Mosaic law when our eyes are opened to Jesus, the heart of every covenant and promise? I guess what I am trying to communicate is the idea that there has only ever been one covenant. And the covenant is named Jesus.

Lord. Please open the eyes of my heart that I might understand your heart.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

not influenced by sinners


Jesus is the kind of high priest we need. He is holy, sinless, pure, not influenced by sinners, and he is raised above the heavens. [Hebrews 7:26 NCV]


The best of us ... the holiest ... the smartest ... the most moral ... are all influenced by cultural norms and the environments which we were raised and live. Then there is Jesus. Described here as holy, sinless and pure. These words communicate a uniqueness of being and character to me.

This uniqueness is how I describe what it means to be holy. It is why, as this verse says, Jesus is the kind of high priest we need. We do not need a spiritual leader who is simply one of us. We need one who is not influenced by us. We need One who is in all ways God. Yet has walked as one of us.

You Lord are what we need. Help us to walk in this understanding.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

when prayers look like grace


People now come to God through him. And he is able to save them completely and for all time. Jesus lives forever. He prays for them. [Hebrews 7:25 NIRV]


One on the roles of a Jewish priest was to pray for people in his flock. This pastoral role is somewhat carried forward in the church. It is a vital role but certainly not limited to the clergy. I sometimes think that we are most like Jesus when we are carrying our friends to God in prayer.

I wonder if grace could be described as the prayers of Jesus. Priestly prayers like the one that Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail when he was tested. Perhaps grace and the prayers of Christ are one in the same? Maybe our own prayers are meant to be a form of grace?

Breath on us Holy Spirit that our prayers would be a means of grace.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the law made nothing perfect


On the one hand a former command is set aside because it is weak and useless, for the law made nothing perfect. On the other hand a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. [Hebrews 7:18-19 NET]

Moral codes are always insufficient because they are dependent on the strength of the one who follows them. Such laws rarely do anything but deter an individual from bad behavior. These laws are dependent on outer strength and mental willpower. In contrast we have an inner law of hope.

Throughout time people have arisen who are different. They seem to possess spiritual power. These have been spiritually born and follow an inner law that is greater than human codes. They look like others but possess a power that transcends feeble laws and principles.

Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about such people. He told him that these were born from above. In the flesh these are still a work in progress. Yet these are ones who hope in dark times. Believe before they see. They have a divine power that imbues them with love and compassion.

We draw near to you Lord. And we hope.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

hope is an anchor


We who have found safety with him are greatly encouraged to hold firmly to the hope placed before us. We have this hope as an anchor for our lives. [Hebrews 6:19 GNT]


In the natural, an anchor prevents a boat from drifting due to winds or currents because it connects the vessel to the bed of the body of water. Likewise hope is what connects us to the reality of God. Hope is what keeps us grounded and prevents us from spiritual drifting. It is why hope is essential.

Yet this hope is not like the tenuous 'hope so' verbiage that folks often speak of. This hope is all about the very nature of God. We hope in our own resurrection from death because we believe that God is one who brings life from death. Hope anchors us to the essence of who God is.

I believe that Isaiah embraced this form of hope when he wrote:
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Help us Lord, when life seems out of control, to remember the safety that we have found in you.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

it is impossible for God to lie


So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable
because it is impossible for God to lie. [Hebrews 6:18 NLT]


There are foundational truths about the nature of God. These influence our behavior. Because we believe that God is loving we take seriously his command to love. We are challenged to goodness as we embrace the idea that God is good. Our hearts are drawn to emulate Jesus because his behavior reflects the image of God. Our image of God drives us to be more and more like him.

Yet we can become confused if we do not rightly interpret passages of the scripture. We can read verses that conflict with the image of a loving God and assert that they are true because we think that every verse must be true because "God said it" and he cannot lie. Holding a black and white view of such scriptures is dangerous because it can lead to envisioning God as something he is not.

Lord. We confess that you are good and loving all of the time.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

Lessons in patience from Abraham


Abraham was patient, and so he received what God had promised. [Hebrews 6:15 GNT]


There is an old joke where one prays for patience saying that they want it now. Waiting for a promise to be fulfilled can take years. And sometimes it never comes in our lifetime.

A childless Abraham was promised descendants. He embraced the promise into his latter years. When he was very old he had Isaac. There are lessons about patience that we can learn from Abraham:
  1. He made mistakes. He tried to fulfill the promise himself with a son conceived with his wife's servant. In doing so he took control of the promise rather than releasing it in prayer.
  2. He kept working while he waited for the promised son. He kept his flocks, managed his household and did things necessary to living. In this he showed trust in God.
  3. He remained hopeful. I think that patience is all about hope. We wait on the Lord because we hope in him. We believe that he will fulfill his promises to us.
  4. He believed though he did not see. Developing patience is all about embracing the invisible kingdom. God's kingdom operates on things that cannot be seen. Like love.
Abraham received what was promised because he had patience. We must also be patient. Even if we do not see the promised fulfilled. We trust God because we know God.

Our hope is in you Lord. We believe in you. Help us to be patient.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

while we wait


We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. [Hebrews 6:12 NIV]


Several words jumped out to me as I read this verse:
  • lazy - I have found that my relationship with God requires diligence;
  • imitate - often we can learn from the mistakes and successes of others;
  • faith and patience - we really cannot have one without the other;
  • inherit - there are things we do not earn but are simply given;
  • promised -  speaks to me of a future filled with hope.
These words speak to me about what it means to wait on the Lord. We do not idly wait as for a bus. Our waiting is all about being diligent in faith and patient in prayer as we look forward with hope.

You are worthy Lord Jesus of our faith, diligence and patience. We praise you.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

he will not forget the love you have shown


God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. [Hebrews 6:10 NIV]


Sometimes society embraces a definition of justice that seems to be more like vengeance. In this verse the writer points us to a more positive image of it. It reminds me of this:
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice. (Isaiah 30:18)
So many come to fear God because they believe him to be a dispenser of a fire and brimstone form of justice. They mistakenly misunderstand the nature of God and divine justice.

In contrast this verse assures us that the things that God remembers are not about our sins but about the ways that we have loved. I find much encouragement in this form of justice.

Thank you Lord for the inspiration that I see in your justice.


... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.