Tuesday, November 29th, Hall of Faith

Tuesday, November 29th

Psalm 124; Genesis 9:1-7; Hebrews 11:32-40

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By Jesse Coyne

This passage forms the conclusion of the lengthy recitation of Israel’s venerable ‘hall of faith,’ which makes up the whole of Hebrews 11. Many of our favorite Old Testament characters, such as Noah, Abraham, and Moses are commended by the author for the things they accomplished “by faith.” The entire chapter actually stands in the middle of two other encouraging examples of faith.

The first example is drawn from the audience’s own past when they were publicly humiliated and mistreated for their confession and yet remained faithful (10:32-34). After recounting the faith of Israel’s heroes, the author concludes by directing the audience’s attention to the cross. The pioneer and perfector of faith was the one who disregarded the shame of the cross and the hostility of sinners to reach the goal and sit at the right hand of God (12:1-3). As so often in the letter, the author encourages his audience to look to Jesus, to consider the example of faithfulness by the one who bore their reproach. The whole sequence from the audience’s past, to Israel’s heroes, and ultimately to Jesus, encourages the hearers to persevere, to finish the race.

The question remains, how do we remain faithful when faced with adversity? How do we emulate their faithful examples when confronted with

the scorn and mockery of the world?—By remembering as they did that God has provided something better for us (11:40).

The audience of the letter had their property confiscated and were made a public spectacle, but they did not shrink back, so  that they might receive what was promised (10:36-39). Israel’s heroes were tortured, stoned, scourged, and forced to hide in caves and holes and did not receive what was promised (11:35-39), and yet they continued to look forward in faith to a better place (11:13-16). Finally, Jesus endured the shame of the cross for the sake of the joy which was before him (12:2).

We are surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses who encourage us to walk the narrow path by focusing on the goal and not the hindrances that surround us. This same Jesus, Emmanuel, is the one who was made lower than the angels, shared flesh and blood with his brothers and sisters, yet remained sinless. Through the power of his death and indestructible life, he sets us free from the fear of death.

The great affirmation of Hebrews is that Jesus is the great high priest who was tempted and who suffered just like us, and who now continuously intercedes on our behalf. (2:5-18).

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Monday, November 28th, Emmanuel—God Is With Us In The Worst Of Times

Monday, November 28th

Psalm 124;  Genesis 8:1-19; Romans 6:1-11

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By Lynn Powers

Life is not easy—we are often flooded with situations that leave us feeling all alone.  They may come from attacks from others, from circumstances beyond our control, or even from our own mistakes.  But in them all is the presence of Christ.

It was September, 1985.  It was night and the babies were crying.  They were 5, 3, and 3 months.  My husband, John, had been killed in a commercial plane crash on a business trip.

I was alone—No money, no job, no husband.

I was young, female, vulnerable.

I remember the exact place, how the wall looked, how the crying was deafening.

And I looked up—O, Lord, HELP ME!  I cannot do this myself.

Through tears I even laughed a bit—like Sarah—at the hopelessness.

And He said, “Not you, Me.”

“Our help is the name of the Lord…” (Psalm 124:8)

The journey began.

I loved the Lord, so out of stubborn belief and weak trust, I tried to do it right—tithe, teach, coordinate meals, set up communion, lead Bible study, work the nursery, lead youth, host women’s circle—whatever I could do to serve Him who rescued me day by day.

But soon serving people took over from serving Him.

The voices of people became louder than the voice of God.

Their human interpretations, their rules, their “ought to’s” became another gospel.

Then I looked up again.  “Jesus, why are you up there?  Why not me”

And He said, “Look around you—now look back at Me—GRACE WINS!

He enters even into our death experiences and raises us to new life (Romans 6).  In the circumstances of every day life and for eternity,

He is Emmanuel—God with us.

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Sunday, November 27th, Candle of Hope

Isaiah 2:5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

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Candle of Hope

By Stephanie Coyne

O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!     Isaiah 2:5

I distinctly remember sitting in the nurses’ station of the PICU at Scottish Rite one evening. It was late at night, and I, a young chaplain resident, was trying my best to offer comfort to the family of a child whose heartbeat was stopping over and over again. Tired and overwhelmed, I sat for a moment and just watched.

I watched the nurses and doctor work together as though they were one body with several moving parts; I watched the mother and father, huddled together in the corner, through the clear glass windows of the room; I watched gauze and other medical materials fall to the floor.

All the sounds of commotion seemed to dull—the beeping machines, the rolling wheels of chairs and equipment, the voices of all involved. Feet moved quickly and intentionally, and faces, all of our faces, were wearied from fatigue and the intense emotion of it all.

As I sat, I began to see the scene as a piece of artwork, drawn in my mind’s eye. I watched a light color appear over the doors of the room and then spread into the room and throughout the scene. The Holy Spirit, interwoven in my mind’s picture and in reality, was light in the shadows.

God’s Spirit, faithful and aware, was there for all of us. God was with us, and somehow, was reassuring everyone in the distinct ways in which we needed peace.

It was a very ordinary day, not a holiday, perhaps just a Tuesday evening. But the day, even in its being ordinary, held in itself an event that was beyond the ability of mortals to carry the weight alone. So God lent the Spirit and sent angels to help carry the loads of exhaustion and heartbreak.

Emmanuel—God with us—is always with us. Releasing shadows with light, Emmanuel is with us in the ordinary times of ordinary days, in the moments of time that pull us into darkness, and in the joy of celebration.

Boldly, fiercely, hold onto the light of the Spirit and carry it with you as you go.

I want to walk as a child of the light;

I want to follow Jesus.

God set the stars to give

light to the world;

The star of my life is Jesus.

Author: Kathleen Thomerson
Hymn Tune: HOUSTON