Don't Back Off
Lord Jesus, thank You that You are the same yesterday, today and forever. I know I can count on You.
Read Hebrews 13:1-25
 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.  Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.  Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”  Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.  We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.  The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.  And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.  Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.  For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.  Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.  And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.  Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.  Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.  I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.  Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,  equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.  I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.  Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.  Grace be with you all. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
ReflectWhy can these folks--and we--be content?
In underwater wildlife documentaries, as a diver approaches, marine life flees, sensing a predator nearby. That’s a good picture of what’s happened to this church. As they’ve felt a growing threat from the Roman authorities, the Hebrews have fled, turned inwards. Consequently, they are drifting away from the things that made early Christians distinctive to outsiders. For example: hospitality (2). An open and generous home is a great witness to an open and generous God. We shouldn’t be afraid of strangers; we should welcome them. The encouragement to visit people in prison (3) could well have referred to other Christians who had been put there because of their faith. This isn’t just an act of mercy, then, but an act of identification–and actually something of a risk. The struggles to stay pure sexually and financially (4,5) are consequences of isolated and fragmented lives. Fragmented churches consisting of isolated individuals are a hotbed for disloyalty to leaders (7) and strange and diverse teachings (9). The truth is, we need each other more than we know. So we mustn’t stop loving each other as we know we should.
When you’re “under the gun,” it’s easy to “look after number one.” Ask God to deal with any of this in you.
Lord, keep me connected closely to other Christians and loving them so I can always stay closely connected to You.
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