Hebrews 12:15-13:2

Caution signs are everywhere. Wet floor, wet paint, road work, flagmen, pedestrian crossing. Mandates tell us what to do. Caution signs remind us about danger or things we should be concerned about.

Remove the Bitter Roots

“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you” (Hebrews 12:15 NLT).

I pegged her as a troublemaker from the moment I met her. My pastor had identified her as the same long before I ever came to the church. Every Sunday, she sat on the back pew with folded arms and a sly smirk. No song or message seemed to penetrate her tough façade. She was a long-time member who had passively been given permission to run the church. Previous pastors had allowed it, but her current pastor wasn’t granting her the same privileges. Though her authority had been stripped away, she remained at the church until she died, continuing to spread her root of bitterness to all who came into contact with her.

Meeting bitter folks in the church seems contradictory, but they are there—sometimes in force—and it only takes one to make life miserable.

First-century churches were cautioned against such roots of bitterness. They might show up in the form of legalists, false teachers, or persecutors. Some were enamored with “do and don’t” lists while others simply didn’t believe in Jesus as the sole means of salvation. The church had the responsibility of rooting out these bitter roots.

By virtue of my upbringing and my profession, I’ve been associated with many churches. I’ve never found a perfect one yet, nor do I intend to. Every church I’ve belonged to had either a group or person who thought it was their God-given right to run the church. None did with sincerity, and ulterior motives were always present. But even if none of these persons were present, the church would still be imperfect because I’m there.

While we shouldn’t expect perfect churches and can’t control the actions of others, it’s our responsibility to help lovingly root out anything that causes dissension, disunity, and false teachings. How to do it in the most productive and wisest manner hinges on God’s wisdom which he is anxious to give. We may risk being misunderstood when we take action, but God wants right and peace to prevail in his churches. As a member, it’s our task to see that they reign.

Be Ready for Life’s Journey to End

“No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering” (Hebrews 12:22 NLT).

She lay in a hospital bed in a local nursing home waiting to end her journey. What kept her hanging on, I didn’t understand. She had come here after leaving another nursing home—the one she and my grandfather were in together…the one from which he had made his final journey. Now it was her time, but it was as if she didn’t want her journey to end.

My aunt called, “Can you come see her? She’s waiting to see you before she goes.” I had just started a new job and was afraid to ask for time off. “Well, can you just talk to her if I call you?” my aunt asked. I could, and I did. I told her it was okay to go home. And she did.

Mount Zion was literal and figurative. Literally, it was the place where the Jerusalem temple was built and where some say it will be constructed again at the end of time. The figurative temple is more important, however. It represents heaven—the end of the journey for all who choose to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior.

I’ve heard it said, “I have more miles behind me than I do before me.” Those I heard say that I classified as old. As I calculate what their age was then, however, I realize they were about my age now. Suddenly, I’m the one with more miles behind than in front. On some days, knowing that comforts me; on others it causes a wave of fear to wash over me. Not fear of missing heaven but of journeying where I’ve never been before: death.

My confidence for the final journey is built on a decision I made when I was nine years of age—the decision to follow Christ. The same decision my grandmother had made.

Forgiveness of our sins gives us the fortitude to close our eyes in death and know we’ll immediately open them in heaven.

Live with a Thankful Spirit

“Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe” (Hebrews 12:28 NLT).

I received his message as I sat down at my computer to write. The message read simply, “I’ve been enjoying your Love Lines. Can you send me your number?” Ironically, I had just thought about my friend a week or so before. Almost eight years had passed since we’d sat down and reminisced. He and I had been work associates after we graduated from high school—36 years ago, but our lives had taken us in different directions. Periodically, we’d spend time catching up.

Excitedly, I sent him my number. Within five minutes, my phone rang. His voice sounded the same—his spirit just as chipper as I remember it always had been. For the next thirty minutes, we caught up on the last eight years. I was thankful I had a good friend. Though the miles separated us, I knew I could depend on him if I truly needed him.

First-century inhabitants also had reason to be thankful if they listened to and accepted the message of the early apostles. Their contemporaries may have killed Jesus and placed his body in a cold tomb, but God had raised him up and validated salvation for anyone who chose to believe. An eternal kingdom awaited them.

I’m not always as thankful as I should be. Sometimes it takes a call from an old acquaintance to remind me what I’ve had and what I still have. Among the many things I don’t have on earth that I might enjoy having, the eternal things ahead outweigh them all and should prompt me to give thanks in the present.

We have a promise from an eternal God that he knows and will supply our needs and a further promise that he has an eternal home prepared for us to enjoy. By worshipping him in truth and spirit, we show our thankfulness for these two promises and many more he gives.

You May Be Entertaining Angels

“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it” (Hebrews 13:2 NLT)!

The promise was an old one. He’d prayed that his wife would be able to conceive and give him a child—hopefully a male child. In his spirit, he thought he had heard God tell him it would happen in time. Years went by. Nothing. Now he and his wife were long past the age of having and rearing children.

Then one day out of the blue—as he was lounging in his tent under a cool shade tree—three men appeared out of nowhere. He hadn’t had company to entertain in quite some time, so he welcomed them in and instructed his servants to prepare some food. Strangely, one of the strangers asked where his wife was. She was resting in the tent.

Then came a startling announcement, “About this time next year I will return, and your wife will have a son.” His wife heard the announcement and laughed silently—or so she thought. The stranger heard her and cautioned her not to doubt God. The next year they were holding a son.

Abraham and Sarah haven’t been the only ones in history to entertain angels and not know it. Old Testament Gideon and Manoah did as well. Not until the angel left did they understand what had happened. They often show up as strangers.

With the exception of the first three months of my existence, I’ve lived in the South my entire life. One characteristic of the South that so many appreciate is our friendliness. Being spoken to, waved at, or smiled at by strangers is a typical thing. Strangers aren’t afraid to make eye contact with other strangers. In fact, if you walk around without doing those things, you’ll be considered the odd one out.

I admit my hesitancy to help strangers. Our world is dangerous—and many people are untrustworthy, but it doesn’t unwind my responsibility to help those God places in my path.

When God puts angels in your path, trust him to protect you as you serve them.