Keep Drinking the Milk of the Word

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 5.11

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Reflection: Keep Drinking the Milk of the Word

By John Tillman

In Hebrews chapter 5, the author wishes to discuss complicated topics of Christ’s transcendental priesthood, the Trinity, and the incarnation. But how is this possible when the readers are not ready for such theological complexity? The writer rebukes the readers, telling them that it is difficult to teach them when they don’t even try to understand.

Just like the chastised readers, the maturity of western Christianity is in question.

Our world needs a gospel-driven worldview, yet half of those raised in church can’t identify the Great Commision. What is it? Who said it? What does it mean? Where is it in the Bible? One out of two don’t know.

This is not just an indictment of our lack of biblical knowledge. More knowledge isn’t the answer. Jesus didn’t call Peter to build a biblical trivia team. Peter, and by extension every Christian, is called to feed a flock, starting with the young. Starting with milk. Milk changes a lamb to a ram.

However, even the simplest of disciplines, church attendance, has been in decline since 1959. (We can’t, therefore, blame millenials for it.) It’s not that we are still drinking milk when we should have been weaned, but that we’ve never drunk it consistently.

Perhaps our culture disdains milk and small beginnings too much? We desire something for nothing. We want spiritual marathon ribbons without putting in the hard miles of training.

Drinking the milk of the word should not be a marker of immaturity and shame but of growth. The purpose of milk is progress. One doesn’t leave milk behind, but adds to it, learning to consume and digest spiritual foods of greater complexity. 

Babies physically grow faster in their early years than at any time in their life. But the growth of the visible is nowhere close to as impressive as the cognitive growth that is happening in their brains. The growth we can experience by the simple application of spiritual practices to our lives can be similarly exponential.

Prioritizing the basics of faith—Bible reading, reflection, prayer, and corporate worship—is a spiritual intake process that matures with us, leading deeper into scripture as we repetitively read and absorb God’s Word.

If we expect to effect change in our complex and demanding world, we need to consistently drink our milk.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence

For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. — Psalm 62.6

Read more about Slavery to Maturity
Perhaps the best thing God can do for our spiritual maturity is to lead us through a desert of trials, mistakes, and dangers

Read more about The Purpose Beyond Growth :: Throwback Thursday
Reproduction, not mere development, is the goal of matured being—reproduction in other lives.


Transcendent Peace and Rest

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 4.1-3
1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said…

Reflection: Transcendent Peace and Rest
By  John Tillman

Quarantine experiences vary widely. Some of us are at leisure while some are pushed to work around the clock. Some suffer in boredom and some in financial panic. Some are in danger outside the home at essential jobs and some are in danger in the home from abusers they cannot leave home to avoid.

Despite the variety of our experiences, there is a resource available to believers that the rest of the world cannot tap. It is a type of rest in which the busiest can recharge and a type of refreshment and stimulation unavailable in the most captivating leisure activity. There is a place of peace that those in peril can hold on to. There is security unattainable even by those with stockpiles of resources. Christians can rest in God.

This is a spiritual rest that can exist in the midst of strenuous activity. It is transcendent rest, that is unassailable by physical suffering. It is rest that, although invisible, is as tangible as our next breath.

Hebrews speaks of this rest by referencing the Genesis account. Many commenters note that the end of the seventh day, the day of rest, is not noted as the others are. It has no “morning and evening,” no beginning and no end. God’s “rest” was not intended to end. But for sin, Adam and Eve may have lived in a continual “seventh day” period, experiencing “shalom” or peace with God. 

In Jewish culture, sabbath, or shabbat, and peace, or shalom, are linked. We find shalom within shabbat. We find peace within the sabbath. This weekly illustration was never intended to mean that we can only have peace on one day out of seven. Instead, we can experience God’s peace in every day and any moment. Hebrews tells us that “we who have believed enter that rest.” 

God has made a new day for us to live in. The author of Hebrews and David the psalmist call it “Today.” It is a day of opportunity. This day we choose who we serve, as Joshua said on the banks of the Jordan. God sets before us the Promised Land, the Sabbath rest. 

Israel, when they trusted their strength, failed. So will we. Israel, when they trusted in wealth, caused needless death. So will we. Israel, when they trusted only in God, saw impossibly great walls fall to the ground. So will we.

Trust and enter his rest. Carry his peace with you always.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord is near to those who call upon him, to all who call upon him faithfully. — Psalm 145.19

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 4 (Listen – 2:46)
Hebrews 4 (Listen -2:43)

Read more about A Restoring Sabbath
This post by Dena Dyer from 2019 reminds us of the value of a Sabbath. How are you using the unintentional Sabbath of Quarantine? How are you allowing yourself and your “land” to rest

Read more about Better Things to Do
Amos 8.5-6, 11
When will..the Sabbath be ended
that we may market wheat?
…buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals…


Tabernacling While Quarantined

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 3.6, 13-14
6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory…13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

John 7.37-39
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

Isaiah 55.1 (the scripture Jesus is quoting in the above passage)
“Come, all you who are thirsty, 
come to the waters; 
you who have no money, 
buy and eat! 
buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

Reflection: Tabernacling While Quarantined
By John Tillman

Hebrews tells us that we are God’s “house” which Jesus has been placed over. The concept is a repeated theme in other New Testament writings (1 Corinthians 3.16; 1 Timothy 3.15). 

No matter what the atmosphere of our quarantine, we can remember that Jesus dwells or “tabernacles” with us. (Leviticus 26.11; Ezekiel 37.27; John 1.14; Revelation 21.3) Whatever suffering we endure, he feels it with us. Whatever joys we experience, he is celebrating with us. 

In John 7, we read of a Feast of Tabernacles celebration during Jesus’ ministry. The Feast of Tabernacles was a reminder to Israel of their dependence on God in the wilderness. It recalled the years of wandering and being a people who dwelled in tents and who worshiped a God who dwelled in tents with them.

Jesus entered this festival secretly. He misled his brothers who did not believe in him, telling them that he would not go. Then he snuck in. He then revealed himself to call attention to elements of the festival that pointed to him.

In particular, Jesus called attention to one new element. Priests would dip water from the pool of Siloam and pour it on the altar in the Temple. This symbolized salvation through the water from the rock in the desert.

In our “tents,” our quarantined homes, we may feel as if we are isolated in the wilderness. Like Israel we long for Egypt. In Egypt they didn’t know thirst. They didn’t know hunger. In the desert, Israel reevaluates Egypt. How bad was the subjugation and slavery really? 

We aren’t enslaved in our vocations in the same way Israel was. Our culture enslaves us with consumerism and greed, among other idols. We hang the carrot in front of ourselves on the treadmill and run ourselves to death. We forget our chains in our longing for chain restaurants. 

In the desert and in the Temple, Israel is offered something better. Water from the rock. The water of life. Jesus stands among us wanting to quench our thirst with Living Water. “Come to me!” Jesus cries. While we are tabernacled with him, take time to drink what he offers.

As with Jesus’ brothers, Jesus may sneak up on us and sneak into our “tabernacle.” Are we aware of him? Are we trusting in him? Will we come to him and drink?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say for ever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 3 (Listen – 1:48) 
Hebrews 3 (Listen -2:25)

Read more about Presence is Precious
Practicing the presence of God means living as a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, making everywhere you set your feet holy ground.

Read more about Prayer, Our Tent of Meeting
Prayer is our tent of meeting, where the deepest thirsts of our souls may be satisfied.


Ennobled by the Incarnation

Scripture Focus: Scripture: Hebrews 2.14-15
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Reflection: Ennobled by the Incarnation
By John Tillman

Jews were accustomed to visitations of God in various categories but Jesus frustrated and overturned their expectations. 

They were used to ambiguous messengers such as the three “men” who visit with Abraham (Genesis 18.16-17) prior to Isaac’s birth and the destruction of Sodom, the “angel” who wrestles with Jacob (Genesis 32.24-30), and the “Commander of the Lord’s Armies” who speaks to Joshua (Joshua 5.13-15). Some interpret these as angels speaking for the Lord but some call them “theophanies” or appearances of God, or even of a pre-incarnate Jesus. 

Other common visitations were supernatural, non-human forms such as the voice from the burning bush (Exodus 3.1-5), Elijah’s whisper (1 Kings 19.12-13), Joel’s image of God riding at the head of columns of locusts (Joel 2.1-11), or God’s voice speaking from the storm to Job (Job 38.1). 

In Hebrews, Jesus is the redeemer Job prophesied would “stand upon the Earth (Job 19.25).” The writers remove ambiguity, proclaiming the humanity and divinity of Jesus without sacrificing either to better explain the other. 

Hebrews systematically elevates Jesus. Jesus is “greater than” is a recurring theme. Jesus is greater than the prophets, greater than angels, greater than Moses, greater than Abraham, greater than Aaron…But despite his preeminence, Jesus comes to us. 

Jesus comes not to condemn our humanity but to share in it. The incarnation is an ennobling epiphany. (Hebrews 1.3; Colossians 1.15-18) Our bodies are not hopeless or meaningless partly because Christ has become one of us.

To the gnostics, the early church had to emphasize that Jesus was not an incorporeal spirit, pretending to have a body. In more modern terms, Jesus is not a spirit-alien wearing a flesh-space-suit. Jesus is the most “real” human to ever have lived. 

Christ’s human “realness” makes the gospel tangible. His defeat of death was not symbolic but actual. Jesus did real things in the real world and calls us to be real human beings who act to benefit our world in real, tangible ways.

Just as Jesus came to us humbly we are commanded to humbly go to others. Just as Jesus was able to live among us we are sent to live among people. Jesus shared in our humanity in order to reach us, so we should share in the humanity of those around us as we walk and serve as his hands and feet on Earth.

How is Jesus calling you to enter and experience the humanity of your community to enact the gospel?

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
That evening they brought him many who were possessed by devils. He drove out the spirits with a command and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He himself bore our sickness away and carried our diseases. — Matthew 8.16-17

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 2 (Listen – 2:15) 
Hebrews 2 (Listen -2:47)

Read more about The Internet as Babel
When you are worshiping them, idols don’t seem religious. They seem immensely practical.

Read more about God Who Speaks
The Jews this text was written to were people accustomed to the idea of a God who spoke. Most religions were not. Most gods don’t speak. But our God does.


Doing Unassailable Good

Scripture Focus: Titus 3.1-2
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

Acts 4.16, 21
“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it…They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.

Reflection: Doing Unassailable Good
By John Tillman

In Titus chapter 2 Paul said to “show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” And today, in Titus 3.2, he implores us to, “slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”

In today’s climate of tweetstorms, rants, fake news, and the never-ending escalation of meaningless arguments, it may seem impossible to take Paul’s words to heart. Is it really possible to live in such a way that our critics would have nothing to say? That they would be ashamed to have accused us? 

Can we really be expected not to counter-attack those who attack us with falsehoods? Rather than turning the other cheek, we prefer that if they slander us in the left-wing news, we must slander them in the right-wing news. And vice-versa.

Living in our current culture of social media outrage (and the monetization of that outrage by social media companies) we tend to answer Paul by saying, “Sorry, Paul. That’s not possible or practical.” And it may not be possible. Not without a miracle, anyway.

In Acts chapter 4, we read of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin after performing a miraculous healing. Despite the fact that Peter and John proclaimed a resurrection that the Sanhedrin was paying bribes to cover up, they could not ignore the goodness of what Peter and John had done.

We cannot, without compromising the gospel, please everyone. This is demonstrated by the suffering and death that Peter and John eventually experience. But when the church acts in incontrovertibly beneficial ways on behalf of the community, those who oppose us will confess the goodness of our works, even if they deny the goodness of our gospel.

Christians need to repent from seeking to speak stridently enough to destroy our enemies. Instead, we need to seek to act miraculously, benefiting our communities, living out Christ’s model of servanthood, and enacting his resurrection before the world.

Peter and John were drawn to their miracle on their way to afternoon prayer. Perhaps one reason we do so few miracles in our world is that we are so seldom “on our way” to prayer as Peter and John were. 

In your prayer life today, what miraculous, unassailable good will the Holy Spirit draw you to enact?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O God, you know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from you. — Psalm 69.6

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 11 (Listen – 2:33) 
Titus 3 (Listen -2:04)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 12 (Listen – 2:38) Philemon (Listen -2:52)
Song of Songs 1 (Listen – 2:33) Hebrews 1 (Listen -2:15)

Read more about Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
We cannot continue posting and liking things that are resentful, quarrelsome, and the opposite of gentle, yet expect to represent Christ and the Gospel in the world.

Read more about Paul’s Stance on Gentleness
Ad-hominem attacks, meanness, violent language, and unkindness are not rhetorical tools that should be in the arsenal of Christians in the public square.


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