February / March 2018 - Vol. 96
Jesus the
                                                          Lamb of God
.   Jesus the Pioneer and Perfecter of Our Faith .

"Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 
Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with perseverance the race set before us.
Letter to the Hebrews 12:1,2

Intro to this issue

This issue overlaps with the forty days of Lent, the annual retreat of the Christian people in honor of the forty days of Jesus' retreat in the wilderness. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to fast, prayer, and feed on the Word of God during this anointed period of preparation and testing for his public ministry in the land of Galilee and in the towns and villages of Judea. He learned obedience through suffering, perseverance, and trust in doing the Father's will, no matter the cost or sacrifice he would need to make. He found joy and strength in seeking to please his Father rather than choosing his own path to happiness.

"For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:2  
The theme for this issue come from the Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 12:1-2: "Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race set before us."

As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews explains, t
he Lord Jesus offered up his life as a pleasing sacrifice to God the Father on our behalf as both our High Priest and Victim who shed his blood for our salvation. Just as Jesus made himself a pleasing sacrifice of praise and worship to the Father, so, we too are called to offer our lives as a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord our God. We have been made clean by the blood of the Lamb who sacrificed his life on the cross to cleanse us of sin and to purify our hearts, mind, and bodies for his glory.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews concludes in Chapter 13 with an exhortation to offer our lives to the Lord each and every day. The call to holiness - to be holy as God is holy - extends to every area of our lives, to every deed we perform, every relationship we encounter with our fellow human beings, and especially with those who belong to the household of faith - our brothers and sisters in Christ. The author encourages his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to
"continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God and to not neglect to do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God."
Hebrews 13:15-16
Our fallen nature and the world around us incline us to please self above all others, to put self first rather than last as Jesus taught. The sacrifice we continually offer to God each and every day is the sacrifice of our heart, mind, will, and life to God. We sacrifice our preferences so that we may love God purely and love others generously for their sake. The marks of good Christian living include "fraternal" love for each member of the body of Christ, being hospitable by opening our homes and sharing our goods with others, even with strangers who may be "angels unaware," just as Abraham and Sarah offered hospitality to the three angels God sent to their tent in the wilderness (Genesis 18:1-8).

The call to holy living includes honoring and upholding what God honors, such as life-long fidelity of husbands and wives to each other, sharing our goods with those in need, and caring for the neglected, especially those who are ill-treated. Our reward is the joy of knowing that our sacrifices are pleasing to God because we love, honor, and serve him as we love, honor, and serve one another in holiness, love, and truth.

St. Basil the Great wrote: "All of us have a race to run towards our appointed end. So we are all on the way... The easy undisciplined way of life leads to pleasure to be enjoyed now, not later; the way of salvation is hard in the present, but promises a beautiful future."

May this issue inspire all of us to run the good race of the faith with perseverance, joy, and confidence in the grace and work of the Lord Jesus who is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Sincerely in Christ,
Don Schwager

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