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The importance of “today”

Posted Oct 9, 2017

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Daily Scripture

Hebrews 3:6-14

6 But Jesus was faithful over God’s house as a Son. We are his house if we hold on to the confidence and the pride that our hope gives us.

Respond to Jesus’ voice now

7 So, as the Holy Spirit says,

Today, if you hear his voice,
8     don’t have stubborn hearts
        as they did in the rebellion,
        on the day when they tested me in the desert.
9 That is where your ancestors challenged and tested me,
        though they had seen my work for forty years.
10 So I was angry with them.
I said, “Their hearts always go off course,
        and they don’t know my ways.”
11 Because of my anger I swore:
        “They will never enter my rest!” [Psalm 95:7-11]

12 Watch out, brothers and sisters, so that none of you have an evil, unfaithful heart that abandons the living God. 13 Instead, encourage each other every day, as long as it’s called “today,” so that none of you become insensitive to God because of sin’s deception. 14 We are partners with Christ, but only if we hold on to the confidence we had in the beginning until the end. 

Reflection Questions

This passage requires us to recall (or learn) some Bible history. The writer quoted Psalm 95:7-11. That Psalm, in turn, looked back to Numbers 13:1-14:24, when Israel refused to trust God on the borders of the Promised Land, and thereby missed their chance to live in the land of promise. The word “today” gripped the writer’s heart. He wrote with a sense of urgency. God is in the present, not someday. A whole generation of Israelites missed their “today.” His appeal was, don’t make the same mistake—encourage each other every day.

  • In the film Field of Dreams, Doc Graham recalled his one major-league game (he never got to bat) and said, “Back then I thought, well, there’ll be other days. I didn’t realize that was the only day.” He went on, “We just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening.” What “ordinary” things are happening in your life today to which tomorrow you may wish you’d paid more attention? Whose values are you using to discern which of today’s moments are most significant?
  • In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis observed that “the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.”* The past is gone, and we can no longer alter it; the future is unknown, and one moment can shatter our illusions of controlling it. How often, because “today” seems ordinary, do you find yourself spending energy regretting or missing the past? How much of your time and energy goes to imagining what the future might be like, for good or ill? What helps you to live mainly “today,” not in the past or the future?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of this day. Walk through this day with me, keeping me alert and attuned to what you are doing in my life right now. Amen.


To better understand the Bible’s teaching about living in the present, and to learn helpful exercises to strengthen that capacity, see Amy G. Oden, Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness (Abingdon, 2017).

* Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition (Kindle Locations 1101-1102). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

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Chris Abel

Chris Abel

Chris Abel is the Young Adults Pastor at Resurrection, and he describes himself as a "Pastor/Creative-type/Adventurer." A former atheist turned passionate follower of Christ, he completed his seminary education in Washington, DC. Before coming to Resurrection, Chris was a campus pastor near St. Louis, MO.

I’ve been hearing a lot of reminiscing lately—reflections on how things “used to be.” 

  • When the country used to be less divided. 
  • When mass shootings weren’t a monthly recurrence. 
  • When divorce rates were lower. 
  • When a young family could survive off the income of one working parent.
  • When college students weren’t wracked with life-altering debt. 
  • When people used to go to church. 

It can be easy to look around and wonder where it all went wrong. 

Change is hard. And when change doesn't go our way, we do two things. 

  1. We blame someone. 
  2. We have nostalgia for the way it used to be. 

Last week I led a class to a room full of United Methodist Pastors and leaders who were interested in reaching Millennials and Gen Z. During a break, I talked to one woman was just seething with frustration and bitterness that her church was dying... because a younger generation wasn’t interested in the way they did church. 

It can be easy to blame new generations for the way things change. And she's not alone. 

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets, inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?"

But the difference between us and the author of this quote… is about 2400 years. The words you just read were from none other than Plato, the world-famous philosopher who lived in the fourth century BCE. 

That’s 400 years before Jesus, just FYI. 

And this isn’t an isolated quote. We have evidence of this kind of thinking chiseled into Egyptian hieroglyphics, written on thousand year old medieval scrolls, and every generation since. 

Human beings love reminiscing about the past. We tell ourselves that things used to be better. 

And the 1st century Jewish Christians were no different. In our reading today, from the letter to the Hebrews, we see the author write to a Jewish audience. Christianity was just blossoming and these Jewish-Christians were struggling with comparing Jesus and Moses. This Jesus guy was alright, but Moses was the leader who had defined them as a people! He was the George Washington of Judaism. He had freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, and spent decades leading these people through the wilderness! If only they had Georg… er, Moses again! 

Even in the 1st century, there was the habit of lifting up the “good ol days.” 

And the author of this letter knows this kind of thinking is dangerous. 

“Today, if you hear his voice,
don’t have stubborn hearts
as they did in the rebellion,       
on the day when they tested me in the desert.
That is where your ancestors challenged and tested me,
though they had seen my work for forty years.
So I was angry with them.
I said, “Their hearts always go off course,
and they don’t know my ways.”
Because of my anger I swore:
“They will never enter my rest!”  

Hebrews 3:8-11

“They will never enter my rest” is code for “they didn’t make it to the promised land.” Sure, they had Moses as a leader, and he helped free them from slavery and brought them to the edge of the Promised Land. And here, at this edge, they had a choice to make. Do we cross over and risk and leap into the unknown? Or do we stay in the wilderness? 

They chose the wilderness. 

And the people of God spent 40 years wandering in a wasteland instead.

These 1st century Jewish Christians were forgetting part of their past. They were dreaming of Moses, but forgetting the reality of the past. As Doug Larson once wrote, “Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.” The rough edges they had forgotten?  The fact that their ancestors had  chosen fear and mediocrity. It took an entire generation dying off before the tribe was finally brave enough to enter the land they were promised. 

God doesn’t see this time as the “good ol’ days.” God sees this time full of “stubborn hearts” and hearts that “always go off course.” 

See, we all reminisce about the past. And it’s easy for us to put a shiny bow on a memory that was a lot messier than the reality of what we lived. And our fantasy memory of the past can actually inhibit us from the next thing. For them, the fantasy of the past was keeping them from embracing where Jesus was taking them. 

And we are no different. 

We fantasize about different decisions, past relationships, jobs, stages of life… you name it. But you know what? The past is gone. And it wasn’t as shiny as you remember it. 

Sure, the present isn’t perfect. But to find escape in the past is to turn your attention away from the possibility of changing the future. We cannot go back to the leadership of Moses, and even if we did, we’d be drowning in other problems. 

We choose nostalgia because it’s easier to imagine than to act. 

So stop comparing today to the past. It’s not fair to emerging generations and it’s not fair to you. Rather, ask where and how God is moving today. Moses may not be here, but Jesus is still working in this world… (and in the next generation). The past might have had great moments, but don’t miss today’s beautiful moments while you’re living in a memory. 

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