By Elizabeth Baumann

A Reading from Hebrews 3:12-19

12 Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. 15As it is said,
 
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
 
16 Now who were they who heard and yet were rebellious? Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses? 17But with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who were disobedient? 19So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Meditation

A few Christmases back, my mom gifted me a set of Bible verse cards — one verse for each letter of the alphabet. The verse for the letter E is one from our lesson today: “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘today.’”

I love the phrase “as long as it is called ‘today.’” It implies all at once: do it all the time, because it’s always today; do it quickly, today not tomorrow; and do it continually, for as long as the day is.

You might have noticed that my pretty card left out the rest of the sentence: “that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” The whole lesson is warning against rebellion, sin, and lack of faith. Confronted with those very real and ever-present dangers, we’re tempted to always be issuing warnings and corrections. Instead, the lesson tells us that the right response is to encourage one another — and keep doing it.

I can’t help thinking about the parenting advice I’ve heard, that positive interactions should outnumber negative ones 10:1. 10:1! If you think that sounds easy, please come spend some time with my two strong-willed small children and be disillusioned. But I think this lesson might just provide a trick that makes it easier.

It’s easy to see what others are doing wrong — and relatively easy to see what we’re doing wrong ourselves. It’s easy to say, “Don’t drive into the ditch!” Instead, we need to say, “Stay on the road!” Same thing, but in a whole new light — encouraging. Negative turned positive.

Don’t shirk the truth — as parents, as preachers, as friends, as whatever God makes us — but learn to tell the truth with as encouragement as much as possible.

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

All Saints Episcopal Church, Jacksonville, Fla.
The Diocese of Argyll and the Isles (Scottish Episcopal Church)