Sunday, December 22, 2013


The closing chapter of this book admonishes the readers to live out their faith in specific ways. They apply to us also.
The writer says to “let brotherly love continue”. (13:1) The body of Christ is to be marked by love for each other. We have seen this in many texts. We are to love our brothers and sisters who follow Christ with us. Even though we are different sizes, shapes, colors, nationalities and vary in looks, intelligence and abilities, we are to love each other. Jesus said to love each other as he loves us. In fact, we are to love to such a degree that people will know we are his disciples when they see it. (John 13:34-35) In the life of a congregation, love matters more than anything else.
How do we love our brothers and sisters? Paul gives us a pretty good list in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. We love our brothers and sisters by being patient, kind, not envying or boasting, not being arrogant, not being rude, not insisting on its own way, not being irritable, not rejoicing at wrong doing, rejoicing with truth, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things and enduring all things.
This writer tells us we also express love in hospitality and empathy for the persecuted.

Verse 2 says “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”. In Old Testament times, If a Jewish family traveled and had to stop for the night, another family was to take them in. They might come to the center of town and wait until someone passed by. That person would bring them home, feed them and let them sleep in their house even though they did not know them. There is an example of this in Judges 17, where a Levite is taken in by a man named Micah. By the time this book was written, inns were expensive and often centers of immoral activity.
We show this kind of hospitality sometimes by taking in a youth group or a visiting choir. We once put up several Brazilian women from a seminary choir. None spoke a word of English. But we ate together and sang hymns together and had a great time.
The reference to entertaining angels is to Abraham and Lot. Abraham fed 3 strangers who appeared at his tent. It turned out it was the Lord and 2 angels on the way to Sodom. Because Abraham offered his hospitality, he was able to intercede for Lot and his family. (Genesis 18) Lot took in two men who came to the gate of Sodom and protected them from a crowd. These men were likely the same 2 angels seen by Abraham. These angels delivered Lot from the destruction of Sodom. (Genesis 19)
You do not, however, have to limit your hospitality to traveling Christians. Right in your church and even in your Bible study class are people you do not know, or know well. Invite them over for Sunday lunch or week day dinner. Be hospitable. Get to know them and build the bond of love in your church.
Empathy with the Persecuted
Verse 3 tells us to remember those in prison and those being mistreated as if we were suffering along with them. You may not live where Christians are persecuted. But many Christians suffer around the world. One of the current examples that is practically unmentioned is the killing of Christians in Syria by the opponents of the government. We should remember them, pray for them and support them as we can there and everywhere else Christians are persecuted.

Marriage is to be held in honor. Our culture in American certainly denigrates marriage. Television shows and movies are usually based on bad marriages. Divorce is rampant. There are now more single people in America than married people. Many married people do not honor their marriages. They neglect or mistreat their spouses. They have sex with other people. They view pornography. In the midst of this decadence, Christians need to work even harder to honor marriage and honor Christ with our marriages.
The marriage bed is to be undefiled. The only sex God approves of and promotes is among spouses in a marriage. Verse 4 tells us God will judge the sexually immoral and the adulterous. No sex outside of marriage is in God’s will.

Verse 5 tells us to free ourselves from the love of money. This is difficult in an affluent society. There are so many wonderful things to buy. There is always an updated version of the thing you already own. It is tempting to buy more than we need. But this verse tells us to be content with what we have.
Some people do not buy a lot of things, but love their money and hoard it. It gives them great pleasure to have it. But this verse tells us to keep our lives free from the love of money.
Why is this important? It is because we are to trust in God and be satisfied with him, not with money or possessions. Tis verse reminds us that God has said he will never leave us nor forsake us. We trust him to give us what we need and we are satisfied with it, because we are satisfied with Christ and know he is sufficient for us.

Have role models
Verse 7 tells us to remember our leaders and teachers and imitate their faith. Certainly, we see leaders fall. But we have many Godly leaders to imitate today and from the past. I am fond of the Puritans for this reason. They sought to bring every aspect of life under the rule of Scripture and the worship of God.

Stick to the truth
Verse 8 reminds us that Jesus never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. God does not change and his truth does not change. Theologians call this the doctrine of immutability. So, beware of new secrets and never before discovered truths. Do not be led away from the truth of the Bible. For example, scores of Bible study groups in Germany were led astray when taken over by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Had they stuck with the truth, they would not have fallen into apostasy.
Colossians 2:8 says “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traditions, according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ.” Any teaching that leads you away from Christ and into something else, is an empty deceit and will harm you.
Hebrews 13:9 goes on to give an example. The writer says it is good for your heart to be strengthened by grace and not by foods. This might be a reference to the Jewish tradition of eating some foods and not others, as commanded in the Old Testament. Some Jews tried to force the rules upon the Gentiles. But the writer says foods are not going to make or break your spiritual life. Instead, live by grace and find your heart strengthened and encouraged. Again, the writer points us to Christ as our satisfaction.
In fact, verse 10 tells us we have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. The Old Testament Levitical priests served the tent. The “tent” means the Tabernacle. The priests sacrificed animals on the altar and were allowed to eat some of the meat from the sacrifices. New Testament believers, however, live through the sacrifice of Christ. The cross is our only altar. The Old Testament priest has no right to participate in that as long as he is living only for the law.
To live by grace is not a license to sin. It is to live for God and with God: loving him, believing him and trusting him.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Trust In The Lord

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

These two verses give us advice on how to live our lives in God’s will. It tells us to do something and then tells us the result of doing it.

What is the thing we are to do? We are to place ourselves completely in God’s hands, submitted to his direction. Solomon says it three ways. First, trust in the Lord with all your heart. We place our trust in God. In other words, we place our faith in him to take care us. We have no reservations. We hold nothing back. Our whole heart is given over to him. We submit ourselves to him and his will, committed to go where he sends, do what he commands and even suffer what he ordains.

We can do this because we believe that God will do what is best for us. We believe what Romans 8:28 says, that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. We trust him. We trust him to give us eternal life, so surely we can trust him to do the best for us in this life. Romans 8:32 says “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” In other words, if he was willing to sacrifice his son for us, he will surely give us all the things we need.

Second, we do not lean on our own understanding. Sometimes, God tells us to do something we think is counter intuitive, or against human logic. We read a command in the Bible, for example, and think “I cannot do that. If I do that, I will go broke, or lose all my friends, or make people think I am a fanatic.” But this verse tells us to do what God says, trusting him to make it right.

I am not saying here that we are never to think. God gave us minds to think and gives us wisdom to discern the right thing to do. But, too often our thinking is selfish and not Biblical. It is worldly rather than spiritual. That is why Romans 12:2 tells us not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Your mind is renewed by the Holy Spirit, especially through the study of God’s word.

A few years ago, I began trying to read the Scripture without filters. It is hard to do. But it is necessary. I tried not to read the Bible as an American, a Republican, a Texan, an affluent Westerner or any of those things. I wanted to know what the Scripture said and what God meant. It was disturbing to see that many times I had thought and even been taught a spin on the Word, usually explaining why we did not need to do it as God said to do it. Don’t spin. Give in.

Third, “in all your ways acknowledge him”. In this context, it particularly means to acknowledge that God keeps us and directs us in his will. We do not steal his glory or presume upon his grace. Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar tried to steal God’s glory. He took credit for his accomplishments, claiming power, glory and majesty for himself. (Daniel 4:28-30). The Lord struck him with madness until he acknowledged God. He said “Then I praised the Most High; I honored him who lives forever.” (Daniel 4:34) Only then did God restore him.

James warns us not to presume upon God’s grace. He wrote “Now listen, you who say ‘today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow…instead, you out to say ‘if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16) We prosper only as he allows in his grace. Acknowledge that. You really can say “God graciously allowed us to succeed and we are grateful” instead of “look at what I have done, I’m so great”.

If we do what God says to do, trust him with our lives, what will he do? He will make our paths straight. When you had to walk everywhere, having a straight path was a big deal. If I can walk to the next town “as the crow flies” and it is 5 miles, I am grateful I did not have to walk the long way around and walk 10 miles.

When we visited our daughter in West Virginia once, I found myself frustrated that we could not go directly where we wanted to go because the roads all went around the hills. I could see the place I wanted to go, but had to go a long way around to get there.

So, when God says he will make our paths straight, he means he will watch over us, direct us in the way we should go and make sure we get there. This is all conditioned on our placing our trust completely in him and not in ourselves.

Are you worried about where you are going to go, how you will get there or if you will get there “in one piece”? Place your trust in God, ask him to direct your paths. Then relax and walk with him in peace.


Monday, December 09, 2013

"the heart of a man (woman) plans his (her) way, but the LORD establishes his (her) steps. Prov. 16:11.

When you surrender to his will, he will guide the way. It may not always match your plans, but you will know he is establishing his will for you and can relax in that knowledge with peace.

Submit to God this week and be at peace.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Humility is the greatest Christian virtue.

Sunday, December 01, 2013


In this passage, the writer calls for a response to the better covenant in Christ. He wants them to obey and cling to Jesus Christ for salvation.

The last paragraph we studied, verses 18 through 25, again compared the old covenant to the new. This time the writer used a metaphor of mountains. Sinai represented the old covenant. Zion represented the new covenant, which is superior to the old.

The last sentence of that paragraph refers to “the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”. By that he means the shed blood of Christ is superior to the blood of Abel, for the blood of Christ brings atonement for sin. Abel’s blood spoke of his obedience, but Christ’s blood spoke of his obedience to obtain our salvation.

So, in verse 25, when the writer says do not refuse him who is speaking, he refers to Jesus Christ, who speaks of salvation through his death on the cross. The writer says see that you do not refuse him. The message of the gospel was preached to them, so they needed to receive it and not reject it. Hearing the gospel is not enough, you must believe in Christ and receive him as lord and savior. John 1:11-12 discusses this. First, John said, “He came to his own and his own people did not receive him.” Jesus came to his people, the Jews, and declared himself to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and the one who could save them from their sins. Although some believed him, the majority did not receive him. They were willing for him to be a good teacher and a healer, but not the Son of God.

But some people did receive him as God’s son and believed on his name. (John 1:12) To those, he gave the right to become children of God. They received eternal life and adoption into God’s family. When Jesus revealed his divinity by changing water into wine, he manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him. They believed he was the Son of God. John 3:16 says that the one who believes in the Son of God receives eternal life. But John 3:18 points out that those who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God are condemned.

There are some who claim you can receive Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord, and still be saved. The problem is, you must receive Jesus for who he is, the Son of God who not only saves, but rules over all. If you do not receive him both as savior and lord (master), you do not receive him and are not saved to eternal life.

After giving the warning not to refuse Christ, the writer tells us why. He uses an argument from the lesser to the greater. He points out that those who refused to obey the one who warned them on earth. That person was Moses, who received instructions from God and taught them to Israel. Some, however, disobey or refused him. There were several instances, but certainly the rejection of the command to go into Canaan as met with judgment in the form of defeat, death and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. They did not escape.

So, the writer says, if they did not escape when Moses, the man from earth warned them, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven. That person is Christ. He is in heaven, raised from the dead, and seated at the right hand of the Father. He made this same point in Hebrews 10:29, when he wrote: “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God...”

In verse 26, he writes “at that time, his voice shook the earth”. I think he is again referring to God’s word of the covenant law, given to Moses, on Mount Sinai. Exodus 19: 18 says the whole mountain trembled greatly. He shook the earth.

In contrast, verse 26 says he now says he will not only shake the earth but the heavens. He will do this “yet once more”. There will come a time when God shakes the earth and the heavens. This is a reference to Haggai 2:6. This type of statements in the Bible indicate a big, important event and action of God. the writer explains that in verse 27. He said this means there will be a removal of things that are shaken. He says those are the things “that have been made”.

This refers to the present created order that we see, the heavens and the earth. “Heavens” in this case means the sky and space. God will remove the present created order at the end. Peter described it this way:
“the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire,
being kept until the day of judgment
and destruction of the ungodly.” 2 Peter 3:7.
Peter is saying Jesus will return to judge the ungodly and condemn them, then to destroy the present order. He goes on in verse 10 to say the heavens (sky) will pass away and the heavenly bodies (space) will be burned up and dissolved. John saw a vision of this and said “for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away and the sea was no more”. (Revelation 21:1)

The writer of Hebrews tells us one reason for the destruction of these things is so that the things that cannot be shaken (or dissolved) will be the only things that remain. What remains after the destruction of the earth, sky and space is the kingdom that cannot be shaken. I call this the new earth. In Revelation 21:1, John wrote “Then I saw a hew heaven and a new earth...and I say the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven and from God.” It is the place prepared for us which is now in heaven, but will become our residence in the new earth after resurrection. Peter write: “But according to his promise we are waiting for the new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. So, the unshakeable kingdom is the new heavens and new earth. Revelation 22 describes it in very Eden like terms. The tree of life is there on either side of the river of the water of life, God is there and we will worship him.

This, by the way, is the only Utopia there will ever be, the only perfect place to dwell. I am a child of the 60s and 70s in the United States. We say the world as corrupt and soul killing. We thought people could come together and create love, harmony and peace. Much of the music of that era was about this. The summer of love in San Francisco was about this. And, although many older people do not know it, Woodstock was about this.

Woodstock was a huge outdoor concert lasting several days in upstate New York on Mr. Yasgur’s farm. The idea was to show that people could come together, listen to music, promote peace, love and harmony, and create this Utopia. Crosby, Stills and Nash sang about it, in a song called “Woodstock” that was written by Joni Mitchell, a folk singer.

The song is full of religious imagery. The song talks about being caught in the devil’s bargain. But the tag line is “we have got to get ourselves back to the garden”. It means back to the Garden of Eden, as described in Genesis 2. But they made the same mistake made by Adam and Even: they tried to create Utopia with human effort and ideas, not by the lordship of God. And so it failed to bring peace to our nation. That is the problem with all Utopian programs. Human nature always corrupts it. The only perfect place that will ever exist is the kingdom of God that exists after resurrection and judgment, the New Earth, the unshakeable kingdom, the New Jerusalem. Then we will truly get back to the Garden. But there we will worship God, Father and Son, and live under his rule. That is what it means by saying the throne of God will be there.

What We Do In The Mean Time
Hebrews 12:28-29

First, we are grateful for receiving this kingdom. Ungrateful Christian should be an oxymoron, a phrase that contradicts itself. Ungrateful Christians profane God’s name. If you are not grateful that God saw you as dead in your sins, deserving death and hell, unable to discern spiritual things, futile in your thinking, a child of wrath, an enemy of God, a rebel, yet sent his Son to suffer and die to atone for your sins and give you fellowship with the Father for all eternity, there is something very wrong with you. If you do not understand the magnitude of grace, you likely do not understand the magnitude of your sin to God.

The story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet while he attended dinner at a Pharisee’s house demonstrates this. Luke 7 has the story. The woman, who was a sinner, came into the room and anointed Jesus’ feet with an alabaster flask of ointment. Then she wept, dripping tears onto his feet, and dried his feet with her hair while kissing his feet. (Luke 7:36-38) This is an act of humility, worship and thanksgiving. She was so grateful Jesus had forgiven her sins that she expressed her thanks with extravagance. The Pharisee did not do any of these things, and in fact was rude, not even offering Jesus water to wash his feet, which was customary. Jesus made the point that one who realizes he or she has been forgiven much will love much. Those who think they are forgiven little, will love little. And this implies no one is forgiven little that is forgiven at all.

Second, we are to offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28). In the Old Testament, God spelled out the manner of worship he acceptable. Anything else resulted in tragedy. In the New Testament, there are not as many rules spelled out concerning worship. But they are there. Any worship must be reverent and full of awe, that is recognizing that God is almighty. He is not your co-pilot, Santa Clause, the big guy, the man upstairs or any such trivial description. He is the creator of all things, the sustainer of life, the giver of salvation, the giver of all blessings, the one who holds the power to raise us from the dead. Any description of him that is less is unacceptable worship.

The New Testament tells us to meet together, to preach the gospel, to sing, to read scripture, observe the ordinances and to pray. What is unacceptable worship? Programs that include things from other religions, that allow you to attend and perform ritual without believing, anything that downplays God’s majesty, anything that makes man equal to God, that denies the truth and reliability of God’s word and so on.

Why must worship be acceptable? Because our God is a consuming fire. He judges and destroys the wicked. This statement is based on Deuteronomy 4:24. Moses warned the Israelites not to make an image in the form of anything, because God is a consuming fire and a jealous God. by jealous, he means God does not tolerate your having an allegiance to anything greater than your allegiance to him. Modern day devotion to career and wealth that exceeds devotion to Christ is no more acceptable than devotion to wooden idols or the worship of gods from pagan countries in the Old Testament times.

Be grateful and worship with reverence and awe. This is pleasing to God.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

HEBREWS 12:18-28

After urging his readers to endure in the faith, the writer of Hebrews tells them why. That is why he starts verse 18 with the word “for”. He tells them in very poetic terms that, as great as the covenant at Sinai was, the new covenant is so much better. This is a beautiful passage.

What You Did NOT Come to
Hebrews 12:18-21

The Hebrew Christians did not come to the Old Covenant. The writer describes the experience of God giving the covenant as it is recorded in Exodus. It was an awesome and fearful experience.

The thing that can be touched was Mount Sinai. It was physical and earthly. Exodus 19 tells us that the people of Israel gathered at the Lord’s command at the base of the mountain. Moses went up on Mount Sinai to talk to God and receive the covenant. Thunder, lightning and a thick cloud came on the mountain. Hebrews says there was fire, darkness, gloom and tempest (or storm). (18) Then there was the sound of a trumpet. (19) Exodus 19:16 says there was a very loud trumpet blast. Then, the trumpet blew louder and louder. (19:19) When God spoke, there was loud thunder. The people were so afraid they did not want to be there. They asked Moses to do it for them. (Exodus 20:18-19) It was a scary event. Even Moses said he trembled with fear. God demonstrated that he was not approachable except by his designated priest. He demonstrated that he was the sovereign, the powerful party in the covenant. He wanted them to fear him and not sin. (Exodus 20:20)

And, this is the God into whose hands you fall if you live under the law rather than grace. When you stand before God alone, as opposed to in Christ, you bear his wrath expressed in his terrible power. That is why Hebrews 10:31 told us “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God”.

But, Hebrews has already gone to great lengths to tell us the Old Covenant has become obsolete and is replaced with the New Covenant. Therefore he says you who have professed faith in Christ, even though you are Jewish, have not come to the Old Covenant, but the New Covenant instead.

What You Came To
Hebrews 12:22

The first description of the New Covenant is “Mount Zion”. Verse 22 says they came to Mount Zion. That is in contrast to Mount Sinai. t is a heavenly place rather than an earthly place.

What is Mount Zion? The Bible teaches us that Jerusalem, and the mountain on which part of it was built, is a type for a new Jerusalem or Zion that is the holy city of God prepared for the church. And by church I mean the believers of all time. This is why, in verse 22, he uses three phrases to describe this eternal place: Mount Zion, the city of the Living God, and the heavenly Jerusalem.

We have seen that the writer of Hebrews applied Psalm 2:7 to Jesus. In that Psalm, God the Father said to God the Son “You are my son; today I have begotten you”. The verse right before it, though, Psalm 2:6, says “I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Although the first king set on that hill was David, the last king, Jesus, will reign forever in Zion, the symbol of the permanent abode of God’s people with God dwelling and reigning in their midst.

Psalm 110 is the basis for much of the sermon that is the book of Hebrews. Psalm110:2 says “The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.” Again, he will reign as the Davidic king for eternity amongst his people. Jeremiah spoke of a heavenly city also.

Jesus spoke of preparing a place for us. John 14:3. Paul picked up the theme in Galatians 4:26 says “But the Jerusalem above is free and she is our mother”. Philippians 3:20 says “our citizenship is in heaven”.

And there are other folks there in heaven we come to. First, he says there are innumerable angels in festal gathering. Heaven is full of angels. God is not alone up there. Remember how Elisha was surrounded by a great Army of Syrians and said “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16) The Lord opened his servants eyes to see the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire. Jude 14 says the Lord will come with ten thousands of angels (holy ones). John’s visions of heaven in Revelation include angels. In Revelation 5:11, John saw angels numbering myriads and thousands of thousands. This verse is a reflection of Daniel 7:10.

What are these angels doing in heaven? The English Standard Version says they are in festal gathering. They are celebrating, having a festival. I believe they are worshipping God with great joy. The New International Version calls it a joyful assembly. Notice the stark contrast between the fear of Sinai and the joy of Zion (heaven).

So, believers come to heaven, the New Jerusalem, complete with many angels joyfully worshipping God. What else do they, and we, come to? They come to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. The firstborn is Jesus. He is the firstborn as the Son of God, the first of all who will be saved and resurrected to new life. Romans 8:29 says “For those whom he foreknew (believers), he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers”.

So, the assembly of the firstborn, is the gathering in heaven of all believers who have died and gone to heaven. You do not die and go to sleep until the resurrection. You die and go to heaven and join the assembly, the church, of Jesus in heaven. You are enrolled in heaven because you name is written in the book of life. This is the book opened at the judgment as shown to John and recorded in Revelation 20. John said “if anyone’s name was not found written the the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15)

By the way, when were our names written in this book of life? Revelation 13:8 says it was “before the foundation of the world”. There is a song that talks about a new name written down in glory. But the Bible says all the names were written down before the world was made.

God the father will be there. He is called the “judge of all”. Everyone who ever lived will stand before God and be judged. Those who are not saved are condemned because the have sinned and earned the wage of death. (Romans 3:23; 6:23) Notice that we come to God. At Sinai, Israel could not come to God. They were not to even touch the mountain. Only Moses, representing the people, could come near. When the tabernacle was constructed, a veil kept the people from the presence of God. Only the high priest could go in. It was the same with the temple. But, when Jesus died for us, the veil of the temple was torn. This showed that Jesus led the way into the presence of the Father. Not since man’s fall in the Garden had man been allowed to approach God. But in Christ, we have access to the Almighty God. What a privilege!

The “spirits of the righteous made perfect” is another reference to believers who have died physically, but had their spirits resurrected to heaven, awaiting the resurrection of their bodies. They are righteous, for they are credited with the righteousness of Christ in return for their belief in him. Romans 5:21-22 says “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” They are also “made perfect”. They no longer sin. They have been made new, at least in spirit.

This picture of heaven saves the best for last. Last is the hero of our story, Jesus Christ. He is the mediator of our covenant. His blood shed for us is the blood that established our covenant.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Trial - A Picture of Justification

A great explanation of Justification in the scene of a criminal trial. Read it here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ian Murray on Billy Graham

I'm sorry, but I lost the comment requesting information on this. You must be referring to the book "Evangelicalism Divided" by Murray in which he discusses Billy Graham in terms of ecumenism. I'm not sure about the video, but it may be this one:

Let me know if I can help you further.


Sunday, November 17, 2013


Verse 12 tells us that, having considered that suffering is often enduring discipline, we should strengthen ourselves and keep walking with the Lord. Here in Texas we might say “Cowboy up and get back to it”. These are exhortations. He has taught doctrine. Now he teaches how to live out that doctrine.

The language in verses 12 and 13 are poetic. He says to lift your drooping hands, strengthen your weak knees and make straight paths for your feet. All of these are ways of saying do not give in to fear, be strong and stand firm. There might also be an allusion here to Isaiah 35:3-4. That says:

Strengthen the weak hands
and make firm the feeble knees
say to those who have anxious thoughts
be strong, fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance
with the power of the recompense of God
He will come and save you.

In these verses, the writer gives us some specifics to work for. First he tells us to strive for peace with everyone. It is amazing how much space in the New Testament is devoted to telling Christians to get along with each other. Jesus started it off by praying for the disciples. In John 17:10-11, he prayed that the disciples would be one as he and the Father were one. Paul rebuked the Corinthian church, telling them to have no divisions but to be united in the same mind and same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10). Sadly, they did not accomplish this. Clement wrote them years later and again urged them to be united. He said they had envy, strife and sedition. (1 Clement III) Ephesians 4:3 tells us to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. So, we need to make peace in the church, peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are also to strive for holiness. We do not assume that we make a public profession of Christ and are done. No, we continually work to be holy. We pray and ask for strength, for guidance and conviction from the Holy Spirit. Then we act on that. When we see part of our life that does not conform to the word of God, we change it.

I know the pursuit of holiness is hard in our time. The level of behavior that is perfectly acceptable is horrible. Do not strive to be good as defined by your culture, but by the Bible. A book that drives this point home is Holiness by J. C. Ryle. Another good book is The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.

You should realize that it has always been God’s intention to create a people for himself that are holy. Holy means set apart to God and reflecting his character. In Leviticus 11:44, God instructed the Israelites “consecrate your selves therefore and be holy for I am holy”. Peter reflected this in 1 Peter 1:15, where he says “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all our conduct, sine it is written you shall be holy for I am holy. Believers who reflect God’s holy character honor God. Those who claim to believe but are not holy defame his name.

Verse 15 tells us to see to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. We are to watch out for those in our fellowship to make sure their confession is genuine. One way we do that is by constantly preaching the gospel. We do not water it down. We do not tell people they can be saved apart from it.

We are also to see to it that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, because many are defiled by it. This bitterness is not just an unhappy person. It has to do with apostasy, or turning away from God.

This is an allusion to Deuteronomy 29:18. (Remember, this is a book written to Jewish Christians using Old Testament references.) In that verse, Moses said Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit...” In this context, the bitter root is the desire to forsake God for idols. If such a person stays in the fellowship, he defiles it. The Jewish member of the congregation reading this letter would recognize the reference, and recognize it applied to them if they were thinking of abandoning Christ for Judaism. In the same way, people today who are bitter spread their bitterness and defile the fellowship.

Verse 16 tells us that no one is to be sexually immoral in the fellowship. Remember 1 Corinthians 5, where Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for tolerating a man who “has his father’s wife”. A person who has fallen into immorality has to be rebuked so that he or she will repent and be restored. If they do not repent, they must be removed from the fellowship.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Look To Jesus - Hebrews 12

Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example of faithfulness and endurance. He endured humiliation. The scribes and elders spat in his face, struck him and slapped him. They mocked him. (Matthew 26:67) Peter denied knowing him. (Matthew 26:70) He was bound like a criminal. (Matthew 27:2) He was rejected for release in favor of Barabbas, a robber. (Matthew 27:15-23; John 18:40) He was tortured by the Romans, being stripped, mocked, spit upon, beaten. (Matthew 27:27-31) He was crucified. (Matthew 27:36) The wrath of God was laid upon him for our sin. (Isaiah 53:6)He endured it all. Verse 2 of Hebrews 12 says he endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him”. What was the joy set before him? The joy was his exaltation to the Father’s right hand. In John 17:5, Jesus prayed “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that had with you before the world existed.” Jesus had glory in heaven. But he gave that up, clothing himself in human form, and was obedient to death on the cross, according to Philippians 2:8. But, then, God highly exalted him, or restored his glory by resurrecting him to his right hand. (Philippians 2:9-10) In a sense, Jesus endured by faith. He believed the Father would raise him from the dead and exalt him to his right hand. He endured horrible suffering because he kept his eye on the prize, salvation for those who believe and exaltation to the right hand of the Father. His suffering was greater than any other, for he not only bore the terrific physical abuse, he suffered the wrath of God for the sin of the world. He did not even care about the shame of it because he was focused on the joy to be accomplished. Crucifixion was not only painful, but shameful. Jesus was stripped. Now Jew would allow himself to be seen without his robe. He suffered in front of a jeering crowd, not exerting his power and glory, but suffering and dying in front of his fellow Jews, seemingly helpless and alone. He endured the hostility of sinners. They jeered at him and spat upon him. Imagine, being the son of God and being mocked by unbelieving Jews and Romans. Yet, he willingly did this. If he suffered so much for us, surely we can endure some suffering or opposition without giving up. (5) Endure Discipline 12:4-12 The writer takes a turn here with regard to suffering. He casts it in regard to God’s discipline. Discipline is to rid us of sin. Verse 4 points out that they had not resisted sin to the point of shedding blood. So, the writer says, unlike Jesus, you have not resisted sin to the point of shedding your blood. Remember the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26. He clearly understood how bad his suffering would be. He was sorrowful and troubled. (26:37) He said “my soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” (26:38) He asked the disciples to watch with him, to be with him and support him. He prayed that the Father would give him another way to do the task, yet surrendered to the Father’s will. Luke records that Jesus was in such great agony and he prayed so earnestly that his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44) An angel even came to strengthen him because he was in so much agony. I have never prayed so hard I broke out in a sweat, much less sweat like great drops of blood. And neither had the Hebrews that read this letter. I have never struggled to resist sin to the point of shedding blood, and neither had the Hebrews. This is a tie in to his earlier admonition to throw off every weight, including sin that clings to us, so that we can run the race set before us. (12:1) Sin detracts us from our race. It also diverts our focus away from Jesus. We see here that the writer equates at least some of our suffering with discipline. God sometimes sends suffering to discipline us. In verses 5 and 6, he quotes a proverb, specifically Proverbs 3:11-12. This proverb teaches us that the Lord disciplines his children. Every one of the ones he receives, he disciplines. And we are not to regard it lightly nor be weary. You’ll never build a TV ministry selling this truth, but it is truth. Why does God do it? Because his goal is to make you like Christ. James 1:2-4 tells us that trials produce steadfastness, which will make us perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Have you suffered disappointment in not getting something you really wanted? God disciplined you to see that Christ, and not earthly things, should fulfill you. Has someone hurt your feelings? God disciplined you to show that Christlikeness includes suffering the disdain or mistreatment from others and still glorifying God. These are just two examples. Of course, sometimes God really brings tough discipline to us to strengthen our faith or to make us give up a sin that is hurting our spiritual life. Sometimes God takes things away from us so that we will take our focus away from those things and focus on Him. We should never take his discipline lightly, but should always try to grow in our sanctification through our suffering. The writer makes the point in verses 7 and 8 that discipline means God is treating us as his children. He compares this to earthly fathers who discipline their children for their benefit. My father did not think his parents loved him because they never disciplined him. He ran wild and they did not care. The fruit of discipline, set out in verse 11, is the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hopefully, by the time we are old, we are at peace with God’s will and we exhibit righteousness in our behavior and thinking. If not, God has more work to do. Verse 12 tells us that, having considered that suffering is often enduring discipline, we should strengthen ourselves and keep walking with the Lord. Here in Texas we might say “Cowboy up and get back to it”.

Thursday, November 07, 2013


Union With Christ: The Simile Yes, Jesus used a simile to explain his union with believers. (Don't you love having a grammar lover for a teacher?) In John 15, he told his disciples he is the vine and we are the branches. His reference was to grape vines. The vine is the strong trunk of the plant. Branches grow out of it and produce grapes. Jesus said to abide in him and produce fruit. Only when we are attached to the true vine do we have life. In other words, when we are in union with Christ. That is because he is the source of life. Attached to him, we can produce the fruit of a Godly life. Separated from him, a person produces nothing but death. You can see this with any plant. I trimmed my rose bush. The main plant looked great. The branches I cut off turned brown and died. All blessings and benefits flow from our union with Christ.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Union with Christ (In His Own Words)

Jesus taught about his union with the church, his people. He told his disciples, “in that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) The word “you” is plural in the original language. Ephesians 5:30 expresses it by saying we are members of his body. And it is this union with Christ that is the reason God blesses us. Ephesians 1:3 says that God the Father blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Unions in the Bible

There are 3 main "unions" in the Bible: First, the union of the three divine persons (Father, Son, Spirit) in the Godhead; Second, the union of divine and human nature in the person of Jesus; and Third, the union of the church to Christ.

Sunday, November 03, 2013


After describing many men and women who were heroes in the faith in the Old Testament, the writer of Hebrews admonishes his readers to endure in the faith. Run The Race 1:1-3 After describing many heroes of the faith, the writer transitions into admonishment with the word “therefore”. (1) He is saying, since the heroes of the Old Testament endured by faith, you do the same. So, the great cloud of witnesses was the collection of Old Testament saints who believed in God’s redemption and endured hardship in faith. It is if you were running a marathon and every person who ever finished it was standing at the starting line. They would be witnesses that it could be done and had been done. It is not that they are watching us, but that we look to them as an example of enduring faith. They witness to the life of faith. Next, he continues the running metaphor and tells us to focus in order to finish well. First, we lay aside every weight and sin that clings to us. What weights did these Jewish believers carry? Some carried doubt. They doubted that Christ rather than the law was the way to God. Some cared more about their tradition than the gospel. Some cared more about what people thought of them. Sin were no doubt crippled by sin, weighted down by greed, lust, envy or other sins. If you have ever seen a Strong Man competition, there is always an event where the men have to carry some large, heavy object and run with it. They are amazing in their ability to do it. But they do not run like runners who are unencumbered and sprint to the finish. They struggle and run slowly because of the weight they carry. Once we drop the sin which could encumber us, we run the race with endurance. The race is a metaphor for the Christian life. More specifically, it is the life of sanctification. We pursue holiness, becoming more like Christ every day. That process is slowed when we give in to sin. When we cast sin aside and pursue Christ, we speed ahead. To do this, we focus on Jesus. He is the author of our faith and the perfecter of it. He started our faith and he completes it. You can focus on sin or on Christ. When you focus on Christ, you seek to live like he did and in a way that pleases him. You pursue holiness. You humbly serve. You worship. You pray. You grow. You look forward to finishing well. Here is an example from a real race. In 1986, Ricky Cox was a local hero as a runner. He entered the Cowtown Marathon and the locals wanted him to win. His strongest opponent was Max Cordero, who won the race several times. I went down to the North side of town, a few miles from the finish, to watch the runners go by. To my dismay, Cordero came around the corner first. I kept waiting for Cox, but he didn’t come. Finally, a few minutes behind the leader, he came around the corner. But an amazing thing happened. He started shedding weight. I took off his gloves. He removed his hat. He took off his shirt. He looked ahead and started running to catch Cordero. It was exciting and it made me think of this verse. He caught Cordero close to the finish and won the race. But, to do so, he shed every encumbrance he could and focused on the end. It is a good example for us.

Monday, October 28, 2013


I apologize for the new format, where all of the text is printed with no paragraph. I cannot figure out why Blogger is doing this to the post. In draft, it has the paragraphs inserted, but when published it is all one block. I hope you'll bear with me until I figure it out. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Faith At Jericho Hebrews 11:30 Joshua was the successor of Moses. (Deuteronomy 31:1-3; Joshua 1:1-2) Under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites carried out an unusual attack on the walled city of Jericho right after they entered Canaan. (Joshua 6) They marched around it for 6 days. (This may have been the first “prayer walk”.) They carried the ark with them. Seven priests carried seven trumpets, but did not blow them. On the seventh day, they went around seven times, but on the seventh time the priests blew the trumpets and the people shouted. When they shouted and blew horns on the 7th day, the walls came tumbling down. They marched and shouted because they believed God and trusted him to conquer the city. The Faith of Rahab Hebrews 11:31 Joshua 2 records the story of Rahab, who hid the 2 Israelites spies from the king of Jericho and professed her faith in God. She said “I know that the LORD has given you the land”. (Joshua 2:8) Because she did this, God spared her and her family. Everyone else in Jericho was killed. Rahab risked death by hiding the spies because she looked forward in faith to a future preservation. After Rahab joined the nation of Israel, she married a man named Salmon, whose father was Nahshon, the leader of Judah in the Exodus. (Matthew 1:5) They had a son named Boaz. They had a great grandson named David the king of Israel. (Matthew 1:6) The Faith of Many Others Hebrews 11:32-39 Verse 32 lists Old Testament judges, King David, and prophets. All of the people listed went through difficult times. They worked, they suffered and some were killed. The writer listed a number of those difficult events. It is likely his Jewish audience could remember all the stories and knew who did what. I’m not going to try to list them all for you. But there is an important point for the original audience and for us. The original audience was experiencing difficulties. Evidently, they had experienced some persecution. Chapter 10 reveals that they experienced hard struggle with sufferings, public reproach and affliction, imprisonment, and loss of property. (Hebrews 10:32-34) In the face of these troubles, some left the faith and others were tempted to. So, the writer of Hebrews says look at all of these Old Testament believers who suffered greatly. They did so because they believed God for an eternal reward. And so should you. This applies to us as well. We have not experienced much persecution in America. But there has been some and more will come. People have been given tickets for having Bible studies in their home. Churches have been denied permits to build. Certainly, we are ridiculed in movies, television shows and books. The Army recently briefed soldiers on hate groups and included the American Family Association with the KKK and other violent groups. These things are more opposition than persecution, but more will likely follow. If you live in a country with active persecution, you may think it is silly even to mention these things. But what do you do in the face of opposition or persecution? Do you shut up? Do you abandon your faith? Or do you endure. Or what if your struggle is personal, not related to persecution. What if you are ill, or poor or unhappy? Do you abandon God or cling to him. Hebrews says we endure and cling to faith in God in all circumstances. This brings us to an interesting statement in verses 39 and 40 of Hebrews 11. All of the people listed in chapter 11 had faith in God. They all suffered for their faith and endured. Verse 39 says they were commended for their faith. “Commend” means to praise or approve. Yet, none of them received the fulfillment of God’s word. They did not see the promise come to completion. (39) Why was that? Why did God do it that way? Verse 40 says it is because God had something better for us. That something better is Christ. And, with Christ, it is the new covenant, the better priesthood and eternal life. This book has told us repeatedly that Christ is better than Moses. He is the better mediator, he is the better sacrifice and he is the better high priest. It has told us that the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant. The old covenant saints looked forward to Christ in faith and were saved. We look to Christ and are saved. We are saved together by faith and will be made perfect at his coming. Only when Christ came did God’s promise begin to be completely fulfilled. Yet they all died in faith, believing God would do it. The “something better” was and is Christ. Only by faith in Christ does a person receive the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham. In Christ, a great nation called the church is built. In Christ, people of all nations are blessed. In Christ eternal life is given, a land in which to live forever in the presence of God. But all believers of all time share this: we will eventually be made perfect. In this life we continue to grow spiritually, to experience greater sanctification, but still struggle. In the end, though, we will not struggle, we will rejoice. The perfect work of the perfect Son of God will make us perfect.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Heroes Of The Faith 4

The Faith of Moses Hebrews 11:24-28 Moses lived for 40 years as a prince of the wealthiest, most cultured and advanced society of his day. Acts 7:22 says “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”. But he rejected a comfortable life at court with the royal family. He “refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”. (24) Exodus 2:5-10 tells us that Pharaoh’ daughter found the baby Moses in the river and she took him as a son. He was, in effect, a prince. Instead, he identified himself with God’s people, believing God’s promises. He would have learned of those promises during his early childhood, when his own mother raised him as a nurse for Pharaoh’s daughter. (Exodus 2:9-10). He may also have been exposed to this history as part of his education. Moses chose to suffer with his people, to be mistreated, as one of the people of God. He rejected the life of sin in Egypt. (24) I think this refers to Exodus 2:11. It is the first event of Moses’ adult life. It begins with “when Moses had grown up”. That is the exact language used in Hebrews 11:24. You may remember the story of Moses killing an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. The story starts out by saying “Moses went out to his people”. The Jewish writers generally interpreted this to mean he identified himself as Hebrew and rejected his Egyptian identity. Certainly, when he killed the Egyptian to protect the Hebrew, he identified himself with the Hebrews. It is rather a picture of salvation for all of us, isn’t it? He left a life of sin to follow God at any cost. It also relates back to the current situation of his audience, described in Hebrews 10. They lost property, Moses abandoned his riches. They suffered reproach, Moses was disdained by Pharaoh, his family and his court. But Moses endured in faith, he did not abandon his faith in the face of suffering. He suffered to obey God. God asked Moses to do many scary things, such as confront the Pharaoh, part the sea and lead a nation out into the desert to the Promised Land. He suffered attacks from the Egyptians and nations he encountered along the way. He suffered rebellion from his people, jealousy from his brother and sister, heat, cold, dirt, fatigue, hunger and pain to obey God. In this sense he shared the reproach of Christ. (26) Christ suffered for his people in obedience to God. Moses did the same. And he suffered because it was better than great wealth on earth. He did all that by faith. He believed God. He trusted God to fulfill his promise. He “was looking ahead to his reward”. (26) He could have had his best life now, living in indulgence in Egypt, but he chose eternal life with God. His faith was as “seeing him who is invisible”. (27) Certainly Moses had the experience of seeing the angel of the Lord in the burning bush. You can read about that in Exodus 3. And he had many experiences of communication with God. But God was invisible to him as to us. Heaven was invisible to him as to us. But his faith made them as real as seeing. Verse 27 says “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king”. It is difficult to know which departure from Egypt the writer means. It seems in context to refer to Moses fleeing Egypt after he filled the Egyptian. However, the text in Exodus 2 plainly states that Moses was afraid. If Hebrews 11:27 refers to that departure, it would have to mean Moses overcame his fear by faith. If verse 27 refers to Moses leading Israel out of Egypt, it fits the description of Moses not having fear because of his great faith. The problem here is that it would be out of chronological order, since the Passover is mentioned in the next verses, but occurred before the departure. So, I think it is similar to the statement about his parents not fearing the king. They knew they could die for their actions, but they chose to obey God, to fear God, rather than the king. Verse 29 adds one last fact about Moses. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled blood on the doorposts of every Israelite home so that the Lord, the destroyer, would not kill the first born children of Israel as he did those of the Egyptians. This was the last of the 10 plagues that made Pharaoh finally agree to let Israel leave Egypt. This is the event recorded in Exodus 12. He “passed over” the houses with blood on the door frames. Moses’ faith was demonstrated by doing what God said before the event happened. Moses is a very important example in this passage, along with that of Abraham. Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation. Moses was the law giver. The law was often called “the law of Moses” even though it was the law of God revealed to Moses. Since he was associated with the law, it is important to the writer’s Jewish audience to see that he lived by faith, not law or ritual. Faith at the Red Sea Hebrews 11:29 God gave Moses the power to part the sea. Then, by faith, the Israelites walked across the dry river bed with all their belongings, their children, and their animals. At any time the wall of water could collapse on them and kill them. But they had faith in God to keep his word and deliver them. (see Exodus 14)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Heroes 3 - Heroes of Faith

Abraham’s Faith Regarding Isaac Hebrews 11:17-19 Hebrews 11:17-19 (NIV) By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. Let’s work our way through this event. Then we will look at the explanation of it in Hebrews. God promised Abraham many descendants. Genesis 15:4-5 says “The the word of the LORD came to him (Abraham): this man (the servant Eliezer) will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir. He took him outside and said ‘look up at the heavens and count the stars - if indeed you can county them. Then he said to him, “so shall your offspring be’.” Abraham went a long time with no descendants. Then, God miraculously gave him a son, Isaac, who was the partial fulfillment of the promise. “But God said to him, “ is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” (Genesis 21:12) God made it clear that his promise of many descendants would be fulfilled through Isaac. Then, God instructed Abraham to go sacrifice his son. This event is recorded in Genesis 22. Let’s look at that account: 22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” 15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” As much as Abraham loved Isaac, he loved God more. He obeyed God’s command. “Offered up” is the translation of the word “προσενηνοχεν — prosenēnochen”. It is the perfect active indicative of “προσπερω — prospherō” the verb so often used in this Epistle. The act was already consummated so far as Abraham was concerned when it was interrupted. So, it was not that Abraham expected God to stop him at the last second. He expected to sacrifice Isaac. But he also believed God. Notice he told his servants ““Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham fully intended to sacrifice his son on an altar, yet he fully intended to return with his son. How can that be? The writer of Hebrews explained it this way: “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” (19) Abraham believed God. He believed God would fulfill his word (or promise) with regard to Isaac, so he believed he could obey God and still receive the fulfillment of the promise even though the two seemed contradictory. He could do that because he had faith. He believed and he trusted God. He expected to kill Isaac and he expected God to bring him back to life to fulfill his promise. He had extraordinary faith. As far as we can ascertain, God had not revealed the concept of resurrection at this point in time. But Abraham believed God could and would do it. Romans 4:20-21 says “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” Isaac’s Faith Hebrews 11:20 “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future”. Isaac inherited the promises God gave to Abraham. He did not live to see them fulfilled. But he blessed Jacob with the inheritance of the promises because he believed God would fulfill them. (Genesis 27) Jacob’s Faith Hebrews 11:21 Likewise, Jacob died without seeing the promised fulfilled. He died in Egypt. But, as he was about to die, he blessed Josephs sons. (Genesis 47-48) He even asked them not to bury him in Egypt, but to carry his body back to to Canaan because he believed God had given that land to his family. (Genesis 47:29-30) When Joseph swore to do so, Jacob leaned on his staff and worshipped. He believed God, he trusted God and he worshipped God. Joseph’s Faith Hebrews 11:22 Joseph was the same. He believed God would take Israel from Egypt back to Canaan. He instructed his family to take his bones with them. He said “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Genesis 50:24) Even though he died in a strange land, he did not waver in faith that God would keep his promise. His faith was remarkable, because he only lived in the promised land as a young person. He spent most of his life in Egypt. He died about 200 years after God made the covenant with Abraham and it was still unfulfilled. Yet he had faith. Matthew Henry said “Though the grace of faith is of universal use throughout the Christian’s life, yet it is especially so when we come to die. Faith has its great work to do at the very last, to help believers to finish well, to die to the Lord so as to honor him, by patience, hope and joy so as to leave a witness behind them of the truth of God’s Word and the excellency of his ways.” Each of these men passed on the promises to his children by faith. Isaac and Jacob received them by faith and passed them on by faith. The Faith of Moses’ Parents Hebrews 11:23 In Exodus 1, we see that the king of Egypt ordered all the male babies of the Israelites killed at birth. He did not want their population to grow But Moses’ mother (Jochebed) hid him for three months, then, when she could hide him no longer, put him in a basket and set him afloat in the Nile river, trusting God to save him. By preserving Moses’ life, his parents disobeyed the edict of the king and put themselves at risk of death. But, Moses’ parents did not fear the king or his edict, they trusted God. They chose God’s will over their personal safety. The Faith of Moses Hebrews 11:24-28 Moses lived for 40 years as a prince of the wealthiest, most cultured and advanced society of his day. Acts 7:22 says “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”. But he rejected a comfortable life at court with the royal family. He “refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”. (24) Instead, he identified himself with God’s people, believing God’s promises. He suffered disgrace (26) and great danger to obey God. God asked Moses to do many scary things, such as confront the Pharaoh, part the sea and lead a nation out into the desert to the Promised Land. He did all that by faith. He believed God. He trusted God to fulfill his promise. He “was looking ahead to his reward”. (26) This is a very important example in this passage, along with that of Abraham. Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation. Moses was the law giver. The law was often called “the law of Moses” even though it was the law of God revealed to Moses. Since he was associated with the law, it is important to the writer’s Jewish audience to see that he lived by faith, not law or ritual.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Reason for their Faith - Hebrews 11

Verse 11 gives us a little trouble. Part of it is Biblical history. Part of it is sentence structure. First, let’s look at Biblical history. Sarah (Abraham’s wife) did not believe when she heard the Lord say she would have a son. In fact, she laughed at Gods promise of a son. Turn to Genesis 18 and read verses 1 through 15. She did not believe the Lord because she was too old to have a child. In other words, she believed the physical evidence. She did not have faith in God to override physical nature. That is what a miracle is. It is not natural; it is supernatural. The Lord pointed this out to he by saying “is anything hard for the LORD?”. Now turn to Genesis 21:6-7. Sarah indeed has a child, Isaac. She gave credit to God. She rejoiced. But there is no clear statement that indicates she believed before she got pregnant. So, it is hard to interpret this verse as meaning Sarah had faith. Now let’s look at the text in different versions. First, let’s look at the English Standard Version (ESV). This is the version from which I normally teach. In Hebrews 11:11, it reads: “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even she she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.” We can see that the ESV gives credit for faith to Sarah. She considered God faithful. So, either the writer of Hebrews interpreted Sarah’s words at Isaac’s birth to mean she believed or he knew something about Sarah we do not. Now let us look at the New American Standard Bible, a very literal translation. It reads “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.” Again, we see Sarah giving credit for considering God faithful, in other words, believing God or having faith. Lastly, look at the New International Version (NIV) and see that it turns the verse completely around to focus on Abraham. It reads “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age-and Sarah herself was barren-was enabled led to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.” So, the NIV gives credit to Abraham for the faith involved in this incident. The context may also help us. Since Abraham was considered the father of the Hebrews, he is a most important figure to them. The writer of Hebrews gives more attention to him in this chapter than any other person. The writer emphasized to his Jewish audience that Abraham lived by faith, not law. Paul did the same thing in Galatians. If, then, you interpret this verse to refer to Abraham rather than Sarah, this chapter gives three instances of the faith of Abraham: his leaving his home to go to Canaan, his believing God for Isaac and the sacrifice of Isaac. (11:17). Because of faith, and God’s faithfulness, Abraham not only had a son, but had innumerable descendants. This is a reference to God’s covenant with Abraham. This is recorded in Genesis 15. God promised Abraham innumerable descendants. God delivered on that promise, starting with one son born to parents too old to conceive. 11:13-16 The Interlude: Theological Explanation of Their Faith In these verses, the writer takes a break from recounting the heroes of the faith, to make a theological summary. It seems like an odd place to do this. In our day, we would give the whole list of examples, then make the conclusion. but Jewish writers often put their main point in the exact middle of a discourse. It is called “chiasm”. So, what is the point? The writer says these all died in faith, not receiving the things promised. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not see God’s promise fulfilled. In Genesis 15, God made a covenant with Abraham, but told him his descendants would go into slavery in another land for 400 years. God was not ready to drive out the Amorites because their iniquity was not yet complete. Isaac lived his whole live in tents, also. He never built a city. He did not run out the Canaanites around him. Jacob also lived in tents, then went to Egypt and died there. None of those people saw the promise fulfilled, yet the believed God and were willing to live as strangers and exiles on earth. ((13) They were one of many peoples living in Canaan and were not natives there. Abraham told the Hittites “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you”. (Genesis 23:4) Jacob sojourned in Egypt, he lived there but not as one of them. He was a stranger. But they believed that God would fulfill his promise. On his death bed, Jacob told Joseph “Behold I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers.” (Genesis 48:21) Then, when Joseph died, he said “I am about to die, But God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” (Genesis 50:24) He even made them promise to take his bones when they left. So, first of all, these people believed God’s promise to give them the land of Canaan on earth. But, that is not all. They believed the “eschatological” promise. They looked beyond the earthly to the heavenly. And they not only looked, they saw! Verse 13 says about the promises, “having seen them and greeted them from afar”. “Afar” means from a distance. But here, the distance was not in length, but in time. They saw God’s promises being fulfilled in Christ in eternity. They saw that in faith. They, in fact, acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (13) These men of faith knew that Canaan was not the final goal. They knew that earth was not the most important thing. They knew that life in the kingdom of God, the presence of God, in eternity was the important thing. The New Testament writers applied this same terminology to the church. Peter wrote “Beloved, I urge you, as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) We are to see ourselves as physically present in our earthly country, but belonging to the heavenly country. Paul wrote that Christians were fellow citizens with the saints. (Ephesians 2:19) I’m afraid this concept has been lost in much of the American church. Many church members are more absorbed with politics and patriotism than with Christ’s kingdom. I will never forget visiting a church that gave a five minute standing ovation for two young men who were going to fight in Iraq for the army. Later, the pastor announced that a missionary couple was in attendance who served in another country. There was only a brief smattering of applause, then it was on to the next thing. All of these faithful men in Hebrews 11 looked beyond their land on earth to a better country, a better place. And that place is heaven. They desired heaven. They believed in God and in heaven. Because of their faith, God was pleased with them. He was not ashamed to be called their God. He prepared a city, or place for them in heaven. (16) Peter wrote about our eternal dwelling, too. He wrote that we have an inheritance kept in heaven for us. (1 Peter 1:3-4) He wrote “...we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells”. (2 Peter 3:13) That point is important, because the writer shows that these Old Testament heroes endured by faith through difficulties to receive their reward in heaven. He has continually made the point that these Jewish believers should not shrink back, but endure in the faith to the end. These examples are to encourage them in doing so. In 10:39, he said “we are not of those who shrink back and were destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11 Chapter 11 is an exhortation. The writer of Hebrews exhorts these Jewish Christians to have faith and uses the example of faithful Old Testament people as an example to them. The section actually continues all the way through 12:13. Christians often say they walk by faith rather than by sight. We believe in Jesus, whom we cannot see with our eyes. We believe in Heaven, which we will never see on this earth. In contrast, the Jew had things he could see. He had a temple. He had a synagogue. He had animal sacrifices. They were tempted to give up what they could not see (Jesus) for what they could see (Jewish ritual). The writer of Hebrews sought to convince them that the Old Testament heroes of God lived by faith and their faith is what pleased God.Believing in God, Father and Son, whom they could not see, and believing in Heaven, was something the Old Testament heroes had done. Therefore, they should follow in the steps of these great men and women and live by faith. The chapter starts with a prologue or introduction in the first three verses. Then it gives examples of faith. Then in 13-16 there is an interlude where he talks of believers as pilgrims looking forward to something better in the future. Then there are more examples. Finally, verses 32-40 are the conclusion. Each example is begun by the words “by faith”. The writer does this to focus his readers on the importance of faith even in difficult circumstances, and to give overwhelming evidence that it has always been necessary to live by faith and not ritual. Prologue 11:1-3 The writer defines faith as a certain belief. He says it two ways: first, it is the assurance of things hoped for and second, it is the conviction of things not seen. Faith is not wishing the outcome will be good. It is a believing for certain that God has a future for us that is great. For example, I heard a teenager at an church event once say something to the order of “you may as well believe. If you are right, it will be great. If you are not, you haven’t lost anything”. That is not Biblical faith. In his case it was hedging his bets. He thought if he said the right words, God would save him, if there is a God who saves. That, of course, is not the kind of faith God looks for. He wants the kind of faith that is absolutely certain that he exists and saves those who come to him through faith in Christ. It has always been that way. Verse 2 says the people of old were commended for their faith. The were saved by faith, as we are, not by their ritual. The failures of Israel that resulted in punishment were failures of belief. They did not believe God would give them victory, so they shrunk back, they did not believe God would protect them and made treaties with other nations that displeased God, the did not believe God was the only god and worshipped idols. But those who believed were saved. Their victories and deliverances occurred when they had faith. To illustrate the requirement of faith, the writer points to the creation. We believe that God created the universe by his word, making something out of nothing. Creation was ex nihilo, Latin for “from nothing”. We were not there. We did not see it. But we believe it because God said it was so in his word. Probably, none of these Jews doubted that God created the universe. They took that fact for granted. They were not there to see the act of creating but they saw the resulting creation and Scripture told them it came from God. So, the writer starts there, to show them they had faith in things not seen. Examples of Faith 11:4-12 Abel, Adam’s son, had faith. (4) He was the second generation of humankind. But he was the first generation that did not see God personally. His parents, Adam and Eve, saw God face to face in the Garden of Eden. Their belief in God did not require faith. They had sight. But He, Able, without seeing, believed God would honor the correct sacrifice, so he offered it. Because he believed, he offered the better sacrifice. By offering a blood sacrifice, he acknowledged his sin and believed God provided a way, through sacrifice, to obtain forgiveness. Cain, in contrast, sought to be accepted by his work. But faith, rather than works, leads to salvation. Because he offered the better sacrifice, Able obtained righteousness. His brother killed him in jealousy, but he still speaks. He speaks because his story is recorded in Scripture (Genesis 4), commending him for having faith to please God. He is a living testimony to the fact that faith is credited to us as righteousness. Enoch had faith to such an extent that God took him to himself without death.(Genesis 5:21-23) The Bible says Enoch “walked with God”. He had an intimate relationship with God. God commended his great faith by taking him without death. Verse 6 is an interjection to drive home the point. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. This would jolt those who believed they could return to Judaism and please God with ritual. God told them this even in the Old Testament, of course. In Hosea 6:6, God said “for I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Empty ritual is not pleasing to God and never has been. If you want to draw near to God, you must believe he exists and rewards those who seek him. That prayer you hear in movies “God, if you exist, do this for me” is not the prayer that pleases God. James drove this home in another way. He told us to pray for wisdom. But he added this warning. He said “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8) Noah also had great faith. When God warned him the flood was coming, he believed God even though there was no evidence. There was no rain or flood when he began the ark. (Genesis 6) That is great faith. Abraham was similar. God told him to leave his homeland and to to a place God would give him. (12) Abraham did not know where that would be. God directed him to Canaan. Even then, Abraham never possessed the land. He lived in tents among the Canaanites. He was an alien in the land God gave him. God’s promise was not fully realized for centuries. How could Abraham do all that? He believed God for more than an earthly place to dwell. He looked beyond that to the heavenly city, where he would dwell in the presence of God forever. This city is designed and built by God. Jesus also promised a heavenly dwelling to the disciples. In John 14:1-3, he said: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” So, we also need the faith of Abraham to look beyond our present circumstances to the dwelling place Jesus prepares for us. Sarah (Abraham’s wife) did not believe. In fact, she laughed at Gods promise of a son. But Abraham believed and, through his faith, she received the ability to have a son. Sarah got to enjoy having a son. But Abraham not only had the joy of a son, but the joy of seeing his faith rewarded, and the favor of God.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Encouragement 10:32-39 Here the writer makes a switch from strong warning to encouragement and reassurance. First, he tells them to remember how they used to be when they first heard the gospel, understood it and believed it. He said “when your were enlightened”. The NIV says “when you received the light. Remember back in 6:4, he said “it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened...if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance.” They would have that phrase in mind as this letter was read to them. In chapter 6, he warned them not to leave after they were enlightened. Here he encourages them to recover the spirit they had when they were first enlightened. What spirit did they have? They suffered but they endured. (32) LIfe was not always easy for Christians in the Roman Empire. Periodic persecutions occurred even before it got really bad. Jewish converts also faced persecution from other Jews. Acts 5 tells us of the high priest and the Sadducees arresting the apostles and putting them in prison. (Acts 5:17) Acts 7 tells us the Sanhedrin arrested Stephen and had him stoned to death. Paul (Saul) was there and approved. (Acts 8:1) Then Paul went n a rampage. Acts 8:3 says he was ravaging the church, going house to house, arresting men and women, and putting them in prison for converting. Acts 9:1 says she made threats of murder against the apostles. Paul was on his way to arrest Christians in Damascus when he was converted. (Acts 9) Then the Jews sought to kill Paul. Acts 12 tells us King Herod had James and other believers killed. He had Peter arrested. The Roman government periodically persecuted Christians even in the early years. Here the writer mentions being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction (33) Paul told the Corinthians the apostles had become a spectacle to the world. (1 Corinthians 4:9) He said they were hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, buffeted and homeless, reviled, persecuted, slandered, and treated like the scum of the world. (1 Cor. 4:10-13) Jews considered converted Jews to be apostate. Romans considered them to be pagans. Sometimes their property was confiscated. (34) But despite this persecution, these Hebrew Christians endured, stood with those who were persecuted, had compassion on those in prison for their faith (34), and joyfully accepted the plundering of their property. The reason they accepted the plundering of their property is that they has a better and permanent, or abiding, possession. They knew they had eternal life and a place in God’s kingdom. In chapter 11, the writer will say the same thing about Abraham: “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God”. (11:10) This reflects Jesus’ teaching. He said not to build up treasures on earth. Those treasures can be destroyed. Rather, build up treasures in heaven which are permanent. (Matthew 6:19-20) So, in verse 35, he says they now need that same endurance. They had confidence or boldness. When they have done God’s will, they will receive their promised reward of eternal life. I would personally add that trials reveal who we are. Persecution reveals the true believers. For example, my college in the 70s was anti-Christian. Professors ridiculed believers, often having them stand up and declare themselves. Many students pestered and made fun of Christians. One guy in my dorm would get into step with me as I walked to our noon time Bible study off campus and make fun of me all the way. We were not allowed to hold any meetings or events in campus facilities for several years. That caused many to leave the faith or hide their beliefs. They did not want to stand up for Christ. Some could not stand up to the intellectual challenge and left he faith. Some just could not face up to peer pressure. But others rose up and fought the good fight. The stood up to professors, they witnessed, they attended Bible studies, they took the abuse of fellow students with grace and ministered to hurting kids. The trial made some and broke some. Remember that Jesus said “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33) He told the church in Sardis “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5) James wrote about this. He wrote “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4). And this was a guy who knew about trials and persecution. As the brother of Christ, he had seem him executed by the Romans at the urging of the Jews. He then saw the Jewish persecution of the early church, from the stoning of Stephen to the driving of many Jewish Christians out of Jerusalem. He himself was eventually executed by the Jews. So the writer of Hebrews says you used to be like this, enduring and rejoicing, so get back to that. And to further encourage them, he again reached back into the Old Testament. This time, in verses 37-38, he cited Isaiah 26:20 and Habakkuk 2:3-4 (in the Septuagint) by combining them, which encouraged the Israelites to keep the faith until the Lord comes and not shrink back. They are not to be those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who keep the faith and are saved. Habakkuk was written in the context of the coming invasion of Babylon. The Israelites were to keep their faith in God in the face of invasion, defeat and exile. Since these Jewish Christians faced persecution from another invader, this reference was meaningful to them. There is a tendency for Christians to withdraw and conceal themselves in times of persecution. Many Christians today only circulate in Christian circles. They live in the same neighborhoods, socialize only with fellow church members, buy from Christian vendors and avoid non-believers. But remember what the early church did when Peter and John were arrested in the first persecution? Read Acts 4:23-31. They claimed God’s sovereignty, submitted themselves to his will and prayed for boldness to preach even more. Sometimes it is good for us to look back at how we were when we were first saved. We had enthusiasm. We had joy. If you have lost that, it is time to get it back. I remember one summer in college, back in my home church, a girl came to Sunday School who had just been saved. She was over the top in her excitement and enthusiasm. That actually bothered some of the people there. They wanted her to tone it down. I, on the other hand, felt convicted. I wanted that enthusiasm. In verse 39 of Hebrews 10, the writer gives a good testimony to them. He said we are of those who shrink back and are destroyed. Instead, we are those who have faith and eternal life. I think you are the same here in my class. I pray that you will persevere. Next week, we will begin to study the “faith chapter”, Hebrews 11. It will define faith, then give us many great examples of those who had faith in the Old Testament. Godspeed.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Consequence of Rejecting Christ

The Consequence of Rejecting Christ Hebrews 10:26-31 These verses may, at first, seem to be a jarring and abrupt change of topic. He was just speaking of the need to meet together and encourage each other rather than neglecting the fellowship. But remember that the writer of Hebrews was encouraging mostly Jewish believers to stay in the church following Jesus and not abandon the faith to return to Judaism. He equates absence from the fellowship with rejecting Christ for something else. In his case, that something else was Judaism. In our times, it may mean rejecting Christ for your parents‘ religion, your culture, your friends, or your immorality. Remember, John said “They went out from us, but they were of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19) So, John was saying that those who leave the fellowship do so because they are not “of us”, they do not belong to the body of Christ. They are not saved. There are those people who will hear the gospel, indicate they believe it, and hang around for a while. Then they leave. They may stay on the church roll, but they quit attending. And that shows us they were not truly converted and part of the body. The writer of Hebrews is saying the same thing, and then he expresses what will happen to those. So when, in verse 26, the writer of Hebrews writes about those who sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, he is speaking of those who heard the gospel, but rejected it. They heard the truth. They may have acted like they believed the truth for a while. But they rejected it. They “kept on sinning deliberately”. The sin is apostasy. For those people, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. The only effective sacrifice for sins is the death of Christ. They only way you get the benefit of his sacrifice is to believe in him and receive him as the savior. There is no other way. So, if the Jew returns to Judaism, the Jewish sacrifices do not save him. No matter what religion you embrace when you reject Christ, whether a religion with a name or belief in your own good works, it will not save you. Instead, verse 27 tells us there is only a fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire. You can dabble in whatever religion or philosophy you want, but the end of that is judgment and hell. In verses 28-29, the writer makes an illustration to prove his point by arguing from the lesser to the greater. In verse 28, he points out that one who broke the law of Moses could incur the death penalty. This might be a reference to Numbers 15, which distinguishes between intentional sin and unintentional sin. An unintentional sin could be atoned for b the sacrifice of an animal. But one who intentionally reviled the Lord incurred the penalty of death. In this argument, the intentional sin under the old covenant is the lesser. The greater is set out in verse 29. He said how much worse punishment would one get spurned the Son of God, who profaned the blood of the covenant, (the blood of Christ shed for us), and outraged the Holy Spirit? That person certainly not only dies, but is punished by eternity in Hell. I believe this is the same idea Jesus expressed when he said one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. The context of that statement in Matthew 12 is that of the Pharisees rejecting Christ and attributing his miracles to the power of Satan. Rejecting Christ leads to eternal damnation. This is a greater punishment than physical death. In 30-31, the writer points out that God will indeed judge humanity, he will punish those who reject him and it is his right to do so. It is most fearful to fall into his hands without the blood of Christ bringing deliverance from judgment. This passage is a presentation of the Gospel. He has already written of the need for a sacrifice for sin. Sin separates men and women from God. It brings death. The only way to end that separation and find eternal life is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as our high priest and mediator. Those who follow Christ enter into the presence of God for eternity. Those who do not enter into judgment and punishment. Commit your life to Christ and live. Do not walk away and suffer eternal punishment.

Thursday, September 05, 2013


Despite the fact that Jesus says not to worry, we find ourselves worrying. What do you do when you find yourself worrying? Give your anxiety to God. Peter wrote “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Admit your anxiety to God. You might call this confession. Repent of your lack of trust. Or, if your anxiety is caused by your unwillingness to accept his provision for you, repent of that. The previous verse, 1 Peter 5:6, says “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that he me may lift you up in due time.” Admit that God knows best and accept his will. Paul wrote a similar thought. He wrote “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) So first, rather than worrying, ask God (“prayer and petition”) to provide what you need. Second, give thanks for what you have. This is similar to Peter telling us to humble ourselves. Accept what God has provided and thank him for it. What is the result? God will answer your prayer with peace and he will guard your heart and mind from further worry. As a side note, may I suggest that you do not throw up a prayer while driving or doing something else, but that you sit someplace, alone and quiet, and really talk to God. So, we give our anxiety to God, we repent of our lack of trust, we ask for what we need and we thank God for what he has given us. Lastly, replace your anxious thoughts with good thoughts. Paul completed his thought with this: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about these things.” (Philippians 4:7) My wife took this verse to heart when she suffered from anxiety attacks. When an attack began, she thought of all of the good things in her life, the good memories she had, the things she loved and cherished. The anxiety attacks went away. I later put this into practice myself. During one of the most difficult years of my life, when I faced losing every possession, I came home at night to a wife that loved me and two small daughters that yelled “daddy!” and ran to me when I walked in the door. Then, on top of all that, God gave us a new baby. And I would tell myself, if I can hang on to this, and nothing else, I will still be a rich man. God does not want you to have anxiety. He wants you to obey him, trust him and thank him. He promises, in return, provision for your needs and peace of heart and mind. It sounds like a good deal to me. Take him up on it.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Anxiety v. Faith

Anxiety v. Faith

Anxiety is the opposite of faith. In Matthew 6:25, Jesus said "do not be anxious for your life".  This is an instruction, which should inspire us to obey. But,  Jesus explained why we should not be anxious or worry. 

First, he says God has the ability, the power, to provide for our physical needs. He proves that by feeding and clothing the birds and flowers. 

Second, God wants to provide for us. Jesus said we are more valuable to God than birds or flowers. (26) he is our "heavenly Father". He wants to care for us as a good father wants to care for his sons and daughters. My earthly father went without things so that I could have new school clothes when I Anxiety is the opposite of faith. In Matthew 6:25, Jesus said "do not be anxious for your life".  This is an instruction, which should inspire us to obey. But,  Jesus explained why we should not be anxious or worry. 

First, he says God has the ability, the power, to provide for our physical needs. He proves that by feeding and clothing the birds and flowers. 

Second, God wants to provide for us. Jesus said we are more valuable to God than birds or flowers. (26) he is our "heavenly Father". He wants to care for us as a good father wants to care for his sons and daughters. My earthly father went without things so that I could have new school clothes when I was young. He started saving for my college expenses with his first paycheck after college. Our Heavenly Father loves us this same way. He started saving for my college expenses with his first paycheck after college. Our Heavenly Father loves us this same way. 

Third, God knows what we need. (32) since he knows all things, including the future, he knows our needs better than we do. We often want things for the wrong, selfish reasons. God loves us enough not to give us the wrong things. But he knows the things we truly need and will provide them. You have the word of Jesus on this. 

What do you have? God provided it. Every good gift comes from your Heavenly Father. (James 1:16) 

Our job is not to worry, but to live for God. Jesus said don't worry, seek God's kingdom and righteousness and he will provide your physical needs. (6:33)

When you worry, you declare that you do not believe Jesus. You accuse Jesus of lying about the character of the Father. 

When you worry, you declare that you either do not believe God has the power to provide, or you do not believe God has the desire to provide. Neither is true. Worry profanes the character of God.  

Trust God. Don't just believe in God; believe God. 

Stop worrying and start trusting today.