Archive for February, 2011

Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12 speaks about discipline and sin.  The writer is clear – we need to put off sin.  “Lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”.  We see the pattern here to deal with sin.  We need to put off sin – to put it aside and replace it with something good.  In this case it is to focus on the race of achieving God’s will for our life.  We also learn here that our sights need to be focused forward: “looking to Jesus…..the founder and perfecter of our faith……who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”.  We need to keep your eyes on Jesus.  As we put aside sin – we need to change our focus to be on Jesus.  We need to lock onto Him – to realize that He has been there and dealt with sin – and He has not only won the victory over sin by refusing its temptation – He also has died on the cross and despised the ridicule and shame and has been elevated to His place in eternity next to God.  He won the war and paid the price – now it is up to us to resist and put our energy in following Him.

We are challenged to “not grow weary or fainthearted”.  Sometimes we give up – it is too hard to resist sin.  But the writer reminds us that “you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood”.  We often think life is not fair and too tough.  Remember what Jesus went through for us.  We haven’t even come close to paying that price.  We are also reminded that “the the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives”.  If you think your walk as a Christ Follower will be without some discipline to clean up things – you are wrong.  God “disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness”.  Discipline has a purpose – whether we like it or not – and that is to make us holy.  We are going to have to endure some pain so we become more like Jesus.  God wants us to “yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it”.  There is a purpose – God is focused on getting us on track. 

So how should we respond?  We are given a list of ways here:

–       “lift your drooping hands

–       strengthen your weak knees

–       make straight paths for your feet

–       Strive for peace with everyone

–       See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God

–       no “root of bitterness” springs up

–       no one is sexually immoral

–       See that you do not refuse him who is speaking

–       let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe

We have much to be thankful for.  God loves us enough to discipline us and help us move toward the holiness He demands.  He is in the business of helping us become like Jesus.  His discipline is a blessing – although that is not how we often look at it.  But without it we would wander aimlessly in sin and fail to become what He desires.

So what lies ahead for us in eternity?  The writer here gives us a glimpse as he describes “Mount Zion and the city of the living God”:

–       “heavenly Jerusalem

–       innumerable angels in festal gathering

–       assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven

–       God the judge of all

–       spirits of the righteous made perfect

–       Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant

–       sprinkled blood that speaks a better word

Here is what we will find when we go to heaven.  God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit – the Trinity – assembled with the angels and those who have made Jesus Savior and Lord.  It will be a wonderful place.  Are you sure you will be spending eternity there?  Have you taken the step of faith in Jesus so your sin problem is overcome?  There is no other way.  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life – no one comes to the Father except through Him.  Don’t miss your chance to clean up sin, respond correctly to God and His discipline, and look forward to eternal life with Jesus!

Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11 is the faith chapter.  It begins with the explanation of what faith is: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”.  Have you considered what faith is in your life?  It is believing when you haven’t seen.  It is being willing to sit on a chair because you think it will hold your weight but aren’t sure until you really do sit down.  Faith is not just a head game.  It takes action as well.  It is taking action on what you believe to be true.  It is knowing that God is in control and does what He says He will do.  So does faith matter?  The writer tells us this about faith: “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him”.  Faith matters much.  It is the only way we are able to please God and get close to Him.  It requires that we believe in Him and that He is in charge.  He is – which makes faith a lot easier to have – but it still takes action.  Faith is belief in action.  Are you truly living out your faith?

The rest of the chapter is the faith hall of fame.  The writer lists a whole list of examples beginning each one with “by faith”.  We can learn much from these folks – their example is faith in action.  Here is the hall of fame – they deserve to be listed and recognized.  They are our heritage and set the standard for how we should live:

–       “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God

–       By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain

–       By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death

–       By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark

–       By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance

–       By faith he went to live in the land of promise

–       By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive

–       By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac

–       By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau

–       By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph

–       By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones

–       By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents

–       By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter

–       By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood

–       By faith the people crossed the Red Sea

–       By faith the walls of Jericho fell down

–       By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome

What a list of great examples of faith.  Their faith was great but they were not perfect people by any stretch of the imagination.  We had murderers, prostitutes, liars, and folks with a lot of other very poor decisions.  Faith is not always based on perfection of our character.  In fact, faith is not about us at all.  It is believing in God – not ourselves.  It is knowing Him and what He will do – not focused on what we are able to get done.  God alone is worthy of our faith.  Sure it is a great combination when our character is perfectly aligned in obedience alongside our faith.  Scripture only shows us one perfect person – Jesus Christ Himself.  The rest of us are not going to achieve that level of perfection.  But that doesn’t mean our faith can’t move mountains.  Jesus told us it could.  Are you living by faith?  Do you believe?  There is much we can do if we put our trust and faith in Him!

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 reminds us that the law has been replaced and sin dealt with by Jesus.  “It can never….make perfect those who draw near”.  Bottom line is that no one – none of us – will make it on our own by obedience to the law.  We will sin – we will fall short – and that is a big problem. It is why Jesus came and gave His life on the cross. It is why God was willing to sacrifice His only son.  Scripture goes on to tell us “every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins”.  There is no other way to deal with sin.  “Christ has offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins”.  He paid it once and for all.  His sacrifice was enough – it was adequate – and it paid the bill in full.  We need to remember that.  Our salvation is because of His single sacrifice.  “By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified”.  That is a big deal and it requires us to pay attention.

The writer goes on to remind us that “his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet”.  Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that Jesus won the war.  He defeated the enemy of God – Satan himself – and put that to bed forever.  “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more”.  It is a once and for all victory – we don’t have to wonder how things end – it is done.  Jesus has taken care of evil forever.  That doesn’t mean there is no more evil in our world – but it does mean we do not have to wonder who is in charge and total control.  

The writer goes on to remind us how we should live based on these realities about Jesus and the law and His victory over sin.  Three times he begins sentences with “let us”.  Check these out:

–       “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith

–       Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering

–       let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works

We need to have faith, hope and love – where have we heard these before except in 1 Corinthians 13.  God has given us so much to hang on to with the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.  We need to collectively – as Christ Followers – cling tightly to these things.

But as he wrote on stirring each other up – the writer continues like this: “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”.  We need to be together – encouraging each other and driving each other to go deeper with our Lord.  If you wonder whether it is important to spend time together with others in the family of Christ – it is.  It is very important and something we are commanded to do.  Does that mean you have to be part of a church?  It doesn’t really come out and say that here – although there are other places in scripture it talks about the importance of the body of Christ.  But it certainly tells us here we need to be in fellowship with others – we need to surround ourselves with like-minded believers and encourage each other.  Are you doing that?  Who are you meeting together with regularly?  How are you encouraging them?  It is a critical thing we need to be doing!

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9 talks about the reality of sin.  Today it seems that everyone tries to downplay sin.  It really isn’t that bad is it?  After all, I am not an axe murderer or terrible sinner.  Just a few little things that may not quite be done God’s way – but He doesn’t expect perfection and total obedience.  There are plenty of folks that are worse than me – I am a pretty good person.  I treat my family and friends well most of the time. I don’t hurt others….much.  I try to follow the rules that government and society has… least when I agree with them.  Doesn’t everyone cheat a little on their taxes and steal a little time from their employer.  They won’t ever miss a few pencils or that stapler I needed at home.  Any of that sound familiar?  Sin is when we miss the mark in meeting God’s expectations.  And in case you wonder – you are guilty of sin just like me.  We all sin.  Scripture says clearly that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.  It is our reality. 

This chapter deals with the gravity of sin.  It can’t be dealt with simply – “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”.  Sin is serious business.  There is a price to pay.  Jesus “entered once for all… means of His own blood….securing an eternal redemption”.  Did you catch that?  Jesus – perfect and without sin – took our place and shed His blood to pay for your sin and mine.  He “offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God”.  Jesus paid the price.  He took our place and paid our bill which cost Him everything.  We must not cheapen the consequence of sin.  That cheapens the price Jesus paid on the Cross.  It is a big deal.  We have a sin problem and the consequence is death.  Jesus overcame that for us.  He has set us free.

The writer reminds us that sin takes several forms.  There are sins of commission – where we make an intentional choice to disobey and miss the mark of God’s requirements.  Those are the willful things we do because we are hard headed and stubborn.  Sort of the same response kids give their parents – they know what they are supposed to do but choose not to.  These sins are a choice we make.  Yes – you do it all the time.  It is the human nature.  But we learn here also about the “unintentional sins of the people”.  Can I sin without knowing it?  Maybe, but I think this is really referring to sins of omission.  Those things we fail to do that we know we are required or instructed to do.  These still come down to a choice – but sometimes our failure to choose to do what we should doesn’t seem as bad as doing what we shouldn’t.  Sin is sin – no matter what the form.  Jesus paid the price for all sin.

That in itself is a wonderful gift, but there is more.  “For Christ has entered…. into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf….He has appeared once for all….to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself…. having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”  He is coming back.  He is coming to bring us to eternal life and to escape the punishment of sin.  He has paid the price – He has bought our ticket to eternity.  We still need to live for Him and walk in obedience each day.  This is not a ticket to do whatever we want whenever we want to.  It is a promise to pay the price.  He has paid that.  Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice!

Hebrews 8

Hebrews 8 is full of covenant talk.  The writer reminds us that God created a covenant with His people.  They were to walk in obedience to His law, to obey things exactly as He instructed.  It was about the law and obedience.  There was only one problem.  A covenant is a promise to perform – an agreement to do exact things in exact ways.  It is not open to interpretation or personal change to fit your situation.  God prepared a covenant and gave it to Moses.  He instructed him to “see that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you”.  There is no room for personal opinion or interpretation.  It is to be done God’s perfect way.  The problem – man fell short – they “did not continue” in the covenant” but did things their own way in their own time.  That creates a big issue and God “showed no concern for them”. 

We tend to shy away from covenants today in our society.  No one wants to go on record as being accountable and responsible to live in any certain way.  But marriage is a covenant relationship.  It is a vow that we make to live together until death do us part.  It is a required way of living.  Our world today is experiencing the same kinds of issues that the people of Israel did when they disregarded the covenant they had with God.  Destruction, grumbling, frustration, pain, sorrow and missing out on God’s promises.  Disregarding a covenant has serious consequences – then and now – and we need to listen carefully to the new covenant that God installed after mankind failed to live up to the first one.  We are lucky – He gave us a second chance – and we need to pay attention and live accordingly.

Jesus is the new covenant.  Check out what scripture tells us: “Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises “.  God has had mercy and expressed grace through Jesus.  He realized just how woefully short we had come in fulfilling our part of the covenant deal.  So He opts to give us another chance.  “I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt”.  Have you considered how blessed we are to be offered this gift.  But with it comes some expectations from God.  We have to DO something to fulfill our end of the bargain!

God is committed to helping us fulfill the covenant.  “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”.  Remember – we are the same people that failed miserably in covenant round one.  We are being equipped to keep the covenant.  God is writing things onto our hearts and publishing them in our minds – we have no excuse.  In fact He tells us that since He is proactively preparing us to keep the covenant: “they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest”.  He is not leaving it up to us to perform this time.  God Himself has written the covenant on our hearts.  He is preparing us to succeed in being His covenant people.  And He has blessed us indeed as He tells us: “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more”.  Can you believe this gift – forgiveness of sin and forgetting our failures.  God is giving us a real second chance to get it right this time.  He is allowing us to enter into a new covenant without penalty or even any baggage.  Are you walking in your covenant relationship with Jesus?  That is what we have now – a Savior who has entered into a covenant relationship with us to bring God’s mercy and grace upon us.  We just need to walk continually as Christ Followers and accept His gift!

Hebrews 7

Hebrews 7 talks about the role of priest and specifically about the high priest.  Melchizedek was “priest of the Most High God” and served God well.  He was the father of a priestly lineage, and his ancestors fulfilled that role until a permanent high priest was sent to us – Jesus Christ.  “Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” is called out here as “a priest forever”.  He is the last and final priest for us.  But Jesus “holds his priesthood permanently, because He continues forever”.  His position will never change nor will anyone else replace Him as the High Priest.  He is our constant intercessor and with that comes a promise we must not overlook: “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since he always lives to make intercession for them”.  Jesus fulfilled the priestly role differently than any other in that He was able to save those who come close to God through Him.  He is the way to eternal life.  The one and only way.

The writer goes on to list the qualities of Jesus the priest:

–       “holy

–       Innocent

–       Unstained

–       separated from sinners

–       exalted above the heavens

–       no need to offer sacrifices daily

This is our Savior and High Priest.  He is the real deal.  Look at the list of His qualities as the perfect priest.  Completely free from sin or the results of sin in His life.  Jesus set the standard.  He shows us the way.  He made a way for those of us who struggle with sin to overcome and be set free.  Jesus is our priest and Savior.  Do you know Him in that way?

Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6 gives us some clarity about the ministry that happened in the body of Christ.  The writer of Hebrews gives a challenge to the church to “leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity”.  We need to grow – we should not stay as immature Christ Followers who become saved and then just camp there.  He lists the foundation of those elementary doctrines:

–       “a foundation of repentance from dead works

–       Faith toward God

–       Instruction about washings

–       Laying on of hands

–       Resurrection of the dead

–       Eternal judgment

These are the things that we should know at the basis of our walk with Jesus.  Do you have a handle on them?  They are the very platform from which we can move on toward maturity.  But some didn’t and don’t have these things down and get stuck in immaturity.  In other places we learn that we often get stuck in growth because we haven’t truly learned God’s Word.  We haven’t been in deep relationship with Him.  We are just floundering around and not going anywhere.  We need to make sure we understand the basic truths of our walk with Him.

The chapter does on to tell us it is “it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt”.  Those who make the absolute choice of denying the word of God and His power are on a very slippery slope away from Him.  In fact scripture tells us we cannot bring them back again.  This is referred to in other places as blasphemy of the Holy Spirit – when we deny the very power of God and His Spirit in us and make an intentional choice to refuse the truth and power of God in our lives.  We will have made the eternally fatal decision to choose death rather than eternal life.  We must be careful not to deny God’s power or truth.  We must live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The writer encourages us to “show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end….imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises…. hold fast to the hope set before us…. sure and steadfast anchor of the soul”.  We need to be imitators of those who have gone before us as Christ Followers.  That is why we have the Bible – to show us how to live with God.  Paul says over and over that we should imitate his life.  We need to hang on to Jesus who is our only anchor.  Every other thing in life will move and give way – but Jesus alone is the same yesterday, today and forever.  We need to pursue God with earnestness and know that He is there to listen and stand behind His promises.  We need to live the Christ Follower walk with all our heart.  It is the highest calling we have.  How are you doing on your walk?

Hebrews 5

Hebrews 5 speaks of the role of the high priest – “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins”.  Each of us needs to step up to that role in our life – to deal with sin and our “ignorant and wayward” ways.  Pastors and preachers can help us with dealing with the reality of sin.  We are all sinners.  We have a sin problem that leads to spiritual separation and death.  Jesus is our chief priest and has paid the price to set us free from the eternal price of sin – but we still need to confess and repent regularly.  While Jesus was here He “offered up prayers and supplications” for our sin.  He still does and is – we need to do the same.  Have you confessed your sin lately?  Have you been broken by the reality that sin is a big problem and needs to be corrected?  We need to consider our life and how we live.  It matters…..

We learn about God the Father in this chapter and what His intent was in sending Jesus to be a human.  “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered…. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him”.  Jesus came and experienced life and suffering for a reason – to be perfected even though He was in human form.  He learned obedience – He overcame temptation and taught us that sin can be defeated as He was perfect.  He won the victory and became our salvation.  Our response – OBEY HIM.  Did you catch that?  He did all the hard work – we just need to follow in obedience.  We just need to accept the gift and make it our path through life.  We need to walk with Jesus.  Are you living that way?

Maybe that is a rhetorical question to which I already know the answer.  I can look in the mirror and see one who fails to obey some days.  The writer tells us what the problem is: “you have become dull of hearing”.  When we stop living the daily spiritual disciplines – when we fail to study God’s Word each day and spend time on our knees in prayer and fail to connect with Him – we lose some of our hearing.  We tend to go into the weeds and begin to think we can handle life ourselves.  That is a problem.  It keeps us from growing.  The writer describes our situation like this: “You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil”.  We need to become skilled in how we handle God’s Word.  We need to study and hear and read and meditate and memorize God’s truth.  It has to become our spiritual diet – what we take in daily.  That is how we come to maturity.  That is how we grow up.  We need constant practice – to feed continually upon His Word.  How much have you taken in from God’s Word this week.  There are 168 hours – how many did you invest in study and learning His truth?  If you are like most, it doesn’t count up to a very large number.  Time to change that.  Time to commit to making God’s Word a priority in your life.  Are you willing?

Hebrews 4

Hebrews 4 reminds us that “God rested on the seventh day from all his works”.  How are you doing in that area?  “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God….let us therefore strive to enter that rest”.  We have moved far away from the days of keeping the Sabbath holy unfortunately in many cases.  God worked six days and then took a day to rest.  We are created in His image.  We need to do the same.  Does God care?  Disobedience has a cost and some found out the hard way: “those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience”. 

Then comes a promise that we need to cling to and remember well.  “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”.  When we look at this verse more closely – we see that God’s Word is:

–       Living and active

–       Sharper than any two edged sword

–       Piercing to the division of soul and spirits

–       Of joints and marrow

–       Discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart

God’s Word is powerful.  It is alive.  It can pierce us to the heart.  It is sharp and to the point.  God’s Word is able to divide our soul and spirit.  It can split hairs.  It is truly able to change lives.

What does that mean?  God’s Word leaves us “all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account”.  We can’t hide anything from God.  He sees all.  He knows all.  He is able to discern what is happening in our lives.  And when we try to make a case that we couldn’t help it – that excuse isn’t going to fly.  Why?  Because Jesus faced the same temptations, He was “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin”.  Jesus experienced life like we do.  He faced temptation as a human.  The difference is that He never gave in – He never sinned.  He is the only human who has been without sin.  And because He was sin free – we need to draw near to him.  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”.   Jesus is our source of mercy and grace.  Mercy in not being punished the way we deserve, and grace in receiving the gift of eternal life that we don’t deserve.  We can approach God with confidence because Jesus paid the price and won victory over death.  Are you living in that confidence?  In the grace and mercy that Jesus offered?

Hebrews 3

Hebrews 3 focuses on the history of what happens if we don’t get our faith walk in order.  The writer reminds us that “Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses”.   Jesus is in a class by Himself.  He is God’s only Son – and “is faithful over God’s house as a Son”.  There has been no other, nor will there ever be.  Jesus is the only Son of God and the One who has been sent to save us from sin.  We are reminded that “the builder of all things is God”.  Sometimes we tend to think that we have built something or done something on our own steam.  That just isn’t true.  It all comes from God.  It is all His.  We are simply stewards of what He entrusts to us.  There is no other way.

The writer goes on to tell us that “we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope”.  We need to cling to Jesus.  We need to be confident in the hope of our salvation.  We need to be confident in our faith.  We need to trust in Jesus.  Do you?  Have you put ALL your trust in Him?  Is He your only way to eternity – there is no other – so if you are banking on something else like your works or the thought that there is any other way – it is not so.  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  Period.  Are you sure of that?

We are warned of the outcome of our life and the choices we make.  “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”.  Evil causes us to fall away from God.  Sin gets in the way of our relationship. God can’t handle sin.  He can’t tolerate it.  And evil cause unbelief in our hearts and will really be a problem.  That said – we need to really push each other to be walking with Jesus and walking away from sin.  We are told to exhort each other daily – not just on Sunday morning at church – daily.  That is part of why I write daily – because we need to be encouraged and exhorted every day to make sure we are living for Him today.  We become hardened when we fail to deal with the truth daily.  We can fall into the trap that our daily lives don’t really matter – when in fact they make all the difference.  We need to walk with Jesus daily – all day every day – and know that sin is a problem we must avoid.  Who is exhorting you today?  If you don’t have anyone you need to find some other Christ Followers that can do exactly that.  And if you aren’t actively exhorting others – you are missing a part of your responsibility at part of the body of Christ.  We are to exhort daily – each of us – to encourage, push, hold accountable and make sure that sin does not get root and become hard.  Are you doing that?  If not, time to get with the program!

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