The Discipline for Champions–Hebrews 12 Part 2

In keeping with the thought of racing before the “Faith Hall of Famers”  the writer of Hebrews reminds us of the discipline it takes to win a race.  We want to be done with the training and to lay by the pool as some sort of spiritual Diva.  We do not want to fight in the war, we want to minister in our wealth.  We want to entertain and speak of the great blessings we receive from God…

One need only to have raised children to realize that it is the scrapes, the tears, the struggles and the discipline that makes our kids great–not the toys, the trips to the amusement park or the bowing to every whim.  In fact, the latter make the kids soft, spoiled and unruly.  Further, when we see the training of professional soldiers, athletes and doctors–it is rigorous and often seemingly unbearable–but produces the best people to fulfill their mission.

In our journey, we need to welcome the training and the discipline.  Rest assured, it will be unpleasant, and often seemingly unbearable. But, as we work through the daily struggles, we see God making us into the professional soldiers we need to be to complete the mission for which we are called.  His spirit comforts us, guides us strengthens us and carries the work to completion until his return. 

I Corinthians 10:13 promises our discipline is common. We won’t be pushed beyond our abilities.  And we will have a way to walk away.  He will prepare us, build us and train us so that we can finish the race and keep the faith.  Welcome the training and the discipline–then we can truly see God’s plan worked in our lives!

God Bless You

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,”[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Listen To That Crowd Roar–Hebrews 12 Part 1

There is really nothing quite like the energy one feels in an event when the crowd goes wild. Whether athletics, concerts, theater or Church–There is a significantly different energy when the crowd engages. In Hebrews 12, the writer helps us to envision the support and concern we receive from those who have gone before.

Imagine Able, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Joseph all cheering your daily walk and waving the banner–“Go Christian, Stand Firm!!!!!” So the message is–“Since you have these folks in your corner, Go to battle ready, free of baggage and focused upon Christ–the God that truly understands our fight!”  We do not fight alone! The spirit encourages, empowers and guides us.  Our community of believers march with us; and, the legacy of those who have gone before–serve as the roaring crowd to compel us to give all we have and become like him.

The world would have us believe we are all alone–they tried it with David, with Elijah, with Moses and with Jesus.  Truth is, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses! They have done it and survived. Paul’s final exhortation to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and have kept the faith…” gives us a picture of our need and support to treat this journey like a marathon and not a sprint.  What’s more, it reminds us that we have to drive to the end–as the many have done before we got into this Amazing Journey!

God Bless You

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

What God Accomplishes With Our Faith–Hebrews 11 part 4

As we continue to look at faith–so far we see that without it it is impossible to please God.  We have seen that people of faith show up when the going gets tough, the we have seen that it is inevitable, that faith impacts those whose lives we encounter.  Finally, there is a certain set of things that faith accomplishes.  

As one studies the folks that make up the faith hall of fame, by the world’s standard–they were not much to speak of.  Wanderers–like the Israelites, prostitutes–like Rahab, mild mannered  farmers–like Gideon, shepherds–like David, temple boys–like Samuel.  None were “SuperHero” prototypes. Yet, in each of their lives, God accomplished mighty things because they trusted Him.  Walls fell, nations rose, kingdoms were established and the salvation of the world accomplished–not because of their profiles; but, but all because of their faith.  In each scenario, It was ultimately God who was highlighted–not the person he used.

In our time, if we–who are simple, allow God–who accomplishes great things; to simply take control and take the glory–then, like the people described in Hebrew 11, God can use us to complete his plan.  We must brace for battle–our enemy does not like to be defeated. We will encounter trials, tribulations, taunts and temptation. We also must grasp that we accomplish most by stepping back and allowing God to work.  At any point, if we try to take control or take the glory; then, we nullify our ability to be used by him.  He simply seeks our availability–if we oblige, then he will provide the means and the result–and we will be blessed.

It won’t be easy, and it won’t be obvious–but, when God uses us to execute his plan–we will be a part of something so much greater than we could ever hope or imagine.  

God Bless You


It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.

31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection.36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

Faith Leaves a Legacy–Hebrews 11 Part 3

 

Faith cannot be lived in a vacuum.  Our relationship with God is definitely personal. God accepts each of us based upon our choice and our decision to submit to his Lordship.  But, it is impossible to live a life of faith in a vacuum.  Our experience as we walk by faith is very noticeable and very infectious.  Hebrews 11, shows the lineage of the people of Israel; and how their continued faith brought them to, through and out of Egypt.

The life of faith displayed by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses has literally shaped the world  we live in today.  None of the patriarchs could have possibly imagined their choice to trust God would still be affecting lives three thousand + years later.  God told them that it would; they trusted and followed him as if the choices would–but, none lived to see the fruit of their steps of faith.

We are faced with the same choice daily.  We have to live a life of faith knowing that by doing so we will impact generations to come. It is critical for our personal peace and joy to walk by faith, but, it is even more critical that our families see our faith and walk accordingly.  That only happens, however, if we are consistent in our trust and following of the Lord.  Solomon said it best, “Trust in the Lord with all your hearts, lean not on your own understanding.  Acknowledge Him in all your ways–and He will make your path straight!” Proverbs 3:5-6

God Bless You

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.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

Faith When it Counts!–Hebrews 11 Part 2

As Christians, the basis of our lives is our faith in God.  Our very eternal life is only obtained thru faith. But, faith is very easy to talk about, it is much harder to demonstrate when the going gets long and tough. This week, the focus of the study will be the Bible’s faith hall of fame. These are the folks God chose to be the “poster children” for faith as a way of life.

Noah was literally, the last man standing to trust and follow God! after 120 years of being the butt of jokes and center of gossip–God shut Noah and his family into the ark and wiped out the earth.  Noah prepared for a storm and flood–that until it occurred, had never been imagined. He simply trusted God and obeyed his instruction. As he did, Noah had no idea what to expect–nor what it would do.

Abram–(Later Abraham)-when told by God to go to Canaan; packed up his stuff and his bride and left.  He and his son, his grandson and his great-grandchildren all spent their lives in tents, awaiting the promise to be given the land on which they were living. None ever saw in their lifetimes–the presentation of the promised land that occurred over 400 years after their deaths.

When we grasp that this is all God’s stuff–as they did, then we can walk freely where God leads without fear; then God will provide, protect and prepare us to meet the challenges of life; and, accept his gifts and his plans. Some may not come soon, in fact, some may not be answered in our lifetimes.  Like Noah and Abram, we must trust God when it is difficult to do so–that is when faith actually matters.

God Bless You

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised landlike a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b] considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

The Life of Faith–Hebrews 11 Part 1

The life of faith is not a new advent from the time of Christ’s resurrection.  The life of faith has been a critical component of man’s relationship to God from the very beginning.  The “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11, looks at the difference faith has made in the lives of believers.  It is most enlightening,in fact, that–as the discussion begins, it begins with Cain and Able–back at the very beginning.

Faith is a combination of trust and action.  It is not that people simply believe what God says; they also live and walk in a way that demonstrates that belief.  Able demonstrated his faith by giving his first and best sacrifice.  Enoch demonstrated his faith by walking so closely with God, that God literally brought him on up to heaven without him having to experience death.  These demonstrations of faith simply represent the the core truth–without faith, it is impossible to please God! 

In our lives, faith looks different for each of us.  Like Enoch and Able, the demonstrations are dramatically different.  The core, however, is the same–“Do I believe God, and believe he will reward those that diligently seek him?”  In each of our lives, we choose daily to walk by faith.  As we make the choice; the things we say and do stand out as unique and glorifying to God.  Acts of faith are not rated as big or small; awesome or OK–they are simply signs that we have moved out of the way and allowed God to lead.  In God’s eyes, that is huge!

God Bless You

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”[a] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

The Gift of Community–Hebrews 10 Part 2

In God’s eyes, it is all good news.  He never promised the journey would be easy, nor did he promise that following him would come without trial, temptation and spiritual battle.  What he has promised, is that he will walk with us through the battle and will provide, protect and prepare his people for the journey ahead.  But, God knew that people needed community to be able to face the issues and battles of life.  
 
So, while he cleanses our hearts of the sin that separates us from him; he also provides a community of believers that will come along side to meet us where we are, and provide the encouragement necessary to face the trials set before us. As a family, we have seen God send people in to literally make possible what at the time seemed absolutely impossible.  Time and again, it has been the fellowship of believers that have restored lives, saved families, healed the sick and mended the broken-hearted.
 
The writer reminds us that we are to encourage, and come along side one another–not to judge, but to build up, spur-on and provide the support that only a person with skin on their face and arms to hug with can do. We have to get a little messy and love those that need it–because , rest assured, the world will not!!! We are warned not to forsake meeting together–that is what charges our batteries, and makes us ready to face this journey to the end.
 
God Bless You
 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.