12/16/17 Nothing To Fear Except Rejecting God

“When the Israelites stood in front of the mountain and shook with fear upon hearing God’s voice speaking to them from Heaven, they begged Moses to ask God not to speak to them again.  In their terror, they did not listen to the message of the commandments God was speaking of.  But now, God has sent His Son to us in human form.  Messiah, though still fully God, is also completely human.  No one need fear Him for the same reasons that the Israelites feared the voice of God.  But if we turn away from Messiah and the free gift of salvation from sin that He gives to all who will receive Him, we are turning away from God, and there is nothing that can save us after that.  There is no good without God, and in rejecting Him we reject all that is good.  What is left for us after that?  Nothing, because God made all that is, and pronounced it good.  Just as the Israelites, who refused to listen to God’s voice when it boomed from Heaven and shook the ground below them, could not escape His judgment, we will not escape God’s judgment if we reject His Son and the salvation He offers.  ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also Heaven,’ God promises us through the prophet Haggai, saying that there will be one final time when He will shake everything, and all that is not firmly rooted in Him will be thrown down and destroyed, but all that is firmly rooted in Him will be permanently established.  Our inheritance in Messiah is an eternal kingdom that cannot be shaken.  Since we know this, we must live out the grace of God that we have received, sharing this grace with others so as to live in obedience to God, whose greatest commandments are to love Him and each other.  We must worship God as He commands us to, with respect and reverence, remembering that God is love, but He is also holy, and the fire of His judgment against sin will burn until there is no trace of it left.”

 

Hebrews 12:25-29, Haggai 2:6, Deuteronomy 4:24

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12/15/17 The Mountain Of God’s Love

“You are not standing in front of the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments.  This mountain struck fear into the hearts of all the Israelites.  God’s voice speaking to them from the cloud above, commanding them to stay away from the mountain lest they touch it and be burned with a holy fire, and their animals as well, or the animals would have to be stoned or shot with an arrow, and the trumpets that sounded along with God’s command, were so terrifying that the Israelites begged Moses to ask God not to speak to them anymore.  Even Moses was struck with terror, saying, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.’  No, you are not standing before this mountain, but before Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and not the Mount Zion and Jerusalem of this world, but of Heaven.  You are standing before the holy city of the Living God, before His angels, before His people who are already residents of the Kingdom of Heaven, before Messiah, the One who intercedes with God on our behalf by covering us with His blood and making us perfect in the eyes of His Father, better, even, than the sacrifice of Abel, before God Himself, the Holy Judge of all the living and the dead.  You have no need to run away in fear, because Messiah has paid the penalty for all of your sins and you may now stand before God as His own beloved children.”

 

Hebrews 12:18-24, Exodus 19:12-13, Deuteronomy 9:19

12/14/17 More Like Messiah, Less Like Esau

“So if your arms and hands are tired from holding up the weight of all your troubles, if your knees are growing weak, exercise them and strengthen them for the challenges that lie ahead of you.  Do all you can to get obstacles out of your way so that you won’t stumble trying to walk down crooked, rocky paths.  And when you have done all of this, help others to do the same, so that they might be healed and strengthened for their journey as well.  Do your best to be a peacemaker with everyone, and strive to be more like God in all your thoughts, words, and actions.  Messiah’s blood covers your sins so that God sees His perfection when He looks at you, but our goal should be to grow more like Messiah every day.  Keep watch over yourself and your brothers and sisters so that no one should turn away from God’s grace, so that bitterness should not take root in anyone and cause trouble for all, so that no one would turn back to their old sinful ways and become like Esau, who sold his place as firstborn for a bite to eat.  Remember that he deeply regretted this afterwards, when it came time for Isaac to bestow God’s blessing and Jacob received it in Esau’s place.  Though he tried, on his knees and in tears, to repent, he found it was too late.”

 

Hebrews 12:12-17

12/13/17 Sons & Daughters of the King

“When you start to get tired and depressed from all the trials of your life, look at Messiah and what He willingly endured for all of us.  The sinless Son of God patiently endured persecution leading to crucifixion from sinners.  For us, at least thus far, the battle against sin and temptation has not ended in death, nor even in bloodshed.  Take courage in this, and in knowing that God gives us the strength we need to endure in faith, no matter what comes against us.  Remember that God calls us His sons and daughters, as the Holy Scriptures tell us in the book of Proverbs, ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’  The ‘chastening of the Lord’ should be a comfort to us, because all fathers discipline their children, and if God does not discipline us, then that means we are not counted as His sons and daughters.  Children respect parents who discipline them, and that is only a picture of the respect and honor we are to show to our Heavenly Father.  But God is much more deserving of our respect and honor, because while our human parents discipline us as best they can, never completely certain of what they are doing, God knows exactly what we need, always, and always gives us His best, so that we might continue to grow and mature in His grace and one day come to live with Him in His Kingdom as His children, finally perfect and holy as He is.  When discipline comes, it is never pleasant in the moment, but once we’ve come through and learned from it, we find that it has caused us to become better people, more loving, more gracious, more humble, more self-controlled, closer to God.”

 

Hebrews 12:3-11, Proverbs 3:11-12

12/12/17 Supported On All Sides

“All of these faithful people who have gone before us are witnesses, both to we who already belong to God and to those who may be seeking Him still, of the great power of faith and of our God.  Their stories are like buoys for our spirits, helping to lift us up when we feel like we are drowning in our trials.  If they were able to persevere through such horrible circumstances, and stay faithful to God till the end of their lives here on earth, we can do the same.  So we need to push away all those things that are holding us back, the sins that trap us so effortlessly, the trials that can so easily crush us under their weight if we take our eyes off of God.  Think of all these things as training for the race of life, and use them to your advantage to make you a stronger, faster runner, so that you can push through to the end with power.  Keep your eyes set on Messiah, the creator of our faith, the only one who is able to help us through the race of life and welcome us to our reward when we finish.  He is the beginning and the end of our faith.  He persevered through torture and crucifixion because He knew the joy that awaited Him on the other side of death.  Though He knew that the Scriptures tell us that anyone punished by hanging on a tree is cursed by God, and that crucifixion is a form of hanging on a tree, He went willingly to this shameful death, embracing in our place the curse rightfully meant for all of us as sinners, to set us free from sin and the punishment it carries.  Because of His sacrifice, He has gained a great reward, both for Himself and for all who have faith in Him to save them from sin, and He now sits enthroned at God’s right hand.”

 

Hebrews 12:1-2

12/11/17 Faith Is Not A Guarantee Of Safety

“Faith is not a guarantee of safety or escape from danger in this life on earth, though.  Many people have been tortured and killed because of their faith in our God and in our Messiah.  For every story of deliverance through faith, there are many more stories of trials, persecution, torture, imprisonment, people losing all their worldly possessions, losing their loved ones, exiled to deserts and harsh mountains, having to live in caves and holes in the ground, wearing animal skins to stay warm and eating whatever they can find.  People of faith have been killed in brutal ways, including by stoning, being sawn in half, and with swords.  Often, they are tempted before they are killed, their executioners offering them their lives and their freedom if they will only renounce their faith.  But they all stayed strong in their faith.  Why?  Because of another of God’s promises, that He will be with us in our times of trial and persecution, and will give us the strength to endure to the end.  All these people knew that their reward was waiting for them in Heaven, and that it was far better to suffer and die for their faith in order to gain a life of peace and joy for all eternity, than to succumb to the temptation to live only for the pleasures of this world and lose their eternal inheritance.  Through their faith, they showed that this world was unworthy of them.  Their testimony of faith is alive because they were faithful to the point of death.  Although they did not see the fulfillment of God’s promises to them during their lives on earth, they knew that all of God’s promises will be fulfilled in Heaven, for all of His faithful children, when we are all finally gathered together.  Their stories of faith are helping many others to persevere through their own trials, holding tightly to their hope in God’s promises.”

 

Hebrews 11:35b-40

12/10/17 So Many People of Faith

“When Joshua led the Israelites against Jericho, it was their faith that made them obey when he told them to simply march quietly around the walls of the city every day, and it was their faith that finally made the walls come crashing down on the seventh day when they blew their trumpets.  God gave instructions and Joshua and the Israelites followed them in faith.  It was Rahab’s faith that saved her and her family from death when Jericho was defeated, because she had faith that God would give the city over to the Israelites, and so she hid the spies and helped them to escape.  There are so many stories of faith in our Holy Scriptures, it would take too long to tell them all.  I could tell you of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, all the prophets.  I could tell you all the ways that God worked through these faithful people to overthrow kingdoms and governments, bring righteousness back into communities, fulfill many promises, close the mouths of hungry lions, bring people through scorching flames without even the smell of smoke on their clothes, strengthen the weak, give courage in battles, make enemy armies flee in terror, and even bring the dead back to life, reuniting them with their families.”

 

Hebrews 11:30-35a

12/9/17 The Faith of Moses

“Moses’ parents showed their faith when they hid their newborn son for three months, fearing God more than Pharaoh.  When Moses came of age and learned about his true heritage, instead of turning his back on God and embrace the life of Egyptian royalty, he had faith in God, rejecting the sinful life he was raised in and choosing to associate himself with his fellow Israelites.  He chose a life of hardship as an Israelite over a life of leisure as Pharaoh’s grandson, because he had faith that God had much better things in store for him in Heaven.  He left Egypt behind, along with the trappings of his former life, but returned in faith when God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and he was not afraid of Pharaoh’s anger.  He kept his eyes on God, as if he could actually see Him, and obeyed all that God asked of him, including following God’s instructions for the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood of the lamb over the doorposts of the Israelites, so that the firstborn sons of the Israelites would escape the angel of death.  Moses’ faith led the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea on dry land, where the Egyptians who tried to follow met their death when the walls of water came crashing back down on them.”

 

Hebrews 11:23-29

12/8/17 The Faith of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, & Joseph

“God promised Abraham a son, through whom Abraham was to be the father of many nations, and would inherit the land that would one day be Israel, forever.  It was Abraham’s great faith in God that made him obey without question when God tested him, telling Abraham to offer Isaac, the son through whom the promise was to be fulfilled, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ as a sacrifice on the altar.  Abraham knew that through God, all things are possible, and so he had faith that God would provide a way for his son to live, even if he was killed.  When Isaac was old, he faithfully passed God’s blessings to his sons, first Jacob, though he was the younger of the two, and then Esau.  He also told them of things that were to come, both in the near future for his sons and for their future descendants, trusting in his heart that the God who he served, who had told him these things, would fulfill His promises.  When Jacob was an old man and knew he was dying, he called for his son Joseph and for Joseph’s two sons, and passed God’s blessings onto them in faith that God would keep His promises, and then he leaned on his staff and worshipped the God who had led him through a life of blessing and trial, and had never let him down.  When Joseph was an old man and knew he was dying, because of his great faith in God, he called his brothers together and told them to bury him in Canaan, even though he knew the Egyptians would want him buried in Egypt, and he told them that in the future, God would come to their descendants and bring them out of Egypt, back to the land that was promised to them.

 

Hebrews 11:17-22, Genesis 21:12

12/7/17 The Eternal Rewards of Faith

“Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob – all of them had faith in God and His promises to them.  Even though they did not receive what they had been promised in its entirety, they saw the beginning of the fulfillment of the promises and they had faith that God would continue to fulfill His promises to them until they were complete.  Because of their faith, they saw that God would reward them not just here on earth, but in Heaven, and that the Heavenly reward would be much greater than the earthly reward.  They understood that this world was not their true home, that they were strangers here, just travelling through on their way to Heaven, and so their focus was not on what God would give them here, but in Heaven.  This must be our focus, as well, because when we focus on Heaven, it helps us to have the strength and the courage to live our lives working to do God’s will.  It is also a great testimony for those who are seeking God, because it shows them that we are ever moving toward our true home in Heaven through our faith in the God who has promised it to us.  If our forefathers had thought about the land from which they came, instead of where they wanted to go, it might have made them want to turn back.  But they set their eyes and their hearts on what is better, the Kingdom of Heaven and the God of Heaven.  Because of their faith, God has unashamedly welcomed them into His Kingdom, having prepared places for them.”

 

Hebrews 11:13-16