Hold On - Hebrews 10:23
Hebrews 10:23 says, Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. There is something admirable about people who have an unwavering confidence. Nothing can seem to shake them – not their circumstances, no person, no lack of resources – they are just steadfast. Unfortunately, the world has so few of these people. The resiliency of these people to overcome obstacles serves as an inspiration to people everywhere. People like William Wilberforce who led England into the abolishment of the slave trade despite years of setbacks and criticism. People like George Muller who followed God into ministry work despite his own father’s objection and later started orphanages with no funds, but trusting God to provide. Their faith in God – and the fact it never wavered – amazes me to this day.
Following God is not an easy task. The difficulty is having the faith in God day in and day out to follow Him even when His leading doesn’t make sense. When life circumstances don’t go as I hoped – it is trusting Him then. When my desire is to go in one direction – it is following Him then. When everyone says no – it is saying yes because I know what God has said and I must obey Him. It is following God totally, completely, without hesitation or wavering. It is total commitment to God. It is not 90% in or 95% or even 99%. It is all in – 100%. No matter what comes – I will follow God.
In a way, it is my manifesto – I will follow the Lord Jesus Christ wherever He leads. I will trust Him with my whole being for He is my God. I will love Him with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and with all my strength. He is my all in all. I commit everything – my life, my family, my home, my work, my career, my friends, my church, my community, my finances, my choices, my thoughts, my speech to Him. He has complete control. I want to follow His will – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. He is God and I will serve no other.
How can I be so sure? Because He is faithful. God has been faithful despite the unfaithfulness in the world around me. He is true to His promises and He never fails. He is faithful to the point of dying on a cross for me. He paid my sin’s debt. He loved me despite my sin and unfaithfulness to Him. He makes intercession for me even now. The Holy Spirit prays on my behalf with groanings too deep for words. He is a friend. Because He is faithful and demonstrated that unwavering commitment to me. Because He is faithful and demonstrating what it means to follow the Father. Because I have been bought with a price – Jesus’ own blood – I will follow My Savior, My Lord – Jesus Christ. If He has been faithful in the past, I must trust He will be always faithful and He is trustworthy.
Dear Jesus, thank You for being faithful. And because You have been faithful and shown Your love to me, I will follow You. Help me to be strong and of good courage to follow You always. Amen. Now let’s go lived the transformed life – committed to Him!
The Consequence of rejecting the Gospel - Hebrews 10:29
Have you ever known someone to try ignore a truth or situation away? When I see this I say to myself, “They are sticking their head in the sand” hoping it goes away. I think this is true regarding the reality of people who reject Christ. I wonder if we truly realize the seriousness of people who reject God’s plan of salvation. We understand the Bible says everyone must come to Jesus Christ in faith and repentance. We know Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life. We know we must ask Jesus Christ into our life and receive the forgiveness of sin and we must commit ourselves to Him. That is what we know to be true. The reality is however, not everyone receives this truth. In reality they reject this truth by not receiving the truth. As a result, there are eternal consequences to this rejection.
Hebrews 10:29 says, How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? The writer of Hebrews employs uses an argument of lesser to greater meaning if this is true in a situation, it is certainly more emphatic in a greater situation. Example: if a policeman will give a speeding ticket for going 10 over the speed limit, he will certainly give you a ticket for going 20 over the speed limit. In the preceding verse, the writer shares the seriousness of someone who rejected the law of Moses. Within the Jewish community, the punishment for willfully defying the law of Moses was death. Therefore the writer is saying, if the punishment for willful rejection of the law of Moses was this severe, imagine how much greater the punishment is if a person willfully, purposefully rejects the offer of grace given by God through Jesus Christ. That punishment is eternal separation from God in a place called hell.
Why do we know this punishment is true? How can we say such a thing? How do we know God just won’t overlook their sins or indiscretions? Today’s verse tells us it is because people who reject the Gospel find the blood unworthy, unclean and inadequate. If it was worthy, they would respond to God’s gift of salvation. But their rejection is trampling underfoot. The readers knew the blood of lambs would have to be unblemished – it was the only acceptable sacrifice for their sins. Their rejection of God communicated that Jesus Christ was not sufficient. Those reject believe it is inadequate and therefore insult the gift of grace. Imagine giving the most precious thing you know to someone and they did not even acknowledge your gift – they essentially rejected your gift and did not consider it worthy. If this would be true of our earthly gifts, how much more it would be true of the eternal gift of God?
As a believer, I need this reminder because eternity is at stake. I need to share this precious gift with others. God’s precious gift of salvation is so great I must share. In the words of the poet: Lead me to some soul today, O teach me Lord, just what to say. Friends of mine are lost in sin, And cannot find their way. Few there are who seem to care, and few there are who pray. Melt my heart and fill my life; Give me one soul today.
Thank You Lord for the great gift of salvation. Help me to share that gift with someone today. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life expecting a divine appointment!
The Assurance and Conviction of Faith - Hebrews 11:1
Hebrews 11:1 says Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. The word assurance is rendered substance or conviction in other translations. The Greek word is actually, ὑπόστασις (hypostasis). It comes from two words, hypo meaning under and stasis meaning to stand. It means to stand under a guaranteed agreement like a title is to a piece of property. It is a legitimate claim entitling someone to what is guaranteed in the agreement. For the believer, this assurance is the Lord’s guarantee to fulfill what He has said He would do. We are entitled only to the things He has granted. It is not whatever I hope for, but this hope is the expectation God will indeed move as He has said. Therefore this word for hypostasis means it is the substance, underwriting, guaranteed assurance that gives us confidence to wait on God to fulfill His Word. My faith is the confidence God will do as He says He will do.
But not only is the assurance God will do it, but it is the conviction of things not seen. The word conviction is also translated evidence. My faith is the proof of things not seen. When a person walks by faith, they walk with a confidence knowing God will do as He said. Hence the things a person does is guided by this assurance. When asked why – the reply is, “I know God will do as He said.” People who don’t understand and when it comes to fruition, people are amazed at their faith. There are things I know God is going to do and it dictates my attitude, speech and actions.
As a believer, I know God is working in my life to make me more like Him. I know He wants to use me in this world for His glory. As a result, I must depend on the Holy Spirit to guide me and give me strength. When I do, He gives me the direction and strength making me more like Him and being used for His glory. By faith I know God is going to provide therefore I do not have to worry about finding a job or where the finances are going to come. By faith, I know God is in control so I don’t have to figure everything out or be in control – God has it. By faith, I realize will guide and lead and therefore all I must do is simply follow and obey Him. By faith I know God is my refuge and strength so I can run to Him. By faith I know He has a plan for me in my life and He is in total control and therefore I can walk in hope, peace and joy no matter how hopeless, disturbing and depressing things are around me. Philippians 1:6 says, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Therefore I can walk knowing God isn’t done with me yet. By faith I know God has a place forever for me in heaven and therefore I can say like Paul, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” What an incredible difference it is to truly walk by faith.
Dear Jesus, help me today as I choose to walk by faith, trusting You totally and completely. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life in faith!
Pleasing God through faith - Hebrews 11:6
As a parent, it amazes me what all it takes to get my kids to trust me when I want to try something new. It can be in trying a new dish I cooked, playing a new game or going somewhere they have never been. The kids’ first reaction is typically, “NO!” Then I have to do a lot of reassuring. What amazes me is I have a good track record when it comes to this. But every time I have to go back and remind them how they enjoyed it before. They are comfortable with what they know and have experienced. This is especially true when I want them to do something that will help them grow and learn. Sometimes I will ask them to help me do a project and if they follow me they will get a great sense of accomplishment. What excites me as a parent is when my kids say, “Let’s do it!” This expression of trust and willingness to follow me – knowing what this will do for them – is extremely pleasing to me. With that in mind, I can only imagine how God feels when He wants us to do something new – particularly something that will help me grow.
Hebrews 11:6 says, And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. God is extremely pleased when we have a total trust and confidence in Him. I wonder how much I don’t walk in faith, but only in what I can see and know. When I read in chapter 11 these great people of faith – they all do something new. Abraham – what an incredible amount of faith – to first leave his land to go to a new land God would show him; then to believe he and Sarah would have a son in his old age; and finally to be willing to give up his own son, simply because God asked. His level of faith is astronomical. The faith of Isaac and Jacob and Joseph knowing what God had promised to Abraham trusting God would complete it – dying not even seeing the fulfillment of their faith. Moses had faith in leading the Israelites out of Egypt (estimated to be around 2 million). That had to of been terrifying. Rahab knowing God was with the Israelites, hid the spies in her land and asked to be rescued and not killed. It is one thing to know something is going to happen – but altogether different to act on it putting her entire family in danger if she was wrong. The writer goes on to remind of people like Gideon who fought in a battle where he was outnumbered greatly, David in his mighty battles especially in a one-on-one against Goliath, Daniel who obeyed willing to go into a lion’s den but trusting God even then. Their level of faith is crazy!
But God wants us to have this same kind of faith in Him – not that we will face the same challenges as them – but to trust Him in whatever we face today! It can in reality something as big as these Old Testament heroes, but it may be the biggest thing we have faced to date. It can be in the arena of careers, jobs, finances, family relationships, or medical. But it can also be in sharing the gospel with a lost person, inviting a neighbor or co-worker to church, or asking someone how to pray for them. Whatever God has for me today, I must walk in faith!
Dear God, help me to walk in faith today and not by sight! I choose today to walk in faith trusting in you! Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life in faith!
Running the Race - Hebrews 12:!
Whenever the Olympics come around, I enjoy watching some of the track and field competitions. Particularly, what fascinates me is the various races. I am amazed at how fast the people run and truly am amazed at the baton race. I don’t recall ever seeing a track event in person or on tv where a person came to the race with a heavy weight around their ankle or a backpack of any weight on their back. It would be ridiculous to expect a person to add unnecessary weight to themselves as they prepare to race. They wear the lightest clothing possible to ensure nothing holds them back. Yet I find that too many people are losing in the Christian race because they are carrying too much weight.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says, Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. When it comes to our effectiveness in the Christian race, we get tripped up by sin and other things that weigh us down. These things effect our level of faith and keep us from living lives totally devoted to God. The writer of Hebrews encourages believers to lay them aside so we can run with endurance. The race we run is not a 100 meter sprint – it is a marathon. And when we pile on the weight, it is no wonder so many believers are struggling in their Christian walk and in life in general.
These weights we put on ourselves can be big or small but they keep us from being able to run at 100% capacity. Weights like bitterness, pride, lust and anger put us in the mindset of constantly looking at other people – trying to make sure we are on top of whatever mountain we created in our mind. The need to be validated, liked or approved by others weighs us down with worrying about what others are thinking. Sometimes a good thing can become a weight by taking too much of our time, energy and resources whether a hobby, a material possession, or way of thinking. What weights are keeping me from running at full potential? John Maxwell has been a great influencer in my life. His leadership materials are some of the best. When he moved into the realm of teaching leadership, he actually gave up pastoring – a very good and noble profession. And he was good at it. The reason for giving up full-time ministry? It was keeping him from being able to share his faith with leaders in the corporate and business world. He knew he had to put all of his energy into developing those relationships to be able to share the gospel with them.
When I take all the ‘stuff’ off of me, I can focus on the one thing that matters – Jesus Christ. My life is to be about following Him totally and completely. I set my eyes on Him for He is the perfecter of my faith.
Dear Jesus – help me to take away those things that hinder me from following You completely. I choose today to run in complete freedom looking to You. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life freed from the weights!
The Blessing of Discipline - Hebrews 12:11
When I graduated from college, my supervisor teamed me and the other new graduates with an experienced engineer. He said I want this engineer to train you in how we do things here. I went to classes and did projects with him. Whenever I began a new work, he would show me what he wanted done and I didn’t always get it just right the first time. He would send me back and do the work over. He would ask questions to see if I fully understood what I was doing. If I didn’t, I would have to go back and do it again until I did understand. It wasn’t fun, but he helped me understand many things in the engineering profession.
Hebrews 12:11 says, All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Who likes discipline? It comes in all kinds of forms – from parents with their children, to military sergeants with new recruits, with experienced professionals to new employees in a career. Discipline is the molding and making of a person into something desired. There is a tendency in all of us to wander aimlessly. People more mature see us moving in a direction not best and try to correct us to moving into the right direction. This is especially true in a parent child relationship. The child starts doing things that are unhealthy and the parent will correct them sometimes through a method of discipline. The military disciplines new recruits making them fit soldiers who understand respect and authority. Experienced professionals help new employees to understand the methods utilized and avoid pitfalls. But in those moments it is never easy or fun and often frustrating. Not meant to hurt, it is never easy.
Interesting observations regarding discipline. It is the mature person who exercises the discipline because that person can see how to guide. The immature person doesn’t fully understand. But after the discipline and maturing, the immature person grows, develops and begins to understand what was being done. In the end, they become ready themselves for the challenges they will face. If they receive the discipline, later they are grateful because they see the pitfalls they would have experienced. Interestingly, people can reject the discipline. I have seen people never reach their full potential because they would not listen to those mature.
Similarly, God disciplines me as His child. No it isn’t fun having to relearn. It can be downright frustrating at times. But if I will be open to what the Holy Spirit is teaching me, the verse says it yields the fruits of righteousness. God wants to mold me and shape me into His character. I learn to walk in holiness, grace and love. I learn to experience hope, peace and joy no matter the situation. I learn to trust Him in every situation knowing He will guide and provide. I learn to seek Him in prayer in every decision I face. When I look back at the different things God has taught me, I am thankful for all that He is shown. It is in the midst of those learning experiences I grow becoming more like Him.
Lord, thank You for Your discipline. It may be difficult, but the work You are doing in me I am grateful. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life knowing God is working in our lives!
The Weeds of Bitterness - Hebrews 12:15
I hate weeds! They like to come up in the grass and flower beds. They can be stubborn – they will not pull up easily and sometimes break off. Weeds take too much of my time where I could be doing other productive things. They will keep my yard and flower bed from looking great. Hence, I hate weeds! There is a major weed that can creep into the believer’s life – bitterness. This bitterness will keep us from fully reflecting the grace and glory of God. It is stubborn because it appears to have a right to be there. But bitterness can ultimately destroy a person’s life if left unchecked!
Hebrews 12:15 says, See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled. When we become believers in Jesus Christ, we experienced his love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. Through Jesus forgiveness, he redeems us to Himself and restores our lives to fruitfulness.
If there is one thing I see over and over in Scripture, the only thing that keeps us from experiencing all the benefits of forgiveness, it is unforgiveness. Today’s verse tells us to be careful that no one comes short of the grace of God and then explains it by telling us not to let a root of bitterness to come up. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Jesus made this point other times including in Matthew 18:21-35 with a parable. In it Jesus says, “Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you? And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” vv.33-35. Bitterness will keep us from fully experiencing all God has for us.
Jesus taught us to forgive even modeling it on the cross when He cried out, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). He taught it in the model prayer when He said, “Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12). In the last three verses of Ephesians 4, it tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit and then it says Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
If I am going to be used by God fully and allow His grace to flow through me, I must not allow any bitterness in my life. It is more than just saying “I am not holding a grudge or I forgive them.” It is to give up my right to what is owed me or us and allow that person or groups of people off without any grudge or negative thoughts. I can’t allow anything including bitterness to come in the way of God using me fully and completely. And I will know I have truly forgiven when I can ask God to bless that person or group without reservation.
Father, I choose today to walk in forgiveness. Help me not to have any root of bitterness toward anyone. I choose to walk in the fullness of Your grace. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life with no bitterness.
Experiencing Earthquakes - Hebrews 12:27-28
I have been through a hurricane and I have seen a tornado strike within a few miles of my home in Texas. I have been through storms involving hail and have been through ice storms. But one thing I have not been through and care not to go through is an earthquake. It is hard to imagine the ground underneath my feet shaking. The other day I was on a floating dock and didn’t like it. I like something sure and secure.
Confidence. Certainty. Conviction. These words are almost non-existent in today’s culture. It is hard to find those qualities because I think we are living in some of the most uncertain times this world has ever known. People’s opinions on matters change in a heartbeat. Loyalty is extremely hard to find. The older I get (and I like to think I am still extremely young) the more difficult it is to find anything steadfast. As a result of a poor foundation, I think many find themselves in crises after crises. The foundation for such crises must hold us steady in the most uncertain of times.
Hebrews 12:27-28 says, This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe. In life, God has a way of shaking things, don’t He? I am guaranteed one thing in life – I will go through times where God is shaking things up. Those times help me to know just how secure my foundation is. Whenever something doesn’t go as I think - do I panic or worry? Do I run from it and ignore it hoping the crises will go away? Or do I not worry, not panic, and face it with the confidence God is with me? I do not know until I am in a situation requiring faith. The strength of my faith is seen most in the difficult of times. Do I still trust Him then or do I really trust myself or something else?
Jesus talked about the storms that would shake our lives in Matthew 7. He said we can build our lives on one of two foundations – rock or sand. The rock is secure. The sand is not secure. When the rains come and the winds blow, the house on the rock may get some hits, but it stands. When the rains come and winds blow, the house on the sand will fall. When our lives are built on Him, it is secure. He is the rock of ages, sure and secure. Our faith in anything but God is like sinking sand. So how do I build my foundation on Him? It comes in my time alone with God. It comes as I reflect and meditate on Scripture and apply His Word every day to my life. It comes as I learn to commune and fellowship with Him through prayer. My confidence increases as I walk in obedience and trust Him daily in the things I do. My conviction grows stronger as I listen to the Holy Spirit throughout the day and follow His leading and guidance. As I learn daily to walk in His power and strength, I become ready for the times those earthquakes come in my life.
Thank You Lord that I can trust You and walk in Your power and strength. I choose today to follow You and grow closer to You. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life with a sure foundation.
Real Praying - Hebrews 13:18
Have you ever asked someone to pray for you? Most have at some time or another, asked a friend, family member, fellow believer or church to pray for them. Most prayer requests I receive is medical. Sometimes people ask for prayer for a job, finances, relationship issues, family members or someone they know. Occasionally I have been asked to pray for a friend or family member who doesn’t know Jesus Christ. But the prayer request given by the writer of Hebrews is extremely rare. Not only is this request to a group of people rare, but it is not often I hear this kind of request prayed at all. What was the writer’s request? Hebrews 13:18 says, Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. Wow! The writer’s biggest prayer request was not medical in nature or for better finances. No. The writer’s request is to have a good conscience desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.
I believe many people view prayer as a way to let God know the news of the day – the issues going on around – and asking Him to fix it. No wonder prayer is so boring for many people. When I communicate with family and friends, if all I do is say what I want and desire, it would be a pretty miserable conversation. Someone has a medical issue – we pray for healing. Someone has a relationship issue – we ask God to restore it. Someone has no work or money – we ask God to provide. And those things are good. But prayer is so much more than sharing our list of needs. Prayer is communicating with God and getting to know Him. God wants us to grow, develop and fellowship with Him. God wants to make us more like Him and encourage us. Prayer is getting to know the heart of God and how we may become more like Him. Here is what the writer of Hebrews desires. He wants to reflect the glory of God and have a clear conscience, able to say everything done brings praise to the Father.
When Peter and John were arrested, beaten and released in Acts 3-4, they prayed for courage. Jesus encouraged His disciples to pray they would not be influenced by Satan. Moses asked God to show him His glory. David sang praises, confessed sin and ask God to be his refuge. Jabez asked for God to use him to reach more people. Isaiah asked God to send him. Jeremiah wept over the sins of his nation remembering God’s faithfulness. I wonder what would change in me if I prayed like these people. Right now, even though I am needing God to move in the circumstances in my life and give me guidance – I need God to work in my life to help me trust Him, to live today with a good conscience, and to let His Spirit flow through me and not allow anything – bitterness, sin or pride get in the way of what He wants to do. I need for God to help me love my wife like Christ love the church. I need for God to help me be the kind of Father that reflects His love and grace. I need God to give me words to say as I talk with others.
Dear God, I want to reflect Your glory today…help me to live in Your love, courage and fullness of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Now let’s go lived the transformed life because of our prayer life!