To Encourage Your Faith

Introduction to Hebrews

Hebrews 1 5b

This next week I, Kyle McClain, will be accompanying  you in reading the first six chapters of Hebrews, and the beloved Sarah Blanchard will close out the book of Hebrews the following week.  I am currently attending the Atlanta Bible College, and I will be graduating with my bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry this semester.  I hope you enjoy this week’s study of Hebrews, and I hope it positively impacts your life.

The book of Hebrews is found in the non-Pauline epistles section (Hebrews-Jude).  Many consider the book of Hebrews to be an epistle/letter.  However, it lacks all the normal marks of a New Testament letter.  If you look at the other letters/epistles from the New Testament, they identify the author and recipients, contain a formal greeting, and offer a prayer or thanksgiving.  However, Hebrews does not include any of these.  It could better be termed as an exhortation or sermon than a letter.  You can perceive Hebrews as one big sermon series; the chapters all flow together as one.  It is a stream of consciousness; it’s one flowing word of encouragement.

There are many discussions and debates as to who the author of Hebrews is.  There’s a plethora of different theories of who it could be: Paul, Apollos, Priscilla, a random follower of Paul, etc., and there’s a reason for that.  It’s because there is no clear indication in the book or church history as to who the author of Hebrews is.  It is ok not to know who wrote the book of Hebrews.  What’s important is that whatever was written was inspired by YHWH.  With that said, we do know that the author was Jewish, very well schooled in the Old Testament and Jewish philosophy, and knew Timothy.  There also seems to be a specific audience that the author wrote this for.  The audience is a group of wavering Jewish Christians.  These Jewish Christians were not confident in their faith and at times doubted the need for Christ.

Now let’s take a minute and step in the shoes of these Jewish Christians.  Ever since the time of Abraham, the Jews were looking forward for their Messiah.  For 2,000 years many came and professed to be the Messiah, but they all died and their followers soon died thereafter.  Then after 2,000 years of waiting another man by the name of “Jesus” claims to be the Messiah.  His story was different, as we all know, from the other false messiahs.  Hindsight, it is very clear to us that Jesus is the Messiah.  However, it was a very hotly debated topic back then as to if Jesus was the true Messiah.  It was not a popular belief among the Jewish population to believe Jesus was the true Messiah.  However, those Jews who did were scrutinized from their Jewish families, friends, and community.  All the people that these Jewish Christians knew, loved, and cared for despised and judged them.  Their lives were turned upside down.

It’s easy to point our fingers at these Jewish Christians and discredit them for their lack of faith in Jesus at times, but they were truly going through a lot.  The writer of Hebrews had a select group of Jewish Christians in mind who were wavering, and the author wrote Hebrews to encourage them and reassure them of the need for Jesus.  I hope that as we go along through the book of Hebrews that you too may be encouraged and reassured of the need for Jesus.

In Christian Love,

Kyle McClain

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Imitate What is Good

3 John

3 John 11a

Some people have virtually the same accent their entire lives, simply based on where they grew up. Others, like me, pick up accents faster than they can say the word “time.”

Right now, I am living in the South with people from Georgia, Indiana, Canada, Michigan, New York, and Ohio – to name a few. Needless to say, my accent gets confused a lot. The moment when I say time, house, and you guys in one sentence and it comes out in a Southern, Canadian, Michigander accent you know that it can be a little much sometimes.

The same goes for us as individuals. Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Like my crazy conglomerate of accents, we all are influenced by the people we spend the most time with.

Have you ever noticed how you start talking like the people around you? How you pick up their behaviors? How you start saying those little phrases? You are imitating the people you spend time with – without even noticing you are doing so! This can be a great thing or a terrible thing.

If you hang out with people who always are making poor decisions, chances are you’ll eventually join in. On the other hand, if you hang out with people who are following God to the best of their abilities, chances are you will start changing as well.

Be purposeful in imitating what is good and in avoiding evil things.

Spend the most time with the people you want to be like, and imitate what is good.

– Madison Cisler

Walk in Love

2 John

pb marriage

“And wuv, twue wuv, will fowwow you foweva… “ – The Princess Bride (Shout out to my fellow Princess Bride fans!)

 

Wouldn’t it be great if true love would just follow us forever, like the impressive clergyman said in The Princess Bride? I mean, love would be so pure and effortless. That’d be wonderful!

 

Relationships are a lot of work. It does not matter if it’s between you and a friend, a significant other, a parent, a sibling, or even someone you may not be too fond of. These relationships can feel like sunshine and roses. But in every relationship, there will be some conflicts that rise, fights that break out, and anger that ensues.

 

It happens.

 

When those moments occur, we need to be prepared. Love is a decision and a commitment. We need to decide to walk in love, rather than expecting love to follow us. Because most of the time, love won’t.

 

Let me explain.

 

Some say that love is just a passing emotion. Love is weak. Love is a cop out for conflict resolutions. Love is just a feeling that should be stuffed deep inside. Love is only for your significant other. Love cannot be given to people who hate you.

 

Those beliefs could not be more incorrect. Because, if you don’t walk in love, you walk out of love, out of relationships, and out of God’s plan for your life. That is a dangerous path to walk, my friends.


So walk in love. Make the commitment to love intentionally. Yes, relationships will be frustrating, and sometimes you will want to just throw some punches – physically and/or emotionally. Although it is hard work, walking in love is God’s command.

 

That’s easier said than done. Because to walk in love you must do the following things (and more!):

 

Forgive those who harm you. Encourage. Apologize. Express gratitude. Smile. Be Patient. Serve. Have compassion. Listen.

 

Walking in love is not just a feeling; it’s a decision, an action, and a major commitment. Are you up to the challenge?

 

– Madison Cisler

2 John 6a

Genuine Prayer

1 John 5

1 John 5_15

 

Hello, my friends!

Isn’t it strange to think this greeting that was written at 8:30am on the 31st of January got to you sometime today – or even later?

That is how communication works between people sometimes: it takes time, it’s not immediate, but it’s likely to reach you eventually. Some people won’t even receive my special salutation, because they did not read the devotion today. And that’s ok.

In fact, if I yelled as loud as I could right now, you will still not be able to hear me.

HELLO, MY FRIENDS!!

Did you hear me? No? Shocking. You’re human, therefore you could not. Let me try something else…

Hi, God.

Guess what? He heard me. You know what is even better? He can hear you too. Our prayers don’t take time to reach Him. They are delivered immediately, and they will never be lost in the mail. God hears you.

Therefore, when you pray, pray genuinely.  Don’t hold back. You can trust that God is listening. God loves you so dearly that He wants you to pour out your heart to Him. He wants to hear all about your day, the ups and downs, concerns, visions, everything. Lay it all at His feet, because He can take it. To top it all off, He never gets tired of listening.

To be honest, sometimes it feels like God can’t hear our prayers. Sometimes it feels like God isn’t present in our lives. Sometimes it feels like God won’t care about us, let alone what our deepest desires are. But those are just feelings. God does hear. He is present. And He certainly cares.

Therefore, pray genuinely – even when if feels like God can’t hear you, even when life is perfect, and even when everything seems to be falling apart. People may not always be there for you, and they certainly won’t always hear you. But God will always hear your prayers. So pray like you mean it.

– Madison Cisler

Godly Listening

1 John 4

Can YouHearHimNow_

I listen to the radio when I drive. I have three stations that I rotate between, depending on when there are commercials. In an attempt to avoid commercials, I flip between those stations in search of music. If there is music on one of those stations, I’ll listen to it instead.

 

Some of you may gravitate towards talk show hosts or only listen to news and traffic alerts on the radio. You may skip the radio altogether and instead plug your phone in for a completely customized driving playlist. Perhaps, you listen to your GPS, because it tells you where to go.  

 

Needless to say, we all choose what we listen to in the car. In fact, I can make that sentence even simpler:

 

We all choose what we listen to.

 

You see, we have a choice to make.

 

You can choose to listen to the world – to it’s lies and it’s deceptions. Or, you can choose to listen to God – to His truths.

 

1 John 4:4-6 says, “You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore, what they say is from the world and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.”

 

You have a choice to make. Will you listen to the words of men or the words of God? The choice is yours.

 

– Madison Cisler

Children of God

1 John 3

1 John 3_1

I have been told I am a lot like my dad. We have the same sense of humor; we both have blue eyes; we have the same voice inflections. We have a deep compassion; we both are extremely persistent; we both don’t get embarrassed.

Sometimes when people are talking to me they will give me a weird look and say, “You sound just like your father.” I take that as one of the highest compliments, because my dad is my hero.

Some of you can fully relate to what I just said; some of you, not so much. Some of you have a difficult and complicated relationship with your dad – or even a nonexistent relationship. One that is not your fault. One that is full of hurt and heartache. If that is you, I am so so sorry.

The thing is, we all have an even greater Dad than the one we have on this earth. For some, it’s seems hard to believe anyone could come close to being that awesome. For others, it might seem impossible to have a dad who actually cares.

Take a look at verse 2:

“Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be like has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.” (HCSB)

If you’re like me the first time you read that, you think to yourself, “Aww, how cute. We believers are just one big, happy family. What great warm fuzzies on the inside.”

But then it hit me. We are going to be like God.

Let that sink in.

We are God’s children. We will be like Him.

Woah.

God loves us so much that He wants us to be a part of His family despite our sin, our brokenness, our bad days, our deepest and darkest secrets. He wants us to be a part of His family even when we don’t want that for ourselves, even when we run away, even when we don’t trust, even when we don’t deserve it. God loves us so much that He wants us to be made perfect and be like Him.

It doesn’t matter if you are fourteen years old or forty. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter what your past looks like, but only your future.

Because God loves you. So live like it. Live so then people notice that there is something different about you. Live like you’re a child of God.

– Madison Cisler

Love God First

1 John 2

1 John 2 15

I love cats, ice cream, and succulents. I love big, comfy sweatshirts and the smell of old books. I love a lot of things.

You’re probably thinking, “Ok, that’s nice I guess… But what do old books and weird plants have to do with anything?”

We all have things that we love. Maybe you love coffee, sports, or your phone. Fill in the blank! Loving those things is not a bad thing. In fact, many of those things can be extremely helpful in our day to day lives – until they become worldly distractions and priorities.

When repotting my succulent becomes higher on my priority list than homework, there’s a problem. When I am engulfed in a book and lose sleep to read “one more chapter,” there’s a problem. When I eat massive amounts of ice cream every day, there’s a problem.

God should be the priority – not your facebook status, not repotting your succulent, not watching a football game. Those things are nice, and it’s great that you like them, but we find that when they are higher on our list of priorities than God, there is a MAJOR issue.

I mean, God can give us immortality. He, through Jesus, forgave us despite all of our imperfections, shortcomings, and sins. He loves us, and we, as Christians, love Him. But then we go and kill two days of our life on the couch binge watching a season on Netflix instead of using that time to pray, read the Bible, or glorify Him in general.

Catch my drift?

We need to strive to make God a priority in our lives and to love Him first. Because our stuff will break, get old, wear out, be replaced – but God will never break, get old, wear out, or be replaced. When we put God as our number one priority, everything else falls into place. So love Him first.

– Madison Cisler

1 John 2 17