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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Growing Pains

Romans 12

emoyer-growing pains

The Seaver Family became a familiar household name from 1985-1992.   This tight knit family had weekly story lines with the children in the family having common family situations, and even some more serious situations,  such as relationship issues, drinking, violence and gangs.  Each week the show began with the catchy B.J. Thomas tune, “As Long as We Got Each Other”.  The lyrics were:

 

Show me that smile again. (Show me that smile)

Don’t waste another minute on your cryin’.

We’re nowhere near the end (nowhere near)

The best is ready to begin.

 

As long as we got each other

We got the world spinnin right in our hands.

Baby, rain or shine, all the time

We got each other, sharin’ the laughter and love

We all may not have the perfect homes, the perfect bodies, the perfect grades, the perfect relationships, etc… The great thing we do have is a loving Father and so many people in our FUEL family that love us and care about us.  I just looked through the Facebook page for FUEL and there is so much joy and love in the faces of the friends gathered and united in Faith.  Romans 12 verses 9-11 encourage us to love and honor and be faithful in prayer.  Reach out to those friends and encourage them.  As long as we have each other, we can get past some of our daily challenges and rely on His love and understanding.  

-Emily Moyer

Facts of Life

Matthew 10

emoyer - facts of life

Ok, so I am going to age myself this week.  An old sitcom that was popular when I was young had a “catchy”/ jingle that would get stuck in my head every week when it was on.  The Facts of Life.  The chorus was:

You take the good, you take the bad,

You take them both and there you have

The facts of life, the facts of life.

 

There’s a time you got to go and show

You’re growin’ now you know about the facts of life,

The facts of life.

 

When the world never seems to be livin’ up to your dreams

And suddenly you’re finding out

The facts of life are all about you, you.

 

It takes a lot to get ’em right

When you’re learning the facts of life. (learning the facts of life)

Learning the facts of life (learning the facts of life)

Learning the facts of life.

 

If we we all think back and think about how we thought our lives would be, we would probably admit that things are nowhere near what we had dreamed if we are honest with ourselves.  In our reading today (Matthew 10) Jesus was speaking to his disciples and charging them to go out and share the gospel to the world.  He knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  The disciples had a long and challenging road ahead of them.  In fact, sharing the message and living for him would be one of the hardest things the disciples would ever do.  It was the disciples “Facts of Life” message from Jesus.  As we consider our relationship with Jesus, we might find times that make us angry, confused and end up with doubts and hurt.  What I take from these verses is the challenges may be great- and they are.  We may have teachers, family members, coworkers and friends that challenge, mock us or walk away from our lives. But the reward is greater.  

Let’s focus on what Jesus says in verses 21-23.  The Message Version says: “When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family.  There is a great irony here:  proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate!  But don’t quit.  Don’t cave in.  It is all well worth it in the end.  It is not success you are after in such times but survival.  Be survivors!  Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.”   

So don’t cave in! Don’t be discouraged.  As the song lyrics state:It takes a lot to get it right when you are learning the facts of life. The fact is Jesus loves you and desires your commitment, love, praise and life.  He wants you to face these challenges in life and the end result is the ultimate prize. It does take work and the road may not always be easy but he is there and his love and promise is worth it.

emoyer-ruff

-Emily Moyer

Connected

bred.png

As a soldier, you would never storm the enemy by yourself. You need a team standing beside you to support you, uplift you, and challenge you.  Spiritual battles are the same; you cannot stand alone. There is always safety in numbers, as the enemy hunts for those who are outcast. Connection, both to each other and to God, is the best defense against the enemy.

Yesterday’s devotion was about how the people of the early church were persecuted, yet stood in boldness. They were able to stand so boldly because they stood together. In Acts chapter 2, we are given an inside look into just how connected the Church was:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).

The early believers were an impenetrable front. They ate together, prayed together, performed miracles together, gave generously together, met in the temple together, and praised God together. The Church, being the people and not the building, is the Bride of Christ. If Jesus was so passionate about believers meeting together, I think we should be, too. The depth of this connection that we have with each other is ultimately dependent on the depth of our connection to God.

“The Kingdom of God is not going to be advanced by our churches becoming filled with men, but by men in our churches becoming filled with God.” –Duncan Campbell

Connection to our Creator is the first priority. Connection to God, like connection to the Church, doesn’t come without effort. Building a strong relationship takes time and an open line of communication, prayer. Your prayer life is the biggest factor of your connectedness with God, which then strengthens your connection to your fellow believers.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 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” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

~Mackenzie McClain

Paul’s Prayer: Strong Holy Hearts

TUESDAY

1 Thessalonians 3-13a

I Thessalonians 3

1Th. 3:1   Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, 3 so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor had been in vain.

 

1Th. 3:6   But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. 7 For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. 8 For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

 

1Th. 3:11   Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

 

I highlighted Paul’s prayer at the end of this chapter. In several of Paul’s letters, he offers a prayer in the middle. In these prayers, he often prays about the things which he is about to write. In this prayer, after praying that God will make it possible for him to return to Thessaloniki, he prays three things for the Thessalonians:

 

  1. May they increase and abound in love for one another,
  2. May God strengthen their hearts in holiness.
  3. May they be blameless before God at the coming of our Lord Jesus.

 

Paul gives practical teaching on these three things in chapter 4 and we will be looking at his teachings on holiness in the remainder of these devotions this week.

-Greg Demmitt

 

Not As a Human Word

MONDAY

1 Thessalonians 2-13

Please read 1Thessalonians 2. My perspective in writing these devotions is that you are reading the scriptures. Nothing I write can be as important to you as what God can say to you as you read his word.

 

1Th. 2:1   You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 3 For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; 6 nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, 7 though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

 

1Th. 2:9   You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. 11 As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, 12 urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

 

1Th. 2:13   We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last.

 

1Th. 2:17   As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 Yes, you are our glory and joy!

 

I highlighted verse 13. We can ask ourselves, “how do I receive the word of God?” Do we see it from a human perspective, or is God speaking to us.

 

Let me add one thing right now. It’s likely that most of the people in Thessaloniki heard the word rather than read it. Only about 10 percent of the people could read. That means this letter was written to be read out loud. It also suggests that we might understand it better if we study it as a speech rather than a work of literature. For example, if we focus on the written word, we might spend a lot of time digging into the meaning of each word. If we take a rhetorical approach, meaning understanding it as a speech, we focus more on the impact of the words. Those who study rhetoric think that this letter sounds like a half-time speech given to a football team that is winning but needs to be encouraged to play hard in the second half. Paul doesn’t write as if the Thessaloniki Christians are messing up, but rather as if they need to be encouraged to keep doing the things that they have already been doing well.

 

Again we ask, “Do you hear this word as the word of the Lord?” What does it look like when someone hears the word of the Lord?

 

-Greg Demmitt

Questioning God

Job 5-8

why Thursday, December 15

Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? This is a re-occurring question we find Job and his so-called friends exploring in this section of scripture. The re-occurring theme seems to center around man’s status in the world. Man’s powers don’t come close to God’s, but according to Genesis, we were made in His image. Does that give us a right to talk back to God? Job would shout a resounding yes, but sometimes the exchanges back and forth between the friends and Job would give the reader mixed signals.

 

Usually when someone makes rules, it isn’t in the rulebook to question those rules. Job doesn’t deny that the rules exist, but he’s often found challenging their application. So as Job doubts God we find him taking a big step philosophically for Israelite thought. He is seemingly doubting tradition and this is a big leap. Job keeps acknowledging his innocence in his lengthy monologues, but he cannot quite reconcile how God in His divine justice remains silent in his suffering.

 

While this excerpt of Job is not offering any answers, it does provide helpful guidelines for thinking through issues. All men and women eventually suffer. It is in our duty as we feel the pain to explore the sovereignty of God – and eventually relinquish control that we never had in the first place. All Christians will go through challenging situations, by studying the life of Job it can help one to draw strength and encouragement until relief comes.

 

Julie Driskill