Hope and the Faith of Abraham 

Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6 15

In Genesis God appeared to Abraham and made him a promise: “Through your seed shall all peoples of the earth be blessed,” (Genesis 22:17-18).

The immediate seed was Isaac, born of Abraham’s old age; but the ultimate Seed is Jesus. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that this promise is fulfilled, and all the peoples of the earth are blessed through Abraham.

This promise was later confirmed by an oath, God swearing by himself (because there was nothing greater to swear by) that he would fulfill what he had said. The writer is simply pointing out that Abraham had faith and believed God’s promise.

Why did he believe it? It was not because he immediately saw it fulfilled! There were twenty-five long, weary years before Isaac was born, and in the meantime, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were growing older and had passed the time of life when it was possible to have children. Through multiple opportunities to doubt, Abraham believed that God would do what he said he would do.

We have become too eager for immediate results. I’ve heard people say, “I’ve tried prayer/church but it doesn’t seem to work.” It seems to me that is putting it the wrong way. People who are looking for immediate results tend to drift when it doesn’t happen the way they want. But the one who sees no longer needs to believe. Faith is not found in sight. It is believing in what we cannot see.

Vs. 19 – This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

We are offered something to put our faith in, too. We have hope in the same blessings that were promised to Abraham. Jesus has gone before us and promised those who put their faith in him will be rewarded with salvation.

Let that hope anchor you through whatever life throws your way. Keep the faith even when things are difficult.

John Wincapaw

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We continue this intentionally slow journey through Psalm 37.  I use the word “intentionally” intentionally (see what I did there?)  Why intentionally slow?

            Maybe it is just my own personal preference.  Most of the time I’m more of a plodder.  I tell people “if you ever see me running, you should run too ‘cause something really bad must be about to happen and I’m trying to get away.”  When I walk with my wife I’m forever telling her to “slow down!” She has one speed and it’s always full throttle.  Someone sent me an article one time that said science has proven that people who walk faster usually live longer than people who walk slower.  If that’s the case my wife will be around for a long time.

            Walking fast may be better for your physical health, but when it comes to your spiritual health and reading the Bible, I find it pays to slow down.  Lectio Divina* forces you to slow down.  Think of it as a fancy, 5 course meal.  Don’t rush through it.  Take your time to slowly savor and enjoy each bite.

  1.  Read Psalm 37:30-34  slowly at least 3 times…

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
intent on putting them to death;
33 but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Hope in the Lord
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.

  1.  Meditate- choose a word or phrase that really speaks to you and spend some time ruminating on what it says and what it means.

As an example: As I was meditating on this portion of the Psalm, I saw it on one level as a prophetic picture of Jesus.  Instead of “the righteous” I insert “Jesus”.

      The mouth of Jesus utters wisdom.

      Jesus speaks with his tongue what is just.

      The law of God is in Jesus’ heart.

      Jesus’ feet do not slip.

      The wicked lie in wait for Jesus (think of the scribes and Pharisees, and Judas).

      The wicked are intent on putting Jesus to death.

But the LORD (YWHW) will not leave Jesus in the power of the wicked (Jesus was only temporarily in the grave under the control of the wicked.  God rolled away the stone and set him free to everlasting life.)

Or let Jesus be condemned when brought to trial (Remember, Pontius Pilate said “I find no guilt in this man.” Jesus had done nothing worthy of condemnation. His death was due to the sinful hearts of others, not his own guilt.)

Jesus hoped in the LORD and kept God’s way (without sin).

He will exalt Jesus (At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord)

To inherit the land (Jesus will rule as King over all the earth).

When the wicked are destroyed Jesus will see it (In the end, Jesus rules as King, the wicked come to their final judgment).

            As I continue to meditate on how Jesus fulfills every bit of this Psalm, I’m led to think about what Jesus calls me to be and to do.  Jesus says “follow me.”  Jesus says “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”  Jesus said to Peter “get behind me.”  I want to follow the path that Jesus laid out.  To be a follower or disciple (student) of Jesus means to hear his word and do what he says.  If I do that, then that which was prophetically spoken of Jesus here in Psalm 37 will also be true of me:

            “The mouth of Jeff utters wisdom”

            “Jeff speaks with his tongue what is just”

            “The Law of God is in Jeff’s heart.”

            “Jeff’s feet do not slip.”

            “The wicked lie in wait for Jeff and are intent on putting Jeff to death”

“The LORD will not leave Jeff in the power of the wicked or let Jeff be condemned when brought to trial”

“Jeff hopes in the Lord and keeps his way”

“God will exalt Jeff to inherit the land.”

“When the wicked are destroyed Jeff will see it.”

Now, it’s your turn.  Insert your name or personalize it…

The mouth of ________________ utters wisdom (or my mouth utters wisdom)

“_____________speaks with his tongue what is just”

 “The Law of God is in _______________’s heart.”

 “__________________’s  feet do not slip.”

“The wicked lie in wait for _________________ and are intent on putting _________ to death”

“The LORD will not leave _________________ in the power of the wicked or let __________ be condemned when brought to trial”

“__________ hopes in the Lord and keeps his way”

“God will exalt ____________ to inherit the land.”

“When the wicked are destroyed _________ will see it.”

See how reading slowly and savoring it opens up all kinds of new flavors?

What emerges for you as you meditate on this part of Psalm 37?

  1.  Pray- As you go through this reading, what does it stir up within you?  Thoughts? Questions?  Concerns?  Does it make you want to raise your hands and worship God?  Does it make you want to fall on your knees and confess your sin?  Does it drive you to go to Jesus and seek his mercy?  Does it make you want to follow Jesus more closely in your daily walk?  Bring those things to God in prayer.

  1.  Rest in God.  After you have brought these things to God in pray, simply enter into his rest.  Be present to God as God is present to you.

Now go follow in Jesus’ footsteps today.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.

How Was I Supposed to Know?

Romans 10 14b

Imagine that judgement day is here and you are standing before Jesus.  Imagine that you grew up outside of the church and nobody ever shared a Bible with you or even bothered to explain what was going to happen in the future.  Imagine Jesus telling you to go get in the line where they throw you into the fire because you did not accept Christ as your savior.  I suspect you would go kicking and screaming saying that wasn’t fair.  You would probably shout back at Jesus, “How was I supposed to know?”

In Mark 16:15, Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He said to go into ALL the world.  Like many of you, that is why I am passionate about missions.  That is also why I went with a team to Peru on a mission trip.  We have an extremely important message to tell others; in fact, lives depend on that message.

Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  And then verse 14 asks the obvious: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  That is so obvious that you don’t even need me to explain that to you.

But I like explaining things.  Let’s imagine that you know of someone that is locked in a room that is on fire and the only way they can get out is to unlock the door with a key.  The problem is that they don’t know where the key is, but let’s say that you know where the key is.  Would you take the time to call them and let them know where the key was so they wouldn’t die in the fire?  Or would you not really have the time or energy to make that call?  I am very confident that each person reading this devotion would take the time to call that person to tell them where the key was.  People respond with crazy amounts of urgency when there is a life to be saved in a fire.

So why don’t people respond with the same urgency when trying to save a life for eternity?  We have information that people need to hear to save their life.  We have the “key” that they need to save their life, and that key is Jesus.  If they don’t ever hear about Jesus, they are going to be sent to that line where they get thrown in the fire.  In my story and in the future in real life, you are going to die in the fire if you don’t have the “key”.  Someone needs to tell them about the key to life.

Don’t be the reason that someone says, “How was I supposed to know.”

Rick McClain

Jesus Says Go

Mark 16

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Jesus was nailed to a tree, he breathed his last, the curtain was torn.

The stone was rolled away, sin lost its stronghold, death was defeated.

This story holds so much power, whether it’s your first time hearing it or your ten thousandth time. Live everyday like you’ve just seen the stone rolled away from the tomb with your very own eyes. Let that excitement, awe, and wonder overflow from your heart.

We know the power of the empty tomb, so now what? When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he appoints them to a certain task: Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15).

Jesus said go, so the disciples went.

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it (Mark 16:20).

Jesus said go, so the disciples went, and God showedup.

God saw the disciple’s obedience as usability. When we go, we obey Jesus’ calling on our life, and God can work through us. Look at everything God accomplished through the disciples after Jesus’ ascension into heaven:

Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed (Acts 5:14-16).

Jesus said go, so will you obey? Will you let God work through you?

You don’t have to go far, but you do have to go. Go sit in your front yard and engage your neighbors walking by in conversation. Go to the grocery store and be extra friendly to your cashier. Go to church and mentor the newly saved Christian. Go to work and be eager to strike at every small opportunity to share the hope of the Kingdom.

You have a mission field. Your mailman, your coworker, and your next-door neighbor, need to hear the gospel. You have a message to share! If not you, then who?

 

-Mackenzie McClain

Fear Takes Over

Mark 14

Mark 14 50 NASB

Jesus told the disciples that they would all abandon him. It was bad enough that he knew the agony he would endure on the cross, but the emotional sorrow of the betrayal of his closest friends would be gut-wrenching. All of the disciples were saying they would never leave him, no matter what. Peter insisted, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” (14:31) Jesus told Peter that not only would Peter abandon him, but that very night he would also deny him three times.

Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks the disciples to keep watch and pray. They keep falling asleep. I imagine the impending situation has them exhausted from worry and dread. Jesus acknowledged that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (14:38)

When Judas comes to betray Jesus the tension is at an all-time high. The disciples want to fight, but Jesus stops them. Apparently, they  immediately realized they were overwhelmed and that’s when fear kicked in. They all ran. One was slow enough that he was seized, but that fear was coursing through his veins so strongly that he left his clothing and ran away naked. That was better than sharing the fate of Jesus. We might see this as utterly shameful. How could they? And how could Peter deny Christ three times especially after Jesus said he would? Did he not remember Jesus’ words after the second denial?

Fear is such a powerful thing. It can be crippling. Fear can shut our mouths, stop us from going and loving others, and keep us from fulfilling God’s will for our lives. More often I see that fear holds God’s people back, but it can also provoke us to act as we shouldn’t just as the disciples did. The naked man and Peter are a clear warning to us. Let’s not let fear have the power to encourage us to expose ourselves shamefully or deny Christ even. In I John 4:18 we are told “perfect love casts out fear.” Let’s pray for perfect love. When we feel fear creeping in, let’s pray for our love to be stronger than the fear.

-Melissa New

Be Alert

Mark 13

Mark 13 37

In Mark 13 we see Jesus telling his disciples that things are going to get bad. Before Jesus comes back there will be trouble politically, physically, and even spiritually. This isn’t what anyone wants to hear, but it is the truth.

Politically- verses 6-9

  1. Leaders will arise in his name saying “I am He” misleading many.
  2. We will hear of wars and rumors of wars. (Isn’t this already the case? My sister is in the navy and they are always preparing for a possible war. Right now the concern is Iran.)
  3. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. (We see this, too.)
  4. You will be delivered to the courts. (You may find yourself in trouble for standing up for God’s commands. These persecutions do happen already. Check out the Colorado baker. He was “delivered to the courts” for not wanting to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage couple and recently again persecuted because he didn’t want to bake a cake celebrating someone’s transition from male to female.)

 

Physically- verses 8-9 and 12 and 14-18

  1. There will be earthquakes and famines.
  2. There will be floggings and betrayal that could lead to death.
  3. Some will have to leave their homes to run and hide.

 

Spiritually- verses 22 and 33-37

  1. There will be false Christs and prophets trying to lead people astray.
  2. Some will be found asleep.

 

Jesus says in verse 23, “I have told you everything in advance.” We shouldn’t be surprised when we see things getting rough politically or physically. God will help us with this. If we find ourselves speaking in the courts, He will send the holy spirit to help us (verse 11). If we find ourselves physically dealing with tribulation, we can find assurance in the fact that God “shortened the days” of disaster (verse 20). Jesus puts extra emphasis on the spiritual trials though. Here it is our responsibility to “take heed” and “keep on the alert”. We can’t get lazy about our devotion to our Father. If we are alert and on guard, we shouldn’t be led astray. This is why Jesus warned his disciples and it’s a warning for us, too. We don’t know when Jesus is coming back. We do know that he is and that we will want him to find us alert and ready!

-Melissa New

The Greatest Commandments

Mark 12

Mark 12 29 30 NASB

A scribe goes to Jesus and asks what the foremost commandment is.  “Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31.

It’s easy. Know who God is, love Him with all your heart, and love others. Well, when it’s put like this, it seems easy anyway. It’s interesting to note that if we are loving God with all our hearts, then we are keeping the first five of the 10 commandments.  (Honoring our fathers and mothers is a way we honor God as well, because He put them in authority over us. Although you could say that this fifth commandment could go with the last five and loving others.) Likewise, if we are loving others, then we are keeping the last five of the 10 commandments.

How can we love others as ourselves? We can strive to think of others before we think of ourselves. If we can make our lives more about others and less about “me”, then we are on the right track. How do we love God with “all”? Well, we must love God with every part of who we are and outwardly it shows because of how we spend our time and money. At the end of this chapter Jesus points out the widow who gave very little, but gave “all she had”. That took a serious amount of faith. God is always pleased when we act out of faith in Him.

-Melissa New