What Does God’s Word Mean to Me?

psalm 119 30

The question “What does God’s Word mean to me” is a very appropriate question to ask myself during this phase of my life.  I am currently less than a week away from taking on the North Hills Church of God in Springfield, Ohio.  The Ohio area does not offer a ton to me, as I do not have any family there and currently not too many friends, although I look forward to making new friends.  Before I talk more about this, let me rewind a couple of years prior to my freshman year of college.

Prior to college, I lived my entire life in Michigan.  Nearly my whole family lived within a 5 mile radius, I had a great church family, and I had my friends from my school.  I lived very comfortably in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area for 17 years.  I had everything that I wanted: a great family, a great church family, and friends.  There was no attraction to leave the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.  However, I felt called to go to the Atlanta Bible College in McDonough, Georgia.  I had no family or friends really in the area, but I felt God calling me to go to the Atlanta Bible College.  Therefore, I packed up my stuff, and 800 miles later I found myself at the Bible college, far away from home.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Bible college, and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering going.  However, my time came to an end after three delightful years at the Bible college.  It was then time for me to decide what to do after I graduated.  I decided to intern with Andy Cisneros at the Guthrie Grove Church.  This decision was largely based on one, the leadership skills of Andy, and two, the connections I had in the Pelzer, South Carolina area.  Most of my friends outside of my family lived in the South Carolina area, so it made great sense for me to move there.  Also, my then fiancée’s, now wife’s, family lived in the area.  Overall, the area had much to offer me.  The Guthrie Grove Church served me so well, and I again thoroughly enjoyed my time.  Life was great in South Carolina, and I could have very easily and enjoyably stayed in the area and worked with Andy for many years.  However, I felt God calling me to go to the North Hills Church, so I ended my work with Andy at Guthrie Grove.

Twice I moved on from a place that I so much would have enjoyed calling home, and both times were extremely hard.  It was very difficult for me to leave my home in Michigan where I had everything I wanted and go on to a place where I had no connections.  It was also extremely difficult to leave South Carolina.  There were many tears shed in leaving these two areas, and I so badly wanted to stay put.

So here I am today, twice removed from places where I could have very easily laid down my roots and about to head to a place where I have close to no connections.  This is not an easy decision to make, and it is a decision my wife, Jamie, and I have to ponder.  It is a decision that at times brings us to tears, as it is so difficult to leave those whom you love.  Therefore, we ask ourselves, why are we choosing to move away from our loved ones?  The answer is plain and simple.  It is because of what God’s Word means to us.

Jamie and I are making the decision to move on from an area where we had so much to an area where we have close to nothing because of what God’s Word means to us.  God is the reason for this move.  We feel God calling us to move to Ohio and serve the North Hills Church, which we are both excited about.  We have to remain obedient to God’s calling, and we remain obedient because of how much His Word means to us.

God is calling each and every one of you to do great works.  God has a specific plan and purpose for you to fulfill, which is quite awesome to think that the Almighty Creator has a specific plan and purpose for YOU!  We have two choices when we realize God’s calling for our life.  We can either accept his calling or deny it.  It would have been so easy to deny God’s calling for my life because I had everything I wanted in Michigan and South Carolina.  However, the meaning that God’s Word has on my life was all the encouragement that I needed to accept his calling. It is my hope and prayer that everyone who reads this will seek out God’s calling for them and accept God’s calling because of how much God’s Word means to them.  Therefore, when God calls you to do something out of the ordinary like moving away from your family, being a missionary, adopting a child, leading a church, or whatever it may be, I hope you remain faithful to his calling, that whisper inside, because of how much his word means to you.

-Kyle McClain

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Full Assurance of Hope

Hebrews Chapter Six

Hebrews 6_19

Chapter six picks up where chapter five leaves off about elementary vs. mature doctrines.  As we talked about yesterday, the doctrine of Christ is supposed to be an elementary doctrine to go along with repentance, faith, washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  Some of these the Church of God is better trained than others.  However, the author of Hebrews viewed these all as elementary.  I am going to assume that most of you who are disciplined enough to do devotions every day are ready to go on to the more mature doctrines.

Speaking of more mature doctrines and teachings, verses four through six are quite interesting.  It states that “it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them to repentance.”  What this seems to be saying is that it is impossible to be saved, then fall away, and then be saved again.  I’m not sure exactly what I think about this, and I won’t pretend to have all the answers.  However, it is interesting nonetheless and could be looked at by all.

On Sunday when we introduced the book of Hebrews, I mentioned that one of the main purposes of Hebrews was to encourage the Jewish Christians.  These Jewish Christians were going through some tough times, and they presumably doubted their faith at times.  The rest of chapter six serves as encouragement for them and to reassure them.  Verse eleven encourages them “to have the full assurance of hope until the end.”  We aren’t to be pretty sure of what is to come in the age to come, but we are to have a FULL assurance of hope.  We are to be confident in the faith that we have.  It’s through this bold and confident faith that we can be imitators of those who inherit the promise of the Kingdom.  We can be sure of the promises set before us because “it is impossible for God to lie,” (Heb 6:18).  We can be encouraged by this.  God has promised us the Kingdom, and he is a promise keeper.  We just have to accept the free gift.

There has been a lot of content in the first six chapters of Hebrews. The author of Hebrews has provided a lot of reason for the Jewish Christians to be encouraged.  They, along with us, can be sure of the hope that we have.  God has promised us many great things, and he is a faithful God.  We have been granted a free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  There has been a lot of talk on Jesus in the first six chapters.  We have seen Jesus being glorified repeatedly in the first six chapters.  He is our high priest.  Many times Church of God people can fail to give Jesus the credit that he deserves because they are too worried with trying to distinguish him from God.  Jesus is deserving of glory, and when he is glorified, God is glorified in him.  With that said though, many people in the Christian world give Jesus too much glory by making him equal with God.  Although Hebrews does a great job of giving Jesus the credit he is due, the author also does a great job distinguishing between God and Jesus.  There is a happy balance between giving Jesus glory and distinguishing him from God.  Overall I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed reading through the first six chapters of Hebrews.  It doesn’t slow down at all in the last half of the book.  I strongly encourage you to continue along with the reading of the devotions, as Sarah Blanchard will do a wonderful job dissecting the second half of the book.  I hope you all had a great week!

In Christian love,

Kyle McClain

 

Kingdom Ticket – Paid

Will You Accept the Gift?

Hebrews 5_8,9

Hebrews Chapter Five

Hebrews chapter seven is known for being the chapter about Jesus being our high priest.  However, that theme is found in previous chapters, including chapter five.  Jesus being our high priest is one of the main themes of Hebrews.  God appointed Jesus to be our high priest.  Verse one shows us that the purpose of a high priest is “to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin.”  Jesus being our high priest acts on our behalf in relation to God.  He is our mediator between us and God.  Jesus being our high priest also offers a sacrifice for our sins.  A normal high priest like Aaron needs to offer sacrifices for his own sins and the sins of others.  However, Jesus had no need to offer a sacrifice for himself because he was sinless.  Rather, he offered himself up to be our permanent sacrifice for sins.  That is a sign of a high priest who loves us dearly.

One would think that since Jesus was perfect that he would not suffer.  However, Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered,” (Heb 5:8).  Jesus truly did suffer when he was here on this earth.  Two examples that come to my mind are when Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died and when Jesus sweat tears of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was crucified.  It’s through experiences like this that Jesus learned obedience.  It’s through experiences like this that we too can learn obedience.  It’s often through the most difficult times in life that people draw closer to God.  Job is a great example of this, as he lost nearly everything he had in one day.  However, he responded by worshipping and praising God.  He was brought closer to God and learned obedience through his suffering.

In verse nine, we see that “being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”  Jesus truly was made perfect, and he was sinless.  He was the last person in the world who should have had to suffer on the cross.  However, because of his and our Heavenly Father’s great love, he did die and suffer on the cross.  Through his suffering on the cross, he became the source of eternal salvation!  Jesus paid our way to go to the Kingdom!  All we have to do is accept the free gift of God of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Unfortunately, not everyone is going to accept that free gift.  Verse nine states that Jesus is “the source of eternal salvation to all WHO OBEY HIM.”  To accept the free gift of eternal life, we must obey Jesus.  We accept the gift through obedience and faith.  Similar to what we talked about yesterday, don’t belittle the consequences and meaning of sin because eternal salvation is granted to those who obey Jesus, not those who disobey.

Similar to the chapter break between chapters three and four, the chapter break between chapters five and six is an awkward break.  At the conclusion of chapter five, the author of Hebrews is talking about the difference between elementary and mature doctrines, and he continues the talk in chapter six.  The author compares the elementary and mature doctrines to milk and solid food.  A baby needs milk, and adults eat meat.  New Christians focus on the elementary doctrines, whereas the mature Christians should focus on the more mature doctrines.  Since it’s a weird chapter break, I also want to sneak peek to verse one as well.  Hebrews 6:1 states, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.”  Throughout the first six chapters of Hebrews we have seen some good proof to suggest that the Trinity may be false.  This is good proof as well.  Many people who claim they believe in the Trinity cannot even explain the Trinity themselves because it is so confusing and complex.  They have to use extra biblical illustrations to describe the Trinity.  The Trinity is anything but an elementary doctrine.  It is one of, if not the most, complicated doctrines out there.  However, the author of Hebrews states that the doctrine of Christ is supposed to be elementary.  Jesus being the Son of God does sound like an elementary doctrine to me, not the Trinity.  This is just some food for thought (pun intended).

I hope you have a great day!

In Christian love,

Kyle McClain

Hold Firmly

Hebrews Chapter Four

Hebrews 4_14

There is a belief in the Christian world that some hold to called “once saved, always saved.”  Basically this means that if you come to a saving relationship with God and Christ, then you can never lose your ticket to eternal salvation.  This can be a dangerous perspective because it enables Christians to become complacent with where they are at if they believe they can never lose their salvation.  Worse yet, it can lead people to a life of sin and destruction if they do not take seriously the consequences of sin.  Verse six of Hebrews chapter four discusses this doctrine of once saved, always saved a bit by stating, “Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience.”  The author is stating that some who receive the good news/gospel fail to enter rest because of their disobedience.  They initially accepted the promises of the gospel, but they failed to enter because of their disobedience.  In other words, they were once considered saved when they accepted and received the gospel, but they lost it when they disobeyed.  This verse suggests that maybe the doctrine of once saved, always saved is not founded in the Bible.

This should provide a wakeup call for us!  We need to take the sin in our lives very seriously.  We are to be sanctified and set apart from this world, so let’s act like it!  Let’s not become complacent and degrade the consequences of sin.  God hates sin.  The hardening of our hearts can lead us to sin, and again the author warns us of hardening our hearts in verse seven.  We should take this warning seriously since the author has repeated it three times in chapters three and four.

The concept of rest is repeated a lot in this chapter.  What exactly is the author referring to when he is talking about rest?  Let’s take a look at what this rest is described as in chapters three and four:

  1. Israelites unable to enter God’s rest because of their disobedience and unbelief (3:18-19)
  2. The promises of entering God’s rest still stand (4:1)
  3. We who believe enter the rest (4:3)
  4. God swore that some will not enter his rest (4:3,5)
  5. God rested on the seventh day (4:4)
  6. Remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (4:9)
  7. Whoever enters God’s rest also rests from his works (4:10)
  8. Strive to enter the rest (4:11)

Here’s what I get from all of this.  God offered the Israelites during the exodus a chance to rest, but they were not able to enter God’s rest because they were disobedient.  The author then compares the rest that was offered to the Israelites to the coming Kingdom.  I come to this conclusion because the promises of entering God’s rest still stand.  There is still a chance to enter God’s rest.  However, not everyone will attain that rest, only the people of God.  In fact God swore that not everyone will enter his rest.  If we are disobedient and unbelieving, then we will not enter God’s rest.  However, if we are a people after God’s own heart, then we surely will enter God’s beloved rest in the coming Kingdom.  Hallelujah! Praise God! Amen!  Therefore, continue to strive toward the Kingdom and bring as many people with you as possible because one day you will enter God’s rest in the Kingdom.

Chapter four ends with talk of Jesus being the great high priest.  We truly do have a great high priest in Jesus.  One of the awesome things about Jesus being our high priest is that he is able to sympathize with us.  Jesus was tempted just like we are, but fortunately he did not sin.  He knows what we go through when we are faced with trials and temptations.  He is no stranger to struggle and suffering.  We can seek refuge in our high priest when we face these temptations because he is able to sympathize with us and plead our case to our Heavenly Father, YHWH.  Jesus being tempted is also more great proof against the trinity.  James 1:13 states, “God cannot be tempted with evil.”  If Jesus were God as well, then James and the author of Hebrews would be contradicting one another.  It cannot be possible for the word of God to contradict itself.  Jesus can’t be tempted, and never have been tempted at the same time.  It doesn’t work that way.  It logically does not make sense.  Jesus was indeed tempted like us, and being our high priest, he is able to sympathize and help us.

To close out today’s devotion, I want to point out Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  I hope you have gotten benefit from reading these posts.  However, if you don’t get anything else, I want you to know and fully understand that the word of God is living and active.  We are beyond blessed to have the Bible today.  If it weren’t for God’s supervision, there would be no stinking way that we should have it because of the numerous attempts to rid the world of the Bible.  The Bible has only flourished though.  It is truly a divine miracle that we all have access to a Bible, God’s word.  I want to encourage you to keep up the awesome work in delving into God’s word through these devotions.  You are truly doing a great deed.  Keep up the awesome work, and truly believe in your heart that these words are living and active.

-Kyle McClain

HARD Hearts

Hebrews Chapter Three

Hebrews 3_15

Similar to chapter one, chapter three starts with Jesus being compared to someone else.  In chapter one, we saw Jesus being compared to both the angels and prophets.  The author raised Jesus above the angels and prophets.  In chapter three, the author compares Jesus to Moses.  Moses, above anyone else, was absolutely adored by the Jews.  He was the one, under God’s provision and guidance, who led Israel out of Egypt and delivered the law to them.  Moses is a central piece of the Old Testament.  The comparison between Moses and Jesus would have helped the Jewish Christians gain or keep their affection for Jesus.  Not only is Jesus compared to Moses, their hero, but Jesus’s given more glory than Moses by the author.

In verses three through six, we see a beautiful illustration by the author about a house.  There are four parts to this illustration: God built the house, Moses is the servant for the house, Jesus is the ruler of the house, and we are the house.  This illustration helps show how Jesus is counted more worthy than Moses.  We are God’s beloved creation.  Moses served the Israelites when he led them out of slavery and delivered the law to them.  He was a phenomenal help to them.  Christ is also a great help to us, but not only that, he is the ruler of us.

Verses seven and eight read, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.’”  First thing I want to point out is that the Holy Spirit is talking.  In verses nine through eleven, the Holy Spirit talks in first person as well using pronouns me, my, and I.  It is interesting to see that the Holy Spirit is talking here and talks in the first person.  It is something to mull over.  What I want to highlight though is the focus to not harden your heart.  This is repeated in verse fifteen.  The author must be trying to make a strong point that we are to not harden our hearts.  The Israelites who Moses led out of Egypt hardened their hearts, and they rebelled against God when God continually provided for them.  It was because of their hardened hearts that they did not obey God, and they had unbelief.  This caused their generation to not enter the rest in the Promised Land.  The author of Hebrews is urging us to learn from the Israelites, as they hardened their hearts.  If we harden our hearts, then we too will not be able to enter God’s rest.

The chapter ends at an awkward break, as the talk about rest continues into chapter four.  Personally I don’t understand the purpose of the chapter break between chapters three and four.  It’s important to note that the chapter and verse breaks were not included in the original writing.  Therefore, the author of Hebrews did not intend for people to stop reading at this section.  Therefore, you should stick around for tomorrow, as we continue the talk on God’s rest.

Have a great day!

Sincerely,

Kyle McClain

A Powerful and Caring Savior

Hebrews Chapter Two

death was arrested

Let’s jump right into chapter two of Hebrews.  I want to start off in verse four.  Verse four states that “while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”  God can witness to us in a number of ways.  God is constantly working in and around us.  He is constantly witnessing to the world that he is LORD of all.  We have to keep our eyes and ears open to what God is doing both in and around our lives.

To continue, we again see the theme of Jesus being glorified.  God has placed “everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control.”  That is some high praise.  God has placed everything in subjection to Jesus.  With the Church of God being so strong on the oneness of God, sometimes we may fail to give Jesus enough credit in trying to distinguish him from God.  Hebrews is full of great passages that glorify Jesus.  What is important to note is that when Jesus is glorified, God is glorified in him.  We see this in John 13:31, as it states, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”  On the other hand, Jesus wasn’t always glorified.  Verses 7 and 9 state that Jesus was made lower than the angels.  This is great proof that Jesus is not coequal with God or God himself.  Although Jesus gets a lot of high praise in the book of Hebrews, it is still evident that he is not equal with God.

If we jump ahead to verse fourteen, we see that through Jesus’ death on the cross “he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”  This reminds me of the song Death was Arrested.  The final verse of Death was Arrested reads as followed:

Our Savior displayed on a criminal’s cross

Darkness rejoiced as though heaven had lost

But then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand

That’s when death was arrested and my life began

Now you can think of this verse every time you sing this verse in Death was Arrested.  It’s beautiful how the death of our Lord and Savior ends up being the sign of victory through his resurrection.  One could not write that any better than what took place about 2,000 years ago.

We have been talking (well I have been talking) a lot about how Hebrews glorifies Jesus.  It is awesome to hear of these great things about Jesus, and also hear things such as “he helps the offspring of Abraham,” (Heb 2:16), and “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted,” (Heb 2:18).  The same Jesus that is ascribed to have so much power and authority in Hebrews, is also described as helping us out!  We have a Lord and Savior who is powerful and caring at the same time.  He helps us out, as Galatians 3:29 points out that we being Christians are Abraham’s offspring.  Let this encourage you as you go along the rest of your days.

Sincerely,

Kyle McClain

 

At the Majesty’s Right Hand

Hebrews 1 3

Hebrews Chapter One

Hello all! Today we will be covering the first chapter of Hebrews.  For those of you who suffer from short-term memory loss or haven’t read the post yesterday, one of the main purposes of Hebrews was to reassure the Jewish Christians that Jesus is necessary.  We see this purpose played out in chapter one, as the author describes the importance and glory of Jesus in chapter one.

To start off the book and chapter, the author compares Jesus to the prophets of the Old Testament.  The Jews loved and adored the prophets of the Old Testament, and they viewed their words very sacredly.  Therefore, it makes total sense that the author would begin by comparing Jesus to the same prophets that the Jews love.  Not only does he compare Jesus to the prophets, but he raises Jesus above the prophets by saying he was “appointed the heir of all things.”  The prophets are crucial to both us and the Jews, but Jesus is even more important.  Jesus is described as being the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”  That’s some pretty high praise.  This should begin to reassure the Jewish Christians of the importance and necessity of Jesus Christ.

The author doesn’t only compare and raise Jesus above the prophets, but he does it to the angels as well.  In verse 5, the author rhetorically asks “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’?”  The answer to that question is none of them.  No angel is God’s son.  This verse is detrimental to the Jehovah’s Witnesses because they hold the belief that Jesus is the archangel Michael.  We know though that Jesus is the Son of God.  Therefore, sorry Jehovah’s Witnesses, but no angel, including the archangel Michael, is God’s son.

We continue along in the chapter, and verse eight reads, “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”  Hold up.  Wait a minute.  Put a little SAY WHAT?!  The Church of God is so strong on the doctrine that God is one, and Jesus is the Son of God, not God the Son.  Do we have it wrong though?  Upon first look, it appears Jesus is God.  Let’s take a deeper look at this then.

First off first, this is quoted from Psalm 45.  Psalm 45 is about a king, not God.  This isn’t trying to dictate any sign of deity, rather a sign of authority.  For surely the Psalm writer of Psalm 45 wasn’t trying to give the king any form of deity.  Furthermore, verse nine states, “therefore God, your God, has anointed you.”  First, God doesn’t need anointed.  If Jesus were God, then he wouldn’t need to be anointed.  Second, the king in Psalm 45 that has the word “God” ascribed to him has a God.  God can’t have a God.  There is no higher being than God.  Jesus can’t be God and have a God.  Therefore, we can read verses eight and nine, as attributing authority to Jesus, not Jesus actually being God.

Another tidbit to point out, the ESV uses the phrase, “But of the Son he says,” in verse eight.  However, a more accurate interpretation of the Greek reads, “with respect to the Son.”  This is important in verses 10-12, as those verses aren’t talking about Jesus.  It is in respect to the Son, Jesus.  Verses 10-12 talk about the magnificence of YHWH.  The author of Hebrews does this because in verse thirteen, he quotes Psalm 110:1 (the most quoted Old Testament scripture in the New Testament).  By glorifying God in verses 10-12, the author is also glorifying Jesus because Jesus has the sole privilege of sitting at God’s right hand.  Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Creator of the heavens and the earth!  That’s a huge privilege to have, and that privilege is held by Jesus and Jesus alone.

The final verse of Hebrews chapter one is quite possibly my favorite.  It reads, “Are they (the angels) not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”  The angels are sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.  Uh, hello!  That’s us!  We are the ones who are to inherit salvation.  The angels are sent out to minister to you!  Isn’t that awesome?!

The author of Hebrews reassured the Jewish Christians of the importance of Jesus.  The author also encouraged them by stating the angels are sent to minister to them!  Again, I hope this passage can impact you in the same manner that it would have for the Jewish Christians, “for the word of God is living and active,” (Just a teaser for Thursday’s reading).

I hope you all had a grand Sunday and have a great Monday!

In Christian love,

Kyle McClain

Fun fact of the day: the first four verses of Hebrews is one long sentence in Greek.  Wow!