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

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Who is the Son of God?

 

Luke 22

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Yesterday, in Luke 21 Jesus was warning the disciples (and those who would follow) of persecution while encouraging them to stand up under it.  And today, in Luke 22 Jesus himself is cast into a fierce storm of persecution.  He will now be showing – not just telling – the disciples, his contemporaries, and all those who would come after him how to stand up under persecution.

But first, a private dinner with his closest disciples to commemorate the Passover – when God saved his people from slavery by the blood of the lamb.  And very soon a new lamb would be sacrificed to save God’s people from slavery to sin.  Jesus tells his disciples that he will not eat the Passover meal, or drink of the cup again, until the Kingdom of God comes.  Communion services are a great reminder of this promise.  At the dinner, he uses the opportunity to remind them once again the secret to great leadership – be a servant.  Stop fighting over who is best…just serve.

I love how even though Jesus knew ahead of time that Peter would fail him, he had still prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail.  And even though Satan would have the opportunity to “sift all of you as wheat,”  Jesus saw a future for Peter in which Peter would be using those painful experiences to help strengthen his brothers.
And then, in the garden while Jesus is pouring his heart out in prayer – his disciples are sleeping.  I wonder how many times he would prod me and say, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  How much better would Peter – or I – stand Satan’s arrows if he – or I – were fully filled up with prayer rather than whatever feels good or most urgent at the moment?

Enter, Judas – and the chief priests and the guards and the great betrayal!  And even in the midst of the hurt and personal persecution – Jesus gives healing as he restores the servant’s ear.

Early the next morning, Jesus is brought before the chief priests and elders and is questioned about who he is. Is he the Messiah?

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

They didn’t expect the Son of God to have appeared as a baby in a manger.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to have a rag-tag group of followers in the countryside.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to be persecuted at their own hands.  Beware of what you expect from the Son of God.  Keep reading the gospels – and all of God’s Word to see who God really is, and who the Son of God is!

-Marcia Railton

 

 

God’s Greatest Gift: The Relatable Messiah

Luke 4

Luke 4 Picture

 

For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human… 1 Timothy 2:5

 

This week we have gotten a taste of God’s amazing grace in our lives. This can be best seen through his only begotten son, the Christ Jesus. Luke chapter 4 begins with Jesus being tempted by Satan while led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days (Luke 4:1). In Luke 4:13, it is made clear that Jesus does not succumb to these temptations. He then travels back to Galilee and begins his ministry.

 

In Luke chapter 1, we discussed how God could have chosen anyone to give birth to Jesus, yet he chose Mary. In a similar idea, God could have created anything to be our king, yet he chose a human. Isn’t that mind-boggling? God gave us a savior that we could actually relate to.

 

All of us have been tempted, and we know how consuming it is. There is so much power to me in being able to read Luke chapter 4 and know that our Messiah knows what it feels like to be tempted. It empowers me to never give up and to keep pushing forward. Jesus is able to be a powerful example and driving force for us because he is one of us!

 

So, as you read today, do not be afraid. Do not feel alone. God gave us a mediator that gives us access to his throne room that has felt the same feelings that you do! Wow, what a mighty God we serve. We are so blessed.

 

-Leslie Jones

 

 

 

Don’t give in to Temptation! – Prov. 5

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Hello, Everyone! I hope your week has gone well; can you believe it is Friday already?!

Today’s passage is Proverbs, chapter 5. This chapter is about one topic, and this topic is a piece of wisdom in itself. Again, thank you for joining us today, and I encourage you to go ahead a read this chapter on your own as well.

Proverbs 5, is full of warnings; warnings against disobeying, warnings about temptation, warnings about not realizing the good of what you have already been given.

The beginning of chapter five, tells us to listen and heed the wisdom being given. Verses 1-3 “My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.” This specific example speaks about giving in to adultery, however, it can be applied to any temptation we have. At any point in your life, someone might not have your best interest in mind, and they are only seeking to please themselves, and they might drag them down with you if you let them. This is later depicted in verses 11-14: “At the end of your life, you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, ‘How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors. And I was soon in serious trouble in the assembly of God’s people.” The person who gave in to their temptation later realize their mistake, and they regret that they did not listen to what many were trying to tell them.

The end of this chapter reads, “Why, my son be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman? For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all your paths. The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. For lack of discipline, they will die, led astray by their own great folly.” Proverbs 5:20-23

While these verses specifically talk about adultery, it can be applied to many other temptations in our lives. Why would we envy something someone else has when we have our own house, or our own life, our own family, our own job? God gives us what we need, and sometimes what we want, especially if both align with his will for us. Our God is an awesome God, who loves us so much, that he sent his only son to die for us, that we might live with him, forever. He knows our every need, he knows our every desire, and he likes to give gifts to those who are faithful.

We should not give in to temptations set in front of us because God can and does give us so much more. We should listen to the wisdom our elders, parents, friends, and peers give us because so often God has placed them in our lives to be a part of our journey.

Thank you for reading today, and I hope you have a great rest of your day and a great weekend. Don’t forget to memorize the verse this week, Proverbs 3:5-6. & Check in with us tomorrow for the last post this week.

~ Jana Swanson

Let’s Talk About Temptation

1 Corinthians 10-13

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Tuesday, June 20

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

 

Let’s talk about temptation. Everyone is tempted, and everyone has succumbed to temptation at some point in their life, and probably numerous times. I will be the first to admit that fact in my own life. The first thing Paul does is acknowledge the universality of temptation—temptation is ubiquitous. Temptation is a common experience for all humankind. Some people might think that they are experiencing a unique type or degree of temptation, but Paul overwrites that attitude by confirming that no one is alone in experiencing any form of temptation, for every possible sort of temptation has been shared by other individuals.

 

We all struggle with temptation, that is the common thread that unites the human race. But unlike individuals who do not trust in God, the experience of temptation for believers can be different. Those who believe in God are not in a position of helplessness.

 

Some people have told me about their experience facing temptation, “I couldn’t help it. It was too appealing. I got tired of resisting. I just couldn’t stop myself.” The idea that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent sin is calling God a LIAR.

 

Paul says, “God is faithful!” What is God faithful for? He is faithful to: 1) limit the power of the temptation in your life, and 2) provide strength to endure or a possibility to remove the temptation. These are two promises of God when it comes to facing temptation. Either they are true or God is a liar. The problem many people face is that they doubt God is able to actually help them overcome temptation. They feel like it is all a matter of the will to resist temptation, and when their will weakens (as everyone’s does at some point), they feel like they just couldn’t continue to stand against the temptation and decide to just give in.

 

Satan is constantly battling for our mind and to entice our flesh. Elsewhere, Paul describes this battle in terms of “the schemes of the devil” and the “flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:11, 16). To combat these threats, Paul encourages believers to equip themselves with the “armor of God” (Eph. 6:11-17) in order to stand firm against the devil and his tactics and influence. While Paul describes a set of defensive armaments to be prepared to engage in spiritual warfare with the devil in Ephesians 6, his point in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that of trust and reliance upon God to keep one’s foot from slipping and falling into sin.

 

It takes a resolved heart and mind to build the confidence that God will come through and be there in your time of need. Furthermore, there are two practices that can be of great help in overcoming temptation: 1) knowing Scripture (like verse 13) can turn the tables in the struggle against temptation, and 2) prayer.

 

If you are able to bring to mind what God has revealed about a particular temptation, it has the power to release the grip of the temptation to the point that you can endure it or eliminate the cause of the temptation altogether. That is the reason Paul calls Scripture the “sword of the spirit” (Eph. 6:17). It has the ability to defeat thoughts, attitudes, and desire that contend against the knowledge and will of God and to free a person from feeling like there is no other way out.

 

Secondly, prayer is always helpful and necessary when facing temptation. Temptations can come from our own desires or as a spiritual attack from the devil. Whichever it is, we can go to God in prayer asking for strength and wisdom to allow his will to prevail and to help us bring our body into subjection to what is godly and be led by the spirit away from the temptation. James writes in his letter, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (Jas. 1:5).

 

If you struggle with a certain temptation, ask God for wisdom, and he will give it to you. And remember that we all have temptations, and nothing is new that we might encounter. God has seen it all before, and he has helped people through it all before. He promises to help you too, if you will but trust him and look to him for deliverance from it.

 

God is faithful, but do we have the courage to let him prove it?

 

-Jerry Wierwille

 

(Photo Credit: https://biblia.com/bible/niv/1%20Corinthians%2010.13)

Working On The Weaknesses

Romans 11-13

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Friday June 16

 

When I was younger, I used to forget commitments that I had made and assignments that were due.  It was the worst feeling to fall short!  And then I would be tempted to lie to get out of the consequences of my lack of planning and that just added to my problems!  I also used to be messy and would spend lots of time looking for things.  Where did I put my keys?  I know they are somewhere!  Where is my favorite shirt?  Did I leave it under a pile of clothes?  Hours were lost just looking for things because I was not organized.  Have you ever experienced this?

 

Romans 13:10-14

10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.¶

11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.

12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

 

In verse 14, it says make no provision for the flesh.  At some point in my life, I recognized that I was forgetful and messy.  They were weaknesses of mine and I decided to do something about it.  I started writing myself notes, keeping a planner, and using the calendar on my phone to remind me of all my appointments and commitments.  I started to organize my things and find homes for all the various items in the house.  That way, I could put each item in its home and I would know where to find it when I needed it.  Making these changes had a huge impact on my daily life!  I took stock of my weaknesses and came up with a plan to strengthen those areas in my life and it worked!  Now, I rarely forget what I need to do and I spend way less time trying to find things!

 

I vividly remember a beaded butterfly necklace that I had and loved.  I cherished this necklace and wore it often.  My friend Rita also loved it and told me so.  I felt in my heart that I should give her the necklace but my flesh wanted to hold on tight to it.  It was mine and I didn’t want to give it away! “I’ll never find another one like it,” I thought.  But then, I considered what God would want me to do.  He would want me to give with a pure heart.  So I did!  The funny thing is, Rita was delighted and overjoyed that I gave it to her but after a few weeks, she gave it back.  She said it didn’t suit her as much as it suited me.  God was so good!  He taught me a lesson that I was meek to receive.  I was not to hold on to physical possessions that would burn one day (Dr. Joe Martin did a sermon years ago that I still remember called “It’s All Going to Burn”) but He blessed me with the return of the necklace.

 

We should take stock of our spiritual life and strengthen it!  Where is your flesh weak?  What are the things that tempt you?  If you are tempted to be greedy, than make a conscious effort to give.  If you find that going to parties causes you to sin, then don’t go.  Don’t make room in your life for sin!  If you have friends that are a bad influence, change your circle of people!  Surround yourself with people that will make you better for God and help you to look more like our Lord Jesus Christ!  “Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts!” Romans 13:14

 

Ruth Finnegan

 

(photo credit: http://www.knowing-jesus.com/romans-13-14/)

The God of Angel Armies (2 Kings 6-8)

Monday, November 7

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Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash and Scott Cash wrote a powerful song titled “Whom Shall I Fear” – with the alternate subtitle “God of Angel Armies”.  Perhaps 2 Kings chapters 6 & 7 offered some inspiration as they were writing this song.  The Arameans are attacking Israel and are extremely flustered because it is as if someone keeps telling the king of Israel the battle plans of the king of Aram, foiling his plan of attack time after time.  They are tipped off that Elisha, the prophet of God, just might be the informant and so a large force is sent during the night to surround Elisha’s town to capture him.  In the morning Elisha’s servant is dismayed to see such a large posse ready to pounce.  But this is what the  prophet Elisha says,

“Don’t be afraid.  Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”   Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.                                                         2 Kings 6:16,17

Wow!  What a sight!  And, sure enough, there is NOTHING to fear when you are on the side of God’s Angel Armies!  The Aramean army is struck with blindness and Elisha leads them – right into the presence of the Israelite king.

In the very next chapter the LORD causes the attacking Arameans to be scared away by the sound of a great army – a great heavenly army with many horses and chariots.  (7:6,7) Wow!  What a thunderous sound!  And sure enough, there is NOTHING to fear when you are on the side of God’s Angel Armies!  The long siege on Samaria, which had brought starvation and hyperinflation, is suddenly and miraculously over as the Arameans high-tail it out without looking back.  As an added bonus the Israelites plunder everything the retreating army left behind.

Does it sound too good to be true?  Some thought maybe.  While the city was still surrounded and in the throes of despair Elisha predicts that by the very next day food would once again be abundant and affordable.  One of the king’s officers voices his doubt that this could ever happen – because it indeed did not seem humanly possible.  Elisha said, “You will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it.” (7:2)  And, sure enough, the doubting officer with a negative attitude was serving at the city gates the very next day when the Israelites celebrated the end of the siege and the joyous mob ran out of the city to get a share of the plunder.  He saw it – and was trampled in the gateway before he had a chance to eat of the bounty.  The doubter did not reap the rewards.

You likely will not find yourself facing an attacking foreign king or a city under siege today, but perhaps you will be up against depression, temptation, a negative spirit, a difficult relationship, or struggles at school, work or home.  There is a lot to fear when you get sucked into becoming the doubter who sees things in only human terms – and misses out on the rewards.  But there is nothing to fear when you are on the side of God – and His Angel Armies.

Maybe you have limited your line of sight to what is humanly possible or worldly acceptable.  Pray that your eyes will be opened, and your ears unstopped so that you may see and hear God at work and follow His leading.  He might choose to show you a whole army of angels – or maybe he will show you a wise Biblical counselor to help steer you through a crisis, or a verse to give you direction, or a neighbor for you to share hope with.  May our eyes be opened to see all of the ways God guides and provides!

(Another great “Angel Army” is heard in 2 Samuel chapter 5 – and will actually be retold in our readings next week in 1 Chronicles 14.  Don’t miss it – follow God’s Angel Armies!)