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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Return Home

Luke 8

Luke 8_39

Luke 8 is a pretty fast-paced chapter.  Jesus is in full ministry mode at this point and going about performing many miracles and teaching a lot of parables.  Here are a couple that jumped out at me.

 

Jesus tells the parable of the Sower, a farmer who is spreading seeds. The seeds grow based on the quality of soil that they are planted in.  The disciples do not understand the parable, so Jesus explains it in more clear language in Luke 8:11-15.

 

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

 

I think it is important to realize that the gospel is not directly injected into our hearts (metaphorically) but is presented to us.  It is up to us to make the decision to accept it, and then to purposefully fill our lives with the word in order to change our hearts.  As Jesus said, only through perseverance will we grow.  You cannot be passive about your relationship with God.

 

Later in the chapter Jesus drives out many demons from one man and they go into a herd of pigs, which immediately drown themselves.  Which is kind of weird.   But anyway, the man’s life had been completely changed by Jesus and he wanted to serve Jesus, and here is Jesus’ response in Luke 8:38-39.

 

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

 

Instead of hitting the road with Jesus and spreading his testimony all over he is instructed to stay in his hometown and to give his testimony to the people in his hometown.  When a lot of people think about spreading the gospel they think about people far away that haven’t heard the gospel, and some are called to travel great distances as some of the disciples were, but many more of us are called to stay home and tell our story to unbelievers in our home towns.  Either way it is very important to share what God has done for you in order to help strengthen the faith of other believers.  For my family God performed a mighty act of healing in my Mom with her cancer and I try to share that as much as I can to show the power of prayer.

So I encourage you to “return home and tell how much God has done for you”.

– Chris Mattison

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

A Vibrant Conversation with the Living God

Jeremiah 29-13

Closing (Saturday)

 

It’s been another fun week of digging through scripture to hear the word that God is speaking to us today. When we dive into the Word and start investigating the trail of inspiration and hope that it has left throughout the years, we are engaging in a vibrant conversation with the living God. We are engaging the One who is alive and active still. This week, our look at Mark 9-16 has brought out a number of themes that I’d like to just tie together quickly for us.

First, the gospels are texts that were written to be heard and to be engaged with as a whole – much like a novel. Like any good author, Mark is weaving together numerous strands of thought and repeating patterns for us to pick up on as we engage with the story of Jesus’s life. Knowing this, we can bring together the various things that Mark is trying to teach us.

In Mark 9, we are encouraged to acknowledge and embrace the places where we question and have doubt. It’s a part of the life of faith. We are pushed to not just accept our unbelief, but to express it and call out for a grace that will see us through it. In Mark 10, the request for help is answered. With the end of the messianic secret, Jesus restores sight and illuminates the darkness (the darkness of unbelief). In Mark 11 & 12, Jesus starts turning over tables. He challenges injustice and urges us to do the same. We are called to use our new sight to break the cycles of brokenness in the world and give all that we have to aid those who are in need. In Mark 13 & 14, we are urged to be on the alert. To remain vigilant in our new sight and be prepared for the suffering that will come our way. In Mark 16, Mark urges us to new life beyond suffering and tells us to go out into the world to find where Jesus has already gone and is currently waiting.

Mark’s gospel lays out a call to life that is tangible, realistic, and filled with hope for believers. My hope for you is that your life is filled with as much grace and love as this gospel commands.

-Graysen Pack

Still Seeking the Next Big Thing?

PROVERBS 30

Proverbs 30-8

Before writing this post, I did some research about other commentaries and devotionals from Proverbs 30.  Many writers have speculated about the author of this passage, whether Agur is a pseudonym for a known author or what wisdom this author may possess.  Most of the devotionals focus on verses 5-6: “Every word of God is flawless, he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.  Do not add to his words or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”  These verses tell us that we can confidently put our faith in the Lord and warn against tampering with His Word, the Bible.  2 Timothy 3:16-17, Numbers 23:19, Deuteronomy 12:32, and Revelation 22: 18-19 all reinforce these 2 verses in Proverbs 30.

 

When I read this chapter, however, I did not latch onto those 2 verses like most of the commentaries and devotionals I read.  I was drawn to verse 8.  “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”  As a whole, our society is never satisfied.  We are always seeking something more.  I remember talking about marriage in a psychology class, and the professor was explaining how studies have shown that one reason marriages tend to fail more often now than they used to is often because one of the spouses is seeking something more, whether that be a more attractive partner or a partner who makes more money or whatever qualifications are deemed important, rather than being content and wholly loving the current husband/wife.  We are never satisfied, always looking for the next-best thing.  Verse 8 asks the Lord for neither poverty nor riches, only what is needed for the day.  The writer isn’t seeking more.  He’s seeking to be satisfied in the Lord.  We’ve all read that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:25), and verse 9 reinforces that someone who is “full” is quick to deny the Lord.

Proverbs 30-9a

Though society tells us that we always need the newest and next-best thing, the newest iPhone, the bigger tv, the prettier woman or more handsome man—the Bible teaches us to be content with what we are given.  Our daily bread is enough.

-Megan Bryant

Converse with the Almighty

bible

Saturday’s Weekly Recap with Graysen Pack

This week we’ve walked through another six chapters of Proverbs and found words that, although written thousands of years ago, still speak to the persistent struggles of human existence.  Answers to guide us seek the wealth that God promises, to join God’s work as he defends the orphaned and poor, to earnestly engage in honest community, to be aware of the emotional strife of ourselves and others, and to use our words to build a church of sincerity.

 

It can be easy to forget that even when we read the oldest parts of the Bible, the words are still alive and active.  And we don’t really read Scripture, but instead engage in a conversation with it.  It isn’t a professor lecturing at us from the front of a large classroom.  Instead, it is a dialogue that speaks to who, where, and when we are.  The words of God are both alive in the history of Israel and the church as well as our lives today.

 

As you continue to read through the Word of God this year, remember that you are entering a conversation that will speak to your life and the life of the world today.

What a Powerful Tongue You Have!

Tuesday

prov 18 21

Today’s reading is Proverbs 18.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21

Have you ever thought about your words bringing life to someone else? Yet, we see this throughout the scriptures. God uses human beings to communicate who He is. God used human beings to speak and record His commandments and instructions. The Jews were entrusted with the very words of God (Romans 3:2).

Sometimes we may not realize how important our words can be. We certainly don’t want our conversations to make us gossips, quarrelsome, and fools (We don’t want our mouths to invite a beating.) But, as the children of God, it goes beyond avoiding bad conversations and sharing God’s message. God has entrusted us with the Gospel Message.  Good News of who He is, Good News of His Son Christ Jesus and Good News of the Coming Kingdom. We are given the opportunity to communicate that message so we can connect others to God through His Son.  God entrusted Jesus with the message that everyone needs to hear.

Christ said to his disciples in John 6:67-68, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

We sometimes forget that our study of the scriptures is important because we are receiving a message from God, a message that we can share with others.  I want to make sure that I get the message straight and the story right because this message “has the power of life”.

By Rebecca Dauksas

(Photo Credit: http://puttingonthenew.com/2013/11/10/proverbs-1821/)