Advent Day 4-Names of Jesus “Lamb of God

John 1:29

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 

The law required that our sin required a sacrifice of blood. Typically you would use a lamb, but there were also other animals that were used and acceptable. Now a lamb was very valuable to the owner. It represented a part of his income which of course, is very important to have when raising your family. It would be very easy to take the runt of the litter or the one with the sickness or broken leg, and use it for the sacrifice, since it would likely die anyway. But God required our best lamb. God deserves only our best, and often that is a sacrifice in itself. It can cost us something. The lambs, or whatever animal, had to be the best of the flock or herd. It had to be without blemish or defect. It would have brought him the most money at the market. It represented a perfect, sacrificial offering. This is why Jesus is called the lamb of God. He was perfect, sinless and gave Himself as the final, sacrificial blood offering for all of our sins. No longer do we have to offer sacrifices, but rather we embrace the forgiveness and grace that Jesus died for. What a mighty God we serve!

Additional Reading

Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Lord you died, gladly, for each one of us. You came to this earth, lived among us, knowing what was to come. We thank you for your sacrifice on the cross. Again today, bring to our minds the reason we celebrate this season. I pray this will have incredible meaning for each of us and that this will be our priority on Christmas day. Jesus, we love you, amen.

Advent Day 3-Names of Jesus “Alpha and the Omega”

Revelation 1:8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

These are Jesus words to John as he begins to reveal the whole plan as written in the book of Revelation. Alpha and Omega refer to the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet, another way of saying beginning and the end. Jesus is saying He was there from the beginning and at the end. Just as we read yesterday from John chapter 1. He also equates himself with God once again, as we see something very similar written in the book of Isaiah

Isaiah 44:6-8

This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies:

“I am the First and the Last;
    there is no other God.
Who is like me?
    Let him step forward and prove to you his power.
Let him do as I have done since ancient times
    when I established a people and explained its future.
Do not tremble; do not be afraid.
    Did I not proclaim my purposes for you long ago?
You are my witnesses—is there any other God?
    No! There is no other Rock—not one!”

Jesus was there from creation and will be there eternally. He is the Alpha and the Omega.

Additional Reading

Revelation 22:7-13

7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book”

8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw all these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. But he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers the prophets, as well as all who obey what is written in this book. Worship only God!”

10 Then he instructed me, “Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy.”

12 “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Lord, You were there when the earth was formed, you were there when man was formed from the dust. You died for me and each one reading here today, and you will one day come back to rule and reign. Thank you for your sacrifice on the cross, you are the Alpha and the Omega, and our redeemer. We love you and worship you Lord. Amen.

Advent Day 2-Names of Jesus “I AM”

John 8:58

58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” 59 At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.

If Jesus had merely wanted to say He existed before Abraham’s time, He would have said, “Before Abraham, I was.” The Greek words translated “was,” in the case of Abraham, and “am,” in the case of Jesus, are quite different. The words chosen by the Spirit make it clear that Abraham was “brought into being,” but Jesus existed eternally (see John 1:1). There is no doubt that the Jews understood what He was saying because they took up stones to kill Him for making Himself equal with God. Such a statement, if not true, was blasphemy and the punishment by Law was death. But Jesus committed no blasphemy; He was and is God, the second Person of the Godhead, equal to the Father in every way.

Definition of blasphemy

1a: the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of respect for God

b: the act of claiming the attributes of God (claiming to be God)

e.g. for a mere man to suggest that he was … divine could only be viewed … as blasphemy

Additional reading

Exodus 3:14

14 God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.”

John 1:1-2

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.

John 1:14

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Lord we acknowledge you are the bread of life, the light of the world, the way, truth and the life. You were there from the very beginning just as you are here now. You are the great I AM. On this second day of advent, help us to remember and anticipate the reason we celebrate this season. Help us to truly understand the magnitude of what was started that night all those years ago in that stable. Thank you for you saving grace, In Jesus name, amen.

Advent Day 1-Names of Jesus “Glory of the Lord”

4“Comfort, comfort my people,”
    says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
    and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
    for all her sins.”

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
    for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
    for our God!
Fill in the valleys,
    and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
    and smooth out the rough places.
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
    The Lord has spoken!”

Glory (from the Latin gloria, “fame, renown”) is used to describe the manifestation of God’s presence as perceived by humans according to the Abrahamic religions.

Jesus was the glory, or renown, manifestation of God’s presence.

Jesus was the glorious representation of God.

God had a plan for his people right from the beginning. He loved them (us) so dearly, we can see Him comforting His people with these words above. Comforting and telling them that His plan, Jesus, would be revealed to all. And when the time was near, His servant, John the baptist would prepare them for His coming.

Additional reading

Matthew 3:3

The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,

“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
    Clear the road for him!’”

Luke 3:4-6

Isaiah had spoken of John when he said,

“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
    Clear the road for him!
The valleys will be filled,
    and the mountains and hills made level.
The curves will be straightened,
    and the rough places made smooth.
And then all people will see
    the salvation sent from God.’”

Prayer

Lord, thank You for Your Son, Jesus, who paid for my sin and made a way straight to Your throne. Work humility in me today and help me turn to You with my sin. Make my dry heart a new and refreshed land. Make my concerns lighter and more easily manageable. Help me rest in Your love and provision. You are my peace and my portion. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jude chapter 1

(S)

Greetings from Jude

This letter is from Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.

I am writing to all who have been called by God the Father, who loves you and keeps you safe in the care of Jesus Christ.[a]

May God give you more and more mercy, peace, and love.

The Danger of False Teachers

Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

So I want to remind you, though you already know these things, that Jesus[b] first rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt, but later he destroyed those who did not remain faithful. And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment. And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment.

In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings.[c] But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels,[d] did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) 10 But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction. 11 What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion.

12 When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you.[e] They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. 13 They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness.

14 Enoch, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people. He said, “Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones 15 to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”[f]

16 These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want.

A Call to Remain Faithful

17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.

20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,[g] 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

22 And you must show mercy to[h] those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others,[i] but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.[j]

A Prayer of Praise

24 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

(O)

Jude, one of Jesus’s biological brothers, starts out this letter by calling himself “a slave to Christ”. How many of us would have called yourself a slave to one of your siblings? Jude obviously clearly understood who Jesus was.

Just as we read a couple days ago in 2 John, Jude warned against false teaching. However, he has a different angle. He warns of those who have come in the church and are teaching the abuse of grace. Jude has a lot to say on this, but the gist of it is, these people were claiming that we are free to live however we like because we live under God’s grace and forgiveness now. An extreme opposite to living under the law. But we are called to a much higher standard than that. We are called to live holy and pleasing lives to God. Not in a legalistic way, but with the mindset and attitude that we want to be more Christlike. So we are warned here to be careful and not get sucked in to this false idea of how we can act because of grace.

(A)

So we need to be aware and keep our guard up for this type of teaching. vs. 22-23 give us good advice for dealing with these false teachers. 22 And you must show mercy to[h] those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others,[i] but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. We must still love the person, but cautiously.

(P)

Pray for God to give us grace and mercy for those that teach falsely

Are there areas in our own lives where we may abuse grace, even a little?

3 John chapter 1

(S)

Greetings

This letter is from John, the elder.[a]

I am writing to Gaius, my dear friend, whom I love in the truth.

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the traveling teachers[b] recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.

Caring for the Lord’s Workers

Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. For they are traveling for the Lord,[c] and they accept nothing from people who are not believers.[d] So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.

I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. 10 When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.

11 Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.[e]

12 Everyone speaks highly of Demetrius, as does the truth itself. We ourselves can say the same for him, and you know we speak the truth.

Conclusion

13 I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. 14 For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face.

15 [f]Peace be with you.

Your friends here send you their greetings. Please give my personal greetings to each of our friends there.

(O)

3 John highlights a clear example of a Christian who showed his faith in the power of the Gospel through his actions. Not only did he “talk the talk” but he would “walk the walk”, others could testify to Gaius’ faithfulness and love for the truth ,vs 3-4, and he also did his part by opening his home to missionaries he had never met, solely for the purpose of spreading the good news. He may not have been on the front lines traveling to share Jesus’ message, but he took advantage of the opportunities he had to support what he believed in.

Gaius was a Christian who devoted his time and resources to the Gospel, and like him, we have countless opportunities to express our faith through action. Sometimes we get to directly share the Gospel with people while serving them — buying someone a meal, cleaning someone’s house while they are sick, serving at church. Other times, we have the chance to help missionaries bring the Gospel to the world by hosting them in our homes or sending supplies and financial support.

(A)

Our mission of furthering the Gospel will influence our daily decisions, and our actions will show people that we believe in the power of the Gospel. We have big and small opportunities to spread the Gospel and show what sets our faith apart. Now, it’s up to us to find those opportunities and act on them.

(P)

A couple thoughts to pray on today

  • What is one way your life shows that you believe the Gospel can change the world?
  • What is one opportunity in your life you can use to make your Christian faith more visible to others?

2 John chapter 1

I am skipping ahead several books. In a few days starts advent and I want to do something different during that time, so we will look at a few short books to finish this week. We will go back to the missed books after Christmas!

(S)

Greetings

This letter is from John, the elder.[a]

I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children,[b] whom I love in the truth—as does everyone else who knows the truth— because the truth lives in us and will be with us forever.

Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.

Live in the Truth

How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.

I am writing to remind you, dear friends,[c] that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.

I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came[d] in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we[e] have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.

10 If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. 11 Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.

Conclusion

12 I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.

13 Greetings from the children of your sister,[f] chosen by God.

(O)

What John writes in this letter is just as relevant and important as the day he wrote it. You’ll note that in this very short letter, 4 times he refers to “truth”. Something has John concerned.

It was during this time that people were arguing, especially some of the Christians, that there was no way Jesus could have been both God and human. And thus the seed of doubt begins to get planted. In this chapter John warns against false teaching. Be on guard for it, listen diligently for it. In the book of 1 John, we are told to “test every spirit”, meaning check what you hear against the scriptures. False teachers were out in the world then, now and will be in the future. John goes so far as to say not to welcome them into their house. This was a very counter-cultural thing to do, so this warning would have really gotten their attention.

(A)

But how do we recognize a false teacher and false teaching? Well there is not substitute for good, old fashion hard work on this one. First, we must be in the Word regularly. If we are calling the bible the Truth, we need to know what is written in it. Second, we must remember we have been give the Holy Spirit to teach, guide and discern. Ask for the Spirit to help you understand scripture and recognize when something is said falsely. This becomes easier with practice and repetition. And third, ask someone for counsel and advice. We all need those people in our life that we can turn to when we have questions.

let me quickly address the not letting false teachers in your house. Although we may find it hard or impossible to not let “uncle Bill” the aetheist, or “cousin Jane”, the New Ager, etc… into your home, that doesn’t mean you let them be in a position to teach or influence your kids. The heart of this passage is to protect your home and family from the wrong influences. That is our job as Christian parents, we must be diligent in this.

(P)

Pray today for protection of your home and family against false teaching

Hebrews chapter 13

(S)

13 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.[a] Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.”[b]

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper,
    so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?”[c]

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them.

10 We have an altar from which the priests in the Tabernacle[d] have no right to eat. 11 Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. 12 So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. 13 So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. 14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

17 Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

18 Pray for us, for our conscience is clear and we want to live honorably in everything we do. 19 And especially pray that I will be able to come back to you soon.

20 Now may the God of peace—
    who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
    and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
21 may he equip you with all you need
    for doing his will.
May he produce in you,[e]
    through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
    All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

22 I urge you, dear brothers and sisters,[f] to pay attention to what I have written in this brief exhortation.

23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released from jail. If he comes here soon, I will bring him with me to see you.

24 Greet all your leaders and all the believers there.[g] The believers from Italy send you their greetings.

25 May God’s grace be with you all.

(O)

One of my very favorite images is vs 2. “Show hospitality to strangers, for some have entertained angles withouth knowing it”. What a mind blowing thought that we may have had interactions in our life with angels. This verse always comes to my mind whenever I am somewhere where there is less fortunate, homeless individuals. or someone that just looks down on their luck. Gives me a little extra incentive, not that I should need it, to go and talk with them or see how they are doing.

This chapter is filled with practical, good advice on how to live our lives. Let’s review them

-love each other as brothers and sisters

-show hospitality to strangers

-remember those in prison

-remember those being mistreated

-give honor to marriage

-be faithful in marriage

-don’t love money

-be content

-follow the example of others faith

-continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God

-obey your spiritual leaders

-do not be attracted by strange new ideas

The last point goes on to say that our strength comes from God’s grace. In our lives, especially right now with the Covid thing going on, it is easy to see many are panicked. It’s so easy to latch onto things to give us comfort. We may put our trust in wearing masks, or by wiping everything we touch, or just not going out into the world. We put our hope in the flood of information that is out there, much of it contradicting itself. While all those things i just mentioned are great safeguards, it is not what we put our hope into. It is by God’s grace we are able to face another day of uncertainty. Despite what the truth is out there about the virus, the one truth we need to lean on is the Truth of the Word. Soak it in, meditate on it, pray, find comfort in God’s word. It has never changed. It is a rock steady anchor for our anxious souls.

Lord today we face so much uncertainty, so much information we don’t know how to process, so much anxiety, anger and confusion. Help us all to reset and focus in on your Word and your Truths. Help us to find comfort and peace and trust in You. Jesus, help everyone to make wise choices to stay safe. In Jesus name, amen.

Hebrews chapter 12

(S)

God’s Discipline Proves His Love

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.[a] Because of the joy[b] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;[c] then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children?[d] He said,

“My child,[e] don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”[f]

As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?[g]

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

A Call to Listen to God

14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. 16 Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. 17 You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.

18 You have not come to a physical mountain,[h] to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. 19 For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. 20 They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[i] 21 Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”[j]

22 No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. 23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.

25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! 26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.”[k] 27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.

28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire.

(O)

Hebrews 12 begins by applying all of the details given in chapter 11. After explaining many heroic examples of faith, as well as instances of persecution, the writer refers to this collection of evidence as a “great cloud of witnesses.” These facts of history should inspire Christians to endure persecution, as well as to struggle against sin. The ultimate example of this, of course, is Jesus, who endured horrific hardships. Through it all, He maintained His trust that God was working out all of those trials for a good purpose (Hebrews 12:1–3).

Another point made here is that most of the persecution a typical Christian faces is not as dire as what some have suffered. This doesn’t make our experiences any less hurtful, but it helps us maintain perspective

I think a lot of people get hung up on the idea of God handing out discipline. It somehow seems wrong and very scary that our loving God would choose to punish us. But I believe this chapter really puts it into perspective. Those of us that are parents know that you don’t discipline when your child makes a mistake because you now suddenly hate them. No, rather we discipline because we love them and don’t want them to get hurt by making these mistakes. In the same way, God disciplines with the goal of us not committing that same mistake or sin again. That is love.

(A)

The writer goes on in the second half of the chapter to give us, once again, some sound, practical advice on how we can avoid some of this discipline. But also once again, we see the importance of other people. We need to be spurring one another on. Look what the author said

-live in peace with each other

-look after each other

-make sure no one is immoral or godless

however, that doesn’t take the responsibility for ourselves away from ourselves. He also wrote “work on living a holy life” and “don’t refuse to listen to the One who is speaking”. That is our responsibility for ourselves. It can be hard work sometimes, but isn’t the reward worth it?

(P)

Let’s pray through verse 23, 24

23 Thank you Lord that we have been privileged to be called God’s firstborn children, and that our names are written in heaven. Thank you that we have been give direct access to you, God, who is the judge over all things. And we thank you for Jesus, whom you sent to mediates the new covenant between You and us, those you now call your children. Lord, bless the work of our hands and feet today, in Jesus name amen.

Hebrews chapter 11

(S)

Faith in Action

11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”[a] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b] considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.[d]

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

(O)

The chapter about faith.

verse 1, let me share an explanation of faith to help us define it.

“This all-encompassing verse explains both what faith in Jesus Christ is and what that faith does. The heart of faith develops its own eyes, which see spiritual things coming that can’t yet be seen by the physical eye. When the author, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes, “faith is the confidence,” he uses a single Greek word hupostasis, meaning “to stay under, a foundation.” So faith is the foundation on which all our hopes for the future are built. Faith doesn’t make imaginary things come true, but rather it enables God’s people to live with certainty and confidence in the realities that are true, though not yet physically visible.”

On June 30, 1859, one of the greatest tight-rope walkers in history, Charles Blondin, became the first man in history to walk across Niagara Falls. Approximately 25,000 people watched him walk a 1,000-foot line suspended above the raging falls without any safety nets. When he safely reached the Canadian side, the crowd cheered with thunderous applause.

On another occasion, he attempted to cross The Falls once again. This time, however, he was walking with a wheelbarrow. The crowd gasped as he carefully loaded the front wheel of the wheelbarrow on the tight-rope. He turned to the crowd and asked if they believed he could do it using the wheelbarrow. Everyone cheered in approval. They all believed he could.

He turned to a reporter who was covering the event. He looked straight at him and asked the question, “Do you believe I can tight-rope across the Niagara Falls?”

Without blinking, the reporter yelled out, “Yes, I do! I know you can do it! I believe.”

Blondin paused and stared into the reporter. Then he said, “If you believe……….GET IN THE WHEELBARROW.”

He did not. In fact, legend has it that only his own mother would get in the wheelbarrow. Only she was willing to put her faith in son, not knowing the outcome.

Faith in God is putting that confidence in what we can’t see now or may never see in our lifetime. Many of those faith heroes in this chapter never actually got to see the fulfillment of God’s promises because it came in future generations, but it says they were “commended” for their faith. Another way of saying might be they gained a good reputation, as written in some translations. Many had to endure hard times, trials, ridicule, etc.., and yet their faith persevered. They put their hope in the Creator, not the created, the unseen, not the seen.

(A)

I don’t know about you, but I like to receive the blessings God has promised, and I like to receive them soon and often. But that isn’t how it works always. Abraham and Sarah never got to see the great nation which their children would create. Moses never got to see the promised land that God promised the Isrealites He would give them. No, they were content with believing in the future God promised, knowing that didn’t necessarily mean they would see the fulfillment of the promises. And this holds true for us too. Can we be content with having a good reputation for our faith? We may endure many trials in our life, we may endure sickness, death, financials burdens, persecution, and who know what else. But we do have a promise of a better day ahead. When Jesus died for our sins, the fulfillment of that promise for us will not be in this lifetime. We will see it only once we endure to the end. And that is the anchor we can secure to as we maneuver through the challenges and blessing of this life. What an adventure!

(P)

Lord we pray for our faith to increase and strengthen. Help us to understand your word and promises, let us see them with new eyes and an open heart today. Help us not to succumb to discouragement or bitterness in times of trial, but give us the clarity to secure even tighter to the anchor. In Jesus name, amen.