Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Hebrews 12: Discipline and Submission

It has taken some time to get through the book of Hebrews.  It has definitely been a challenge for me.  Chapter 12 is also a tough chapter.  It talks about being chastened by the Lord.  The word "chastening" is used quite a bit throughout the chapter.  It means: education or training; disciplinary correction, chastisement; instruction.  The writer in verse 5 quotes another set of scriptures as a reminder to the Hebrews:


As parents, we chastise our children.  We discipline them when they are disobedient, but we also give encouragement and try to uplift them when they are being obedient or when they are discouraged.  We are parents.  We love our children.  We want them to be able to experience everything God has for them.  We want the absolute very best that life has to offer them.  We want to see every promise God has spoken fulfilled in their lives.  God wants the same things for us as His chldren.  He has said as much to us:

Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

God does not sit in heaven and plot our demise...He said so in Jeremiah.  But, He also said we cannot understand His ways:

Isaiah 55:8-9  "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.  (9)  "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

I posted a picture yesterday with a saying on it in preparation of this post:  "God is not what you think He is.  He is what He says is."

We apply human characteristics to God because that is the level of our understanding and makes it easier for our human brains to comprehend His love for us. Yet, what have little understanding of His thoughts or His ways.  We can't.  They are both so much higher than what we can produce in our brains.  So, what we do is we equate His Fatherhood to our parenthood to our children.  It is an easy analogy and one that we are familiar with and one we can understand.  So, if we understand His love for us and we know that He thinks good thoughts toward us, and He is looking to give us hope and a future, then we also have to understand that there will be chastisement for disobedience. But, shouldn't there be?  

As parents, we tell our children our no for a number of reasons.  It could be for their safety to prevent them from getting hurt.  We tell them no because we know it will lead to something bad.  When they are disobedient, and they will be, we have to find a way to punish without tearing down.  Depending on the age of the child depends on the level of punishment we choose to hand out.  In my case, my teenage son looses privileges such as no more driving my car, no more xbox or playstation time, and no going out with friends for a set period of time.  When he was younger, we had to discipline him differently.  Same with his three older siblings.  Each child is different and was dealt with differently. But my husband and I always did our best to balance the discipline with love and affection and encouragement and support.  Without the positive things, the negative rules and reigns over everything else.  

God does the same in His way with each of us. 

Hebrews 12:7-9  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?  (8)  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.  (9)  Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?

If we endure the discipline, the chastening, then we are dealt with as sons and daughters...just as we deal with our children.  If we run from the discipline, if we choose not to accept it, if we ignore it and do or own thing anyway, then we are considered illegitimate - or born out of something other than the union we claim to have with Christ.  Verse 9 says basically we show our human fathers respect.  So, shouldn't we be in even more subjection for the Father of Life?  

Submission or subjection is a tricky subject, but addressed very simply in the Word.  

James 4:7-10  Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  (8)  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  (9)  Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  (10)  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Our human nature is one of rebellion and independence. Submitting ourselves to authority of any kind is difficult, and often seems impossible when we do not respect or even like the one that is in a position of authority over us.  Yet, when we submit to God, the devil will flee from us.  When we do that, we draw near to God and He draws close to us.  We are to cleanse and purify ourselves. Humbling ourselves in the sight of God and putting ourselves directly in subjection to Him and to His word, will bring about God lifting us up.  He will encourage us through His word and through His spirit.  He will send people to us that will help uplift us in prayer and bring us encouragement as well.  

Hebrews 12:10-11  For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.  (11)  Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

God chastens or disciplines us for our good.  Remember, He works all things to good for those that love Him.  Even what feels like His discipline, is meant for our good.  It may be painful, but it brings about the peacable fruit of righteousness.  But the last part of that verse sticks with me: "to those who have been trained by it."  We use discipline the same way with our children.  We are training them what is right and wrong.  we are teaching them good behavior, not bad.  Proverbs says:

Proverbs 22:6  Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

We go through the same training with God in our walk with Him.  So, as you go through this week, and weeks to come, remember to submit yourself to God.  Give everything to Him and cleanse yourself from the things in your life that are continuing to keep you out from under the chastening of the Lord.  Experience the insurmountable joy and peace that comes with total surrounder and submission to the Father. 

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Freedom through Faith

The USA's Independence Day is tdoay and I woke up earlier in the week thinking about what it cost my country to free itself from oppression.  The price was high, but freedom was gained.  In fact, we hold the day freedom was obtained in very high regard, almost reverance, here in the U.S. and I woke up thinking about our freedom in Christ Jesus and what it costs us to have freedom in Him.  So, in light of our study of Faith in Hebrews, I thought today we could look at Freedom in Christ.  So, here we go.

John 8:31-36  Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  (32)  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."  (33)  They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, 'You will be made free'?"  (34)  Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  (35)  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  (36)  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

There is something that struck me very funny in the above scriptures.  The disciples said. "We are Abraham's desendants, and we have never been in bondage to anyone."  In other words, they told him that they had not been like the children of Israel that Moses led out of Egypt.  Jesus wasn't talking about physical bondage, was He?  Jesus goes on in His answer to that question by telling them that anyone who sins is slave to that sin.  If you consider the living conditions of slaves, they did not leave in the house with their masters.  They lived in their own quarters.  Yet, Jesus said, a son abides forever.  And we know that we are adopted sons and daughters, so it stands to reason we abide forever in the House of our Lord.  

We have looked before at what it means to be a slave to something.  Anything that rules or controls our lives makes us a slave to that thing.  Paul said,

Romans 8:2-3  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.  (3)  For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,

The writer of Hebrews has been echoing this exact same sentiment throughout what we have studied so far.  He has said that the law was not perfect in that it could not offer forgiveness for sins and Jesus came as the more perfect sacrfifice.  We who have accepted Christ and believe Him to be the only Son of the One True and Living God have been saved from the law, that could only lead to death.  The wages of sin is death, remember?  (Romans 6:23).  However:

Galatians 5:1  Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

We can take our bondage back.  We can choose to once again live under the old law thinking we are free.  Christ has set us free from death.  Sometimes we forget that although He opened the door to our prison and broke the chains the held us captive, we have to leave our cells.  We can be saved and born again Christians and still be in bondage in our minds.  

Proverbs 23:7  For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. "Eat and drink!" he says to you, But his heart is not with you.

The first part of this verse is often the only part quoted.  I am going to focus on it as well.  Our minds are traps.  What we think sets the course of where our actions will take us.  We do not act first, we think first and our actions then follow what we think.  We can be so wrapped up in our own thoughts that we become wrapped up in bondage again, or we never leave the cells with an open door.  Wouldn't be heartbreaking if we saw a prisoner in jail suddenly have his door opened and all ties of bondage broken, yet he did not step out of the cell to freedom?  We can become so comfortable where we are sometimes that our own comfort becomes our prison. Our faith must take us beyond the walls of our prisons and allow us to step out of the door believing fully that God our gracious and merciful and loving Father will be there to walk with us.  

A prisoner that has been in prison and then released has an adjustment to make to living on the outside of prison walls.. Many are unable to make that adjustment to living out from under the bondage they were in.  In fact, a local prison has nearly an 80% failure rate.  Those it releases after completing the rehabilitation program, commit crimes on the outside, get their probation revoked, and return to the prison unit.  Isn't that sad?  Only 2 out of every 10 inmates in this particular prison will successfully integrate back into society, overcome their own minds and fear and learn to live in freedom outside those prison walls.

Our freedom in Christ is no different.  He has offered us freedom, but we have to make the adjustments to live that life of freedom and it starts in our minds.  We have to control our thoughts.  We have to tell Satan that he no longer has the ability to sway or deter us from the promise that is ours in Christ Jesus.  I mentioned a scripture in my short video the other day, 2 Corinthians 10:4.  Let's look at it and verse 5:

2 Corinthians 10:4-5  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,  (5)  casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

We have mighty weapons in God to pull down every stronghold that we have built or allowed to be built in our minds.  Do you know what a stronghold is?  The original word in Greeks means: to fortify, through the idea of holding safely.  So what have chosen to fortify in you mind and keep safe?  Isn't that what we do?  We don't want to deal with something so we put in the corner of our minds and shut the door.  Maybe someone hurt you so bad in the past that you now have a trust issue and you think it is easier to "protect" yourself by closing off that hurt place and keeping it safe from any healing the Lord wants to give.  Keeping and holding onto anything like that prevents us frome seeing true freedom.  We have to be able to take thoughts captive themselves and bring them under the obedience of Jesus Christ.  But what does that even mean?  

Our mightiest weapon in God is the written scripture.  Jesus used in the wilderness to fight the enemy.  If it was good enough for Him, it should be good enough us, right?  When thoughts of fear enter our minds, we need to have a scripture ready to go to in combat to knock that fear down where it belongs:  

2 Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

"No one loves me.  Everyone always leaves me.  I have no one in my life." 

Deuteronomy 31:6  Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."

"God doesn't care about me or what happens to me."

Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

It doesn't really matter what thoughts we think, there is a scripture we can use to fight the enemy, bring those thoughts under the subjection of Jesus Christ and into obedience.  But likewise, we take the good thoughts captive.  EVERY thought becomes captive.  Hang onto the word that gives you freedom.  Use your faith, as Peter did, and step out of the boat when Jesus says, "Come."  Our faith brings us freedom.  Our faith allows us to step out of our prison cell knowing that Jesus Christ is waiting on the other side of the door with an outstretched hand waiting on us to follow.  

But don't let fear deter you from your destination, as Peter did.  Don't look around at the storm that is raging.  Look ahead at Jesus as He leads you into the freedom that is in Him.  

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Hebrews 11: What can faith do?

Have you ever felt as though your faith is just not strong enough to believe that God will the word of God to be true?  Or that He fulfills His promises.  We are all given a measure of faith at salvation.  We have to have that small amount of faith to believe in the salvation of Jesus Christ for the redemption of our souls.  And that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains.

Matthew 17:20  So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you."

Jesus said above that no matter how small your faith, you can still move the mountains in front of you.  You see, it isn't the amount of faith you have, it is putting that faith to work.  Do you remember Joshua and the children of Israel and how they fought Jericho?

Hebrews 11:30  By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days.

The walls only fell after they were encircled for seven days.  The walls only fell after Joshua and the children of Israel obeyed the instructions of the Lord...and not before.  They only had to have the faith to believe if they were obedient, then the Lord would do what He said He would...deliver the city into their hands.  

The prostitue Rahab that help the spies in Jericho even had to exercise faith that the men of her enemies would keep their promise to protect her and her household.  

Hebrews 11:31  By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.

The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that he did not have enough time to discuss all the people that had to exercise their faith for the fulfillment of promises. 

Hebrews 11:32-34  And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:  (33)  who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,  (34)  quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

What are the verses above saying?  That through faith, all these things were accomplished.  Verses 35 through 38 goes on to talk about other things recounted in the history of the Word that required faith for accomplishment.  

Hebrews 11:39-40  And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,  (40)  God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

All that were mentioned obtained a good testimony (there it is again) through the faith they displayed.  But, they did not receive the promise, the verse says.  God provided a better way through His only Son, the Promise.  Those that came before us were not perfected apart from us because of their faith or their testomonies.  We are perfected through the sacrifcial blood of the Lamb, the better way, the Promise of eternal life.  

James 2 talks about faith and works, which is really what we are saying above.  There has been some confusion for me throughout my life as to what "works" is as referenced below:

James 2:19-20  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  (20)  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

I personally think this is saying that without the obedience to what the Lord has said, our faith is ineffective.  Our obedience and walking out our walk with Christ shows the faith we have...the faith that can move mountains before us.  Faith without works is dead.  Faith without obedience doesn't move mountains, or make walls fall, or save the family of a prostitute.  

I once heard an analogy that made me laugh at the time but it was also somewhat thought provoking.  We believe, and have faith that, when we sit in a chair it will hold us.  We will not fall to the floor, and the legs will not fall out from under us.  We sit in the chair in confidence.  So, why don't we handle our faith in what God can do the exact same way?  It is that simple faith that God calls us to have..."childlike faith."  Do you have a childlike faith?  Do you believe the chair is sitting is going to continue to hold you up? 

Do you have faith that with God, all things are possible?  

Make today a good day, my friends.  

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