Keep the faith

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, put foreign armies to flight,(…) Hebrews 11.32-34

The writer of Hebrews is unknown, but his message is one that has encouraged people through the ages. The message is that Jesus is better. He is better than the angels and Moses. He is a better High Priest. The covenant he has established is a better one.

Why is he making all these comparisons? The Jewish Christians, at the time, were getting discouraged and were returning to the old law. This letter was written to help them embrace what was better and to hold on to it with all they had in them.

In chapter 11, we have a list of people throughout the history of the Jews who were commended for their faith, from Abel to Rahab, the prostitute who was saved by faith and entered into the lineage of Jesus. They kept their faith alive even though they did not see Jesus who was coming to establish a covenant that would have the potential to reach all people. Some of those mentioned are spoken of in positive terms, but many kept their faith alive in the midst of suffering.

Today, we have received what so many in the past awaited anxiously. Let us take it to heart and not diminish its value. Let us also keep the faith!

#risingjoy #Hebrews #faith

Do not settle for less

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and afflictions, and at other times you came to share with others who were treated in that way. For in fact you shared the sufferings of those in prison, and you accepted the confiscation of your belongings with joy, because you knew that you certainly had a better and lasting possession. So do not throw away your confidence, because it has great reward. Hebrews 10.33-35

The writer of Hebrews is unknown. It is a letter written to Jewish Christians that are considering abandoning the faith. One of the main themes in the letter is the superiority of Christ. Christ is superior to angels and to Moses. He is also a superior high priest!

With everything being superior regarding Christ, do not settle for less. It is so important not to give up in the midst of troubled times and persecution, at times suffering abuse yourself or helping others who have been treated badly. Hold on to the hope that you have been given through faith in Jesus, thinking of others and how you can encourage them to continue strong in the faith. We are in this together. You are not alone. That is why it is so important to meet with other Christians to participate in the Lord’s Supper. It brings to mind: who you were, who you are, and where you are headed.

You are just passing through this world. Where you are headed is far superior to the here and now. So dig in and stand your ground. Do not let the difficulties of this life erode your confidence. You need endurance to do God’s will. But, the reward will make it worth it all!

#risingjoy #Hebrews #endurance

Neglect responsible for downfall

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Hebrews 2.1-4

How often has neglect been responsible for someone’s downfall? The Hebrews writer warns his readers of the need to pay closer attention to what they had heard or, in our case, read. There is always the danger of drifting away from the truth.

This message is great for it was the Lord himself who communicated it to man. The apostles heard the message through Jesus. They passed it on to others. The miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to be a confirmation from God that what was being taught was true.

Are you negligent of this message? Do you spend time reading God’s word to affirm the message? Or do you let others do your thinking for you? There is much at risk here and we need to be aware. For if we drift, we have allowed it to happen, many times through carelessness. As a result, we shall lose our salvation.

#risingjoy #Hebrews #neglect

Jesus had a focal point

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. Hebrews 12.1-3

During my first pregnancy, my husband and I took Lamaze classes at the local hospital. I learned how to breathe my way through labor by having a breathing technique and a focal point. My focal point in my first pregnancy was a tiny red bear. Without a doubt, focusing on that little bear helped me to manage the labor pains in a positive way.

We are in a race. The prize for those who finish the race is a heavenly one. There will be many distractions thrown our way to slow us down or take us out of the race all together. We cannot let that happen. The great cloud of witnesses that are cheering for us are those who are mentioned in Hebrews 11.

We must get rid of the things that weigh us down as well as the sin that is so tempting. God has promised an escape from the temptations if I will but look for it, 1 Corinthians 10.13. This race is one of endurance.

To win this race, we have to have a sharp focus. We can have no better focus than Jesus. He has already run the race and finished it. Jesus had a focal point. It was the joy set before him of sitting at the right hand of God. He did not grow weary to the point of giving up. He is our example. Let us sharpen our focus!

#risingjoy #Hebrews #Focus

Able to save completely

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need to do every day what those priests do, to offer sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, since he did this in offering himself once for all. Hebrews 7.25-27

When one is on trial before the court, you desire the best lawyer to be found. You want a counselor who is able to intercede on your behalf. As Christians, we have exactly that.

The high priest was the intercessor between the Israelites and God during the Old Testament. He would offer the sacrifice for sin, first for himself, Leviticus 4, and then he would offer the sacrifice for sin for the people. There were many sacrifices made for sin through the years.

Jesus appears now in God’s presence for us, Hebrews 9.24. He always lives to intercede for us. He is our high priest. His priesthood is far superior to the high priests of old for he offered one sacrifice for all time. He gave his own life that I might live, John 3.16.

Jesus has no need to offer sacrifices for his own sin for he is holy and innocent. He is undefiled and separate from sinners. Furthermore, God exalted him above the heavens. He sits at the right hand of God, Hebrews 8.1. And do you know what he is doing there? If you are a Christian, he is interceding to God on your behalf. On my behalf.

This high priest is God, John 1.1. Jesus is able to save completely because he pleads my case before God. However, we have to accept his gift of grace through obedience to his word. Will Jesus plead your case before God?

#risingjoy #Hebrews #intercession

No worry about sins

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

“This is the covenant that I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws on their hearts and I will inscribe them on their minds,” then he says, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no longer.” Hebrews 10. 16-17

The author of the book of Hebrews writes to Jews converted to Christ who are thinking of returning to the practice of the old law. The purpose of his writing is to demonstrate how Christ is superior to the old law in every way. That being the case, they needed to continue to serve Christ and follow him. Our verses today are a quote from Jeremiah 31.33-34 referring to the future and what was to come. Under the old law sacrifices for sin had to be made each year. It was a reminder that the sacrifice of bulls and goats could not take away sin, Hebrews 10.4-5. Then God sent Jesus to earth in the body of a human. Jesus came to do the will of God and be the sacrifice that would bring forgiveness for our sins. If we obey God, that forgiveness is ours to have. We can have direct contact with God through Jesus and we do not have to go through another person. God’s law is no longer written on stone tablets. It is written in the Bible where we can read it and make it a part of our lives. With Jesus’ death on the cross, we can have forgiveness and not just a reminder. If I am forgiven, then I do not have to worry about those sins any more. God does not remember them. I stand clean in his presence not because of what I have done. Jesus paid the price for me!

#risingjoy #Hebrews #forgiveness

Worth the struggle

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

You have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed in your struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons? “My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline or give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.” Hebrews 12.4-6

My goal should be to imitate the life of Jesus. He needs to be my focus. A few verses earlier, the writer of Hebrews tells his readers to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. What did he do? He obeyed the Father. He endured the cross. He disregarded the shame of the cross. Now he is seated at the right hand of God. Was it easy? No. Jesus prayed that he could do it another way. Even though he did not want to die on the cross, he obeyed. He died a horrible death so that I might be saved eternally and share that same home with God. Sin is what separates us from God. Everyone sins, Romans 3. We all struggle with sin, with doing what is wrong. The good news that encourages me is that God corrects me. He disciplines me. He loves me. His love is apparent when he disciplines me. As a parent, I must not make the mistake of not disciplining my children. That is not love for it will bring a lifetime of struggle and heartache to them. When I suffer, God is allowing me to be disciplined so that I can grow stronger in the fight against sin in my life. It will all be worth the struggle when we enter our eternal home! So fight on and do not give up!

#risingjoy #Hebrews #love

Hugh’s News & Views (The Day Approaching)

THE DAY APPROACHING

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another so as to stir up to love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25, NKJV). (Note: Neither the KJV, the ASV, nor the NASB capitalize the word “day” in this passage, though the NIV, the RSV, and the NEB do capitalize it). To what does “the day approaching” in this text refer? Continue reading

#hebrews, #hughfulford

Hugh’s News & Views (Exhortations From . . . Hebrews)

EXHORTATIONS FROM THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

The New Testament book of Hebrews draws a striking contrast between the obsolescence and ineffectiveness of the old covenant and the beauty and power of the new covenant to actually and fully provide justification from sin (Hebrews 10:1-10). In reality, the book is a written sermon consisting largely (though not exclusively) of exhortations as to how those who have been justified by Christ and His blood are to live (Hebrews 13:22).

The human author of the book (sermon) is unknown, though I personally lean heavily toward the apostle Paul as being the author. Origen (185-254) said that only God knows who wrote Hebrews. Whoever wrote it was guided by the Holy Spirit and the book is a part of God’s divine revelation to man (II Timothy 3:16-17). Its message needs to be read and digested by Christians today and its exhortations need to be followed. Consider the following. Continue reading

#hebrews, #hughfulford

Pay closer attention, Hebrews 2.1

“Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”

Hebrews 2.1

What was heard was the message spoken by the Lord and preached by the apostles, vv. 2-3. “Must” leaves no alternative. Listen closely. Otherwise, we will fall away.

This is why we emphasize serious Bible reading, study, and memorization. It means spiritual life. What is my plan to pay closer attention to God’s word?

#votd #Hebrews #Bible

God took him up: Hebrews 11.5

“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he did not see death, and he was not to be found because God took him up. For before his removal he had been commended as having pleased God.”

Hebrews 11.5

Not much is said about Enoch in Genesis, but his experience was unique. He walked with God. It meant God was pleased with him because he lived by faith. God freed him from the cares of this world.

What a wonderful legacy to leave to the world! If Enoch lived this way in primordial times, may we also live at the end time. Do we look forward to being taken up at Christ’s return?

#votd #Hebrews #faith

The eternal covenant: Hebreus 13.20

“[T]he God of peace … by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus …

The covenant of Christ is eternal because it is the definitive covenant established by his blood. The great plan of God reached its culmination in Christ. No other covenant will replace it. No one will come after him, because he fulfilled the will of God.

Since we live under this eternal covenant, we are freed from all others. We live under the law of grace. We are guided by the New Testament, not the Old. Let us live and proclaim Christ!

#votd #Hebrews #covenant

Bodies washed in pure water

“[L]et us draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, because we have had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.”

Hebrews 10.22

Our faith is sure because we have had the objective experience of inner cleansing in baptism. God said to do this in faith and repentance and our sins would be washed away. We believe him. Let us then go to him.

Baptism is more than a symbol. In immersion something really happens. Christ’s blood purifies us from sin, when we obey in faith. Do you believe this?

#votd #Hebrews #baptism

Many sons to glory: Hebrews 2.10

“For it was fitting for him, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

Hebrews 2.10

God’s project is to bring many sons to glory. Christ’s followers become God’s children by obedience. Jesus’ death brings them life in God’s family. Glory is the very presence of God.

What is fitting for God? AMP says “an act worthy of His divine nature.” It was by his initiative and mercy.

#votd #Hebrews #glory

For our benefit: Hebrews 12.10

“Our human parents disciplined us for a little while, as it seemed best to them, but God does it for our benefit so that we can share his holiness.”

Hebrews 12.10 CEB

Suffering should be seen as God’s discipline, because he loves us. He always works for our benefit. What he does for us is far above and beyond what our human parents did.

How is God’s disciplining me right now? Am I aware that I ought to use my difficulties to grow and become more like God? Am I sure that God does all for my benefit?

#votd #Hebrews #discipline