Sunday, May 27, 2018

Saving the Best for Last...

Hebrews 11:39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Yes, I'm one of those people. Sometimes when I eat a meal I will not eat a little of this, then a little of that, making the rounds on my plate. I will eat just a little of what I like best, saving the rest of it for last.  I am also one of those people who have little regard for the man-made chapter divisions in scripture, thinking we should always seriously consider "running the stop sign" and reading right through them, because the opening verses are actually part of the previous chapter.  Such is the case here - on both points. First, God has saved the best for last in sending His Son.  That is the case throughout the whole book here: Christ, and new life in Him, is better than anything under Moses, the prophets, or the Old Covenant system. Christ is also the best example of a Hero of Faith, many of whom who are listed in chapter 11.  So, the writer says: "Consider Him. Follow Him. Trust in Him.  Secondly, since Christ is better than any other, He is simply the Best. The Best revelation of God, the best way to approach God, the best sacrifice for sin, and the best picture of how we should then live. If we have found Christ, (and let Him "find us"), we have found the Best. Stick with Him, Follow Him, depend on Him and Him alone to take us to God. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Helpless, Homeless Heroes...

They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:37b,38)
These faithful followers of God were predecessors to the likes of John the Baptist and Jesus: no place to lay their heads, no wardrobe of fancy clothes, no icebox stocked with food. They lived lives of trust and hope we can scarcely imagine. They were vulnerable, yet trusted and obeyed God.  They did not fit into this world; they were exceptional.  And it is not that they were not worthy of acceptance; it is this world that is out-of-sync; it is us. They were living like they actually expect to be living in another world to come. This does not make them weird - it makes them heroes to emulate, to learn from, to follow.  

Friday, May 25, 2018

Mouth Stoppers...

 stopped the mouths of lions... (Hebrews 11: 33)
We know of three places where this happened. First to surface in our memories is Daniel.  When He came out of the den, his first words to the king were that he had not spoken evil of the king - He was a man of character. God had built that into his life. This fact silenced false accusers.  Second is David.  He faced the lion to keep it away from the sheep. He mentioned that among his credentials as to why Saul should let him be the one to face Goliath, to silence those saying he was to young, small or not "man enough."  Third was Samson. Among his great feats of strength early in his life was wrestling a lion and winning.  He had the courage to face it head-on.  Each of these men of faith had these as a gift from God, which were needed when the occasion arose.  Each stopped the mouths of nay-sayers, as well as the mouths of lions.  So we can, and also should do, as followers of Christ.  Be ready, by living a life of faith and obedience, so that when the time comes, we show our faith, and silence the mouths of a finger-pointing, unbelieving world.  

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Enforcers...

...enforced justice, (Hebrews 11:33)
Some of the greatest Heroes of Scripture, and of all time, are those who have "enforced justice."  Of course, some see "justice" as a matter of opinion, or what is best for them.  So God does give us instruction to guard against such thoughts. We find some people really got what justice was.  David did. Solomon did.  Jesus definitely did.  Then we need to have a sense of how to "enforce." It is not always with the power of the sword or a left hook. Enforcing is not turning away from the oppressed or mistreated. It is speaking up. It is using the influence or authority we have in any setting to make sure people's God-given rights are upheld.  It is not arrogantly demanding. It is Micah 6:8 :
He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?
Sometimes the ones we have to enforce justice upon is ourselves - how we view and treat others.  May we be someone's hero of justice today. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Not What they DID

Hebrews 11:35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword.
This cluster of unnamed heroes have something in common: in faith they did not do anything - they could not do anything, but trust in God.  The two women had to watch and wait as Elijah and Elisha raised their sons.  Others were put in positions where they could not fight back, and helplessly be abused.  Some faced the most cruel types of suffering and death.  Yet they are heros - they believed, and they have demonstrated to us that it is not true that "I cannot take any more." They did.  May God give us the grace we need to live by faith.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Wait, Did you say SAMSON???

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel (Hebrews 11)
Great people of faith - those who trusted God, served Him, and accomplished great things for Him.  We can well understand including the likes of Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets... But Samson? The man driven by his immorality? The arrogant kid who bullied people, demanded his own way, and never seemed to grow up? Sure, we tell our kids about him as a strong hero, but can we as "mature" adults see him that way? The writer (ultimately God, here) says so.  Let us not forget the ingredient that put him in the category of those surrounding him in this list here: 24 And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.(Judges 13)  The LORD bless him, and the Spirit of the LORD stirred him.  God had his hand on him his whole life through. God uses cracked pots and imperfect people to accomplish His will when they trust in Him and do what He calls them to do.  Sometimes they (WE!) do things He tells us not to do, and even fail to do other things He tells us to do, but the party is not over yet, the curtain has not fallen. If you can still read these words, God can and will use you, if you trust and obey Him.  What will he stir you to do today? 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Heroes Who Did not make it out Alive

Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
We live in a world where most heroes almost always make it out alive - at least in the movies.  We are shielded from a great truth - many heroes die in becoming one.  That is what we commemorate on Memorial day in our nation, yet it seems to be a lost thought.  Abel simply did the right thing, even when it made someone else unhappy.  He was more concerned with pleasing God than appeasing an angry brother.  It got him dead.  But He still speaks. Just as his blood screamed from the ground to God for justice, his example of faith, as a hero, cries out to us today.  Do the right thing, no matter who objects to it. Trust God.  His commendation matters more than the condemnation of men. Be a hero of faith.