Hebrews 13

Christ cared for those He didn’t know and He suffered as we do.

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Hebrews 13

Today, we conclude our study through the book of Hebrews.  At some point in the future, I am sure the Lord will direct us back here.  Starting tomorrow we will start a study in the book of Daniel.  We will do a quick overture of the history that led to that point in Israel’s history as well as look at some of the main themes of the book of Daniel.  I look forward to you joining me as we begin the study.  But for right now, let us delve into the concluding chapter of Hebrews.

The final chapter of Hebrews touches on a point that we should be striving for, integrity, with the sub-points being moral integrity and spiritual integrity.

The first set of directives speaks of moral integrity.  The author encourages us in three areas that are important in our lives as we walk with the Lord.

The first is with regard to strangers stating to “let brotherly love continue” and to remember those who are prisoners as if you are chained with them.  Why should we do this?  Well if you think about it, Christ in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, looked at everyone, not just His disciples as His brothers and sisters.  He looked after them and cared for them.  He made sure they had food when they were hungry after He had taught for an entire day (Matthew 14:13-20; Mark 6:30-44).  Except for the disciples, all these folks were strangers to Him, yet He cared for them.  So in essence, by continuing in brotherly love and remembering those who are mistreated as if we are just like them, we are emulating Christ, which is our goal as men and women of faith.  Christ cared for those He didn’t know and He suffered as we do.

Next we see instruction with regard to premarital sex.  Today’s world and behavior makes it extremely hard to keep the marriage bed pure.  However, we need to remember when we do so we honor God.  Tying in to the first point of moral integrity, we remember “brotherly love” by honoring our wives/husbands, thereby honoring God by saving the sharing of a bed with them until you are married.  Again, it’s not easy, but is it better to yield to your flesh or yield to Him?

Finally, the last moral directive has to do with envy.  That is what coveting means, wanting something someone else has.  You are in envy of them.  Why is this important?  Well, ask yourself this question, has the Lord provided for all your needs?  He has?  Well then why do you need what someone else has?  The Lord’s met your needs and provided for you.  So what does it matter what the other person has?  When you covet what someone else has, you are, for lack of a better way of putting it, telling God what He has done for you was not enough.  This may sound harsh, but that is an ungrateful and selfish way to behave.  Think on it like this, you make your children breakfast one day.  You toil in the kitchen and you bring a delicious and wonderful home cooked meal to your family.  Good right?  Of course.  But then they have a sleep over that night and the hosts take everyone out to a really nice restaurant or diner for breakfast.  And then your children come home and ask the question, “Why don’t we go out to eat like they do?”  How does that make you feel?  God feels the same way when we covet something someone else has after He has provided for our needs.

Now we will segue into the idea of spiritual integrity.  I have seen a lot of people in churches cause a church to splinter and sometimes fall apart because of one thing.  A lack of recognition that those who are in leadership are chosen by God to be there.  It’s not political manuveuring or nepotism that puts them in such places.  God wants them there.  And we always have to keep in mind, those who are minding the church and God’s flock, teaching, mentoring and caring for God’s flock, are just as unworthy of doing it as we, those being taught and cared for, are.  They aren’t more spiritual than us and it’s not like they do more for Him than we do.  A lot of times these individuals are exhausted from a day at work, but there are things that need to be taken care of, either for the people or the sanctuary.  And these guys do it.

Look back at the chapters of Matthew and Mark from earlier.  How tired do you think Jesus was after teaching all day to five thousand men?  And if we want to be real on statistics, let’s figure half those men had wives, which means we add another 2,500 and then on top of that, figure in half of that had one child with them, another 1,250.  So, for total numbers we have an estimated 8,750 people being taught.  That’s a long way for a voice to carry for an entire day.  Yes, Jesus was exhausted, there is no doubt of that in my mind, but yet He still took the time to make sure every single one of them was fed.  Our church leaders are doing their best to emulate the Lord.  Therefore, we need to keep our churches from splintering by gossping, talking trash or becoming embittered when they don’t do things the way we feel they should be done.  The church does not belong to people, it belongs to God.

Thus concludes our study through the book of Hebrews.  I pray it has blessed you as much as it did me.  Until tomorrow when we begin the book of Daniel.

Hidden Treasure

I have found things and people that I treasure, not above my relationship with Him, but that I do work on caring for and cultivating.  However, my relationship with Him is what I do my best to cultivate the most.

Do you have something or someone valuable to you?  I don’t mean a car or a house, but something of true value?  It could be something small and simple, like an old coin.  If it’s a person, then it’s a person or people who give you the strength and encouragement in dire straits.  These are the things we should hold onto to when we face difficult and possibly impossible circumstances.

Matthew 13:44

44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

This parable, one of many told by Jesus in this chapter, speaks of someone who gave up everything for a hidden treasure, the kingdom of heaven.  He valued that treasure so much, he gave up everything he had for it and made his livelihood working, because at the time buying a field meant your job was to work that field, cultivating and caring for that field.

I have done my best to cultivate my relationship with the Lord.  And I will admit, there have been times where I failed.  I make no qualms about admitting my own failures and they happen to be with regard to interpersonal relations.  But I have found things and people that I treasure, not above my relationship with Him, but that I do work on caring for and cultivating.  However, my relationship with Him is what I do my best to cultivate the most.  And here’s the reason why, He loves me unconditionally, and if you read some of His interactions with the disciples, He had trouble with interpersonal relations as well.

Please hear my heart, I am not saying I am Jesus nor God, but I am saying that I identify with Him and can kind of understand His frustrations at times in His earthly ministry.  There was a time when His disciples, after He came down from a mountain, couldn’t case a demon out of a little girl and He asked how long would He have to deal with them.  It wasn’t the people He was speaking about, it was their lack of faith.

So what hidden treasure have you found in your life?  Whom has the Lord blessed you with?  And what are you willing to give up in order to cultivate that field with?  Is it everything?  Think about that, are you willing to give up everything to cultivate a relationship with the earthly hidden treasures God has given you?  Cultivating your relationship with Him is most important, then comes everything else.

No Shame

Jesus is our friend folks, the best we will ever have. Don’t act like you don’t know Him to fit in or meet some criteria people have placed on you.

Are you ashamed of your faith?

Don’t get offended, it’s a very simple question.  Are you ashamed of your faith?  I pose this question right from the start so everyone knows what they are in for with today’s entry.  Most of my entries have practical application or encouragement attached to them.  Today’s might not feel that way.

2 Timothy 1:3-11

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

Having faith in God in a world that continues to attempt to marginalize Him is at best difficult.  No one wants to hear they have sinned or done wrong in the eyes of Someone they can’t see.  Some people are so messed up, they have convinced themselves they can’t be forgiven.  It is truly a sad state to be in, but this is where your faith comes into play.

If you go about with joy in your heart, that will reflect in your outward behavior.  You will be helpful, loving, kind and gentle towards people.  If you walk with confidence but humility, not arrogance and being convinced of your own self-worth, people will take note of that as well.  And like a moth to a flame, they will be drawn to it.  But here is my question, how do you respond to it?

In today’s reading we very specifically see Paul writing that Christ has called us and saved us.  He knew we were going to be saved from before the beginning of time.  So that’s where our source of joy is from, Christ, who chose to give this to us.  So what are you doing with this gift?  Are you hiding it?  As believers, we are to go out and make disciples of all nations and one of the ways we do that is to share the gospel message with them, to let them know about what Christ has done in our lives.  Sometimes that means ridicule, being ostracized or just losing so-called “friends” altogether.  That’s a price you have to be willing to pay, after all, He paid the ultimate price for us.

In Matthew 10:33 Jesus says, But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.  Strong words indeed.  But are they right?  Of course they are.  Think about when you were in high school and you had the group of kids who’d be friends with you in private, but when it came to hanging out with you in front of the rest of the school, they’d swear they didn’t know you.  Jesus is our friend folks, the best we will ever have.  Don’t act like you don’t know Him to fit in or meet some criteria people have placed on you.  So I again pose the question that I asked in the very beginning of today’s entry.

Are you ashamed of your faith?

 

Dresser Drawers

Self-examination is hard under normal circumstances. Self-examination with Jesus teaching’s and God’s standards, are that much harder.

In 2010 I went back to school for journalism so I could learn formally how to write the way reporters do since I had been a stringer reporter for an online newspaper and a couple of regular paper publications.  One of my professors, Adam Bosch by name, taught us to use a brain-storming technique called “dresser drawers,” which is to say any subject matter in support of the topic sentence of a paragraph, should go into that paragraph.  Now, no offense to my professor, but had I known then that Jesus had already used this technique, I would have saved the money and taken a different class.

Matthew 6:33-34

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Today’s reading came from Matthew 6, which I urge you to read the entirety of to see the dresser drawers technique in action.  The Scripture verses above are essentially the concluding sentences of the entire teaching, therefore, they are the most important.  See all of Matthew 6 talks about seeking God and His kingdom first above all other things.  All of them are focused on your motivations and urges self-examination.

The first paragraph of the teachings talks about not doing good deeds or charitable works for people to see them, but for God to see them.  If we are doing things for those that need help in order to gain recognition or kudos from the world, then our motivation is pleasing ourselves, not pleasing God.  Second, it teaches about prayer and how our prayers need not be long and lengthy, with big, ten dollar, college level words and done so others can see us praying in such a way.  Again, our motivation in this case would be ourselves, not God.  Next, Jesus goes into fasting and how if we are going to fast, don’t brag about it or make a show of it, just do it and only let God know.  Then He talks about money (yes, the dreaded money subject), but in this case He’s talking about our hearts and what motivates our hearts.  If we are attempting to be responsible stewards of the money we are blessed with by God that’s one thing, but if we are hoarding money, then what’s our motivation, God or storing up the money?  Finally, He concludes with a discussion on worry, which brings everything home into one neat little package.  He discusses how we shouldn’t worry because God takes care of all His creatures, including us.

Now the paragraph above gives a synopsis of what Matthew 6 was saying.  Again I urge you to study, note I said study, not read, the entire chapter and pray on it.  Ask the Lord to open your mind and heart about the things He is talking about in the chapter and to work on those areas you realize you need to work on.  It’s a hard read, make no mistake.  Self-examination is hard under normal circumstances.  Self-examination with Jesus teaching’s and God’s standards, are that much harder.  Using the dresser drawers technique, Jesus made it easier to look at our lives a little bit at a time and have Him work out those areas that need to be worked on based upon His priorities in our lives.

Let People Know

The most important thing to remember with regard to the Great Commission, is to let a dying and hurting world know the love of Jesus. So go out and let them know.

I used to be part of a motorcycle ministry called the Christian Motorcyclists Association.  As a matter of fact, I used to be the Vice President of our local chapter.  I enjoyed it because the ministry’s lead verse was from today’s reading.

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

These two verses are what is known as the Great Commission.  Jesus had already been crucified and come back.  In my head I always think the Pharisees and Sadducees must have been thinking, “What do we have to do to kill this Guy?”  But I digress, if you don’t realize it, the Great Commission is a command.  Not a request, not a suggestion, but a command.

Jesus came to be crucified and resurrected for the sins of the whole world, not just the people we, humans, think deserve it.  Far too often I have heard Christians saying they won’t talk to a particular person or people because they are not “worthy” to go to heaven to which I respond, “Were you or I any different?”  Then there is the other side of the coin where people feel they can’t talk to people about Jesus either because they don’t know enough or are too nervous.  As I have said so many times in previous entries, don’t let the enemy in.  That uncertainty is the enemy keeping you from following Jesus’ marching orders.  Whether it be either pride or fear, don’t let the enemy get even a foot hold into your heart.  So now you are asking, how do I do this?  Well that’s easy enough.

Talking to people about the Lord is as simple as taking the time to look at your own life.  Look at what He’s done, the trials He’s allowed, the way you’ve been blessed and letting people know, “Hey, none of this is stuff I did, all this stuff was Jesus.”  A simple and effective ice breaker.  As you study, you will become more and more comfortable with doing this, but more importantly, you will be able to reflect more and more on what He’s done for you and things you never thought about or noticed before.  My girlfriend, does this very effectively and doesn’t even realize it.  She’s been through trials and tribulations in her life and when she talks about them, she doesn’t even realize she is fulfilling the Great Commission through her testimony.  The most important thing to remember with regard to the Great Commission, is to let a dying and hurting world know the love of Jesus.  So go out and let them know.

No Ordinary Teacher

When we recognize Him as the Supreme Authority, then we can really begin to understand not only the Scriptures, but everything that is happening in our lives as believers.

You know at Thanksgiving, just before thanking the Lord for providing the meal, you look all across the table and you wonder where you are going to start because the food all looks so good.  That is where I found myself this morning writing this.  In Matthew 7, there are so many good lessons contained within the 29 verses, it was hard to know where to begin.  But then I saw the last two verses and the Lord just spoke to my heart and I knew.

Matthew 7:28-29

28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 or He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

As I have said of myself in the past, I am no one special.  I have been given a talent for writing by God, so that’s what I do.  In this forum, I simply write about the things the Lord is speaking to my heart about personally, and others may be needing to hear it as well.  But Jesus, let’s face it, Jesus was the Ultimate Teacher.

At the beginning of chapter seven, He’s teaching about criticizing others with the well known judge, that you may not be judged saying, but He goes deeper into the “why” of it.  He explains the same standard you, as a human, use to look at others will be used on you.  Then He speaks about one’s prayer life and asking our Heavenly Father for things and how we, as humans, know and want to give our children good things, so what do you think He is going to give us.  He continues by explaining about going into heaven via the narrow gate, another well-known Scriptural teaching disliked by the world at large.  Next He goes into having discernment about false teachers and how you will know them.  Finally He gives a construction lesson where He speaks about building a house on rock vs. sand.  He’s speaking about a spiritual house mind you, but any contractor worth his license will agree with Jesus…even an atheist contractor.

Okay, while in that last sentence I did make a joke about an atheist contractor, what I said was not untrue.  The lesson about having a firm foundation underneath you when attempting to build a house is absolutely true in both a mundane sense and, more importantly, a spiritual sense.  However, at the conclusion of all of Jesus’ teachings, the most important lesson we can learn is the people’s reactions.  They were astonished.  But the reason why the were astonished had nothing to do with degrees or people He hung out with.  It had to do with the manner in which He spoke, as one having authority.  When we recognize Him as the Supreme Authority, then we can really begin to understand not only the Scriptures, but everything that is happening in our lives as believers.  So whom do you recognize as the authority in your life, you or Jesus?