Hebrews 5

Stagnation and lack of cultivation spoils milk and is the ultimate garden killer.  It’s the same within the life of the believer.

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Hebrews 5

So thus far we have examined two concepts as we have traveled through Hebrews, with the first being the basics of what is needed for salvation, the second being the difference between the believer and unbeliever.  And now we move towards the believer and growth in Christ.

Let’s picture the church as a garden with Jesus as the gardener.  Jesus uses a similar illustration when He calls Himself the vine with us being the fruit.

John 15:1-8

1“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
See as we we grow in Christ, we need to mature and grow.  That’s the concept of bearing fruit.  In the concluding paragraph of today’s reading the author looks at this concept from the perspective of those who are still immature in Christ.  Using the illustration of food vs. milk, the author compares who are still new in Christ to those who have walked for longer and have now graduated to solid food.
So how do we bring this altogether…by examining ourselves.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, I don’t know everything.  But I do know what Scripture says and I do my best, through prayer and the strength Christ provides me to apply those concepts.  In addition, when people ask me about my faith…I tell them the unfiltered, unadulterated truth.  I also tell them their sins are their own to talk to God about and I am no one to judge.  If they want prayer, I’ll pray with them.  If they want to know how to reach for Christ’s Hand to get into the boat, well by all means, I’ll do that with them too.
But I will admit, I have failed in certain areas.  I have had two friends over the years whom I have led to Christ…problem is that I made no follow-up with them.  They seem to be doing alright, as I have kept in touch with them, but without someone else to mentor them, which I couldn’t do, they have not really had the chance to mature.
So here is the deal, you want to show maturity as a Christian, look at the fruit you are producing.  And don’t look at it as whom you’ve led to Christ.  Look at it from are people seeing something different about you in your workplace and your general environment.  Do they see you finding joy in all things as Paul spoke about in his Prison Letter to the Philippian church.  Invite your friends or neighbors, who may not be believers or who may be, but have been misled or not had it really explained.  Get involved in a Bible study where you can mature and grow.
Stagnation and lack of cultivation spoils milk and is the ultimate garden killer.  It’s the same within the life of the believer.

Hebrews 1

We do not need to pray to angels or saints to reach God.  God’s Hand is already reaching out to us and He is the only One we need to pray to.

Faith in Christ is the very foundation of who we are as believers.  Faith that He has things well in hand and knows exactly what He is doing as He works in our lives.  But there are sects of believers who will question why they can’t pray to other saints or make requests of angelic beings.  Well the answer to that is simple enough…they aren’t the only begotten Son of God.

See brothers and sisters, in the Old Testament, God revealed Himself through various intermediaries an example of which were the prophets.  I say an example because one time, God used a donkey.  Read the story of Balaam in the Old Testament to see what I am talking about.  Regardless, after Christ came, God revealed Himself through His Son.  The intermediaries became obsolete and ceased to be necessary because now the division between us and God is gone and we can speak to Him directly because of Jesus.

Secondly, God made “the worlds” as the author of Hebrews puts it through Jesus.  Logic dictates since God made the worlds, which includes the heavenly realm, then He created all the beings in it.  Therefore, contrary to some beliefs, Jesus cannot be an angel or an angelic being as verses 3-4 so clearly state:

Hebrews 1:3-4

who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Third, God expressed His own perfection through His Son, who was perfect and sinless, as it refers to in verse 3 above and therefore was able to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins, abolishing the sacrificial system and making it so that all who believed could be given salvation.  Further evidence of God revealing Himself through His Son is found in the Gospel of John.

John 14:8-11

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.
But here is the kicker on this one folks, God loved us so much that no matter how many bad things or screw ups we’ve made in the past or how many are coming, and He does know them, He sacrificed His only begotten Son for us and Jesus obediently went to the cross, regardless of what it cost Him.
Finally, and the real point of today’s entry, a created being cannot worship its equal.  Think of it in military ranks.  A private is not going to worship another private nor a general another general.  Angels are created beings, as discussed earlier and one angel is not going to worship another angel.  Jesus is God Himself revealed.  He is sitting at the right hand of the Father, angels are not.  Angels have specific duties such as serving believers, protecting the helpless, proclaiming God’s messages and executing His judgment.
So what does this all mean?  As a foundational part of being a believer, we must keep at the forefront of our minds that Christ, and no other created being, is the intercessor and intermediary for us with the Father.  We do not need to pray to angels or saints to reach God.  God’s Hand is already reaching out to us and He is the only One we need to pray to.

A Friend of God

As Christians, we often use prayer as a last resort, the “Go To” if you would. What if we started out in prayer, ran the course in prayer and then ended in prayer.

This past Sunday, Catherine, my lady and blessing from God, were packing things in preparation for the move to the new apartment.  Whenever an ambulance went by, she would look out the window and watch.  I made a jest in my sarcastic manner, and she explained when she saw them going by, she was praying for the paramedics to be given wisdom to deal with situation and their safety as well as the people they were going to be taking care of.  This brought conviction to my heart, because I had never even considered the idea of doing that.

Colossians 1:3-5

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,

For the students of the Bible out there, the church in Colosse was not founded by the apostle Paul, but by those led by Epaphras from one of Paul’s missionary journeys and was located in the area of Asia Minor.  This letter from Paul was one of his prison letters written around 60 A.D.

To get back to what I mentioned in the first paragraph, my Catherine is always praying.  It’s part of what I love about her.  There are days when I get stressed out at work or from just normal life stuff, like people and I will send her a text.  The next thing I know, a sudden peace comes over me and I know she just prayed for me.  Why does she do this?  Why does she pray for everyone, even those paramedics that she doesn’t know?  I think the answer is obvious.

Prayer is our lifeline to God.  And He controls everything.  Catherine knows this, often times moreso than I do.  And she uses that lifeline every chance she gets to make sure she is not only lining up with God, but those she loves are protected and safe.

As Christians, we often use prayer as a last resort, the “Go To” if you would.  What if we started out in prayer, ran the course in prayer and then ended in prayer.  Does that sound like a tall order?  Even if you are having a brief conversation with God about what’s going on, you are still talking with Him about it, laying it before Him.  Even if there is nothing going on, just have a conversation with God, like you would any other friend you have.

There are many figures in the Bible who were called friends of God.  There’s a list of them in Hebrews and that was before Christ came along.  Thanks to Christ, you, me and every other believer in the world can say we are a friend of God.  Are you the kind of friend that shows up when you need something?  Or are you the friend that is always talking to Him?

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.

You Have a Plan…that’s cute.

You see, God’s plans for us are infinitely better than our own. But we, as humans, repeatedly and often, gum up the works. We get impatient, we think we know better than God, or we simply don’t want to listen to Him.

Today’s entry comes live from Express Laundromat in Port Jervis, NY.  Why, well because it’s laundry day.  See this was part of my plan for today.  Last night, while we were running some errands, Catherine and I had a discussion about plans for the future where I let her in on the fact that I had a five-year plan.  She responded with a very convicting, “Let’s just get through the next few days.”  It made me really start to think about how often we make plans where what we plan may not necessarily be what the Lord plans.

Psalm 33:10-11

10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.  11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.

Today’s reading really brought home to me the idea of not making long and extended solid plans.  I have OCD, not terrible mind you, but when I make plans and a wrench gets thrown into them, it throws me off.  It can be anywhere from a few hours to even days that it takes my mind to get right again.  All because I was so rigid in my own plans and didn’t consider mishaps, contingencies or simple human error.

Now, this is not to say making plans is not a good thing.  It actually is important to keep yourself organized.  However, let’s go to the Scriptures to see what the Lord has to say about making plans.

First we will go to the book of James:

James 4:13-15

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

And then in Proverbs

Proverbs 16:9

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs His steps.

So what is the key here?  Well if you look at the commonality between the two verses, it should be obvious.  Our plans need to line up with His plans for us.  As I have said in previous entries, I often picture heaven as a giant office and every office has a planning department.  My personal planning department is filled with at least 1,500 dry erase boards.  Why?  Well I’m human.

You see, God’s plans for us are infinitely better than our own.  But we, as humans, repeatedly and often, gum up the works.  We get impatient, we think we know better than God, or we simply don’t want to listen to Him.  As Christians, we need to yield to His plans for us.  He loves us and knows what’s best for us.  We can’t get so caught up in our plans, that we don’t make sure they line up with His.  If we do, our humanity will get the better of us and the enemy will use that against us.  So before you plan, pray.  After you plan, pray.  While executing your plan, pray.  Continually make sure your plans are still lining up with His after all, Romans 8:31 tells us, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” 

Not Your Task

When you pray and there is something you want to do, ask the Lord, are you the one who is supposed to be actually doing the task or are you there to make preparations for someone else to do the task.

If any of you is like me, you like making preparations before doing anything.  Whether it’s organizing yourself before doing work or simply making sure you have everything packed before taking a trip.  Do you realize that sometimes the Lord has you make preparations for someone else to complete a task?  That’s right.  Sometimes the Lord will have you gather materials and get things in order for someone else to take care of His business.

This was the case in Israel around the time of the building of the temple.  We read about it in 1 Chronicles 22.

1 Chronicles 22:6-10

Then he called for his son Solomon, and charged him to build a house for the Lord God of Israel. And David said to Solomon: “My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build a house to the name of the Lord my God; but the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight. Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies all around. His name shall be Solomon, for I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’

As you can read, this was at a point in Israel’s history where they were finally having peace.  David was well established on his throne and he had it in his head there was something he wanted to do.  However, God had not appointed the task for him, but for his son.  But David made sure Solomon had all the tools and materials necessary to complete the task.

Everyone has jobs in this world.  For some, the job is be the “doer” of the task.  For others, it’s to make the preparations for someone else.  Even John the Baptist knew he was there only to prepare the people for Christ’s coming and he accepted that task willingly and joyfully because it was a task God had given him.  So which on are you, the “doer” or the “preparer?”  Yes I used a word there that’s not an actual word, but it fits.  When you pray and there is something you want to do, ask the Lord, are you the one who is supposed to be actually doing the task or are you there to make preparations for someone else to do the task.  And when you are given the answer, don’t be angry or feel slighted, but take care of the part that you are responsible for with joy and put your very best in.  Remember, it may not be your task but it still deserves your best effort.

Prayer Power

There aren’t many weapons we have against the enemy and his tactics, but as I said before, prayer and being in the Lord’s word are the most powerful.

As a general rule of thumb, I try not to post about super personal things in my life.  Sometimes I will use personal things as examples, but I won’t go into details about them.  Today I make an exception to that rule.

You have read on occasion me mentioning my girlfriend and the wonderful blessing from God that she is.  What I have never mentioned is that we pray together on a nightly basis.  Just before we say our good nights, we lift each other, our relationship and those we care for in prayer.  But here is the applicable part that ties into today’s reading, when we got away from that practice, which happened over the course of a couple of weeks, things became less peaceful, and we couldn’t figure out why.  It was only once we got back to that practice, which was at the end of last week, things became calm again, which is where we come to today’s reading from James 5.

James 5:16

16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Prayer is one of the most effective weapon we have against the enemy and his games, being in His word is another. It keeps us lined up with the Lord, plain and simple.  Many people will doubt the power of prayer, but see here is the deal, when all is darkest and there seems to be no solution to the problem at hand, watch and see as even the most stalwart and stiff-necked unbeliever will flood social media with prayer requests.  And for that person’s believing friends, the first thing they will do is drop to their knees.

Prayer is not a wish list either.  Prayer is a conversation with God.  As I said, it lines us up with Him, what He wants for us to do.  Sometimes it’s His to do list for us for a given situation, sometimes it’s simply a way to get us focused back on Him and the enemy really doesn’t want that.  And that’s why we as believers, need to do it even more.

Last week, you read me put out a request for prayer for myself and the tempest I was going through personally.  I didn’t go into specifics, but I believe many, if not all of you who read this blog did it, and I am grateful and thankful for it.  If you all ever need prayer, do not hesitate to make that request to me.  For all the support you show, it’s the least I can do.  There aren’t many weapons we have against the enemy and his tactics, but as I said before, prayer and being in the Lord’s word are the most powerful.  When you combine prayer and study of His word together, you have a power in your hands, provided by our Father, the enemy cannot withstand.  As 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”