Hebrews 10

It’s usually the elephant that wanders away from the herd that gets devoured by the lions.

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Hebrews 10

Ever have trouble holding onto your faith?  Ever feel so battered and beaten down by life in general and you wonder if living by faith is all worth it?  Have you ever sat there and wondered if Jesus thought the same thing as He was getting nailed to the cross?

I know the answer to the last question.  Jesus knew we were worth it because our heavenly Father thought we were worth it.  The overall picture of this chapter is simple.  We don’t need the constant reminder of our sins the sacrificial system from the Old Testament provided because Christ died once and for all for our sins.

If we start our examination of this concept from verse one we see them again mentioning how the old way of doing things was just a shadow of things to come.  In addition, they were inferior because those sacrifices had to be repeatedly made.  I don’t know about you, but when I do something wrong and own it, I don’t want to relive it repeatedly.  I don’t need to hear, “I told you so” or be reminded of how I screwed up.  That’s already sitting in my head.  So, if you think about it, the sacrifices being offered were a constant reminder of these things.  That is what I like to call guilt obedience.

Remember when you were a kid and your parents would make you feel so guilty about something you didn’t do?  So you did it because you felt so bad you disappointed them.  Yeah, God doesn’t want that kind of obedience.  He doesn’t want us to be obedient because we feel bad.  He wants us to be obedient because we love Him.  See, we already know we are guilty.  How?  When we sin, willfully or otherwise, we feel it, we sense it and we know it through the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  So what do we need to do, willingly and humbly go and confess it before God.  Jesus is there, trust me on that.  He’s there advocating for you and me and letting God know, “Yes Father, Andres screwed up again, but he is one of Mine.  I’m still working on him.”  I usually picture that conversation ending with, “You sure You want him up here?”  But I now come to a very important point from this chapter, going it alone.

I, personally, am a loner.  I prefer the company of my cats and my dog to people.  Mainly because my animals don’t talk back unless they want food.  However, in my walk of faith, I cannot do that alone.  The walk that I walk is my own, and no one else’s.  However, we have to recognize there is a reason the Lord wants such a diverse and eclectic hodgepodge of people in His kingdom.  I personally think it’s about perspective.  See we all have our situations and we all view them from our own perspective.  But what about someone who went through pretty much the same thing.  What about how they got through it?  But wait, you are probably thinking, I can get that from anyone.  Right, but they will not always be spiritually-minded with Christ being first.

Psalm 1:1-2

Blessed is the man 
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
In verses 19-21 of this chapter of Hebrews, we are encouraged to stay in fellowship.  I can tell you from personal experience, trying to walk alone is like going out into the wilderness.  You can survive for a while, but you need the companionship of other believers.  You need that for encouragement and for perspective.  To use a wild animal analogy, it’s usually the elephant that wanders away from the herd that gets devoured by the lions.
We have to remember, we are called to live by faith in Him.  He does not call us to do that alone either.  Fellowship with other believers can strengthen our resolve, give us encouragement or even conviction.  While the old sacrificial system was a constant reminder of our guilt, Christ’s death on the cross should be the reminder of God’s love.  And how do we return that love?  By being willfully obedient.

Not a Spirit of Fear

Whatever you are fearing today, or in the future, take the Lord’s name and make it larger than the fear and elevate Him in praise above that fear.

You ever been afraid to do something?  It’s not shameful, nor is it uncommon.  We all have fears.  My personal major fear is trusting people and letting them get too close.  My mind starts to go on a whirlwind of activity.  Those are the times when I, as we all should, lay those fears before Him.

Psalm 34:3-4

Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.  sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.
Fear is the worst thing in the world to have.  It can paralyze a person worse than any disease and can keep us from doing the things the Lord wants us to do.  And the enemy knows it.
The enemy will use our fear against us.  He will make small matters actually seem bigger than they actually are, have us jumping at shadows or thinking people that love us are actually trying to harm us.  Our greatest weapon against fear is the Lord.
Let’s do the break down for today’s verse using, guess what, God’s Word as our basis.
First off, when we are fearful, and it doesn’t matter what we are afraid of, we pray.  We pray for God to take that fear, to ease our hearts and our minds.  If praying alone doesn’t help, get a prayer partner, someone to pray with you.  For a long time, my big brother was my prayer partner and even though he’s moved, I still message him to join me in prayer.
Second, if we step away from today’s particular Scripture and over to 2 Timothy 1:7, it says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  Using myself as an example, when my fear of trusting people begins to overwhelm me and I pray, my mind settles down back to logic and objectivity.  I can tell you in the times where I haven’t done that, I’ve ended up hurting people I love with vile and poisonous words because of my fear.
Today’s Scripture verse mentions magnifying and exalting the Lord’s name with someone, as I said, a prayer partner.  David wrote this Psalm and the reason he mentions doing that is very simple.  Magnifying something means you make it larger and exalting means you are elevating something in praise or estimation.  Whatever you are fearing today, or in the future, take the Lord’s name and make it larger than the fear and elevate Him in praise above that fear.  Lay that fear down so you can have that spirit of power, love and most of all a sound mind.

A Particular Set of Skills

We all just have to trust in Him, bring our worries, concerns or requests to Him and do what He tells us to do.

Hello to all those who follow this blog.  Please forgive me for being neglectful the last two days.  To make amends, I will be doing a triple entry today to account for Friday, Saturday and get us up to date.  I hope you are blessed by at least one of the entries.

Starting from Friday, the reading came from Psalm 62.  This Psalm was written by King David during Absalom’s rebellion, which is covered in 2 Samuel 15-18.  During this time period, David had enemies all around him, but was waiting on the Lord to deliver him.

Psalm 62:9-10

9 Surely men of low degree are a vapor, Men of high degree are a lie; If they are weighed on the scales, They are altogether lighter than vapor.  10 Do not trust in oppression, Nor vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them.
I remember nine years ago, just after I graduated from St. John’s University with my degree in paralegal studies, essentially the pre-law program at SJU.  I became quite full of myself.  I was going to demand from my boss the pay I deserved, doing the duties I knew I had the skills for or I was going to walk.  My pay did not increase, nor my duties and so I found a new job…which I was subsequently released from around Thanksgiving of that same year.
Now let’s move to last year.  Similar situation, except this time I was in a completely different field, I was with the company for three and a half years without a pay increase for two out of the three.  In addition, I had been asked to work overtime on multiple occasions, travel between two offices and my duties were more suited to my skills.
Did I mention the most important thing?  By the time of the second paragraph, I had rededicated my life to the Lord, prayed and then waited on Him before I did anything.  I didn’t trust in my skill set, my resume, nor in anything I could do.  And by waiting on Him and trusting His leading, I am better off for it.
Today’s reading spoke to me about not counting on what I can do, my degree or people.  We all just have to trust in Him, bring our worries, concerns or requests to Him and do what He tells us to do.  Once you do that, don’t be surprised at what He does.

What Do You Need?

…Jesus was just like us at one point in time. Human and subject to all the frailties, vulnerabilities and temptations as we are on a daily basis. What did He do? Relied on God.

How much do you need to survive in this world?  Do you need a new car every single time the latest model comes out?  How about a new cell phone every time a new one comes out?  There are people out there who would say they need these things.  I don’t count myself among them.  But the one Person that is constant that I need, is the Lord.  Without Him, I couldn’t write another word, couldn’t make another meal and I couldn’t walk another step.

Psalm 40:16-17

16 Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let such as love Your salvation say continually, “The Lord be magnified!” 17 But I am poor and needy; Yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God.
While those in this world who are not believers definitively need the Lord to save them and it’s our job to let them know about Jesus and what He’s done for their sins, the need for the Lord does not stop there.  Once one starts believing, the need continues or increases.
The enemy dislikes believers.  That’s a fact.  I’d go so far as to say he hates believers at the very minimum.  So there are going to be times where he throws everything at us including the kitchen sink in order to get us off the path of needing and seeking God.  Satan will give us everything we want so we stop depending on God and start relying on ourselves.  He’ll slowly drive a wedge between us and our heavenly Father using our own pride against us.  We luck out in the fact that God is always there waiting for us to come back, but it shouldn’t even go that far.  We need to recognize Satan when he comes to tempt us and realize it’s in those moments, we need to rely on God the most.
I’ve said it in a previous entry, Jesus was just like us at one point in time.  Human and subject to all the frailties, vulnerabilities and temptations as we are on a daily basis.  What did He do?  Relied on God.  And that is what we need to do in those moments where we feel out of control.  We need to rely on Him.  God won’t always supply our wants, but He will definitely meet all of our needs.  We just have to bring them to Him in prayer and humility and then watch what He does.

A Little Goes a Long Way

Of all the needs we, as Christians do have, the most important is faith in the Lord. With that little faith, He can use us to do great things.

You know there is a difference between wants and needs?  Wants are things that if you don’t have them, it’s not a big deal.  You’ll survive without them.  Needs are something very different.  We need food and shelter to survive.  We need to have some sort of monetary income to maintain them.  In some areas of the country/world, you need a vehicle of some sort to get around.  People get these two things confused a lot, but Christians need to remember, all we need is the Lord.

Psalm 37:16-17

16 A little that a righteous man has Is better than the riches of many wicked.  17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, But the Lord upholds the righteous.
Reading this Scripture, let’s pose a question.  Do you have more than what you need?  In other words, do you have things that are completely pointless for you to even own and you got them just for the sake of having them?
One of the things Christians should remember is to always assess what they truly need.  I’ll use myself as an example.  As anyone who has been reading this blog consistently knows, I have found an apartment that I actually like.  Okay, let me correct that, the Lord found me an apartment that meets the needs that I have, the biggest being a decent enough kitchen so I could cook really nice meals.  And right there is your difference between wants and needs in a nutshell.  I wanted to be able to cook nice meals and be able to host people in my home, but I what I needed was a good kitchen to be able to do that.  The Lord provided both.
The kitchen I will be moving to has more counter space and is laid out in such a way that I can move from one project to the next easily.  And it’s not a large kitchen.  It’s just the right size for my needs.
With the Lord, a little goes a long way.  There are so many examples in Scripture of the Lord using a little to do big things.  Gideon having 300 men and the Lord winning a battle for Him (Judges 7), David using a single small stone to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17), and probably most important of all, Jesus challenging the disciples to have the smallest amount of faith in Him and they’d be able to do great things (Matthew 17 and Luke 17).  There are other examples, but these most prominently display the fact that all you need is little and the Lord can do great things with that little.  Of all the needs we, as Christians do have, the most important is faith in the Lord.  With that little faith, He can use us to do great things.

The Aftermath

Maybe you have a day, a week or a month with nothing happening, no trials, no tribulations or stresses. When those times come along, we need to thank Him then, not for getting us through the trouble, but for this time of peace and rest.

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you will have read where I write to not only give God thanks for blessings, but also during trials.  One of the reasons I say to give thanks during trials is because those trials are being used to build us and draw us closer to Him.  And one of the things we shouldn’t forget is to thank God in the aftermath of trials for getting us through them.

Psalm 107:1-2

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.
I will be the first one to says it, trials, tribulations, normal life stuff that stresses us out, stink.  They are not fun, take us out of our comfort zone and generally make us have a bad time period.  It doesn’t help any that during those trials we sometimes end up feeling like God isn’t listening or hearing our prayers, so we don’t feel close to Him.  Note the word I used there…we don’t feel close to Him.
Keep in mind, trials are just difficulties thrown at us by the enemy to get us off our game.  He wants us to start to despair, to stop relying on and praying to God.  And inevitably, God gets us through it.  But the focus today is the aftermath.  That period of peace that follows after a trial is amazing.  Maybe you have a day, a week or a month with nothing happening, no trials, no tribulations or stresses.  When those times come along, we need to thank Him then, not for getting us through the trouble, but for this time of peace and rest.
Alright readers, I’ve got a secret…you ready?  I don’t like trials.  Sometimes there are times where so many stressful things occur in such a short time period, I wonder if they will ever stop coming.  But God promises He will get us through them.  He’s gotten me through them.  He’ll get you through them and we all need to trust in Him.  But now I challenge you, since He didn’t forget you, don’t forget Him during the aftermath.  Don’t forget to thank Him and praise Him for sticking with you during that rough patch.

This is the Lord’s Gym, not Jack Lalanne.

Being in the Word regularly, walking the walk of faith and being accountable are all part of God’s Workout program for the soul.

Do you like to workout?  I do.  This spring it seems my spirit is getting more of a workout than my body.  Every time I get into a steady workout routine, something comes up to interrupt it.  I just can’t seem to get into that flow.  With my study of the Word however, not so much.  I have been getting more of a spiritual workout in the last few months than I have in a while.  How about you?  What’s your spiritual workout been looking like?

Psalm 18:32-34

32 It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect.  33 He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places.  34 He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
So as you read here, God has the ultimate workout program, complete with cardio and strength training.  You’ll be as fast as the deer described and bend bronze bows.  But much like any workout program, it requires discipline.  Using a very basic workout program as our template, let’s look at how we, as Christians, can maximize the benefits.
First, any nutritionist or dietitian will tell you is eating habits.  You have to get those under control.  What’s good about this program is you get to eat all you want and not gain a pound.  You don’t just read the Word, you consume it, devour it and let it nourish your spiritual body.
Second, cardio training.  The apostle Paul often speaks of running a race with regard to the Christian walk.  There’s your cardio.  Walk the walk, run the race and you will understand what God wants from you faster and with more certainty.  Deer can run at high speeds through forested areas and never hit a tree or fall.  If you walk the walk God has set before you, you can be as sure-footed and as fast as that deer.
Finally, strength training.  If you are doing the above, you are not only improving your spiritual cardio, but your strength as well, but with any strength training you do, you need spotter or partner.  In this case, an accountability partner.  Someone older in the faith whom you can confide in and speak to with regard to questions or trials and tribulations you may be going through.  Someone to pray with you.  Their strength and knowledge will allow you to become stronger.
Now I know today’s entry sounded a lot like an infomercial and maybe even humorous, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  We need spiritual exercise in order to serve the Lord.  We are supposed love the Lord with all our heart, soul and strength, as per Deuteronomy 6:5.  How can we do that if we aren’t exercising spiritually?  Being in the Word regularly, walking the walk of faith and being accountable are all part of God’s Workout program for the soul.