Day 73: Hebrews 3-5 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Hebrews 3-5 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In chapter three of Hebrews, the author states that Jesus is better than Moses (3:3).  Moses lead his people from captivity to the promised land. Yet, the Nation of Israel chose not to believe God when they came to the edge of the promised land and so they wandered the dessert for 40 years until an entire generation died off (3:8-10, 17). Knowing that persecution is coming, the author of Hebrews challengers the readers to be careful, lest they too fall into unbelief in the face of fear (3:12,19).

Chapter four begins the discussion of the sabbath rest. The author looks forward with anticipation to the rest that is afforded those who have believed Christ (4:3). We are charged that there is a rest to come, that we may be prevented from entering into that rest, through our disobedience (4:11). We are challenged to let the word of God have full effect in examining our hearts and exposing our motives (4:11-13).

The text flows from the end of chapter four and into chapter five stating that Jesus is the great high priest (4:14).  He is one who understands our temptation and weaknesses (4:15) and stands ready to receive us in our confession and repentance. We have been granted incredible access to God through him, and  should have no problem approaching the throne of grace (4:16).

FATHER, we thank you for the gift of belief and trust in you. I pray that we would be those who persevere in our faith even when we face obstacles that might cause of fear or concern. I pray that we would never forget the incredible high priest we have in Jesus who stands at the right hand of the father making intercession for us even now. I thank you for your grace that is so overwhelming. Thank you for the grace to pastor your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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3 Things I Taught My Son By Cutting The Grass.

Being a dad is a big deal. Last week I taught my seven-year-old to cut the grass (push mower). I was hesitant to unleash him with a spinning mechanical blade, but his mom wasn’t there to stop me so I went for it and I’m glad I did (just kidding, she trusts me). In the process we had several unplanned father-son moments as his attention was hyper-focused on learning to mow the grass. Here are a few that I caught myself teaching him.

cutting the grass

  1. Your Actions and Lack of Actions Affect Others.

Our first task was to fix the self-propelled components of the mower. Though he is a strong kid, he is just seven. Having the self-propelled component working would help him be successful. So we got out the tools, pulled the cover off and started cleaning things up and looking at why it didn’t work. As we were doing this together, he was goofing around and touching stuff on the mower. I knew there was no real danger since starting a mower is an involved process but I asked him, “What would happen to my hands right now if you accidentally started the mower?” Of course he knew by where my hands were that he would “cut them off.” I then asked, “Is that something you want to do?” Of course he didn’t. So I suggested that when someone is working on a machine the best thing to do is stand back and watch, unless you are asked to help.  We then talked about how all of our actions affect others.

2. It is Easy to Mistake The Symptoms for the Problem.

Once we were fixing the mower we talked about how what we perceived as the problem (the self-propelled component wasn’t working) was actually a symptom of the real problem. Likely a part had broken, a belt had slipped, or we simply got to much stray grass had gotten under the cover. As it turned out there was a ton of grass and the belt had slipped off. It was an easy fix. In the process though we talked about how in everything from lawn mowers to relationships that when something is broken, we often see the effects before we can analyze the cause. It takes wisdom to look for what caused the problem and fix it instead of just looking at the problem and complaining.

3. Always be on Guard Against Mission Drift.

Mission drift is common in everything from cutting grass to life in general. If we are not careful we will be more concerned with where we are than where we are going and in doing so we will end up way off course! Without a vision for what needs to be accomplished it is easy to worry more about pushing the mower than where you are pushing the mower too. He learned this all too quickly as the first few rows were crooked, leaving pockets of uncut grass in some places, and mowing over the same territory twice in other places. I shared that We must always keep an eye on what God has called us to or we will miss the mark simply because we thought more of the moment than we did the outcome. I applied this especially to living under authority. I shared that even I as a parent and pastor fall under the authority of scripture.  It’s easy to respond to the feelings of the moment, but wise men go back to what God has said and follow that path.

I’m sure that a lot of the conversation went over his head. Yet, it has also become a background song to his life. He knows more about cutting grass and more about life than he did a week ago. I’m reminded that our children often learn more from us as they join us in activity than they do when we sit them down to have a specific conversation. I’m always looking for those teachable moments.

Who Controls the Gates? (Nehemiah 7:3)

Who Controls the Gates?  (Nehemiah 7:3)

I used to have an old college professor who said, “There is nothing good that comes on TV after 10 o’clock anyway, you might as well go to bed and get up early.” In his estimation it was a waste of time to stay up late watching TV, playing video games, etc. He knew he was speaking to a bunch of young men and women who were used to having someone else set the rules for everything including bed time. Now that we were on our own it was up to us to decide how we would manage our time. Would we waste our lives on the trivial things like late night talk shows and video games or would we discipline ourselves so that we could make the most of our time.

Cover

And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.” The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.(Nehemiah 7:3-4 ESV)

Nehemiah challenges the gate keepers to open and close the gates at certain times of the day. Keeping up with a gate schedule was important for the city of Jerusalem. They hadn’t had gates and walls for quite some time so getting adjusted to a new routine was a big deal. But more than the routine, the gate schedule would allow the guards and gate keepers to be diligent about seeing and inspecting anyone who came in and out of the city.

Gates are ultimately a good thing. They serve as an access point to the city. The city needed the gates in order for food, people, and commerce to come into the walls. But they also needed gates to keep out the enemy when they came knocking. The trick is that the enemy doesn’t always come dressed up as the enemy. The devil looks more like an angel than a red monster with a jet black beard, horns and a pitchfork (2 Corinthians 11:14).  The gate times would control the access to the city and limit the enemy from weakening the people from the inside. The high sun would make sure that every thing was exposed to the light and swords and other weapons of war would be easier to spot.

We all have access points into our lives. We allow what other people say, or things we see on television, or hear on the radio to effect us and how we live. Who and what has access to your life? Are you letting the enemy through the gates of your mind or are you keeping Him out?

Philippians 4:10-13 (Devotional Thought)

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13 ESV)

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” is perhaps one of the most misquoted verses of all time. I have to confess that as a young athlete I thought this verse was awesome because I thought that quoting it before I tried to make my free-throw shots in basketball would somehow help me become a better player.

The Apostle Paul is actually talking about Continue reading “Philippians 4:10-13 (Devotional Thought)”

Philippians 4:6-7 (Devotional Thought)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)

Anxiety is a big deal. Odds are that you’ve wrestled with it. It is that feeling you get about uncertainty over the future. You get nervous, scared, maybe even unable to think or move because of what might happen. You might fail a class and have to repeat it. You might have to move. You might not ever make any friends at your new school. Someone might pick on you mercilessly at school tomorrow. Your teacher might call on your in class and you have no clue about what you are studying.

What are some of the things that you have been anxious about?

It can be tough to hear Paul say, “Do not be anxious about anything.” But think for a moment about his life and his circumstances. He was chained next to a Roman guard when he wrote this. He was about to stand trial before Cesar (possibly Nero). It is very possible that he would be executed. Any day he could get called up for trial. He of all people has a lot of reasons to be anxious, but he isn’t… He has found something that puts anxiety to sleep.

Paul says to pray about everything. So if your math class is giving you anxiety. Do you’re homework and pray. Tell God that you feel anxious when you see the letter “X” where a number should be and your teacher keeps repeating “Solve for X” because you have no clue. Tell God that you are concerned about what other people might think of your tennis shoes. Tell God that you felt like you were left out and abandoned when you found out that all of your friends got together to go bowling and you weren’t even invited. Tell God everything.

Somehow the practice of prayer allows us to confess our dependence on God. We recognize when we pray to the Father that He is in control. He holds the future and nothing happens without His knowledge. When we spill our guts about what might happen, He already knows the outcome. We can trust Him because He loves us, He walks with us, and nothing is beyond His grasp.

When we pray about everything, we find the peace of God. We can rest knowing that the events may not turn out like we would want them too, but God is definitely in control. What is amazing is that Paul can offer us God’s Word because he is living in the midst of it. His heart and mind are being guarded daily by Jesus as he lifts everything to Jesus in prayer.

What are things that you need to lift up to God in prayer today?

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Philippians 1:27-30 (Devotional Thought)

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:27-30 ESV)

“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel,” have you ever thought through this statement? Have you ever pondered what it means to live worthy? It’s not like we could pay Jesus for what he has done for us. We could never make up for our sin! This verse isn’t asking us to do that, but Paul is commanding us to move forward in the power of the gospel!

I once heard a story about identical twin brothers. As they grew into adulthood they took two very different paths. One was a very moral, upstanding man the other became a drunk, was caught up in illegal gambling, and would often get in fights. One night the less moral brother got into a fight over a gambling debt and killed a man. He didn’t know what to do so he ran to his brothers house in the middle of the night.

“Brother, Brother, what do I do? I killed a man!” By now they could hear the police sirens in the distance and knew that they must be coming for the murderer. The good brother quickly insisted that they change clothes. “Here put on my clothes and I’ll wear your blood stained garments.” The murder sobbed and said, “No, their must be some other way!”

The good brother insisted that they change and soon the good brother was wearing the murders clothing complete with blood stains and the murderer found himself in a nice white shirt and slacks. Just before the police entered the house and began to take away the good brother and the murderer spoke up, “What do I do now?”

“Live like the man whose clothes you wear.” And from that day on he became someone different. He was often tempted to settle into old habits and go back to a lifestyle that he was familiar with, but he reached down and would feel the buttons on his shirt and remember, “I am someone different now.”

We were once guilty of great sin before a holy and righteous God. Jesus paid for our sin by his death on the cross and credited us with his righteousness so that not only are our sins not counted against us, but his goodness is counted for us. Sometimes when we are tempted to sin, we need to remind ourselves that we are different than we once were. The gospel gives us power to live every day different than we were before Christ. The gospel gives us boldness. We used to care what people think but now we care more about what God thinks. It doesn’t mean that at times we won’t be tempted, but the ability to resist the temptation comes from trusting that Jesus is enough. We need to be reminded of the gospel everyday because the gospel is important everyday.

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Philippians 1:22-26 (Devotional Thought)

If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:22-26 ESV)

The Apostle Paul is in pain. He’s been beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead, and mistreated by people like the jailer in Philippi more than once. For Paul, death means that he’ll get to see Jesus face to face in a good way, and to keep on living means that someone else will punch him, hurt him, and make him suffer. He has a preference. He’d rather be with Jesus.

But you don’t become an Apostle by putting your needs, your wants, your desires at the head of the line. Paul has to ask himself a serious question: What is better for the church? What is better for those people who have heard the gospel and believed because of his testimony? What is better for them?

This is what maturity looks like: It’s when you put the needs of others ahead of your own. I experienced it when I got married. I experienced it when I had children and I’ve experienced it as a leader in the local church. This is how the gospel transforms your life. You no longer live as if you are the most important thing in the universe. You live around the reality that Jesus is the most important thing in the universe and you do your best to bring other people into a right relationship with Him.

I’m a pastor and so I often hear people say things like “I’m not getting fed at my church” or in youth ministry someone younger will say that they feel like they belong with the more “mature” group. This kind of thinking isn’t mature. It’s actually babyish. Sorry to be blunt but adults don’t cry to get fed, babies do. Real maturity is looking out for the needs of those around you not abandoning people because you found a group that meets your intellectual needs. When you shift towards putting what you think your needs are at the center of everything, you’ve lost sight of what’s really important.

One of the dangers of immaturity is that we can think we know what’s best, when we really don’t. One time my son had a pair of scissors he had gotten off the table and he went crazy opening and closing them. I immediately told him to give me the scissors. He insisted that he knew what he was doing and before I could stop him he ended up cutting himself under the eye. His immaturity gave him confidence to do something that ultimately was not good for him.

Sometimes what WE need most is to put the needs of others ahead of our own and in doing so we fulfill God’s plan for US and we are used by God to minister to others.

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Philippians 1:15-18a (Devotional Thought)

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18a ESV)

Not everyone was rejoicing with Paul. Some people saw Paul’s being in prison as an opportunity to talk bad about him. Perhaps they would have done things differently. Perhaps they thought he was being too bold or brash. You expect the bad guys to say bad things about you, but these people were Christians!  How would you feel if Christian people were saying mean things about you?

Paul reveals that their motives weren’t exactly pure. They were envious and they wanted the recognition that he got for leading people to Jesus and planting churches. So they preached Christ but they did so in such a way as to drag Paul’s name through the mud. They got the gospel right, but they got Paul wrong. They actually took some kind of weird pleasure in causing Paul pain.

Yet, even in the midst of this harsh judgment from Christian brothers Paul finds a way to praise God. He doesn’t focus on himself but rather what is happening with the gospel. Sure there are people out there talking him down, but are they talking Jesus up? That’s what Paul wants to know. He doesn’t care why they preach as long as what they preach is truth about Jesus.

This Jesus first, Paul second attitude allows him to see the good in people who have said some mean things about him. He does not get bogged down in personal attacks. He does not write to the Philippians telling them that this person is a jerk because they said mean stuff about him. He simply says don’t worry, as long as they are preaching the gospel God is glorified.

Sometimes we get this picture in our mind that if we could just go back to the New Testament church where everything was perfect, life would be better. However, even in the first churches people weren’t prefect. Many of them did great things for God while holding on to sins like envy and rivalry with God ordained leaders like the Apostle Paul. It’s not that God looks lightly at this, but that God used them despite their sin. Paul chose to look at this situation and rather than take personal offense, he put a priority on the gospel. He chose to see how God could use even this bad situation for something great like telling the world about Jesus.

We live in a day and age where it is too easy to get offended over the slightest thing. The gospel is greater than our personal feelings. Many times we get offended because we put ourselves ahead of God or ahead of the gospel. Paul reminds us that when we put the gospel first, personal attacks and criticisms don’t sting as much.

Criticism always stings. It stings so bad that sometimes we are just afraid of what people ‘might’ say. Ask God to give you courage today to put the gospel first no matter what people say or might say about you personally.

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Philippians 1:12-14 (Devotional Thought)

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14 ESV)

Paul is writing this letter to the Philippians from prison in Rome. He was arrested for causing a riot. People were angry that he was preaching the gospel. He was a Roman citizen and had a right to appeal to the emperor and Paul claimed that right and was shipped to Rome. When he stands before the emperor he may be released or he may be killed, but at the time he writes this letter he is in prison.

When we go through difficult circumstances because we follow Jesus it can become easy to get depressed and wonder why we are suffering, but not Paul. Paul saw everything that was happening as God’s plan to take the gospel to a place it would have otherwise never gone. He was placed with Roman guards all day and all night, rather than telling them about how he was innocent or trying to convince them to put in a good word with someone, he was telling them about how Jesus had changed his life and could change theirs too! They were listening. Some, like the jailer from Philippi, were responding to the gospel and trusting in Jesus! And while the whole imperial guard didn’t sit down with Paul individually, he was making such big waves with those who were that they couldn’t help but tell the story of Paul, why he was in prison and about this Jesus that he preached. I imagine some people thought he was crazy, but others listened, and many believed.

This had another side effect. Other Christians had been watching Paul and when they saw that he was being bold to share the gospel it encouraged them to be bold as well. They weren’t afraid of what people would say anymore. They weren’t afraid of what people would do.

The gospel changes the way we look at our circumstances. Have you ever wondered why you live in the neighborhood you live in, attend the school you do, or have the interests you do? When you look at them through the lens of the gospel you see the reason you are where you are is to tell other people about Jesus. You may find yourself in a crumby situation like where you are sick and have to see doctors and nurses all the time, or at a school you don’t like. Think about this though, if God can cause use Paul being in prison to further the gospel then he can use you where you are.

What are the circumstances that God has placed you in for the purpose of telling others about Jesus?

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Philippians 1 (Devotional Thought)

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Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:1-2 ESV)

Sometimes it can be easy to pass over words like these that are an introduction to a book of the Bible. We don’t think that they can make sense for our lives and so we hurry over the words or we skip down to something more interesting. Today though I want to challenge you to think a little deeper. What do you know about the Apostle Paul? Write down everything you know. No worries, I’ve got time. (If you are unfamiliar with Paul, you can read his back story over in Acts 8-9 where he went by the name of Saul).

Ok. Lets compare notes: Paul used to persecute Christians! He went around from town to town locking Christians in jail and in some cases even approving of their murder (Acts 8:1)! Then through a dramatic encounter with Jesus, on the Road to Damascus, Paul’s life was changed. He went from being a guy who went from town to town persecuting Christians to a guy who now went from town to town telling people about Jesus! He was even thrown in jail, tortured and beaten for telling others about Jesus! God had radically changed Paul’s life.

Paul is the human author that God used to write the book of Philippians. That’s important because God uses the most unlikely characters to do great things in his name. Next question: Who do you think the book of Philippians written too? Go ahead write down your answer. I got time. When you’re done click the more tag.

Continue reading “Philippians 1 (Devotional Thought)”