Archive | October, 2015

Better Giving = Better Hearts

October 21, 2015

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The Lord hates sacrifices brought by evil people,
particularly when they offer them for the wrong reasons. – Proverbs 21:27 NCV

God intended from the beginning for his people to be givers. That is, the kind of giver that does so honestly and willingly. Working around the spirit of godly giving is very disappointing to him.

One example is David. David refused to offer a sacrifice to God that he did not own. (2 Samuel 24:18ff) He understood that it’s not a sacrifice until we sacrifice something.

On the other side of the spectrum are Ananias and Sapphira. They tried to get credit for more than they gave. (Acts 5:1-11) They understood only the personal gain they would get out of the deal.

When God required the tithe from the Jews, and when he required the first day of the week offering for Christians, he was teaching us to be givers.

Giving changes us. It is about so much more than the money.

give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. – Luke 6:38 ESV

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Gossip Hurts

October 20, 2015

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Gossip hurts a lot

Gossips can’t keep secrets,
so avoid people who talk too much. – Proverbs 20:19 NCV

This was Paul’s advice as well (Ephesians 4:29-31).

When we work to avoid being the source of chatter, gossip, idle talk, we avoid leading others astray.

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Take a deep breath and count to 10

October 18, 2015

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Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
– Proverbs 19:11

Solomon must have been thinking of his father when he wrote this. No matter how much Saul chased him, David said he would not attack God’s anointed.

Godly people do not carry a chip on their shoulder nor do they take insults and injustices to heart.

James advised Christians to be slow to speak, slow to anger because the anger of man does not produce godly righteousness. (James 1:19-20)

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7 Sacrifices We Should Make

October 17, 2015

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The Lists of Hebrews
A Study of the book of Hebrews
Lesson 6 Part 2
Lesson Text: Hebrews 13

In Part 1 of this lesson, we established that we need a plan of action to finish the walk of faith like the heroes of Hebrews 11. They accomplished some extraordinary feats of faith because they trusted God.

They were not able to accomplish those things out of some cold, blind, new thing they had come to believe. They got to the point of execution because it was a lifestyle they practiced every day. Faith (and the ability to be obedient) grows with practice.

The Hebrews writer compared the faithful Christian journey to a race, and we took the time to explore what he meant. To be competitive in a race, we have to:

  1. Build up our endurance
  2. Execute on a plan

Since part 1 was all about the need to build up our endurance, we will now take a look at what comes second – executing our plan.

In Hebrews 13, the writer covers a list of duties that do not come naturally to people in general. Endurance will start to come in handy as we carry out the Christian duties listed in our lesson text. We will refer to them as sacrifices, but when we get good at practicing what is on this list, they become a way of life.

Brotherly love. Top of the List

(Hebrews 13:1)

As you go to your next worship service, keep in mind that brotherly love is one of the reasons for going to church. It is a time to strengthen the bonds among those with whom we study and worship.

Those bonds:

  • help us become teachers
  • help us become charitable
  • help us learn from the examples of others
  • help us feel grow to maturity
  • help us practice compassion

John has a very specific warning about our place with God and the love we have for our brother. (1 John 2:9-11) Practicing kindness, making connections and not being a busybody are ways to get into God’s light. Even if we have everything else we need to be in the light, a lack of brotherly love will shade into darkness.

Brotherly love is not only good for us; God requires it!


Hebrews 13:2 makes me think of Genesis 18 and 19, where Abraham and Lot granted hospitality to some strangers that turned out to be angels. Whether or not the Hebrews writer was thinking the same thing, we can draw a critical parallel between the two passages. If we make a habit of being hospitable, we will occasionally entertain someone who is a blessing to be around.

A congregation I used to attend invited Jane McWhorter to speak in a ladies’ day event, and my wife and I hosted her in our home. I promise you I got more out of that experience than all the ladies that attended the actual event. I treasure every conversation and insight I gained from our visit. It certainly helped me to understand what the writer was trying to tell us in Hebrews 13:2

Make it a goal to connect with someone new. The return on this small investment will be immeasurable.


Hebrews 13:3 urges the audience to remember those that were imprisoned or mistreated for their beliefs. I used to think this is not something we have to worry about in our time, but not anymore. Finding news about Christians dying for their faith is easy. It is even easier to find those who are mistreated because of it.

Members of the body of Christ deserve anything we can do for them to help with their situation.


Hebrews 13:4-6 is a reminder to be content. Those who are married are to remain faithful to that commitment. Gaining wealth and possessions should not be our focus.

Trying too hard to improve upon physical pleasures and increase possessions will cause us to lose focus on the race. It becomes one of the encumbrances the writer mentioned.

As Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:6 that godliness with contentment is great gain.


Hebrews 13:7, 17

The role of the church’s leadership is twofold:

  1. They are examples
  2. They have the responsibility for the church body

As stated in verse 7, The church’s elders are teachers and leaders. In Acts 20:26, Paul advised the elders at Ephesus to follow his example and provide the full council of God and to care for the flock. As such, they have dedicated themselves to be an example, and most importantly, being a good student of the word so they can aptly teach it.

Verse 17 says to be obedient to the elders. Following the instructions of the congregation’s leadership is given the weight of an apostolic command in this verse with our soul placed in the balance. Remaining submissive to their scriptural leadership is an excellent way to promote harmony and growth in the church.

Follow the Truth

Hebrews 13:8-14 requires our focus to remain to the word of God. There are hundreds of denominations claiming to be faithful churches, but teach things that are foreign to what the Bible teaches.

This happened because they didn’t protect their faith…

They allowed themselves to drift…

They failed to mature.

Jesus never changes. (Hebrews 13:8) So we can assume if Jesus never changes, but there is change in the church, then it must be the people that did the changing! Remember that the next time someone says the Bible is outdated.

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
-John 8:31-32

Praise God

God absolutely desires our worship. (Hebrews 13:15)

Praise him in public.

Praise him among friends.

Praise him when things are not so good.

The “fruit of the lips” the writer is talking about here will nourish your faith as your ears hear your own voice praise him.

Final Thoughts

This list of responsibilities helps us shape the character of our lives through dedication to Christ.

The author concludes this epistle with a benediction, maybe one of the best in the Bible:

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead,
that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is
well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.
Amen. – Hebrews 13:20-21

Through this study, we have either discovered or been reminded of the Who, What, When, Where of the Gospel of Christ.

  • Who – Christ is the authorized head of the church/kingdom of God.
  • What – Christ brought with him the perfect sacrifice and salvation
  • When – At the time of his sacrifice he brought us a better covenant
  • Where – Down the path that leads us to “the rest.”

To make it all the way, treat it as a race: do things to increase your endurance and reduce encumbrances so you can finish!

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Life is Lived in the Gray Area

October 13, 2015

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Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good.
– Proverbs 13:21

At first glance, this passage does very little to comfort the faithful Christian when they are amid life’s challenges. And what about the unrepentant sinners enjoying celebrity status on TV?

A study of Job reveals life isn’t as black and white as this proverb leads us to believe. A righteously lived life will have some bad events and a sinner’s life will have good events.

Maybe the trick is to remember what the divine author has in mind for us. (James 5:7)

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In Good Company

October 12, 2015

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Spend time with the wise and you will become wise, but the friends of fools will
suffer. – Proverbs 13:20 NCV

Financial books teach that one’s wealth settles in to within 20% of his five closest friends. Business books teach us the same thing about how influential we can be.

What if we applied Solomon’s words to our spirituality?

Whether we do it on purpose or not, the company we keep affects our relationship with God.

Also see 1 Corinthians 15:33

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4 Endurance Building Practices

October 11, 2015

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The Lists of Hebrews
A Study of the book of Hebrews
Lesson 6 Part 1
Lesson Text: Hebrews 12

By now, I hope we have all read and given a thorough study to the “heroes” of Hebrews 11. We could spend weeks examining each one mentioned in detail and then weeks more considering the ones mentioned in passing. (Hebrews 11:32)

But what do we take away from all of that study?

What we see most often among the examples of faith in Hebrews 11 is the delivery of the word from God and the diligent response to obey.

The heroes did not always understand what God meant, or why he gave the commands, or even that the command was sane in human terms. In the face of these concerns, they did everything they could to carry out God’s word.

They took his instructions at face value.

They obeyed.

Since the Hebrews letter is written to the backsliding Christians of the day, his primary goal must have been to strengthen and encourage the fledgling church. They needed to be able to face extreme challenges. They needed to understand why they were fighting.

The writer gave them all the information they needed about Christ…

He also gave them everything they needed to know about what it means to have faith…

He even warned them about the need to protect and grow that faith.

So what would they do we do with all this info? What is the plan of action?

If we take what we can learn from this Hebrew church and apply it to what is happening today, we can develop a solid plan to get to heaven.

First, we need to build up our endurance.

The world then was not much better or worse than it is right now. There were simple non-believers. There was more aggressive opposition in the form of gainsayers. There were even some that set out to do physical harm to the Christians for their beliefs.

Preparation is key, and Hebrews 12 and 13 is all about preparation and practice to build up our faith.

Look up

(Hebrews 12:1-2)

I don’t know if the “cloud of witnesses” is a figurative or actual thing, but we can be confident that their example hangs over us for guidance. Especially Jesus, who cashed it all in for the faith.

If we think of Christian living as a footrace, (Hebrews 12:1) with various stages or work and a goal at the end, we get a sense of what the writer was recommending to us.

Look up to excellent examples, look up to Christ and we’ll get all the insight we need to win the prize.

Avoid Fainting

(Hebrews 12:3-4)

One of the first things new military recruits learn to do is stand. In the beginning, physical conditioning is less about extreme exertion than just mere standing. I still remember how sore I was after one week of boot camp. All we had done was stand in formation – a lot!

We weren’t supposed to lock our knees in an attempt to help us remain standing or else we would black out and fall. Of all the things we did not want to do, falling out of formation was right at the top.

It ruined the visual of a strong unit.

It made you doubt your comrade had your back.

It was weakness.

When a Christian brother falls to sin, it does the same kind of damage. We are responsible for ourselves and each other to make sure this type of thing does not happen.

Being able to stand up to sin is a major ability God expects from us – to the point of bloodshed. Thankfully, it is a rare thing to have to go that far. When we consider Christ as the ultimate example, we see that he was willing to do the same thing that he asks of us – endure to the end.

Do not faint!

Learn from the situations we struggle through

(Hebrews 12:5-11)

Life is tough, and God puts us right out in the middle of it so we can learn to deal with whatever may come to pass. Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4 are two passages that make it clear we are better people as a result of trials and challenges.

If we take the Hebrews writer’s word for it, we are also enduring discipline from the heavenly father. God forgives us of sins when we repent of (turn away from) them. He does not clean up after our mistakes, though. We make choices, and we either cause ourselves or others problems when we carry out those choices.

We grow. We learn to make better choices. We are better able to resist sin. Just like a parent-child relationship, love becomes more abundant as a result.

Encourage each other to avoid sins

(Hebrews 12:12-17)

Encouraging each other was the first line of defense of protecting our beliefs (Hebrews 3:12ff), and here it is given again in the context of endurance building.

The metaphor that began the chapter is a long race where encumbrances will hold us back. Imagine a marathon runner in shoes with a poor fit. How many miles could she run before a slipping heel becomes too much to bear? When will the chaffing become so painful that one more step will make her fall?

One Mile?

Five Miles?

Eighteen miles?

Even if she could run 25 miles in loose shoes, she still would not finish the race.

This is what sin will do to us. It encumbers us and makes us less efficient Christians. How seriously do you take a so-called religious person that has a potty mouth?

Listen to God

(Hebrews 12:18-29)

Listening to God is one of the 7 Warnings to Christians from lesson 4.

We are fortunate to live in the time of the better promise. God handed Moses the old covenant in a fearsome way, so much so that Moses trembled! (Hebrews 12:21) The new covenant is so much more desirable.

We can get a grasp of how much God loves us through the sacrifice of his son. That once and for all blood sacrifice that speaks louder than the blood of able. Why are we so susceptible to ignoring it?

If we agree that the voice of God was fearsome in the time of Moses, how much more fearsome will he be where the blood of his son is concerned?

As the blood of Christ speaks, stop and listen to what God wants from us. That simple exercise will save our soul one day. It will preserve our citizenship in Christ’s kingdom and make us resident of the ultimate rest promised to us.

In part 2, we take a look at the duties of Christian.

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Demand More

October 2, 2015

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The ESV version of Hebrews 11:6 says God “rewards those who seek him.”

It was rendered as “diligently seek him” in the KJV. (Hebrews 11:6 KJV)

But if you look up the word in Strong’s, (g1567) it also suggests the word “Demand” as part of the definition.

What would change if we were to demand to know more about God rather than merely seek him?

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Honest Measure

October 1, 2015

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The Lord hates dishonest weights,
and dishonest scales do not please him. – Proverbs 20:23 NCV

Are the things you call “good” compared to God’s measuring stick or your own?

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