Hebrews 13:8 Is It Spring Yet? Change is Coming

Today’s post was written by and shared with permission from Ann Mainse.
———
Spring is in the air. At least that’s what they say. To be honest, as I look outside MY window, what I see is SNOW in the air! But Spring is definitely on my calendar. Yep, there it is, written in big stylized letters: Spring Begins. Those two words mean that the blanket of frigid fluffy white surrounding my home will soon be replaced by a carpet of fragrant pastel petals. The arctic winds rattling my windows will soon settle into refreshing breezes ruffling my hair. And the lonely skin-and-bones oak tree standing guard in my backyard will soon be draped in a robe of intricate living colour. Are you beginning to feel it? It’s coming. You can count on it.

It’s the time of year that I can just imagine God, with delicate strokes of His majestic paintbrush, adorning colour-starved landscapes with heavenly hues. You’ve seen it, haven’t you? Primrose red. Daffodil yellow. Forget-me-not blue. The Creator literally lavishing us with His creativity. Makes you wish that every day could be lived in Springtime, that the calendar would never turn. But we know that sadly, like many things in life, the colour doesn’t stay. The winds once again turn cold and all too soon the freshness of Spring shrivels into the looming decay of Autumn. But isn’t that what life is all about? Doesn’t everything in our lives fall prey to change? Children grow. Parents die. Bodies age. Like the windswept leaves on a blustery Fall day, our world is full of change.

But that presents a problem. I don’t know about you, but I need stability. Well, actually, I do know about you- we all need stability. As human beings, we have an undeniable longing to depend on something that will never change. Something we can count on. There has to be some anchor of safety from which we can brave life’s storms. Someone who stands the test of time, even as time marches on. And the good news is … there is! Just look at this promise from the book of Hebrews:

For He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down. ~ Hebrews 13:5 (The Amplified Bible)

Wow. I think God is trying to tell us something. Read over that verse again. Go ahead, I’ll wait. =) God said it: I will not leave you. And just in case we need it said in a different way:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. ~ Hebrews 13:8

Jesus is God the Son. He is stable. He is unchanging. He’s not going anywhere and He wants to be your life’s Anchor. Take it from someone who has weathered a storm or two in her day. When it comes to stability in the midst of chaos, there is no one like Jesus. No one.

Okay- I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering, what if my life contains no major storms just the gentle passing of the seasons and the occasional manageable gusting wind. Do I still have the need to be connected to the never-changing One, Almighty God? You know what I’m going to say. Of course you do.

For although it may not happen tomorrow, we know that the paralysing death of Winter is coming. The final season is near. And while that knowledge in itself may cause some people to finally do much-needed business with God, I can’t help but grieve over all the beauty they’ve missed. The fragrance. The colour. For in coming to God through the Cross of Jesus, we are actually starting the seasons all over again. The fresh new life of Spring. The wild unhindered growth of Summer. The beauty of life’s ebb in Autumn. And finally the blanket of God’s eternal Presence in Winter.

As the snow melts outside my window, I’m reminded that Spring will eventually come. And along with the pictures on my calendar, so will the seasons dramatically change. But the one truth I hang onto through it all is that the Creator of those seasons will not. He guarantees it. And that, more than anything else, is definitely something we can count on.
———
You can see more blog posts from Ann Mainse at Crossroads360 Contrtibutors. Crossroads360.com is a multi-channel service providing entertaining, informative and transformative content. In addition to blogs, there are episodes of past television shows as well as exclusive web content. Their channels include KidsSpace, God Stories, Music, Explore Faith, Nostalgia, Everyday Life and News.

Hebrews 10:25 Church. What’s the point?

This morning one of my Facebook friends posted an article that prompted quite an interesting discussion. It was on the topic of why people are leaving the church. The author listed her reasons for leaving the church, but I’m sure each person has their own, and is certain they are valid. Whether those reasons are really valid or not, what happens next? Do you find a new church? Do you start a home church? Do you just listen to “church” programs on radio or TV? Do you read blogs on the Internet? If you choose either of the first two options you may simply be moving from the problems of one church to the problems of another. With either of the latter options you miss the fellowship and accountability of other believers.

Hebrews 10:25 is a verse that is often quoted in discussions like these, though not always fully, and often in the words of the King James Version—not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together—which is a good indication of how long that person has been going to traditional churches. It seems to be one of those verses that is quoted like a rule, and the context is not taken into consideration. Even if it were a rule, there would still be a question of how church is defined. Does it count if you have church in a non-traditional location? Does it count if you listen to church on the radio? How often do I have to attend to be okay with God? As I said in my post on tradition, Jesus cares more about the condition of your heart. He only has two rules. 1. Love God. 2. Love others. (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:29-34)

In most translations, Hebrews 10:25 starts in the middle of a sentence, so to look at the context we should go back at least to the beginning of the sentence in Hebrews 10:24. “Let us take thought of”—this actually requires some consideration—“how to spur one another on to love and good works.” Good works are the practical manifestation of love. Love is more than just a feeling; it is an act of showing concern and kindness. This requires interaction, and it requires giving, and this is the reason for the encouragement in Hebrews 10:25 to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

If church for you is only listening to the radio or TV and does not involve a connection to other believers, it is not enough. Without interaction you do not have the opportunity to give. That is not to say that the interaction and giving has to take place in a traditional church—there are other options—but meeting with other people has its advantages. Yes, challenges too, but communication with other people lets you know that you are not alone in your feelings, questions, doubts, fears or weaknesses. Others offer a different perspective, and can give you a positive point of view when all you can see is the negative. Of course that will take effort on their part, and on yours to return the favour to them.

May I encourage you not to give up on church, and not to have expectations that are too ideal to be met, but to find one where you feel like you can be who you truly are and be accepted despite your imperfections. If you are in one that you are considering leaving, why not give it a second chance? Get to really know a few people, start spurring them on to love and good works and see what happens. If you feel that you really must leave the church you are in, or you have already left, find one that encourages learning, where you are free to ask questions and express doubt, and where people support each other. Where the message that is preached is based on the Word of God and emphasizes love rather than rules. Churches like that do exist. I attend one.

Hebrews 4:12 The Bible

The reason I started this blog just over two years ago, was to share what I learned through studying the Bible, and to encourage you to study with me. I know that there are some of you (and I have done it too) who start a reading plan in January with the intent to read through the Bible in one year. Genesis and Exodus are interesting, filled with stories of drama and suspense, but once you get to Leviticus, does your mind start to wander? Do you start to drift off? When you read through Numbers are you actually planning your summer vacation? How many of you have made it to Revelation? I know that before I changed my strategy two years ago, I had read Genesis more often than any other book. But when I started studying–not just reading–one or two verses at a time, without neglecting the larger context of course, I found myself more engaged and more interested.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s word is “living and active”. The New Living Translation says “alive and powerful”. Do you believe that? Or do you think that it is just a historical religious book that people keep printing and re-translating because there are still people who want to buy it? And why do they want to buy it? Why do you want to read it enough to start a reading plan every year? I believe that the same thing that draws many of us to The Bible, repels many as well. It is a representation of the power of God. It is God extending Himself to us through His written word.

The word of God is sharper than any double-edged sword, able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) God has provided it for us, to teach us, to correct us and to prepare us for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16-17) It is there for us to be able to know God’s heart, and to determine if ours are right with His. The word of God is available to us for our benefit, so that we can know God, so that through faith in Him and obedience to Him we can be recipients of His grace, love, peace and mercy. What a gift!

———
Some of you prefer watching the movie to reading the book. Here is your chance! Though I recommend it as a supplement rather than a substitution, The Bible is coming to The History Channel as a mini-series beginning on Sunday, March 3, 2013 and continuing each Sunday evening until Easter Sunday. You can be sure that this will be a great production because it is being produced by Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice, The Voice…) and Roma Downey (Touched By An Angel). Accuracy has been insured by Bible scholars, including Dr. Craig Evans of Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Find out more about The Bible Series at the official website, their Facebook page or on Twitter.

Hebrews 11:1 Have A Little Faith!

Have you ever been scuba diving? I haven’t, and although I know I would find it fascinating, I’m not likely to ever do it. I’m not much of a swimmer, so I don’t think I would ever make it through the necessary training. But I do have friends who scuba dive, and what’s more they take underwater photographs. It is incredible some of the creatures that live far, far under the surface of the water. If you only ever stayed on dry land, you may never see them, and therefore you may never believe that they actually exist. Some people say that seeing is believing, but when it comes to knowing God, believing is seeing. It is only after we believe God is real that He allows us to understand a bit of who He is. We will not understand fully before we see Him face to face. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Therefore we are called to live by faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is being sure that we can have a confident expectation that God will fulfill His promises to us, and knowing that there are things that we can neither see nor understand. Just because we don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the Hall of Faith, because the rest of the chapter is a list of faithful men and women from the Old Testament. Think, for example, how Noah must have felt. (Hebrews 11:7) We are not sure exactly how old Noah was when God told him to build an ark, but he was 500 years old in Genesis 5:32. He was 600 when the flood covered the earth. (Genesis 7:6) My guess is that it took quite a bit of time to build the ark to God’s specifications and then to gather all the animals to fill it. It is also possible that he was ridiculed by those around him, or at least misunderstood. In any case, it would have taken great faith to believe that enough rain would come to destroy the whole earth, and here’s the thing: Noah didn’t have a lot of good examples to follow. Noah and his family were singled out from the entire living population as the only ones worth saving. How did Noah learn to have such faith? Surely he understood things that could not be seen.

Today, we are fortunate to have examples of faithfulness written down for us in the Word of God, and if we are willing, we can also see some of the results of that faithfulness. Abraham for example didn’t have the opportunity to see the end result of his obedience to God, (Genesis 11:8-13) but we can. We can also hear lots of stories of present day believers who have witnessed God’s mercy and blessings because they chose to be faithful. 100 Huntley Street, among others, is dedicated to telling these kinds of stories. The task for us is to open our hearts and listen, to believe that there may be more to this world than we can see and understand.

Hebrews 10:25 Church. What’s the point?

This morning one of my Facebook friends posted an article that prompted quite an interesting discussion. It was on the topic of why people are leaving the church. The author listed her reasons for leaving the church, but I’m sure each person has their own, and is certain they are valid. Whether those reasons are really valid or not, what happens next? Do you find a new church? Do you start a home church? Do you just listen to “church” programs on radio or TV? Do you read blogs on the Internet? If you choose either of the first two options you may simply be moving from the problems of one church to the problems of another. With either of the latter options you miss the fellowship and accountability of other believers.

Hebrews 10:25 is a verse that is often quoted in discussions like these, though not always fully, and often in the words of the King James Version—not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together—which is a good indication of how long that person has been going to traditional churches. It seems to be one of those verses that is quoted like a rule, and the context is not taken into consideration. Even if it were a rule, there would still be a question of how church is defined. Does it count if you have church in a non-traditional location? Does it count if you listen to church on the radio? How often do I have to attend to be okay with God? As I said in my post on tradition, Jesus cares more about the condition of your heart. He only has two rules. 1. Love God. 2. Love others. (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:29-34)

In most translations, Hebrews 10:25 starts in the middle of a sentence, so to look at the context we should go back at least to the beginning of the sentence in Hebrews 10:24. “Let us take thought of”—this actually requires some consideration—“how to spur one another on to love and good works.” Good works are the practical manifestation of love. Love is more than just a feeling; it is an act of showing concern and kindness. This requires interaction, and it requires giving, and this is the reason for the encouragement in Hebrews 10:25 to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

If church for you is only listening to the radio or TV and does not involve a connection to other believers, it is not enough. Without interaction you do not have the opportunity to give. That is not to say that the interaction and giving has to take place in a traditional church—there are other options—but meeting with other people has its advantages. Yes, challenges too, but communication with other people lets you know that you are not alone in your feelings, questions, doubts, fears or weaknesses. Others offer a different perspective, and can give you a positive point of view when all you can see is the negative. Of course that will take effort on their part, and on yours to return the favour to them.

May I encourage you not to give up on church, and not to have expectations that are too ideal to be met, but to find one where you feel like you can be who you truly are and be accepted despite your imperfections. If you are in one that you are considering leaving, why not give it a second chance? Get to really know a few people, start spurring them on to love and good works and see what happens. If you feel that you really must leave the church you are in, or you have already left, find one that encourages learning, where you are free to ask questions and express doubt, and where people support each other. Where the message that is preached is based on the Word of God and emphasizes love rather than rules. Churches like that do exist. I attend one.

Hebrews 12:1-3 The Real Amazing Race

Do you watch reality TV shows? I have often wondered how they got the descriptor reality. Based on their advertising, none of them seem too much like the reality I’ve come across. I don’t watch most of them, but there is one I enjoy: The Amazing Race. I love that I can see so many parts of the world from the safety and comfort of my own home. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a brief overview of how it works. Eleven teams gather at their starting point, packed and ready to start a race that will take them to dozens of countries around the world. At the end of each leg of the race, one team is eliminated. The participants all seem friendly enough at first, but along the way their true colours will shine through. They are given clues to find their next destination, but before they can check in at their next pit stop for a 12 hour rest period, they will face some challenges: detours, road blocks, tasks to complete—some arduous, some messy, some frightening, some fun—and more mystery solving. Hmmm. Maybe that’s not so far off reality after all.

After just discussing the heroes of faith, (Hebrews 11) who are our cloud of witnesses, Hebrews 12:1-2 advises us to get rid of the things that are weighing us down—the extra baggage, the sin, the bad habits—and to fix our eyes on the goal, Jesus, so that we may run with endurance the race that lies before us. We are reminded of what Jesus endured to run the race that was set out for Him. And He finished that race, not because what He endured was enjoyable, but because He knew what joy was awaiting Him at the finish line.

As they do each season in The Amazing Race, and as Jesus did while He lived on earth, we will surely encounter some road blocks and detours along our course too. There will be mysteries that we may or may not be able to ever figure out. There will be fellow racers who may be willing to help us, but others may want to hinder us, looking out only for themselves. There will be some costs, but also some surprising gifts, but this I know for sure: it will not be easy. That is why we are told in Hebrews 12:3, to keep our eyes on Jesus. Remember what He endured. Most of us will never have to go through anything close to what He went through for us. And since He gives us the strength we need to get through everything we face, (Psalm 89:14-17, Philippians 4:13) let’s keep going! Let’s not grow weary! Unlike the game show contestants who win The Amazing Race, we aren’t likely to end ours with a million dollars, but we will walk on streets of gold, (Revelation 21:21) we will spend eternity in a place where there is no sorrow or pain, (Revelation 21:4) and we will spend it with the one who loved us so much that His race included the cross. (John 3:16) Don’t give up!

Hebrews 13:15-16 Let us worship.

I’ve been going to church since before I was born, so I’ve grown up hearing certain words used in particular contexts. These words are often referred to as Christianese—words that aren’t really used by people who don’t hang out at church. If that includes you, please don’t feel left out; sometimes they aren’t really understood by the people who do hang out at church either. One of those words is “worship”. The word worship is sometimes used to refer to an entire Sunday morning service, but is most often used to refer to the part of the church service in which hymns and spiritual songs are sung. This understanding limits the scope of what worship really is.

In an interview recently with John Piper, Louie Giglio said,

We wanted to make sure we could message for the world: worship is not singing songs. Worship is acts of justice. That’s every bit of scripture breathing that out, and the heart of it for me is Hebrews 13:15-16. Through Jesus then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, which is—so here’s the definition—the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name—so bring a song—but then he says, and don’t neglect doing good and sharing with others for with these sacrifices God is pleased. And so if our purpose in worship is to feel good, we’re just going to keep singing songs, but if our purpose in worship is for God to be pleased, then we’re going to figure out what pleases God, and what pleases God is when the last and least of these are touched.

Worship then is using our voices, whether in song or not, to acknowledge God’s name—to give Him praise—remembering that the only reason we can come before God at all is because we have gained access to Him through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. (John 14:6) But worship is also doing what pleases God—doing good and sharing with others. Jesus says that there are really only two commandments, to love God and to love others. (Matthew 22:37-40) He also says that what you do for others, you do for Him. (Matthew 25:40) James says that good deeds are an extension of our faith. (James 1:27, James 2:8, James 2:14-22) The next time you are singing songs in church, I hope that you will be truly worshipping God, but realize that true worship goes far beyond those few moments.

Hebrews 6:11-15 What are you waiting for?

Do you eat fast food? Microwaveable meals? Do you get impatient waiting in a traffic jam? Or waiting for a webpage to load? Do you look for the word “instant” on packaging or in advertising? We are so used to having everything at our fingertips and quickly accessible, that we have lost our ability to be patient. We have forgotten how to wait.

When Abram (later called Abraham) was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4), he left his home and most of his family to set out for a new land because the Lord had told him to. (Genesis 12:1) The Lord promised to make Abram into a great nation, (Genesis 12:2) but at that point Abram didn’t have any children, no one to carry on his family line. Nonetheless, the Lord told Abram that He would give this new land to Abram’s descendants, (Genesis 12:7) and Abram believed Him. That was the beginning of Abram’s journey of faith.

How long did it take for Abram to see the Lord’s promise fulfilled? Twenty-five years! (Genesis 21:5) Then when his son Isaac was a boy, the Lord tested Abraham by telling him to give up His son. (Genesis 22:1-14) Again Abraham believed God, and his son was spared. The author of Hebrews (Hebrews 6:11-15) tells us that we should imitate those, who like Abraham were examples of faith and hope. Abraham inherited the promise of many descendents because he persevered, (Hebrews 6:15) and believed God’s promise.

What are you hoping for today? Are you willing to wait for God’s timing? Matthew Henry said, “Abraham, in due time, obtained the promise. It was made good to him after he had patiently endured. [1.] There is always an interval, and sometimes a long one, between the promise and the performance. [2.] That interval is a trying time to believers, whether they have patience to endure to the end. [3.] Those who patiently endure shall assuredly obtain the blessedness promised, as sure as Abraham did.”

Sometimes God’s promises to us are not as clear as His promise to Abram. We don’t always know what the outcome of our trials will be. But we can count on the promises that God gives to all of His children—that He will never leave us nor forsake us, (Deuteronomy 31:6) that He wants only good things for us, (Matthew 7:11) and that He has a plan for our lives. (Jeremiah 29:11) That plan will be worth waiting for. Don’t give up hope!

Hebrews 10:23

My heart is still heavy for the family of Al and Rita Chretien who have been missing for just over two weeks. From every indication I have, which comes from their Facebook page (Missing – Al and Rita Chretien), the family has a strong faith in God. Other people have gone through equally devastating situations—earthquakes, floods, fire, criminal acts; does faith really help when we are put in such trying situations? I believe it does. Sometimes, in tragic circumstances people will say that this proves that there is no God, but people of true faith trust God, not because of their own comfort and blessed circumstances, but because of who God is.

God has promised to be faithful. Hebrews 10:23 tells us that we can hold on tight to the hope that we have, because God is trustworthy and will keep His promises to us. In the previous verses (Hebrews 10:19-22), we see that we are invited to draw near to God, and that we can have confidence to do so. We are confident because we know that Christ gave His life so that we could have this privilege. In Old Testament times, the people needed to have a priest to approach God on their behalf. They would sacrifice the animals that were required for atonement, and they alone could go beyond the curtain into the inner sanctuary to meet with God. Now because Christ has shed His own blood for us, He has drawn back that curtain and has become our priest so that we are welcomed into God’s presence. We can draw near, because we have the assurance that faith brings. (Hebrews 10:22)

And this faith is not based on what we know, or on what we can see or figure out. Faith is being convinced that God is control, that everything is under His command, and we can believe Him even when we don’t have all the answers. (Hebrews 11:1-3, 1 Corinthians 2:5)

—–
Al and Rita Chretien are parents, grandparents, business owners and much loved members of their community. They were last seen on March 19, 2011 in Baker City, Oregon on their way to Las Vegas. They were driving a brown 2000 Chevrolet Astro mini van with British Columbia plate number 212 CAV. If you have any information about this couple, please contact your local police department and cite Penticton RCMP case file 2011-3395, or call the toll free tip line in Canada or the U.S.: 1-877-987-8477. And please keep this family in your prayers.