Monday, December 26, 2011

A Christmas Poem

             
               It’s the Christmas season
               and we all know what that means.
               Shopping, pageants and parties
               with stress in between.

               It’s the time of the year,
               when we think more about our fellow man.
               We show our love by giving gifts
               to the less fortunate when we can.

               But, why be so nice
               just at this time of the year?
               Could it be the first Christmas
               that we remember so dear?

               When a long time ago a man Joseph
               and his wife Mary,
               Traveled a long way on a donkey,
               the unborn Christ child she did carry.

               Back to the city from where Joseph
               had once belonged,
               To be counted for the census
               they journeyed, the two of them alone.

               When they arrived in Bethlehem
               the city was filled within,
               With fisherman, tailors and merchants
               and their next of kin.

Mary was tired and weary
with her time drawing near,
To give birth
to a Heavenly Child so dear.

No room in the inn
and no warm bed,
They found shelter with dry hay
in a barn instead.

That night the long awaited babe was born,
a gift greater than gold.
A prophecy the ancient saints
had once foretold.

With awe and love in her heart
Mary wrapped Him in swaddling cloths,
And placed Him gently
in the cattle’s troth.

Angels sang and there shone
a great heavenly light,
Out in the fields as the shepherds
watched their flocks by night.

“Go to Bethlehem
and worship the new King,
for God has sent us a Savior”
                                             they did sing.

What a joy and fulfillment
that first Christmas to tell.
What great love God gave us
in Christ Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Why can’t we show kindness toward others
the rest of the year,
And not just at Christmas time
should we care?

So don’t let your heart be a busy inn
and no room for thee,
But a cradle for the Living Christ
and His nativity.

Be thankful to God
in all He has done,
Loving one another, for in His
power we have won.

With all our hearts and souls
we must ask Him to be our own
and He will always comfort us.
We will never be alone.

To those who choose to follow Him
He will take away all our sin.
Praise to God and may peace on earth
               bring good will year long to all men.

                                             By Linda Vittitow

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hebrews 11-13

Hebrews 11 – Faith Examples

Some call chapter 11 the “Hall of Faith”.  What is faith?  Faith is to have a confidence in something without having tangible proof.  Some people today think if you have enough faith in something, it will happen.  It’s almost like they will it to happen.  Heb. 11:1 says “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” 

Faith is belief in God and acting on that belief.  Even demons have belief in God and tremble, but they are not saved. 
Saving faith is threefold:
1.      Content – Believing in something
2.     Warming of the heart – loving response to God
3.     Commitment – following after Christ.
True faith believes what God has said and is not limited to our understanding.  Are you grateful that there is a greater reality beyond here and now?

Many Old Testament pillars had faith. 
·    By faith Able offered God a better sacrifice.  God is holy and establishes a way man is to approaches Him.
·    By Faith Enoch was taken by God and did not experience death.  Enoch teaches us there is life after death.  He walked with God and was personally rewarded.
·    By faith Noah in holy fear built an ark to save his family.  He teaches us about the judgment of God.
·    By faith Abraham was called by God to leave his home and go to a foreign land.  By faith Abraham became a father in his old age. 
·    By faith Abraham obeyed God when he was told to sacrifice his son.  He trusted God’s word.  He believed God when circumstances seemed impossible.  God called him to go into a foreign land.   
·    By faith Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph lived and trusted God in His promises.
·    By faith Moses identified with his suffering people and chose to be with them instead of having the riches of the Egyptians.  He looked ahead to his reward.
·    By faith the prostitute Rahab acted boldly.  She was an unlikely person to be in the Hall of Faith.  She didn’t know much, but she believed and acted.  She was saved by her faith.  She became the mother of Boaz who was an ancestor of Jesus.

All these examples given of Old Testament believers were not admired because of their faith, but were persecuted.  None received what God promised in their lifetime.

Principle:
            God is pleased when we believe what He says.

How is God calling you to believe what is hoped for and certain of what you do not see?
Does it give you hope that your faith could change the world like them?
How would you describe your faith?

Instead of writing a Christmas letter to your friends telling them what’s happened this past year, write a letter to Jesus.  Say, “By faith I believe the best is yet to come.”  Express your gratitude to Him.

Hebrews 12 – Faith Tested

Chapter 12 tells us how to live our faith while it’s being developed. 
What is hindering your faith? 
What does it take for you to further trust God?
Are you wrapped up in anger or unforgiveness?

God has personally marked our race in the line of faith.  Every race requires perseverance.  There are four steps listed that urge us to take to persevere in difficulties –
1.   Fix your eyes on Jesus – That’s our actions and our attitudes.  Get rid of everything that makes you doubt.
2.   Welcome discipline – This is not punishment, but acts of a loving parent training his child the way he should go.  If we are believers, God considers us His sons.  As a father disciplines a son, God disciplines us because He loves us.  He tells us to endure hardships as discipline.  It may be painful at the time, but it produces a beautiful harvest of righteousness and peace.  He is King Righteousness and King of Peace.  His discipline develops character like Christ.  Have you seen God’s discipline?  What refining process is He developing in you?
3.   Handle our relationship with others right – Reacting with people is a BIG ole life test!  Sanctification is not optional.
4.   Trust in the promises of God – Consider the Old and New Covenant.  “See that you do not refuse him who speaks….” (Heb. 12:25).  There will come a time when the earth will be shaken.  This refers to the great earthquake that will occur to end the present world and where God’s Great White Throne Judgment will occur.  Is your life shaky?  What do you count on for security?  “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” (Heb. 25:28)

Principle:
            God is pleased when we trust what He says.

Hebrews 13 – Faith Expressed

Chapter 13 gives several Christian duties.
  • Be loving – Keep on loving each others.  It’s easy to give up and say “just forget it”.       Be sympatric to those who are suffering, those in prison, and those who are mistreated.
  • Be pure – Be faithful to your spouse.
  • Be loyal – Don’t be persuaded by false teachings, but stand firm in your faith.  Pray for others.
  • Be bold – Don’t be afraid to speak the truth and worry about what others may think of you.
  • Be worshipful – Praise God in all things.

Principle:
            God is pleased when we do what He says.

A summary of this Hebrews lesson is “A life of faith pleases God.”  Which words of Hebrews do you need to obey?  Faith is reflected in our choices.  Trust that He is developing your faith.  May we become a cloud of witnesses for God. 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) There is no other gift better for His birthday than to trust, believe, and obey Him.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hebrews 7-10

Hebrews 7 – Superior Priest

Melchizedek is just a man and his features shadow the one to come, Jesus Christ.   Jesus and Melchizedek have some similarities as high priest.  They are:  both are kings, high priests, kings of righteousness, kings of peace and kings forever.  Their differences are:  that Jesus is the Son of God, He lives forever, has a permanent priesthood and is able to save completely.   He is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens is unlike any other high priest and does not need to offer sacrifices day after day for sins.  He is the perfect High Priest – forever!

Not all people have someone praying for them like a mother or a grandmother, but everyone has Jesus praying for them continually.  He’s thinking and talking with God about you right now.

Principle:
            God cares enough to send man His very best Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 8 – Superior Covenant

The definition of a covenant is an agreement, a contract, a pact, a treaty.  The first covenant had many regulations for the tabernacle and for worship.  Only the high priest could enter the inner room once a year to offer sacrifices for the sins for himself and for the people.  These sacrifices were not able to cleanse the peoples’ consciences.  It was only a temporary fix.  God said He would make a new covenant and put His laws in the minds and hearts of the people.  He would forgive them of their wickedness and remember their sins no more (Heb. 8:12).  This new covenant was Jesus.

How can an all-knowing God forget?  - He chooses to.

Principle:
            God’s new covenant promises believers a new life and new nature with His sufficient, sustaining grace.

Hebrews 9:11-10:18 – Superior Sanctifying and Sacrifice

There were many regulations and limitations with the old covenant.  There were regulations as to worship and also there was an earthly sanctuary.  The tabernacle was built in particular way with an inner room called the Most Holy Place.  No one could enter the inner room but the high priest.  He could enter only once a year and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins of the people.  This had to be done over and over each year to cleanse their sins.  The earthly tabernacle was inaccessible to people.

The New Covenant is heavenly not earthly.  It is free from the ravages of time.  When Christ became the high priest, He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood having died on the cross for our sins.  The curtain was torn and now people have access to God.  The curtain is Jesus.  His blood cleansed our consciences and through Him we have obtained eternal redemption.  By the shedding of His blood we are set free from our sins and have the promise of eternal inheritance.  

He had to be what he was to do what he did.
He had to do what he did so that we might have what he is.
We must have what he is in order to be what he was.
We will be what he was when by faith we allow him to be what he is.
                                        -Major Ian Thomas
                             
Why was the shedding of blood necessary?  It’s the way the Sovereign God ordained it.  God cannot tolerate sin.  Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin.  He cannot just forgive sins because He is just.  Blood makes atonement for sin.  (Leviticus 17:11) “For the life of a creature is in the blood and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

He was our substitution.  He stood in our place.  This is the love of God.  When we see God, he sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

How do you know with certainty you are in perfect standing with God?  - By His Spirit.  Romans 8:1 “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Principle:
            Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of His own blood provides our access to God.

How is it changing your motives?  What does that mean to you?  Are you serving Him?  He died so that you would.  If we really believed these truths then it will effect our lives. 

Hebrews 10:19-39 – Since Superior

We now can enter the Most Holy Place, because of the blood of Jesus our Great High Priest.
How can you apply this confidence to your life?  
       Draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.
       Hold unswervingly to the hope you profess for He who promised is faithful.
       Consider how you may spur others toward love and good deeds.
       Don’t give up meeting together with others.
       Encourage one another all the more as you see the Day approaching.
       Do not throw away your confidence when exposed to insult and persecution.
       You need to persevere and do the will of God so you will receive what God promised.
       Don’t comprise your beliefs.

There is one sin that cannot be cleansed by blood.  That is the sin of rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior.  When a person rejects Christ and His cross, he will face God’s judgment and spend eternity separated from God.  He will be in eternal Hell.  (Heb. 10:30-31) “… It is mine to avenge; I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge his people.  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Principle:
            God’s promises are sufficient and superior and worthy of our preserving the truth.

Do you know He’s gone through extreme measures for you?
Have you placed your trust in Jesus?
Is your conscience cleansed?
Is your hope secure forever?

______________________________________________
How can you be sure you are going to heaven?
There is only one way to heaven. 
John 10:29b – Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”
John 14:6-7a - Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” 

If you are unsure of your relationship with Jesus, take you Bible some place quiet where you can be alone.  Ask God to speak to you and to reveal Himself to you.  Take time to listen as you read the words.  Know that God created you and is always with you.  He decides what is right and wrong because He is holy, perfect, and pure.  God has authority over your life.  He watches over and provides for you.

His simple plan:
ACKNOWLEDGE God as Creator of everything, and accept our humble position in God’s creation.
Revelation 4:11 – You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

ADMIT to yourself and God that you are a sinner.  You have ignored God and wanted to do your own thing leaving God out completely.    
Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death.” (because you are a sinner, you are condemned to death – eternal separation from God in Hell)
Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death come to all men, because all sinned.”  (that one man was Adam)
1 John 1:10“If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.”
CONFESS your sins (try to name them specifically – don’t forget pride and self-righteousness).  
Psalm 139:23-34 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.
1 John 1:8-10 – “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives”.
Romans 10:9 – “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”.

REPENT

Luke 13:5 – Jesus said: I tell you, no!  but unless you repent, you too will all perish”.
Acts 17:30 – “…. He commands all people everywhere to repent.”  (repent means a change of mind that agrees with God you are a sinner and agrees with what Jesus did for us on the cross)
Acts 20:21 – I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”
BELIEVE that Christ went to the cross for you, taking your guilt upon Himself and enduring God’s judgment in your place.  He took God’s judgment of our sins on Himself.  This means that God has pardoned and cleared you from any guilt.  
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.
Romans 10:13 – “for, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
John 5:24 – I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life”.

Sinner’s Prayer

If you realize you are a sinner, right now lift your head to God in prayer.
“Oh God, I know I am a sinner.  I believe Jesus died on the cross as my substitute.  I believe His death, burial, and resurrection were for me.  I want to receive Him as my Savior.  Thank you for the forgiveness of my sins – the gift of salvation.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Can it be that simple?
It’s hard to believe it’s that simple, but it is.  Don’t trust your feelings.  They change.  Stand on God’s promises.  They never change.  After you are saved you should be baptized in obedience to the Lord Jesus as a public testimony of your salvation, and then unite with a Bible-believing church.  Other Christians will be there for you with encouragement and will pray for you as you walk closer with God.  Remember - don’t judge other Christians, because they are not perfect.  If they were, they wouldn’t need to go to church.  Only God and Jesus are perfect.
Then there are three things to practice daily for spiritual growth:
          Pray – you talk with God
          Read your Bible – God will speak to you
          Witness – you talk for God telling others about Him

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hebrews 4-6

Hebrews 4:14-16 – Jesus’ Work as the High Priest

Jesus was appointed as our “great high priest”.  He is able to identify with us, because He was tempted in every way.  As the Son of God He has sympathy for us and understands us.  He has the desire and ability to help through anything we face.

How are you struggling?  Are you trying to resist temptation to rebel or to lose control in anger?  Then read Hebrews 4:15-16 - “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are - yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  To “have” means to receive, accept, and the assurance of Jesus.  We have a relationship with Jesus.  To approach the throne of grace is to take all our problems and concerns to God with confidence that He will help us to overcome them – not only the big one, but the small ones as well.

Jesus was qualified more than anyone to become our high priest.  He was called by God, He submitted to God’s will, He was without sin, He offered up prayers and petitions to God for others, He learned obedience through suffering and He became the source of salvation for all who believe.

Is He your great high priest?  Is He your savior?  Everyone has a cell phone these days and also with it you have limited calling plan.  Jesus is our unlimited plan.  He gives us His unlimited attention and complete access to Him.  He is talking to God the Father about you and He knows what you need. 

Jesus knows the pain and grief.  He knows our hearts.  He knows exactly what we are fighting to remain obedient.  God’s way is costly, but guaranteed to transform your very being.  There is another way – your way.  It’s less painful and may make you feel better, but it doesn’t honor God and doesn’t impact others for God.  Trust and obey or go your own way.

Principle:
            Jesus the Great High Priest helps His people in times of weakness and temptation.

What problems do you need to take before the throne?
What causes you to doubt?
How confident are you that He hears your prayers? 

Hebrews 5:11-6:12 – Jesus’ Word Demands Spiritual Growth

We are grateful that churches teach the basics, but it won’t sustain you in life.  Solid food is for the mature (Heb. 5:14).  It is important that we grow spiritually.  We are spiritual infants and will remain so if we are in intentional.  Maturity just doesn’t happen.  It takes study and real work.  Our thinking needs to be trained.  Jesus didn’t demonstrate emotional thinking.  We need to keep going passed elementary truths.

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers to the coming age, if they fall way, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace.” (Heb. 6:4-6)  He is not saying that it is impossible for God to forgive them if they fall away.  God will forgive all who repent and believe.  The problem is with those who don’t repent.  It is possible to get very close to genuine faith and still not actually repent.  If you are willing to go back, perhaps you haven’t truly accepted Christ as Savior.
“Enlightened” is part of the process of salvation, being taught the truth before we believe.  “Tasted the heavenly gift” refers to those who understood the freeness of God’s gift and have even had the Holy Spirit convicting their consciences; however they find it too difficult to leave their way of life, change their minds, repent and go on to true saving faith in Christ.  True Christians cannot fall away and be lost.
“Impossible” here mean that having rejected the Holy Spirit who has brought them along knowing the gospel, but they cannot now simply turn to God.

Principle:
            Christian maturity involves knowing and doing what God Says.

Knowing must be joined with faith, trust and obedience.  Indifference is our greatest enemy. What indifference do you need to lay aside?  If you are feeling weary in spirit, dig deeper into His word.  Churches have people in pews that need to know.  Are you willing to share the solid food?  Will you share with those who are spiritually hungry?

Hebrews 6:13-20 – Jesus’ Character Anchors Our Hope

There are two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie – His character and His Word.  Believers’ anchor is Jesus Christ and keeps us secure.  Nothing on earth can anchor you securely – only Jesus.

Principle:
            God’s word and His character are grounds for confidence in His promises.

He is a Promise Keeper!  What makes you feel secure?  Is it your job, money, family?  As we submit by faith and believe the living Word and in His unchanging character, we grow.  Then the world around us will see Jesus.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hebrews 2 - 4:13

Hebrews 2:5-18 – Jesus is in Charge

God put Jesus in charge of salvation and not angels.  “The world to come” (Heb. 2:5) I think refers to Jesus’ millennial reign, which takes place after His second coming.  God put everything under Him and left nothing that is not subject to Him.  He was honored this way “because He suffered death” (Heb.2:9).  He died for us, in our place.

Scripture here speaks of 3 enemies from which Christ’s death freed us:
            1. The devil
            2. Eternal Death
            3. Sins. 
Christ destroyed Satan, but he is still active in the world today.  He is the Prince of Death and is over this world ever since he tempted and caused Adam and Eve to sin against God.  He continues to tempt us.  Jesus’ death conquered Satan’s hold over the world and Jesus will return to reclaim the earth.

Hebrews 3:1-6 – Jesus Greater Than Moses

Both Moses and Jesus did God’s work and were sent to save people.  Moses led the people out of Egyptian slavery and Jesus leads people from the slavery of sin.  Moses sinned against God and God would not let him enter the Promised Land, but Jesus was perfect without sin and through Him we all can enter Heaven’s Promised Land. 

Jesus is worthy of greater honor than Moses (Heb. 3:3).  Jesus is the creator and Moses is the created (Heb. 3:4).  Jesus is the faithful Son of God over God’s house, while Moses was a faithful servant in God’s house (Heb. 3:5-6)

Heb. 3:1 tells us to fix our thoughts on Jesus.  How can we fix our thoughts on Jesus?  We can read and study the Bible, talk with God in prayer, and confess and repent of our sins.  We can follow the examples of Jesus.  If we don’t stay close to God, it opens a door for Satan can find his way into our thoughts and actions.

What is the difference between Christian meditation and other forms of meditation?  We as Christians meditate or focus on Jesus in order to get closer to Him and to know Him better.  Other types of meditation are used to relax, take away stress, to calm the mind.  In other words it’s all about self and has nothing to do with God.

Hebrews 3:7-19 – Unbelief

Israel rebelled and hardened their hearts against God (Heb. 3:15).   They sinned and disobeyed God and had unbelief (Heb. 3:16-19).  God responded with anger and they spend 40 years in the wilderness of the desert and did not allow them to enter the Promised Land (Heb. 3:17-18).

Some specific ways we can show our unbelief and squander our time today in the wilderness of the world is to spend too much time on TV, internet, video games, hobbies, etc.  and of course the obvious - ignoring God, His truth and His word.  When we do any of these things, every second of our time is wasted.

Hebrews 4:1-13 – God’s Rest

God’s rest is used two ways in this chapter.  1. God’s rest, which is the ultimate resting place - heaven (Heb. 4:1), 2. God rested from His work after He made creation (Heb. 4:4).  How do we enter God’s rest?  God offers us this rest through faith in His Son, Jesus.  We have a choice to accept it or not.  Don’t be like the Israelites by being disobedient, disbelieving and refusing God time after time.  All we have to do is – believe.  Believe what?  Believe the gospel – that God sent His Son, Jesus to earth in human form, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again on the 3rd day.  Now all who believe and trust in Him will have eternal life.