Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The LSD of sin

 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. – James 1.13-15

I wish I could blame my temptations on someone else. I don’t understand how someone could blame God for their temptations. I know people do, but it never has made sense to me.  So the first part of the verse is simple enough to me – I can’t blame God because He is not tempted by evil and He doesn’t tempt anyone to sin.

The last half of the verse takes it a step further because it makes it clear that when I am tempted it is because I am giving way to my own desires, or lusts as the King James put it. When I sin it is because I don’t deal with temptation when it first arises.

I once heard a message on these verses called the ‘LSD’ of the Bible. That was back when LSD was a common recreational drug. It makes sense and it has stuck in my mind.

Lust gives birth to sin
Sin’s ultimate result is…

Now, just because I know it and the message has sunk in doesn’t mean I have always done it. I do, tragically, sometimes act on my various lusts and desires. When I do that is my choice and my fault.

Why do I do that? I know the foolishness of of sin. I know it never really satisfies the desires that lead to it. I know that sin leads to death – and even more tragically it lead to not my death, but Jesus’ death on the cross. I don’t have to die for my choice, but Jesus did. When I allow my lusts to lead me to sin I ignore the fact that Jesus died for that sin. My pursuit of pleasure is more important to me Christ’s sacrifice.

We are entering a new year. I don’t like resolutions. But by God’s grace when we are at that point where our lusts may or may not give birth to sin may we be reminded of the terrible price that Jesus paid for our sinful choices. 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Fading away

Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits. – James 1.9-11

I will turn 60 in 2015. Sixty. That’s a chunk of years. Life was so different in 1955. Most homes didn’t have television yet. Computers were monster machines that could only do the most basic computations. A lot of homes didn’t have telephones. It was a different world. In some ways it was a long time ago. 

But at the same time it was only yesterday. The years have flown by. I see former students on Facebook who are celebrating 20 and 25 years of marriage. I see them becoming grandparents. Even young people I worked with when we first moved to Ireland are in their forties. Next month we we celebrate 20 years in Ireland. 

Where do the years go? Well, they wither like the grass. They fade like old flowers. Life passes by. 

And that is why we don’t depend too much or worry too much about the stuff we have or don’t have. All that stuff fades away. Everything I see around me is going to be gone one day. It is going to blow away like dust. 

So if we don’t have much we can glory in the fact that even if we had the stuff it is not going to last. If we have a lot we need to be careful that we don’t focus on it because it is all going to pass away. 

And it all happens so quickly. Tomorrow marks the end of yet another year. The old saying is true, the older we get the faster the years ago by. Our lives are passing quickly. No matter what age we are we need to consider what we are doing. Building up a stockpile of stuff may give comfort here – but it is all going to fade away. What are we doing for eternity; for what really counts? 

We may not have a lot to glory in in this short life – so let’s glory in the marvellous truth that we are going to one day be exalted. And every day that passes brings us one day closer. 

Monday, 29 December 2014

No doubt

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – James 1.6-8

Doubt is a terrible problem. Doubt is the opposite of faith. Doubt is a faith wrecker. When we pray for wisdom it is important that we ask with the faith that God is going to answer. If not, we are like a ship waiting on a shipwreck. When faith wavers we can’t really expect an answer. We become ‘double-minded.’ If we doubt we have no stability.

I think we all doubt some times. Our flesh gets in the way. What we see overrides what we can’t see. And so we doubt.

Of all the problems we can have, doubt must be one of the most serious because doubt wrecks everything. It robs us of our joy. It robs us of a proper relationship with God.

Doubt is nothing new. The father of a young child once said, when Jesus asked him if he believed his child could be healed, said ‘Lord, I believe – help my unbelief.’

As hard as it may be for me to accept, when I doubt it is because I am not trusting. When I am not trusting it is because I am putting my faith in myself and not trusting my God.

Indeed Lord, I do believe. But please Lord, help my doubt and unbelief. I need the stability that only doubtless faith provides.  

Sunday, 28 December 2014

If you lack wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. – James 1.5

‘If any of you lack wisdom’ is one of those verses that sounds like ti might have been written just for me because I spend most of my time feeling like I lack the wisdom to deal with situations. Though I understand the truth, there are times when I can’t figure it out and don’t really know what to do about it. 

Though I think this lack of wisdom can apply to any number of situations it looks like in this case it does apply to wisdom in dealing with trials. We should never be afraid ti ask God for the wisdom we lack – but especially when it comes to trials and tribulations. 

I have often been there. I find myself in a situation where I just haven’t any idea what to do or how to handle things. 

I like the notion that God invites us to ask Him. There are two reasons. I want to look at the second one first. 

We can ask God for wisdom with assurance that God is not going to reproach us or be angry with us for asking. Several years ago I found myself in a challenging situation where I didn’t know what to do. I was actually angry with God. I went for a walk on our canal and found a bench where I could sit down and ‘have it out with Him.’ I told Him what I thought and I asked Him what I was supposed to do next. By the time we got done my whole attitude had changed. God gave me the wisdom I needed through His word. 

And God doesn’t give wisdom begrudgingly – he gives it liberally. He pours at His wisdom if we let him and if we receive it. 

The wisdom God gives us may not always be what we want. It may not make sense to us – but His wisdom is, as James puts it a little later - from above [and] is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

May I have the faith needed to trust His wisdom. 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

All joy

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. – James 1.2-4

James begins with one of the most needed instructions in the word of God. It is needed because we all have trials and tribulations and testings and they are never easy. I don’t like them and sometimes I wonder why they happen. Life rarely goes the way I want it to go. When it doesn’t go my way my first response is rarely to count it ‘all joy.’ When the diverse temptations or various trials or multicoloured difficulties come my way I normally either balk, or fret, or argue, or freak out.

I like the fact that it addresses these trials as various trials because they can come in so many varieties. Sometimes they are physical. Sometimes they are financial. Sometimes they are emotional. Sometimes they hit you right in the face and sometimes they kind of sneak up on you.

No matter what, trials are not easy. I don’t even like to think back to that phone call, or that letter in the post, or that email or text or private message or whatever that shakes us to the core and takes our breath away. At the very moment I remember a phone call almost exactly five years ago that changed all of our lives.

The question comes in what we do when the initial shock wears off. Where does the news lead me when it has time to settle in?

Realistically, sadly, it is often anger or fear.

But here we read that our response should be to choose to count it as ‘all joy.’  ‘All joy’ only comes when we have the faith to trust that God is using those things for our own good. We trust that the present trials teach us how to wait on God. That patience does it works and makes us mature and we learn to trust God and His way.

If we could ever learn to look beyond the trials and could somehow look back and see what God does through them we could rejoice it what God has done. Sometimes we won’t know until we get to heaven.

But we can’t see that now. All we can see is the problem. Faith can be a difficult thing – but if I can trust God to save me, can’t I trust Him through the hard times? I rejoice in my salvation. Shouldn’t I rejoice when things are tough of I truly trust Him? 

Friday, 26 December 2014

Our Completer

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

Hebrews has been an amazing book to go through. Every time I read thing I am reminded of all the wonderful teachings and lessons and practical applications it has. Here at the conclusion we have a wonderful benediction and blessing and prayer for the church. I could probably have stretched this to several days but I like the impact of it all put together.

It starts with ‘may the God of peace…’ We are reminded right away that peace, not turmoil is what God wants for us. We are reminded that He is the God of peace, not conflict. We are reminded that He is the God of unity, not division.

And that God of peace raised Jesus from the dead. By raising Jesus from the dead He made eternal peace with the God of peace possible.

He is the Great Shepherd of Psalm 23 who allows us to say ‘I will not want.’

He is the everlasting Covenant Maker through the blood of Christ. When He promised me eternal life He meant it lasted for eternity – because He keeps the covenant.

And finally He is our Completer. Earlier we read about Jesus being the beginner and the ender of our faith. He will one day make us perfect and mature and wanting nothing. As He completes us He enables is to accomplish His good please so that in all things Christ is glorified.

I am grateful that the completing of my life is up to Him. If it were up to me I am sure I would fall far, far short. Jesus, in a very real sense, completes me. And I am glad He does. 

Thursday, 25 December 2014

God with us

‘… and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is translated ‘God with us.’’ – Matthew 1.23

There is a lot to celebrate on this day we have chosen to celebrate the incarnate Christ. Of course, I have a few opportunities to share this time of year and this year this main theme has stuck out for me – God with us! GOD with us. God WITH us. God with US!

Of all the miracles involved in the incarnation of Christ this really stuck out to me – Emmanuel.

The very notion that a holy God would come to live with sinful men is way beyond my ken. It is one of those ‘I don’t get it’ things. If I think about it too much it makes my head hurt. 

‘Fullness of God in helpless Babe.’ What an amazing concept – and what a blessing. It is great enough that it deserves at least a season of the year to stop and focus on it. We can enjoy the festivities of the season without letting it be our focus. We can have the fun of the season without forgetting the reason. 

My favourite Christmas hymn is ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing.’ There is one phrase that really sticks out to me on the theme of Emmanuel.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

So enjoy the day today. Enjoy the trappings if you wish. Have fun with the family and enjoy the meal. 

But remember that Immanuel was ‘pleased as man with man to dwell' and give thanks that He chose to be 'God with us.' 

Praise God that He came to dwell with man so we could one day go to dwell with Him. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Do good and share

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. – Hebrews 13.16

Sometimes the teachings of scripture are so simple that they seem too practical to be, well spiritually important. Some of the instructions they are so childlike we wonder if they are really all that big a deal. 

Here is an example. It sounds like something we might teach our children or our grandchildren. 

Don’t forget to be good and share. The old King James said ‘be good and communicate.’ That was a great old word. It was before ‘communicate’ just meant to share words. It meant to share everything. 

‘Be good and share’ sounds like something I would tell my grandsons when I drop them at school. That’s a little simple, but it is basically what the Bible says. 

And then we see how important that it – for with these sacrifices God is well pleased. It makes God happy. 

So on this Christmas Eve how about if we just take these two little ‘rules’ on board. Do good and share. It may require a sacrifice  - but it’ll make God happy. 

Can you imagine how different things would be if God’s people learned to do good and to share? I know this  - God would surely be pleased! 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A sacrifice of praise

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. – Hebrews 13.15

I don’t always have an easy time being thankful. I try to  - but I sadly let circumstances get in the way of my praise. I don’t like it when I do that. I know it is wrong. But there are times when I just can’t see the way though. 

And therein lies the rub. I get in trouble when I look at what I can see instead of what I cannot see. 

There is something that should be a continual part of my life. It really is not something that ought to come and go. Why then do we have times when it is hard to give thanks and praise? 

I think the reason is that we don’t want to take our hands off our lives. We think that we know best and when things don’t go our way or according to our plan we don’t like it. For us to give thanks God and praise Him in hard times we need to sacrifice our own pride and admit that it really is all up to Him. 

For me at least it takes an effort to sacrifice my goals and desires and whims to God’s will and plans. And not only that, I (and we) need to be able to not do it grudgingly but with praise and thanksgiving. 

If we really believe that God is in control, that He is good, and that He loves us I can give over my own wants and give Him thanks for all He does and praise Him continually – no matter what. 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Let us go forth

Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. – Hebrews 13.12-14

Now, being established by the grace of God and accompanied by the Christ who can never leave us and being content with what He has given us what are we supposed to do?

In yet another powerful and challenging verse in Hebrews we read – parrowphrase – ‘in order to sanctify the people with His blood Jesus went forth to suffer out in the real world. So let us go forth with Him into the real world and willing to suffer His reproach. Why? Because our time here is not permanent and we seek an eternal city to come!’

Staying in a nice, quiet, comfortable, easy Christian environment can be tempting. I have lived in an environment where all my time was spent with other believers. I never had to ‘get my hands dirty.’ I did my bit, I went on ‘soul winning visitation.’ But other than that I lived in a kind of modern neomonasticism where I never had to worry about a whole lot of opposition. It was easy to ‘stay within the gate’ instead of going forth to Christ and with Christ outside the gate. It was easy to think that my city was a continuing one.

But a time came in my life when I was forced to go out. I grew up in a Christianised culture, but moved to one what was religious but has become totally secular and materialistic. I was forced to realise that not everyone ‘gets it’ when it comes to faith and a relationship with Christ. Most of my friends did not share my faith.

Even then it was and still can be easy to retreat to our own little walls of safety and security in our homes and churches. But our task is to ‘go forth’ and be willing to bear reproach if that is what is needed. As a I heard a friend tell another Christian a few years ago, if we are going to have an impact we need to be willing to ‘get our hands dirty.’

So let us go forth with our foundation of grace and the assurance that our Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. At the end we can rejoice in our eternal city to come. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Established by grace

Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them. – Hebrews 13.9

There is a warning here that we see all through scripture. We are warned not to be carried away with strange and false teachings. In order to do that we need to have the right footing and foundation. If our foundation is not right we will not stand. The slightest wind of doctrine or false teaching will knock us off our feet.

The writer of Hebrews uses the example of the right kinds of food as one of those weak foundations. Clearly though the idea is that we can’t be established by any list of rules and regulations. They do not profit or do any good for those who are obsessed or occupied with them. When this is the only foundation the structure of our lives is quickly swept away.

But there can be no stronger or immoveable establishment than we have. There can be nor more solid foundation than is ours.

‘Being established by grace.’

I really have nothing to do with my establishment. Grace establishes me as God’s child. It is God’s amazing grace that I stand at all. It it His grace that enables me to do anything for Him. It is His grace that saved me and keeps me saved. It is His graces that give me peace of mind as I trust Him and His marvellous grace.

It is the:

Marvellous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

          Grace, grace, God's grace,
          grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
          grace, grace, God's grace,
          grace that is greater than all our sin!

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
threaten the soul with infinite loss;
grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
brighter than snow you may be today.

Marvellous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?

That has established me! 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The same

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. – Hebrews 13.8 

This is such a simple little verse it might be easy to skip over it in a quick reading. However, we miss a lot when we don’t stop to examine this verse.

When we study theology or Bible doctrines one of the things we study is the deity of Christ. One of the studies we would look at would be the eternality and the immutability of Christ. Eternality means that Jesus always has been, always is, and always will be. Immutability means that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   

That is all well and good, but what does that mean for me, personally, today, in my current life, dealing with issues and trials and fears and anxieties?

It means that the Jesus who created all things is the same today.
It means that the Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead is the same today.
It means that the Jesus who healed the sick and lame is the same today.
It means that the Jesus who willingly went to the cross is the same today.
It means that the Jesus who conquered death is the same today.
It means that the Jesus who intercedes with God on my behalf is the same today.
It means that the Jesus who will return one day to reign on earth is the same today.
It means that the Jesus who carried me through tough times in the past is the same today.

He is the same and He will be the same tomorrow. He has not lost any power. He will not lose any power. 

And we read above that He will never leave us and never forsake us. 

He has always been there for me. He always will be. Praise God for my unchanging eternal Saviour. 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Remember them

Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct…Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. – Hebrews 13.7,17

The whole idea of pastoral authority and spiritual leadership is one that has been the topic of many a debate. How much authority does church leadership have? Can church leaders tell us what to do and what not to do?

I do know that there are times when church leaders go too far. I know of a few cases where church leaders let their authority go to their heads and become virtual dictators.

I am sure that happens – I have seen it. It makes it easy for us to overreact and ignore the Bible injunctions to submit to spiritual leadership.

But that shouldn’t happen. Church leaders are told to lovingly lead people, to guide them, and to provide spiritual food for them.

I don’t think we are compelled to follow leaders who lead in a misguided manner. We are to consider the outcome of their conduct. We are not compelled to follow leaders who are leading us in an unbiblical manner.

But generally there are two things we are told to do here – remember them and obey them. Those in spiritual leadership have quite a job to do, and a lot of responsibility. They are accountable for what they teach. If they blow it they will give account.

If are spiritual leaders are faithful to the word of God and teaching the truth we have a responsibility to remember them and obey the word as they teaching. None of them are perfect, but want those who have taught and mentored me to rejoice in their roles in my life. 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Be content

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” – Hebrews 13.5-6

Let your lives be lived without being covetous. In other words, to put it bluntly, stop wanting what others have. Instead be content with what you have.

It’s kind of funny, not ‘ha-ha funny’ but ironic funny; but I had an incident yesterday where this very thing happened to me. A good friend told me that God had provided a great need that made their life easier. Do you think my first response was to rejoice with them? No – my first thought was to think of how much I would have loved to have that need met in my own life. My first feelings were fleshly – in fact, it might very well be said that I coveted his good news.

That got me to thinking. There is an area where I really struggle trusting God. I don’t want to share it here, but I struggle with being content in this matter. I know deep down that God can and will take care of it – but there are times when I am attacked by doubts and fears. And today I am confronted with this verse. Don’t covet – be content with what you have. I also know that in another place the Bible equates covetousness with idolatry.

What I need –and what anyone else needs who deals with these things needs – is to remember Jesus’ precious promise.

‘I will never, ever, no matter what, leave you or forsake you.’

If we really and truly believed that promise those fear and discontent and such would lose their power.

May I God increase my faith, and may I trust Him enough to rejoice in the fact that He knows what I need and He is always, always going to be there for me. I believe Lord, help my unbelief. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Marriage is honourable

Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. – Hebrews 13.4

I hesitate to even write much about the topic of marriage in this current setting. Simply writing about the Christian view of marriage is enough to be seen as hateful and spiteful in the present day. I can assure anyone reading this that there is no hatred intended. The world is going to do what the world does – this is for born again believers. I am not going to get involved with a discussion of how the state handles marriage. This is for the church. 

God defined marriage very early. He created man and woman and with man and woman He set the pattern that a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two are, from then on, one flesh. 

Remember we are dealing with God’s plan for marriage for His children. In that context God says that marriage is an honourable thing. And, within marriage, the bed is ‘undefiled.’ To put it bluntly God is simply saying that within marriage sex is a good and honourable thing and there is nothing shameful about it.  

I’ll leave it at that. 

But sex outside of marriage is purely and simply sin. We know from what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that this includes even dwelling on and considering such sex. Sex outside of marriage is sinful and wrong and God says here that it will be judged. 

For Christians sex in marriage between a man and woman is honourable and pure and right and nothing to be ashamed of. We don’t really need to worry about what the rest of the world does – all we need to do is to make sure that we are in the middle of God’s plan. 

I am grateful for God’s gift. I am grateful that God has the perfect place for it. God’s people must be careful to not abuse this wonderful and honourable gift.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

As though bound with them

Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also. – Hebrews 13.3

All over the world today believers are suffering simply because they name the name of Christ. This is nothing new – we have been persecuted since day one. There have been spells and locations where the persecution has been especially severe. We think of the early Christians in Rome. We think of non-conforming Christians persecuted by others who called themselves ‘Christian.’ Many of us well remember the persecution of Christians under communism. Of course there are many, many other times, but time fails us to speak of all of them.

I don’t know all the details, but several reliable organisations that deal with persecution are telling us that in the last couple of years persecution is expanding at a terrible rate. Some are saying that more Christians are dying for their faith now than at any time in history. More access to more information allows us to know more than we ever have about persecution.

In very recent history Christians, indeed anyone who even has a Christian background of any sort, have been ordered to leave or die in areas controlled by the Muslim terror organisation ISIS. Their homes are marked with an Arabic symbol for ‘Nazarene’ much as Jews were marked with the Star of David.

I can’t even imagine that kind of life. I can’t imagine my brethren being locked in cages, imprisoned in shipping containers, deprived of food and water, suffering all kinds of unimaginable torture, and even dying violent and brutal deaths.

And they don’t do this because they have information an enemy needs. There don’t do this because they are political enemies. They don’t do this because they are a terrorist threat. They do it simple because they name the name of Christ.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot we can do. Praise God for the brave Christians who are trying to intervene and help out in a very physical way. I thank God for their bravery.

Not all of us are going to do that. Not all of us can. But we can pray for them and we can pray for them with firm and dedicated hearts. Our goal ought to be to pray with and for them like we were right there in chains by their sides.

Our church prays for believers in 52 places around the world where Christians suffer some sort of persecution. Every Sunday we post a slide with that country with basic info on how Christians suffer.

I hope that never gets old or mundane – I want to always remember my brethren who are suffering for the cause of Christ. May God keep me always remembering them. 

Monday, 15 December 2014


Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. – Hebrews 13.2

I don’t think I have heard a whole lot of preaching or teaching in the subject of hospitality. For me the connection between spirituality and hospitality is not obvious, at least at first.

But there are a few things that come to mind when we think about it.

I think the readers of this book must have first thought about Abraham and the angels that came to his tent. He didn’t know who they were, but he opened his home to them and fed them and took care of them. He ended up – according to a lot of Bible scholars I agree with – feeding the pre-incarnate Christ.

Hospitality is not something that comes naturally to a lot of people. It means opening up your home and life and everything about yourself to other people. It means that you are the kind of person whose door is open, and not only that, it is open along with your heart.

Hospitality is listed as a spiritual gift – but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us escape our responsibility. Pastors and deacons must be hospitable – but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us can ignore it.

The verse tells us all to ‘entertain strangers’ and not just our brothers and sisters and Christ. The key to hospitality is to forget about ourselves. We can’t fake true hospitality because it is a matter of the heart. By the grace of God may we have open hearts and open homes.

After all, we never know who that ‘stranger’ may be. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Let brotherly love continue

Let brotherly love continue. – Hebrews 13.1

Four simple little words are here – ‘let brotherly love continue.’

The words sound so simple and basic. They kind of roll off the tongue – ‘let brotherly love continue.’

We would be wrong if we just let those little words go by without stopping to think about them. The writer of Hebrews starts a section on practical aspects of living what we have learned so far from Hebrews.

So what does it mean?

When things go well – let brotherly love continue.
When things go badly – let brotherly love continue.
In times of wealth – let brotherly love continue.
In times of poverty – let brotherly love continue.
In times of peace – let brotherly love continue.
In times of conflict – let brotherly love continue.
When our brethren treat us well – let brotherly love continue.
When our brethren treat us poorly – let brotherly love continue.

All kinds of stuff gets in the way of love – but nothing should. It should override everything. Love should continue through personal differences and preferences and matters of soul liberty. I don’t have to agree with the way my brother does the things he does – but I do need to love him.

It’s about time we just let brotherly love continue. Even when we blow it and need someone has to confront us we both need to act and respond and speak in love. Love doesn’t overlook sin – but it does continue even when we do sin.

Let brotherly love continue – no matter what. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

An unshakeable kingdom

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. – Hebrews 12.28

I am a history fan. I love to read about history and watch history documentaries listen to history podcasts and just about any other way to learn about history.

One thing I have learned is that no kingdom or nation or empire lasts forever. Who would have though that massive empire founded by Alexander the Great would every collapse. It seemed totally unconquerable. The Roman Empire may very well have been the most powerful force that every existed. Napoleon and Hitler both seemed unstoppable. When I was younger it seemed that the Iron Curtain would forever divide the world.

But they all fell. They all ended. Many of us remember the time 25 years ago as gates and fences were rushed and a great wall was torn down by oppressed peoples. And an empire collapsed.

I don’t care how great and powerful any nation seems today I can assure that no nation will survive forever.  None of them are worth our absolute devotion.

But we have an unshakeable kingdom. There is a place we can put our hope and our confidence. Our heavenly kingdom, where our only important citizenship rests, is our unshakeable hope. It is the only place to put our confidence.

May Christians be ever mindful of our citizenship in the Kingdom that will never fail and determine to serve our God with reverence and godly fear.  

Friday, 12 December 2014

Oue mediator

to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. – Hebrews 12.24

Sin caused big problems – really big problems. It causes a rift between God and man and man has been trying to sort out that rift since the very beginning. Man created all kinds of religions and dogmas and practices to try and make God happy. 

But it all falls short because no matter what we do we can’t heal the rift. Sin is still there and sin is all it takes to keep us from God. 

So our only hope was for a mediator. We needed someone to step in to do what was needed to reconcile man to God. We needed an advocate. We needed a mediator. 

The problem is that no one qualifies to advocate for us before God because every man and woman on the face of the earth is equally guilty. The supposed advocate would have to have an advocate in order to advocate for the the rest of the world. 

So God did something about it. He sent His Son to come as a man so that He could advocate on our behalf. 

There is one God and one Mediator between God and man. That mediator is Jesus Christ – the perfect Son of God who stands for us and God chooses to see Him in His perfection and not me and my sin. 

Thank God for my mediator in Christ. 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The church

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, - Hebrews 12.22-23 

This is one of my favourite church verses. I love the majesty of it and I love the idea of looking forward to day when it comes to fruition. It is forward looking – but it addresses it with such surety that it might already have happened. 

It speaks of the future day in heaven when we shall see, gathered together:

The innumerable company of angels
The general assembly and church of the firstborn
God the judge of all
The spirits of just men made perfect

What an assembly that will be! All of us gathered together after all the troubles of this world when the victory is complete. 

I like the second thing a lot. The entire assembly and church of the first born all gathered together. Believers from all through the ages and all types of assemblies and all sorts of man made labels for their local assemblies gathered together as one. One in Christ in a ‘general assembly.’ One church; united and undivided as THE church of the firstborn. We are His church and His alone and one day all of the differences will be done away with as we stand before our God as justified men finally made perfect. 

While we are the the church is widespread and scattered and even divided. We divide over petty issues. We divide over nationalities. We divide over skin colour. We divide over politics. We divide over so many things. 

But one day all the dividing will be done as we stand with the angels in the presence of our God, the Judge of all. We will be just men made perfect by the grace of God and all the junk that divides us today will no longer mean anything. 

What a day that will be. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; - Hebrews 12.15 

In the context of following peace we have a warning – and it is quite a warning. There are two warnings here, but I think we have covered the first enough. ‘Beware lest anyone fall short of the grace of God’ is a warning to be sure that salvation is genuine and not falling short of actual salvation. 

So lets look at the second warning. 

‘Beware lest any root of bitterness springing in you causes trouble, and thereby many be defiled.’ 

We do well to heed God’s warnings, all of them. And we do well to heed this warning. 

Bitterness. Its an ugly word isn’t it? It conjures up thought of nasty bile. The old Greek work is a word for acridity. It especially deals with poison. 

At that is a very apt warning. Bitterness as a taste is one thing. Bitterness as a characteristic is another. It is ugly. And it is destructive. 

The real problem is that bitterness does not just affect the bitter person. Bitterness, according to this verse, defiles many. It is an infection that spreads from bitter person to bitter person. Bitterness destroys peace and reconciliation. The only way to deal with bitterness is to cut it off at the root, to nip it in the bud, to destroy it before it takes hold. 

Christ will strengthen us, but it is our job to deal with. Don’t let bitterness set it- it will always destroy.  

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Pursue peace

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:  - Hebrews 12.14

It is pretty clear from even a cursory reading of the New Testament that believers are to be people of peace. Part of the adulation of the angels announcing Christ’s birth were the words ‘peace on earth goodwill toward men.’  

Peace out to be one of our great motivations. Sadly it seems like a lot if Christians are quicker to fight than to find peace. This of course is in contrast to Jesus teaching of ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’ Christians find all kinds of things to fight about. I’ve seen Christians fight over the colour of the carpet or the closing of a car park entrance, and and a bunch of other stupid stuff. It is of course vital that we stand for the faith – but even that doesn’t need to be done in an ugly vicious manner. Even then our desire should be to bring truth – not conflict. 

It can be a difficult balance, but this passage I think helps us to find it. 

Follow peace with all men – but don’t sacrifice holiness. If peace involves sacrificing holiness we must be able to take a stand. 

But it looks pretty obvious that peace is our goal. Follow peace with ALL men. Don’t sacrifice holiness – but still pursue peace. 

Blessed are the peacemakers. 

Monday, 8 December 2014


Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed- Hebrews 12.12,13 

Hebrews is such a theological book that it is kind of a special blessing to find all these words of practical encouragement here at the end of the book. 

Here at the end of the chapter the writer refers back to the race. It is obvious by now that this is a long, desperate, wearying, discouraging, tiresome race. We are certainly going to weary of the whole thing as the days and weeks and months and years and decades go by. 

I said before that I have never been a runner. I can’t imagine a marathon, or a triathlon, or the Iron man triathlon, or whatever comes after that. I hear though that there comes a time when you ‘hit the wall’ and think you can’t go any farther. 

From what I understand at that point runners have a choice. They can quit or they can suck it up, dig deep, find the strength to keep going, and stick with it. 

In our spiritual race we have the same choice. We get weary. We may even hit that spiritual wall. We too can quit or we can dig deep, find the strength, and move on. The big difference is that we don’t have to dig up our own strength from our inner reserves. We have a resource which does not depend on us because the Lord is our strength. 

God has the healing we need to keep on going. We can’t afford to quit. When we hit the wall it is time to depend on our strength in Christ and pick up those weary hands hanging at our sides, keep those tired legs moving, stay on the straight path, and keep on in the race with our eyes on Christ at the finish line. 

Sunday, 7 December 2014


For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  - Hebrews 12:10-11

None of us likes to be corrected. We may get the stage when we are mature enough to appreciate the need for correction or even discipline, but I don’t think we ever like it – at least I know I don’t.

I remember being chastened as a child. Back in those days the norm was to get a spanking. I still remember my dad’s plastic belt that stung like crazy. I didn’t like it when discipline came, but I needed it and in retrospect I know that I needed and deserved it. I’m not going to comment on corporal punishment, but to say that it did me no harm.

Chastening never seems pleasant for the moment. It is painful no matter what form it takes. We know that while our parents made mistake in chastening and we did as well, God never makes mistakes in His chastening.

God’s chastening has a purpose. It is to result in the ‘peaceable fruit of righteousness’ in our lives as we have been trained by God’s correction in our lives.

God only corrects His children. He does it in love and He does to produce righteous fruit in our lives. When we get off track we need to thank God for turning us around.

May God’s chastening produce those fruits of righteousness in our lives. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Looking unto Jesus

looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. - Hebrews 12:2-3

We know already that we are in this race for the long haul. In fact, it is a super marathon that is not going to end until our life on this earth is over. So we might as well get used to it.

But that is easier said than done. We can get worn out in this race. We can get weary. We can get discouraged and distracted and we can feel defeated. Sometimes that finish line seems so far away that we lose sight of it and start focusing on the roughness of the race. Not only that we can get distracted by all the tempting sights along the way. Our eyes can be drawn from the race and we may even step aside from the race to take it easy for a while. When we do that it can be very, very difficult to get back in the race.

But God doesn’t leave us without hope or guidance. As we run the race the ‘author and finisher’ of our faith is there at the finish line compelling us to keep on going.

Our challenge is to keep our eyes not on the distractions and discouragements, but on Jesus. He has already endured all we are going to endure and more.

We must keep on eyes on Him. He started us on this race and He will be there at the finish.

‘Looking unto Jesus’ – oh that we would take it to heart.  Indeed, oh that I could make that the focus of my life looking into the future. 

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Race

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  - Hebrews 12:1-2

I have never been an athlete – never even close. I am however a sports fan. I am not as fanatical as I once was, oh wait, there is the 6 Nations. I do get a little fanatical about that. Paul must have been something of a sports fan. He talked about boxing and athletics and races. I am not sure who wrote Hebrews, but this is another instance that makes me think he may have.

Paul writes about a race. It is a race apparently in a great arena, kind of like a modern sports stadium. In the stands around us are all those who have gone on before us. God has set us on a great race. That race is simply the life that we are called to live.

And just like athletes preparing for a race we have our instructions on how to run.

Lay aside your weights. This is pretty simple. Runners don’t run races carrying a whole bunch of weight (unless, of course, that is part of a special race J ). It is almost embarrassing to watch a modern Olympic race as the athletes strip down to the bare essentials. If we think that is bad, in the ancient Olympics and Roman Games the runners ran naked. The point is that runners lay aside everything they don’t need.

In our race we need to learn from these athletes. There are a lot of things that may not be sin, but instead may just be things we hold on to that slow us down in our own race. I think these are the things that Paul says are ‘not expedient.’ We shouldn’t have anything that is going to slow us down. We need to examine the extra things to see is they are hurting our race.

Then we are told to lay aside the sins that so easily beset us. We can’t allow those troublesome sins weigh us down. They have no power over – we choose to keep them and let them trouble us. It’s vital that we cast off those sins.

And finally it is a race we run with patience. We are not in a 100 metre dash. We are in it for the long haul. We don’t work in sprints. We plod along patiently.

At the end is the finish line – but that’s for tomorrow. 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Of whom the world was not worthy

And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. – Hebrews 11.32-40

I didn’t go through the whole list of ‘by faiths’ in Hebrews 11. Instead I thought it good to come down to the summary of what God’s people have done through the ages have done ‘through faith.’

Lists always help me see the individual parts.

Through faith men and women

Subdued kingdoms
Worked righteousness
Obtained promises
Stopped the mouths of lions
Quenched the violence of fires
Escaped the edge of the sword
Made strong in weakness
Became valiant in battle
Women received their men raised from the dead
Were tortured
Endured trials through mockings and scourgings
Endured chains
Sawn in two
Slain with the sword
Wandered in the wilderness
Destitute, afflicted, tormented

They went through all of that, because the world was not worthy of them. There were better than the world around them.

What is really amazing is that these folks did all they did – and they did it without the knowledge of Christ.

This kind of scares me. I don’t like pain. I don’t even like discomfort. I don’t even like inconvenience. I watched a video yesterday about a Laotian believer who was  a lot like these great heroes of the faith in Hebrews. He was imprisoned for years just for being a Christian and time after time he found a way to get a Bible or portions of the scriptures. This is happening all over the world today. The last research I read reported that 2013 was the worst year ever for the number of Christians killed for their faith.

The world is not worthy of these folks. Their faithfulness should stir all of us  to take a bold stand for Christ. We must pray for them as though we were in jail with them. This world may not be worthy of them, but they are worthy of our prayers and support. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Choosing rather

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. – Hebrews 11.24-27

We all face our own challenges. I recently read a Facebook post written by a friend who is frustrated with life in Ireland. His advice, which he has since withdrawn, was to get out of here and go somewhere else.

I understand that – I really do. Though Christians here face no physical danger, this country is a real spiritual battlefield. It seems like every time we have a small success we face another setback.

It would be tempting to do what my friend suggested and just leave the country for some place easier. 

Moses was in a situation like that, but he was on the other side – he had it made. He could have continued on with all the riches of Egypt and all the pleasures of sin that he could have had. He was, after all, in line to be Pharaoh as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

But he gave it all up because He esteemed the riches of Christ better than all the world had to offer.  

How did he do that? How did he give it all up to serve God? There are those two little words again – by faith.

Faith overrides the visible. Faith supersedes all the stuff. Faith becomes our substance when we really trust God to do what is best.

What does my faith allow me to do?

Faith allows me to choose the afflictions of the world instead of all this world has to offer. Paul tells of a man named Demas who did just the opposite. He loved the world so much that he forsook Paul and his ministry. Demas chose the world – Moses chose Christ. Demas forsook Paul – Moses forsook Egypt.

There is always an easy way out

Which will we choose? 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

He is able?

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. – Hebrews 11.17-19

Abraham had a tough test ahead of him. God called him to take his only son, the son he had waited decades for, and told him to take Isaac up into the mountain and sacrifice him on an altar. I can hardly comprehend what it was like to be told what to do something like that. How do you respond to something like that?

I guess it was because Abraham had seen the faithfulness of God and knew that God have proven Himself in delivering a son after all those years, but when God told Abraham to take Isaac and sacrifice him, he does not seem fazed. When Abraham and Isaac left the servant behind to go to the mountain he told the servant ‘mind the donkey. We are going up to the mountain and Isaac and I will both return shortly.’

Abraham knew that God could raise Isaac up from the dead. He was so sure that he told the servant before it ever happened. How could he do that?

He concluded that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead.

I find that challenging to me personally. There is an area or two where I really struggle with trusting god. I guess I really have yet to count Him as able to take care of those. One would think after 40 years of watching God meet need after need and overcoming obstacle after obstacle I would have learned that He really is able.

We teach a song to kids that I think I need to apply to my own life. Theologically it simple means that I, like Abraham, have counted God able. The question I have to consider is whether or not I can count Him as able in those areas of my life.

‘He is able. He is able. I know His is able. I know my Lord is able to carry me through.’ 

Monday, 1 December 2014


These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had
called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11.13-16

Home. Isn’t that a beautiful word? I love home. I
don’t know how many times I have been out and just said ‘I am ready to go
home.’ As precious as it feels to go home here on earth there is even a better
home to look forward to. After all, as the old gospel song puts it – ‘this
world is not my home, I’m just a’passing through. My treasures are laid out
somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heavens open door and I
can’t feel at home in the world anymore.’

When Jesus left He told the disciples mot to be
afraid. He was going to heaven an place for them in. That promise is still true
for us. Here we read that God has prepared a city for His saints. We have a
home in heaven waiting for us. Instead of looking back at our old lives, or
being unsettled because of our lives here and now, we can take confidence that
we have a new and better home waiting for us.

I grew up on country music and country gospel. As I am
typing all I can think of is an old Squire Parsons song called ‘Beulah Land.’ I
am not going to vouch for every theological detail and am not going to go
through it and try to pick them out. But at the moment the words really express
how I feel about the day when we finally get to go to our heavenly, better, and
eternal home.

I'm kind of homesick for a country
To which I've never been before.
No sad goodbyes will there be spoken
For time won't matter anymore.

Beulah Land (Beulah Land) I'm longing for you (I'm
longing for you)
And some day (And some day) on thee I'll stand
(Someday we will stand)
There my home (There my home) shall be eternal
Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land

I'm looking now, just across the river
To where my faith, shall end in sight (Shall end in
There's just a few more days to labour.
Then I will take my heavenly flight.

Beulah Land (Beulah Land) I'm longing for you (I'm
longing for you)
And some day (And some day) on thee I'll stand
(Someday we will stand)
There my home (There my home) shall be eternal
Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land
Beulah Land, oh it's Beulah Land
Oh Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
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