Bible

Running the Race

1554446_10202778076678833_64181163_nThe New Testament book of Hebrews was written to remind us that salvation comes by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ, and that no works on our part are involved in securing our salvation. Hebrews makes the case that our salvation was secured completely by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In making this point, Hebrews points to the lives of the Old Testament heroes, like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Moses. Hebrews 11 chronicles how their lives were all driven by faith. By faith, Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice. By faith, Noah moved with fear and prepared an ark to the saving of his house. By faith, Abraham offered up Isaac, accounting that God was able to raise him up again. By faith.

Whenever you see that phrase, “by faith,” it means that the one who performed the action did so because they trusted God completely. Their trust in God, their faith, motivated their action.

Faith is what gives you access to God’s salvation. It is what moves you from God’s wrath into His Kingdom. Faith is what saves. Actions, or “works” are merely an expression of that faith.

It is on that note that Hebrews 12 begins:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1 says we are compassed about (surrounded) by a cloud of witnesses. We are surrounded by the legacies of the Old Testament heroes listed in Hebrews 11. These were men and women who lived their entire lives by their faith in God… from Abel all the way down to Rahab, and then on to King David and the prophet Isaiah.

Because of their faith in God, they believed the impossible, stood against insurmountable odds and foes, and did great things, whereby we remember them today. Some of these heroes won earthly victories, some had to wait to enter eternity to receive their reward, but the end of Hebrews 11 is clear, one day those of us who know the Lord as our savior will be resurrected and glorified with those Old Testament heroes. We will all reap the reward of our faith.

So, with that in mind, Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to live up to our Christian heritage by living by faith. This involves laying aside every weight (things that come between us and God) and the sin that so easily besets us, and running with patience (endurance) the faith that is set before us.

Throughout the course of this week, we will explore what it means to run the race before us, and to live by faith. May God bless you this week.

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Smiling through the pain

1554446_10202778076678833_64181163_nLet’s be real. Sometimes life just stinks. Pain is real. Problems continue to pile up, and you get to the point where you are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

When life stinks, it can be hard to find comfort. No one understands your pain, and the trite little phrases like “too blessed to be stressed” only compound the agony. How are you supposed to just “speak victory” into your child’s cancer diagnosis, your wife’s passing, or the foreclosure of your home.

Yet, society expects us to just put on a smile and fake it through the day. “Fake it till you make it.” However, when the day ends, you’re right back at home, face to face with your problems.

Pain and suffering, grief and bereavement are not foreign to the Christian experience. In fact they are a real part of the Christian’s life. Christians face problems, feel pain, and experience periods of hopelessness. You’re human.

When the Apostle Peter authored his first epistle, he was looking at thousands of Christians who had been displaced by severe persecution. Roman Emperor Nero had allegedly set Rome on fire, then blamed Christians for the devastation before burning many of them alive.

He made sport of Christians by drafting them to be gladiators. He fed them to the lions. He executed them in ways he found entertaining. Imagine having your wife kidnapped from your home, and brutally murdered by being tied to the horns of a bull for the entertainment of Roman nobility. This is what 1st Century Christians faced.

Can you imagine the pain and grief that one would naturally experience under those circumstances.

Peter, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could not sit idly by and just watch this persecution happen. And he wasn’t in a position to mount a successful civil rights movement. The best Peter could offer would be a word from the Lord to the persecuted saints. Thus, we have 1 Peter.

In reading 1 Peter, you will notice that he directs your attention away from the things happening in the world, and toward the coming Kingdom of God. His words of hope center around the fact that Christians have been redeemed by God, and He is coming to put an end to the suffering and usher in an eternity of peace and prosperity. If you know Jesus as your savior, you will see that day, regardless of what happens here. If you die, Christ will resurrect you from the dead so that you will see that day.

In chapter 1, Peter reminds us of how God chose us for this redemption, and how He purchased this salvation through Christ dying on the cross. He then encourages us to stay faithful and to trust the Lord even through those hard times. In Chapter 2, he points out how Christ suffered for us, pointing out that God isn’t allowing us to go through anything He Himself hasn’t endured.

There are no magic words to make the pain go away. What scripture does accomplish is reminding us of what God has done for us, giving us a purpose for our experience, and encouraging us to make a difference in the world around us.

If you would like to know more, join us for Bible study Wednesdays at 6 p.m. at our office at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E Industrial Dr., Early, TX 76802. If you’re unable to make it, consider reading 1 Peter on your own. It would make a good devotional for those experiencing hard times.

The Tower of Babel

The world’s first tyrant to build an empire was Nimrod, an ambitious, valiant, yet rebellious warrior who built a kingdom by providing for his people in successful hunts, putting down opposition on the battle field, and by building influence around his Type-A personality. First in war, first in peace, first at the dinner table.

Nimrod’s downfall, however, came in his rebellion against God. He built a kingdom in modern day Iraq, and the people decided to build a tower to reach into Heavens. Essentially, they were trying to invade Heaven.

God’s response shows His patience and grace, while also showing that He will not tolerate sin and rebellion.

The Rise of Civilizations

Two brothers, two sacrifices. One pleased God, the other didn’t.

Cain was wroth, angry that God did not honor his sacrifice of the fruits and grains that he had harvested. No doubt, Cain had labored hard for the harvest, and for God to reject his offering was equivalent to God rejecting Cain himself. This sent Cain into a self-destructive and homicidal rage cycle that led to him murdering Abel, his brother.

Abel sacrificed some of the firstlings of his flock. God respected that.

What was the difference between the two sacrifices? Faith (Hebrews 11:4). Obviously, both Cain and Abel believed God existed, but Abel looked to, and trusted God, whereas Cain just lived knowing He existed. The faith in Abel’s heart pleased God, so He was pleased with the sacrifice. Cain’s lack of faith, and minimal tolerance of God displeased Him, so He disregarded Cain’s sacrifice.

So, in a jealous rage one day, Cain kills Abel, and God drives him out, where he fathers an unGodly society that advances in sexual perversion (Gen. 4:19), agriculture (Gen. 4:20), culture and entertainment (Gen. 4:21) and technology, architecture and weaponry (Gen. 4:22).

Seth is born, and eventually fathers a culture that calls upon the name of God… and so we have the rise of the civilizations. One Godly, one unGodly. We’ll see how this turns out in the next few chapters, but for now, check out the impact that this has on us today by listening to this podcast.

3 Things You Should Know About the Bible

This July 4 weekend, we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In addition to declaring our independence from England, and sparking the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence set forth America’s core values. Its text has been quoted for more than 200 years to restore and maintain our country’s founding principles, and to effect social change to bring us closer to achieving those principles.

The Declaration of Independence not only acknowledged the existence of God, but declared that God Himself endowed us with the three unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and that it is the role of government to protect those rights.

As great as the Declaration of Independence is, it is a document that was written by man. Nonetheless, it has guided our nation for a little more than two centuries. Still, having our core values in writing have helped us stay true to the course as long as we have.

On a higher level, God put His core values in writing centuries ago when the Bible was completed. In the Bible, you read about God’s personality, His likes and dislikes, His law, and His plan of salvation. It is all in writing, so that we can know for sure whether or not we are saved, or whether or not we are in His will.

There are three things we should remember about the Bible, and they are all captured in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

1. The Bible is God’s written Word. 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The word “inspiration” means “God-breathed.” All scripture is God-breathed, which means that God spoke all scripture. This means that the entire Bible is God’s Word… every book, chapter, verse and word. Thus, the entire Bible is the final word on any issue, discussion, or doctrine.

God is all-powerful, ever-present, and all-knowing. God knew the future, and He knew what changes would happen in society. Yet, He still breathed the words written in the Bible. This means that no passage of the Bible can be discounted or ignored on cultural or historical grounds. If God was against adultery 5,000 years ago, He is still against adultery now. He is unchanging.

2. The Bible can change our lives. 2 Timothy 3:16 goes on to say that all scripture “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Profitable means helpful, useful, or advantageous. Scripture is where we get our doctrine, which not only means our system of teaching, but also the creed by which we live our lives. Scripture is also profitable for reproof and correction, that is, showing what is wrong in our lives, and showing us how to correct it. Furthermore, All scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness, in other words, instructions in how God wants us to live. If you use the Bible to develop your beliefs (doctrine), change your life and your views to conform to its standard (reproof and correction,) and follow it’s direction in life, then you will see your life changed for the better.

3. The Bible completes us. 2 Timothy 3:17 says, “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” The word “perfect” means complete. If a believer applies the word of God to their lives, they will be complete, and have all they need to do the great things God has called them to.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were the foundational documents on which we based our country. Let’s make the Bible the foundational document on which we base our lives.

6 Truths that will Revolutionize the Way You Live Life

What separates greatness from mediocrity?

What separates a man who lives life boldly, pursuing his dreams, and achieving great things from someone who merely tries to survive? One lives by faith, the other by fear.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., achieved greatness through living by faith. Dr. King spoke of this faith during his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech given at the Jobs and Freedom March on Washington in 1963. He stated:

I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; ‘and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.’This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

Dr. King’s faith was not only that his dream of racial harmony and national healing would come true, but that one day, the Lord would return and set everything as it should be. Knowing that this result was inevitable, he boldly marched forward, speaking out on racial injustice, national healing, and ethnic harmony. He challenged America to live up to its founding creed, that “All men are created equal,” and are endued, by God, the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. On the eve of his assassination, Dr. King told supporters that he was confident that he had done God’s will.

What a way to live life… to live confident that your life meant something, and to leave this life with no regrets.

How can we live that life? We may not be able to lead marches on Washington, and notably change our nation the way Dr. King did, but we can still make a huge impact in our own spheres of life. In order to live a life that mattered, a life where you achieve greatness, there are six truths you must embrace.

1. God exists, and He created all things. The very existence of God is proven through the creation. (Romans 1:20, Hebrews 11:3). He created the Heavens, the Earth, land, water, oceans, animal and plant life, and man king. Being the Creator of all things, it follows that God is in control of all things, which should give you the faith to trust Him with the details over which you have no control.

2. If God created all things, it follows that He created all things with a purpose. 

3. If God created all things with a purpose, then He created us with a purpose. Your life is not an accident, and you are not just drifting in this world, left to survive the best you know how until you die. Your life has meaning. Your life is valuable. Your life has purpose. Your life matters. The question then becomes, “What is my purpose?”

4. God revealed His purpose for us in His written word, the Bible.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

These verses tell us that everything we need to know about God, and His expectation from us, is found in the scriptures, the Bible. The Bible is all God’s Word (given by inspiration), and is profitable for doctrine (a system of teaching, or a creed by which life is lived), for reproof (confrontation), for correction, for instruction in righteousness (what God wants us to do.) The idea is that we would be perfect (complete), thoroughly furnished (equipped) unto all good works.

5. To reject God’s purpose for our lives is to rebel against God Himself. That is the definition of sin. Sin is not defined as breaking God’s law. Sin is not defined as doing something bad, immoral, or evil. Sin is defined as rebelling against God. Now, breaking God’s law, immorality, and evil are all forms of rebelling against God, but even things that you and I don’t see as bad, or evil, also qualify as rebelling against God. When we reject God’s design for life, His purpose for our lives, and His will, we are rebelling against Him, and are sinning.

Think about it. What was so bad about Adam and Eve eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why was their disobedience of God’s command to not eat the fruit a sin? It was a sin, because they were trying to be as gods. They were seeking to elevate themselves to God’s level, so that they would not be subject to Him anymore. They rebelled. They sinned, and we have been cursed ever since.

6. We are all guilty of #5. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” This truth, while keeping us humble, also reminds us that the onus is not on us when it comes to greatness. Our greatness is bestowed upon us by God as we trust Him throughout our lives. It also reminds us that our salvation, and our entrance into Heaven is not based on our accomplishments, but our faith in the Lord. Mainly, this is key to knowing that we can be redeemed.

Now, let’s look at how you can revolutionize your life by embracing these six truths.

1. Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. The fact that all of us have sinned, and thus all of us stand guilty before God prompted Jesus Christ to take our sin upon Himself when He went to the cross. He took our punishment, so that we could stand before God with our debt paid, and thus be welcomed into Heaven. That salvation is accessed whenever a person turns from their sin, and trusts Jesus Christ to save them. Believe in Jesus. Pray to the Lord. Ask Him to save you. Without faith in Christ, nothing else matters.

2. Follow your purpose. In the movie, “Moms Night Out,” Trace Adkins played a biker who had strayed from the Lord. During the movie, he discussed watching an internet video of a mother eagle with all of her babies. He said it was awe-inspiring to watch one of God’s creatures simply do what it was created to do.

Finding your purpose doesn’t mean you have to go on this Easter egg hunt for a secret mission God has planted for you. It simply means to do what God designed you to do. All of us were designed to live the human experience: To grow up, follow a career, to get married, have kids, raise those kids, and then retire and teach the younger generations. There are some variations, not everyone gets married, not everyone can have kids, but as a norm, that’s what God designed us to do. (Those who are unable to marry, or have kids have different callings in life). Furthermore, all of us were designed to worship God.

So, living your purpose means worshiping God. This means going to church on Sundays, but it also means having a time of personal, and family worship, which consists of Bible study or devotional, and prayer.

Finding your purpose in your career involves discovering your talent, using that in your career to the best of your ability, but more importantly, honoring and glorifying God with that talent. In my particular case, I host a radio talk show. While the format of my station will not allow me to preach sermons or give devotionals during my 3-hour daily talk show, I can approach the topics from God’s perspective, and give Spiritual insight into the news of the day.

In your case, it might be building your reputation for workmanship, work ethic, and integrity. In whatever you do, you are called to show the world how God would work through that profession.

Finding your purpose in your personal life involves applying scripture to your family responsibilities… from a man’s responsibility to provide for his family and teach his children about God, to a man’s responsibility to love his wife. A woman’s responsibility is to respect and help her husband, though Proverbs 31 tells us that women are also endued with talent that is to be used to glorify Him, and provide for her family.

We can (and probably will) explore how these truths can apply to certain situations in your life. In the meantime, if you will keep them at the top of your mind, and think about how you can apply them to your situation, you will notice changes. God exists. He has a purpose for our lives. Are we willing to live it?

Sight Unseen

Before the oil boom began to expand into West Central Texas, houses in rural communities could be purchased at ridiculously low prices. A man in California, hammered by housing costs, saw a local listing online, called the listing agent, and bought a two-bedroom house “site unseen,” for only $11,000. He didn’t visit, or inspect the property, but he paid cash. He didn’t have to see the house to know it was there, and he didn’t want to risk it being sold from under him by making the trip to inspect the property. While the home did need some repair, he was ultimately happy with his decision.

One of the unique things about the Christian faith is that we believe that which we have not seen. While all religions require the belief in something that has been unseen, the Christian faith requires faith in that which is unseen. What’s the difference between belief and faith? Belief carries the notion of accepting a truth without really trusting it. Faith means you trust something, or someone.

1 Peter 1:8-9 refers to Jesus Christ when it says, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”

The Christian faith is all about trusting someone you haven’t seen. The Christians Peter wrote to had never seen Jesus Christ in the flesh. They were not likely living in Jerusalem, or even alive at the time Jesus carried out his ministry on Earth. Yet, Peter spoke not only of their faith in Jesus, but their love for Him as well. That was what Peter said resulted in their salvation, and their unspeakable joy.

Jesus, Himself, knew that this would be an issue for many people. That’s why He told Thomas, “You believe because you have seen, blessed are those who, having not seen, still believe.” Faith in Christ is rewarded for us because, even though we didn’t get to see Him in the flesh, we still trust Him to save us.

None-the-less, some still challenge this sightless faith. “If God wants us to believe in Him, why doesn’t He just reveal Himself to the world?” That question sounds an awful lot like the Pharisees, who, in Matthew 16:1, demanded that Jesus (who had already healed the blind and disabled, cleansed the lepers, fed the multitudes and raised the dead), provide a sign from Heaven. Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.”

The Bible teaches that those who will not take God at His word won’t believe, no matter what signs are given.

The Christian faith means taking God at His word. Those believers to whom Peter wrote came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the study of the Old Testament (the New Testament was still being put together.) Mainly, their studies showed how Jesus fulfilled the words of the Old Testament prophets, and as a result, they accepted Him as Savior. That’s what Peter referred to in 1 Peter 1:10-12:

Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

The prophets wrote the prophecies God gave them to write, and while they didn’t always understand, they knew the Word was about Christ, and the salvation that would come through Him. Those prophecies, being fulfilled by Christ, made a lot more sense to the Christians in the New Testament, and thus their faith was strengthened by their study of the scriptures.

Romans 10:17 tells us that “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” If you will get into the Bible, read it, and accept it, your faith will grow. However, you must be willing to take God at His word. That is what trust (faith) is all about.

Finally, Faith means looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13 says “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” To gird up the loins of your mind, and to be sober, means to be alert. It means to be aware of what’s going on, and knowing how current events play into the return of Jesus Christ. Our hope, our confident expectation, is the coming of the Lord Jesus. It’s something we look forward to, and something we long for… because it’s his return that will put an end to the struggles that we face. We look forward to the return of Christ the same way a kid in school looks for the return of his parents to take him home.

So, how about you? Do you trust the Lord? Do you take Him at His word? And are you looking forward to His return?

Grace Pointe Missionary Baptist Church meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., morning worship at 11 a.m., every Sunday at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E. Industrial, Early, TX, 76802.