WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Offer to God - 10/22/18


Hebrews 13:15

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name."

The epistle (letter) of Hebrews was originally thought to have been written by the Apostle Paul because of the ending but scholars have concluded that the majority of the original Greek grammar and structure was not like the writing of Paul at all, so now it is commonly accepted that the authorship of the letter is unknown.  While author identity is in many ways important for understanding and translation, what's really important is understanding that the truth of what's written is given by God.

The letter of Hebrews is written to Jews and is combating an immediate threat among those called Christian at that time and in that place.  Chapters 1 & 2 are directly arguing again some form of angel worship and seemingly dismantling the idea that Jesus is an angel or any form of angel.  I don't know what the people of the time thought of angel worship but I know it is prevalent today in many ways as people are constantly trusting in their "guardian angel" or their deceased loved one who has become their "guardian angel" after their death.  Through chapters 1 & 2 the Hebrews writer points out that Jesus is not an angel and that he is much more superior to them because of his Cross and Resurrection.  

Chapter 3 begin with a call to those who "who share in the heavenly calling" to "fix your thoughts on Jesus the apostle and high priest whom we confess."

Chapters 3-10 are filled with much that we Gentiles should learn but it is largely instructional to the Jews who know what a High Priest is and have a good understanding of Jewish Scriptural History.  For the writer uses their Scripture to show that Jesus is their Jewish Messiah and has becoming their High Priest who is seated at the right hand of God making intercession for us.

Chapter 11 is the famous faith chapter as it points out how only faith in Jewish history was accepted by God and how now only faith is accepted by God.  

Chapter 12 talks about enduring hardships in their faith leading into the final chapter 13 with two things that I want to point out.

First, 13:9 the writer says "Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings."  And second, 13:15 "...offer to God a sacrifice of praise."

The idea the writer is making here is not about strange teachings as in Ripley's Believe it or Not sort of strange, but rather strange here comes from two Greek words (translated diverse and foreign) which are used in relation to the topic of the Christian orthodoxy that he has spent 12 chapters explaining to them: not to believe that Jesus is an angel (for that idea is certainly foreign lay strange).

In today's culture we Americans believe many strange teachings about Jesus, and I include myself in this accusation; it's impossible to not have influenced by them.  The devil whose job it is to destroy our faith and cause us to not have faith in Jesus is sly so we need to be aware.  Books and books have been written against such teachings but I simplify it reducing everything to this: if our attention is distracted from faith in Jesus alone then we need to address whatever is distracting us.  And this is most easily seen in the writer's next call for us to offer the sacrifice of praise to God.

In 13:15 we are called to, "through Jesus," to continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God.

Here's a test.  Go to Church someplace, anyplace, and during the worship, focus singularly on God through Jesus Christ.  On His attributes alone, on His goodness alone, on Him and His goodness alone.  Don't focus on what He has done for you, don't focus on what you want Him to do for you, and don't focus on whether you like the style of music, the music leader, or the people around you.  Just focus on God for who God is and worship him!

My guess is that you cannot do it for 15 minutes, I know I can't.  Try as I might I always seem to find myself thinking about myself, my situations (good or bad), and my loved ones.  Heck, I even find myself thinking about the football game after church, lunch, or what might be in the mail on Sunday.  I am so easily distracted that I rarely get a chance to focus just on God when I worship.

Maybe I am alone in this but I'm going to bet that I am not.

So what am I to Do?
Romans 7:24

"What a wretched man I am, who will save me from this body of death?" 

Well, as Paul identifies in Romans 7, we are not going to be able to succeed though we try (as we must) but we do have one who saves us despite our own inabilities and shortcomings.  He refers to Jesus, the same one the Hebrew writer spent 13 chapters convincing us to know and have faith in.  

It is Jesus who died on the cross defeating sin and death thus saving us, it is Jesus who was dead for three days in the grave that resurrected back to physical feed me and feel me life, it is Jesus through whom we now are called to continually offer praise from our lips to God, and It is Jesus who is now seated at the right hand of the father making intercession for us.

Do we believe it?  With even a little bit of faith, the size of a mustard seed?  For if you do/will, then you are not alone as you navigate your life's journey.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Three Things – 10/03/2018


I was thinking today about things that changed my life.  I came up with three things and I know there were more but these were the three that first came to my mind…

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

First, I recognized the strangle hold that pornography had on me…

 In 2004 I moved to New Jersey for work.  I wasn’t a Christian at that time but the move felt to me like the opportunity for a brand new life.  As I packed things to take with me the one thing that I certainly was not packing was my years of collected porn mags and videos.  At that time I realized that my porn habit was more of an obsession that a normal bad-habit.  I realized that having grown up on the stuff, wrong understanding of women had formed in my brain and so I bequeathed my whole “collection” to my best friend (sorry Scott) and was leaving for Jersey with no intention of obtaining anymore of the stuff.

It took years for me to see that my exposure to porn really was a form of sexual-abuse.  I actually thought, at the time, that women all meant “yes” when they said “no” and secretly desired to be abused and sexually mastered by men.  It took me quite a while to realize that the majority of women were not like the women who were ‘acting’ interested in me in the movies.  I had a tough time realizing that pornography was a pure fantasy-land for men and it had terrible effects on countless men and women.  Even as a non-Christian I recognized that there was something wrong.

To this day, porn is the one thing from my past life that still beckons me.  I was addicted to many things but this is the one thing from my past that I actively have to fight against.  While I don’t like it, it is a thorn in my flesh that keeps me humble while it allows me to understand others with addictions of their own.

1 Corinthians 15:16-17

16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!

Second, I took seriously a desire to know the truth…

When I was new in New Jersey I was not getting into porn nor was I hanging out at the local booby-bars so this left me with tons of time to just look at the ocean and think.  In my time of thinking I wondered what was really true about God and life.  I remember praying a simple prayer: “God, if you actually exist, I want to know who you are.”  I did not really care who God was, I just wanted to know who he was.  In fact, I expected God to be a form of Buddhism or something: anything but Christian because I didn’t want my mom to be right.

I started looking into world religions and I realized that all of them made their claims of being true; but only one of them claimed to be true because of a dead man rising back to life from the dead.  I was struck with the resurrection because if a dead man actually came back to life from the dead then I needed to seriously listen to that guy.  And the fact that the Bible instructed me to ignore the Christian claims if in fact Jesus did not rise from the dead - this was a big one for me: because all other world religions claim to be true just because they say so.

I was stuck because the Christian claim was different and now my life has been significantly improved because of it.

Thirdly, I learned to manage and budget my money…

How we use our money is the clearest outside indicator of what we really believe. ... If someone is a true disciple of Jesus Christ, the evidence will be found in that person's everyday life - including his or her use of money.  ~Larry Burkett

Getting rid of porn and accepting the truth of Jesus were huge impacts on my life, but after that was learning how to budget; and it has been no-less significant to my life.

Before I learned to budget, I lived pay-check to pay-check.  I paid my bills but just barely.  Car insurance was the tough one with its every six-month payment that I never really had and scrambled to come up with.  I was maxed out on my credit cards, I had a car payment, and if there was any money extra it was always used to feed myself, buy cigarettes and beer, and go to Atlantic City.  I was taught a good work ethic from my parents but money management was not something that I had ever really learned.  I actually believed that the only way to be out of debt in this world was to die and not exist anymore.

At that time I started listening to a daily radio show by Larry Burkett called Money Matters.  It was a radio show that talked about the Christian principles of handling money.  Larry stressed the necessity of the budget for responsibly managing money and even though it was a foreign concept to me I realized that he was correct.  Then he talked about how to get debt-free which was a concept that I did not believe possible in our culture, but he talked a lot about how to do it and so I tried it; that was in 1994.  By the end of 1995 I became debt-free and I never looked back.  Today I have a little minor debt but something that will be gone within the fiscal calendar year and because I budget I always have a month’s expenses in the bank with a good cushion for surprises.

These are among the top three things that completely impacted my life.  I know there are more and maybe even some other things that were more influential that I don’t even know about, but these are the ones that came to mind immediately.  I share them because I know that I am not the only one who had been negatively impacted by pornography, or not taking the idea of the truth of life seriously, or even never having learned how to properly manage my finances and I thought it might help you to consider your own situation. 

My prayer is that you too might find peace in your life by learning things that you may not have thought of before.