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Wednesday, October 1, 2008
(Click on photo to enlarge)
I took this photo several years ago on the Blue Mountain Ridge about 50 miles north of us.
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"Commended By God"
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for" (Hebrews 11:1,2).
Mocking people of Biblical faith has risen to a crescendo here in America and very likely elsewhere as well. This weekend a movie opens titled "Religulous" which I suppose is a morphing of the words religious and ridiculous. Reviews of the film indicate that it cynically mocks people who hold religious beliefs, especially Christians.
Christ didn't always leave his listeners with the "feel good" messages we like to hear. He forthrightly told his audience in the Beatitudes, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11,12). Peter wrote, "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come" (2 Peter 3:3).
Hebrews 11 is known as the "Faith Chapter" and contains a series of brief biographical sketches of men and women of faith. The recurring expression in the chapter is the phrase "by faith" (found 22 times). It is used to introduce each individual and describes their faith in God.
Throughout the book the writer of Hebrews typically uses what is known as the hortative voice, urging and encouraging his readers with the expression "let us" or including himself with his readers using the first person plural pronoun "we". His writing style seems as if he's communicating to fellow believers in a small group setting and urging them on as a fellow believer. This is also my favorite style both as a preacher and listener.
In this chapter the ancients are commended for their faith. Hebrews 11:3 makes a foundational faith statement, "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." Of course this foundational statement has been under persistent and vicious attack by the secular modernist. But the writer of Hebrews forthrightly states, "by faith we understand…". And praise be to God by faith I do understand and stand on this truth!
In the section from verses 4 through 39 the pronouns change to "he" or "they" as the writer illustrates the faith the ancients were commended for. This section ends with this concluding phrase, "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised" (Hebrews 11:39).
In the very next verse the writer resumes his use of the 1st person plural with this powerful truth. "God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect" (11:40). The context of the book indicates the "something better" is the incarnate ministry of Jesus Christ! Believers in the Old Testament period looked forward in faith to the promised future work of Christ. Believers since the New Testament period look back in faith to the finished work of Christ. Ultimately this is the basis for which we are all commended by God. Thanks be unto God!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, the people of faith listed in Hebrews died without receiving all that You had promised, but they never lost their vision of heaven as a "better country – a heavenly one." We take courage from these brave heroes of our faith who remained faithful to You in this life so that they could inherit a future eternal life. We who follow You many generations later trust Jesus' promise that He returned to heaven to prepare a place for all who remain faithful. We anticipate with great joy the hour that we are joined with You in the clouds of glory for all of eternity. In Jesus mighty name, Amen.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"All Your Promises Are True" Video A faith-building song by Shannon Wexelburg. In theme with our message today this song will truly build you up in the faith. It's a very fitting song for those holding onto God for promises yet to be fulfilled.
"The Criminalization of Christianity" By Janet L. Folger I recommend this book in regard to the first part of today's topic and am really amazed at how far we've come down the road since I read it several years ago. People are fired for displaying Bible verses at work. Pastors are imprisoned for preaching against homosexuality. How can Christians preserve their inalienable rights? Uncovering the anti-Christian agenda that drives public policy, court decisions, school regulations, and media bias, Folger calls you to defend your religious freedoms---before it's too late! 276 pages, hardcover from Multnomah.
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception By John MacArthur / Thomas Nelson Right now, Truth is under attack, and much is at stake. In a postmodern culture, Christians are caught in the crossfire of alternative Christian histories, emerging faulty texts, and a cultural push to eliminate absolute Truth altogether. As a result, many churches and Christians have been deceived. Worse still, they propagate the deception that poses itself as Truth! In The Truth War, John MacArthur reclaims the unwavering certainty of God's Truth and anchors Christians in the eternal, immovable promises found in His Word.
Our friend Doris High has an inspirational photo blog post on this topic.
Today's photo was taken from here (google map)
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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