E-Message Bible/Commentary

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." --- Psalm 119:105

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Ignoring the Signals

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (Hebrews 2:1)

When something goes wrong with your car, a signal of some kind goes off letting you know that there is a problem or a problem is approaching.  Sometimes people ignore the signals and run out of gas or have major car problems that could have been avoided had they not ignored the signals.

The same is true with our bodies. Some people wait until symptoms recur over a period of time before consulting a doctor.  Because the signals were ignored, the illness may be in its advanced stages.

So it is with our spirits.  We get little promptings all during the day telling us not to turn to the left or to the right, but to stay on the narrow path that leads to God Almighty. When we are disobedient, God whispers in our ears to repent and come back to Him.  When we ignore these signals, we fall into the danger of drifting away from God and out of fellowship with Him.

Let's stop ignoring the signals with our cars, our bodies, and our spirits. When you recognize the signals, respond to them. When you find yourself drifting away from God, renew your relationship with Him immediately.

A Lesson in Suffering
It was fitting for God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10)

Is it a guarantee that if you are righteous, you will never have any trouble? No, indeed! The righteous encounter trouble on every hand. Life’s sorrows, heartaches and disappointments demonstrate that we are not free from troubles. God does not promise to exempt us from troubles. He does promise to strengthen us through them.

There is one BIG lesson to learn when we are suffering! God CAN use our suffering to accomplish His purposes. The above scripture says Jesus was perfect through His suffering. With God’s help, suffering can mature us and make us strong in a hurry. God doesn’t always deliver us out of our suffering, but God sees us through it. And God changes something in our suffering. Usually it is not the trouble that God changes. Instead, God changes us.

When you are going through troubles, ask yourself, “What lesson am I to learn from this?” Once you have learned the lesson, you are better prepared to endure similar circumstances when they happen again.

Higher Than Angels
He took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham. (Hebrews 2:16)

As much as we believe in the work of angels, we should remember that in God's eyes we are ranked higher than angels. We were created in the image of God.  Angels were not. God could not become incarnate in angels because they were not created in the full image of God.  Because of this, fallen angels cannot be redeemed. Only humans have the capacity to "contain God." We have the nature to have God in us.  Created in the image of God, redeemed humans have been elevated by means of the new birth to the highest rank of all created beings. Exalted as angels are, the highest ranking angel is outranked by the most insignificant human being who has been born again, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. 

Let us continue to respect angels, but let's remember also that we are higher than angels. In fact, one day Christians will judge and govern the world and even judge and reward the angels in heaven (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).

Being So Much Like Jesus
For this reason, he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)

We are called Christians because we are followers of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should pattern our lives after Jesus’ life. We should model our lifestyle and behavior after Jesus. Jesus was sent to this world to become like us so that we could become like Him. He came to be a living example of what wesay and do.

Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, Pastor-Emeritus of the Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY once said, “We should be so much like Jesus that if we stand beside Him, the angels would have to ask which is which?"

Do you look anything like Jesus? Do you talk anything like Jesus? Do you model your behavior after Jesus? Do you resemble Jesus at all? Would the angels have difficulty telling you and Jesus apart or would it be an easy task?

Since we should be so much like Jesus, let our speech be pleasing to God. Since we should be so much like Jesus, let our deeds be pleasing to God. Since we should be so much like Jesus, let our lifestyle be pleasing to God.

Let’s be so much like Jesus that if we stood beside Him, the angels would have to ask WHICH IS WHICH?

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the the day of salvation." 2 Corinthians 6:2b  "Today, if you will hear His voice . . .  (Hebrews 3:7)

There is no time like the present to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.  TODAY is the day of salvation.  Tomorrow might be too late; for tomorrow is not promised to us. 

We neglect TODAY thinking about tomorrow.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with preparing for the future. But what about TODAY?  When we neglect TODAY with all our thoughts on what will happen seven months from now, we do not give TODAY the beauty it deserves. This is the DAY which the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).  In preparing for the future, there is no time like the present to align ourselves with God through Jesus Christ. I sincerely believe the God who made us and is caring for us TODAY will also care for us in the future.

Prepare for the future if you must, but let's not forget about TODAY.

Perseverance Reveals Genuine Faith
For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end. (Hebrews 3:14)

Because Christ lives in us, we can remain courageous and hopeful to the end. We are not saved by being steadfast and firm in our faith, but our courage and hope do reveal that our faith is real.  Without this enduring faithfulness, we could easily be blown away by the winds of temptation, false teaching, or persecution.

Be faithful to the end even while in the midst of adversity.

What Does It Mean To Rest?
There remains, then a Sabbath rest for the people of God. (Hebrews 4:9)

You think you know what it means to rest, don't you? If you think to rest means to sit or lie down, you are not right. If you think to rest means to sleep, you are not right. How many restless nights have you had even though you were asleep? If you think to rest means refraining from labor or any kind of action, you are partially right. If you think rest means to be confident or to be free from anxiety or disturbance, you are closer to the true meaning of rest. However, there is more to "rest" than that.

The first time the word rest is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 2:2 when God rested on the seventh day after His work was complete. This does not mean God was tired and needed strength and energy. Instead, it teaches us a principle that rest is part of God's plan for us.

Hebrews 4 explains in detail three types of rest. These types of rest are not for unbelievers. They are only for the people of God.

1.  Rest for the people of God who have entered the Promised Land.
2.  The Sabbath's Day rest after all work has been done.
3.  Spiritual rest through Jesus Christ.

What does this mean to us? #1. It means that in order for us to have rest, we must enter into our own promised land through God's guidance; one that is fruitful, productive, and victorious.  #2. It means we should continue enjoying the Sabbath Day rest by allowing the Sabbath to linger within us all week long as an inner experience. #3. We can have spiritual rest only through Jesus' redemptive work on the cross. "Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you REST." (Matthew 11:28)

Do you see now why rest is only for the people of God? Genuine rest means being free both physically and spiritually in body, soul and mind. "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you." (Psalm 116:7)

The Living Word
For the word of God is living and active. (Hebrews 4:12)

Anything that is living has breath like humans. Anything that is living grows and develops like plants. Anything that is living moves like animals. But why do we call the Bible the "Living Word"?

We call the Bible the living word because it has breath. The word of God is the breath of God. It is alive causing us to grow and develop spiritually as we read it. The word of God enables us to move in different directions and to do things we wouldn't ever be able to do on our own. By reading the word of God, we receive the power of God. The power of God can enable us to do in five minutes what would take us a lifetime to do without it.

To know God and to know what's on His mind and what's in His heart, pay attention to God's breath; that is, the living word of God.


Be Careful Which Bible You Read
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

There are many Bibles on the market today. Are all of them holy? I don't think so. When Bibles no longer say what the original manuscript says, they are no longer holy. Many contemporary Bibles have added, deleted and changed the original words so much so that it is a disgrace to those who treasure God's word.  While God's word was meant to be read and understood, it should not be watered down to the point that it doesn't inspire. God's word was first written in the language of the people—of fishermen, shopkeepers, and carpenters. Therefore, unless we understand what the words MEANT to the original audience, we will never understand what it MEANS to us today.

Of all the Bibles I have read, here are my two least favorites: The Message Bible (in contemporary form) and The Cotton Patch Bible (in local southern dialect). The Message Bible adds, deletes and changes the original intent. Here are some examples. It deletes the reference to God's holy name. It doesn't say in Matthew 6:9, "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." It says, "Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are." It distorts the relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son. Instead of saying, "The Father and I are one," it says, "The Father is the goal and purpose of my life."  The most offensive distorted scripture to me is Psalm 22:1. Instead of saying, "My God, my God, why hath thy forsaken me?" it says, "My God, my God, why have you dumped on me?" Jesus repeated these same words on the cross. "Dump" is indeed a much too negative word. God did not "dump" on Jesus. Jesus felt "forsaken" or "abandoned" but NOT "dumped on."

The Cotton Patch Bible is for people who grew up in the South. Local place names are substituted for biblical ones and modern day equivalents of ideas, names, and classes of people are used in place of the actual text. Jesus didn't grow up in the South. Therefore, Jesus never did the things the Cotton Patch Bible says He did. Jesus never said the words they have put in His mouth. It is offensive to say Jesus who was a Jew ate fatback and hog chitterlings.  Matthew 2:13 says, "After they had checked out, the Lord's messenger made connection with Joseph in a dream and said, “Get moving, and take your wife and baby and highball it to Mexico.” Matthew 3:4-6 says, "This guy John was dressed in blue jeans and a leather jacket, and he was living on corn bread and collard greens. Folks were coming to him from Atlanta and all over north Georgia and the backwater of the Chattahoochee. And as they owned up to their crooked ways, he dipped them in the Chattahoochee." Matthew 9:17 says, "Nor do people put new tubes in old, bald tires. If they do the tires will blow out, and the tubes will be ruined and the tires will be torn up. But they put new tubes in new tires and both give good mileage."

Some people believe it doesn't matter as long as the language gets young people to read the Bible. I think it does matter! I believe God's word is powerful enough to stand on its own. I believe it is offensive to God and a slap in His face to change the words to fit our dialect. God loves to have His words repeated back to Him, and they cannot be God's words if He never said them.

Be careful which Bible you read. And for the record . . . Joseph and Mary did not highball it to Mexico with the Baby Jesus. John the Baptist didn't dress in blue jeans and a leather jacket, and he didn't live on corn bread and collard greens. Jesus never ate fatback and chitterlings. Jesus was not baptized in the Chattahoochee. And God never "dumped on" Jesus!

Interesting Things Jesus Never Did!
For we do not have a great high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Even though Jesus was fully God and fully human, there are some human things that Jesus never did. Jesus proved His humanity by being born, weeping, getting thirsty, getting hungry, suffering and dying. It is not new to you that Jesus was tempted in every way; however, He NEVER sinned or deceived anyone (1 Peter 2:22). The following things might make you say, "I never thought about that."

Jesus NEVER said, "I'm sorry." To do so would indicate that He had made a mistake. And Jesus NEVER made a mistake. Jesus NEVER withdrew or modified anything He said. In fact, He prefaced many of His sayings with, "I tell you the truth..." Jesus NEVER admitted guilt because He NEVER did anything to be guilty about. Jesus NEVER regretted doing or saying anything. Jesus NEVER feared anything or anybody.

Knowing what Jesus NEVER did should help us NEVER to have a reason to apologize or say, "I'm sorry."  Doing the right things would eliminate the need to withdraw or modify anything. We wouldn't have a reason to feel guilty over something we have said or done. When these things NEVER happen or are minimized in our lives, then we are becoming more like Jesus.

God's Grace Period
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Grace is favor or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that same person deserves. Grace is one of the major attributes of God. It is God's unmerited favor upon us. God saved us because of His grace. He found favor with us when we didn't deserve it and saved us anyway. (Ephesians 2:8)

Man has a measure of grace, but man's grace is indeed different from God's grace. The main difference between God's grace and man's grace involves the grace period.  Man's grace period is different from God's grace period. What, then, is a grace period? A grace period is a period of time beyond a due date during which a financial or other obligation may be met without penalty or cancellation.

While man's grace period is of only a few days, God's grace period NEVER runs out. While man's grace period is only temporary, God's grace period is forever. God's grace is continual and is there whenever we need it. God's grace is not dependent upon a date on the calendar. God's grace is not associated with late free and service charges or cancellations. God's grace is always available for us in our time of need.

Let's be thankful that God's Grace Period never runs out!

What's At the Bottom of Your Barrel?
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Even though the economy is failing, we shouldn't worry to the point of depression  because grace and mercy should be at the bottom of our barrel. What's at the bottom of your barrel...grace and mercy or gloom and doom?
What is grace?
God's grace is God's unmerited favor. That favor is bestowed on us not because of who we are but because of who God is. God gives us grace because it is His nature to do so. To not give us grace would go against everything God stands for. God's grace is given to us when we don't deserve it.
What is mercy?
God's mercy is God's compassion or forbearance shown especially to us when we deserve to be punished. God's mercy is God's lenient or compassionate treatment when we deserve a greater sentence. It is like giving a murderer imprisonment instead of the death penalty. God's mercy is given to us when what we deserve is withheld.

Grace is given when we DON'T deserve it. Mercy is given when a punishment is withheld that we DO deserve.
When you are running low on resources because of wrong choices or other circumstances, check the bottom of your barrel. GRACE and MERCY just might be within your reach.

All You Can Eat
Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:13-14)

Most of us have gone to restaurants for the "All You Can Eat" meal. The meal consists of many varieties of meats, vegetables, starches, breads, desserts and beverages. There is no shortage. In fact, we often go overboard and try to sample every single item on the buffet bar. We are allowed to go back for seconds and eat as much as we want of our favorite dishes. Even though the cost is fairly reasonable, most people eat more than enough to "get their money's worth."

God has planned an "All You Can Eat" meal as well. It is known as the Holy Bible. We can eat from the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible by Moses), histories, wisdom writings, major prophets, minor prophets, gospels, history of the church, Paul's 13 epistles, general epistles and Revelation (the apocalyptic book of end-times events). There is no shortage of God's promises within the pages of the Bible. We can go back for seconds and thirds. It is all right to eat until our heart is content. We never get tired of feasting on God's word because every dish is prepared and seasoned just right by God's own hand especially for His children. There is no waiting in line or having to leave a tip. The meal is not for a limited time only. The restaurant never closes, and we don't even have to dress up to dine. The Bible contains "All You Can Eat." "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness." "O taste and see . . ." Bon Appetit!

From Milk to Meat
For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:13-14).

It is evident that Christians who read, study and obey the Word of God grow spiritually. If you are a parent and your child turned 13 years old and was still in diapers and taking a bottle, you would be concerned. Many churches today have nurseries for babies, but some church goers ages 30, 40, 50 and older belong there instead of sitting in the pews. These Christians are still wearing diapers and sucking on pacifiers because they are spiritual infants not able to eat spiritual food.  At this time in their lives, they should be thoroughly equipped to teach others. Instead, they constantly need someone to teach them because they need milk and not solid food (Hebrews 5:12). 

The Word of God strengthens us and has the power to go beyond our conscious mind to the very core of our spiritual being to cleanse, convict, and transform us from infants to mature Christians. Let's take off our bibs and go from milk to meat!


Things Needed For Fulfilling Your Dreams
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. (Hebrews 6:11)

Yesterday I wrote about six D's that are hindrances to fulfilling your dream: doubt, distractions, dilemmas, deliberation, desperation, and the devil. (See Matthew 11:23). It is only fitting that I write today about six D's that are helpful for fulfilling your dream.

DESIRE. Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." If the truth be told, some people don't know what they want. So they seek after what they think they want rather than knowing for sure what they want. Since they don't know what they want, they might already have it. Be able to articulate your desire.

DISCERNMENT. In order for a dream to be fulfilled, there is a need for discernment about what is right and wrong, fair and unfair, just and unjust. Don't ever expect a righteous God to go along with any unrighteous plans. Discern what is right and stick with it.

DILIGENCE. Give your dream full attention and all the care it demands. Let it forever be on your mind. Let it be the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night. Don't let go of your dream until it comes to fruition.

DEDICATION. If you believe in your dream wholeheartedly, you must give it self-sacrificing devotion. That simply means you will have to make some sacrifices and invest in your dream. The sacrifices however will be forgotten as soon as the dream is fulfilled. Be so dedicated to your dream that you will never let anything take its place.

DISCIPLINE. Let your behavior be so trained that everything you do and say points towards your dream. When you are disciplined in what you set out to do, people and things will gravitate towards you to help your dream come true.

DECISION MAKING. Making the right decision comes only after all avenues have been considered. Inquire of the Lord which decision you should make. When you hear His voice, obey it. When there is perfect peace after making a decision, you will know that you have made the right choice.

God is the Maker of dreams. He would not have put that dream in your heart if He did not want it to become part of your destiny.

May all your dreams be fulfilled...God's way!

When God Makes a Promise
When God made a promise to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, "I will surely bless you and multiply you. (Hebrews 6:13)

When God makes a promise we can believe that it will be kept. We should have no doubt that God will keep His promise and do what He says He will do. God's promises are not always fulfilled when we want or expect them to be fulfilled. But, they are fulfilled in God's own time. God knows the best time to act.

The promises God makes to us today are based on the same promises He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He made a covenant with them that their descendants will have riches, land and be blessed. God swore by His promise and since there is no one greater than God, He swore by Himself.  Man might break his promise to you. Woman might break her promise to you. When God makes a promise, He keeps it. All of His promises are "Yea" and "Amen" (2 Corinthians 1:20-21). They will come to pass! So, who are you going to believe and trust . . . people's promises or those made by God?

Things God Cannot Do
That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:18)

Would it surprise you to know that there are some things God CANNOT do?  Yes, God is omnipotent. Yes, God is omniscient. Yes, God is omnipresence. But there are some things God just cannot do! Is this a contradiction? Is it blasphemy? No! It is inspiration!

There are two immutable things God cannot do.  God cannot change, and God cannot lie. These two unchanging things are God's nature and His promise. God cannot change in His basic nature. In Him, "there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). God does not "mutate" from being one kind of God to being another, nor is He subject to limitations of time and space.

God embodies all truth; therefore, He cannot lie. Because God is truth, you can be secure in His promises. You don't have to wonder if He will change His plans. Our hope is secure and immovable, anchored in God.

Can Christians Lose Their Salvation?
Jesus is able to save FOREVER those who come to God through Him because He ALWAYS lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

People debate the issue of "once saved, always saved." Some people say a person can lose his or her salvation. Some people say a person cannot lose his or her salvation.  Even though I am numbered among this second group, what does the Bible say about Christians losing their salvation?

The Bible says you may lose your assurance of salvation because of sin, but you CANNOT lose your salvation. Your salvation is based not on what you do but on what Christ did. According to Hebrews 9:12, Christ died once for our sins. To say you lose your salvation and gain it back, and lose it and gain it back is to say Christ was crucified more than once. According to John 10:27-30, once you have sincerely accepted Christ, you CANNOT lose your salvation. Nothing we do can override Christ's sacrificial death on the cross to atone for our sins. Jesus paid our debt in full only once. Therefore, only one salvation is necessary. What we CAN do is to sever our relationship with the Son of God. We can get out of right relationship with God and break fellowship with Him. But God is not an Indian giver. He does not give us salvation and take it back.

First John 5:13 assures us that if we believe in the name of the Son of God, we can know we have eternal life. And then no one can snatch us out of the Father's hand (John 10:28). And nothing we do can make God change His mind about us or cause us to be separated from His love (Romans 8:38-39).

In summary, Christians CANNOT lose their salvation. They CAN break fellowship with God through sinning. Hebrews 7:25 says, "Jesus is able to save FOREVER those who come to God through Him because He ALWAYS lives to intercede for them." That's good news. If it were left up to us, perhaps we could or would lose our salvation, but Jesus intercedes for us to make sure that God who has started a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

If you are still not convinced, here are some other things to consider. Numerous scriptures say Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our eternal salvation (Ephesians 4:30). That seal and guarantee will not be broken. There are people who profess to believe who don't actually believe. Those are the people to whom Jesus says, "I never knew you" (Matthew 7:23). They don't lose their salvation. They never had it in the first place.

Being assured of our salvation should not give us a license to sin. Sin separates and keeps us from having a closer walk with God. Just like our earthly father will not disown us when we disappoint him, God will not disown us and take away our salvation.

Hopefully, this message has helped to give you the assurance of your ETERNAL salvation. If you have genuinely confessed Jesus as your Savior, know that your name, like mine, is written in the Lamb's Book of Life in the indelible blood of Jesus that cannot be erased. Hallelujah!

A Better Covenant
But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)

A great percent of the Old Testament speaks of the Israelites having a covenant with God.  This covenant was an agreement with conditions attached.  If they would obey, God would bless. It was a partnership whereby both parties participated. The covenant was often sealed with a blood sacrifice of animals.

We, too, have a covenant with God.  When we confessed with our mouths and  believed in our hearts that Jesus died on the cross and God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:10), we became saved and covenant partners with God.  We agreed to make Jesus the Lord of our lives.  That covenant was also sealed in blood: the blood of Jesus that was shed for the remission of our sins. 

Every time we say "Yes" to God, we are honoring our covenant. Wherever God leads, say "Yes."  Whatever God commands, say "Yes!"

Our Covenant God
But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs [the Levitical priests] as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6).

A covenant is a solemn, binding contract or agreement made and should be honored between two parties.  Everything about God is based on a covenant relationship.  We are in covenant relationship with God because of the death of Jesus on the cross. 

The Book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ died once and for all.  He became a better sacrifice because He sacrificed Himself.  Therefore, our covenant with God is a perfect covenant based on better promises.  It is one that will never become obsolete; not limited, is everlasting and is always valid.  Our covenant with God is based on Jesus being our mediator who always intercedes for us.

When the Sanctuary is Padlocked
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. (Hebrews 9:24)

After Sunday's Worship Service, a padlock is put on the doors of most churches. Some churches will be unlocked on Wednesday evening for mid-week Bible Study. However, some church doors will not be unlocked again until next Sunday.

A sanctuary is a holy place set apart for worship. The earliest sanctuary in the Bible was just a portable tent called a tabernacle that the Israelites carried while in the wilderness. (Exodus 25:8) Later when they finally settled down into a more permanent place, the tabernacle was replaced with a temple built by Solomon. (1 Chronicles 22:19) When the temple was destroyed, God made a way for His people to rebuild the temple and the walls of Jerusalem according to the Books of Haggai, Nehemiah and Ezra.

Worship is important to God. No matter what day of the week it is, God wants us to worship Him. How, then, can we worship during the week if our church doors are padlocked?

Here is good news for those whose sanctuaries are padlocked from Sunday to Sunday. According to Hebrews 8:2 the true sanctuary is not the church building. The true sanctuary has no padlocks. The true sanctuary is the one set up by God and not by man.

We can reach God in our own inner sanctuary. We can find refuge for our soul by gazing upon Him no matter where we are. Even if our church doors are padlocked, God's heart is open wide to receive us when we enter into His presence.

There might be a padlock on our church doors, but there are no padlocks on God's heart.

Two Appointments All Must Keep
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)

Have you every missed an important appointment? Have you ever been late for an important appointment? Here are two appointments you will neither miss nor be late to attend.

Death is one appointment everyone will keep. Death is everybody's destiny unless Jesus returns before we die. "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." (1 Thessalonians 4:17)  Even so, we will have to undergo a change equivalent to death as Enoch and Elijah have done. But most of us will have to keep the appointment of physical death. There is absolutely nothing we can do to escape it. No medicine has been invented to keep us alive forever. God knows when our appointment is. While it is not on our calendar or in our appointment book, we should patiently wait for it and quietly submit unto it. It is bound to happen!

Judgment is the other appointment that everyone will keep. Everyone, the righteous and unrighteous, will be judged by Christ Himself. No matter how much we might tremble with fear at the thought, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. (Philippians 4:10-11) Then we will stand before God where we will find out if our name appears in the Lamb's Book of Life. (Revelation  20:15; 21:27)

We don't know when our appointments are, but we can prepare for both appointments in advance. We can accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. Then we will be glad to show up on time for the two appointments we must surely keep.

Let's Feed Each Other
Let us think about each other and help each other to show love and do good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)

Our first priority is to think about God and then to think about and help each other. Something is wrong if we say we love God, yet we shun our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and church family.  One of the final commandments Jesus gave His disciples was to love and take care of one another (John 15:12).

A story is told of a tribe that was getting ready to eat soup from a big kettle, but the people had only excessively long ladles to use as spoons. In fact, the ladles were too long to reach one's own mouth. After much difficulty trying to eat soup with arm-length ladles, one person decided that the best way for everyone to be fed was for each person to feed another person. How easy that was!

Every day in every way, we are to do whatever we can to feed someone. It could be a smile, a pat on the back, or a simple word of encouragement. Before the day is over, feed someone! And then expect to be fed by others!

Holy Habits
Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)

A habit is a behavioral pattern acquired by frequent repetition. A habit is something that you do so often that you will do it without having to think about it. Usually it takes 14 days to form a habit. Sometimes you might question people about a habit and they deny it. That's because the habit is involuntary and they don't remember doing it. Such habits include clearing one's throat on a regular basis or laughing when nothing is funny. Some people twist their hair, bite their nails, shake their legs, or tap their feet. Some people have a bad habit of rolling their eyes or using other negative body language. When approached, they say they didn't do it because these habits have become so much a part of them that they go unnoticed by the one who is doing them.

Just as we have some bad habits, we should acquire some holy habits. What are holy habits?  Holy habits are those disciplines we do with emphasis on God. Prayer is a holy habit that displays our inward communion with God. Worship is a holy habit that illustrates our upward look to God. Other holy habits include fellowshiping, giving, forgiving, witnessing, Bible reading, meditating, journaling, and loving one another.

These are just a few of the holy habits we should have. We should become so accustomed to holy habits that if we don't do them at all, we will feel like something is missing.

Form some holy habits today!

An Alternative to Bedside Baptist Church
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)

I once asked a person which church he attended. He said, "Bedside Baptist." I knew immediately what he meant. A lot of people go to Bedside Baptist or Bedside Methodist or Bedside Presbyterian Church. They forsake the assembling of themselves together because they prefer to sleep in. They rationale and say it is all right to watch church services on television. There is nothing wrong with television services in themselves, but they should not be in lieu of assembling ourselves together where Christ is the head and the church is His body.

In order to please God, you must obey the commandment in Hebrews 10:25. You need to leave Bedside Baptist, and find a church where you can become part of a community of faith.  The church described below is the type of church worth getting out of bed for.

When looking for a church, look for one that patterns itself after the early church in the Book of Acts. Choose a church where the holiness of God is evident, and Icabod is not written on the door. "Icabod" means "the glory has departed" and God is not there (1 Samuel 4:21). Make sure the people partner with God to accomplish His purposes on earth. Choose a church where Jesus is proclaimed as "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). Choose a church where people completely give themselves to Christ with passion as His bride. Look for the church where the good news of the saving power of Jesus is spread to all people. Choose a church where the Holy Spirit is not quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Choose a church where leaders are servants. Keep in mind that the higher the leader, more of a servant the leader should be. See if the leaders and members make prayer, praise and God's word top priorities.

Some people say they won't join a church because the members are hypocrites. Know that people are works in progress, going through various stages of maturity. Don't let hypocrisy keep you away from church. Instead, let it motivate you to participate so you can build relationships with people and help them grow. Your gifts and talents just might be what the church needs to move to a higher level. 

Know that the church is not the building. Read Isaiah 6 to get an idea of what the sanctuary should be like. It should be a place where God dwells and connects with His people. It should be a place where the presence of God is and His power is unleashed in the congregation and in the surrounding communities.

Choose a church where pastor and people work together to change the world through preaching, teaching, and evangelizing the lost. It is a selfish person who chooses a bedside church over a local assembly. God's commandments for the church cannot be carried out in a bedroom. Besides, God did not intend for us to merely WATCH worship services on television. He intended for us to PARTICIPATE in them.

Finally, seek God as to where He would have you join with others to bring glory to His name!

Appreciate Your Struggles
But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings. (Hebrews 10:32)

When I was in seminary a classmate emphatically voiced that he wished he had had my struggles. Not knowing what he meant, he explained that the only way anyone could display such power was to have gone through some struggles. He was absolutely correct.

My name is "Margaret" which means "pearl of great price." A pearl is not born a pearl. It has to go through a lot in order to become a pearl. Before it becomes a lustrous pearl, it has to deal with grit and grime and the yucky stuff inside shellfish at the bottom of the ocean.

Struggles are not bad in themselves. It is how you respond to your struggles that matters. If you want a powerful testimony, you must go through some tests. If you want to become successful, you must go through some stuggles. Struggles will either make you or break you. My struggles have helped to make me who I am today.

Appreciate your struggles. Perhaps others will recognize your anointing and come to the same conclusion that my classmate came to about me.

A Layman's Definition of Faith
"Faith is . . . ."  (Hebrews 11:1)

Hebrews 11:1 gives an excellent definition of faith: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen." However, merely quoting the scripture does not indicate you have faith. It only proves you have a good memory.  
The thing you want is the substance; the thing you get is the evidence. Faith is what happens between the substance and the evidence. Faith is jumping off a cliff with the assurance you will fall into strong arms. Faith is running through a wall believing a hole will be there for you by the time you get there. Faith is moving to the next step even when you see no step. Faith is reaching up with complete confidence that a hand will reach down and touch yours. Faith is tying a knot and holding on when no rope is visible. Faith is feeling the warmth of a face against yours even though the face is far away.
No matter how we define faith, all will agree that faith is believing the invisible, seeing the unseen and knowing the unknown. Faith is finally giving birth to a substance that has been growing inside of you and presenting it to the world as evidence.

Can you give your own definition of faith without quoting Hebrews 11:1?


How to Know Your Faith is Effective
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

There are ways to know if your faith is effective.

1. Your faith is effective when you depend on God. When the persistent widow went to the king for justice, she depended on him because she had no other resource. As long as we depend on others, we will not fully depend on the King. Your human resources might be dwindling because God wants you to depend more on Him.
2. Effective faith grows. If your faith is stagnant, it is ineffective. Almost invisible at first, faith grows underground like the roots of a tree. When the roots are watered by the word, the tree grows and spreads far from its original planting. Then the tree flourishes, becomes visible and bears fruit. Effective faith does the same.

3. Effective faith shows up more under pressure. Going through challenges is the time when effective faith kicks in. It is at those times that your faith is tested. If you say you have faith but never get to prove it, how do you know you really have it?
4. Effective faith is hopeful anticipation and quiet certainty. We demonstrate effective faith when we look forward to daily opportunities with excitement and confident that whatever we face will be worked out for the glory of God.
Even though faith cannot be measured, we know we have effective faith when we base our entire lives not on what we can do but on what has already been done through JESUS CHRIST.



Basic Step of Faith
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.  (Hebrews 11:3)

Recognizing God as our Creator is our most basic step of faith.  God called the universe into existence out of nothing.  He declared that it was to be, and it was.  Our faith is in God who created the entire universe by his word.  God's word has awesome power.  When He speaks, do you listen and respond? 

What is God calling you to do today that you are not doing?  By faith, LISTEN and RESPOND!

How Will You Be Remembered?
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain's. (Hebrews 11:4)

According to Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith chapter, we find lists of names of biblical people along with their epitaph.  We are developing personal qualities by which we will be remembered.  How would God summarize your life?  How will your family and friends remember you?  The Bible teaches that the way we live today will determine how we will be judged by God and how we will be remembered by others.

 If you were to write your own epitaph or could add an extra verse to Hebrews 11 summarizing your own life, what do would it be?

You Must Express Your Faith
And without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)

Full-hearted faith is tested by your mind, your emotions and your will. Your mind must perceive what God promised. Your emotions must be tested through love. Your will must be tested by what you are willing to do to express your faith.

Hebrews 11 is known as the "Royal Roll Call of Faith." It lists those great biblical examples of those who expressed their faith. We, too, must express our faith by an act of our will. Notice in Hebrews 11:4-31, each verse begins with "By faith" followed by the person's name and what he or she did to express their faith by some act of their will:
- By faith Abel offered a sacrifice (v. 4)
- By faith Noah prepared an ark (v. 7)
- By faith Sara delivered a child (v. 11)
- By faith Abraham offered up Isaac (v. 17)
- By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau (v. 20)
- By faith Jacob blessed both sons of Jacob (v. 21)
- By faith Joseph gave commandments (v. 22)
- By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months (v. 23)
- By faith Moses kept the Passover (v. 28)
- By faith the Israelites pass through the Red Sea (v. 29)
- By faith the Israelites encompassed Jericho (v. 30)
- By faith Rahab received the spies (v. 31)

In every one of the above cases, faith was expressed by an act of the will and these people were commended for their faith (v. 39). You must perform some action to express your faith no matter how small that action is.

If you are believing God for something right now, DO SOMETHING to display your faith. Act as if what hasn't happened has happened so that what hasn't happened can happen.

Pleasing God
Without faith it is impossible to please God: because anyone who comes to God must believe that God exists, and that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.  (Hebrews 11:6)

All of us should want to please God.  And we can. We can please God through our personal faith in God.  We must believe that God exists.  But God will not settle for mere acknowledgment of God's existence.  God wants a personal ongoing relationship with us that will transform our lives.  Those who seek God will find that they are rewarded with God's intimate presence. 

We, therefore, must seek God not casually or haphazardly, but diligently.

Five Things We Must Do To Have a Relationship With God

Christians, theologians, seminarians, and many lay people have debates about the Bible, but there are five things on which all will agree we MUST have in order to have a relationship with God.

"Marvel not that I said to you, you MUST be born again" (John 3:7). We MUST be transformed by the Holy Spirit from within.

"He that comes to God MUST believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).  Every believer MUST believe in the sovereignty and Deity of God.

"They that worship God, MUST worship Him in Spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).  True believers MUST learn to worship God in the Spirit as well as in truth.

In order to grow strong in the Lord, we MUST submit to God in every area of our lives.  "He MUST increase, but I MUST decrease" (John 3:30). We MUST put more emphasis on God's kingdom than on our own achievements.

To maintain a healthy relationship with God, we MUST learn the holy attitude of our accountability to Him.  "For we MUST all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in His body, according to that he has done whether it be good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). We all MUST give an account and will be rewarded based on how we have lived.

God Answers Prayers
But without faith it is impossible to please him; for He that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

God answers prayers, but without faith it is impossible to please him.  Faith is believing what you cannot see.  The reward of faith is seeing what you believed.  Faith in God SEES the invisible, BELIEVES the incredible, and RECEIVES the impossible.  We should live in the hope and expectancy of that which is not yet in evidence.   We should pray big prayers that only God can answer.  Plan to make a habit of believing God will answer those prayers. 

Faith is not believing that God CAN, but that God WILL.

God is a Rewarder
God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Those of us who diligently seek God are rewarded with His intimate presence and power.  The rewards are spiritual which allow us to be better persons in every area of our lives.  When we diligently seek God in the spiritual realm, God will reward us in  the physical realm as well. 

Let us seek God first and even the material things can be manifested in our lives (Matthew 6:33).

Lay Aside Every Weight
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.. (Hebrews 12:1)

We cannot be free to run this race of life with weights on our feet.  We must throw aside everything that stands in our way of serving God  — family, friends, job, house, car, church, etc.  We cannot run with the weight of unforgiveness or any sin that entangles us.  Search your hearts and ask God to reveal to you anything that is keeping you from intimacy with Him. Gird up your loins and let nothing stop you from honoring God. 

Run with perseverance the race God has designed just for you.

Run with Patience
Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.  (Hebrews 12:1)

In the ancient Olympics if you wanted to win the race, you had to obey the rules, stay in your assigned lane, and keep on running.  A good beginning isn't a guarantee of a good ending, although it helps.  It's how we behave while running the race that counts, especially when we near the end.  Some people spend so much time looking at the other runners and trying to copy their style that they get distracted and detoured, while others pay too much attention to the cheers of the spectators.  "Looking unto Jesus" is the divine formula for success (Hebrews 12:2) because faith in Christ is what gives us the endurance we need to keep on to the very end.

Jesus should be our standard and our only example for running this race called "Life."

A Heritage of Faith
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

Believers in Christ have a powerful heritage of faith. This "great cloud of witnesses" includes Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob among other Old Testament heroes. Their faithfulness is encouragement to us.  They struggled, yet they kept their eyes on God. We, too, have problems to face but we have a "great cloud of witnesses" who have gone before us. They ran the race and won.  We can do the same.

Let's follow their examples.

The Author and Finisher
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 )

To live effectively, we must keep our eyes on Jesus.  As we run this race we should keep our eyes riveted on Jesus, the foremost runner.  We will stumble if we look away from him to stare at ourselves, at others, or at the circumstances surrounding us.  We should be running for Christ, not for ourselves, and we must always keep him in sight.

Jesus is the Author, or pioneer of our faith because He has provided us with the only perfect example of what the life of faith is like.  He is the Finisher of our faith because not only did He begin the race, but he finished it triumphantly.  At no time did He falter or turn back.  He kept His eyes fixed on the coming glory, and now He is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

Let us be as diligent and committed to continue our race the way Jesus did.

Spiritual Range of Motion
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. (Hebrews 12:12)

Everything in the physical has a spiritual counterpart. One's physical range of motion is the complete movement of a joint. For example, full range of motion begins with the arm straight and ends when the weight comes close to the shoulder with the elbow bent. The purpose of a range of motion is to simultaneously stretch, strengthen, tone and align the body.

Our physical range of motion can be limited or reduced because of a medical problem.  A physician might advise you to do stretching exercises to help enlarge your range of motion. What about your limited spiritual range of motion? The Great Physician has told us in His word how to handle a reduced or limited spiritual range of motion. 

Before beginning any physical exercise program, see your physician first. Our Great Physician has already given us permission to exercise our spiritual beings by following His commandments.

How large is your spiritual range of motion? If it is limited or reduced, here are some things you can do to simultaneously stretch, strengthen, tone and align your spirit:
  • "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  •  "Praise ye the Lord." (Psalm 146:1)
  • "Worship the Lord in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24)
  • "Meditate on God's word night and day." (Joshua 1:8)
  • "Be ye doers of the word and not just hearers only." (James 1:22)
  •  "Love one another." (John 15:17)
  • "Abide in God's word." (John 8:31)
Remember, everything in the physical has a spiritual counterpart. To pray the Prayer of Jabez: "Enlarge my territory" (1 Chronicles 4:10), you MUST be willing to do its spiritual counterpart. You must enlarge your spiritual range of motion. A small spiritual range of motion will always result in a small physical territory!

Angels: Fact or Fiction?
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2 NIV)

Angels: Fact or Fiction? In other words, do you believe angels exist and are populated among us? By the end of this message, hopeful you will know for sure whether angels are fact or fiction.

Angels do exist. Angels are spiritual beings and are mentioned more than 250 times in the Bible. The Greek word for angel means "messenger."  Their nature is superior to human nature, but we will eventually judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). Angels were created by God (Psalm 148:2, 5) and were with Him and rejoiced when the world was created (Job 38:4-7). In their original state, all angels were holy, but 1/3 of them rebelled against God along with Satan and became fallen angels (Revelation 12:4, 7-9).

Angels are never known to appear to unbelievers. When they appear to believers, the first thing they say is, "Fear not" (Matthew 28:5). The job of angels include guiding and instructing good people (Genesis 24:7); protecting the people of God (Exodus 14:19-20); and delivering the people of God from danger (Acts 5:19).

Did you know that angels attend our corporate worship services and report their findings to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms? (1 Corinthians 11:10; Ephesians 3:10; I Timothy 5:21) Did you know that angels are genderless, but they appear in the form of men (Genesis 18:2, 22) and they dress in white (John 20:12)? Did you know that there are thousands upon thousands of angels (Revelation 5:11)? Did you know we do have angels assigned to us (especially children - Matthew 18:10) and they take our prayers to God in a vial (Revelation 5:8)? So if you are not praying, your have placed your angels on unemployment.

There are only two angels with names in our Christian Bible: Michael, the archangel (Daniel 10:13, 21) and Gabriel, the messenger who was prominent in the annunciation and birth of John the Baptist and Jesus (Luke 1:19, 26-33).  Rapheal and Sinclair are angels in the Apocrypha (the hidden books of the Bible) but not mentioned in our Christian Bible.

Angels: Fact or Fiction? Angels play a vital part in God's plan for the world. Angels play a major part in our own lives. Let's be kind to everybody. We might be entertaining angels without knowing it.

Take this quiz on Angels to find out what you really know about them.

"Always" and "Never"
And surely I am with you ALWAYS, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20) I will NEVER leave you, nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

We need to be careful when using ALWAYS and NEVER. These two adverbs denote the frequently of something.  We tend to use these words loosely . . . too loosely! ALWAYS means perpetually, incessantly, at any and every time; on every occasion without exception. Literally, ALWAYS means "all the days." The opposite of ALWAYS is NEVER.  NEVER means "not ever." It means at no time; on no occasion. It is the negative form of ALWAYS.

Watch out when people use ALWAYS and NEVER in a conversation with you. Either they are complaining or lying or both. God is the only One who can truthfully say "ALWAYS."  God is the only One who can truthfully say "NEVER." Challenge those who say ALWAYS and NEVER to you.  Challenge yourself and use a different word; one that truthfully depicts the situation.

That Same Jesus
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

No matter how much we want a relationship to last, sometimes it dissolves. No matter how much we love our job, sometimes it is abolished. No matter how much we pay for a bigger house, or a bigger car, they will not continue to provide us satisfaction.  The novelty wears off, and after a while those things leave us empty inside.  No matter how much we take pride in our spouses, our children, or our friends, they sometimes let us down.  But that same Jesus who first turned water into wine, who healed the woman with the issue of blood, who cured the blind man, and who forgave the thief on the cross is still performing miracles, healing broken hearts and forgiving us.  That same Jesus will never change. 

Though our lives might go through different cycles, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever.

"Isn't There a God Today?"
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Most Christians go to church on Sunday. While there they worship and praise God. They pray along with the preacher, sing along with the choir, clap their hands, raise their arms, and say "Amen" in all the right places. They stand to honor God's word when the Bible is read, and they even wave their own Bibles in the air to acknowledge they believe all that's written in it. After church they go out to dine and fellowship with other church members. While at the restaurant, they bow their heads and join in saying the grace to bless the food and to thank God for His provisions. These activities are not hard to notice. A six-year old boy did more than notice these activities on Sunday. He also expected them on Monday.

On Monday, he listened carefully but he heard no prayer, no praise, no singing, no hand clapping, and no "Amen." He saw no hands lifted or arms raised. He bowed his head at breakfast and waited for the grace to be said, but all he heard was the tinkling of silverware and the words, "Pass the syrup, please!" Wondering about the vast difference between the activities on Sunday and the lack of similar activities on Monday, the boy raised his head from his bowed position and asked, "Isn't there a God today?"

Don't lavish God with love on Sunday and fail to acknowledge Him on Monday. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

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