Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 HCSB
I have had the fortune of having many people in my life who have influenced and guided me. I can remember my fourth grade teacher who encouraged me when I was struggling with school. Dr. Tom Graves was my youth minister who influenced me to go into ministry. Dr. Bill Cromer was a seminary professor who taught me how to be a youth minister. Dr. Winfred Moore gave me a wonderful opportunity to serve as the youth minister at First Baptist Church, Amarillo, Texas which opened many other doors of ministry for me. Veryln Bergen gave me the opportunity to work as the youth consultant in the Sunday School department for the Missouri Baptist Convention. Dr. Roger Hatfield has been a close and encouraging friend over the years. I have been richly blessed by the people God has placed in my life.
We all owe much to those who have preceded us and have walked along side of us to teach us and model how we should live. This verse reminds us to observe the lives of those who have influenced us and to imitate their faith. Certainly, there have been parents and teachers who have taught each of us about God, His Son Jesus Christ, and how we can have forgiveness of sin and receive eternal life. In turn, there are others who God has placed in our lives that we are influencing in some way.
Challenge: Would you want others imitating you? Live your life in such a way that you are setting a good example and modeling how to live life as a follower of Jesus Christ. Thank God for those He has placed in your life who have influenced you to grow in your relationship with Him..
Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Hebrews 13:6 HCSB
Have you ever felt like the world was closing in on you? Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all the demands put on your life at work, school, and home? Where do you turn for help? Your spouse? Your best friend? Your parents? Your pastor? Over the years I have usually turned to my wife, parents, or close friends when I have needed help and wise counsel. As a parent of four adult children, there is nothing more gratifying than to have one of my children call me for advice.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the Lord is our helper. He is always there for us. Psalm 46:1 states, “God is our strength and refuge, and is ever-present in times of trouble.” When the apostle, Peter, was walking on the water and began to sink, he cried out to the Lord, “Help me!” God is with us through the good and bad times of life and stands ready to help us. Just like an earthly father who wants to help his children, our Heavenly Father wants to help His children.
Challenge: Do not be afraid; trust God and His promises. He will always be there for you. He wants to help you. That does not mean you will have life on “Easy Street”. To the contrary, God may allow suffering in your life to help you learn something and to help you grow closer to Him. Cry out to God when you need help, He will be there for you.
Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. Hebrews 13:5 HCSB
I recently coordinated the Financial Peace University class by Dave Ramsey at our church. At one of the first classes, participants were asked to anonymously provide information on how much debt they had, not including their home. We had 11 families represented in the class and I was surprised to discover that the total debt of everyone was almost $600,000. Non-home debt would include student loans, cars, credit cards, etc. The average debt of each family in our class was over $50,000. This is an indication that many of those in the class had bought into the world’s idea that if you want it, you can have it by just using credit cards or borrowing money. Even though most of us would not want to classify ourselves as being a lover of money, the facts indicate that most of us are obsessed with having more “things”. Most people who live in America are wealthy compared to world standards, yet we never seem to be satisfied with what we have.
This verse warns against being a lover of money. We are to trust the Lord to provide for our needs and to be satisfied with what we have. It seems that the more we accumulate “things” the more we want more. Even the richest man is the world always wants more. The world tells us that happiness can be found in accumulating more “things”, but those who have reached a point financially that they can purchase just about anything do not seem to be happy.
Challenge: Discover financial peace by following God’s plan for acquiring and using money. Be a good steward of what God has entrusted to you. Be careful not to become a lover of money. Trust God to provide for your needs and do not borrow money except for your home. Attend a FPU class and get out of debt so you will have more money to help others.
Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers. Hebrews 13:4 HCSB
My wife and I just celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary. We have enjoyed some extremely good times but also times of difficulty and hardship. It is easy to make it through the good times, but it takes commitment to make it through the hard times. Bloomberg reports, “Three of four women in the U.S. have lived with a partner without being married by the age of 30, an increasing trend that suggests cohabitation is now a regular part of family life in the U.S.” This is an alarming trend that seems to support the belief that people are not willing to make the commitment of marriage in modern day culture.
The writer of Hebrews warns his readers that marriage is to be respected and husbands and wives are to make a commitment to each other. It is becoming more and more likely that couples are living together without the commitment of marriage. God’s plan is for one woman and one man to make a commitment to each other and to not defile their marriage bed by living together without being married or by being intimate with another person other than his or her marriage partner.
Challenge: Keep your marriage bed undefiled by living a pure life that resists the temptations of our world. It may be hard to live by God’s standards, but it is always the best way to live. God blesses those who live according to His Word.
Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 HCSB
My wife heard a knock at the door. When she opened the door, standing on the front porch was a construction worker with our young son, Jonathan. He asked if this little boy was our son. My wife responded yes and as any mother would do, gathered Jonathan into her arms. The man told her how Jonathan had wandered onto their construction site a couples doors down from our house. My wife brought Jonathan into the house, asking him why he had wandered off from our yard. In her concern for Jonathan, my wife had forgotten to properly thank the man for bringing Jonathan home. She made her way to the work site and inquired about the man who had brought Jonathan home. She even described what the man looked like, but the foreman for the job assured her that they did not have anyone working there that fit that description. We have always wondered if the man who brought Jonathan home was an angel sent by God to help protect him from any harm.
This verse reminds us that we may entertain angels at times without even knowing it. Abraham entertained an angel without realizing it (Genesis 18:1 and following). Judges 6:11 and following records that Gideon entertained an angel. There used to be a television show called “Touched by an Angel”. Each week the angels would work in different situations to bring about good in a person’s life. Billy Graham wrote a book on angels and tells stories of people in recent times who were visited by angels. We never know when we might encounter an angel. He may not be wearing a white robe and wings but may be dressed just like one of your co-workers or a fellow student.
Challenge: Always be prepared to show hospitality toward those you encounter each day. You never know when you might encounter a real angel, sent by God to help you in some way.
To Jesus (mediator of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:24
My wife works for a company on a contract basis. Each year she signs a contract stating the nature of the project, her responsibilities, and her rate of pay for a specified period of time, which is usually five months. A new contract is required each year because the old contract is no longer valid.
The old covenant was the covenant between God and the Israelites. When Jesus came He established a new covenant and demolished the old covenant. Hebrews 8:6 states that Jesus “is the mediator of a better covenant” In 8:8, the writer describes a better covenant. In 12:24 the Greek term used for “new” is different than the term used in the other passages, stressing the more recent origin of the new covenant. As believers we have a permanent contract that will never have to be renewed. Because of Jesus’ death and the shedding of His blood, our sins are forgiven. The blood of Abel cried out for revenge and justice but the blood of Jesus is better. It cries out for forgiveness and mercy instead of revenge. Through Jesus Christ we have a new covenant with God. We no longer have to fear God and His wrath against sin in our lives but can enjoy fellowship with the living God who loves us and wants to have a relationship with us.
Challenge: Thank God for the new covenant you have with Him through His Son Jesus Christ. Remember that you are new creature in Christ. The old nature has passed away. Your new nature desires to live for God and to bring honor to His kingdom.
To the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the Judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect. Hebrews 12:23
To get tickets to the NCAA Final Four games an individual must register and hope to get tickets. The organization has a random drawing to select those who will be able to purchase tickets. Fortunately, I was selected as one of those who could purchase tickets. Since I am a big college basketball fan, I am looking forward to attending the Final Four games with my sons and sons-in-law.
I had to make sure my name was on the list to even have a possibility of getting tickets to the NCAA Final Four. To get my name in the “Book of Life” I only had to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Unlike the NCAA tickets, we do not have to hope to be selected. God promises eternal life to those who have repented of their sins and accepted the free gift of forgiveness made possible by the death of Christ on the cross.
Challenge: Is your name written in heaven? Luke 10:20 records that Jesus told His disciples to rejoice because their names were “written in heaven.” Paul refers to those “whose names are in the Book of Life” in Philippians 4:3. The book of Revelations contains several references to the “Book of Life.” You can be sure your name is on the list in heaven by simply praying: “Lord I admit I am a sinner. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross for my sins. I confess Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life.”
Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering. Hebrews 12:22
To be able to travel out of the United States to a foreign country requires a passport, which is the legal document that proves that one is a citizen of the United States. The authorities always check passports when people enter and leave a country. Sometimes a person must also have a visa to be able to travel and stay in a certain country. When traveling it is important to always have possession of one’s passport.
The word “instead” is a transition word indicating that what is about to follow in the next few sentences is in contrast to what has just been shared in the previous sentences. The contrast is between the blazing fire, darkness, gloom, and storm of Mount Sinai with Mount Zion, heavenly Jerusalem, and myriads of angels. When we accept Jesus as Lord, we become children of God and citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. As believers, we become citizens of heaven. The connotation of the word used here is that this citizenship is something that is obtained immediately and is also to be obtained in the future.
Challenge: Are you a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem? Thank God that just as you must have a passport to prove you are a citizen of the United States, your belief in Jesus Christ is your passport to prove you are a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem where there will be hosts of angels and a festive gathering to praise and worship God.
For they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned! The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling. Hebrews 12:20-21
One of my favorite movies is the Wizard of Oz. I remember the scene when Dorothy and her friends finally made it to Oz and they were standing before the great Wizard of Oz seeking a brain for the scarecrow, a heart for the tin man, courage for the lion, and a way to get Dorothy and her little dog back home. Very few people had access to the great Wizard of Oz. Each character in the movie approached him with fear and trembling. They shook in visible terror as they spoke to the great Wizard. His voice was loud and commanding which caused them to shake even more.
The writer of Hebrews is describing what is revealed in greater detail in Exodus 19 when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Word from God. God had commanded that not only would any person who touched Mount Sinai be put to death by stoning or shot with arrows, but He also commanded that any animal that touched the mountain be killed. God is a majestic and holy God. Where He is must not be contaminated with sin and unholiness. Direct access to Him was limited. This was to contrast the old covenant with the new covenant through Jesus Christ. Because of Christ’s death on the cross, our sins are forgiven and we are no longer contaminated by sin. We are holy and now enjoy direct access to God.
Challenge: Thank God that your sins are forgiven and you now have direct access to God the Father. He loves you and wants to have a close relationship with you. You do not have to shake in fear as you approach your heavenly Father. He is a loving Father who wants to have fellowship with you.
For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm, to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them, for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned! The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.) Hebrews 12:18-21 HCSB
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address took on an unusually solemn, religious quality. And for good reason—by 1933 the Depression had reached its depth. The people were gripped with fear about what the future held. His famous line, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
The writer of Hebrews reminds his readers of the events of the past when the people of Israel came before God with fear and trembling. Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Word from God. The people were commanded to stay away from the mountain. Any person or animal that touched the mountain would die. The Israelites feared for their lives. God is holy and the people were sinners, therefore unworthy of even being in God’s presence.
Challenge: Do you fear God or have a reverence for God? Because of our redemption through Jesus Christ, we no longer need to fear God. Praise God that through Jesus Christ we are assured that our sins are forgiven and we have the right and ability to approach His throne and enjoy a personal relationship with Him.