Imitate Those Who Inherit the Promises

Hebrews 6

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Do you have any Christians that you look up to? Lately I’ve been learning about a pastor named Tim Keller who has really inspired me. Much of his teaching is sound, and he is a great preacher. He is also incredibly successful at bringing Jesus to new people. He has grown his church in New York City (a rather hostile environment for Christianity) and has helped plant over 700 new churches in 75 cities all over the world through a church planting organization that he founded called Redeemer City to City. This to me is exactly what Jesus wants to see his church doing. When he said, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” he meant it, and this is what it can look like.

If you tried to take Tim Keller, or your local church’s pastor, and teach him about how to baptize, repent or pray for people, you would look silly. These guys have been around the block a time or two and they shouldn’t be relearning these basics of the faith. I think that is what is being said in Hebrews 6. It’s just inappropriate to take the first step of the faith and then keep taking it repeatedly, walking in a circle. Jesus has a mission, and once you have come to believe in him, your next steps should always be towards the fulfillment of that mission. That isn’t to say that these topics shouldn’t be taught, but rather they should be taught as a foundation for a new Christian and other beliefs should be built on top of them. However, strong condemnation is given to those who witness the works of the Holy Spirit and yet fall away from the faith. It says it is impossible to restore again to repentance. It also says that if land bears thorns and thistles then it is worthless and will be burned. Beware of people like this, who have seen the power of God and yet never take the next step, never bear fruit and don’t help further the mission of Christ.

Instead, be an imitator of those who inherit the promises through faith and patience. Imitate people like Jesus, who taught, healed and loved. Imitate people like those Christians whom you look up to. Imitate people who never cease spreading the gospel. These people have seen the promises of God and make every effort to give back to the one who loved them first. God has been making promises to mankind for a long, long time, and his promises are true. We see the promise that he made to Abraham to multiply him, and we see the fulfillment too, albeit long after Abraham may have thought it possible. That’s where patience comes into play. God’s timeline isn’t your timeline, but his promises are true just the same. Continue to imitate Christ in all things, since he is our forerunner, the one who goes out before us. Learn his ways and walk in them. He, after having suffered, entered into the Holy of Holies, the place where God resides, and there he prepares a place for us, too.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Who has been a great role model for you in displaying faith and patience while waiting for what God has promised?
  2. What can you do today, and this week, to practice showing “diligence to the very end” (vs 11).

A Reason to Believe and a Reason to Hope

Hebrews 2

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

I love this chapter in Hebrews! It outlines the very reason that I am a Christian, the reason that I believe in Jesus and follow his teachings. It says in verse 2, that the Lord first declared himself. When Jesus was on earth, he taught in the synagogues and proclaimed to be the Messiah spoken of in the prophecies of Isaiah. He proclaimed himself to be the Son of Man spoken of in the prophecies of Ezekiel. We know that he did because we have the firsthand, eyewitness accounts in the first four books of the New Testament. Here again, the author of Hebrews is adding his account (Hebrews 2:4). More importantly than all of this, God adds his own testimony by performing signs and wonders through the apostles, and even among disciples of Jesus today. It’s for this reason that I believe.

Remember yesterday’s passage that proclaimed the great glory and exaltation of the Son of God. The author tells us to pay attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Keep that picture that he painted in your mind. The greatness of God himself has been given to Jesus. You have heard what has been said of Jesus from your friends, your pastor, from the gospels and from the Holy Spirit. Hold on to these things; cling to the faith.

In the next section, the author draws our attention to another psalm like in the first chapter, but this time, he uses it to speak of all mankind more broadly, not just the man, Jesus. God is so much higher than we are. We can’t even wrap our minds around what it means to be Spirit and dwell in heaven. And yet, God cares for us mere mortals. We are lower than angels in that the angels are in the presence of God, but it says that all things have been subjected under man’s feet. It’s clear that this isn’t talking about the current state of the world. There are countless things that aren’t subject to man’s authority: disease, death, hunger, poverty and all kinds of injustices. This is just what the author says in Hebrews 2:8. But we do see Jesus. And just like we read yesterday, everything was given to Jesus. He is the heir of all things and is made higher than all the angels. While Jesus was here, he appeared lower than angels, a man mocked and rejected, but now he is exalted with a crown of glory.

Though Jesus was the first to be glorified, he was the pioneer of salvation, he is not alone since salvation is available for all who believe in his name and we all can become sons of God, brothers and sisters of Christ (Hebrews 2:10-13).

This final section of the chapter is poetic and beautiful, but its real beauty comes through the deep truth and hope that it can bring to our lives. Jesus, though he was perfect and blameless, was put to death. In doing so, he destroyed death itself and freed all of us from the slavery of the fear of death. When you believe in Jesus, you are made free because you don’t need to fear death because there is life for all who are sons of God. We saw it first in Jesus. We saw him raised from the dead and ascend into heaven. This is the fate that awaits us as well. We can relate to Jesus in every way even though he is so highly exalted. He suffered temptation, suffering and death, just as we all will, but we have a hope for life that is to come, a hope that is true, because it was attested to us by God, through his son.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Questions for Reflection

  1. What is the meaning of verse 1? What do they need to pay more careful attention to? Why? Is it still true today? Is it still true for you?
  2. How would you explain Hebrews 2 to someone who has never heard of Jesus before?

Before-and-After Transformation

Titus 3

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Though I had never met the woman in person, I was pretty certain it was her. I’d seen many photos of this wellness coach, and I had always been stunned at her story: she lost nearly 200 pounds by following the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) plan, which I try to also follow for health reasons, and was now a weightlifter as well. Something about her smile was distinctive and very recognizable. I knew she lived in this general area, so it wasn’t too far-fetched to think it could be her. As we got off the hotel elevator together, I summoned up the courage to ask: “Excuse me, are you a THM coach?” She looked stunned, but kindly replied, “Yes, I am…” I explained that I recognized her from the social media pages and was awed by her story. She gave all the glory to God for helping her become healthy. We said a few more words and then parted ways. Later that night, she posted humorously on the group page that she was now a B-List celebrity because she had been recognized in public looking a bit disheveled on her way back from the hotel waterpark, and then I formally introduced myself on social media as well. 

“Before-and-after” posts almost always entice me to stop scrolling and read into the story. Whether it is a weight loss, home makeover, cake decorating challenge, hairstyle tutorial, or hoarder-to-minimalist success story, I feel so thrilled watching a transformation take place. I think we all love a good change for the better, yes? Perhaps that’s why I’m fascinated with the metamorphosis of butterflies too! 

Paul tells us how our “before-and-after” should look, beginning in Titus 3:3: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” That is who we used to be, but that is not who we are now! He continues, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” So, what do we do now instead of all those behaviors we used to do before we were saved? Paul says, “I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” 

Before God saved us, we were overcome by all sorts of sinful behaviors. But now that  we have experienced the kindness and love and mercy and grace of God that we did not deserve, we need to devote ourselves to doing what is good. 

We have known since we were children sitting on Santa’s lap that we were supposed to be good! But what exactly does that mean in a biblical kind of way? Hop back up to verse 1 to find a bit more guidance. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” This list seems to be at least a partial, but still challenging, description of “doing what is good”, don’t you think? 

Paul urges yet again – it must have been such a problem in their society as it is in ours! – to avoid foolish talk (verse 9). I’ve noticed this theme throughout 2 Timothy and Titus; it is a good reminder that we need to pay careful attention to watch what we say, making sure our words are edifying. We are called to be representatives of Jesus in everything we say and do. 

-Rachel Cain

Reflection Questions: 

What does your “before-and-after” look like? Maybe, like me, you were raised a Christian and don’t have a dramatic story to tell. But God has still saved you by his grace! Write out your salvation story and testimony, so that you will always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have. (I Peter 3:15)

In this scripture, Paul calls believers to “do what is good”. What are some specific good things you think God is calling you to do in this season? 

Potty Talk

Titus 1

Thursday, September 15, 2022

POOP.

That was the very first word my then-4-year-old son taught himself to write, all on his own. (Proud homeschooling mama here…)

Like many boys his age, he was fascinated with all things disgusting. It was rare for even a few minutes to pass – especially at supper time! – without him making reference to some sort of bodily function, and laughing hysterically at the mere mention of it while the rest of us just prayed it would stop. My other son, now four years old, has followed suit and is also obsessed with preschool potty humor. To him, every funny noise is flatulence; every repulsive smell must be lingering from the bathroom, and it is all hilarious. Even if we explain that the sound was just a balloon releasing air or the smell was simply spoiled food, he entertains himself for a long while with the (pleasant?) thoughts of bodily functions in the house. He cannot seem to get his mind away from potty talk. 

As humankind, we, too, can become stuck in thought patterns or ideas and continue to feed those beliefs. In verses 15 and 16, Paul writes to Titus, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Now, I am not at all implying that innocent preschoolers have corrupted consciences; that was simply a humorous and relatable example about what happens when our minds are focused on one kind of thing. However, there are many people who continue to feed, to themselves and others, lies and negativity and unpleasant thoughts, which are contrary to God. As believers, we are called to live pure lives, demonstrating the redemption of Jesus’ sacrifice. We can claim to know God, but if we deny him by living without pure motives, we have lost our testimonies and are guilty of corrupted minds. Paul calls those kinds of people “detestable, disobedient, unfit for doing anything good.” Ouch. I don’t want those labels assigned to me. When my mind begins to dwell in negativity, judgmentalism, or even perversion, God often brings these lyrics to my mind: 

Give us clean hands; give us pure hearts. 

Let us not lift our souls to another… 

Oh God, let us be a generation that seeks, 

seeks Your face, O God of Jacob. 

In this book of Titus, much like he did in 2 Timothy, Paul is addressing the issue of “meaningless talk and deception” among rebellious people. Such tendencies must have been rampant then as they still are today. He calls believers to rebuke people who demonstrate this behavior so they will be “sound in the faith.” He also sets high standards for leaders within the church in verses 6-8: “An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” 

Whew! I’m glad I’m not expected to follow such stringent guidelines, aren’t you? Not so fast. Though these qualifications are given to a specific church, they can still be applicable guidelines for our church leaders – and attenders! – today. Since our leaders are also human and prone to stumble like the rest of us, we must continue to pray for them as they seek God and lead His people. And, as Christians aiming to honor God and constantly growing in our faith, we too should aspire to live up to similar expectations as we serve and connect with our local bodies of believers. I’ll close with this verse that seems to fit with this passage and is a good reminder about how we should think (and therefore how we should behave, since our thoughts influence our actions): 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.

Philippians 4:8-9

-Rachel Cain

Reflection Questions: 

With which of the qualifications in verses 6-8 do you most struggle? Pray for God to help lead you to overcome it. 

Most of us who are reading this claim to know God, but have denied him by our actions at times. What are some ways you have done this? Ask God for His strength to live fully for him.

Nourishment

1 Timothy 4

Thursday, September 8, 2022

“In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.” – 1 Timothy 4:6

One of my favorite parts of the year is camps, and retreats, and other various conferences. At these conferences I always love hearing other people’s stories of faith. Listening to the speakers everyday and overall being surrounded by people of faith and having a safe place to discuss, and weed through questions we often ask. These events we attend are crucial in spiritual development. But why do I feel differently when I get home? Similar to a feeling of hunger, if we do not surround ourselves with the nourishment of Godly things. The fact we feel hungry at home and not at these events, probably means we need to start being more diligent in reading and feeding ourself with spiritual truths, and people. If we did that we wouldn’t be as “hungry”. As Paul says, it’s just a part of “being a good servant of Christ Jesus.” That and it feels great to be close to God and his promises. Go, be nourished. I know I need it. 

-Jesse Allen

Application Questions

  1. When do you feel most spiritually nourished?
  2. What do you think God expects you to command and teach to others? (verse 11 and surrounding passage)
  3. Have you been watching your life and doctrine closely? Why do you think Paul mentions both? What is the result if you persevere in doing both well?

Oversee Yourself First

1 Timothy 3

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

There are many concepts in the Bible about leadership. These verses in 1 Timothy 3 are no exception. “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)” 

Leadership is often confused with some form of management of other people. When in fact leadership is a very personal endeavor. People who are leaders are very rarely focused on what everyone else is doing. Rather they are focused on what they are doing and how they can better themselves.  If you don’t manage yourself first then why would anyone listen to you? Just in case you are actually asking yourself that question, I will give you the answer that I have learned from experience. They don’t. Not even a little bit. I’m sure you have heard the whole oxygen mask on a plane cliche so I’ll spare you the explanation.

These verses apply to anyone that considers themself a Christian not just elders and leaders that have been appointed. But rather I think Paul may have been alluding to the fact we are all carriers of the Gospel, therefore we all are responsible for representing it well, not just in our Church life, but in our personal life too. So if you are thinking about becoming a leader of some sort that’s great! Start now by improving yourself because when it comes down to it that’s what leadership is really about.

-Jesse Allen

Application Questions

  1. Look carefully at the list of qualifications for the overseer and deacon and deacon’s wife in 1 Timothy 3. Why do you think each quality was added to the list given by Paul to young Timothy?
  2. Are there any of these areas that you see as an opportunity for growth? Any that you have already been working on and seeing progress?
  3. According to 1 Timothy 3:13 what is the benefit to serving well? Who do you think of that has been a faithful Godly overseer in your life?

Grace Poured Out

1 Timothy 1

Monday, September 5

It is easy to make mistakes when you don’t know you are making them. My job is GIS mapping, and I create maps of construction permits, plans, and various other things. These maps usually take between 9-18 hours of work to complete and they are needed in order for us to move to another project. The other day I finished a project and went to start another one and accidentally switched the new project for the old one and rewrote and saved over my completed project! Before I could realize my mistake I had completed the next project in the same file, therefore losing my project all together. This is a big mistake that can delay a project by 1-2 days. Fortunately for me I am new and it was my first time doing this, so with that I was given a lot of grace, and was just asked to do the project again. A lot of mistakes come from doing something new and not knowing what we are doing.

Paul in 1 Timothy 1:12-14 admits that he had acted in ignorance when persecuting the Christians. He had no idea that he was in the wrong and kept going, similar to a botched project. He admits his fault and God gives him grace by placing him in charge of all those who he was persecuting. Paul says in verse 13 “. . . yet I was shown mercy because I acted in unbelief”. When he was persecuting the Christians he had no idea of God’s plan, he refused to admit he was wrong, but God shows him mercy through recognizing he may not understand what is going on. Many of us make mistakes without knowing they are mistakes until it is too late. This is true especially with God, God gives us mercy everyday when we are making mistakes. Even the big ones and even if we repeat the mistake God still is good and forgives us.

-Jesse Allen

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What spiritual truths or expectations were you once ignorant of?
  2. How did God get through to you – and show you grace for your past mistakes?

Does the Truth Matter?

2 Thessalonians 2

Saturday, September 3

This chapter comes with some very big warnings.  From the very beginning of the chapter to the very end, it is full of warnings not to be deceived.  If this was such a big problem 2000 years ago, how much bigger is it now?  We need to heed all of these warnings because just like the Thessalonians, we also have others trying to deceive us in every step of our lives.


 To be able to keep from being deceived, we must first know the truth.  In John 8:31-32, Jesus says, ‘“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’  According to these verses, the very first thing we need to do to keep ourselves from being deceived is to hold to Jesus’ teaching.  To do this, we need to first know what Jesus taught and to obey it.  When we hold to the teachings of Jesus, we are really his disciples.  Then, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.


In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul writes that the Thessalonians were “saved… through belief in the truth.”  The Thessalonians not only knew the truth, they also believed it.  For this reason, they were saved.  We also can be saved when we know the truth and choose to believe in it.  But, if you choose not to believe in the truth, there are serious consequences.


In verse 13, Paul writes, “[S]o that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”  It is a matter of life or death, whether or not you believe in the truth.  If you believe in the truth, you can be saved and have eternal life in the kingdom.  If you do not believe in the truth, however, you will be condemned and will perish.


Verse 15 says, “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”  Paul has told us what our choices are.  The choice to believe in the truth or to not believe in it.  He urges us, then, to stand firm and hold fast to the teachings.  When we hold fast to the teachings, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.  It’s not a trivial decision!  It is life or death, so choose the truth!

-Kaitlyn Hamilton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How can you be sure you are not being deceived?
  2. How are you following Jesus’ teachings, not the pastor or creeds or traditions, but following Jesus’ teachings?

Your Reputation Precedes You

2 Thessalonians 1

Friday, September 2

In a small school, the teachers seem to know who most people are, whether it is because of their achievements or their families.  At the beginning of each new school year, they try to figure out if they know you.  However, for them to know who you are, somebody else has had to tell them about you, and whatever they’ve been told is the reputation that you start with, in that class.  It’s great if they had positive things to say about you, but for those who didn’t have great things said about them, it can hurt.


Verse 4 of 2 Thessalonians 1 says, “Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.”  Paul is telling the Thessalonians that he tells all the other believers about their great faith.  It is one thing for Paul to go tell the Thessalonians that they are doing really well as they stand firm in their faith, but it is a whole other thing when he goes to tell everyone else about it.


Is your faith so evident that people talk about it with others?  The Thessalonians had faith like that and we should too.  The Thessalonians’ faith was strong enough that the other believers were talking about it among themselves, but what’s even more important is that those who aren’t believers notice our faith.  We need to work to be that light in other people’s lives that they might talk about and wonder about it.


Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  We need to make sure that when we do try to make our faith evident, it isn’t so that we are praised for it.  We need to make sure that God is the one who is getting all the glory for our faith while we try to be a light to others.  When we do this, we will have a reputation that goes before us, just like many students do in a small school, that will bring glory to God.

-Kaitlyn Hamilton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Who do you know who is known for a growing faith and love and perseverance in the midst of trials and persecution? Thank God for them. And, like Paul, you can also tell them that you thank God for them.
  2. What do you think your fellow employees or classmates or teachers at church or school would say about you? What do you think your neighbors would say about you? What do you think the cashier would say about you? Are they right? How did you get this reputation?
  3. What is Paul’s main point in the rest of 2 Thessalonians (verses 5-12)?

Even in the Face of Strong Opposition

1 Thessalonians 2

Monday, August 29, 2022

Yesterday, we read about how the Thessalonians turned from their idols to serve the one true God.  However, this caused some problems to arise for them.  Those around them still worshiped the idols and chose to persecute them.  But Paul has advice for them on how to continue to stand firm in their faith in the midst of all this opposition.


At the very beginning of the chapter, in the first two verses, Paul explains that they came to witness to the Thessalonians right after they had faced persecution in Philippi.  Paul says that in Philippi they faced much suffering and mistreatment.  He continues to say that in Thessaloniki they continued to face lots of opposition when they worked to spread the gospel.


Many people would have stopped after facing serious persecution in one city.  Many more would have stopped when they saw the opposition against them in the next city.  But Paul and his companions continued to spread the gospel throughout all these hardships.  By telling the Thessalonians about his problems, Paul encourages them by showing that it is possible, when you have God, to stand firm in the faith and to continue doing God’s will.  We should let this also encourage us because we know that Paul, in the midst of all the troubles of this world, continued to be one of the greatest witnesses to the whole world.


Paul continues by describing their attitudes in sharing the gospel, even while they were faced with persecution.  In verse 7, he describes themselves as “gentle among [them], as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.”  Paul, later in verse 12, explains why they acted in that manner.  He says that it was “so that [the Thessalonians] would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls [them] into His own kingdom and glory.”


In the midst of suffering and persecution, many people would have acted in anger against those who were causing this.  However, by doing this you are more likely to drive people away from God than you would be to bring them to Him.  But, when you act as Paul and his companions did, being gentle in the midst of persecution, you become an imitator of God, showing love to those who are your enemies.  Through this love, people will come to know God and walk in the way that God has called them to walk.


While this letter may have been written to the Thessalonians, it doesn’t apply only to them.  We also need to make sure that we are not letting persecution stop us from doing God’s will.  When we continue to do the work that God has called us to do in the midst of opposition, we need to make sure that we do it in the attitude of love and gentleness.

-Kaitlyn Hamilton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What encouragement do you gain from hearing Paul’s testimony?
  2. Can you think of a time you faced opposition while spreading the gospel? Did it stop you – or did you continue, with God’s help? If you can’t think of a time you were spreading the gospel – how can you start now?
  3. Paul says, “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4 NIV). Can you say the same? Are there any areas where you slip into people pleasing mode rather than concentrating on what God wants to see from you? How does this relate to spreading the gospel?
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