On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Matthew 2:11
There is an old Amish proverb that goes something like this: There are two kinds of leaders: those who are interested in the flock, and those who are interested in the fleece. In the first part of I Peter 5 there is an admonition given to pastors but it is applicable to all those who hold leadership roles anywhere. Leaders are to lead by example. They are not to be dictators with an accompanying attitude but rather directors who are always directing people in the case of pastors toward Christ, and for other leaders directing people toward the greater vision with a humble attitude.
Peter encourages us and the early believers to honor one another and treat each other respectfully. Have you ever been around someone who frequently ‘tooted their own horn’? How annoying is that? Does it make you want to follow that person’s lead or make you like that person very much? Think about social media posts you have seen like this, or maybe even posted yourself. One Christian leader appropriately called out some posts as the ‘humble brag’ and targeted how annoying and self-serving they are. As Christian brothers and sisters no one should toot their own horn but rather let others give them any due recognition. Peter reminds us in verse 5 that God hates pride but appreciates true humility.
In serving God with a humble attitude and living a righteous life we can expect to have some opposition. Opposition can have two effects: either failure, or strength and growth. In the end of the chapter Peter points out that our adversary the devil would like to see us fail, and is just waiting to help us to our demise – but by staying the course God will give us victory. The admonition for us is to stand firm in our faith and righteousness so that we may glorify God in this life and thus overcome the evil one.
I am a dad and as such enjoy the occasional (or perhaps not so occasional) dad joke. I also like to see the look on someone’s face as they decipher the unexpected oxymoron. Some of these are so common that we don’t even realize when we say them. Others take a moment to realize what has been said.
Here are some examples:
I am clearly confused by all of these oxymorons.
James, although known to be quite practical in his writing starts out using a couple of oxymorons.
The first he uses is in the second verse, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” I am usually not saying, “Thank you for this traffic jam” or, “I am so glad I just stubbed my toe.” James is not saying that we will or should enjoy pain or difficulties. He is saying that as our faith is tested it becomes stronger, just like we do when we go to the gym.
Next he writes of Humble Pride. James 1:9-10 says,
9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.
How can one in humble circumstances glory in his high position? The trick is we are not boasting or glorifying ourselves, but we are glorifying our God. Jesus tells us in Luke 10:42-45 that the one who wishes to become great must become least. As we serve others, we show that we are not focused on the desires of our flesh but instead we are caring for others. This shows true humility. After telling us that we are to be doing the word of God and not just hearing it James ends this chapter by telling us that pure and undefiled religion is to serve widows and orphans while keeping yourself unstained.
Sometimes when you do the right thing it may just confuse someone enough to cause them to ask why you did it. Let’s live in a way that inspires others to seek God and His Kingdom!
There is that word again. I liked it before but not so much now. The word is “confidence”. We read it before in Hebrews 10:22 where we discovered that we could confidently enter into the very presence of God because of Jesus, where we could get close to God and be His child. I like the idea of being a child, having child-like faith. That sounds safe and secure. That feels comfortable and peaceful. But now Paul is using that word “confidence” again, but this time it does not sound at all safe or smart.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11: 1
Faith is confidence in what we hope will happen, and assurance about what we can’t even see? Hoping something will happen and believing it will happen even if we can’t see anything? Really?? Quite frankly, this sounds a little crazy and unnerving. It sounds a lot like stumbling around in the dark, not seeing where we are going, not knowing where the light switch is, not knowing when the big, bad boogie man is going to jump out at us.
“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
As I keep reading this chapter, things seem to get worse. We are told that the whole universe which we can see with our eyes, was not made out of stuff that we can see. Quite frankly, that does not make any sense. How can you make something out of nothing? Who would believe such a thing?
The answer to my question is that Abel did. Enoch did. Noah did. Abraham and Sara did. Isaac did. Jacob did. Joseph did. Moses did. The walls of Jericho did. Rahab did. Women did, and a whole lot of other people did.
None of these people saw the end result of their faith. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises…” Hebrews 11:13. They simply lived their faith. They were confident that if they lived their faith, that God would be faithful. “and were persuaded of them (the promises) and embraced them” Hebrews. 11:13. They believed that they were making something out of something even though they could not see it.
This chapter of Hebrews is full of action words. Abel offered, Enoch pleased, Noah moved, Abraham obeyed, Sara received strength, Jacob worshipped, Joseph gave instructions about his bones, Moses endured, the walls of Jericho fell, Rahab perished not, women received their dead back to life, and others were tortured. They were all confident that they were making something out of something that the world thought was nothing. That something that the world thought was nothing was God’s promises.
All these people mentioned were giants in the faith. They all judged God faithful simply because He promised. They endured hardships, were stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword, tormented, afflicted, and wandered in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. The world was not worthy of them. (Hebrews 11:37-38).
Now that I have read to the end of this chapter, all of this still does not make any sense to me, but for a different reason. Even though you and I will probably not experience the hardships that these giants endured, yet we will be right there with them when God fulfills His promise of the Kingdom. That does not make sense. We are so not worthy of them.
“God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”
Hebrews 5:12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.
As parents, my wife and I have the exciting opportunity to watch our daughter grow. We made a growth chart where we can visibly see how much she has grown over the years. It is exciting for her and us to watch the marks get higher and higher.
But can you imagine how shocked and concerned we would be if, instead of growing up our daughter had shrunk! We would schedule an immediate doctor’s appointment to find out what was wrong. Growth is normal and causes joy – shrinkage would be crazy and cause for alarm.
Many of the Hebrews that this letter is written to have been backsliding in their faith. They are shrinking – the author notices this and raises the alarms. He states that they are back needing the milk instead of solid food. Imagine if a teenager or adult gave up solid food for formula and pureed fruits and veggies. For some reason this seems silly but for some reason long time Christians acting like new believers does not get the same reaction.
Instead of helping others with their faith – these believers still need someone to teach them the basics again. The author wants to go deeper but fears it will go over their heads. So before he dives in to that subject, he issues a strong warning – saying, “GROW UP! You have probably been in a situation where an adult was acting like a child. You want to shout, “act your age” or “grow up.” And essentially that is what the author of Hebrews does with these Hebrew Christians.
In vs. 11 he calls them spiritually dull and they don’t seem to listen. But they didn’t used to be this way. The language used here indicates that there was a drop off – as if they were sick and lacking energy or possibly it is a spiritual laziness. We notice an opportunity to get into God’s word but instead flip on the tv or have a free Sunday morning to go to church but instead decide to sleep in.