Following Christ-like Leaders
Sun, Nov 14, 2021
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. . . So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. - Hebrews 13:8-15 (ESV) American evangelicalism has recently had a leadership crisis. At the highest levels, there have been multiple revelations of abuse and misconduct. The stories of hidden sins and the chaos they have produced in their wake have rippled throughout the church. At the lower levels, the strain of regular ministry and the added layer of complexity through the pandemic have caused pastors to leave the ministry at an increasing rate. All of this may cause us to question how we should relate to leaders. This is not a new problem. The New Testament contains records of leaders going off the rails both morally and theologically. And it records the strain of communicating the gospel in times and places where the danger from sickness and struggle were real and deadly. The open and honest disclosure we find in these records give us a needed perspective on spiritual leadership - its place, limits, and focus. As the writer of Hebrews rounds the corner to close his address, he turns to the subject of spiritual leadership. Take a few minutes to read through Hebrews 13 as he addresses them. Notice how and who he calls them to look to.
Living Out Love
Sun, Nov 07, 2021
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. - Hebrews 13:1-2 (ESV) How would you describe a Christian? What are their defining characteristics? How would people outside the faith identify them? You might say a Christian is defined by what they believe. You might think that Christians are set apart because of their moral imperatives. Others might describe Christians by how they live in the world or how they vote. Still others define Christians by the person they follow and try to model. All of these have a place. And all of them might shape the picture of Christians in a particular time and place. But Jesus says Christians will stand out for something different - how they love each other and the world around them. Listen to his words in John 13. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-45) What does this love look like? How does it act? Who should receive this love? This week as we head toward the end of our look into the book of Hebrews we will see the shape of this love. The writer wants his recipients to be shaped by this love, not only in word but in action. Take a few minutes and read Hebrews 13 to prepare your heart and mind. Who is he calling you to love?
Worshipping at the Right Mountain
Sun, Oct 31, 2021
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. - Hebrews 12:28-29 (ESV) I once heard a guy theorize that Disneyland is meant to be a very spiritual place. It wasn’t because it contained characters with fanciful stories or because it had retold tales that shaped children’s experiences. No, it was because it has a bunch of mountains. There is Splash Mountain and Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain and the Matterhorn. His theory was that mountains in the course of human history are spiritual places where profound things happen and are revealed. I’m not sure what profound and revelatory thing is happening on top of Space Mountain, so I take his 'spiritual Disney theory' with a grain of salt. Scripture does however, record some very profound things that happen atop mountains. In fact, in our text this week, the writer of the book of Hebrews wants us to identify which mountain we come from - Sinai or Zion. He does this because he knows that when we realize the difference, it will profoundly shape how we respond to God’s voice and the crush of our present circumstances. I want to encourage you take a few minutes to read through Hebrews 12:18-29. Then consider the differences of these two major mountains in scripture. Then plan to join us online or in person at 10am on Sunday. It will be a great time to encourage each other and worship our awesome God together. And why not invite someone to join you!
Endure Suffer as Childrend and Pursue Holiness Together
Sun, Oct 24, 2021
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. - Hebrews 12:5b-6 (ESV) God is our loving Father, unlike anything we have experienced with our earthly father. What is different about our heavenly Father? How does he father us now and what is the hope of our sonship in the midst of trials and suffering? There is no place in our minds or on this Earth where we are outside the sovereign domain of his care and instruction. And in the time we have left on this earth, God has profound purposes for our life. Centrally, to display his glory in our lives through conforming us more into Christ. Every blessing, good gift, and even every wrestling, temptation, tragedy, pain, turmoil, and physical illness is purposeful, because God is our Father and the sovereign of the universe. He is working in us in ways that are beyond our comprehension. We can rest in his love and sovereign hand and dismiss the notion that we will ever experience any purposeless blessing or discipline. The knowledge of our Father and the hope of sonship is vital for enduring suffering and for living lives of faith in a fallen world. Please read Hebrews 12:1-17 and join us Sunday at 10am, in person or online, to grow in the knowledge of the Father and the suffering of sonship.
Run by Faith
Sun, Oct 17, 2021
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV) Running is a polarizing activity. Some people love it. Other people hate it. It has amazing benefits: It can clear the mind, its good exercise, it can be done alone or with friends and, here in Huntsville at least, its a great source of community for people. Another person described running like this, “It was one of the worst experiences of my life. Legs aching, trying to suck in air while feeling like I had been stabbed in the chest. I’m pretty sure I even got cramp in my big toe. It was awful, and I was only running around my block.” What about you – do you love it or hate it? No matter your feelings, you are a runner. If you have placed your faith in Christ and his work on your behalf you are running a race. That’s the way several New Testament writers describe the Christian life. But how should you run? How long is the race? How can I train? This week we will be looking at Hebrews 12, a portion of Scripture that call us to run. Take a few minutes and read through Hebrews 12 to prepare your heart and mind. And I look forward to worshiping with you online or in person at 10AM on Sunday.
By Faith - Part 3
Sun, Oct 10, 2021
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. - Hebrews 11:39-40 (ESV) I’m not good at waiting. When it’s close to Christmas or my birthday, I become a junior Sherlock Holmes trying to figure out all the plans and presents. When I order something, I check regularly to see its shipping progress. Being stuck in traffic is another major test for me. But waiting is a fact of life...and it is also a spiritual reality. We have been looking at the testimonies of faith given to us in Hebrews 11. The closing verses of the chapter tell us that all these people waited for the promise. What they hoped for was just over the horizon. We have been learning that this faith is a persistent hope in the promises of God in Christ. They were anticipating the unveiling of the one who would come to set everything right. While he has indeed come and conquered Satan, sin, and death, we are to wait. We are not waiting for his unveiling but his return. And we need to do so in faith in midst of the joy, challenges, triumphs, and dangers. Take some time before Sunday to read through Hebrews 11 again. Who do you identify with? What is your faith in? Then plan to join us in worship together at 10:00 on Sunday both online and in person. See you then!
By Faith - Part 1
Sun, Sep 26, 2021
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. - Hebrews 11:1-2 (ESV) The 70's-80's band, Journey, famously admonished us to ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. What they wanted to point us to was the possibility that love was out there somewhere to be found. We are told by others to pursue our dreams and never give up. As we turn to Hebrews 11, we might think we have run into the Biblical equivalent of those type of ’self-help’ or just hold-on kind of mantras. This famous and beloved chapter of scripture is often seen as a parade of heroes that just took leap in the dark toward God. And when they did everything worked out. But is that what the text really says? For the next few weeks we will explore this chapter. I think it has much to teach each us about the nature and object of faith; I’m really looking forward to digging into it. I’m praying you will come away with a different and fuller view of what this passage displays. Take a few minutes and read through it to prepare your heart and mind of Sunday. And plan to join us in person or online at 10:00 am on Sunday.
Theology in Action
Sun, Sep 12, 2021
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. - Hebrews 10:19–21 (ESV) Many times it feels like theology is distant from our everyday lives. Discussions of the tripartite divisions of man or postmillennialism or the inter-trinitarian love of God can seem ethereal and lack any real life application. I’m sure you might have felt that way through the book of Hebrews. It provides details for some very difficult, distant subjects like the priesthood of Melchizedek or the nature of the new covenant. But the writer of the book of Hebrews wants to ground the truths he shares in every day life. Along the way he has warned and exhorted his readers. But as he closes this section on the nature of Christ's priestly work, he doesn't want us to just have theory. This week he points toward several applications. Take a few minutes before Sunday and read through Hebrews 10:1-25. What does he want us to do with what we now know about Christ? How will it change how we interact with God and others? Then plan to join us in person or online at 10AM this Sunday.
Mediator of a New Covenant
Sun, Sep 05, 2021
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. - Hebrews 9:15 (ESV) Let’s take a test. Take a few minutes to read through the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-21). Give yourself a grade on how well you have done them this week. Did you pass? In case you might be unclear about the depths and details of the commands, check out Jesus’ explanation on the Commandments (Matthew 5:17-30). After that did you grade go up or down? Unfortunately, God has never graded on a curve. This exam is more of a pass/fail. And the passing grade is 100%. After that clarification how did you do? If you answer that you failed, you are beginning to understand the depth of your fallenness and separation from God. How do we overcome this impossible barrier to God? We don’t just need help. We need a proxy. We need someone who will take the exam for us...or we need a different kind of exam. This week we'll look at Christ’s place as our mediator of a different and better exam (or covenant). This covenant is costly and difficult just like the old exam. But it is also fundamentally different and lasting. I’d like to encourage you to take a few minutes to read through Hebrews 9 to set your heart and mind for worship on Sunday at 10AM. We will be talking about Jesus’ work and how it fulfills and goes beyond the law. And we will be considering what that means for us. On a personal note: I want to say a BIG thank you for your kindness and words of appreciation through the kind words, party, cards, and gifts. We were very touched by all of it. It is a blessing to be called your pastor. And we look forward to many years ahead of fruitful ministry. And don’t forget to check out the rest of the email for the details of what is happening around Hope.
Hebrew Review - Finding the Reality Beyond the Shadow
Sun, Aug 29, 2021
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? - Hebrews 10:1–2 (ESV) How good are you at making shadow puppets? You know that game where you manipulate your hands in front of a flashlight so the shadows resemble people or animals. It’s a fun game to see what you can make. I’m pretty good at a dog and an alien blob from outer space. Some ‘Shadow Artists’ are able to create some pretty amazing and intricate shadows (Incredible Works of Shadow Art), but we would never confuse these pale representations for the real thing. They share an outline but they can’t substitute for reality with its color, detail and texture. This is similar imagery to what the writer of the book of Hebrews uses to help us understand the person and work of Christ. The stories and characters that come before Christ provide an outline of Him. But only when we’re able to look fully into his face do we begin to see His full character. The author of Hebrews appeals to the readers of this book to turn and look at Christ. This week we head back into Hebrews. I want us to stop and take a look around at what we have already seen and heard about Christ. My prayer is that it will help us discern reality from those shadows. Take some time before Sunday to slowly and thoughtfully review the first eight chapters of Hebrews. This will hopefully remind you of a few of the things we have seen so far. And don’t forget to check out the rest of the email for the details of what is happening around Hope. I’m Looking forward to seeing you at 10am in person or online.
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