Monthly Archives: June 2019
How many different tools do we use to guarantee our promises? We take oaths, swear on the Bible, and employ the services of a notary public. If we are really serious, we will use a pinky promise or say, “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
When it comes to our salvation, we need to grasp the truth that our salvation is secure because it rests on God’s promises rather than our ability to be faithful.
The previous warning section (5:11-6:12) contains four key instructions. Don’t be immature (5:11-14). Pursue spiritual growth (6:1-3). Don’t fall away (6:4-8). Live out your faith (6:9-12). After reading those instructions, you may be ready to give up and fly the white flag. You may feel like you can never measure up. “My salvation is in trouble,” may be your conclusion. The author of Hebrews counters that viewpoint by explaining that our salvation is secure because of three things: the promise of God, the oath of God, and the hope of God.
The Promise of God (6:13-15). In talking about the things that accompany salvation (6:9), the author encouraged his readers to follow the example of godly people (6:12). He now introduces Abraham as the primary example of a godly man who believed God’s promises.
Rather than appeal to a higher authority, God guaranteed his promise with the statement, “I will …” In Genesis 12-15, God promised Abraham land, blessing, greatness, and countless descendants. In Genesis 22, God asked Abraham to take the son, Isaac, that he waited 25 years for, and to offer him as a sacrifice. Because Abraham obeyed, God promised to bless him greatly and give him more descendants than he could count.
The example of Abraham demonstrates that God’s promises do not depend on our character. They rest on God’s faithfulness.
The Oath of God (6:16-18). When we make a promise, we appeal to a higher authority. We place our hand on the Bible and say, “…so help me God.” While God’s promises do not require an oath, they become even stronger with an oath.
God used two unchangeable elements to demonstrate the trustworthiness of his promise. One is his purpose. God wants to bless us and save us from our sins. The second is his character. God cannot lie. Because of that, we have a safe harbor, a refuge, that we can run to. Our responsibility is to cling tightly to God’s promises.
The Hope of God (6:19-20). This promise, this hope, is a sure and steadfast anchor. It is sure because it won’t bend, twist, or break when it is under strain. It is steadfast because it won’t slip in the storm. Our anchor rests firmly with Jesus in the Holy of Holies in God’s presence in heaven. He is our faithful and eternal high priest.
Hebrews 6:13-20 demonstrates that our salvation is secure. God kept his promise to Abraham. God’s promise rests on his character. God guaranteed our salvation through the ongoing ministry of Jesus. Hold fast to the promises of God.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 16, 2019. It is part of an ongoing series in the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
In an essay entitled, “How Am I Going to Make it Financially?” in the book, Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime, edited by Collin Hansen & Jeff Robinson Sr, pastor Brandon Shields makes some insightful comments about money.
Financial anxiety is an ancient problem. In Matthew 6:19-34, Jesus identifies our compulsively anxious relationship to money as one of the barriers that hinders our ability to experience the good life of the kingdom: “You cannot serve God and money. Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life” (Matt. 6:24-25). Jesus invites us to see that money is not some commodity we make to secure goods and services—it’s a primal power that can also make us insecure.
Money functions like a narrator or storyteller—it excavates the hidden motivations, values, myths, and longings that unconsciously drive our patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving. In other words, how we relate to money reveals more that our financial principles; it uncovers our true ambitions. Money shines a bright light into our inner world, illuminating a complex ecosystem of spiritual and emotional narratives: fear, guilt, shame, joy, godly desire, selfish ambition, security, comfort, scarcity, abundance, and a legion of others.
Some years ago, I came across a writer who insisted that all successful pastors matched a certain profile. Much of it related to personality and leadership style. It left me with the feeling that I didn’t measure up. I wondered why God called me to a task but did not equip me with the gifts, personality, and leadership style needed to be successful.
I greatly appreciated the statement made by Pastor Scott Patty in his essay, “My Church Has Outgrown My Gifts” in the book, Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime, edited by Collin Hansen & Jeff Robinson Sr.
We often assume that to be effective in ministry, we must have a certain personality type or work with a specific leadership style. But is that really true? Does God make all pastors alike in personality and leadership style? Jesus didn’t choose apostles who were all alike. Church history doesn’t show one ideal pastoral type that was most effective. We need wisdom to see that God calls and equips different kinds of pastors with various leadership styles because there are many types of people in the world and in the church. People respond differently to different pastors. Particular situations call for unique pastors. Knowing this reality will help us get our expectations under control and may lead us to see that we really don’t have a problem after all. We can lead our congregation as we are because we may be exactly what our congregation needs.
I find great encouragement in his words.
Book Review: The Soul of an American President: The Untold Story of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Faith, by Alan Sears and Craig Osten with Ryan Cole
There have been numerous books published about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Most of the books
focused on his wartime leadership and presidency. Others dealt with his warnings about the military-industrial complex; his policies in the Middle East and North Korea; his relationship with his vice president, Richard Nixon; or with the transition to power of his successor in office, John F. Kennedy. One even focuses on his love for golf after World War II. The list of Ike-related subjects is seemingly endless.
Conspicuously absent, however, was a book about Eisenhower’s religion.
The authors, Alan Sears, Craig Osten, and Ryan Cole, have written a fascinating book bringing to light the faith of Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was the first president to be baptized while in office, shortly after his inauguration. He was the man who put “In God We Trust” on America’s money, inserted “One Nation Under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance, and publicly prayed and encouraged the American people to pray.
The authors trace Eisenhower’s life from his humble beginnings in Dennison, TX, to growing up in poverty in Abilene, KS, to his formative years at West Point, through two World Wars, down Pennsylvania Avenue, and finally to his retirement years. They explain how Eisenhower’s faith was shaped through the death of his young son, marital difficulties, depression, career disappointments, and being witness to some of the worst atrocities of mankind during his visits to German prison camps. They also touch on the influence that Billy Graham had on his life and faith. The authors explain how Eisenhower’s personal principles which were based on Scripture and prayer helped shape public policy that would later define the soul of a nation.
A well written, thought provoking, fascinating book. Well worth the read.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.
The Barna Organization published their 2019 list of “The Most Post-Christian Cities in America.” Since the city where I live and minister, Chicopee, is nestled between Springfield and Holyoke, it means we’re #1 (or dead last, depending on your perspective) on the list.
Using Barna’s FaithView tool, here are some of the key metrics for each city that make up the post-Christian definition:
Have not read the Bible (in the last week):
- Springfield-Holyoke, MA: 87%
- Waco-Temple-Bryan, TX: 67%
- Charleston-Huntington, WV: 58%
Have not attended a Christian church (in the last 6 months):
- Springfield-Holyoke, MA: 65%
- Waco-Temple-Bryan, TX: 45%
- Charleston-Huntington, WV: 37%
Have never made a commitment to Jesus:
- Springfield-Holyoke, MA: 60%
- Waco-Temple-Bryan, TX: 37%
- Charleston-Huntington, WV: 22%
Have not prayed to God (in the last week):
- Springfield-Holyoke, MA: 47%
- Waco-Temple-Bryan, TX: 27%
- Charleston-Huntington, WV: 25%
Disagree that faith is important in their lives:
- Springfield-Holyoke, MA: 41%
- Waco-Temple-Bryan, TX: 25%
- Charleston-Huntington, WV: 13%
Do not believe in God:
- Springfield-Holyoke, MA: 11%
- Waco-Temple-Bryan, TX: 6%
- Charleston-Huntington, WV: 6%
So much has changed in 300 years from the time of the Great Awakening when Jonathan Edwards preached in this region. Needless to say, we desperately need God to bring salvation and revival to our region.
Do you ever have doubts about your salvation? Maybe you are going through life and someone makes a comment, “I thought you were a Christian. I didn’t think Christians acted like that.” Or perhaps you hear the whispers of doubt, “If you were a good Christian, you would not think those thoughts.” “If you were really a Christian, you would never behave like you just did.” How can we know for certain whether or not we are truly saved? Is there anything we can point to as proof of our salvation?
The author of Hebrews 6:9-12 would answer those questions with a resounding “Yes!” In this passage, he explains that good works prove that our faith is real. While we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, how we live our lives demonstrates whether or not we truly believe. Our labor and love for Christ proves our commitment to Christ. Good works prove faith is real.
In 5:11-6:12, the author of Hebrews warns his readers about the danger of immaturity. He bookends the section by using the same word—“dull of hearing” (5:11), “sluggish” (6:12). Because he knew his words were heavy and solemn, he alternated the warning with words of encouragement.
- 5:11-14 Negative warning
- 6:1-3 Positive encouragement
- 6:4-8 Negative warning
- 6:9-12 Positive encouragement
True faith is proven by how we live our lives (9-10). Since the author was so stern in his previous warning (6:4-8), his readers may have thought that he didn’t care about them. Calling them “beloved” (ESV, NASB) or “dear friends” (NIV) underscores his deep love and concern for them and his attempt to reassure them.
He states that his confidence level is very high about the certainty of their salvation. While he doesn’t go into detail, we can surmise that he is confident their sins are forgiven, the Holy Spirit is active in their lives, and they can have triumph over temptation and sin.
His confidence is based on three factors: (1) The work of the believers. They are actively serving the cause of Christ. (2) The love they demonstrate for other Christ followers. They serve others in practical ways. (3) The justice of God. God is a just judge and he will reward those who serve him.
How can you demonstrate your faith this week? Who can you encourage? “I can see your faith in …” “How can I help you?” “How can I pray for you?”
Diligently follow the example of godly people (11-12). Verses 11-12 are one long sentence in which the author encourages his readers to do three things: (1) Be diligent—be earnest, eager, and diligent in carrying out your task. (2) Don’t be lazy—pursue spiritual growth. (3) Imitate godly people—follow the example of those who faithfully trust God’s promises.
How can you demonstrate your faith this week? Take the initiative to deepen your walk with God. Practice spiritual disciplines. Find a mentor and ask them to help you grow spiritually.
Let your life demonstrate your faith and love for Jesus.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 9, 2019. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
The book, Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime, is written to encourage pastors about different aspects of ministry. Each chapter begins with a fictional letter written by a pastor asking a question about an issue or problem in his ministry. One chapter, penned by Pastor John Starke, deals with the issue of burnout. It is entitled, “I’m Feeling Tired, Word Out, and in Need of a Break.” I appreciated what he had to say about God’s acts of creation in Genesis 1 and his institution of the sabbath.
Have you ever watched people (maybe yourself) try to do too much? They never stop, they never rest, and you say something like, “You’re trying to be like God!” It’s true that they aren’t living within their human limitations. But it isn’t God they’re trying to be like. In fact, God himself tells us to model our work and our rest after him. Eugene Peterson explains that if we are made in his image, we will want to watch his creation week closely.
Notice in Genesis 1 that God didn’t pile all his work into one day. He could have, but instead he took it one day at a time. First, he made the sun and moon, night and day. That was a good first day. He stood back, like an artist from this work and said, “It’s good.” The second day he separated the water from the land. He again made note of the goodness. The third day was plant life. It was good. The fourth day he made the stars and shaped the light to create seasons. The fifth day was flying birds and swimming creatures. The sixth was animals and his final crowing achievement, man. It was all good, he said. Very good.
God wasn’t in a hurry, but he never procrastinated. Have you ever noticed that Jesus acted this way during his earthly ministry? He healed lines of people, but then at some point in the day, he stopped, rested, prayed, and ate. He left many needs unaddressed. Jesus was never in a hurry, and Jesus never procrastinated. When we are in a hurry and never rest, it isn’t God we are acting like.
“Watch me,” God says. He worked six days and rested. You think he was tired when he rested? No. If God rested even though he wasn’t tired, and if he asks his image bearers to rest like he rested, do you think maybe there’s a deeper reason for rest than mere exhaustion?
Look at the pattern in Genesis 1. God created man on the sixth day, rested on the seventh, and some time after that, commissioned us to work. The first act of man was not work but a participation in rest.
Pastor, you are made in the image of God. When you work, watch God. Be holy as your Father in heaven is holy. He worked six days and rested. Yes, we are free from the law, but we are not free from the command to be like him.
Good words to live by and practice. Maybe it’s time to plan a nap. 😉