As They Did (Hebrews 12-13)

December 4, 2020

1Therefore, 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, Hebrews 12:1

This morning I must tell you that I am in anguish in my soul. I see a world around me falling apart and I feel like I am just ridding on the boat of life and I don’t even have the ability to lean over the side and pick up those who are drowning.

I look at Hebrews 11 and I think, the witness of those from previous generations is strong. Those witnesses shout from the grandstand of Heaven, Keith get out of the boat and run the race God has set before you.

Truly, I understand the enemy seeks to rob us of our effective calling. I know he lies when he says we are of little value and our work is of little impact. But this is not what I am feeling today. I feel a God-sized weight on my heart to simply do what other generations of believers have done!

Maybe this is how you feel today? I know I am seeing clearly my field of mission and I am seeing clearly the strategy of mission. I hope you see it? It is right before us. God is calling us to do the hard work of both getting onto the field of battle and carry out our assignments.

Think about what we have to do to get on the field of battle:

  1. We have to lay aside every weight.

What are the things that are weighing you down? Maybe the better way to write this is to write, what are the activities of your daily routine that keep you from the battle field? I know my selfish desires get in the way. I know the weight of human expectations get in the way and I know the weight of the machine of the church gets in the way.

When I picture laying aside every weight, I picture what I attempt to do each morning. I get up and I offer a blank slate (my day) to God and I ask Him to fill in the details.

2. We have to get rid of clinging sin.

Many times believers are willing to live with unresolved sin. I think about hurt feelings, grudges, pride, selfish interest, and wishes that elevate my old man. Each day I know Satan is throwing all kinds of darts (sins) toward me. This is in the hopes that some will stick. If I am harboring sin I can never in holiness be effective on the battle-field.

3. We have to become chasers of Jesus in every part of life.

If I am focused on Jesus I can run this race of life with endurance because I am not focusing on my physical thoughts, I am focused on Him. When we chase Jesus we become people who are all about Him. We run hard and we run with abandonment because we know He has all the strength we need. We believe His life is the life all men need.

I know He will never lead us astray and He will never lead us to do what would destroy our lives. I know along the way He is building us by tearing us down. He is preparing each of us to meet the Father and He is positioning each of us to engage the battle field.

It’s time brothers and sisters to get on the battle field with Jesus!

I hope the blog today has not been just random things. What is pouring out of my heart is more than I can say. I guess the way to close today is simply to challenge you to DO AS OTHER GENERATIONS DID FOR THE GLORY OF GOD.

What Does Faith Look Like? (Hebrews 11)

December 3, 2020

 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

If you are like me, you love to be able to have a picture to bring to life what others are placing before you. In Hebrews 11 the writer is giving us illustration after illustration of people who evidenced truth faith. There are two descriptive words that paint a picture of faith in this chapter. The words are assurance and conviction.

The word assurance gives us a picture of someone who trusts in the object of their faith. Such a person does not run away from hard times and they do not deny the object of their faith.

The word conviction gives us a picture of someone who is at peace with their belief in the object of their faith. As a Christ-follower I believe Jesus Christ payment on the cross was sufficient for my sin debt. As a Christ-follower I know the best is still to come.

Question: Do the words assurance and conviction describe your life today?

In Hebrews 11 we are reminded of many in previous generations who walked in faith having assurance and conviction in their faith. I want to encourage you to choose one person from the list in chapter 11 and examine their story to find encouragement in your faith journey. Don’t by pass this, lean in.

I chose Abraham because he has been on my radar for at least three weeks. In his life I gain greater faith because I see:

  1. A man whose faith lead him to a life-changing alignment. Abraham went where God lead him to go.
  2. A man whose faith lead him to a life-charged with action. Abraham’s life was filled with great faith moments and even great faith discipline from God when he failed.
  3. A man whose faith lead him to a life-confidence in what was ahead. He looked to the eternal reward.

Now there is so much more in his life. I simply offer the above observations because they speak about a faith life that counts. I want to encourage you to realize your life is truly counting for God.

I know for some it may seem rough right now or it may seem you are at a stand-still. Have faith in every moment-God is at work. Be confident in the one who has given His assurance that it is all being worked out for His glory which will in turn be for your good.

How Are You? (Hebrews 10)

December 2, 2020

34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  Hebrews 10:34-35

As I sit down to write I hear the wind howling outside my window. I look outside and see the leaves blowing in all different directions without knowing where they will each land. Will they land in my gutters or will they land in my neighbors yard? For some reason, the Lord has given me this illustration as I think about each of you.

It could be that the Lord has placed this on my heart because of my reading of Hebrews 10. As we shared on Monday, Jesus is presented on every page in the book of Hebrews. He is our Great High Priest in even the worst of howling winds.

In chapter 10 God encourages the struggling believes to endure (36) the howling winds of persecution. If you were with us on Sunday, Paul shared with us our need of endurance because God is producing things in us that we could not have apart from suffering. Here is what Paul wrote:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

I find it interesting in Hebrews 10 that God never says to His people, you need a break from what you are facing. Now it is true that God promises rest (10:37). But it is not a rest on the earth. The rest comes when the Lord returns for us.

As I continue to write the wind is still howling, but I have all but forgotten it because I am so focused on what God is saying. Brothers and sisters, take time this morning to hear from God in Hebrews 10.

I find no less than four task’s given to God’s people when the wind is howling:

  1. Walk by faith and not by sight. Brothers and sisters, God is with you, 10:37.
  2. Come along-side of hurting people for the purpose of their encouragement, 10:24.
  3. Live your life in community, 10:25. We each need fellow brothers and sisters to walk with us along the journey.
  4. Draw near to God every day with the assurance that He is working all things out, 10:22.

Wow, if I give myself to these things, the howling winds of society cannot stop me and they cannot stop you. Brothers and sisters, if God be for you who can be against you.

The great song, “Yes, I will”comes to my mind in this moment. I offer the lyrics as encouragement for your day:

I count on one thing
The same God that never fails
Will not fail me now
You won’t fail me now
In the waiting
The same God who’s never late
Is working all things out
You’re working all things out Yes I will, lift You high in the lowest valley
Yes I will, bless Your name
Oh, yes I will, sing for joy when my heart is heavy
All my days, oh yes I willI count on one thing
The same God that never fails
Will not fail me now
You won’t fail me now
In the waiting
The same God who’s never late
Is working all things out
Is working all things outOh, yes I will, lift You high in the lowest valley
Yes I will, bless Your name
Oh, yes I will, sing for joy when my heart is heavy
For all my days, oh yes I will
For all my days, oh yes, I will

Where do we start? (Hebrews 8-9)

December 1, 2020

26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26

In Hebrews 9:26 we read these words, “put away sin.” As I read those words in the context of the work of our High Priest (Jesus Christ) I was deeply moved. Allow me to illustrate this from a human illustration:

If you have ever known someone who is a hoarder you will get the illustration. Imagine a hoarder who was very rich. Imagine that hoarder having 40 years to hoard. Now here is the clincher: imagine the hoarder owned a house that was over 10,000 square feet.

Now, here is where the illustration gets tough. Imagine yourself as the one person tasked with cleaning it out. Yes, you would ask, where do I start.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ was tasked with coming to this world filled with sinful hoarders. According to Paul, every day the hoarding is getting worse (II Timothy 3:3).

In the Old Testament era, the Jewish High Priest were tasked with cleaning out the sin by offering a yearly sacrifice to God that would cover the sin until Jesus came. When Jesus came, He was able to do what no one else could do. Jesus cleans out the sinful record of our hoarding past. Here is how Hebrews 9:13 describes this:

14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our[j] conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

This morning I was deeply moved because I don’t have to do anything about my past. Jesus has already cleaned out my past house filled with sin. Today I live and breath in freedom. I have been given a new home. Praise be to His name.

This day I know where to begin my day. I will begin with praise. I would like to encourage you to join me in praise to our great God who has cleaned out the old house of our past and has made us into a new house were righteousness dwells.

Are You Ready for Christmas? (Hebrews 3-7)

November 30, 2020

 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, Hebrews 3:9.

Brothers and sisters, we each begin this Monday with the near memory of Thanksgiving in our minds and maybe still in our digestive system. It is back to work for many of us and for all of us it is with a reality that this may be a different month of December than we have ever faced.

As I consider this upcoming month, I am setting my sights toward Christmas. For me, I am focusing all my efforts on being ready to celebrate Jesus coming to the earth. As a part of this effort I am praying for opportunities to sow the good news of His coming into the hearts of many people.

I am so excited that we are in the book of Hebrews this week. The book of Hebrews presents to us Jesus as the Son of God (5:5) who has come to be the Son of Man (7:26). This Jesus came to be the Savior of all who will surrender their lives to Him (7:25).

On every page in the book of Hebrews we are pointed to Jesus. I want to take this opportunity to challenge you in three ways:

  1. I want to challenge you to dive deep this week into God’s Word to discover who Jesus is and what the implications of His coming were.
  2. I want to challenge you to go to our website, and down-load our free devotion guide for December.
  3. I want to challenge you to make a Christmas Miracle list of people you want to see come to Jesus.

I remember years ago hearing about a man that I had witnessed to and had prayed for so many times coming to the Lord. By God’s grace we met at an event we were both attending. As we approached each other he said, pastor I got saved. I responded, I have so longed to call you brother.

Friend the greatest gift you can give anyone is your prayer for their salvation. Are you ready for Christmas?

Thanksgiving Encouragement Pt. 5 (Philippians 1-4)

November 27, 2020

16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. Phil. 4:16-17

I know it is the day after Thanksgiving and I know for many people this holiday has been different than it has been at any time in your life. But there is so much to give thanks for. This week I have been focusing on Thanksgiving Encouragements. Here are the previous encouragements I have offered you from God’s Word in the book of Philippians:

Paul knew God would see him through.

Paul knew God has a purpose in everything.

Paul knew every day was important because he was serving others.

Paul knew this world is only temporary. Heaven does not have Covid-19.

Here is our last encouragement for the week: Paul knew that it is better to give than receive.

Brothers and sisters, let me encourage you to focus your attention on giving to others this holiday season. This truth grips me this morning as I consider the many blessings of God. I sit here at my desk rejoicing in the knowledge of how many untold times people have encouraged my life by the gifts they have given my family.

But even more so I rejoice in the joy our family has been given in having gifts to give to others. I truly cannot explain to you the inner joy that comes when you bless someone else for God’s Glory.

At the same time I am also challenged this day to make sure I do not get caught up in the pursuits of what is offered to me by the world. The world says you always need more and the world says, I can help you to get it.

Friend, the world is a vicious trap that pulls us down and keeps us from enjoying the beauty of impacting others for the glory of the Lord. Only when we focus totally on Jesus can we overcome the world and occupy ourselves with giving to others.

As I look back over our study in Philippians this week, I realize how Paul pointed us to Jesus in every chapter. Jesus, in chapter 1, is the one who sought us in our mess. He crafted an eternal plan that included us. Jesus, in chapter 2, is our example of putting others before us. Jesus, in chapter 3, is the one who died and rose again so that we could claim resurrection from the dead. Jesus, in chapter 4, is the one who empowers His people to live a life of contentment that impacts others because all we have is given to us for the glory of God.

Let this Christmas season be the season where you focus on giving to others. My prayer for our lives is that we would embrace the joy of giving.

Thanksgiving Encouragements, Pt. 4 (Philippians 1-4)

November 26, 2020

13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13.

Well, we made it. Yes we did. Today is Thanksgiving 2020. To God be the glory for the great things He has done. I am personally so excited about today because I am focused on the encouragements we have received from God’s Word.

Now, I know not everyone shares my excitement this day. For some people this year has confined you and you are feeling low. Still for others, this year has taken from you many things that you planned to do. I think we can all say this. But let me point you beyond the moment. Let me lift you above the horizontal viewpoint. Take a few moments and again look up.

This week we are reading Paul’s encouragements to the church at Philippi. Paul was in confinement and Paul was being told that he may be killed for his stand for Jesus. But Paul did not have discouragement about his situation. Paul was encouraged because:

He knew God would see him through.

He knew God has a purpose in everything.

He knew every day was important because he was serving others.

Today I offer you our fourth encouragement: This world is only temporary. Heaven does not have Covid-19.

Wow. This is amazing. Here is what Paul wrote in chapter three and verse twenty:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

As I gather this day with part of my family, I rejoice because all my family knows Jesus as Lord and Savior. This day I praise the Lord for all He has done in saving my family. Yes my family is spread out over the country today, but someday we will all be together in Heaven.

Here is a Thanksgiving challenge: Make sure your family knows Jesus!!! Rejoice with those who know Jesus and take the bold step in sharing Jesus with all your family members who are not ready for Heaven.

When our family sits down today for the meal, there will be extended family and church family with us. I am so glad I am a part of the Family of God.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Joseph family!!!

Thanksgiving Encouragements (Pt. 3)

November 25, 2020

 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Phil. 2:3

Only one more day to go. Thanksgiving is just hours away. I pray you are applying our Thanksgiving encouragements? For our memory we have already shared two Thanksgiving encouragements:

You can trust God to see you through

Rejoice because God has a purpose in everything.

Are you ready for Thanksgiving encouragement number 3? Here it is:

Every day is better when you focus on others.

This encouragement comes from Paul’s teaching in chapter 2. For those who have the mind of Christ, they follow the example set by Christ’s ministry here (Phil. 2:5-9).

I really needed this because I like things to stay the same with this holiday. It is my favorite holiday. I love when our family gets together. No stress of presents, just fun and love around the table as we play games and catch up.

This year we are going to Beth’s home for the first time. When I first heard of this new thing, I thought, I don’t like it. But then Paul’s encouragement came into my mind and heart. Suddenly I remembered my faith is all about focusing on others. Suddenly I became happy because I am still getting to do all the things I love (minus Keith, Amanda, and Colt which is a heart-break) with the people I love.

The church at Philippi needed this encouragement to consider those around them because our Lord taught us to lift up the lives of others because they are so valuable in God’s eyes.

Thank you Jesus for my day three encouragement. I hope it encourages you as well.

Thanksgiving Encouragements Pt 2 (Philippians 1-4)

November 24, 2020

12 I want you to know, brothers,[e] that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, Phil. 1:12.

Its only two days away, yes Thanksgiving is two days away. Now, you may consider me prideful in assuming there will be a Thanksgiving in two days. Brothers and sisters, I know for a fact there will be a thanksgiving because I will be somewhere in two days. Either here on the earth or in Heaven.

In Psalm 47 the writer calls upon God’s people to clap their hands in praise to this glorious God who grantees our future.

Yesterday we began studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul writes to encourage the church to have joy in the Lord in the midst of uncharted waters. Yesterday we were encouraged with this principle: You can trust God to see you through.

Today we are focusing on Thanksgiving encouragement Pt. 2. Here is the principle:

Rejoice because God has a purpose in everything!

Go back with me to the days of Paul. Paul is experiencing his first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28). The church is praying and the church is considering all that is happening with their leader. It was uncharted waters, much like our days with Covid-19.

In chapter one and verse twelve Paul writes, “this is turning out…” As I read these words I thought about all the things we have been facing this year. From day to day we did not know how things would turn out. But we were encouraged because God was in charge. God was and is working it all out.

Question: Are you rejoicing now or are you locked up in a house frustrated and feeling low? Maybe you are asking, How can these things work out for God’s glory? Paul knew what he was facing would serve to advance the gospel.

Here is how understanding this truth will direct everything toward rejoicing:

  1. You must understand your tough moments are God’s positioning your life to minister in ways you otherwise would have never been able to do.

2. You must understand the work-out you have been going through is strengthening your faith.

3. You must understand your trials are a testimony to others who are following your lead in drawing nearer to God.

Let us rejoice in this day. We know we are going to make it. God has a Christ-centered purpose for these days. Rejoice because you will make Thanksgiving Day and you will make it beyond.

Thanksgiving Encouragements Pt 1 (Philippians 1-2)

November 23, 2020

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, Philippians 2:1

Yes, it is true, we have arrived at the week of Thanksgiving 2020. Most of us would have to admit that we wondered if we would even make this years Thanksgiving week. It goes without saying that this has been an upside down year.

Just this past week some states and cities issued lock-down orders for travel and family get-togethers. One Christian leader evidenced the thoughts of many people when he asked, “God how much more can people take.”

2000 years ago a local church was going through unchartered waters. Their founding church pastor, the Apostle Paul, had been arrested for preaching the gospel (1:7). This local church loved Paul and they evidenced their love through their labors with him.

Paul’s letter was written to encourage the church to look to Christ in their season of uncharted waters. This week I want to do the same with you. I want to point you to Christ Himself as your encouragement. I will stay in Philippians all week long (even though our reading plan will cover Hebrews 1-4). Here is our first encouragement:

You can trust God to see you through!

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Phil. 1:6

Brothers and sisters this one verse has influenced my Christian walk more than any other. I have clung to this encouragement when I did not know if I would make it through difficult waters. I have claimed this verse when the enemy said, it’s over. I have celebrated this verse each time the Lord has continued to show his vision for my future. I have centered my life in this verse almost daily as I look to the certain future I have in Christ.

Paul was confident (sure) that the God who had saved him would continue to save him and would safely deliver him into the Kingdom of Heaven. I can say with Paul, be confident, God will see you through.

I don’t know what you are facing today. But I am certain, God does. I am also certain, you can deposit all you faith into His hands because, He who started a good work in you will be faithful!!!