heaven

Drawn to the Light

Light attracts insects at night. Living in the tropical climate of the Philippines for many years, it seemed like zillions of insects came out at night. They would gather at porch lights and our security lights around the property. So would the geckos and other creatures who fed on them.

Light is powerful. Daily activity dramatically increases with the dawn of a new day. Many people are drawn to seashores as the sun breaks through the night and floods the sky and sea with its powerful beams of light.

When encouraging people in the midst of their personal darkness, we speak of light at the end of the tunnel as an expression of hope to come. But when a person's soul is crushed with anguish and hopelessness, they tend to draw back into the darkness and shadows around them. And too often, many dark deeds seem more likely to occur at night than during the day.

The first act of creation is God speaking light into existence (Gen 1:3) and God is—by nature—Light (1 John 1:5). John declares at the beginning of his gospel that, Jesus is the light of life for all humanity and His light is never conquered or extinguished.

Scripture

No one has gone to heaven except the Son of Man, who came from heaven. “As Moses lifted up the snake ⌊on a pole⌋ in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. Then everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” [vss 13-15]

God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. Those who believe in him won’t be condemned. But those who don’t believe are already condemned because they don’t believe in God’s only Son. [vss 16-19]

This is why people are condemned: The light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil. People who do what is wrong hate the light and don’t come to the light. They don’t want their actions to be exposed. But people who do what is true come to the light so that the things they do for God may be clearly seen. [vss 19-21]

(John 13-21 GW)

Key phrase—

God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who alone has gone to heaven and come from there? What illustration is given that is connected to this?

  • How does this statement about the Son of Man and this illustration relate to the famous Bible verse—John 3:16?

  • What great assurances and promises are given in this familiar Scripture?

  • What are the contrasting statements given in this text and how are they not in opposition or contradiction to each other?

Reflection...

Probably the most quoted Bible verse is found in this chapter—John 3:16. But to understand the greatness of God's love and His promise of eternal life, we need to understand its context.

John speaks of the Lord's death on the cross as a point of restoration and likens it to when Moses erected a bronze snake in the sand as a visual connection to God's healing power for those bitten by poisonous snakes in the wilderness (Numbers 21:5-9).

John then points out the purpose of Jesus coming to earth—when God became human—to bring redemption for all humanity—to heal and restore humanity. God personally intervened in human history to provide a cure for the poisonous effect of sin.

But, receiving this promise of restoration and eternal life is a choice. Sadly, many people can't or won't let go of the darkness in their lives to embrace the light and receive this promise of abundant and eternal life Jesus offers. But those who are drawn to His Light and receive this promise are healed and restored by the great love of God.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • What condemns a person—their sin or their unbelief? How is this known from this text?

  • What is the important choice a person needs to make between light and darkness and why do you think it's difficult to make?  

  • Why do you think many non-believers see Christians as judgmental when Jesus did not come into the world to judge it?

  • How would you tell others these truths in your own words (IYOW) so they understood them?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— God so loved the world but the world did not love Him back. God proved His love by giving His Son as a Mediator and Savior for all those who choose to trust in Him—turning their backs on the darkness of sin to embrace the powerful light of His love.

Prayer Focus— If you haven't experienced God's healing restoration by believing and trusting in Him, don't wait any longer—simply ask Him to be Lord of your life in your own words. If you've trusted in God's Son, ask the Lord for opportunities and simple, clear words to share this great promise.

©2018—Word-Strong

No Permanent City

The Old and New Covenants are not just two different covenants or commitments between God and His people, they are two different relationships.

What separates them is the motivations they are based on. The first—the Old—acceptance was based on obedience to the Law of Moses. The second—the New—acceptance by God is based on God's grace given to us through Jesus.

The Heavenly Mountain

Interpreting the Bible can be difficult, especially when personal biases, opinions, and conflicting views are involved. For centuries, the Bible was interpreted as a book full of allegories and metaphors.

The Scriptures were viewed as figurative language for the most part. In more modern times, literalism was the predominant view. This pendular swing of extremes still prevails.

Spiritual discernment—given by God's Spirit—is needed for understanding what is meant to be figurative and what needs to be understood in a more literal sense.

Above all, it's important to remember the Bible is God's revelation given to all humanity. Because it's from God to us, the Bible needs to become personal for us. Not our own personal interpretation but as a personal message from God to us.

Scripture

Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to tens of thousands of angels joyfully gathered together and to the assembly of God’s firstborn children (whose names are written in heaven). You have come to a judge (the God of all people) and to the spirits of people who have God’s approval and have gained eternal life. [vss 22-23]

You have come to Jesus, who brings the new promise from God, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better message than Abel’s.

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen when God speaks. Your ancestors didn’t escape when they refused to listen to God, who warned them on earth. We certainly won’t escape if we turn away from God, who warns us from heaven. [vss 24-25]

(Hebrews 12:22-25 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

You have come to Jesus, who brings the new promise from God

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Where are we told that we've come to? How is this place described?

  • Who is gathered at this mountain? How many people or peoples are mentioned?

  • Who is spoken of by name and what two things are included with Him?

  • What is the strong warning given here? How is its serious nature reinforced?

Reflection...

This heavenly mountain—Mount Zion—is in stark contrast with the dark, foreboding mountain of Mount Sinai where Moses received the Law. Mount Zion represents not only heaven, the dwelling place of God, but a new relationship with God through Jesus.

This is the fifth and final warning given in the book of Hebrews. It is far more personal than the previous four warnings. Simply put—rejecting the New Covenant of grace is a rejection of Jesus, God's Son. 

The Old Covenant was a Law that required obedience, an obedience the nation of Israel couldn't and didn't keep. The New Covenant is more personal. It is relational. It provides the opportunity for a new relationship between God and humanity.

Jesus came to provide the means of reconciliation and restoration of relationship with God for all humanity. A relationship of trust—faith—based upon God's kindness and favor—grace—gained through the Lord's death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • If this description of Mount Zion—the heavenly Jerusalem—is figurative, why is it spoken of as actual and present?

  • Why do you think it's necessary to have this detailed description of Mount Zion?

  • What stands out to you about this fifth and final warning?

  • Do you understand how personal and relational the New Covenant of grace is?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

A Better Country

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each election cycle with the hope of making our country better. But what is better? It depends on your point of view.

Too often, people settle for what seems better but it's not good enough. Better is a term of comparison. Better than what? It depends on what the comparison is.

Many people will accept the status quo and mediocrity because it's familiar and they're not willing to risk losing it for a possibility of gaining something better.

We won't risk losing what we have unless our hope for something better is stronger than our fear of loss. True faith—trust in God—enables us to see beyond the status quo and seek what God promises is better—much, much better, in fact, the best.

Scripture

Faith enabled Abraham to become a father, even though he was old and Sarah had never been able to have children. Abraham trusted that God would keep his promise. Abraham was as good as dead. Yet, from this man came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore.

All these people died having faith. They didn’t receive the things that God had promised them, but they saw these things coming in the distant future and rejoiced. They acknowledged that they were living as strangers with no permanent home on earth. [vss 11-13]

Those who say such things make it clear that they are looking for their own country. If they had been thinking about the country that they had left, they could have found a way to go back. Instead, these men were longing for a better country—a heavenly country. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has prepared a city for them. [vss 14-16]

(Hebrews 11:11-16 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

These men were longing for a better country—a heavenly country

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are we told about Abraham and his faith? How did reality in his life seem to contradict God's promise to Him?

  • What promise did God make to Abraham and did it come to pass?

  • What is a seemingly contradictory statement made about Abraham and others before him?

  • What is the testimony of Abraham and Noah's faith according to these verses?

Reflection...

We Americans are free to complain about our country and have the freedom to bring change in it. But as believers, we have a better country to look forward to than any nation on this earth.

Are you longing for a better life on earth or a better country in this world? As Jesus said, "Wherever your heart is—what it longs for—is where your treasure is."

Faith isn't wishful thinking, like hoping to win the lottery. Faith is a confidence in God and all His promises. It is a hope based in our relationship with God that remains even when circumstances seem to contradict His promises.

True faith enables us to move forward when others turn back.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • If these men didn't receive all that God promised, how and why did they continue to trust God?

  • In what way is this "better country" a fulfillment of what God promised to Abraham?

  • How are Abraham's and Noah's life testimonies of faith relevant for us today?

  • Are you longing for a "better country" and do you have assurance in your heart about that?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Paid In Full

Blood is life. Blood flows throughout our body, through large arteries and veins and tiny capillaries invisible to the naked eye.

Life takes place within our blood as it flows through various organs in our body that regulate vital life processes. If our blood is contaminated in any way, disease can take hold and lead to serious complications including death if untreated.

When the Bible speaks of blood in relationship to a covenant, blood takes on a spiritual nature. The physical properties and function of blood provide an illustration for an understanding of its spiritual truth.

Scripture

Because Christ offered himself to God, he is able to bring a new promise from God. Through his death he paid the price to set people free from the sins they committed under the first promise. He did this so that those who are called can be guaranteed an inheritance that will last forever.

In order for a will to take effect, it must be shown that the one who made it has died. A will is used only after a person is dead because it goes into effect only when a person dies. [vss 15-19]

That is why even the first promise was made with blood. As Scripture tells us, Moses told all the people every commandment. Then he took the blood of calves and goats together with some water, red yarn, and hyssop and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “Here is the blood that seals the promise God has made to you.” In the same way, Moses sprinkled blood on the tent and on everything used in worship. [vss 20-21]

As Moses’ Teachings tell us, blood was used to cleanse almost everything, because if no blood is shed, no sins can be forgiven.

The copies of the things in heaven had to be cleansed by these sacrifices. But the heavenly things themselves had to be cleansed by better sacrifices. [vss 22-23]

(Hebrews 9:15-23 GW) [Context– Hebrews 9]

Key phrase—

Through his death he paid the price to set people free

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What did Christ do that guarantees believers an eternal inheritance?

  • What needs to take place for a will to go into effect? How is this related to what Jesus did to bring our eternal inheritance?

  • Why was the first promise (covenant) made with blood? What do you think this is talking about?

  • Why is blood used in both the Old and New Covenants? [hint– see Leviticus 17:11]

Reflection...

No more sacrifices are needed. All the sacrifices before (under the Law) were reminders of what was to come—the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. His sacrifice—Himself—was not offered in a human temple but in heaven in the very presence of the Father.

This is called the Atonement of Christ which was prefigured by the sacred Jewish ceremony called the Day of Atonement (Lev 16). The Day of Atonement involved a whole day of fasting and many, many sacrifices. But the Atonement of Christ was done once for all (Heb 9:11-14).

The shed blood of Jesus is greater and more powerful than the blood of animals. Why? Because He was both human and God in nature—physical and spiritual—and He did not have a sinful nature since He wasn't born from the natural seed of a man (Matt 1:20; Luke 1:31-35).

His death on the cross brought a new promise (covenant) into effect. It acted as a ransom that wiped away the resulting debt of sin, which is physical and spiritual death, and provided an eternal forgiveness not possible under the old promise (covenant).

His death and resurrection that followed brought an inheritance for all those who would trust in Christ as both Savior and Lord. This inheritance is eternal, not physical nor temporary. It's not a geographical homeland but an abiding relationship with God and an eternal kingdom.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How does the blood of Christ provide believers an assurance of their salvation?

  • Do you understand why it was necessary that Jesus offered up His own blood and self as an atoning sacrifice?

  • Have you personally experienced the forgiveness of God and assurance of Christ's inheritance?

  • How has the forgiveness of God brought you assurance, freedom, and peace?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews