purpose

Trouble at the Temple

Under the Mosaic Law even when Jesus walked the earth, Jewish men were expected to attend three feasts celebrated at the temple in Jerusalem—the Feasts of Passover (and Unleavened Bread), Pentecost (or Weeks), and Tabernacles (or Booths).

These were important as memorials of God's faithfulness to His people at pivotal points in their history. They were also events that held greater meaning and significance for the future of those who trust in the God of Israel—the Living God.

As with many events and miraculous signs in John's gospel, this event at the end of Chapter 2 was illustrative of the Lord's ministry on earth with eternal impact and significance.

A Voice in the Desert

What makes a person a prophet of God? Personality? Character? Their message? Those may be indicators but there's only one true requirement—a calling from God.

I know people who consider themselves prophets and people others claim are prophets. But my question is often—Is this God's calling or a title they've taken on for themselves or that's given them by others?

A Dark Mountain

The value and purpose of fear is usually misunderstood. The absence of fear is often touted as a good thing, as a sign of bravery or courage. But those acknowledged for their bravery and courage speak of moving beyond their fear. It wasn't absent, it was overcome.

There are two broad categories of fear—a fear of respect and an anxious fear. An anxious fear produces worry and muddled thinking. A fear of respect heightens awareness, brings alertness and clarity to our thinking.

Anxious fear paralyzes a person whereas a respectful fear tends to motivate. The flight or fight response illustrates this distinction in fear.

When it comes to God, people tend to mix the two together as if it's all the same. This brings confusion and misunderstanding. When both types of fear are dismissed, it's as if God doesn't exist. Both responses are unwise.

Scripture

You have not come to something that you can feel, to a blazing fire, to darkness, to gloom, to a storm, to a trumpet’s blast, and to a voice. When your ancestors heard that voice, they begged not to hear it say another word.
They couldn’t obey [bear] the command that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”
The sight was so terrifying that even Moses said he was trembling and afraid.  [vss 18-21]
(Hebrews 12:18-21 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

You have not come to something that you can feel, to a blazing fire, to darkness...

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are the images of the scene described here? What is this leading up to?

  • Who is spoken to and what are they told? Do you understand why?

  • What is Moses' response to all of this and why?

  • How would this apply to believers then and now?

Reflection...

The fear of God is often misunderstood. It is typically viewed in one extreme or another. Either abject anxious fear or a humble respect.

This scene and several other places in the Bible describe the fear of God as an overwhelming awe. A realization of who God is which made Moses tremble, yet also drew him up the mountain to meet with God.

It is at once, a sense of how personal and powerful God truly is.

This reminder of the scene before Moses received the Law on tablets of stone reinforces how different the Old and New Covenants are (Heb 8:8-9).

It is a solemn warning of how important and necessary it is to hold firmly to the truth of the New Covenant (Heb 8:10-12) of grace through our relationship with Jesus as both Lord and Savior.

Make it personal...

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

  • Are you familiar with this story? If not, it's found in Exodus Chap 19.

  • How does this relate to all that's been written in the book of Hebrews up to this point?

  • How is it related to what's been Jesus and His atoning (redemptive) death upon the cross?

  • Have you experienced the difference between paralyzing and motivating fears, and the fear of God?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

Encourage One Another

Criticism of the church is probably at an all-time high today. It's increased over the last couple decades and a fair amount of it is warranted.

Much of it comes down to answering the question— Does the church exist for the people or should people be there for the church?

Some of the answer to this question comes down to the consumeristic attitude of American culture. But the church—across denominations and groups—can hold a pretty myopic and monolithic view of its place and purpose.

We live in the 21st century. It may be a futile effort to try to capture the simplicity and closeness of the early church, as seen in the early book of Acts, but we can learn some relevant values intrinsic to the early church.

Scripture

We must continue to hold firmly to our declaration of faith. The one who made the promise is faithful.

We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things.

We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.

(Hebrews 10:23-25 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What do we need to continue to do? What should our motivation be to do so?

  • What are two things we need to encourage each other to do? How do you think this should be done and what should it include?

  • What are we to not stop doing and in what ways do you think this should be done?

  • What seems to be the reason behind the urgency for this exhortation? Is this still relevant?

Reflection...

At times, it may seem that genuine encouragement is a lost gift among believers. Encouragement is not flattery nor is it the same as a like on social media. True encouragement is personal and specific to the person we encourage.

The church is not an institution or the building where the church meets. It's a living organism called the Body of Christ and has many members—people who are followers of Jesus. Each person has a useful and necessary place and purpose within the Body (Eph 4:16).

Each of us is called to encourage one another. This includes accountability and exhortation along with gentle words of correction and comfort. Again, it's much deeper than shallow praise or congratulations.

True encouragement reminds those of us who are believers of our need to continue following Jesus together. It's one of the ways we prepare for the Lord's return.

Make it personal...

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

  • How is the first exhortation connected to those that follow and the ones in earlier verses?

  • How do you see these exhortations as relevant for believers and churches now?

  • In what way do they all relate to our current (American) cultural environment?

  • Are any of these exhortations difficult for you? Is one more difficult than the others?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

Life Before Death

People have differing views of destiny. Some see it as set in stone. Others challenge what seems to be their fate throughout life. I'm sure there are those who try to ignore it altogether.

It's been said that the only things in life that are certain are death and taxes. I don't know if taxes are that certain, but death claims us all. We just don't know when and how, not that most of us want to know.

Whatever your thoughts about destiny or taxes, death is certain. But, there is life before death.

Scripture

Now, I have carefully thought about all this, and I explain it in this way: Righteous people and wise people, along with their accomplishments, are in God’s hands. No one knows whether there will be love or hatred. Everything turns out the same way for everyone. All people will share the same destiny, whether they are righteous, wicked, or good, clean or unclean, whether they offer sacrifices or don’t offer sacrifices. Good people are treated like sinners. People who take oaths are treated like those who are afraid to take oaths. [vss 1-2]

This is the tragedy of everything that happens under the sun: Everyone shares the same destiny. Moreover, the hearts of mortals are full of evil. Madness is in their hearts while they are still alive. After that, they join the dead. But all who are among the living have hope, because a living dog is better than a dead lion. The living know that they will die, but the dead don’t know anything. There is no more reward for the dead when the memory of them has faded. Their love, their hate, and their passions have already vanished. They will never again take part in anything that happens under the sun. [vss 3-6]

Go, enjoy eating your food, and drink your wine cheerfully, because God has already accepted what you’ve done. Always wear clean clothes, and never go without lotion on your head. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, during all your brief, pointless life. God has given you your pointless life under the sun. This is your lot [in life] and what you get for the hard work that you do under the sun. Whatever presents itself for you to do, do it with [all] your might, because there is no work, planning, knowledge, or skill in the grave where you’re going. [vss 7-10]

(Ecclesiastes 9:1-10 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 9]

Key phrase—A living dog is better than a dead lion

[bctt tweet="A living dog is better than a dead lion"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How is the state of death a great equalizer of people?

Why is it (death) the destiny of all people, whether good or bad?

Since death is certain for all, what are we encouraged to do?

How are we to go about life's work and for what reason?

Reflection...

The book of Ecclesiastes may seem like a discouraging and depressing outlook on life, but it's quite the opposite. King Solomon's purpose is to help people have a more clear perspective on life. Even though life may seem pointless and hard, there are reasons to live life with joy.

Another way to put it is—life is short, so enjoy it while it lasts. Put your heart into your relationships and work, because God is sovereign and He holds our eternal destiny in His hands.

There's no need to obsess with what you can't control—death. Make the best of what you have some control over—life.

Don't forget that there is a season and purpose to everything in life (Eccl 3:1). Life with all it's hardships and mysteries has value and beauty, so enjoy it while you can, while your alive.

Make it personal...

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

What do you worry about? Does the thought of death paralyze or motivate you?

How do you handle what is beyond your control? Do you obsess over it, or ignore it, or see beyond it?

Are you thankful for the life you do have? Are you able to live above life's difficulties?

In what ways have you learned to make the most of your time each day?