religious

Water Into Wine

People throughout the world are intrigued by illusions, magic tricks, and sleight-of-hand artists. It's not just because they're clever and entertaining but something inside us wants to see something supernatural.

When Jesus did miracles in the Bible, they weren't illusions or magic nor were they for entertainment. His miracles were bonafide supernatural events with a purpose.

They affirmed the supernatural and divine nature of Jesus as God's Son (John 1:114) and as the Savior of the world (John 3:16). Jesus' miracles also confirmed His message and mission.

A Personal Issue

Faith is not a concept or an abstract belief nor is it a spiritual dynamic. It's a personal issue—a personal trust.

Most every religion holds to a set of beliefs that define it as a religious faith. But even then, holding to a set of religious beliefs requires a personal trust.

The Christian faith is based on a personal trust in a personal living God. This reaches back before the appearance of Jesus Christ—God's only Son—when God became human and lived on the earth (John 1:1, 14).

The essence of faith as a personal trust in God goes back to the first humans on earth and is seen in their descendants up to and beyond the time of Christ. Faith is and always will be a personal issue. 

Scripture

 Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see. God accepted our ancestors because of their faith.

Faith convinces us that God created the world through his word. This means what can be seen was made by something that could not be seen. [vss 1-3]

Faith led Abel to offer God a better sacrifice than Cain’s sacrifice. Through his faith Abel received God’s approval, since God accepted his sacrifices. Through his faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

Faith enabled Enoch to be taken instead of dying. No one could find him, because God had taken him. Scripture states that before Enoch was taken, God was pleased with him.

No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him. [vss 4-6]

(Hebrews 11:1-6 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • How is faith explained or defined at the beginning of this Scripture text?

  • How is faith connected to creation and the way the world came into existence? [Gen 1:1-3]

  • Who are two people God was pleased with because of their faith and why?

  • What is needed to please God? What two things are required to please God in this way?

Reflection...

Faith is a two-way relationship. True faith enables a person to see what others can't see who don't have faith.

This is not blind faith. It is a relationship of mutual trust. We trust God and He trusts us with His acceptance and approval.

Do you want to please God? Trust Him! Trust Him with all your heart and with all your life each day of your life.

Pleasing God isn't about living a good or nearly perfect life. That only leads to self-righteousness and eventual failure and disappointment.

God is honored and pleased by our trust in Him above all else and our confidence that He will reward our trust in Him.

Make it personal...

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

  • Do you struggle with efforts to be good or good enough to be accepted by God?

  • Have you learned the difference between trust and belief?

  • Why do you trust God or do you trust Him? Do you believe He honors your trust in Him?

  • How are you currently learning to trust God in a deeper way?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

His Own Blood

Most, if not all, religions are focused on appeasing an angry God or finding a way to gain God's acceptance or a combination of both. In most religions, God is either distant and unreachable or an impersonal spiritual force.

A relationship with God is only possible if He is personal and living. But access into the presence of God may appear impossible without some extraordinary means to gain that opportunity.

Religion is humanity's attempt to build a bridge up to God based on a person's best efforts at being good, or at least reaching some minimum requirement. But these efforts and requirements are just arbitrary hopeful guesses at what God desires.

Can a person have any certainty of reaching out to God and being accepted? Yes, and much more!

Scripture

But Christ came as a chief priest of the good things that are now here. Christ went through a better, more perfect tent that was not made by human hands and that is not part of this created world. He used his own blood, not the blood of goats and bulls, for the sacrifice. He went into the most holy place and offered this sacrifice once and for all to free us forever. [vss 11-12]
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of cows sprinkled on unclean  people made their bodies holy and clean. The blood of Christ, who had no defect, does even more. Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself to God and cleansed our consciences from the useless things we had done. Now we can serve the living God. [vss 13-14]
(Hebrews 9:11-14 GW) [Context– Hebrews 9]

Key phrase—

He went into the most holy place and offered this sacrifice once and for all to free us forever

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are we told Jesus did when He came as a chief (high) priest?

  • Where did Christ enter and what did He use to offer as a sacrifice? How often did this happen?

  • Why is the blood Christ offered so much more valuable and powerful than other sacrifices?

  • What great benefit does the Lord's sacrifice provide for those who trust in Him and why is this so?

Reflection...

Our own efforts at purifying ourselves are useless, just as all the sacrifices under the Old Covenant Law which were only temporary. None of them could make a person pure or free on a continuing basis.

The perfect sacrifice of Jesus—the Victor over sin, death, and the devil by His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the dead—brings true freedom. God's Spirit dwelling in those who are true believers empowers them to live in the victory Jesus won.

God built the bridge between humanity and Himself. He came as a person to do what no other person could do. Jesus the Messiah (Christ) fulfilled all the requirements of the Law (Matt 5:17) so we no longer need to try to meet its perfect demands.

Not only are we free from the requirements of perfect obedience and continual sacrifices, we are free to know and serve the true and living God with a clean heart and conscience.

Make it personal...

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

  • Which do you choose—religious ceremony or genuine spiritual freedom?

  • Which is better—an appearance of righteousness or a right relationship with God and a clear conscience?

  • Have you learned and become convinced that the grace of God is far superior to any religious effort on your part?

  • In what way have you experienced personal freedom to worship and serve the one true and living God through His Son Jesus?

©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?