restoration

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

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

Don't Let Bitterness Take Root

The social and political world we live in doesn't tend to promote peace or godliness. It grieves me to see the contentious banter expressed in social media and in network news media.

I'm really grieved by the vitriolic exchanges between Christian believers who have differing opinions. None of that honors God and it certainly doesn't make being a Christian attractive to non-believers.

It does take effort to live at peace with others and to live a life that honors God. But the secret isn't more discipline and self-effort, although self-control is an attractive and valuable virtue.

The transforming power of God's grace or kindness is the key. God's grace at work in our hearts keeps things like bitterness, envy, and greed from corrupting us. A holy life is one that chooses God as the ruler of our life rather than emotions or circumstances.

Scripture

Try to live peacefully with everyone, and try to live holy lives, because if you don’t, you will not see the Lord. Make sure that everyone has kindness [grace] from God so that bitterness doesn’t take root and grow up to cause trouble that corrupts many of you. [vss 14-15]
Make sure that no one commits sexual sin or is as concerned about earthly things as Esau was. He sold his rights as the firstborn son for a single meal.
You know that afterwards, when he wanted to receive the blessing that the firstborn son was to receive, he was rejected. Even though he begged and cried for the blessing, he couldn’t do anything to change what had happened. [vss 16-17]
(Hebrews 12:14-17 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

Make sure that everyone has kindness [grace] from God so that bitterness doesn’t take root and grow

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What two things are we to try and do? How do you think this is possible?

  • What is needed to prevent bitterness from taking root and growing in our lives?

  • How does the example of Esau's remorse illustrate what two things we are to avoid?

  • Is there a difference between remorse like that of Esau and true repentance?

Reflection...

Relationships are always important. Our priority is to have a genuine relationship with God through faith [trust] in His Son. And Jesus made it clear that our relationships with others are a vital priority in our relationship with Him.

This is why we are to live at peace with one another, to be gracious and not bitter with one another. Nor are we to be greedy or selfish because these attitudes damage our relationships.

A holy life is one dedicated to the Lord and His purpose for our life. It's not about being good but allowing God's grace and goodness to transform our hearts. This is how God brings change in our life that others see.

Repentance is not the same as remorse. A remorseful person feels sorry for themselves and the consequences of their actions. Repentance requires a change of heart and turning to God to seek out His grace and goodness and restoration.

Make it personal...

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

  • How are the first two exhortations related to the issue of bitterness taking root and growing in our heart?

  • What is needed to keep bitterness from growing in our hearts towards God and others?

  • What do you find most difficult in dealing with bitterness in your heart?

  • Are living at peace with others and living a godly life personal priorities for you?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

Legitimate or Illegitimate?

Children need boundaries. We all do. Without clear boundaries of what's okay or not okay, we run amuck and trample on the feelings and rights of others.

Clear boundaries and consistency are essential elements for raising healthy and confident children who will mature into healthy and confident adults.

We've seen this with our own children and hundreds of others my wife and I cared for over the years. Now we see this with our grandchildren and children of our extended family in the Philippines.

Sadly, a lack of healthy consistent discipline has rippled through our nation, beginning with the "me generation" of the seventies to a couple million people incarcerated and well over four million others on probation or parole, producing heartache and despair.

No boundaries and the abandonment of discipline brings conflict and disruption in families and society at large. We all need discipline and boundaries. Without them, we will self-destruct personally and so will our nation if things don't change.

Scripture

You struggle against sin, but your struggles haven’t killed you. You have forgotten the encouraging words that God speaks to you as his children:

“My child, pay attention when the Lord disciplines you. Don’t give up when he corrects you. The Lord disciplines everyone he loves. He severely disciplines everyone he accepts as his child.” [vss 4-6] [reference– Proverbs 3:11-12]

Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers.

If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family. On earth we have fathers who disciplined us, and we respect them. Shouldn’t we place ourselves under the authority of God, the father of spirits, so that we will live? [vss 7-9]

(Hebrews 12:4-9 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What is said about our struggle with sin? How does this relate to you in a personal way?

  • What are the encouraging words spoken about here? How is this strong exhortation encouraging?

  • How is the idea of God's discipline explained? Does this make sense to you?

  • How is the discipline God gives His children different than what our natural parents do?

Reflection...

No one likes correction, not immediately. Neither do we like to undergo discipline or accept punishment, even when it's deserved. We can be quick to claim, "It's unfair!" But much of the time we need to be disciplined for our own good.

This is one of the more difficult things for believers and nonbelievers to understand. "Why would a loving God discipline, correct, or punish anyone?"

The short answer is—so we don't become spoiled brats! Also, God wants to develop a nature in us like His. He wants us to fit in with His family, that is, He wants us to be His legitimate children, not to be illegitimate, self-willed rebels.

An important element of God's redemptive work is restoring us so we may enjoy a face to face relationship with God. But this requires an internal work in us. A transforming work in our hearts and lives. God uses external situations in our life to shape and transform our inner nature.

Make it personal...

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

  • How did this exhortation speak to the believers who heard this first and how does it fit for us?

  • What kind of discipline did you receive as a child and how has it shaped your life?

  • Do you think your own upbringing might get in the way of understanding God's discipline?

  • How can you better understand and accept God's discipline in your life?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

A Little Lower

Why is it so important that Jesus—God's Son—became human? Is it? Yes! But why? For one thing, people say they would believe in God, if only He appeared in front of them. If they could see Him, they'd believe.

Jesus did just that, but long before any of us reading this were alive.

He experienced life and death on earth for humanity's benefit.