value

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

Keep Walking

Perseverance in undervalued. It's a virtue that gets ignored. It's not glamorous and may seem boring to some. Perseverance is underrated but it shouldn't be. It's a valuable virtue.

Perhaps it's viewed as underachieving or being stuck in a rut. But that would be inaccurate. Perseverance is all about strength and endurance.

Persistence is often valued and seen in a better light. It's a sought after quality in business and sales. And yet, persistence and perseverance have synonymous definitions.

Both words speak of continuing on in the face of adversity. Persistence and perseverance are highly valued in athletics and science, as they should be. When it comes to faith, God highly values perseverance and so ought we.

Scripture

For a short time our fathers disciplined us as they thought best. Yet, God disciplines us for our own good so that we can become holy like him. We don’t enjoy being disciplined. It always seems to cause more pain than joy. But later on, those who learn from that discipline have peace that comes from doing what is right. [vss 10-11]

Strengthen your tired arms and weak knees. Keep walking along straight paths so that your injured leg won’t get worse. Instead, let it heal. [vss 12-13]

(Hebrews 12:10-13 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

Strengthen your tired arms and weak knees. Keep walking along straight paths.

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are we told about discipline and fathers? What is your experience with this as a child?

  • How is God's discipline described? What is His intended purpose for discipling us?

  • What is the universal response to discipline? Yet, what is the intended fruit of God's discipline?

  • How is the final exhortation in this text expressed? Does this make sense to you?

Reflection...

Over the past few generations, various stances have been taken on disciplining children. Typically, it vacillates between permissiveness and strictness.

This seems to reflect what is seen regarding spiritual discipline in the church. It can be seen in what's tolerated culturally but more importantly, it reveals how we value and view personal discipline in our lives.

None of us would choose correction or discipline for the most part. Thankfully, God is both merciful and gracious. If we don't pursue spiritual discipline for ourselves, He provides the means for us to receive it, as in a previous devotional.

When we embrace God's discipline applied in our lives it benefits us. Then we mature and grow spiritually. When we resist it, then we get stuck in a rut and underachieve. When we persevere during trials and tests in life and keep walking in straight paths, it will bear peaceable fruit in our lives.

Make it personal...

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

  • How have you seen God bring correction and discipline in your life?

  • When have you experienced the benefit of perseverance in your walk of faith?

  • In what ways do you both pursue spiritual discipline in your life now?

  • Where have you seen the direct result (fruit) of God's discipline in your life?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

Something Special

How does something become valuable? What makes one thing worth more than another? Some things have value and worth only for a short time, while other things seem more special and their value and worth endures.

Perhaps things like precious metals and stones come to mind. Tangible things like assets and property are also seen as valuable items. The more special or rare they are, the more their worth increase.

Value and worth can also be attributed to intangible and intrinsic things like beauty or talent. But such things fade with time or their value changes with variations in culture and trends.

Internal qualities, such as character, integrity, spirituality, and wisdom, are more timeless in their value and worth, as is faith. Genuine, godly faith has eternal value and worth. It's also rarer than you might suspect, which makes it special.

Scripture

Faith caused the people to go through the Red Sea as if it were dry land. The Egyptians also tried this, but they drowned. Faith caused the walls of Jericho to fall after the Israelites marched around them for seven days. Faith led the prostitute Rahab to welcome the spies as friends. She was not killed with those who refused to obey God. [vss 29-31]

What more should I say? I don’t have enough time to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, did what God approved, and received what God had promised. They shut the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, and escaped death. They found strength when they were weak. They were powerful in battle and defeated other armies. [vss 32-34]

Women received their loved ones back from the dead. Other believers were brutally tortured but refused to be released so that they might gain eternal life. Some were made fun of and whipped, and some were chained and put in prison. Some were stoned to death, sawed in half, and killed with swords. Some wore the skins of sheep and goats. Some were poor, abused, and mistreated. The world didn’t deserve these good people. Some wandered around in deserts and mountains and lived in caves and holes in the ground. [vss 35-38]

All these people were known for their faith, but none of them received what God had promised. God planned to give us something very special so that we would gain eternal life with them. [vss 39-40]

(Hebrews 11:29-40 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

God planned to give us something very special

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who are mentioned as people of faith? How are they commended for their faith?

  • What are the many things spoken of that were done in faith?

  • What stands out to you regarding what they endured and the nature of their faith?

  • How can these people be known for their faith yet never receive what was promised?

Reflection...

This record of faith, people who trusted in the living God of Israel, reveals the nature of true faith. It is far more than a belief system or ideology these people held in common. This kind of faith is personal and based in a relationship of trust with God. It's a faith of substance and depth intrinsic to their lives.

Today, thousands of people live by this same faith in God but are persecuted because of their faith. They endure oppression and even die for their faith. What motivates them? Why do they remain so faithful?

As it says in another version of this text, "the world was not worthy of them" (Heb 11:38 NIV). Yes, we need to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith, but we need to emulate their faith. We need to have this same faith. But how?

What was the "something very special" God planned for all who have this genuine, enduring faith? Not just the hope of eternal life but the very presence of God living in us through the Holy Spirit.

The presence of God's Spirit living in them is the distinct difference between the Old and New Covenant. When we have a personal trust relationship with God through His Son Jesus, He promises to be present in us—in our innermost being. That is special!

Make it personal...

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

  • Why didn't the world "deserve these good people"? What made them "good"?

  • How is the faith of the people in this Scripture text different than a set of beliefs or ideology?
  • What is the "something very special" that God gives true followers of His Son Jesus?

  • Is your life of faith governed by the Old Covenant Law or have you received this "something special" in a New Covenant relationship with God?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

Curse or Contentment?

I grew up in a beautiful area along the Pacific Coast of Southern California. I lived in an area of immense wealth, even though our family was not wealthy. We rented, while my friend's families owned their homes.

If I wanted what my friends had, I worked for it. I valued what I had even though it was much less than what my friends enjoyed.

I've lived overseas in SE Asia and seen the great disparity between the "haves and have-nots." It's a big gap. And yet, I've seen greater contentment and happiness among the poor than among the wealthy.

This isn't to say the poor don't long for a life of ease and wealth. They do. And yet, their lives are often filled with more peace and contentment than those they envy. It's ironic.

Scripture

Whoever loves money will never have enough money; Whoever loves wealth will not be satisfied with it. This is also useless. The more wealth people have, the more friends they have to help spend it. So what do people really gain? They gain nothing except to look at their riches. [vss 10-11]

Those who work hard sleep in peace; it is not important if they eat little or much. But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep. I have seen real misery here on earth: Money saved is a curse to its owners. They lose it all in a bad deal and have nothing to give to their children. [vss 12-14]

People come into this world with nothing, and when they die they leave with nothing. In spite of all their hard work, they leave just as they came. This, too, is real misery: They leave just as they came. So what do they gain from chasing the wind? All they get are days full of sadness and sorrow, and they end up sick, defeated, and angry. [vss 15-17]

I have seen what is best for people here on earth. They should eat and drink and enjoy their work, because the life God has given them on earth is short. God gives some people the ability to enjoy the wealth and property he gives them, as well as the ability to accept their state in life and enjoy their work. They do not worry about how short life is, because God keeps them busy with what they love to do. [vss 18-20]

(Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 NCV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 5]

Key phrase—Those who work hard sleep in peace...But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep.

[bctt tweet="Those who work hard sleep in peace...But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep."]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scripture text above as you answer the following questions—

What are two or three specific things said about those who have and love wealth?

Who seems to enjoy rest and sleep more—those with much or those with little? Why?

What is the status of all people at birth and death? What is the pursuit of wealth likened to?

What seems to be the key to enjoying life regardless of their status in this life?

Reflection...

Americans enjoy a high standard of life, especially compared to much of the world. Even our poor, especially those on government assistance, enjoy a higher standard of living compared to most of the world's population.

And yet, with all we possess and have access to, some very simple things seem elusive. Americans spend millions, maybe billions, on supplements and drugs to help them sleep, calm their nerves, and lift their spirit.

Sleeplessness, anxiety and depression are plague-like conditions for millions. Why? As a nation, we seem unable to attain satisfaction or contentment. Perhaps we need to stop chasing after what we don't have, and enjoy what we do have, along with enjoying what we do in daily life.

As mentioned in Ecclesiastes, like a dog who chases its tail, we need to stop "chasing the wind."

Make it personal...

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

What in particular causes you to lose sleep? Do you realize what causes you anxiety or worry?

When was the last time you had a good night sleep? Do you experience more inner peace or stress?

Have you ever gotten something you longed for only to be disappointed with it?

How do you escape or deal with the cares and desires of your life? Is it in a healthy or unhealthy way?

Why Do We Work So Hard?

Many of us chase the elusive carrot-on-a-stick. What we desire or want is just out of reach. We are motivated by discontent.

Once we're hooked by this motivation of discontent, it takes on subtle changes. There's the ubiquitous "Sale!" and BOGO lure. If I just spend a little more money, I can get so much more! After getting more, we need to rent a storage unit to warehouse all we have. We even shop at warehouse-type stores to get better deals on more things.

We put off vacations and personal leave, even sick days, to work a little harder, get more done, get a promotion, or gain greater status. But at what cost?

Scripture

Then I thought, “Why do people work so hard?” I saw people try to succeed and be better than other people. They do this because they are jealous. They don’t want other people to have more than they have. This is senseless. It is like trying to catch the wind. Some people say, “It is foolish to fold your hands and do nothing. If you don’t work, you will starve to death.” Maybe that is true. But I say it is better to be satisfied with the few things you have than to always be struggling to get more. [vss 4-6]

Again I saw something else that didn’t make sense: I saw a man who has no family, not a son or even a brother. But he continues to work very hard. He is never satisfied with what he has. And he works so hard that he never stops and asks himself, “Why am I working so hard? Why don’t I let myself enjoy my life?” This is also a very bad and senseless thing. [vss 7-8]

Two people are better than one. When two people work together, they get more work done. If one person falls, the other person can reach out to help. But those who are alone when they fall have no one to help them. If two people sleep together, they will be warm. But a person sleeping alone will not be warm. An enemy might be able to defeat one person, but two people can stand back-to-back to defend each other. And three people are even stronger. They are like a rope that has three parts wrapped together—it is very hard to break. [vss 9-12]

(Ecclesiastes 4:4-12 ERV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 4]

Key phrase— ...better to be satisfied with the few things you have than...struggling to get more

[bctt tweet="...better to be satisfied with the few things you have than...struggling to get more"]

Digging Deeper...

What seems to be the motivation for working so hard? What is this likened to?

What is stated as a better alternative than working and struggling to get more?

What question does the single person who works hard never seem to ask themselves?

In what ways are two people better than one? What do you think this is emphasizing?

Reflection...

When we are driven by ambition or jealousy, we'll never be satisfied or content. Greed and envy are terrible tyrants who will never be appeased.

(US) Americans, more than any other western people, are driven by insatiable appetites, and it's made us unhealthy. God established the Sabbath rest for a reason. We need caffeine and other drugs to keep us going, then we need other drugs to slow us down and sleep.

The carrot remains out of reach. Why? Life in many parts of the world revolves around people and events, not work. And, in general, it's a healthier, more content lifestyle.

When will we see the need to get off the treadmill or hamster wheel, to enjoy a simple and contented life?

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What motivates you in your life and work? Are you content with your work and life?

What place do people play in your life? Are relationships more of a priority to you than work? If not, why not?

What do you enjoy most in your life? Why?

Who is important in your life? How do these relationships benefit you in your daily life?