:) Finally had some time! Next week should be fun... we're heading into some messianic prophecies... :)

Happy studying!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Jonah Chapter 1

Jonah Chapter 1

vs. 1-5 DOWN, DOWN, DOWN

- “The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

- Simple basic statement. “Hey Jonah. I need you to do this... because of this...” What's there to question?

- footnote- “... God told Jonah to preach to Nineveh, the most important city in Assyria, the rising world power of Jonah's day. Within 50 years, Nineveh would become the capital of the vast Assyrian Empire. Jonah doesn't say much about Nineveh's wickedness, but the prophet Nahum gives us more insight. Nahum says that Nineveh was guilty of
1. evil plots against God (1:9)
2. exploitation of the helpless (2:12)
3. cruelty in war (2:12-13)
4. idolatry, prostitution, and witchcraft (3:4).
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, about 500 miles northeast of Israel, to warn of judgment and to declare that the people could receive mercy and forgiveness if they repented.”

- footnote- “Nineveh was a powerful and wicked city. Jonah had grown up hating the Assyrians and fearing their atrocities. His hatred was so strong that he didn't want them to receive God's mercy. Jonah was actually afraid the people would repent (4:2-3). Jonah's attitude is representative of Israel's reluctance to share God's love and mercy with others, even though this was their God-given mission (Genesis 12:3). They, like Jonah, did not want non-Jews (Gentiles) to obtain God's favor.”

- Instead of going to Nineveh as he was asked... Jonah ran away...

- “But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish.”

- Notice that Jonah went in the OPPOSITE direction. Not just a different one... but an opposite one. He got up. That was part of the order... but then he turned and went the wrong way. He got on a boat and sailed off for shores far away from Assyria.

- But God... still had a plan... And where there's a will... there's a way... and nothing is impossible with God...

- “But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.”

- Looking at God's actions and the sailors reactions... a few things come to mind...

- Sometimes when God's trying to get our attention... we can start looking at all kinds of other causes or reasons for our circumstances.

- These sailors were probably traders since they were carrying cargo... and not necessarily Israelites. They could have been from anywhere...

- Huge storm comes up... they're at their wits end! They do everything they know to do. They call upon every god they can think of for help. They throw all the cargo overboard. Survival is the important thing! They don't know what else to do!

- Sometimes God has to bring us to the end of ourselves in order to get our attention. Especially those of us who are more stubborn than others... When we're running from God... drastic measures are sometimes necessary. God doesn't give up the second we say “no”. He NEVER gives up. He is relentless in His pursuit of our hearts. He longs to bring us into the family. And if that means showing us some tough love... He'll do it...

- So this HUGE storm comes up. All the experienced sailors are panicking... and where's Jonah?

- “But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.”

- ASLEEP! The storm of a lifetime and he's ASLEEP!?

- When we choose to run from God, we consciously harden our hearts. Bad things can happen in the lives of those around us... and we turn our hearts away from response. We look at the world more coldly.

- Because of Jonah's actions... everyone on that boat was in grave danger... and he was sleeping through their torment and fear...

- I know that most of us have times when we run from God... Some of us try to completely walk away. I say try because... it's easier said than done...

- I would like to tell you my story now. Or at least this part of it. I still have trouble explaining all the details sometimes... I think mainly because... it still breaks my heart that I tried to turn away... tried to run away from the only One Who could ever love me so much... And there was a point in life in which I scorned the love that was SO dearly bought...

- I grew up in church. We went to church more than any kid probably has ever gone to church... lol Every weekend, every revival service... we got called to sing at church services through the week. I mean it seemed like the majority of our time was spent at church or church functions.

- I knew about God. Knew the stories and all the details. I could answer all the typical Sunday School questions with flying colors. I had all the answers down... and for a while... that was fine. I felt like God was good and God was close... it seemed fine.

- Until about the time I hit middle school. Ah the teenage years... such... wonderful years... UGH!

- I started reading a lot on WWII in about 7th grade. I don't know if that started the process or if I used that as an excuse for the process... but I started to look at all the things I knew about God and question every single one of them. I would read all these terrible stories about world events... and then sit and wonder how God could be loving, or caring, or gentle... Was God's character truly what He said it was? Or was it all just a fairy tale. I mean, the majority of the major people in my life all believed in all this stuff... so were they all crazy? Or delusional?

- I had unanswered questions... I had all the answers... but I was left feeling totally unsatisfied with them. They weren't enough. To KNOW all the answers... wasn't enough...

- God continually knocked on my heart's door. I would question, and He would bring the answers to mind... “God that's not good enough... I need proof! I don't see proof!” I talked to God all the time... but it wasn't prayerfully... it was accusatory... it was questioning... it was verging on bitter by the end of it...

- Junior year of high school... I was still struggling with questions... and I was getting increasingly more angry with God. He wasn't PROVING Himself. He was bringing scriptures to mind and answering through the Word... but He wasn't PROVING Himself... or at least I didn't think so...

- So end of Sophomore year came along... and the Christian Fellowship Club voted me in as president... I tried to turn down the nomination. I didn't feel that I could lead a Christian group while I was still struggling so much with whether or not I wanted to believe in this God... But... they wouldn't let me turn down the nomination... So I was stuck for the following year... I made some kind of statement to God along the lines of “okay God. Fine... but know that I don't want to do this and that this isn't something I feel okay about doing... and if You really want me to do this... You're going to have to do something... because I'm still not sure I want to walk this path...”

- The week before school was out, our science teacher decided to take us on a field trip... so we piled 30 or so of us on a hay wagon on the back of a tri-wheeled tractor... and we started down the hill leaving our high school. We were going down to test water speed in a creek... he forgot the buckets... and paused a moment at the top of the hill... and then decided that we'd just do it again tomorrow... but for today, we'd just go look at the creek.

- So we started down the hill... which is a horribly steep and curvy hill... that leads right into a very busy main road.... and the brakes went out...

- Next thing we know, we're flying down this hill straight for traffic... three boys managed to jump off the wagon... the rest of us were stuck... I was watching the road and thinking... “Oh God... we're dead...” Two coal trucks went up the road... we hit the road right after them, somehow got turned into our lane and got straightened up... and a log truck went past us...

- By the time we got pulled off and parked... I was ready to do whatever it was God wanted me to do... no matter what... lol

- Just a side note... the only 3 injuries were the three who jumped off... one had a little road burn, one scraped his knee a little, and the third had some glass in his knee... Otherwise... we all came out of it perfectly fine... other than really scared...

- I spent a lot of time that summer arguing points with God and trying to figure out a way to wiggle myself out of the position... I wanted to want to do what God wanted... but there was so much in me that just kept fighting. It felt like I would take a step forward and then find myself backpedaling as fast as I could...

- I went through the year as CFC president in much the same way. I would sit down to pray about what I needed to do... and then panic because I felt like I was losing control...

- When I was getting ready for college... I filled out applications to do Spanish Education. Plan? Get a degree and go to another country somewhere. Far far away.

- Mom wanted me to apply to her Alma mater. So I did... except they didn't have a Spanish degree... So I was trying to fill out the application and I didn't know what to do for a major... Mom said “well why don't you put down music. You like music...” Okay sure... so I put down Music Education.

- Meanwhile... I got a full scholarship to Berea College in Kentucky. Totally fell in love with the school. So badly wanted to go there. We made 2 or 3 trips down to check out the place. LOVED it.

- I had totally forgotten about the application to Alderson-Broaddus. It wasn't something that I was interested in... wasn't something I was planning on doing... So when they called for an audition date... I wasn't really interested... but we scheduled the tour and audition.

- When we walked onto AB campus... Something deep in my heart said “THIS is where you need to go...” And I said “no God... not here... Berea... not here...” But it just kept coming...

- Audition went well, and afterward we were talking with one of the professors about finances etc. Dad told him that I had applied and was accepted to Berea. His comment was that since Berea gave a full tuition scholarship, that AB, as a private school, would never be able to beat their scholarship. “A HA! LOOPHOLE!”

- So I was a little arrogant at that point... “okay God... if AB beats Berea's tuition... then I'll go to AB... but otherwise! I'm going to Berea! WOO!

- Weeeeell... AB beat Berea's tuition. Not only did they cover tuition... they also paid for about half of my room and board. It was about a $2000 difference.

- So begrudgingly... I went to AB... because I really wanted to want to do what God wanted... ugh...

- So AB... I was at a place I didn't want to be... in a major that... was an accident (in my mind). It was such a random situation. None of it was what I wanted.

- So I spent 4 years regretting not going to Berea. 4 years wishing for something I couldn't have... 4 years of “God why in the world did you stick me HERE!? Doing THIS!?”

- The major was a hard one... and there were SO many times I felt inadequate. I was mediocre. I wasn't exceptionally good at much of anything they asked of me. I wanted to quit so many times. The major kept us so busy that I didn't have a life. There was no time to do much of anything except study and practice. I felt like I was barely keeping my head above water. I was so frustrated ALL the time. I spent so much time in the offices of my professors trying to understand basic things that were just so confusing to me.

- I was asked many times if this was really what I wanted to do... If I was sure this was the path I wanted to go down... because there were a lot of other things I could have done...

- My junior year, my adviser sat down with me at the beginning of the year and said “why are you doing this?” My answer? “I DON'T KNOW!!” I poured out the whole story... and she just sat and looked at me... and then she asked if I still felt that this was where God wanted me... I said well... every day I ask that question... and every day... it seems like He says “are you still asking Me that? Did I tell you to change anything yet? Just trust me!”

- She said well... then stick it out... because there has to be a reason... (Driving me to insanity? Is that a reason? Lol)

- Senior year came. The stress had continued to build over the 4 years. I was still angry about having to be where I didn't want to be. I was so tired and so frustrated... But it was almost over!

- My friends and I started looking at grad schools. My thought was... well... if I have to stick with this, might as well go the whole way right? So I started filling out applications... About the 3rd one I started to fill out... God said “nope... that's not the plan... you're not going to grad school right now.”

- “Okay... so what do you want hmm? If you want me in this major, then I'm going to be in this major. I don't want to teach, I don't want to stay here, so... I'm going to grad school.”

- “Nope... you're staying right here... and you're teaching...”

- GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

- I got a little mad... Okay I got really mad. It was years of just... question upon question with seemingly no answer just... boiling over... I wanted control of MY LIFE! And it felt like I'd never had any control whatsoever! Nothing! First it was my parents. Then it was God. And... when did I get a chance to make a decision!? Never!

- Well... That just went well... I sat down and basically told God to get out. I was done. I didn't want Him messing with my life anymore.

- And then I filled out grad applications to every school with my program.

- And you know what? I was only accepted by one... and they offered me absolutely no financial aid whatsoever... and... out of state tuition was so far above what I could pay...

- I also started dating this guy that was just... a bad idea. It was about the same time that I just got mad... might have even been the same night... and then I spent the next 4 months trying to get rid of him. Lol Easier said than done...

- I stopped sleeping. I wasn't eating much. Every night I lay awake in bed and between God's conviction and Satan's condemnation... I was in agony. It was torture. I finished out the year... somehow... By the time I graduated... I was floating through time in a daze... I had lost interest in everything. I didn't care about anything.

- My pastor tried to pull me aside a few times to talk about things... and I just passed it off as stress and being tired... I wouldn't let him talk to me.

- As for the parents... I avoided going home as much as possible and tried to maintain the masquerade.

- Then one night... as the fight continued... I got so mad at God trying to convince me to come back... and I begged Him to just leave me alone! I was tired of trying to figure Him out! I was tired of trying to convince myself of things that He wouldn't prove! And I was tired of trying to believe the fairy tale... So leave! And He did. For the first time in my life... He stopped knocking on my door... It was quiet. There was no small voice. There was no gentle urging. There was nothing...

- And for just a second... I thought I'd won. I thought victory was MINE! And then the darkness came. I felt like I was suffocating. The air felt so thick. And my soul cried out in agony! And there was no answer...

- The thing is... over like 10 years... I argued with God... but He was always there. Never once did I deny God's existence... Or His presence... He was always there... and now... He wasn't... and IMMEDIATELY! I wanted Him back! Oh God! I needed Him so badly! But He wouldn't come...

- For about a month... I lived feeling like I was going to die... I felt my body dying. I felt death approaching. I knew there was no hope. I tried to cry out to God... but it was like... I choked on the words. Or if I did manage to say something... it sounded hallow... and shallow... and for the first time... it felt like I was talking to nothing. There was this horrible overwhelming feeling that I was going to die here... in my sin... in my rebellion... without hope. And there was nothing I could do to stop it... because God wasn't answering...

- I tried to pray... I tried everything I knew to do. I cried bitter tears... but... nothing happened...

- I was verging on resigning myself to my fate. I was giving up. I had nothing left. My strength was totally gone. Who knew that the thing I most wanted gone... was the thing I needed most? Oh God!

- One morning... mom came in my room... and she sat down on the edge of my bed... and she said... I know something's going on. I don't need to know what it is... But you need to fix whatever it is. Because you can't go on like this. And it broke me! Oh God! Did it ever break me.

- The night before... I laid in bed all night begging God to break my heart. It felt so hard. And I just kept praying that He would break my heart. Whatever it took... “please God... Please! If you hear me! If you're listening! Please! Break my heart!” All night...

- And mom... was what it took...

- And God came back. Not that He ever left. I think He was there the whole time... just waiting until my heart was really ready to be fully His. Until I was truly ready to turn over my running shoes.

- We heard a pastor once preach about Jonah... He said when you run from God... the only place to go is down...

- Jonah went DOWN to Joppa. Then he went DOWN into the hull of the ship. Then he went DOWN into the sea. Then he went DOWN into the belly of the whale... And eventually... you get DOWN far enough... that becoming whale puke... is looking up.

- God allowed me to come to the end of myself... just so He could pick me up. Just so I could experience Grace. Just so... He could PROVE Himself. Because He truly is all He says He is. His character truly never changes... But in order for me to see that... and truly believe it... He had to allow me to be so low... that only HE could pull me back up...

- He is relentless in His love for you. And if it takes turning you into whale puke for you to be saved? He'll do it. Because our God is a God of second chances... and of extra miles... and of pulling up... and of a passion for His children.

- Galations 5:2-10
- Psalm 14
- Isaiah 54:4-10; 59:1-21
- Jeremiah 14:7-10; 31:15-22

vs. 6-12 SLEEPING

- “So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”

- Again... when bad things happen... when crises come... sometimes we're willing to look to anything in order to survive.... even gods we don't know... lol

- “Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit. “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”

- Casting lots was like... drawing straws. Whoever got the short one... well... you were “it”. Depending on what that meant... Sometimes lots were cast for good things... sometimes... for things like this...

- So the lots identified Jonah as the culprit. Now... I don't believe in chance. I think God had a hand in those lots... It's like trying to gamble against the house... the house always wins... cause it's always rigged in some way... lol :)

- The crew is a little ticked... They start asking all kinds of questions to try and figure out why this man's god is so mad at him! There has to be some horrible reason!

- “Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land. The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned. And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him. “What should we do to you to stop this storm?” “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”

- Okay so Jonah tells the sailors that he is running away from God... He knows exactly what he's doing... And now... their lives are forfeit. Not only is Jonah going through the storm... but he's inadvertently dragged an entire ship full of people into the storm with him!

- “Oh why did you do it?” hmm because he was stubborn? Because he was thinking about his own comfort? Because he was more concerned with the way HE thought things should go?

- Instead of Jonah getting down and begging God for forgiveness... or asking them to turn the ship around... He opts for being thrown into the sea... Still running... and still going down... Jonah REALLY didn't want to go to Nineveh... He would rather die... while running from God... than to go and offer the people of Nineveh a chance to repent... good grief...

- Sometimes in our running... we can get so mad and so focused on us... that we would rather die than admit we've been wrong... For those of us who are more stubborn... this is especially true...

- And it's not a good thing... it means that we will die in our sin... we will die rejecting God... and what will our eternity look like then?

- Psalm 107
- Romans 11:1-24


- “Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn't make it. Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah's God. “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don't make us die for this man's sin. And don't hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”

- Every action has reaction. No matter what you do... there is something that happens because of what you do... Whether it's just to you... or your entire family... or another family... or a chain reaction that starts with you and continues to the other side of the world...

- Before you walk away... before you choose to argue with God... before you choose to rebel... or even to postpone... think about the lengths God went to for Jonah... If God knows something needs done... and you're the only person who can do it? Or you're the best person for it? He's going to chase you down and turn you around...

- I've heard many times the phrase “well... if I don't do it, God will just get somebody else.” And He may... but that doesn't mean there won't be consequences for you for not doing as He asked...

- I heard a story once about a man I think in England... God came to him and said “I want you to start a ministry... before you answer... you're the seventh person I've asked and nobody will step forward... so will you step forward?” And he said, God... you won't have to look for an eighth.

- 7 people! If there are willing hearts... God will find them. He knows each person... But the bad thing? What happened to those other 7? And what did God have planned for this man's life that he now had to put aside for someone else to do? There may have been a better person for the job... a person who's life experiences better prepared him for this particular work... but instead, God had to search out someone else...

- This is not to say that God can't get the job done. If He calls you to a work... He will bring it to fruition. He just may have to do all the work... :)

- Proverbs 11:7
- Jeremiah 30:27-34
- II Timothy 2:11-13

vs. 15-16 INTO THE SEA

- “Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! The sailors were awestruck by the Lord's great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.”

- Well... if nothing else came from this whole ordeal... there were some sailors who definitely believed in God by the time it was all said and done. They had seen His power... and they believed...

- There are times when bad things lead us to fall down on our faces before God. Sometimes it takes huge events in our lives... huge storms... whether figuratively or literal... to make our blinded eyes see God...

- When those storms come, we have a choice. We can choose to become bitter and angry with God... or we can choose to fall down and worship His awesome power... Either way... it's up to us what kind of decision we make...

- Psalm 50

vs. 17 GULPED UP

- “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”

- “Ha! I'll show Him! I'll die in the sea... then I can't go to Nineveh!... oh... oops... well that didn't go quite like I'd planned...”

- Three days in the belly of a fish... yuck! I mean... forgetting the whole stomach acid thing... and the slow deterioration of flesh... and the smell... Jonah's plan had failed... and he was going down... again...

- There was a story about a fisherman... I forget how long ago... like the 30's I think... anyway, these fishermen caught a shark. And when they went to cut him open to gut him... there was a LIVE MAN inside the shark. He had swallowed him whole. He'd been in the shark for 2 days... his skin had been bleached. His hair had dissolved. He was starting to get these patches on his skin like burns where the acid was eating at him. But he was alive... Oh and I think his clothes had pretty much disintegrated.

- So now think about Jonah... 3 days... being slowly burned to death by acid. Oh man... painful much? He had to be in agony! Not only physically, but mentally. I mean he had tried to run from God... and God, instead of letting him die... put him in a fish for safe keeping! Oh to die! But no... that wasn't the plan...

- Now... I know this story is looked at as a parable by some... It just seems too off the wall to believe as being true...

- However, it was possible... as the fisherman above proves... And furthermore... if God wanted to get the people of Nineveh's attention... I mean a man walking out of the sea looking like an alien... was probably going to get it...

- Jonah's father's name is mentioned. He is given a place in a genealogy somewhere... That to me says that he was indeed a real person. And furthermore... Nineveh was a real city... which really did see a time of repentance. (Which usually doesn't just happen on its own...)

- Psalm 119

Jonah Introduction

Introduction to Jonah

Ah Jonah... the man with the plan. The man who ran. The man who... thought he could out-think God?

Have you ever seen the movie “Runaway Bride?” Well in this movie, the woman is engaged to I think 4 men at different times. Every time she gets close to the altar... she can't stand it and turns away and runs. At the end of the movie, she goes to the man she just ran out on... and turns in her running shoes. She is deciding not to run anymore.

We all are runners. We all try to do things on our own. We are given an assignment, or something is asked of us... and we run from it. Whether it's God asking initially for our hearts, or whether it's something He asks of us later in our walk with Him. We all have these times in which we question God's motives and purpose... and think that surely God made a mistake or we heard Him incorrectly...

This is the story of a persistent and relentless God. A God who refuses to give up.

It is a story of compassion... and redemption. No matter how far you fall, no matter how low you go... God will still seek you out so as to show His love to you and those around you.

It is a story of Grace. And forgiveness... even if unwilling forgiveness on the part of Jonah.

Following God is a choice... an active decision. Will you follow wherever He leads?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hebrews Chapter 13 (part 2)

Hebrews Chapter 13 (part 2)

vs. 5-6

- “Don't love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

- God is our provider. He gives us what we need. He never abandons us.

- This concept and idea of God is a hard one because of all the pain we see in our world. We look at starvation, natural disasters, diseases... all the things that afflict the world.

- And yet God says to be satisfied with what we have?

- Greed can strike at any economic level. Rich men who own major companies or run corporations... desire more companies, more money, more material things... they covet the things of other rich men... or perhaps... they covet the things of the poor man...

- The beggar in the street may look to the rich man and covet his money etc... or he may simply look at the man beside him on the street and want his coat rather than his own.

- A child has a new toy, but wants a “better” one... one like his brother's or his friend's.

- See II Samuel 11 and 12 for a story about David and the rebuke that he received from the prophet Nathan.

- Greed isn't always about money. It is about coveting the things of your neighbor... wanting it... not because you need it... but because he has it and you don't. You just can't stand to be outdone by someone else. Your pride gets in the way. Greed and pride go hand in hand. Your pride fuels your greed and vice versa.

- We want to be the best, or look the best, or have the most... and because we want to be seen as something great... we covet, or greatly desire, the things that would make us to be greater... and because of all that we gain... we see ourselves as greater than maybe we really are... and so goes the cycle... round and round and round...

- But God says to be satisfied with what you have... as in... quit looking at all the things other people have that you don't, and look at your basic needs. God provides what we need... although... not necessarily what we want.

- Is there desperate NEED in this world? Of course. There are millions of starving people who are in need of very basic things.. like food, clothing and shelter... So where is God in that? If God provides all our needs... why is there still need?

- A guy at church last week mentioned a Billy Graham quote. It was given during his speech on the National Day of Prayer on September 14, 2001... right after the attacks on the World Trade Center buildings.

- “I have been asked on hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign, and He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a "mystery." In 2 Thessalonians 2:7 it talks about the mystery of iniquity. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" He asked that question, "Who can understand it?" And that is one reason we each need God in our lives.” (Full message at:

- God is not evil... but in allowing us to have free will... He allowed us a choice of action.

- When sin entered God's creation... it ceased to fully be what He had purposed it to be. Sin caused evil to enter into this world. Adam in effect, turned God's earth over to the rule of Satan. God had given Adam rule over it... but when they sinned... Satan became king of the earth so to speak.

- So yes, there are bad things on this earth... but not because God put them there... they exist because their ruler is evil... and evil begets evil.

- Blaming God for all the problems in the world... is like blaming your car insurance company when you have an accident... It's a cop out.

- We are responsible for our own decisions. We can't blame the results of our decisions on God.

- Nor can we blame God for not warning us before we made a mistake... This week, one of the kids got in trouble during school. So he was being sent to the principal, and he was crying because “I didn't know it was a bad thing!” And so one of the teachers got down and asked a series of questions about the incident and they finally came to the conclusion that... yes indeed, he did understand exactly what he had done...

- God gave us His word. He came to earth and taught. He sends His spirit to dwell in us and lead us in right paths. If we choose not to follow... that's on us... not on God.

- God never leaves us... but if we choose to walk away from Him... that's a whole other story...

- Haggai 1:3-6
- I Timothy 6:6-11
- Ecclesiastes 5:8-15
- Philippians 4:11-13

vs. 7

- “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.”

- We aren't in this walk alone. If you think about a chain of people... there is always somebody in front and behind you. In this walk, we should be following someone's example... and in turn... someone should be following our example. This is the picture of discipleship in action. We are following... and we are leading.

- Someone in your life influenced you to walk down this path with Christ. Who was it? A family member? A friend? A total stranger?

- What was it about their lives, or their witness, that drew you to them? Drew you to want something that they had in their life that you felt was lacking in your own?

- Maybe it was something they said... maybe it was something they did. Maybe it was just simply that they took time to listen to you and helped when they could. Maybe it was some tough love. Maybe they told you when you were wrong...

- There had to be somebody...

- Maybe it was after you came to Christ on your own. Was there someone in that first church who took you under their wing and showed you the ropes so to speak? Was there an older man or woman of God who you looked up to in the faith?

- We should find people in our lives to follow. Not necessarily just one...

- A friend of mine once said that he was watching all the men in his life to see what kind of characteristics or attributes they had in the different aspects of their lives. Who were they as fathers, brothers, husbands, etc. And then he was looking at his own life and trying to consciously work on things he thought he was lacking. But it wasn't just one man. It was a lot of different men in his life.

- What he discovered was that where one was strong... others were weak... and vice versa. No one was perfect.

- The same goes for us. None of us are perfect... but if we find a place where we are weak... we should find someone who is strong... and look to their example to follow.

- The funny thing is... as we follow them... they may also be following us...

- We should always be ready to lead... and to follow.

- Luke 14:25-35
- III John 1:11
- I Corinthians 4:14-16; 11:1
- II Thessalonians 3:6-15

vs. 8-16

- “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. You strength comes from God's grace, not from rules about food, which don't help those who follow them.”

- God doesn't change. His character is set. He doesn't change His mind about what is right and good. His moral code hasn't changed over the years.

- So when new ideas pop up saying that God is love and won't judge anybody... or when they say that there is no hell... or that God is just one of many gods... or that God doesn't care anymore... go back to the word... what does it tell you about God's character?

- Our God is a God of love... sure... but He's also a God of justice... and wrath. He's a God who is just in all His judgments. Hell is still there... it hasn't moved... When He said He was the only God... He didn't decide that He was lonely or overworked and added some other gods into the mix to help Him out...

- Everybody has their own view of God... and sometimes... they get a little twisted. Sometimes they get vastly publicized... Sometimes they gain many followers... Sometimes, they just make enough noise to create some doubt among a few close friends...

- Satan will use anything to confuse us... including Christ. He'll take everything we know about God... and try to twist it so we think we've found something that isn't right with Who God is...

- Love is a big one. People don't like to think that God is mean. Nor do they like to think that there will be consequences for their actions. Especially when there are loved ones who have died living life the way they wanted... We don't like to think that God would allow the people we love to go to a place like hell.

- So... Satan puts that thought there... “well if God is love... He wouldn't be that cruel... there can't be a hell with a loving God like that...”

- And so... what consequences are there for our actions? If we're all going to go to heaven anyway... what's the point in keeping ourselves from enjoying all the things that are possible in this life?

- Next thing you know? You're not worried about what God thinks anymore... cause He is loving... and He won't judge you... right? Wrong...

- God doesn't change... so the Old Testament God? Is still the New Testament God. New covenant maybe... but same rules...

- When it's talking about the food... that's going back the Judiazers. They were trying to teach that we still had to follow the Old Testament law in addition to following Christ.

- Old Testament law was given as a mirror... as a shadow of what was to come. It was given as a plan... a leading to something new and better. God didn't change... but our daily practice did.

- See, under the old law, a sheep or goat took the consequences for our sins. In the new law... Christ took it all once and for all... the whole world... nothing missing...

- We no longer have to make those sacrifices. We don't have to go out in the field and find a lamb and take it to the temple to sacrifice. That's one of those things that is done away with... and if that is done away with... it's easier to see that the things that went along with temple sacrifice are done away with as well as with the old system.

- There is a difference between being ceremonially pure and pure of heart. The old system called for ceremonial cleanliness. But when Christ came... the body being clean on the outside wasn't enough anymore...

- The new covenant made things harder... not easier... no longer were- outward appearances enough to get by on. We can't just do good things and make outward sacrifices. It's a matter of the heart... that only God can see... we can bring as many offerings as we like... but it doesn't change God's view of our hearts...

- The new covenant is based on relationship... not on what we eat or drink. It's not about what we take into our bodies, or what we do with our bodies... it's about the life we live and the decisions we make as to Who we follow.

- “We have an altar from which the priests in the Tabernacle have no right to eat. Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of His own blood. So let us go out to Him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace He bore. For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

- footnote- “The Jewish Christians were being ridiculed and persecuted by Jews who didn't believe in Jesus the Messiah. Most of the book of Hebrews tells them how Christ is greater than the sacrificial system. Here the writer drives home the point of his lengthy argument: It may be necessary to leave the “camp” and suffer with Christ. To be outside the camp meant to be unclean—in the days of the Exodus, those who were ceremonially unclean had to stay outside the camp. But Jesus suffered humiliation and uncleanness outside the Jerusalem gates on their behalf. The time had come for Jewish Christians to declare their loyalty to Christ above any other loyalty, to choose to follow the Messiah whatever suffering that might entail. They needed to move outside the safe confinement of their past, their traditions, and their ceremonies to live for Christ. What holds you back from complete loyalty to Jesus Christ?”

- It is time my friends to stand up for something we believe in. When I was looking for the Billy Graham quote today, I stumbled across one of his others: “The most prominent place in hell is reserved for those who are neutral on the great issues of life.”

- Jesus was not popular. He was not rich. He was not famous... maybe infamous... He was not held in high esteem... He was a wanderer. He was homeless... His own family thought he'd lost His mind.

- To follow Christ... is not popular. It's not easy. It doesn't mean that you'll have tons of friends... It doesn't mean you'll be successful. It doesn't even mean that your family will love you more...

- Quite to the contrary... it means that once you start this journey... you have embarked on a road filled with stones and hard places. Mountains to climb, deserts to traverse. There will be times of oasis... but... sometimes it may feel like they are few and far between.

- But you can't ride the fence! Christ doesn't let you into heaven if you're half saved... you're either in or you're out... there's no in between. So even if it means moving out of your comfort zone... and facing the booing and torment of the crowds... it's time to stand up for Christ. He stood up for you in a BIG way... will you do the same for Him?

“Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to His Name. And don't forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.”

- God wants our hearts. He doesn't want our actions... The old covenant was all about action. It wasn't about wanting to do something for others or for God because you LOVED God... it was about looking like you were doing everything right...

- The new covenant is about loving God first.... and doing things for others BECAUSE you love God. When you see a need... you love with GOD'S heart. When you feel down... you praise anyway, because God sees the big picture... and your life... is not about moments... it's a bigger picture... you are one thread in a gigantic tapestry... so rejoice! Praise! Lift your voice to glorify God! Because even when things are difficult for our one string... the whole tapestry is being woven together to show the world the BIG picture of God's plan from the beginning...

- The author said “a continual SACRIFICE of praise.” It's not always easy to praise God. You don't always feel like singing praise songs, or speaking about the great things God has done... But we are to make the sacrifice... stop worrying about ourselves... and look outside our thread. We're not alone in our battles... and God is ultimately triumphant... so the sacrifice... is one of giving up self-pity and self-absorption... and saying... “God, I'll praise you anyway...”

- Psalm 50
- Jeremiah 31:31-34
- I Samuel 16:7

vs. 17

- “Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.”

- Our spiritual leaders are there to help guide us. They are not there as a burden to us. So when they correct us in our walk... we should do what they say.

- Now I know there have been leaders who have fallen themselves and who have NOT been the best of examples, or the best ones to follow in the long run... however... it says that they are held accountable to God...

- If someone is leading you... and you are following, trusting that they are following God... then they are accountable for your soul...

- That doesn't mean you can decide to follow someone because you know they're not living exactly where they should and so you can get by with not being exactly right yourself...

- Following anyone still means testing everything against the Word. Blind following probably isn't a good idea... but if it's a spiritual leader, like a pastor, telling you that you need to check or change something in your life? You need to check it out...

- Our job as followers is to make leading easy... So they can do their jobs with Joy... not Sorrow...

- I've heard this saying passed around our house a lot... “If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy...” Meaning that if the boss lady is upset... she's gonna make life miserable for everybody else as well... (this does not describe my mother... but we pass it around as a joke...)

- If your pastor is upset or unhappy or having a hard time because of you or somebody else in the congregation... he's not going to approach his Sunday morning sermons the same way... it's going to be a little harder to get down and pray for a word for his congregation when he's struggling with what to do with the problem. And if the problem persists and a change is refused... then he's REALLY got something to worry about... not only how it will effect the church as a whole or you individually on the surface... but your souls for eternity!

- I Peter 5:1-11

vs. 18-25

- The author concludes with some blessings/prayer for the readers and prayer requests... much as we should when we talk to fellow believers.

- “Pray for us, for our conscience is clear and we want to live honorably in everything we do. And especially pray that I will be able to come back to you soon. Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with His blood—may He equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him. All Glory to Him forever and ever! Amen. I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, to pay attention to what I have written in this brief exhortation. I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released from jail. If he comes here soon, I will bring him with me to see you. Greet all your leaders and all the believers there. The believers from Italy send you their greetings. May God's grace be with you all.”

- As an ending, I think this is wonderful, so I'll just say that as a model, this is a great way to end a conversation... a great way to think about each other... to pray that the rest of the body would be built up... and to expect that they can also pray for you in the same manner...

- “May God's grace be with you all...” :)

- Philippians 2:12-18
- Ephesians 4:1-5:20