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

Happy studying!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hebrews Chapter 12 (part 1)

Hebrews Chapter 12: 1-13

vs. 1-4: RUN THE RACE

- “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

- footnote- “This “huge crowd of witnesses” is composed of the people described in chapter 11. Their faithfulness is a constant encouragement to us. We do not struggle alone, and we are not the first to struggle with the problems we face. Others have run the race and won, and their witness stirs us to run and win also. What an inspiring heritage we have!”

- I heard a sermon once (whether the evangelist's own idea, or the Greek, I can't remember...) about the picture of this verse. So imagine the Olympics. You are preparing to run a race. You stand on your marks surrounded by thousands of onlookers. The coliseum is full to capacity... and then some. In the crowd sits men and women... who lived out their lives in this faith already. There are the disciples and Paul. Cornelius. Nicodemus. Your grandmother. Maybe an ancestor from 7 generations ago. Wesley. Martin Luther. Some died for this faith. Some just lived out a life of faith and hardly ever saw adversity. But they all finished their race.

- And now... they sit and cheer you on for your race. They know what it is to run this race. They too were athletes. They too trained, and were tried.

- Now here you are. Ready to run your own race. It's not a sprint. It's not a short race. It's a distance run. One that requires pacing, and strength, and patience. And a WHOLE lot of faith.

- But in order to run the race well... we have to strip off anything that holds us back.

- Have you ever watched the Olympic races? No matter if it's a short race or a long one... the runners wear the bare minimum. Their shoes are extra light, their clothes are just enough to cover them... and still made of very light material and very tight to the body. There's nothing to cause a barrier in the wind as they run. Some of them even wear head coverings so that their hair won't slow them down in the wind current.

- We have to strip off anything that slows us down... namely... sin. Anything in our lives that distracts us from running the race... we have to get rid of it...

- In I Corinthians 9:24-27 says: “Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplines in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”

- So many times in this race... we find ourselves becoming apathetic. Or we get distracted by things on the sidelines. Or somebody throws something in front of us on the track to make us stumble...

- If we discipline ourselves in our training... yes we may sometimes fail... but if we press forward and stay focused on the goal of gaining/winning the ultimate prize, then our steps will have purpose, direction, and meaning. We will not be shadowboxing... and we will not be disqualified. In the Greek Olympics, the winner was given a crown made of grapevines which was already starting to wither, but everyone who finishes this race is a winner. There are no 1st and 2nd place winners. Everyone who finishes receives a crown of eternal life which will never wither and no one can take it away!

- Discipline is hard. It means walking away from things we may strongly desire... It means avoiding “fun” distractions. It means choosing friends and associates carefully.

- Jeremiah 12:5-6 also speaks about running a race... “If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan? Even your brothers, members of your own family, have turned against you. They plot and raise complaints against you. Do not trust them no matter how pleasantly they speak.”

- In other words... if you can't even deal with men... how are you going to deal with spiritual warfare? If you can't take the words of men, or the actions of men... and learn to run the race anyway... not to let it effect your focus on the goal... then how are you going to deal with it when Satan comes and bombards you with all that you've done wrong? If you fall on easy ground... what will happen when hard things come? If you can't stand when there's no adversity... how will you stand when conflict comes... and sometimes... it comes from those closest to you...

- Even your brother... “do not trust them no matter how pleasantly they speak...” man... that's HARD! That's a rough statement... I mean... they're family! They're supposed to love you, help you, build you up! Not... scheme against you waiting for you to fall!

- So how do we stay focused? How do we run the race without fail?

- “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne. Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people, then you won't become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.”

- Christ came as a man. Oh sure... He was God in flesh... but that doesn't mean His pain was dulled any... He perhaps felt it more keenly even... because He knew what was at stake if He gave up... He knew what would happen if He decided to quit... He literally had the weight of the world on His shoulders...

- If we look to Christ's example... maybe it doesn't make things any easier in the moment... but it does help to think that someone else has been there... done that... and the reward was great... even if the cost was just as great...

- Philippians 3:12-4:1
- I Peter 2:21-25
- Ephesians 4:17-6:20


- “And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as His children? He said, “My child, don't make light of the Lord's discipline, and don't give up when He corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.”

- Oh boy... So... God disciplines us to encourage us? That sounds... backwards...

- However... this is the point... If you are a parent, it is your job to teach your child how to live life as an adult. Teaching them how to discipline themselves as well as teaching them lessons through discipline. If a child is not disciplined, they do not understand right and wrong. They do not see other people as important... because they become extremely selfish. They do not understand the need to behave according to moral, ethic, or social codes of conduct.

- So I'm an elementary teacher... I complain about this ALL the time...

- It feels like every year, the incoming kindergarten class is worse than the last year. The kids are so out of hand. They think they can get away with murder. We spend more time just trying to keep them sort of under control, that they don't get the amount of instruction that they should.

- This week, we were coming up on break, and I literally... just about every class this week, I had to stop class because a kid was screaming at me... either because they didn't want to do something, or because I took away something they were playing with, or because they didn't like something I was doing... and I mean... screaming. Not just... “hey why do we have to do this...” I mean sitting in the floor SCREAMING and crying and beating their heads off the wall...

- Why? Weeeeeeeeeell... mainly because their parents let them get away with screaming and yelling and throwing fits to get their way... partly because it was time for break and they were excited about the snow that was starting to come down and didn't really want to focus on class. And partly because... well... they don't really see much wrong with that kind of behavior. It's a means to an end... and they don't care if they disrupt class or hurt somebody's feelings... they're concerned with how THEY are feeling right at that moment.

- If God does not discipline us... we won't be following Him...

- Pastor has been making the statement the last week or so that you can claim the name of Christ... and not be a disciple of Christ. You can call yourself a Christian all you want... but until you live out the life... well... you're not a Christian.

- Without discipline... we can't follow Christ. So God in His mercy and grace, disciplines us so as not to lose us.

- Without discipline... we will go to our graves sinners... and we will NOT make it into heaven. We won't finish the race... and we will not gain the prize.

- So since God calls us His children, and because He loves us so much... He disciplines us...

- “As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn't discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really His children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn't we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God's discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in His holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it's painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (When I was about 4 or 5 years old, my dad sat me on his lap and was hugging me and he asked me if I knew how much he loved me? I hugged him back and said yes. He then asked me how I knew he loved me and my answer shocked him. I told him it was because he whipped my butt! Today I see that was right on. Because he didn't want me to grow up throwing fits, doing all the wrong things, or being mean, he punished me. Did he have to punish me often? No. Mom always says she never had a problem with my brother or I after we tuned 2 years old. Maybe once or twice we had a fight, but if you are consistent and diligent to set limits and punish when those limits are exceeded, kids learn quickly and become obedient and well adjusted. If you are inconsistent with your punishment and only discipline in anger, then the child will always try you and you will always be pushed to act in anger not love). Did my dad really love me because he whipped my butt? My dad would hold me and tell me how much he loved me and how it would hurt him more than it hurt me and I knew when I looked in his eyes that he was telling the truth. Maybe we just need to look into God's eyes when we are punished.

- You know... as I look at my students... I have to wonder what they'll be like when they grow up... If they stay on the same path... and they never accept any kind of discipline...

- They will never hold down a job. They will never like having a boss. They will never be able to live in a marriage relationship without fighting all the time. They'll probably end up divorced. Because they will fight and argue all the time... their anger issues will become worse. They will probably get in trouble a lot for fighting. They may turn to drugs or alcohol... because someone tells them they can't... or because they want to FEEL something other than just the mundane... They may end up in prison. They may not finish school... because they won't see a need for it... or desire to excel in anything because they think the world owes THEM something... and therefore they will expect that we hand feed them everything for the remainder of their lives...

- The difference between the kids with discipline at home... and those without... is as clear as a kindergarten coloring page...

- I did a turkey coloring page this week for thanksgiving... we learned a turkey dance and then we talked about what colors turkeys were and how they should color them.

- Some of the kids did very well. They stayed in the lines, they took their time, they followed directions about color schemes... and they turned out with very nice turkeys.

- Other kids... *sigh* Had pink and purple and green turkeys... we even had a few rainbow turkeys... they scribbled every which way... they drew their own little additions to the turkey. They put shoes on him or they drew in something for him to hold with his... “hands”.

- I'd walk around and remind them about colors or remind them to color in all the white places and make sure they stayed in the lines... and they'd look up at me like... “so? Why do I need to do that?” And then go right on with whatever it was they were doing...

- Did they follow directions? no... Did they have patience in the work? no... Did they learn anything from the activity? Apparently not... If I asked them after we get back about the color of a turkey... there's probably going to be some of them that yell out “pink!” Because it's their favorite color... and they can't see past the fact that they like everything to be that color...

- When God moves in to discipline in our lives... it's not a bad thing... it's not because He's mean... He's just trying to teach you something. If He lets us color outside the lines and scribble all the time or doesn't make us learn which colors go where... we'll never be able to sit down and make a masterpiece. It will always look like child's play. And our lives... will never mature past kindergarten. We'll stagnate and die spiritually... and what do we have to show for it? Pink turkeys...

- “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”

- So despite feeling like God's picking on you... or feeling like life is just too hard right now... or feeling like you're just getting beat up... take a new grip. Take a deep breath, stand up, mark out the path... and move forward.

- You know... when we're working in the garden in the summer... there's a lot of times when we're out hoeing in the potato patch... that I just get SO TIRED! (I hate hoeing potatoes...) It seems like the row goes on for FOREVER! There's never an end to it! My back aches, my hands are raw, my feet are sore... and we're only halfway done... (we plant A LOT of potatoes... by the way...)

- So usually... about the time I feel like I'm just ready to go sit down and never get up again... I'll mark out a point to stop. “okay... I'll work until I get to that triangular rock there... or that fence post... and then I'll take a water break.” And sometimes, I just keep doing that without taking a break. “Okay well... you made it this far... go a little farther and then go in...” And before you know it... the row's done... and we move on to the next one.

- So take a new grip on things. The race isn't over. It's not time to sit down and take a nap... It's not time to give up. It's time to mark out the path, look at the long-term goals, and move forward. Cause if you don't move forward... you're just going to sit in the sun and bake your brain... lol You're never gonna make it to a water break... and you'll die in your apathy...

- You are not lame. You are not weak. Because you are living in Christ. And in Christ... no such thing exists. “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me...” It's not your strength... it's HIS. So take His strength, accept His help, and move forward in the race... so that you too... can one day say “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give me on the day of His return...” and He will say... “Well done, my good and faithful servant...”

- II Timothy 4:6-8
- Matthew 25:21
- Lamentations 3
- Revelation 3:15-22

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