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Category Archives: Christmas

Herod vs. the Church, part 2

6 The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. 7Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists. 8The angel said to him, ‘Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.’ He did so. Then he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ 9Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. 11Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’ (Acts 12:6-11, NRSV)

Has something happened that you were not able to explain that saved you from something?

It is hard for us to hear these kinds of stories and believe them because it is too far fetched. It doesn’t make sense that this would happen so how did it happen?

Why do we need to understand how something happened to believe it can happen? I mean it makes it easier when science explains how something happens, but that doesn’t mean if science can’t explain it that it can’t happen.

Faith is believing what can’t be seen or proven. It is having the hope that what we are told is true.

Miracles happen every day. Just believe!

 

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Comfort for Weeping Rachel

Thus says the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. Thus says the Lord: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord: they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future, says the Lord: your children shall come back to their own country. Indeed I heard Ephraim pleading: “You disciplined me, and I took the discipline; I was like a calf untrained. Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God. For after I had turned away I repented; and after I was discovered, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was dismayed because I bore the disgrace of my youth.” Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he the child I delight in? As often as I speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore I am deeply moved for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord. Set up road markers for yourself, make yourself guideposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went. Return, O virgin Israel, return to these your cities. How long will you waver, O faithless daughter? For the Lord has created a new thing on the earth: a woman encompasses a man. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its towns when I restore their fortunes: “The Lord bless you, O abode of righteousness, O holy hill!” And Judah and all its towns shall live there together, and the farmers and those who wander with their flocks. I will satisfy the weary, and all who are faint I will replenish. (Jeremiah 31:15-25, NRSV)

Even when we feel we have lost it all and turned away from God, God still has mercy on us. When we are weeping or inconsolable God still is with us. Even when we are stuck in our misery God doesn’t give up on us.

God is always with us. Even when we turn away, even when we are unfaithful. God is always faithful and with us.

 

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A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3, NRSV)

Fix your eyes upon Jesus the author and perfector of our faith is how I remember learning this verse, back when I was 17. Jesus was the one who created our faith and he perfected it in the man who walked this earth and showed us how to love and live the law of God. Jesus went to the cross for each for us. So we should follow his example.

If you can’t see the back of Jesus’ head, your focus is off and you aren’t looking the right way.

Fix your eyes on the cross and know He will never lead you astray.

 

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More Examples of Faith

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:32-40, NRSV)

There are so many we lift high in the bible that are pillars of our faith. They help see the wonderful things God can do through the life of one who follows after God.

And all of those lifted up in Hebrews chapter 11 are there not because they always got everything right, and they did what God wants us to do all the time. If you think that I suggest you read the Hebrew Scriptures again, especially on Moses, Abraham, Gideon, Samson, and especially David. They were not role models we would want for our kids, and yet they are the pillars of our faith, why?

Because they ultimately had faith in God and trusted in the promises. They were not perfect but they perfectly trusted in God!

 

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Freedom through Faith

By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace. (Hebrews 11:23-31, NRSV)

Moses started out as a basket case. He was hidden from the authorities by his parents because they were killing Israelite male babies. And then when he got to old to keep hidden they put him in a basket and put that in the river. Then he grew up in the house of Pharoh. Moses did not always do what was supposed to be done. Moses killed an Egyptian guard and then fled Egypt because of it, but God still used him.

We can fall away from God and know that God is still with us.

God will never leave us, if we just trust in him everything will work out.

 

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Abraham’s Faith

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.”He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, “bowing in worship over the top of his staff.” By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial. (Hebrews 11:8-22, NRSV)

Abraham left everything behind to follow after where God was sending him. He believed that his descendants would outnumber the stars in the sky and the sand of the beach. Abraham was tested to offer his only son to God when he waited so long for him.

Would we pass the tests?

Would we keep the faith?

Abraham didn’t do everything right, but he had faith in God. Can you hold to your faith in God?

 

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A Heritage of Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith. (Hebrews 11:1-7, NRSV)

Faith is knowing something is true even when you can not prove it.

Faith is trusting that something is true even when you can not prove it.

And Hebrews chapter 11 sets out and tells us about people of faith from the Bible, those that trusted God. They didn’t always do the right thing, but in the end, they always trusted God.

Do you have faith in God?

Do you believe His promises are true?

 

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