Posts Tagged ‘Epistle to the Hebrews’



October 18, 2013

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:28

VinothChandar / Foter / CC BY

All of life should be worship gratefully offered to God for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  I consider how many hours of my day that I live in a manner that will probably be determined as unacceptable.  I hate to think of the times I have stood in Church singing “How Great Thou Art” with a wandering mind.  Acceptable worship does not just happen by the action.  The motivation for worship determines whether it is acceptable to God.

We continually develop opinions regarding moral motivation.  I try to discern the motivation of people all the time.  We strive to know a person’s motivation because it deeply matters to most of us.  It matters because our response to an action is often weighed based on the actor’s moral motivation.

I respond to the disobedience of my kids differently depending upon whether they are willfully being disrespectful or just being a kid.

I will take an elbow to the head if it is an accident.  I will respond differently if it was flung with intent to hurt me.

I have different opinions regarding a person who steals to feed his family and the one who steals to buy crack.

BrittneyBush / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Most of us have experienced that our actions stem from both belief and desire.  Belief is insufficient to get us off our couch.  In addition to belief, we need a desire to open the door to action.  This is why we seek so diligently to try and understand a person’s moral motivation when their actions seem to contradict their belief.  Actions that are inconsistent with our belief stem from a failure in desire.

I believe that consistent exercise is fundamental to my health; however, my desire to relax often keeps me on the porch.

I believe that overeating will give me a pot-belly; however, my desire to have a full belly often keeps me at the table.

I believe that hell exists; however, my desire to look sensible often keeps my mouth shut.

I believe that obedience to God’s commands, living according to the Spirit, is necessary to please God; however, my desire to please my flesh often keeps me at the trough of all sorts of iniquities.

The Humean view of moral motivation holds that beliefs aim to fit the world, desires aim to change the world. (Moral Motivation)  Our beliefs reflect how we see the world.  My beliefs reflect a world view as revealed in the Bible.  I have experienced the Bible to be true and trustworthy.  Therefore, my beliefs fit the world as I understand it to be.  It is a mind-to-world direction of fit.

On the other hand, desires have a world-to-mind direction of fit.  Our desires attempt to change the world to what we want it to be.  This is where our actions often become inconsistent.

Severin Sadjina / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

My desires will vacillate from wanting the world to make much of God to wanting it to make much of me.  I still have sinful desires that effect what I want the world to be.  Those sinful desires result in acts that are inconsistent with my beliefs.

Inconsistent actions are why we will develop opinions of a person’s moral motivation.  When two people do the same action based on two completely different beliefs (worldviews) but the same desire, the result is differing moral motivations.  Two people can have the same action based on the same belief but vastly different desires.  The result is differing moral motivations.

God requires that both our beliefs and desires to be aligned with His will for our actions to be pleasing to Him. Therefore, acceptable worship only comes when both our beliefs and desires are aligned with God’s will.

A person can do many righteous actions but if they don’t believe in the God of the Bible then their works are like filthy rags.

A person can do keep all of the commandments but if their desire is for a love other than God then those works are worthless.

My worship problem is not an effort problem.  My worship problem is a moral motivation problem.  I don’t want to waste my life.  I don’t want my works to be worthless.  I want my life to be a pleasing fragrance to the King.

For those actions to happen, I need to know my problem.

I need the Spirit to help me through my unbelief in all its forms. 
I need a heart that loves God more than anything else.

Fortunately, the Spirit will complete both of those works while I am walking with Him and setting my mind on the things of the Spirit.  Then my steps will be acceptable worship to the consuming fire who is my God.

PRAYER: Lord, you know that I struggle with a worship problem.  Forgive me for all the time that I have wasted in doubt, worry, and unbelief.  Forgive me for all the time that I have wastes loving other things more than you.  Thank you for welcoming me to a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  Thank you for sending your Spirit to help with my worship problem.  Help me in my unbelief.  Help me to love you more and more.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.


“ENDURING FAITH: Breathing” – Oct 6

October 6, 2013

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.””  Hebrews 10:36-38

Walking in the Spirit is not a sprint. 

It is a marathon and we need endurance for a marathon.

This is the third post exploring three principles from physical endurance that seem analogous to our spiritual endurance.  The pervious posts were ENDURING FAITH: The Heart and ENDURING FAITH: Fuel.  Today, I want to think about how proper breathing helps us to endure.


The Cold SmokeBreathing is an essential function of life.  Our lungs fill with air without a conscience thought.  Even while asleep our need of oxygen is satisfied.  In fact, we are incapable of not breathing.  Just attempt to hold your breath for an extended period and you will discover your inherent requirement to breathe.

We all become aware of this essential function when we don’t get enough of it.  A nasty head cold can transform us into the most uncouth of mouth breathers when plugged sinuses force our bodies to seek an alternate air passage.  A prolonged dive into the depths will send us scrabbling to the water’s surface.  An extended note can necessitate a unmelodic gasp prior to the next verse.  An asthma attack jars us to the scary reminder of our reliance upon every breath.

Tired RunnerAs our body’s demand for oxygen increases, proper breathing becomes even more importance.  I have spent my share of time bent over in submission to my lungs’ demand for appeasement.  I have lain on the couch after a long bike ride or run, panting in short, shallow breaths trying to hold off a coughing fit.

Our lungs respond to an activity’s demand for oxygen.  The ability to continue mile after mile relies upon the ability of our lungs to keep pace with that oxygen demand.  We have no oxygen reserves so every breath becomes important as we continue in an endurance event.

Sufficient breathing facilitates endurance.

Recently, I listened to a podcast by Ben Greenfield entitled “How to Breathe the Right Way When You’re Working-out”.  Ben interviewed Dr. John Douillard, who advocates deep nasal breathing while working out.

Dr. Douillard stresses that deep nasal breathing has two primary benefits.  Those deep breaths, particularly through the nose, fills the outer lobes of the lungs, which increases the amount of oxygen pulled into the body and the volume of waste, carbon dioxide, removed in the exhale.

meditationThe other benefit comes when deep breaths expand the lungs.  This stimulates the nerves at the bottom of the diaphragm, which relax the body.  It is why most mediation techniques involve deep breathing.  Dr. Douillard asserts that this sort of deep breathing, through the nose, is the best way for an athlete to get into the Zone.

The Zone is that perfect balance between speed and comfort when you feel like you can just keep going forever.  We flow in the Zone when we have the peaceful feeling of being loose and relaxed and we can stop worrying about technique and form.

Endurance requires that relaxed and comfortable state of the Zone. 

I have been working on my breathing while cycling and running because unnecessary tension consumes energy.  I think that the deep nasal breath does work.  I have found that I am more relaxed and comfortable when I focus on really moving some air deep into my lungs.  However, it is hard.  I have to concentrate on my breathing.  I have to be intentional.  My mind will drift and suddenly I will realize that I am once again not breathing properly.  It takes more work to expand my diaphragm to take deep breaths, rather than the short gasps that I am inclined to do when I start to fatigue.  My natural response is to take quick, shallow breaths through my mouth.  That does the job, since it keeps me from passing out, but I am giving up all the benefits of deep breathing by not being intentional.  Proper breathing is just another skill that has to be developed until it becomes second nature.

There are a lot of Christians who have never learned to spiritually breathe.

Many Christians labor along the narrow path as if they are out of breath and energy.  There are so many uptight inhabitants of pews who struggle under the cares of this world.  The child of God who is loose and comfortable, abounding in joy through all circumstances seems to be the exception.

Worried Man with Debt and BillsAll one has to do is listen and we will discover that worry is the favorite pastime of many.  Conversations abound in our anxiety about our future, spouse, kids, parents, job, retirement, the weather, crime, looking dumb, what someone thinks, and on and on.  There are some who seem to revel in worry.  They use it as a description of their personality, “I am just a worrier”.  They delight in anxiety to the point that they manufacture things to worry about.  That is not hard to do.

The seeds for anxiety are plentiful in this world. 

However, we rarely consider the impact of worrying upon the endurance of our faith.  Worry throws the wet blanket of darkness over the joy of our salvation.  Often, depression is resuscitated by the mouth-to-mouth of anxiety.

Worry consumes spiritual strength because it is unbelief in disguise.

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  (Luke 12:22-23)

But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown in to the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (Luke 12:28)

The opposite of faith is unbelief.  When our actions reveal that we are motivated by little faith, then we know that our hearts are a harbor for unbelief.  We cannot run the good race when we are delighting in the unbelief of worry.

Spiritual breathing cures the asphyxiation of a worrying soul.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:5-7)

The Sick Man by Vasili Maximov (1881), portray...Spiritual breathing happens when we come before our Father in prayer and supplication, and with a thankful heart make our requests be known to Him.  Praying fills our faith with the reality of God’s promises and eliminates the destructive waste of anxiety.  Short little gasps of prayer are better than nothing but they are not as effective as deep, meditative prayer.

We receive the peace of God when we come to him in prayer.  It is the peace of God that enables us to live a peaceful life.  It is the peace of God that enables us to abound in joy through all circumstances.

Living in the peace of God is key to enduring faith.

We know that in this world we are going to have troubles and suffering.  We all will have to battle with the anxiety that those circumstances will create.  Therefore, we need to be intentional when we feel tension of anxiety.  It is at those times when we need to concentrate on breathing deeply on the promises of God.

We need to know what God has promised to his children.  We need to have a list of the promises that address our favorite worries.  And then, we need to come to our heavenly Father in prayer through faith.

Enduring faith knows what it believes.
Enduring faith knows what we have been promised.
Enduring faith believes that God will be faithful to keep His promises.

Spiritual breathing keeps us in the spiritual zone where we are relaxed in all circumstance and can just keep walking in the Spirit forever.  The peace that passes all understanding flows from the prayers of enduring faith to our faithful and loving Father.

However, we have to be intentional.  My mind will easily drift from God’s promises and suddenly I will realize that I am once again not really spending time in meaningful prayer.  It takes work to find time to pray.  It takes effort to focus my mind in prayer, rather than the short gasps that I am inclined to do when I start to get anxious.  My natural response is to make quick, short, shout-outs to God in my desperation.  That is good, since it keeps me from completely succumbing, but I am giving up all the benefits of deep spiritual breathing by not being intentional.

Proper spiritual breathing is just another spiritual discipline that has to be developed until it becomes second nature but it is so important for the endurance of our faith.

So, let’s breath deeply.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the peace that passes all of my understanding.  Thank you for enabling me to know joy in joyless circumstances.  Thank you for listening to my prayers.  Thank you for being faithful to all that you have promised me.  Forgive me for acting in unbelief by worrying about the cares of this world.  Lord, you know that I want live by faith.  You know that I want to breathe deeply in You.  Lord, help me in my unbelief.  Help be to live by faith.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.


“ENDURING FAITH: Fuel” – Oct 2

October 2, 2013

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.””  Hebrews 10:36-38

I don’t know of anyone who wants to be a quitter.  Who has aspirations of being the weakest link?  I have never met a person who started their new life in Christ by setting their spiritual thermostat to lukewarm.

Yet, it happens to a lot of us.  I will venture to suggest that it has happened to the majority of us for at least a short period of time in our life.  That is why the Bible is full of encouragement to persevere and to endure.  We would not need to be reminded to fight the good fight if we were not inclined to stop fighting.

Walking in the Spirit is not a sprint.  It is a marathon and we need endurance for a marathon.

This is the second post exploring three principles from physical endurance that seem analogous to our spiritual endurance.  The first post was ENDURING FAITH: The Heart.  Today, I want to think about the fuel we need to endure.


81191-2478-030fMy personal experiences of  “hitting the wall” have never been pleasant and have always made the road home very difficult.  I had thought that the mysterious wall, lurking out at some unknown distance could be eluded with improved fitness.  However, colliding with the wall has little to do with one’s fitness level.  Most of us have seen incredibly fit athletes stumbling against their personal encounter with the wall.  The wall always wins.

Hitting the wall” only becomes a concern when you have developed enough endurance to reach it.  Typically, the wall begins to become an obstacle once you engage in a continual workout that lasts longer than 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  Up until that time, most people are using the energy stored in their muscles and liver.   The collision with the wall happens when your body consumes all of its energy reserves and runs simply out of fuel.

The problems arise when we try to keep going when our internal tanks are empty.  Proper fueling is necessary to avoid this problem for the longer endurance challenges.  I don’t worry about eating anything when I do an Olympic distance triathlon.  I don’t need to bother with eating during the event since that distance is within my reserves.  However, I have to eat throughout a century ride.  I have to supply my body with energy to keep going for that type of distance.

Many people do not approach life like an endurance event.  They live like fueling their souls is optional.  Many professing Christians misunderstand the roller coaster nature of their spiritual lives.  They want to think of their spiritual highs and lows as a normal process when in reality their lives are more like a pattern of repeatedly hitting the spiritual wall.  They endure for a while until they run out of fuel from their last spiritual experience and end up on the curb, feeling horrible and miserable.  At that point, the process of recovery and restoration has to start once again to get them back on their feet.

The long walk in the Spirit requires endurance.  A life-time of good fighting requires fuel.  Just like a long endurance event requires fueling along the way, spiritual fuel must be consumed along the way of an enduring life.  Jesus instructs us about this spiritual food that we need.

Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.  (John 6:27)

Clearly, we are to be laboring for the food that comes from Christ to fuel our endurance unto eternal life.  This food is not one big meal, served at our salvation that has to last us through to the end.  Just like Jesus, we receive spiritual food throughout our duration on this earth.  Jesus explained what this food was.

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.  (John 4:34)

This was the spiritual food that Christ received to strengthen him.  I think that this is the same spiritual food that Jesus provides to us along our spiritual paths.  Jesus feeds us along our long walk in the Spirit as we are doing God’s will.

BonkThe opposite is equally true.  We are not going to be fed if we are following our own will; if we are walking in the flesh.  Christ will allow us to crash into our personal spiritual walls when our will becomes supreme.  He will allow us to ride the miserable spiritual roller coaster of highs and lows.  There are many professing Christians sitting on the proverbial curb with their heads in their hands wondering why this whole religion thing doesn’t seem to be working.  They have run out of the fuel that they need to endure.  They have “hit the wall” because they have not been properly fueling for a life of endurance.

Fortunately, we have not been left to try and discern what God’s will is for our lives.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification:  that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  (1 Thess. 4:3-7)

God’s will for His children is their personal sanctification.  He has called us all in holiness.  The Spirit accomplishes God’s will in our lives by transforming us from sin and death into holiness.  This transformation changes who we are and how we react.  This means that there will be evidence of God’s will being fulfilled in our lives.  It is called the fruit of Spirit.  God want us to bear spiritual fruit.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:8)

The fruit of the Spirit only comes by living and walking in the Spirit; setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.  Therefore, God’s will is for us to live in His Spirit and to abide in His love.  When are doing the will of the Father, living in His Spirit and abiding in His love, then He will provide the spiritual food that we need to endure.

Endurance comes from doing the will of God because that is the source of our spiritual food.

There is no short cut.  Our race is too long to endure on our internal reserves.  Disobedience will cause us to “hit the wall” and it will ultimately lead to death because setting the mind on the flesh is against God’s will.

The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  (Romans 8:7-8)

We all have need of endurance.  Therefore, we all have need of holiness.

A life of holiness is not an option for the child of God.  It is the source of our daily spiritual bread our eternal life depends upon it.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me for not valuing the work of the Spirit in my life.  Forgive me for not laboring for holiness.  Forgive me for seeking my will above your will.  Father, you have been so good to me.  Thank you for the fruit that has been produced in my life.  Please continue to help me walk in your Spirit and set my mind on the things of  You.  Lord, I need the spiritual food that comes only from You.  Help me to endure well and to eternal life.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.


“ENDURING FAITH: The Heart” – Sept 29

September 29, 2013

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.””  Hebrews 10:36-38

Endurance training requires that you not stop.  The worst thing that you can do when you are trying to build up endurance is to stop.  The mind will always try to get you to stop for just a little while.

Shrinking back is a temptation of every workout that resides at the limits of my current endurance.  The temptation to grab the edge of the pool  for an extra breath rises at every turn past the mile and a half mark.  I almost quit ten miles from the finish-line of my last century ride.  On every run, I have a conversation within my head, in which I have to convince myself not to turn back and shrink the distance.

Endurance comes by continuing.

It is built by incrementally going a little further than the last time.  Endurance does not come by charging out the front door into some unknown distances.  That is just asking for an injury or at best, horrendously sore muscles that will force you to back down.  The best way to build endurance is to add it in increasing increments.

The writer of Hebrews identified a need for endurance in the faith of the early Church.  I think that his call to endurance is still as applicable today.  Many Christians bounce from one ministry to another.  Their quiet times are characterized by re-commitment.  Struggles result in a crisis of faith.

There are not enough brothers and sisters in Christ who demonstrate a faith that can be called enduring.  I think this is a critical issue in today’s Church.

There are three principles from physical endurance that seem analogous to our spiritual endurance; the heart, fueling, and breathing.

I plan to explore how we build enduring faith in the next couple blog posts but I would like to start with the heart.


Pulsometr donnay

Pulsometr donnay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first started training for triathlons, I wore a heart rate monitor, mostly because I was afraid of dying.  I would watch my heart rate while I exercised and set my pace accordingly.  The key to endurance is to work within the upper end of your aerobic zone.  This is the heart rate at which your body can provide oxygen and fuel to your muscle and remove waste.  If I push my heart rate too high, for too long, I will go into an anaerobic state and my muscles will fatigue in a manner that will cause me to stop.

When I first started to train, I tried to workout at approximately 130 beats/ minute.  Over time I have continued to increase that level.  I can now workout comfortable in the 150-160 range.  That did not just happen.  I gassed out a lot.  I coasted a lot.  It was a constant work in progress of finding that delicate balance between pushing my endurance by enough but not too much.  The trick is to flirt with that line.  I would never have built any endurance if I had not pushed my heart.

Riding the anaerobic edge builds endurance. 

Enduring faith is all about the heart.  We do what we love.  Spiritual activity is of little to no worth if it is done for any reason other than a love for God.  The problem for the Pharisees was religious activity that neglected the love of God (Luke 11:42).

I have seen Christians embark with great intentions of religious and sacrificial living that sputtered to a stop after a period of time.  They can’t keep it up.  They stop because they lack endurance.

Many may have committed to an activity based on the latest book or spiritual leader and not because of a love for God.  When they wear out on one method, they move onto the next.  They are living in a spiritual zone that is perpetually anaerobic.

We must watch our hearts.  We need to monitor our motivations if we are to endure.  Faith is easy when it is what you want to do.  We can keep going for decades when our activities are the demonstration of our true love.  The reverse is also true; we can only sustain activities that we don’t love for a short period of time.

Enduring faith comes from a heart that is doing what it loves to do. 

Now, there are other folks who live on the opposite extreme from the spiritually anaerobic.  They are doing what they love and have been doing it for years.  They are extremely comfortable in their faith but they really have not grown in years.  The depth of their faith and love for God has not changed in decades and sanctification is a strange religious term that they have not really experienced.  They have the tendency of letting their Pastor’s challenges lay at the altar.  They are masters at justifying why they can’t do any more.

These folks are lost in the comfortable  They refuse to allow their hearts to be challenged.  They like the very sustainable religious shuffle of their lives and really don’t want to take any grand leaps of faith.  Their faith has little endurance for anything great.

Endurance comes by riding that ragged edge of the anaerobic zone. 

Enduring faith comes from challenging our hearts.  We follow the Spirit’s leading and the direction of scripture.  We step out in faith and obedience and then we monitor our hearts.

If our faith is getting comfortable, then maybe it is time to pick up the pace a little bit.

Maybe, you feel the desire to go a little deeper.
Maybe, you have become aware of a love that you cherish more than God and the Spirit is calling you to give it up.
Maybe, God’s love has begun to overflow from you into a ministry that you never thought that you could do.

Push your spiritual pace; listen to the Spirit and go do it.

Maybe, you are tried.
Maybe, you are doing ministry from pure obligation to friends and family.
Maybe, you are grinding away in your faith but you hate every minute.

It is fine to pull back on your spiritual pace and catch your breath.  God loves a cheerful giver.  He will not be impressed with great sacrifice that comes through gritted teeth.

The key is to never stop.  Do not pull completely back.  There is no need to drop everything and give up.  Pull back a little bit and monitor your heart.  Allow God time to refresh your spirit at a level where you begin to once again feel the joy of your salvation.

Endurance is comes from this delicate balance of pushing and monitoring the love of our heart.

Our actions always need to be flowing from our love of God.
Sanctification comes from pushing our heart out of its comfort zone.

The combination produces a faith that will endure for the glory of God.

PRAYER: Lord, test my heart.  Show me where I can do more.  Lead me into great depths of knowing and serving you.  Keep my love for you overflowing.  Father, give me wisdom in all that I do.  Create in me a faith that will endure for your glory.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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