Morning Musing: Hebrews 11:35b-38

“Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Sometimes when we step out and exercise faith in God, everything goes great. In fact, it goes better than great. We get not just what we wanted, but far more than we could ever ask or imagine. Those kinds of outcomes to our faith are the stories we like to tell. Many of the stories in the Scriptures have these kinds of happy endings. Every story of faith Hollywood tells ends this way. At some point it may look like things are going to go poorly because of faith, but then God saves the day, and they all live happily ever after. But what if things don’t turn out that way? Because in real life, sometimes they don’t. The second set of stories of the results of faith the author of Hebrews shares with us aren’t happy endings. At least they don’t seem to be. Maybe you have a story of faith that didn’t appear to end well. Let’s talk about when we have faith and nothing goes according to plan.

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Morning Musing: John 15:2

“Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

The school where my boys go has an incredible front yard. It’s gigantic, for one. Even more important for me, though, are its trees. It has several humongous, mature, beautiful oak trees scattered across its expanse. When they all bloom in the spring, they are exquisite to behold. Big, old trees are one of my favorite things, and these are among the best I’ve seen anywhere. Over the last few weeks, though, some tree guys came and butchered them. They cut the end off of all the branches. Now, instead of being perfectly formed specimens, they’re all gnarly skeletons of what they once were. Yet as much as I hate to see them lose their perfect form even for a little while, this was something that needed to be done. It was actually an illustration of something Jesus said here. Let’s talk about it.

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Digging in Deeper: Psalm 44:22-23

“Because of you we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. Wake up, Lord! Why are you sleeping? Get up! Don’t reject us forever!” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Think for a minute about the last time you felt God wasn’t there. Think about the time you felt He had abandoned you to your fate, whatever it was. If you are willing, feel for just a moment the emotions of that place again. Think about that time you looked around and were briefly overwhelmed by the brokenness of the world around you. You may not want to sit there long because those emotions were so painful. You may not have to work very hard to feel them because they are so fresh. There are times as we go through life when we can’t escape any of that. Sometimes we witness it from afar, but other times it lands right in our laps. What do we do then? The sons of Korah offer us one way forward here.

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Submit for Good

As we continue in our series, Standing Firm, this week, we’re finally getting into the heart of Peter’s message. If you want to know how to stand firm in your faith without compromising your witness, you need to read this message. Peter lays it on the line for us and doesn’t let us look away until he’s taken us all the way to the mat. His challenge does not mean we roll over and play dead for anyone. Instead, he’s calling us to stand firm in our identity in Christ and refuse to be made a slave to anyone including ourselves. The way to do this, though, is not what the culture around us would have us believe. The way of Jesus looks entirely different. It takes a great deal more courage and a great deal more strength. Read on and think about how God might be applying this to your situation today.

Submit for Good

Have you ever had a boss you didn’t like? I don’t mean just a little dislike either. I mean, you could not stand even to be in the same room for any longer than you had to be. He was rude. She was demanding. He was demeaning. She micromanaged everything and everyone. It just wasn’t a good situation. Maybe you’ve never had that misfortune, but if you have, how’d you handle that? Used to be the general cultural attitude toward that situation would be for you to just suck it up and persevere through the frustration. You had to work because you had bills to pay and mouths to feed. You needed to be a productive member of society, and that was more important than your feelings about your boss. If you wanted to switch careers, you could, but that wasn’t necessarily going to be an easy process.

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Digging in Deeper: Mark 13:9, 12-13

“But you, be on your guard! They will hand you over to local courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a witness to them. . . .Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of my name, but the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

I had the opportunity to hear last night from a missionary serving with a ministry called The Rock of Ages ministry. Justin and his family do prison evangelism. His was a pretty powerful testimony of God getting ahold of someone who was pretty thoroughly embittered by a much more difficult childhood than anyone should have to experience and had been exposed to just enough religion during it all to hate it. He spent many years consumed by alcohol and drugs, and had seen a bit of the inside of the prison system himself. Now God has called him to proclaim the Gospel to prisoners. Justin had a number of great observations to share, but one thing really stood out to me that I had not considered before. Prisoners who become followers of Jesus gain two things: eternal life and a target on their back. Other prisoners now know that their behavior is going to change to be more like Jesus’ behavior. This will serve them well outside the walls of the prison, but on the inside it means they can’t defend themselves. Their embrace of Jesus is like a green light to the unsaved prisoners to persecute them. Christians experiencing persecution is nothing new. It’s been happening since the very beginning. It is a tough topic to tackle, but fortunately, it is not one for which Jesus left us unprepared.

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