Thursday, July 19, 2012

By Faith...

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Hebrews 11 By Faith...
I was wanting to look at some of the attitudes that we as believers are encouraged to adopt towards God. Faith seemed a good place to start.  I plan to also look at Hope, Love, Holiness, Awesome Respect, Trust, Repentance, Humility, Self-Denial, Submission, Thankfulness, Praise, Prayerfulness, Reverence, and Watchfulness. Not sure what order yet but these topics should take us easily through the rest of this month.

Hebrews 11

11 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Right off the bat we have to understand that the universe was formed by God's command. There are all kinds of theories out there. It requires faith to believe that by God's command the universe was formed and not just some random accident.  
Sometimes God gives us personal promises and they are as crazy as young Josephs dreams and seemingly as impossible as 80 year olds Abraham and Sarah having a promised kid in their senior years.  Geesh you talk about hope deferred, I'm betting Sarah had a lot to say on that subject. I think it is not so much knowing how or when God will deliver on such promises but more of believing that He is able and you are not crazy to believe in spite of what everyone else says or though the circumstances would appear as impossible.   Say it with me God is able. Then I think of Larry the Cucumber saying something to the effect of "Oh Great Bob, does that mean God can make me a cow?" He did part seas and rivers and do a lot of seemly crazy stuff.  I expect I've made my point. 
It seems if God says he's going to do something in your life - hang on cause its usually not in the next snap of the fingers - its a journey and a process.

By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. 

Both brought offerings. Able brought the best of what he had to give to God and Cain brought what he was willing to part with. Our attitude of faith as we bring not only our offerings but our lives before God should be to bring him our best. Not our left overs.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  

Faith is a pretty big deal, to the point of without faith we can't please God. These are all great stories if you don't know them go back to Genesis and check them out - a lot of them can be found there. Can you imagine walking so closely with God that one day you just walked into heaven with out dying. 

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
 Then there's Noah most folks know that story. I think it tries our scientific age minds to figure out how world wide flood could be possible. Interestingly just about every culture has some sort of ancient flood story. Do you know I've read accounts that in every culture there are flood stories that have incredible similarities. 

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  Let me point out that Abraham had great faith but he did some really stupid stuff. Lying that his wife was his sister to an area big shot king. Then the whole deal with his wife's maid - yeah that one got messy. We can be really strong in one area and lacking in another. We are all broken but even in our brokenness we can have faith. Its good to keep in mind that God is still working on all of us. So put down your stones.

11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.  I already mentioned this one. Back in that day it was a terribly shameful thing to not be able to produce an heir for your husband.  The story of Hannah is another woman who cried out to God for a son, even promising to give him to God to serve in the temple once he was weened. I was married 15 year before God gave me my son Niah. I had pretty much given up on having children. I was at a church service and I felt like God spoke to me that I was pregnant. I told Him I can't do this - If I am you tell me the child's name and what it means. If it turns out to be correct - I'll take a pregnancy test. The next thing I heard was  - His name is Hananiah and it means Gods gracious gift.  I had to go searching to even find who Hananiah was in the bible. Turns out it was Shadrack from the firey furnace story. Shadrack was the name given to Hananiah in captivity. When I looked up the meaning of the name it was God gracious gift. At that point I was willing to believe I had heard God and took a pregnancy test. Niah, short for Hananiah is now almost 15 he has been a gift from God.

1All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. There are some great stories of faith and courage if you take the time to read your bible. Are you looking for a better heavenly country. I think of the Narnia books when I think about heaven and how in The Final Battle when they think everything has been lost but they have stood firm to the end. They find themselves on the other side of a barn door and in a new and better country. "“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now...Come further up, come further in!”
― C.S. Lewis,
The Last Battle  I never feel like I really fit in here. I always feel kind of like the odd, different one. I've grown to accept it as part of that inner longing for my home in heaven. 

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.  Isaac's faith is never mentioned here but you got an old man and a strapping young teen age boy. If he had not trusted his dad and God he would not have had to submit to that sacrifice situation.  Can you imagine dad standing over you with a knife " It will be ok Son, God has a plan." Geesh I sure hope so.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. These blessing stories are all intriguing. The hands of blessing are switched in the last moments and the younger gets the blessing. I first will be last kind of illustration for us. 
I'm telling you there are treasures to be found in the pages of your bible. If all you do is live on refrigerators verses that people post on Facebook - you are missing out. Read, learn, study ask the Holy Spirit to lead you - he says he will. Take him up on that promise - exercise a little faith that even if you feel dumb as a stump biblically that God is willing and able to lead you and help you to understand his word.  

22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.  Some say that Israel did not leave Egypt for another 215 years, others say it was 400, and others still 430 years. In any case it was a long time for dead Josephs bones to be remembered.

23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 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.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.  So then you get the whole Moses story and journey - read it for yourself don't rely on some old Charlton Heston movie or any other for that matter. If the last time you read that story was as a child in Sunday school its time to re-visit it - Not to ruin the story for you but O'l "Let my people Go", Moses does not even get to go into the promised land - He gets to only see it from a distance. Go read the story and see if you can figure out why?

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
3By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. Then you get the Joshua stories and if you like military battles and strategy Joshua will stretch you a bit. I have to say that I have read many of these stories many times and God will show me some new thing that I had not seen previously.  With out faith it doesn't make a lot of sense - you need the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
Most of the stories in this list are found in other places in the bible beyond Genesis. I'm going to have to look up the one about Jephthah - oh yeah that weird story in Judges about the guy who lead Israel in battle and mad a rash vow to kill what ever walked out of the door of his house to greet him. I think he was expecting the dog but it was his daughter. There are some stories like this one that I don't really understand. I just kind of let them stew and maybe the next time I read it I will have a bit more incite. Sometimes if you are new to the bible you will have a lot that you don't understand. The more of the bible that you read the more the pieces of the puzzle and the larger story start to fit together.

My Blog Birthday Month gift for you today are some links to some great bible study tools. 
I probably use Bible Gateway almost every day.
This one also has some nice features.
I'll tell you a little secret  - when I can't find a verse I type as much as I can remember into the google search and see if what comes up helps me find the verse. A lot of the time I get the verse I'm looking for. 

Prayer:Dear Lord,
Thank you for leading us in your Word today. I'm sure there is more treasure to be mined from it. We have just scratched the surface. Thank you for the things you helped us see today. Thank you for leading us. I pray that you would put a hunger for your Word into the readers of this blog. Help us move beyond milk and learn to pick up our forks and knives and rightly divide the meat.


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