Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Books I've read which I highly recommend for summer reading

Okay...so apropos of nothing. For anyone looking for a good book to read, I highly recommend these books that I've loved.
The Man Who Lived in Inner Space by Arnold Federbush
Oliver and the Sea Wigs by Philip Reeve (kid book)
Larklight by Philip Reeve  (steampunk YA)
The Martian by Andy Weir  -- total math science geek fun
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett  
Slated by Teri Terry -- dystopia YA
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill -- time travel YA
Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales -- omnibus novel
Living with Ghosts  -- Kari Sperring
The Grass King's Concubine -- Kari Sperring
Abengoni by Charles R Saunders
Acacia -- David Durham
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Shatterworld by Lelia Foreman (Christian Fiction)
Ragnarok Unravels by Jessica Fry
Mermaid Bride by Jessica Fry
Waiting for Appa by Mirtika Schulz
So long been dreaming -- Nalo Hopkinson
Steamfunk -- Milton Davis, Balogun
Dark Matter -- Sheree Thomas
Dark Faith Maurice Broaddus
Jigsaw Nation -- Ekaterina Sedia
The hen who dreamed she could fly sun-mi hwang
Memoirs of Lady Hegyeong
Sunflower Splendor -- classic antho of Chinese poetry
Diary -- Julian Green -- LOOOOOOOVED THIS
Miracle on Voodoo Mountain
A Young Woman's Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti By Megan Boudreaux
In Capable Arms by Susan Kovac
Where the Wind Leads: Vinh Chung with Tim Downs
The Railway Man by Eric Lomax
And there was Light b y Jacques Lusseyran -- LOVED THIS!
Astonished: A story of Evil, Blessings, Grace, and Solace. by Beverly Donofrio
From Orphan to Physician -- Chun-Wai Chan and David Biebel
Training in Christianity by Kierkegaard
Discipleship by J Heinrich Arnold
NIV God's Word for Gardener's Bible edited by Shelley Cramm, General Editor (for bible lovers who love gardens and plants)
The Book of Job by Mark Larrimore
The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography by Alan Jacobs
Moving Your invisible Boundaries: Heart Physics: The Key to Limitless Living by Dr Jim Richards
Forever Fluent by Gabriel Wyner
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova
Consider the Eel by Richard Schweid
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hebrews 11:24 By faith, Moses

Before Paul writes about Moses' faith, he wrote about the faith of Moses' parents. He will also talk about the faith of the people.
We hear about Moses life in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. We also hear about it in Acts chapter 7 when Stephen speaks about the Israelite habit of always rejecting those whom God has sent.
Here is a list of what Moses did by faith:
He refused to remain part of the kingly line.
He chose to be mistreated. (He chose ot to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. I suspect that a king's son or adopted grandson would have had a lavish lifestyle.)
He regarded disgrace for God as something more valuable than all the treasures of Egypt.
Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, he was not afraid of the king's anger.
He left Egypt.
He persevered.
He saw Him who is invisible.
He kept the Passover.
And all that was before he even got into the wilderness.  There were many different situations which required different kinds of faith, but Moses went from faith to faith.

24By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. Hebrews 11:24-28
13Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, 14Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments.f But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”
16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
19Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. 20Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. 22And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. 23So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames.
24But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?”
“Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.
25“Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a godg!”
26Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. 27Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!
28Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”
30Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hebrews 11:23 -- By faith, the law was disobeyed

It's interesting the reason given why Moses parents hid him for three months: He was a goodly child.
Consider that for a moment. Is Paul saying that Moses parents would have allowed him to be murdered if Moses hadn't been lovely?
I know nothing about why people commit infanticide. There are many cultures where parents kill disabled children, female children, or the child that is one extra mouth to feed. There are also people who kill fetuses before birth, people who feel abortion is the way out of a complicated situation. I would think that any parent would think that his/her child is the greatest child in the world. Isn't that human nature? Don't we all believe our own children are born to do great things? But maybe some people don't believe that.  
It's interesting that Paul writes about the decision to keep a child after writing about three patriarchs who blessed their decendants and one who almost killed his own son but trusted God would find a way.
But I won't go into a pro-life screed; I will move on.

We are here shown an example of the faith of Moses' parents. Their faith is demonstrated by their decision to simply disobey the law. American Christians tend to believe that God created public authority and that all law and order must be obeyed. Yet, when Paul commanded his believers to obey those in authority, Paul was aware that those in authority were against the growing Christian movement and any kind of Christian misbehavior or uprising could cause trouble for Christianity. In addition, Paul's letters were sent via Tycichus, Paul's traveling mailman, and it would be dangerous for Tycichus for Paul to tell those in Christian churches to rise up against the Roman government. And we cannot say for sure what Paul said in his face-to-face sermons about Roman ruling authority. In Paul's Philemon, however, we see Paul urging Philemon to be a Christian brother to Onesimus a runaway slave. Christians at that time were already considered counter-culture because masters and slaves sat together as equals in home churches. This did not happen anywhere else in Roman society. But Paul was asking even more of Philemon. Another non-Christian "master" would have the legal right to kill his runaway servant.

In addition, much of the Bible has people disobeying authorities in order to obey God's law. Consider Shadrach, Mesach, and Abed-Nego disobeying the king. Consider those who helped David against Saul. Moses' parents will forever go down in history as faithful because they disobeyed the king's law.      

23By 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.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Hebrews 11:20-22 By Faith, the patriarchs blessed

20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
22By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

It is so easy to curse and not bless. Instead of cursing our sick bodies, perhaps we should try blessing our bodies?

These three verses show the patriarchs and their blessings and instructions for their descendants.
Before we examine the aspects of human prophecy showed by these patriarchs, I just have to say one thing.
Paul writes that "by faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future." I don't really know what to make of this so I'll have to ponder this a bit more. Isaac was deceived when he blessed Jacob so he himself wasn't aware of his prophecy. This could be a bit like Noah's prophecy over Ham and like the High Priest's prophecy that "one man should die for the people." The prophecy is there, regardless of the state of the prophet. Sometimes prophecy is about seeing the future God has planned, sometimes prophecy is simply creating the future by one's faithful words. This is when the prophecy is a blessing or a curse. So, it seems as if Isaac believed his blessings for his would come true. So it is the power of belief at work that Paul is praising in this instance.

Jacob's blessing of his grandsons mirrors blind Isaac's blessing. I'm not too sure about this blessing either. The descendants of Joseph didn't exactly live up to this blessing from what I could see. This is also something I will have to ponder more. But I want you to look at the imagery here: Jacob worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. Now staffs are pretty important in the Bible. And Jacob's staff not only would have had the typical markings and notations that Middle Eastern shepherds had to record events in their lives, but it might also have been the staff he also leaned on when he was given the name Israel instead of Jacob, after the angel touched his inner thigh and created a permanent disability for him. Having such a memory of God's greatness, Jacob could easily foresee blessings for his grandsons, once again, letting the younger rule over the older.  
Joseph's prophecy seems to be straight-up prophecy. Having suffered in prison, he seems to have understood that the Israelites would also suffer in prison and rise up out of it. Maybe he had been told that his life would be symbolic of the nation. Whatever the reason, he did not want to have his bones remain in a land that symbolized slavery. Also, by asking his descendants to take his body with them when they left Egypt, he planted the hope in their hearts that one day they would also leave their slavery. They woud have cherished this promise in their hearts as they cherished all the words Abram, Isaac, and Jacob, had said.
All these blessings were spoken as preparation for death.
Consider, how powerful words are. Negative words said by parents curse children and echo in the children's brains forever. Words such as "You idiot!" or "you'll never amount to any good!" Or even well-meant words such as "You're sickly like your grandmother." As children of God, we must understand how powerful faithfilled words are, whether they are words spoken as blessings or curse.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Hebrews 11:17-19 By faith, Abraham reasoned

17By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”c 19Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

Paul writes that Abraham reasoned. Unlike what many people say, Faith and reason are not enemies. For the believer, they often go hand in hand.
Throughout the Bible, believers are urged to listen to God and to accept God's way of thinking. God spoke through Isaiah the prophet urging people to reason with Him.
So how and why do we reason with God?
God has told us that we should TRUST him, REST in him, and CAST our cares on him.
First: What does it mean to rest in God? We are to rest in the fact that the finished work of Jesus Christ created something phenomenal in the earth. The Holy Spirit will show us more and more what the effect of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection are and how they apply to us. In addition to that, we are to rest from our labors, and we are to rest in God's love. Throughout the book of Hebrews, Paul speaks of "entering into God's rest." But how can we? Is any of this reasonable?
Secondly, we are to trust God. We are to trust in His wisdom, His providence, His love, His Power, His guidance, and His care. We are not to fret because fretting might lead us to evil or to rely on the wrong things.
Thirdly, we are to cast our cares upon God. The Bible repeatedly tells us that cares and worries have a destructive effect on faith. In fact, the worst thing we can do when we are worried about anything is to worry about it. Worry chokes the seeds of faith that the sower sows.
But what if God were to ask us to reason with Him? Would we say that we trust Him?
Can we trust God's word about His love, His power, and His willingness to help us? Can we find God reasonable? Can we reason with God? If we reason with God or about God, what do we discover about our views about God?
Many of us --in the United States-- are trained by television commercials, TV movies, the media, and television doctors to be on the lookout for cancers, diseases, etc. We are a nation who have become so fearful about our health and so knowledgeable about how our bodies can go wrong, that we tend to believe that God will not help us discover underlying health issues. We believe we have to always be on our guard. Some folks have gotten so fearful that they are more on guard against physical and bodily evil attacking them than they are against the spiritual evils they might fall into. Consider Job's words: "I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came." Job 3:26 Many Christians live like that. Especially American Christians. Even though we have a powerful God, we don't trust Him without lives.  
The world is a fearsome place. The default is that humans stumble through life, muddling through on their own devices, being like sheep without a shepherd. The worldlywise and intelligent person will trust in his own intelligence or in the wisdom of his doctor if he has one. So then, why do we not trust God? Let us attempt to reason this out.
This might be a good time to journal one's responses because the Holy Spirit will guide you into understanding your responses.
Ask the Holy Spirit:
Why do I not trust God to take care of me?
Do I believe that you have ever failed me? (If this is a traumatic experience, you will have to be honest as you bring this trauma to God and ask Him to heal you of the pain you felt when he seemingly did not protect you.)
Why do I believe that you failed to guide and protect me?
If you did guide and protect me, why did I not notice your guidance?
Was I distracted from your voice for some reason? If so, what was the reason? Was I being distracted by the enemy of man? If I was being distracted, what was the distraction? Was I focusing too much on entertainment, unforgiveness, lust, gluttony, anger, a hardened heart, or any other matter that I did not hear you warning me about the sickness, cancer, accident, in my way?
The Lord will give wisdom to all who seek it from Him. The Holy Spirit will defend Himself. Because God's eye is on the sparrow. God is aware of us and seeks to protect and to help us. I am convinced that God is always guiding His people, and that His sheep hear His voice...but sometimes they dismiss it.
After you do this exercize, determine in your spirit, never to be distracted by sin, pleasure, or whatever the distraction was. This exercize is not to make you feel guilty or to put the blame for your trauma onto you. It is to free your mind from its judgment of God and cause you to trust God more fully. Ask God to never let you fall into distraction again. Then you will be able to trust in God and to cast all your cares and fears upon Him.
Enter into the rest of God.  If Abram could reason about God's power, providence, and care, we should be able to as well. May God bless you.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hebrews 11:13-16 -- The Heavenly City

Paul will go on to discuss the great cloud of witness in chapter twelve, but that cloud of witness (both a cloud of testimony and a cloud of testifiers) are at the end of faith's race. They are the list of heroes of faith, standing in the grandstands and also at the winner's pedestal. They are urging the earthly believers home.
Because ultimately, it is heaven that matters. If our salvation is only for the earth, it is an unworthy salvation. Heaven is the ultimate destination. Specifically, the Christian believer is looking for a city.
This ultimate destination was important in Paul's time because of the persecution the Hebrew Christians were suffering from their own people and from the Gentiles. Pharisaical Jews who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel were convinced that if Jesus had been the Messiah, then he would have ushered in an earthly kingdom. But Jesus had bought in a spiritual kingdom and spoke of a future heavenly kingdom. The Hebrew believers had to made to understand the Messiah the Scriptures had spoke of, not the One the scribes and religious leaders had trained them to hope for. So, the Jewish believers --who had been taught that the Jewish Messiah woud subdue the nations under His feet-- now had to accept that the Gentiles were now part of God's kingdom and that the Jewish and Gentile believers had no real home here on earth. To come to terms with being sufferers, rejected, and nationless on earth was difficult. But if Paul could convince them through the Scriptures, they would hold onto their salvation, even through suffering. Because all who would follow Christ must suffer persecution.
This passages is also important for many modern Christians who might also be taught that being a Christian means a life of ease and wealth. True, there are many Scriptural promises that we are able to receive now because of Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and ascension and because Christ sent the Holy Spirit to live permanently with us. These promises could not be attained by the pre-resurrection saints. But the primary issue being discussed here has always been the great issue: God preparing a remnant of earthly people for His heavenly kingdom.
It is somewhat old-fashioned in certain circles to speak of Heaven, even more old-fashioned to speak of hell. But yes, there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.

13All 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, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, 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. Hebrews 11:13-16

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hebrews 11:12 -- By faith, God healed

In verse twelve, Paul shows reminds the Hebrews of how they became a people. Their very existence is due to a miracle. By reminding their readers of this fact, Paul and the Holy Spirit show that God is a miracle worker. He is a God with the power to heal the sick, and restore life, to one who was as good as dead.
By adding the story of Sarah and Abraham to this list of faith, Paul encourages those who are in need of healing. He shows that God is able and cares for our health. When Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, he included four kinds of healing in his Great Commission.

Cleanse the lepers

Heal the sick

Cast out demons

Raise the dead.

These four types of healing covers all sicknesses and demons. For those who are sick with bacteria, virus, infections, and fungal disease, we can command their body to be cleansed. For those whose body or body systems do not work, we can command that their body be healed. For those who are oppressed by demons, we can command the demons to leave. And for those who have died we can command that the person rise to new life. This is the miraculous life to which Christians are called and the Lord made sure we understood the power and blessings and glory of this new redeemed life by performing these same miracles while He was on earth. These signs of the power of the kingdom on earth are given for us to meditate on and to imitate.
The Lord had given Abraham two images to meditate on as hopes of future descendants: the stars and the sand.
Faith and hope imagines. And because Abram's rational mind could not quite grasp the multitude that would descend from him, God gave Abraham a picture his heart and spirit could meditate on.
If we want a thing, we must imagine what we want. Imagining does not create the thing we hope for, but imagination is a tool of hope and it is the way we focus on what we want instead of what we fear.  The Hebrew listeners would understand this.
If Abraham --who was as good as dead-- could become the father of many nations by pondering the stars and sand, then we too should keep our eyes on the prize and on the great cloud of witness.
12And 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.

Hebrews 11:10,11 By faith, Sarah was enabled

Sarah judged God faithful. She judged God as trustworthy. It isn't clear if she understood and saw the evidence of God's special love for Abram. She saw Abram's various victories. It isn't clear if she had insight enough to understand that God had been with Abram all during the journey in tents. It isn't clear if she had heard testimonies or witnesses about God. She must have heard Abram talking about God. And she probably had heard Hagar talking about God.  She weighed the evidences God had given her about Himself and decided to believe that He was not a man that should lie; she believed that God was willing and able to keep His promise.
Whether this was the promise made to Abram or the promise made by God directly to Sarah at her tent is unclear. It is always good to get a specific promise from God and not depend on a promise given to one's spouse. If Paul means the promise that God made directly to Sarah, we must remember that this was the very promise that Sarah laughed at because she didn't believe God. She memorialized this promise by naming her son "Isaac."
Sarah is the first woman listed in the hall of faithful heroes and it must have seemed good to Paul to list a woman. By doing that, he shows that God is an enabler, empowerer and strengthener of women. Here, and later in this chapter, Paul shows that God cares about the plight of women and that women's faith is as important as men's. A woman's faith is not necessarily dependent on her husband's; she has her own relationship with God. Women can judge the evidence for God's power and truthfulness as well as any man can.
By judging God as "faithful" she received an answer to faith. That answer was strength and power. God healed and repaired her womb, but Sarah -- who would've had strength in her younger days to have children-- had to receive strength to have a child at such an old age.

And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.
Through faith even Sarah herself received strength to become a mother--although she was past the time of life for this--because she judged Him faithful who had given the promise.
By faith also Sarah herself did receive power to conceive seed, and she bare after the time of life, seeing she did judge Him faithful who did promise;

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hebrews 11:8,9 -- By faith, Abraham obeyed

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. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:8.9
Christians  must learn when to lean on their own understanding and when to listen to the still small voice. In this verse, we are made to remember that God's people often walk by a divine guidance, and sometimes the divine guidance asks for impossible things. The person of faith, however, must put aside his/her desire to know the end from the beginning and enter fully into God's plan. Only God knows the end from the beginning. Faith enables us to see the invisible and to trust the One who sees and understand true reality.
The stuff we think we know may not be true. The path we believe we must take may not be the path we should take.  The human mind is notoriously sure of itself and is difficult to change. Humans have very little knowledge about life and we cling to our opinions tenaciously.
Abram was told that he must leave his home and family but he was not told where he was going. After he discovered where he was going, he was told that neither he nor his descendants would not inherit the land for years. He was also told that his descendants would be enslaved in Egypt. He was told all this before he had any child.
But then Paul goes one step further. He tells the readers of the epistles to the Hebrew that even though Abram was to inherit an earthly land, Abram looked beyond the earhtly. He understood that the earthly country was not what truly mattered. What mattered to Abram most of all was growing in relationship with God and understanding God's kingdom. His goal was to please God and to do all he could to be with God forever.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hebrews 11:7 -- By faith, Noah

The earth had been cursed when Adam sinned. Then Cain sinned and matters got worse for Cain specifically, which caused Cain to build a city because everything organic that he attempted to cultivate became cursed. The earth seems to have been a harsh place for those who lived before the flood.  Unlike the garden in Eden, which was well-watered and lush, the rest of the earth had been awaiting man's dominion. But now man's dominion was no longer connected to God. It is unclear if the mist that came up and watered the earth was of any help to the ante-diluvians. At that time, water was above the sky and the earth's "air" atmosphere was surrounded by water.  The Bible states this and modern science states this as well. There seems to have been no rain.
But then, God told Noah that a flood would come. God had been telling others as well. Enoch preached destruction and named his son Methusaleh to prophecy about the coming destruction.
It seems that Noah had never seen such a thing as rain or flood. It might have been hard for him to even conceive of such a thing as a flood. But he understood that God was Creator and that his own idea of nature was limited. He believed God. Paul writes that Noah's faith condemned the world. An interesting thought that we should ponder. Noah's faithful behavior had an effect on God's dealing with the rest of the world.    
Moreover, there is an inheritance awaiting those who are faith: that inheritance is righteousness. Righteousness, or right standing, is something we receive as a gift and inheritance from God.

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 is in keeping with faith.
It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
By faith Noah, having been divinely warned concerning the things not yet seen, having feared, did prepare an ark to the salvation of his house, through which he did condemn the world, and of the righteousness according to faith he became heir.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Hebrews 11:6 -- But without faith

In Hebrews 11, Paul has been writing to the Hebrews about faith. In verses 1-5, he has spoken about faith's nature and power in the world. By the time one has reached verse six, one has developed a knowledge of vague. One knows that faith helps us understand God is Creator of the entire universe. One knows that a person's faith is shown in words and in behavior that is based on faith.  We understand that faith is what made one person acceptable to God, and lack of faith is what makes another person's offering unacceptable to God. We understand that humans testify of faith and God testifies about faithful persons. We understand also that faith is substance, is evidence of something spiritual, that faith is connected to hope, that faith has consequences and affects the world.
The believer has gotten some idea of faith, but not all. Merely reading a definition of faith is not enough. Paul will go on to give examples of faith in action so that the believer's understanding of faith will be more well-rounded. Because the epistle is being written to Hebrews, Paul will continue his teaching on faith by giving his readers examples from Hebrew history. Several people mentioned in the Law, Wisdom Books, and the Prophets are not mentioned. But as Paul will write later on, the faithful people are too many to enumerate. A few people who were not mentioned include Job, Esther, Elijah, Jeremiah, etc. But he mentions quite a few people by their circumstances. Even if he doesn't mention their name, if believers have read their Bibles, they will know whom he is thinking of. And although Job is not listed as a man of faith, he is listed elsewhere throughout the Bible as a hero of endurance. Some of these people suffered terribly because of their faith, yet --for all their suffering-- one is reminded that they pleased God and God loved them because of their faith. Therefore suffering does not necessarily mean God is displeased or that there is lack of faith on a believer's part. And in the long run, all faithfulness is rewarded.  
So, then, verse 6 explains the crux of this chapter: God's pleasure.
Why is God pleased with those who have faith?
Because in order to have faith --true and real faith-- a believer has to have come to an epiphany about the world, about God's power, about God's love, and about God's response to the believer. Anyone who has faith has begun to understand the nature of the world. They understand that there is a spiritual world that rules and overrules the physical world. They have eyes and hearts that are seeing the true nature of the kingdom; they have begun to be freed from the power of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil -- its effects being pride of mind, trust in human rationale, trust in appearances, and separation from a loving, powerful, creator God. To reach such a state the believer has had to seek God. Those who have read my Bible studies here know that I am not a lover of Calvin's theory of predestination. Although this verse does not say that those who come to God are only those who seek him, a reader could argue that the verse does leave the impression that God does work with all humans to seek him.
Another thing to remember is that faith "cometh." I like the last translation listed last below. "It behoveth him who is coming to God." I understand it to mean those who are coming to God specifically for answer to prayer, but also those who are coming to God and journeying toward the kingdom.  
This is why faith pleases God. We are in a trusting loving believing journey toward him.  
I cannot say if there are any believers out there who displease God. But it seems to me that mere righteousness is not enough and it would probably be better for all those who follow the "rules" and "doctrines" of Christianity to truly "trust" God as their loving rewarding 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.
And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
and apart from faith it is impossible to please well, for it behoveth him who is coming to God to believe that He is, and to those seeking Him He becometh a rewarder.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hebrews 11:5 He pleased God

We don't know much about Enoch but he was apparently very special to God. Enoch didn't experience death although Abel did. We get little gimpses of Enoch's life throughout the Bible, and in the book of Jude we hear about his prophesy. Was it a prophesy to people of his time before the flood? Or to us? Or was it for both?
By now, you wil have noticed that the word "commended" has been used several times. It is often also translated as "witnessed" or "testified." In fact the words, witness and testimony are themes that flow throughout this chapter and even into following chapters. This leads us to the second interpretation of faith; faith is commending God. A faithful person commends, and trusts, and ascribes power and glory to God.
Jesus also told us that if we honor Him on earth and testify about Him, then He will testify about us before God and the holy angels.
Consider also that Paul's reputation was also known in heaven, because the demons who attacked the seven sons of Sceva said to them, "Paul I know and Jesus I know but who are you?"
Therefore in the spiritual world, the child of God who has faith in God has a kind of spiritual reputation.  But, although it is good to have a good report in heaven, it is not only about the believer's reputation.
Enoch's prophesy, as reported through the Holy Spirit by Jude:
14Enoch, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people. He said, “Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones 15to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
In the prophesy, Enoch states the reason for God's coming: Men have testified wrongly against God. We must not only be careful about speaking God's name in vain but we must not speak harsh and wrong words against God's reputation.  
But he pleased God. What did he do to please God? What set him apart from everybody else? I often think that perhaps he might have been the first fire-and-brimstone preacher of God's wrath. Even before Noah preached about the flood, Enoch preached about God's coming udgment against the sins of his world. Paul writes that Enoch walked with God. What does it mean to walk with God? There are so many different ways in Scripture of showing God's relationship with certain people. Abram is God's friend, David is a man after God's own heart, and Enoch walked with God.
It must have been very strange when people died during the pre-flood ages. Humans were so long-lived then that death must have been a strange surprise anytime it happened. Enoch disappeared and was translated to heaven. And Paul writes that Enoch was "not found." There is an implication that a great search was made for him. Why did God not let Enoch die? Did Enoch have faith not to die? Did God make him not die as a sign to an evil generation? Did that generation understand how important it was to please God?

5By 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.
Through faith Enoch was taken from the earth so that he did not see death, and he could not be found, because God had taken him; for before he was taken we have evidence that he truly pleased God.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hebrews 11:4 By faith, God testified

There is a lot of discussion about why God accepted Abel's gift and not Cain's. Some people say that Cain simply gathered any old thing and gave it to God. In that case, Cain's offering was half-hearted and unfelt. Other theologians say that Cain's offering came from a cursed ground and came from the sweat of his brow (or his own righteousness) while Abel instinctively knew --by faith-- that a sacrifice was needed. It is possible that Abel remembered the "report" that God had given to Adam and Eve about a coming seed of the woman whose heel would be bruised. Whatever the reason, Cain's offering was not accepted.
As I look at the verse today, the word that jumps out at me is that God "testified" about Abel's gifts. Some translations merely say God gave His approval. But I like the idea of God witnessing and testifying about His approval of His child. This also brings in the theme of the word of God and of witnesses. God is also a witnesser. I find myself wondering, "Did God testify to the angels about Abel? Did God testify to Cain alone? Or is the mention of Abel in Scripture a sign of God's testimony and witness about Abel?" How wonderful a thought to have God testifying for us!
Paul goes on to state that Abel still speaks although Abel is dead. Again, there are many interpretations as to what this means. On a very basic level, it reminds us that Moses said Abel's blood cried out to God. Who knows what Abel cried out about? Perhaps he wanted to live his life. Perhaps he wept because none of the descendants of man would be descended from him. Perhaps he was alone, being the only human who had died. How long did Able stay in that solitary isolation from God unsaved and unredeemed before another dead human soul joined him? We do not know what he cried out for specifically but it seems he cried out for justice. But then Paul adds, Abel still speaks.
What does this mean? I really don't have any insight on this but I will say that perhaps there is something about Abel and humanity's cry for justice or about isolation in the world.

4By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel's offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.
by faith a better sacrifice did Abel offer to God than Cain, through which he was testified to be righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and through it, he being dead, doth yet speak.
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts: and through it he being dead yet speaketh

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Hebrews 11:2 The Ancients Obtained a Good Report

What does it mean to obtain a good report?
The Bible mentions "reports" many times, both good and bad. In the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, the prophet states, "Who has believed our report?" Isaiah had witnessed the Messiah's suffering. He knew other prophets had also witnessed something about the future Messiah as well. But he also knew the report, the too-good-to-be-believed-news was so marvellous that few would believe it.
What else about reports?
Reports are written by witnesses. Reports also speak of witnesses.  The verse speaks of ancients or elders who obtained a good report. The way the verse is phrased, the statement could mean one of several different meanings.
Firstly, it could mean the ancients got a good reputation with God. There is nothing better than having a good reputation with God. But how did these ancients do it? They were not particularly good. Or, perhaps it is better to say that God called them good for a particular reason.
Secondly, it could mean the ancients got a good reputation with their fellow men at that time. This is also true. Scripture is a record of God's faithfulness toward those who loved him. God's goodness to faithful men such as Moses, Abram, Joseph, David and others were preserved in Scripture by people who had known and seen these events with their very own eyes.
Thirdly, it could mean the ancients got a good reputation with believers that would follow their example: us. Because of their own faith, they would become witnesses of God's faithfulness to His promises and we would look back at this great group of witnesses and be encouraged.
Yet, ultimately, the statements -- although apparently different-- all mean the same thing.

This is what the ancients were commended for.
Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.
For by it the people of old received their commendation.
For by it the men of old gained approval.
For by it the elders obtained a good report.
For our ancestors won God's approval by it.
For therein the elders had witness borne to them.
For by this the ancients obtained a testimony.
for in this were the elders testified of;

Monday, June 08, 2015

Hebrews 11:3 By faith, we understand

We understand emotions through emotions. We understand rational things through rational and logical mental systems. We understand spiritual things through using spiritual things. As Paul writes, "comparing spiritual things with spiritual."
It is very difficult to understand that the universe was made by God's words if we do not understand either the spiritual substance of God's words or the spiritual substance of faith.  A scientist may say for instance that the visible world is made from invisible atoms, or that earthly elements are created from tiny minute atoms, protons, quarks, and the like. But even if atoms, protons, etc are unseen by the human eye, they are still products of this physical world. To base the existence of the world on even the tiniest physical particle is still to be using human reasoning. Faith is of an entirely different order. A person or animal who is an object of love understands that he is loved by sensing and feeling the Beloved's love. This is emotional understanding. We understand God's power and being through faith, which is a spiritual understanding.  
By faith we also understand God's faith. We understand that God had faith in His own words. God had faith in the system He made. By faith we understand that God has given to all his children "the measure of faith."
There can be no understanding of God's power, or of the true nature and reality of the cosmos if we do not understand what faith is and how it operates.
When Adam sinned against God, he sinned against his Creator, his Father, and his king. This brokenness has continued through all the generations. Humans bristle at the idea of having a creator who made them, they don't understand the love in God's heart that caused God to make them or their own uniqueness to God. They don't understand God as a loving father. And they don't understand God has a king who rules the universe or their place as one of God's subect. Faith comes from the tree of life and not from the tree of the knowedge of good and evil.
This verse shows us that faith underlies and undergirds the universe. It also teaches us that faith is connected to a Divine Person and to the actions of that Divine Person. The verse also clearly states that the world was made by God. All true faith is rooted in faith in God; faith in one's faith is merely mechanical. It does not take the personality of God and the believer's relationship to God into consideration. Faith is trust in a powerful Being whose character is love and whose power is great. But faith is much more. We will understand this more and more as we continue reading the chapter.  

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.
by faith we understand the ages to have been prepared by a saying of God, in regard to the things seen not having come out of things appearing.
Through faith we understand that the worlds came into being, and still exist, at the command of God, so that what is seen does not owe its existence to that which is visible.
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Heb 11:1 Substance and Assurance

There are few chapters in the Bible where words are defined. Off-hand, I can think of two. The Love chapter and the Faith chapter. Why must God define faith for us?  Why did he decide to define faith or love after the death of Christ?  Both faith and love are important.
The faith chapter makes sure that we will not misunderstand what faith is and does, and how true faith appears. It is a strange definition, filled with examples rather than the definitions and synoyms. It begins with definitions, to be sure. And there are definitely words that give us a clue to what true faith is. But he defines faith by showing examples.  A picture and a story are worth a thousand definitions.
So, faith is confidence. A primarily spiritual expectation of good. It is assurance. It is not mental confidence but an emotional rest and trust in God's word, love, and character. Faith is also substance. It exists and has a reality. In the spiritual realm, words and thoughts have an existence and a reality that we cannot understand from our earthly human mind.  Faith is spiritual matter and it has action and power that we can only understand as we do faith. Faith is not merely belief. Belief is rational. Faith is from the heart.
Because we cannot fully comprehend what faith is, the Holly Spirit uses the Apostle Paul to give examples of what faith is and how faith works.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Heb 11:1 NLT
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
Now faith is a well-grounded assurance of that for which we hope, and a conviction of the reality of things which we do not see.
Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen.
And faith is of things hoped for a confidence, of matters not seen a conviction,

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