Have you ever worked extremely hard on a research paper or project and felt like the weight of the world was lifted off your shoulders as you handed it in to your boss or teacher? Then, with silent expectation and a slight sense of nervousness you wait for the final mark; in the back of your mind your hoping it will come back with great accolades and a well-deserved pat on the back. So, your paper comes back, profusely marked in red ink and the word REWRITE is scored across the cover page. Now what? Where do you go from here?
God’s justice is righteous and true and will be delivered by him to all those who believe in him (Hebrews 10:30). To be judged as righteous and true according to his will means we will be favored and accepted into the fullness of eternal life with him. The author of the book of Hebrews writes these words, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” (Hebrews) God, the author of all life provides an opportunity through his Son Jesus Christ to “rewrite” his will for our lives on our hearts. The prophet Jeremiah uses some strong imagery to describe what it is that God is rewriting “Judah’s sin is engraved with an iron tool, inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their hearts” (Jer 17:1).
Our lives, much like that of the people of Judah and the generations that follow have the markings of sin etched deeply into our hearts and minds. God’s offers us a “rewrite” in life when we accept and believe in the power of the death and resurrection of his Son for our sins. Justice for our sins has been served on our behalf, Christ paid for all of those sins. “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more”. (Heb 10:17) The deeply etched marks of sin are wiped out, a heart of stone replaced by a heart of flesh ready to be led by the spirit to follow the will of the Lord. (Ez 36:26-27) So, now what? Where do you go from here? TAKE the second chance, this is the rewrite of your life, an opportunity to grab ahold of the saving power and grace God gave us through His Son.
As I was considering some thoughts around the idea of encouragement my mind wandered a little bit and I started to think about sports. Now, this is strange because I am not much of a sports guy so bear with me. Have you ever watched golf or been out on the course with someone who “talks” the ball to go where they want it to? Usually that person takes the time to skillfully line up their shot with the hole whether it is to be hit off the tee or is laying on the green. After taking the shot they will sometimes expressively talk the ball towards the hole, especially if it’s going off course. What about the basketball player getting ready to take a foul shot from the top of the key or is going the for the distance of a well timed three point shot? Often they will verbally encourage the ball to hit its target.
The author of Hebrews talks about a different type of encouragement, here is a short verse on what that looks like: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” (10:24&25) When you dig deeper into the word “encouraging” that the author uses here, it has a sense of urgency to it. It is suggesting a position of begging or pleading for fellow believers to stay the course of faith in our God. It is to build our faith in the midst of trials and temptations as we wait for the day when Christ comes again. The author calls us to encourage one another daily as he warns us that there will be times of unbelief, times of falling away and times where we will need to persevere.
Eugene Peterson in the message captures a picture of encouragement with these thoughts: “keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.” Living out our faith calls us to encourage others by walking with them through “thick and thin”, praying for them, being the example of love that Christ has for them. The encouragement we give (and need) ought to draw us closer to our heavenly Father, reminding us of his unconditional love and sacrifice that will one day bring us into his presence.
How do you define the word action? Are you the type of person who perches on the edge of your seat while watching an exciting action movie? Have you or someone you know ever experienced the tragedies associated with the acts of war? As a fly fisherman I enjoy the action of the rod as I cast the fly line back and forth anticipating the explosive action of setting the hook and eventually playing the fish into my hands. Often as we teach our children to memorize scripture or songs we use actions to help support their learning; and as we raise and help them grow we teach them to be responsible for their own actions.
What about faith and action? What does that look like? The book of Hebrews talks a lot about faith. Chapter 11 clearly stands out to me as it talks about the “ancients”, our forefathers as they lived out their faith in action. Think about some of the stories you might know… Verse 7 reminds us of Noah’s faith as he was ridiculed while building the ark, verse 8 talks about the faith that Abraham had as he looked forward to an inheritance only God could promise. We read about the faith of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and many more. Each one of these people and many others had one thing in common; they all looked at what was to come, to a future that was unknown, a future that ultimately was in God’s hands. Living out their faith in action, our forefathers were obedient to the call of God in their lives.
It is inspiring to me when I read through God’s word and find a collection of stories that help me understand more about the faith I am growing in. Stories like that of Ruth and Naomi, Esther, and our forefathers challenge me to think about how my faith impacts others. Each one of these accounts of faith in scripture portray a journey of hardships, suffering and even death along with mercy, grace and love. Through faith in the one Almighty God we can have the [sure] confidence in what we hope for (the promise of eternal life through Christ) and assurance about what we do not see. (11:1) Today, we have the opportunity to have a relationship with God through Christ who fulfilled one of those promises of long ago to our forefathers, a promise of one who would come into this world as our Savior (Isaiah 7:14).
Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider man) and Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman) share a few things in common that run deeper than the obvious fact that they are fictitious characters possessing a particular “superpower” that makes them into the superhero they are. Like many of us they each have a story, a story that shapes and defines who they are. Both of these unlikely heroes share a similar start in life, both were orphaned as young children and were raised with the help of family and friends. Both went through some sort of transformation that led them to a place where they were compelled to do good and save the lives of many people.
As I read through Esther, I read her story like that of a real life superhero. She shares a similar story to that of our fictitious characters described above. Orphaned as a child she was raised by her cousin Mordecai and through God’s plan for her life she was used to save the lives of many people. The record of Esther’s story is one of those inspiring tales of faith and action that has us sitting on the edge of our seat waiting for what comes next. Esther’s faith in God becomes clear to me when she speaks these words: “And if I perish, I perish” (4:16). Esther’s actions from this point on, put her own life at risk. Presenting herself to the King without request by him was punishable by death. It was because of her courageous faith that she was able to face death in order to save her people from being destroyed.
Often there is a sense of secrecy that surrounds the life of a superhero, this is true for Esther as well. Chapter 2:10 tells us that “Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so”. Esther’s story unfolds and eventually her true identity is revealed through her appeal for the king to help save her people. Through Esther’s story we read how God plans and directs all the events in her life, how one circumstance led to another working to save the people and ultimately bring honor and glory to His name. The same can be said about our lives, as we grow in our faith I believe God also calls us to grow in living that faith out in action. Esther faced challenges and victories just as we will in our own lives, we need to have courageous faith, fearless hope and unwavering trust in God for all that He does.
Have you ever played one of those three of a kind connection type games? You know the game where you get three words and you have to find the common connection. For example, you are given these three words: [school, skate, dart] What three things do these words have in common? Well if you’re like me I will stare at these words for about a minute (that is being generous) before I give up and the person beside me blurts out “boards” don’t you see it? It boards, school board, skate board and dart board.
What about these three names from the Bible: Job, Naomi and Ruth. What do they have in common? It wasn’t evident right away for me but after reading through the book of Job and then through Ruth, I made the connection. Faith. Each one of these three people had a connection through their faith in God. Job and Naomi shared a similar yet different story through their personal relationship with God, a story of pain, suffering and loss. This was a period of time that left them with nothing, but in the end through the grace and mercy of a sovereign God they both received many new blessings in their lives.
Ruth’s faith stands out as we read about how her faith in God influenced her actions. The beginning chapter of Ruth points us to her faith in the same God as Naomi, the God of Israel. Ruth chooses to leave her former life of trust in other god’s to follow the one true God. From this point on we read about how her faith compels her to stay with Naomi, she provides for her, she cares for her, she humbly sets aside her own needs to help her. Ruth’s actions, which are rooted in her faith God, lead them to place where she is recognized for who she was created to be, a hard working loyal worker, caregiver, friend and a God fearing woman. Ruth’s confidence and bold approach of a marriage proposal to Boaz was backed by her faith and trust in God’s leading.
Ruth’s actions spoke louder than her words, a lesson many of us can learn today. We need to pray for opportunities to put our faith into action. Our faith should cause us to want to serve; when our actions speak louder than our words, God will be glorified.