A Family of Faith

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” – Hebrews 12:1

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” – 2 Timothy 1:5-6

This week our family mourns the loss of Kristi’s grandfather Tom Bell. I want to thank you for your prayers and kind words during this difficult time for our family and Kristi’s family back in Colorado. Grandpa, as he was known to Kristi, or G-Pa, as he was known to Ava and Kenzie, was a great man of the faith. He was someone who honored God above everything else in this world. He was a great family man as well; he and his wife celebrated 67 years of marriage just before his passing. He raised Kristi’s father and aunt in a Godly home, and they accepted Christ at a young age. Kristi then was raised by her father in a Godly home, and she also accepted faith at a young age. Kristi had and continues to have a “great cloud of witnesses” in her life. Generations that go back even beyond her Grandpa that kept God first in the family. Our daughters Ava and Kenzie now have that same great cloud of witnesses from not only Kristi’s family but my family as well. Ava and Kenzie know their Lord and Savior because of the teaching of Scripture that has gone on witness by witness.

Maybe you are like Kristi and me, and you have generations going far back that accepted Christ as their Savior. Maybe you are the person in your family that is starting a new cloud of witnesses for the generations that come after you. Wherever you find yourself the mission is clear:  to be the example of faith to those around you.

The author of Hebrews reminds the believers of the great heroes of the faith in the previous chapter. He reminds them of those who have gone before them and how they can help them today in their walks with God. We see what God has done and it gives us hope for the future. Paul in Second Timothy reminds Timothy of the cloud of witnesses in his life which brought him to faith in Christ. It is a reminder for Timothy to continue to remember and use the gifts he has been given by God.

As a family we mourn the loss of physical life here on earth, but we rejoice in the eternal life that Grandpa Bell has in Christ Jesus and the witness for Christ that he provided for his family. We are blessed to have him in our cloud of witnesses.

The Gospel

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Here we have the most quoted and read verse in the entire Bible. It is said that even people who don’t go to church can quote and even give the proper reference for the verse. This verse comes very early in John’s Gospel about Jesus. The earthly ministry of Jesus is probably just gaining momentum and a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night to inquire more about Him. Nicodemus mentions that the Jewish leaders realize there is something special about Jesus. If you look at verse two in this same chapter he says, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” By using the word “we” it is assumed that there were some within the Jewish leadership who could see that Jesus was something different.

Jesus then explains His reason for coming: to give eternal life. Eternal life for the Jews meant that by following laws it could be earned, but Jesus came to give eternal life to those who believe. God knew that the world was broken and was in need of salvation. God in His love gave up His Son to come to earth and die on a cross, so that those who believe will have eternal life. As believers I hope we never get tired of hearing or reading this verse.  My hope is that as you meditate on this verse you can realize all that Jesus has done. He has given us new life. This talk with Jesus changed Nicodemus; it is assumed that he became a follower of Christ. Based on the fact that after Jesus died on the cross it was Nicodemus and another man who took the body of Jesus and place Him in His tomb. Reflect on the simple words of John 3:16 today and be encouraged. What do you believe?

Meeting Together

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25

Hebrews was originally written to Christians who had converted from Judaism. These Christians came under fierce persecution and probably felt pressured to return to their old Jewish religion. The author lays out several arguments to show the Hebrews that Jesus is better than what their old Jewish religion could offer. He will show that Jesus is better than the angels and the Jewish priests, and that He is a true and better sacrifice. The writer is encouraging the believers to stay true to their new faith in Christ.

In these particular verses it appears that some believers have stopped meeting together, maybe out of fear. But the writer encourages them to continue meeting together. It is together that they can spur each other on. What they are facing is tough, but together they can stand strong and encourage each other.

As believers today we can read these verses and think about the importance of being in church regularly. We might not be facing the same struggles and challenges as those early Christians but we can face other types of struggles that might try and pull us away from each other. Maybe it is the struggle of laziness, maybe we get up on a Sunday morning and we just don’t feel like going to church. Maybe we had a busy Saturday and we just need a day to relax, so church on Sunday can just be skipped. If church is just something we go to when it’s convenient, I think we are missing what church is.

There are people in the world that face the possibility of death for just attending church. The simple response could be, then why go? They must see something important about going to church, much like the writer in Hebrews. Church is the gathering of believers to come and worship the God we owe everything to. Our focus, of course, should always be on God, but we specifically set aside Sunday as a time to gather with other believers and worship God.  We need Sunday to help us Monday through Saturday. To think, “I don’t need to gather with the church,” is completely against any teaching in Scripture. We need each other and we need God, and Sunday is the day we gather at Faith Fellowship to return our attention to God together. When all else fades away, God is still there. Let’s continue to come together and worship God, laying aside the busyness of this world and meeting together to spur each other on. – Seth

“When the music fades, and all is stripped away,
And I simply come
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart

I’ll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself is not what you have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You, it’s all about you Jesus”

Why God?

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
– Habakkuk 1:2-3

The prophet Habakkuk is writing during a difficult time in Judah’s history. The northern nation of Israel had been conquered by Assyria because of their wickedness and now the southern nation of Judah was about to face the same fate from the Babylonians. Habakkuk looks around at Judah and sees the violence, trouble, injustice, and sin and wonders why God doesn’t do anything about it. Habakkuk wonders if God even hears him. He wonders why God is allowing these things to happen.

Watching the news on any given night can often lead one to ask the same questions that Habakkuk is asking. We see the evil in the Manchester bombing, the Kabul bombing, and the attack in Egypt. Within these three events 141 lives were lost, many more injured. One problem people bring up when questioning if there is a God is, “If there is a God why doesn’t He stop all these type of events. Why not just get rid of evil?” This is a question that requires much more time and space than this short devotion.

One thing to remember is that evil does not come from God. Sin has tainted this world. Another aspect to understand is that God is still keeping the door open for more to find salvation. There is an answer that comes in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We know that there is ultimate victory in Jesus Christ. These ideas only begin to scratch the surface for the deeper discussion on this topic, but what we learn from Habakkuk is that it’s ok to question God. God does not get upset with the questions Habakkuk is asking. God will use our questions to strengthen our faith.

God does answer in the remaining verses of chapter one. God tells Habakkuk that the nation of Babylon is going to come in and punish Judah for their actions. In the same way, we understand that in the end God will punish all the evil that we see in the world and it will be no more. But until then, God calls us to preach the Word and give comfort to those who are hurting. It’s not wrong to question God, but through the questioning, God wants us to become closer to Him.