Heroes of Faith: Abraham Went out Not Knowing

Hebrews 11:8 (NKJV) 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

We are looking at Hebrews 11 which lists a number of people who did outstanding things by faith. This chapter has been called God’s Hall of Fame of faith. What we want to find out is what made the faith these people walked in hall of fame quality. I want to begin looking at the person Romans 4 calls the father of our faith, Abraham.

I often teach on Romans 4 as a basic handbook to how to operate in faith. This chapter goes through a step by step account of how Abraham, a childless man of 100, could receive the promise of God to become the father of nations. Hebrews 11:8-22 we will see a more chronological account of what Abraham did and how he might have felt along the way.

In verse 8 we see the first thing about Abraham’s faith that put him in the Hall of Fame. Abraham obeyed without knowing where he was going nor how God was going to accomplish what he said he would do. This is one of the necessary things that we must be willing to do if we are going to have hall of fame faith.

Let us look at the promise God and the direction God gave to Abraham while he was still known as Abram.

Genesis 12:1-4 (NKJV) 1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

The promise to Abram contained 5 basic elements. He would show Abram a land to which God wanted him to Go. He would make him a great nation. To be a great nation he must have descendants, so he was going to have a family. God would bless Abram and make his name great. Abram was not only going to be blessed, he was going to be a blessing. In Abram all families of the earth would be blessed. Those who bless Abram will be blessed and those who curse Abram will be cursed. This is covenant language so Abram would have a covenant with God.

This is a wonderful list of things that Abram was going to receive. If God said these things to you or me, our next questions would probably be, “When can I expect delivery, Lord?” and, “How exactly are you going to do that? And by the way, where exactly is that land?” One of the greatest hindrances to our faith is the need to know. We want to know what, when where, why and how. Until we have those answers it is hard for us to trust that God is going to do what he said.

To make matters even worse, God puts some requirements on Abram. None of this is going to happen until he leaves what he does know and is willing to walk into the unknown. Abraham obeyed God and left Haran, he left his father, he took all that he had and went on a journey to who knows where and who knows how. If we want to have Hall of Fame faith, we are going to have to be willing to do the same.

Not every faith endeavor requires that we know nothing, but most require that we do not know everything. We must be willing to obey God without knowing the details. What Abram did know is that God promised. He promised a land, a blessing and a future that would be important to the whole world.

In my life, everything that has been truly significant required that I obey not knowing. In Abram’s case, the obedience was in the form of leaving things behind and going to a place he knew nothing about. Sometimes the obedience is giving money it does not seem we can afford to give. Sometimes it means reaching out to people we do not know how to help. Sometimes it means starting a project we do not feel qualified to do and do not have the resources to complete. I have experienced all of those.

Let me share one example. When I was 32 years old God began to deal with me about leaving the city where we had built our second church and going to another place. Some people had come to our church from a town 80 miles south of us. I was at the church alone early one Sunday praying for the service. I heard someone come in and went out to greet them. I asked them where they were from. They said, “We are from Greene.” I had no idea where that was. They said it was near the city of Binghamton.

They came to our church in Rome, NY for a few years and we talked about what God might have in mind. One thing led to another and I knew that it was time to move on from where we were. When it came time to go, the only place that was available to us was this small village in the Southern Tier of New York State.

Rome is not a big city, but it is a city. Greene is near a city similar in size to where we lived, but the village was only 1500 people. As the time went on, we were convinced that this little village was where God was sending us. We knew nothing about the area. We had never considered living in that part of the state. My wife’s parents lived west of there and I had said at one time, “I don’t ever want a ministry in the Southern Tier. This area is dead.” Be careful what you say. The place God sent us was right in the Southern Tier of New York state.

We started a prayer meeting at the home of the people who were driving north every week to come to the church in Rome. We were praying that God would raise up leadership for that area. I had no intention of being part of that Leadership. God, however, had other ideas. In 1987 God had us start a church with 11 people, 7 of whom were my family. After a while, we packed up our home and our family and moved to this “strange land” and committed to a small place and a small work.

Space does not permit me to go into details, but our obedience released a series of miracles that led to our church owning 64 acres and 3 buildings. We raised a congregation of around 150 and had a group of people who loved God, walked in faith and built something special for God’s kingdom. Eventually my wife and I were able to turn a dept free property and ministry over to our second son and his wife and it continues to grow today.

What I really want you to know is that our obedience to do something we did not understand and did not look like a promotion led directly to what we are doing today. One day an African minister from Liberia in West Africa showed up at our meeting. We developed relationship with him, and he asked me to go with him to his homeland. That opened a door that has led to nearly 30 years of ministry in Africa. While we were still pastors, we went a few weeks at a time a few times a year. Now we spend months there teaching and strengthening churches and leaders.

I believe this is the destination God always had for my wife and me. We still do not know what it will look like nor where we are eventually going. What I do know is that obedience to go to a place we did not know, not understanding how we could even survive with so few people supporting us, led to our being privileged to bless people in many nations. Do not be afraid to trust God when you do not know all the answers. God is able to take care of you. Your obedience will unlock something the devil cannot stop and something that will be the greatest blessing in your life.

Heroes of Faith: Noah Part 3

Hebrews 11:7 (NKJV) 7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Hebrews chapter 11 is what I like to call the Hall of Fame of faith. It lists many people who did extraordinary things for God through faith. Some did not really look very extraordinary. Abel worshiped God with a pure sacrifice born of a pure heart. Enoch walked with God to such a degree that God caused him to bypass death and be taken directly to his presence. Neither did anything great in the natural sense, but who they were and how they lived is what caused them to be listed in God’s Faith Hall of Fame.

Our goal is to learn what made there faith so great in God’s eyes that he elevated them in this way. What can we learn from them that will help our faith? We are currently looking at Noah. It is important to remember that what each person listed in this chapter did, they did by faith. Everything Noah did was by faith. It may not seem that way on the surface, but the Word of God says it was. What have we learned from Noah that we need in our lives to have Hall of Fame faith?

First, we learned that Noah believed what God had to say even though it disagreed with the common wisdom of the day. We must believe the Word of God. First the written Word and then what God speaks to us personally. The written word is always the standard. Second, we learned that Moses went against the flow of his generation. The Bible calls him perfect in his generation. He was not perfect in the sense of never making a mistake or doing wrong. He was perfect in terms of his willingness to follow God’s will and God’s ways while living in a generation that had rejected God. That is what we face in our generation: A world that is progressively rejecting God.

Finally, he did these things because he had cultivated a healthy fear of God. Again, this does not mean to be afraid of God or his presence. It means to have a healthy awareness of who he really is. He is not your buddy. He is not just another “good idea.” He is your Abba or Daddy, but he is also your Father God. He is almighty. He created all around us. He is everywhere and he knows everything. He is never wrong. Unless this element is part of our faith, it will never be able to fully rise above the flow of culture, society or even religion,

I want to look at two more things in Noah’s life that are also very important to our faith. Noah built his ark for “the saving of his household.” Although I do not believe that we can ignore the rest of the world, we must understand how important our walk of faith is to our own house. In Noah’s case, this meant his wife, children and their families.

Sometimes when we stand for the Word of God our own families do not understand. Raising children in Godliness when they must live in an ungodly world can be difficult. They do not understand why we may say, “You cannot go there or do that.” To this day I know that my children thought we were a little too extreme. However, I have this testimony. All six are serving God today. The one who felt the pull of the world the most (his words not mine), is now the pastor of the church my wife and I founded. We built an ark for the kingdom of God. We built an ark to reach our community. However, we built an ark for the preservation of our family so they could go on to serve God as well.

We must remember that our walk of faith is not just for our own benefit. It does have that result, but our faith is about much more. When we walk in faith as Noah did it also builds something that will impact our family, our friends and the world around us. Jesus spoke of two builders in Matthew 7. One built on sand and one on the bedrock of hearing and doing the Word of God. The one built on sand fell when tried by the storm. The one built on the Rock was still standing when the storm was over. Where did people go after the devastation of the storm? They went to the house, ark, that was built on a faith that went against the easy path and took the time to build on something solid.

Noah’s faith preserved his family, but it also gave God something with which to rebuild. My faith affects everyone around me. It gave God something to work with in my family’s life and it has given many others something to look at as an example of what God can do. To have Noah’s kind of Hall of Fame faith we must remember that we are building this ark for our family and, by extension, everyone over whom we have influence.

The last thing about Noah’s faith that I want to point out is this. In Hebrews 11:7, it says he prepared an ark. The last verse in Genesis 6 says something similar. Let us look at it from the Amplified Bible.

Genesis 6:22 (AMP) 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

Noah did what God asked him to do. James 2:17 says that faith without works is dead, being alone. In 1 Samuel 15:22, the bible says to obey is better than sacrifice. Saul had offered religious sacrifices to God, but he had not fully obeyed what God told him to do. I think that is sometimes the thing most hindering our faith from taking the step to Hall of Fame quality. We will often offer God sacrifices but we do not simply obey what he says. We talk the faith talk but we put no actions behind them, and this causes our faith to be less effective than it could or should be.

When I say this, I am not talking about salvation by works. I am not talking about our works being the measure of our faith from the standpoint of what people see. However, if we hear the word of God and do not obey it, James tells us that we deceive ourselves (James 1:22.)

When we look at the sports halls of fame, we see people who had great talent in their field. However, not all the talented make it to the hall. There are usually people who played the sport at the same time as the hall members who were more talented. The difference between a hall of fame career and a good career is that the hall of famer combines a great deal of work with his talent.

In this small statement we see the thing that put Noah in the Hall of Fame. All of the other things worked together to bring him to the place where he could get to this point. However, it was this thing that we remember. He did what God told him to do. He built the ark. He did not just study ark plans. He did not just dream of what it might be like to have an ark. He did not have committee meetings about the ark construction. There were no feasibility studies before the ark construction could begin. Though these things may be necessary in the world, what set Noah apart was that he did what God told him to do.

No one else understood. No one had ever done anything like this before. The bible says that he was ridiculed for building it. In the end, what set him apart in God’s eyes was that he built it. Because he obeyed God, he was saved. His family was saved, and God could continue what he started in the Garden of Eden even though the rest of the people in the world at that time “thought only continually.”

I would like to ask you today to look at your faith life. Do you want to take it to Hall of Fame level? Your family needs you to. Those around you need you to. To survive in today’s world, you need to. Look again at Noah and make sure the things in his life are part of yours as well. Above all, build your ark. Do the things God tells you to do, both in your lifestyle and in your work for the Kingdom of God.

The Heroes of Faith: Noah Part 2

Hebrews 11:7 (NKJV) 7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Last time we began to look at Noah’s place in the Hall of Fame of faith found in Hebrews 11:7. We saw a number of things about Noah’s faith that we can apply to our lives. We saw that Moses believed what God was saying even though the rest of the world thought he was crazy. Second, we found that Noah was willing to go against the flow of his culture and his time even in the face of ridicule or rejection.

If we want to have Hall of Fame faith, we must be willing to do the same. When God speaks it rarely will be in tune with the opinions of the times. We must choose to believe God, including what he says in his written Word, no matter who else rejects it. We must also be willing to go against the grain of culture and the prevailing attitudes if we are going to walk by faith in the invisible God.

There are some other things we can learn from Noah. There is something in verse 7 that we usually do not want to talk about. Noah was moved with godly fear. I believe in a loving and accepting God. In Romans 8, Paul says that nothing could separate him from God’s love. I believe that for myself. I may do things that are not pleasing to God. Nevertheless, I can always come home. God always loves me just like the father in Luke 15 loved the prodigal son. He did not follow the son into the pig pen, but he was waiting for him when he returned. The father never stopped loving him and our Father will never stop loving us.

That said, we cannot eliminate the fear of the Lord from the equation. This term appears throughout the bible. What does it mean to fear God and why is as important to our faith as it was to Noah’s?

To fear God does not carry the connotation of being afraid of God as we might interpret it. According to Strong’s concordance the word for fear means to be circumspect. Circumspect means to be cautious. Strong’s goes on to say that this kind of fear is to be apprehensive; religiously, to reverence. Understanding God’s love is vital to faith. Understanding that he is still God is also vital. In the chapter just preceding our study we read this.

Hebrews 10:30-31 (NKJV) Heb 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

That is the New Testament, not the Old. In the next chapter, chapter 12, he reinforces this.

Hebrews 12:7-8 (NKJV) Heb 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

It is not hard to understand the fear of the Lord if we understand family. I raised six children. My children and I spent wonderful times together. I loved being their Daddy. We played together, worked together and shared life together. My children are all grown now, but to this day when my wife and I are traveling I think of how it would be wonderful to share whatever thing we may be seeing with my kids.

They were not afraid to come into my presence. They are still at home in my house. They know I would do anything I can for them, and they know they will always be my children not matter what. However, even today the fear me in a wholesome and healthy sense.

In this context, fear means to have a healthy respect and awe. They grew up in my house. Today they know that I am flawed and human but when they were in their formative years, I was not just Daddy. I was their father. I was there to care for them, but this included discipline and correction. Because they knew how much I loved them, they knew I would do nothing to hurt them. They wanted to bless me and make me proud. In their awe for the father they learned to trust me, to obey me and to be like me where it counted. That foundation remains.

Paul reveals this dynamic to us in Romans 8:15

Romans 8:15 (NKJV) Ro 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

Sometimes it seems we only want to relate to Abba. That is the word for Daddy in the language of Jesus world. However, Paul says we must cry out both Abba, Daddy, and Father. Our Father is all powerful, all knowing and everywhere present. He sees all we do and hears all we say. He knows every thought, and nothing is hidden from him. He loves me, and yet as my Father I honor and respect him. As my God I hold him in reverence and awe. There is a certain caution in how I approach him. Not because I doubt his love but because I know it is there but I also I understand who and what he is. I fear the Lord.

In Noah’s life, this aspect of God’s love for him and more important his love for God caused him to believe God’s word above his culture. It empowered him to go against the popular flow of his day. He understood the power of God. He understood the holiness of God. To go against that in order to please those around him was unthinkable.

This attitude also enhanced his faith because he had no doubt about what God could and would do. If God said destruction was coming, it was coming. If God said and Ark would save him, he would build and ark. The fear of the Lord is what motivates us to obey his Word when it is uncomfortable, unpleasant or even dangerous. He is our Father. He is God and he does not lie.

Today it is not easy to convey what the bible means by the fearing God. It has been contaminated by religious systems that imply we must “appease” God so he will not do bad things to us. That is not at all the idea here. That thought implies that God is looking for a reason to punish us. Hebrews 11:6 tells us God is a rewarder. He wants to reward us, but when we do not understand who we are dealing with, we will do things that keep him from being able to. We disobey. We take sin lightly. We see God as someone we can “get around” instead of someone we must not be out of sync with.

I have pastored a long time. I have seen children who did not fear their parents. They were rebellious. They talked to Mom and Dad like they would talk to some kid in school. They did not obey because they had no awe reverence or respect for their father and mother. Unless God intervenes, those children generally end up in trouble. The parents, who often just want their kids to love them, find that love without requiring respect will turn into hatred and rejection. I want my children and grandchildren to love me. I equally want them to respect and honor me, not for my sake but for theirs.

We need to fear God to have Hall of Fame faith. We need to know we can come to him and he will never reject us. We also need to have the kind of awe and reverence for him that says, “My Father will do what he says and whatever he requires is for my good. I will not disobey him, and I will trust his word.”

Heroes of Faith: Noah Part One

Hebrews 11:7 (NKJV) 7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

We are looking at the Hall of Fame of faith in Hebrews chapter 11. This chapter contains a list of people who “obtained a good report” for the things they did by faith in God. What was it about them that enabled them to have such an outstanding walk of faith that God would set them apart? We have looked at Abel, who worshiped by faith and Enoch who walked with God by faith. Today I want to look at one of the most famous characters in the Old Testament. His name is Noah.

Noah lived in the most corrupt period in all human history. I am always moved by how the bible describes humanity in Noah’s day. The NKJV says that every thought and intention of their hearts were only evil continually. The NLT puts it in a more modern perspective.

Genesis 6:5 (NLT2) 5 The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.

It is often hard to reconcile the loving God that we know destroying everything on the earth, but we must understand what was at stake here. Everything the people of Noah’s day thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. Sin had taken over. The knowledge of the God of the universe would be removed from the earth. Man could never be redeemed because there would be no one left to become the channel for the Messiah.

There was one family and one man left who stilled feared God. His name was Noah. How long would 1 family maintain its righteousness in a world so corrupt? I believe God, who is all knowing and all wise, determined that they would not survive. They would be killed either physically or spiritually. Either way, all of God’s family, both past and present would be lost. He could not allow that.

God needed a man of extraordinary faith to preserve the seed of the race he created as his family. God needed Noah. What were the things about Noah’s faith that made it so powerful in the eyes of God? First let me say that it was not because he was a perfect man. After the flood, Noah did something that proved he was just as human as the rest of us. However, at the point where God needed him, Noah showed Hall of Fame faith.

In Hebrews 11 we learn some of what made his faith great. It says that Noah was warned of things that were not yet seen. The world of Noah’s day had no idea what was coming. They were full of such contempt for God that they thought they could continue in their sin without consequence. Anyone who said differently would have been ridiculed and rejected. Quite probably, they would have been subject to attack and persecution.

I find this very similar to our day. Secular humanism has infiltrated most of our society. Man is now seen as the pinnacle of all that is. His wisdom and his opinions are what counts. It is not at all popular to think in terms of absolutes of right and wrong. These are ideas that are seen as relative. Anyone who looks at things in society that the Bible teaches as wrong and says as much, is treated in the same way Noah would have been. Nevertheless, Noah believed what God was telling him even though he had no proof. The Word of God was enough.

I believe we need people to stand up for what is right today. God does not set the standards of right and wrong in the Bible to hurt us or limit us. He sets them because he sees what we do not. He understands a higher truth than we do. Sin is toxic to humanity. In the beginning it resulted in the separation of God and man in the Garden of Eden. In Noah’s day it produced so much corruption in the hearts of people that every thought they thought was evil. Every dream they had was fueled by evil. Their lives were so dominated by evil things that God was left with two choices. He could simply destroy them all and start over or he could find someone with the faith to save the future of humanity. He found Noah.

Noah believed something no one else did. He did not believe it just because of what he saw. He believed that destruction was coming because God Said so. He believed the Word of God above all else. That is the essence of Hall of Fame faith. We have already seen that Noah was not perfect, but look at what God says about him in verses 8 and 9 of Genesis 6.

Genesis 6:8-9 (NKJV) 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. 9 This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.

Noah found grace in the eyes of God. Not because he was perfect. He found grace because he was a just man and perfect in his generations. That does not mean he never made a mistake. It meant that in the context of his generation, he walked with God. He stood for God and his ways when no one else did. Noah’s faith caused him to go against the flow of his generations. Hall of Fame faith must be willing to believe what others cannot see and go against the flow of the times in which we live.

We have been given a grace that is far better than that in which Noah walked. We have been born again because of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. That grace can empower us to be people who are just and perfect in our generation. Not perfect in the sense of without flaw. Perfect in the sense that we choose to stand for God, his Word and his ways. Noah went against the flow of his generations. I believe that if we are going to have Hall of Fame faith, faith that causes God to take notice, we must be willing to do the same.

It has always been difficult for Christians to live in a sin dominated world. However, Noah’s world was worse than any since that time. I am often appalled at what I see today, yet I do not believe that everyone’s thoughts and intentions “are only evil continually.” If Noah could go against the flow of his generation, so can we. Let us look at a New Testament scripture that tells us the same thing.

2 Corinthians 6:16-18 (NKJV) 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” 17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” 18 “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.”

God wants to be a Father to us and wants us for his children. He wants us to have the kind of relationship with him that will cause us to be effective in life. That relationship is the foundation of faith. To have that kind of faith, there is something we must do. We must “come out from among them and be separate.” We must go against the flow of our generation wherever it conflicts with God’s Word and his ways. If we do not, he still loves us, but we will run the risk of falling into sin and corruption. Worse to me, we run the risk of living a meaningless life that changes no one and nothing. I cannot abide that thoughf.

None of us is ever going to be perfect. We will always make mistakes. Thank God for his Grace! We can strive to be perfect in our generation. We can hear what the Word of God says even though the rest of the people around us do not. We can walk in a way that may make the world angry and cause rejection and persecution. If we do, we will find in the end that we have lived a life that pleases God and a life that will have mattered to those around us. When we stand before God, we will find we have made the Hall of Fame.

More on Noah next time.

Heroes of Faith: Enoch

Hebrews 11:5 (NKJV) 5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

We are looking at Hebrews chapter 11 as we examine a list of people who did great things by faith. What were the characteristics that produced these actions? What attitudes can we learn from these people that will help us in our faith walk?

Enoch is the next person in God’s list. He represents another challenge from a teaching standpoint. Again, there is very little information about this man. Of all the early people in the Bible accounts, he actually has the shortest physical life. However, there is something about his life that caused him to be listed in this chapter. What was it?

Genesis 5:21-24 (NKJV) 21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. 22 After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

I find this account of Enoch’s life very interesting. He was born and lived 65 years. Nothing special there. He had a son named Methuselah. Methuselah lives longer than anyone else listed in the “Genealogy of man” of in chapter 5. Yet there is nothing special revealed about the relationship between Enoch and Methuselah. I have to wonder if there was something that Enoch imparted to his son that led to such long life.

We see that Enoch lived a total of 300 years after he had Methuselah and his accomplishments were that he had sons and daughters. So, we know this about Enoch. He was a father and therefore a husband. He lived a relatively short life for his time. He raised a family, including a son that became the human to live the longest in recorded history. That is all Enoch did as far as what God wants to tell us. It would seem that he was just an “average Joe” living an average life. Like Abel, he conquered nothing, led nothing, did nothing. Yet this common, ordinary man is an example to us of “Hall of Fame” faith.

I find this very encouraging. We live in an age of fame. Those who are great are those who do things worthy of being known by the rest of us. Sometimes famous people are famous for good cause and worthy of our admiration. More often, they are people who either got lucky or had a talent that brought them attention. There are not many famous mothers, fathers, husbands or wives. Storekeepers, teachers, clerks and factory workers do not get famous. Yet God places a person just like this in the beginning of his Hall of Fame.

What was it about Enoch that made his ordinary life so extraordinary that God suspended the laws of nature and even what would seem to be the theological limitations of the time? The bible says Enoch lived three hundred sixty-five years, did nothing special and then God took him from the earth. Why would he do that? From my theological perspective that was not possible because Jesus had not yet paid the price for sin. Yet it happened.

The one thing we read in this short account of Enoch’s life that is of note is that he walked with God. None of the rest of the people listed in Genesis 5 are described this way. It is said that they lived so many years or all the days of there lives were so many years. When the bible speaks of Enoch it says that he walked with God for 300 years after he begot Methuselah and then it says Enoch walked with God 365 years and he was not. What makes Enoch so special? He walked with God.

Hebrews 11 sheds a little more light on Enoch. It says he was taken away so that he did not see death by faith. I do not believe that Enoch was confessing and believing that he would not see death. That is not how his faith worked to produce such extraordinary results. It says there was something about how he walked with God that pleased God. I believe verse 6 to be one of the most important verses in the bible but let us look at it in the light of Enoch’s life.

Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

How did Enoch please God. Verse 6 tells us there is only one way. We please by faith. This verse describes Enoch’s faith as believing that God is. I have been stuck on this verse for years. Simply believing beyond any doubt that God exists changes everything. If there is a supernatural, almighty God, anything is possible. Then is says that he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him. I believe we understand how Enoch walked with God from this description.

Enoch was not special in terms that we might understand. If he did mighty works, they were not what God considered important about Enoch’s faith. What he did was live every day of his life believing that God was there. He believed that God was involved in his life. He believed that God was a loving God who was predisposed to reward those who served him. He did not believe that he had to appease God to keep him from punishing him. Enoch believed that God wanted to reward him.

This belief caused him to diligently seek God. We do not know exactly how Enoch did that. We do know how we can. We can seek to know the Lord. We can spend time with him in prayer. We can obey him when he speaks. We can study his Word to know what he wants us to be and what he has provided for us to help us get to that place.

There is one more thing we know about Enoch from Genesis. Enoch walked with God. As I was meditating on this, I realized that most often I wanted God to walk with me. I wanted God involved in what I wanted to do. I wanted God to bless my works and my ministry. There is nothing wrong with this per se. However, we see something different in Enoch. Enoch walked with God. What is the difference.

If God walks with me, I am in control. I set the direction. We go where I want to Go and do what I want to do. God says he will be with us. Hebrews 13:5 tells me God will never leave me or forsake me. That said, If I walk with God the implication is that he sets the agenda. We go where he wants to go. We do what he wants to do. Enoch walked with God!

Walking with God is something we must do by faith. We cannot see him. We do not hear him with natural ears. In Enoch’s day, the fall was only a few generations past. Yet there was something about his love for God that caused him to reach out with faith in such a way that he was in step and in tune with God. The depth of his walk with God was such that it produced a seamless transition from life to life. He did not see death. That is astounding.

What does this mean to me? I must make walking with God by faith the priority of my life. Thank God he walks with me. Nevertheless, when I walk with him it is a different dimension. I must believe that he is really there and really involved in my life. This is not just true if I am doing great things in the eyes of the world. It is true when I am just living normal life, if I live it in light of the fact of his existence and his love for me.

If I do that, I will naturally seek him, and I will receive the reward of his guidance and power in my life. Everything I do will be infused with the Hall of Fame faith that pleases my Father.

The Heroes of Faith: Cain and Abel

Hebrews 11:4 (NKJV) 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.

We have been talking about the heroes of faith enshrined in the hall of fame of faith in Hebrews 11. This chapter is a list of people who walked in the faith process. Each one had characteristics that enabled them to do great things in God. These are all Old Testament characters. In the New Testament, we have the new birth. This enables us to walk in a higher dimension of faith because we have a better covenant and a different relationship with God than the Old Testament saints we will study. Nevertheless, their attitudes and actions can help us create the conditions and atmosphere in which our faith can thrive. Hebrews 11 begins with Abel and so will we.

When I began this study, I came to the first entry in God’s hall of fame of faith and wondered how I could ever develop a message about Abel. There is very little in the bible about him. He is one of the first two sons born to Adam and Eve. There is not a lot of history to look at concerning him. He did no great works. He was not a prophet, priest or king. He won no great battles. What was it about Abel that earned him a place in the Hall of Fame?

The only work that Abel did according to Hebrews 11:4 is bring a “more excellent sacrifice” than his older brother Cain. Yet in this act God holds him up as an example of faith for us to follow today. Why? To understand we must go back to the book of beginnings, Genesis.

Genesis 4:2-5 (NKJV) 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

Cain was the firstborn of Adam and Eve. He was a farmer while Abel raised sheep. Each of them brought a sacrifice to God. In that time, sacrifices were the way they would worship God. God accepted Abel’s worship but rejected Cain’s worship. What was wrong with Cain’s worship. More important what was right about Abel’s.

I have heard is said that Cain brought his offering from the cursed ground while Abel brought a lamb. The problem with this for me is that each brought what he had and the fruits of his labor. The curse of the fall was not just on the ground. The curse was on everything in the physical creation. The curse God spoke to Adam was that from that point he would have to labor “with the sweat of his brow” to live. The livestock and the vegetables both represented the “sweat of the brow” for the one who brought them. God did not reject Cain’s work and accept Abel’s. There was something else going on here. The Lord tells us in the next two verses.

Genesis 4:6-7 (NKJV) 6 So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

It was not the material that made up Cain’s worship that God rejected but the attitude behind it. Cain did what he was supposed to do. I am sure his parents must have taught him how to worship. They told him that it was necessary to bring an offering to God. If he needed to bring a lamb instead of the work of his own hands, they would have instructed him to do so. The problem was that he did not bring his offering with a pure heart of faith. He did his religious duty.

Religion is the structure that forms around our relationship with God. Unfortunately, the structure often takes the place of relationship. When we do the form without the heart of the relationship, we can do religious duty without real worship. When that is our reality, we can bring our religion to God even though we have sin in our heart. This was Cain’s problem.

God tells exactly why he rejected Cain’s offering. He says to him that if he had done what was right, he would have been accepted. He was not accepted because “sin was at his door.” He did not come to God with a heart of love and faith. He came to God with a heart full of hatred for his brother. He did not begin to hate Abel when God rejected his offering. Sin was already at his door. It is possible that he brought his offering because he hoped to cover the sinful thoughts he was having towards Abel. Perhaps he felt compelled because he knew Abel would bring an offering. Either way, it did not work. God said he needed to rule over the sin first. Then God would receive his offering.

Religion has no power to overcome sin. It has no power against the devil. It often causes the world to see us as righteous, but it does nothing to make our hearts right with God. God recognizes when what we may call worship comes from a religious perspective. He does not look so much at what we do. He looks at our heart. We may bring the grandest of offerings to God. We may sacrifice to fulfill some religious ideal. None of that impresses God. What does impress him is when we come to God by faith with love and gratitude in our heart. That is what Abel must have done.

Hebrews 11:4 tells us why Abel’s sacrifice was received, and Cain’s was not. He brought his sacrifice by faith. Abel came to God believing that god was really there. I am sure that he came because he loved God and wanted to bless him. I think he did what he had been taught would bring blessing to his life as well. However, above all he came by faith.

If we are going to have “Hall of Fame” worthy faith, we must begin with faith in our worship of God. When we sing to him, we need to do so out of a conscious understanding that God really is there. We must believe that he is listening and that he receives our worship. If we come by faith, we will give God something of value in our worship. The value will not be in what we bring. It will be in the heart that brings it. Cain did not come to God by faith. He came out of religion and obligation. He came with hatred and murder at the door of his heart.

I believe praise and worship is one of the most important things we can do in our Christian life. There will be no preaching, teaching or healing to do in heaven. We will not have to plan our programs or raise funds for the works we need to do. The one work we will do in heaven is to praise and worship God.

Our faith life must begin and end in our relationship with God himself. We do not just believe in a system, a philosophy or even the Word of God. We believe in a person. If we cultivate faith in our praise and worship life, whether publicly in church or in the privacy of our home, we are creating an atmosphere where “Hall of Fame” faith can flourish.

When we allow our religion to override our relationship in our praise and worship, we have a problem. That problem will extend to the rest of our walk with God. In Cain’s life, it resulted in the murder of his brother. Bring your praise and worship to God by faith and see how that changes your life. God put it first in his hall of fame. I think we should pay attention.

The Heroes of Faith: The Process

Hebrews 11:1-3 (NKJV) 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

In our last post we began looking at the great faith chapter of the New Testament, Hebrews 11. As a matter of review, we looked at verse 1 and discussed the definition of faith found there. Faith is hope that has been given substance. Faith is supported by the evidence found in two places. First, we find evidence of the reality of faith in the alters we should build around the things God has done in our personal lives. Whatever he did in the past he will do again. He may do it differently, but he will do it.

The most important evidence we have is the Word of God. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Faith is a matter of relationship above all else. The written Word is the evidence of what the invisible God will do. Because I know that God is a God of integrity, I know that I can trust his Word. Philippians 4:19 says God will meet my needs. Matthew 6:33 tells me that if I seek first God’s kingdom, everything I need will be added to my life. That is the evidence that the provision I cannot see is coming to me. I do not know how or when, but it is coming. Faith is the evidence of what I cannot see at the present time.

Hebrews 11:2 is the foundation scripture for what we are going to be looking at for a time.

Hebrews 11:2 (NKJV) 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.

The rest of this chapter is primarily a list of people and what they did. The King James Version says they obtained a good report. Today, the world is inundated with news. We have many 24-hour TV networks dedicated to reporting news. Every event is accompanied by report after report. Rarely are they good reports. Mostly the reports focus on the worst-case scenario and the worst in human nature. By faith, the elders listed here obtained a good report. This good report was not from a news network or the judgement of any man. They obtained a good report before God. I want to understand how.

It is interesting that the statement in verse 2 concerning the elders report comes before verse 3. This chapter focuses on what people did and the underlying factors that enabled them. Verse 3 is a statement of what God himself did. It also reveals the process of how he did it. I think we might look at verse 3 as the first of the good reports spoken of in verse 2.

Verse three says, “by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.” This statement has two valid interpretations. Read as it is written above, we conclude that it is by faith that we understand and accept that God is the one who created. That is true and valid. The only proof we will ever have that God created the worlds and not an accident of evolution, is the fact that the bible says so. (See verse 2b.) You can forget about ever proving the creator through historical or scientific evidence. You can see evidence which pointes to it, but you will never prove it to the satisfaction of the world. A true Christian needs no such proof. We have the Word, that is enough.

Why will we never have definitive proof that will convince the world? Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith we cannot please God. Physical proof would eliminate faith and the ability to please God. We will not find Noah’s ark on Mt. Ararat. We will never find the ark of the covenant or the holy grail. We will only have the evidence of faith in his Word as proof that God created.

There is another way to punctuate this verse. Since capitalization and punctuation are not in the original languages, both are done at the discretion of the translators. We might punctuate verse 3 this way. By faith, we understand, that the worlds were framed by the Word of God. This punctuation would say that faith was not just how we understand that God created but faith is also how he created.

Verse 3 begins by saying “by faith the worlds were framed by the Word of God.” The first step in the process of creation was that God framed the worlds with his Word. God had an inner image of what he wanted. God saw in his heart everything that is. The term “frame” is very descriptive. A frame sets a picture off from its surroundings. A frame defines the picture. It reveals its true nature.

God had a desire in himself. He defined that desire and set it apart by framing it using his Words. When he spoke words into the void, what he saw in himself was released and the physical world was created. The process begins with the release of something called “light.”

Genesis 1:3 (NKJV) 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Light, scientifically, is the building block of all matter. God began defining what he wanted by releasing the basic building block of physical matter. He continued framing the worlds by taking the building block he released and organizing it into various things using his Word. He divided the day from the night, he set the heavens in motion as a timekeeping device for the earth, and he created the plants and animals. All of this was done by framing what God had in his heart with the Word of God.

The result was that the things which appear were made out of things that, to natural eyes, are invisible. What is it that was invisible? The power of God was invisible to the natural world. What the power of God created was visible. It was the natural world.

The process by which God created was to take what was in his heart, frame it with His Words and release those words by speaking them. The release of his inner image in words created all that we see. That is what God did and that is how he did it. If the natural world was created by this process, it is reasonable to assume that it will respond to the same process. This process is called faith.

After the creation of man, the process of faith was adjusted somewhat. God created humanity as his children. He gave them dominion over the natural world. He told them to “keep” the garden. This word means to protect it and cause it to be fruitful or productive. How were they to do that. I do not think it was with a shovel or hoe. I do not think they were to protect it with a sword. They were to exercise dominion the same way God created. By releasing his inner image through words born of their intimate relationship with him.

After the fall, man and God were separated in the spirit. It was not until Jesus came and paid the price for sin that man once again could walk in the dominion as God intended him to. However, the process remained. God still communicated his heart to people. Before the fall it was from the inside out. After the fall it was from the outside in. Even so, if a person could receive God’s word, allow the image contained in it to take root and then act of that Word, the physical world would respond, and great things could be done.

By this process, called faith, the elders obtained a good report. Let us look at the attitudes and actions that made this process work. If they could do great things by faith while living under the Old Covenant, we can do greater things living under the new and better covenant.

Hebrews 12:24 (NKJV) 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.