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.

Heroes of Faith: Introduction

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.

Hebrews chapter 11 is considered a definitive Biblical explanation of Faith. Within it is a list of people often referred to as God’s Hall of Fame of Faith. A hall of fame is where we enshrine those who are the best at any endeavor. I live near the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This Museum contains room after room of artifacts and memorabilia of the sport of baseball. In a prominent position in the museum is a room called the “Hall of Fame.” It contains plaques dedicated to the best who ever played the game. Hebrews 11 contains such a list of people.

I do not really think it is truly accurate to call it a “hall of fame,” even though I do call it that. A hall of fame tries to honor all those who are the all-time best of whatever the hall is celebrating. In this case, it would be impossible to have a comprehensive listing of those who have walked in outstanding faith throughout history. There are simply to many. Verse 32 of this chapter says as much.

We know that the first verse of Hebrews 11 is the clearest biblical definition of faith. It is the substance of things hoped for. Hope has many good definitions and any of them could be applied here. I like the thought that hope implies possibility. Jesus said to a father whose faith had been challenged by life, that if he could believe “all things were possible.” Faith must begin with the understanding that what is impossible in light of natural limitations is possible for God. Without hope, faith has nothing to grab hold of.

It my conviction that because faith is necessary for salvation, every Christian has faith. The new birth makes us “believers” by nature. That said, we often lose our sense of possibility. I believe that is what the devil is usually after when he opposes us. It is very difficult to cause a person who has been born again to stop believing in Jesus, the Father or the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. The goal for our enemy is to let us believe in salvation and the existence of God, while robbing us of our expectation of what God CAN do. That expectation is called hope. If active faith that can change things is the substance of what we hope for, if we are robbed of hope our faith can no longer affect the natural world.

Faith is also the evidence of what we cannot see. We cannot see God. We cannot see the realm of the spirit where God lives. We cannot see the power of God. How can we believe what we cannot see? How can we expect beyond what our senses reveal? That is what biblical faith must do.

There are a number of things that produce this in a Christian. One of them is memories of what God has done. The Old Testament calls them alters. Many times, God spoke to Israel and said build me an alter in this place. One of the reasons God often gave was so that when your children pass by, you will remember to tell them what I did.

I believe we need alters. I am not talking about living in the past. I am talking about remembering what God has done in the past. That memory becomes part of our faith evidence that if God did something once, he will do it again. If he provided for my needs once, I have evidence he will do it again. My faith is based on what I know God has done and therefore will do. Whatever God has done in the past he can and will do again. Provision has been a consistent place I have used this in my life.

I have seen God provide for me and my family in many ways. When I face another challenge or I know I am called to step into some area of ministry for which I do not have the resources, I look back on what God has done to provide for me for over 40 years of ministry. This evidence gives me the wherewithal to believe for the current situation. My faith in what God has done becomes my evidence that he will do it now.

There is another evidence that is even more sure than my own alters. That evidence is the written word of God. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing the word of God. This is a statement made in relation to salvation. Nevertheless, I believe if faith for salvation comes from hearing the Word of God on salvation, then faith for anything else the bible promises comes from hearing the Word of God on whatever he has promised.

The Word of God is his will on any subject. If the Word of God says something can be done, it can. If the Word of God says God will provide for all my needs, and it does, He will. The written Word of God is not just a book. It is a living thing that has been infused with the life of God as a seed is infused with the life of a plant. When it is planted in our heart it grows into faith for whatever it is representative of.

The Word of God for healing produces faith for healing just as the Word of God for salvation produces salvation. You can put in whatever the Bible promises to us and faith for that promise will be produced. In that sense the Word of God and the faith it produces is the evidence that what I cannot see will happen. A promise I have stood on often in my life is from Philippians.

Philippians 4:19 (NKJV) 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

When I look at my situation and the evidence assures me that there is no way I will have the resources I need, what do I look to? I look to the promise of God. My God says he will meet my need. That is the only evidence I need to know that he will. When the devil, the world, or anyone in it points to the natural evidence to “bring me “back to my senses,” I point to the supernatural evidence and continue to trust in the God who spoke the Word.

It is important to remember that the words are not magic. Our faith is not in the words but in the one who spoke the them. However, the words he spoke are evidence of what he will do. When I look at the promises in the Word of God, they supersede the evidence in the natural. I trust in the Word more than what the natural evidence tells me. I have never been disappointed. There have been times when I have not seen things happen the way I wanted them to or how I thought they would. It is important to remember that God is the one who gives the evidence and he will bring things to pass in his way and his time.

I felt it was important to give this bit of perspective and review, but it is verse 2 that caught my attention. It tells us that by faith the elders obtained a good report. That is where the hall of fame comes into play. Although it is not an exhaustive list of the people who did outstanding things by faith, it is a representative list of Old Testament characters that did. The final verse of chapter 11 points to the fact that we have something greater than they did and that what they did was pointing towards us.

Hebrews 11:40 (NKJV) 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

Although what we have is better, it is still faith. If the Old Testament elders listed here could obtain a good report from God by walking in faith, how much more can we obtain a better report if we follow their example. What did the people in this chapter do to obtain the “good report?” What attitudes can we learn from them that will help us in our faith walk? That is what we are going to find out.

A Heart that is Good Ground: Mark Part 2

Mark 4:23-25 (NKJV). 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. 25 For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

As we have been studying Mark chapter 4, we have come to the end of the parable. In verse 20 Jesus said that the seed which fell on good ground was always productive but at different levels. In God’s economy no one is less than anyone else. I believe verses 21 through 25 us tell how to be 100-fold producers in the kingdom.

I think verse 23 is a verse that applies to what we have already studied and to the rest of what Jesus is revealing to us. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. We must have the right mindset. We must be willing to hear what God is saying not what we want him to say. We must be open to the revelation that comes from the Holy Spirit not just our preconceived ideas of what it says. We must also make a choice to hear what God is saying and this implies acting on what we hear. If we will not do that, nothing will change.

In verse 24 he gives us important instruction about hearing. First, he tells us to be careful what we hear. There are so many voices in the world today. All of them are vying for your attention. Some of them are necessary. We cannot avoid the voices of the world. We need information. We need to learn things that have nothing to do with our spiritual lives. However, we need to be careful what we hear. There are voices buried in the clutter of noise that makes up modern life that are more than just distractions. They are voices that are trying to lead us away from the truth.

I am not talking about just hearing something in passing. I am talking about what you have an ear to hear. What are you giving your attention to? There are things that I hear, but I do not give my attention to them. There are news articles that I refuse to spend time hearing (or seeing for that matter.) There are TV programs and movies that I will not watch. There are times when I may start watching but the content begins to try to convince me that the principles in the Word of God are not true. There are things that are “preaching” another message instead of what is in the Word. I refuse to give them my time or my attention.

On the other hand, I must be willing to give time to hearing what the Word of God says. That means I must give it my attention. If I never hear the Word preached or read the Word for myself, I am not giving attention to the Word. I am not cultivating the seeds I have already planted, nor have I planted more seeds of life. The more I give my time and attention to the Word of God the more I am going to think like God thinks. I will understand him more and know him better.

It is not popular right now to encourage people to give their time and energy more to the things of God than to the things of the world. Some will argue that it is just legalism to tell people they need to read the Bible, pray or spend time in Worship. That is not at all the case. If I want relationship with my wife, I need to spend time with her. If I never make time for her, if I never listen to her, I may live with her but not know her. The same is true of children. I may provide for them, but if I do not spend time with them where I am really listening to them and observing them, I am not really operating as a father. I am not going to produce 100-fold in raising my children or in my marriage.

The same is true of our relationship with God. I must spend time with him. I must come into his presence on a regular basis. With a physical person that is easily done. With an invisible God it is somewhat harder. What we hear from him comes through channels that are not always so definite. It is open to interpretation. That is why the written Word of God is so important. The more we give attention to the written Word, the more we will recognize the voice and presence of God.

The written Word is not just a book. It is a living thing and it is the thing that sets the parameters of our relationship with God. Without it we can never be sure if what we are hearing or understanding, is really God. The more we allow the Bible to live within us the more we will grow in knowing God. The more we grow in our relationship with him the more we produce in the Kingdom and the more we are able to walk in the benefits of salvation by Grace.

This brings us to the rest of verse 24. Look at how it comes out in the Amplified Bible.

Mark 4:24 (AMP) 24 And He said to them, Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you—and more [besides] will be given to you who hear.

First, we see that it uses the term hearing. This implies not just hearing something once or twice. That is not going to hinder you. It is what you are hearing that affects you. Hearing means to hear over and over again. To give more attention to that thing than other things. What are you hearing? He tells us how to judge that in the next sentence. “The measure of thought and study you give to the truth you hear will be the measure of virtue and knowledge that comes back to you and more besides will be given to you that hear.

I know that today we want our Christianity to be easy. We want it to flow with the lifestyle we enjoy. If it does not, we think there is something wrong with our interpretation. Nothing that is of real value is that way in life. If you go to college to learn a profession but never do the work, you will come out without an education. You will fail. If you try to work in a trade or any kind of job but refuse to work to learn how to do it, you will fail.

If you think you are going to have a marriage without changing your lifestyle and putting in some work to learn your spouse and how to live with him or her, you will fail. Anything worth doing takes time and effort and, yes even work! There are many athletes for example that have great talent but never fulfill their potential while others with less talent become greats in the game. The difference is that the ones with less talent work harder. We must understand that Christianity requires work. The more we put in the time and effort to know him and his Word, the more power and knowledge we will get out of it. If you put in 10-fold effort you will get 10-fold results. If you do your best to put in 100-fold effort but fall short, you will be much farther ahead. You have to choose.

No one can make you put in the effort to be a 100-fold Christian. When people try, that is when it becomes law. However, I would not love you if I did not tell you the truth. That is what Jesus is doing. Whatever effort you put into your Christian life is worth it. Jesus ends the verse by saying you will not only get out of the Word what you put in but that you will get even more. Luke 6:38 says that when we give to God, he gives back good measure pressed down shaken together and running over. God knows how to fill a vessel to its absolute capacity. The catch is that the same verse says God uses whatever measure we do. You will get much more for your tablespoon, cup or shovel than you could put in that measure, but if you choose to put in a greater measure of effort God will fill you up with more than what you put in. The thing is he will use the same measure.

Finally, he says that those that have will get more and those that have little will have what they have taken away. You may say, “That’s not fair God. You should give more to those that have little.” This is not a matter of fairness. It is a matter of how things work in life. Give yourself to your Christian walk. Give 100-fold effort or as close to that as you can. If you choose to just float along, it is not God who will take away from you. We have an enemy. It is he who comes to “steal, kill and destroy.” When we give our best effort to the Lord we will have the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10. The choice is yours.