6.8.15–>”Kataphroneo: Hebrews 12:1-17″

Focus

Hebrews 12:1-2

What about us, then? We have such a great cloud of witnesses all around us! What we must do is this: we must put aside each heavy weight, and the sin which gets in the way so easily. We must run the race that lies in front of us, and we must run it patiently.

We must look ahead, to Jesus. He is the one who carved out the path for faith, and he’s the one who brought it to completion. He knew that there was joy spread out and waiting for him. That’s why he endured the cross, making light of its shame, and has now taken his seat at the right hand of God’s throne. [KNT]

focus on Jesus

Just a tiny bit of Greek has helped me grasp a deeper understanding of verse 2 here. Kataphroneo, translated here in The Kingdom New Testament as “making light of,” means to treat someone or something as if he or it had little value. Or you might say you reckon it to be of no value or importance, to “set it at naught,” emptying it of its potency. Disesteem.

As a young padawan,  growing up in AWANA, I memorized Scripture out of the KJV. (No doubt, some of you have no idea what I just said.) There, it translates kataphroneo as “despising.” I was also familiar with the NIV’s rendering: “scorning.” I never really understood those words I had memorized and recited so many times. “Despising the shame,” yeah I’d despise that shame too! “Scorning?” Who uses that word anymore?

But we see a much deeper meaning here when we look at the rich and nuanced Greek. Jesus carved out our path by looking beyond the immediate, painful circumstances to the reward ahead. He treated the shame of the cross as insignificant or of little consequence, when compared to the joy awaiting Him up ahead.

Therefore, we are encouraged to look beyond our present difficulties and ahead to God’s promises. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, as some translations read. This is how we endure hardship. This is what gets us through–looking to Jesus, looking ahead, beyond our present situation, beyond ourselves. Jesus reckoned the shame of the cross insignificant when compared to the joy waiting ahead of Him. As long as you’re focused on your crap, you’re a mess, depressing to be around, and most likely, a notch above useless.

I know this is harsh, but it’s true when you think about it. And I’ve been there, and still go there. I understand, I do it too. In this state, I am pathetic and no help to anyone. But hey, that’s a good place to be for calling out for help. And here we see the key. What I believe to be a major and yet very difficult necessity for living the Christian life is attuning our heart’s eyes and ears to Jesus in the midst of pain and discomfort. Reaching out to others for help when we need it as opposed to isolating into withdrawal and pity which becomes even more painful than the actual circumstance we find so awful!

We have every power and comfort at out fingertips, within us even, if we can only focus on Jesus and access it in those rough times.

When I said how pathetic and useless we can be in the self-focused times, I’m really talking about a perpetual state of problem-focused living. We’re all gonna go through stuff, that’s life. We’re all gonna get down. But what do we do with it? Who do we lean on?  Where do we go? Staying in our upset, focusing on it, gives it more energy, power, and cancer-like growth.

Energy flows where attention goes.

And while focused on your upset, you generally complain. A lot. You drag people down with your whining.

We definitely want to be safe places for each other to unload, but we also do not want to allow each other to remain stagnant “treading water in a sea of mediocrity.”* As a wise preacher, whose name rhymes with “Rod Swisher” once said, “Jesus meets you where you’re at, but he doesn’t let you stay there.”

Can we talk about the above picture for two seconds? Yeah, I know, it’s very cheesy. Yet, it so simply displays a very basic, foundational truth. Perhaps, in its cheesiness, it will be memorable, and it can be a trigger to help you refocus on our Master, our Pioneer of faith, who is always there, ready to comfort us and guide us in the midst of even the worst circumstances or mindsets.

In Jesus’ Name


*from This Is Spinal Tap

 

6.5.15–>”An Impressive List of Unimpressive People who had Impressive Faith: Hebrews 11″

hall of faith

Hebrews 11 is that famous “Hall of Fame of Faith” chapter. Or simply “Hall of Faith.”

I don’t know about you, but when I read this list of people, I’m not impressed. Not with the people themselves at least. It’s quite the list of screwed up, character-flawed people with issues and multiple failings. I mean, I don’t know if I would hire any of these people to even do work at my house, as shady as some of them are.

This is our so-called “Hall of Faith.”

Yikes.

God help us.

And yet.

What amazing things God did accomplish through them.

Because of their faith. Their trust in God. And their faith translated into some sort of action from that faith.

Not because they themselves were extra special or had unique qualifications.

So we see that these are not awesome special super human Bible characters that we can never aspire to. Rather, we see these are very ordinary people, many of whom would receive a diagnosis of some kind in today’s world, who did have enough faith at least at some point in their lives to act on what God asked of them.

We can never use the excuse that we’re just not one of “those people.” It is their faith we are to emulate, not their character  necessarily. I don’t want to emulate running from God, having someone’s husband killed, killing a person myself, being deceitful, tricking my dying, ailing dad, etc.

What I do want to emulate is their faithful trust in God which translated (only after running away, for some of them) into action that was rewarded. We don’t look to others to be like them. We look to Jesus to become Him. But we do gain inspiration from others who have gone before us and acted in faith to God.

And by the way, the reward is not always a life of ease, blessing, and bounty. So be careful of the teachers and preachers who say that that’s what God always will reward you with here in this life. Unless you think being sawn in two is health, wealth, and prosperity. Hey, maybe it is prosperity in the kingdom, and when we see God. Who am I to say? The reward is God’s commendation, which is always worth dying for. Why else have so many gone through so much when they didn’t have to?

So in sum:

  • God uses anybody with faith, and I mean anybody
  • True faith always translates into action
  • Faith is always rewarded, but in a variety of ways in which we may not think of, perhaps in this life, perhaps not until the next

God’s pilgrims look beyond the immediate to grasp the significance of the ultimate.

In its essence biblical faith involves people orienting their lives to God and his values against the “perceived” realities and values espoused by the world.

-George Guthrie

6.4.15–>”What is Faith? Hebrews 11 (pt.2)”

coffee_with_jesus

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Based on this translation and looking deeply into it, I’ve written my own definition of faith:

Faith is the imaginative mental, physical, or spiritual representation of a confidently hoped for reality precipitating from a conviction of what is true based on the evidence for that which cannot be grasped with the five senses.

That is very helpful for me, and I hope can even be a little helpful for a few other people.

I really like what John Chrysostom had to say about this verse over 1,600 years ago:

For since the objects of hope seem to be unsubstantial, faith gives them substantiality or rather, does not give it, but is itself their substance. For instance, the resurrection has not come, nor does it exist substantially, but hope makes it substantial in our soul. This is the meaning of “the substance of things.”

(He of course was talking about the eschatological resurrection of the dead, not the resurrection of Jesus which had happened a few centuries before he wrote this.)

So the substance of our hoped for reality is what is manifested and born out of our motivation that results from our mental and spiritual representations of that reality. In other words, our actions come from our vision. We live out our faith, whatever it may be. The “movies” playing in our minds most of our waking hours are what get acted out in our real lives each day.

Your faith, we could say, is your vision, or what you envision most of the time. Whatever you envision most will motivate, inspire, and drive you to do what it takes to make that vision a reality. Or possibly to keep that vision from becoming a reality, if it something you wish faithfully to avoid.

We can see this in the two passages where Jesus tells stories to illustrate the importance of praying persistently, audaciously, and full of faith in Luke 11 and Luke 18. The women in each story are motivated (out of envisioning a coming reality) to pester someone for something until they receive it. In Luke 11, she has no bread for her guests, and it is her picture of the embarrassment or shame of not being able to host properly. So she bugs her neighbor until she gives her some bread. In Luke 18, this woman sees the awful probable existence under an injustice she has suffered unless this judge grants her some justice. So it drives her to bother him to the point of his giving in so she doesn’t give him a black eye!

We see then that faith is not always so much about sitting around and asking for things, believing with all our might they will magically come true, but rather an envisioning of God’s kingdom and what it may look like, to the point that it motivates us to get up and do something about it and bring about (substantiate) that beautiful reality we so very much believe in.

Does that make sense?

It’s not a pressure that we have to usher in the kingdom or else God is hosed. It’s that God does indeed use people to usher in His kingdom, so why not be a part of that pure awesomeness?

Ok, enough of my yakkin’. Allow me to share some words from Greg Boyd on this subject, because they’re really good.

Faith involves embracing a vivid vision of an anticipated future that in turn gives rise to a compelling conviction that moves us toward that future.

We exercise faith when we imaginatively represent, as a substantial reality, something in the future to be God’s will. And just as evidence produces a conviction in a person, our imaginative representation produces in us a confident motivation to do what is necessary to bring this imaginative representation into reality.

These real-seeming imaginative representations with their accompanying motivating convictions are generated in our minds all day long, and while most people are conscious of very few of them, they exert the single greatest influence in the direction our lives take–hence the truth of Jesus’ teaching, “According to your faith it will be to you.”

 

6.3.15–>”What Exactly is Faith? Hebrews 11″

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the substance/essence (hypostasis) of things hoped for, the conviction from evidence (elegchos) of things not seen.

mental representation

Whatever faith is to you may very well depend on how you translate Hebrews 11:1. Or it may come from how others have translated this verse for you.

Let me give you what I’ve found recently to be very helpful.

I believe the above translation to be the most literal, and in this case appropriate (literal is not always the most appropriate), and nearest to the intended meaning of this verse and extremely important intended definition of faith.

No longer do I think that faith is the working up of certainty with no allowance for doubt. As in, pushing doubt away and never facing anything that makes you doubt.

I believe it to be the very substance or essence of what we do hope for in a real way. This hearkens back to chapter one of Jesus being the essence or substance of God. We could then say the representation of God. Our faith is a representation of things we hope for. Here we get into the imaginative mind.

Faith is not a convincing ourselves of facts that must be true. That’s not a representation.

Think of someone you love right now.

Did you find yourself reciting their height, weight, age, or eye color? Or did you picture a representation of them in your mind?

Could this be how faith works? Representing or substantiating our hoped for reality?

Elegchos.

Conviction from evidence of things not seen.

I am convicted by the evidence of the universe that there is a God and that this God is beautiful and loving. Do I know this from being there when God created it all? Of course not. So does doubt sometimes creep in? Of course it does. But I am boldly confident in the evidence to the point that there is a conviction of what is real and even hoped for.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

6.2.15–>”Admiration Time: Hebrews 10:32-29″

Admiration Time

garage

Hebrews 10:32-39

Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ…do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. [NLT]

When I was 16ish, I worked for a family friend in the summers doing construction stuff. I know, I know, for those of you who know me, this is hilarious. The word “handy” does not naturally come to mind when you hear my name.

Anyway, one summer we built a garage. It was quite a task. And I’ll never forget the first time Steve told me to stop working one day, to put down the hammer, and take a few steps back to where he was standing.

“We’re gonna take some ‘admiration time.'” I looked at him like he just landed from planet weirdo. “Some what?” “Admiration time. Just take a step back and let’s look at what we’ve done today.”

So we did just that. We stood in silence gazing upon our handiwork. Noticing each part of what we’d been working on and how it was coming together.

It was good. It was inspirational. It helped motivate us to keep on going.

After that first time, I would then initiate, “Should we take some admiration time?” “Sounds good.”

Sometimes we just need to stop and celebrate what has been accomplished thus far. To celebrate how far we’ve come and to think back on where we started. How exciting it was in the beginning and why.

In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria

6.1.15–>”Nowhere Else To Go: Hebrews 10:26-31″

nowhere else to go

 

Hebrews 10:26-27

For if we sin deliberately and knowing after having received the knowledge of the truth, there is no further sacrifice for sin.

Instead, there is a fearful prospect of judgment, and a hungry fire which will consume the opponents. [KNT]

After reading several deep thinking, scholarly scholars’ examination of this passage (both ancient and modern), it is consistently clear what these somewhat frightening verses are conveying.

First off, what they do NOT mean–that if you sin after having received the truth of Christ, you are totally and eternally screwed. That of course would make no sense whatsoever within the context of the whole story of God in Scripture.

The “no further sacrifice” is key. What’s being communicated is that Jesus’ sacrifice is it. That’s as far as the path goes. There’s nothing beyond it. There is no other answer to our sin problem. So if you reject that answer, you have nowhere else to go. Try any other method, technique, or god, you will not find resting peace.

Turning to God is always a possibility. This passage is not speaking of the unpardonable sin.

Whatever we do, however heinous, we can keep coming back to Jesus. And there, we will find peace and rest, if we but believe and approach Him boldly, having faith in His open-aremed goodness.

Something in us wants to always try something new and different. It’s tough going back to the same old answer every time and feel He’s not tired of us.

I picture Jesus in one of two stances–hugging me, or open-armed, waiting to hug me.

Never do we see Him with arms folded, uninterested. That is the great lie we are told or we tell ourselves.

 

5.31.15–>”God’s Definitive Response”

If the root of our alienation from God and the bondage to the fallen powers is our false mental pictures of God, then our perpetual hunger-driven activity to acquire and protect idolatrous forms of life is its primary manifestation.

Just as Jesus’ sacrificial death is God’s definitive response to all false images of him, so too is the cross God’s definitive response to all false ways of getting life.

Gregory A. Boyd