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Hebrews 4 Ministries

"For the word of God is alive and active."
Hebrews 4:12
Daily Devotions for the week
As small children, we are taught not to lie. It is engrained in our young conscience that to lie is wrong, hurtful, and receives punishment. Most children work very hard to find ways around this rule. They stretch the truth, omit the truth, say half-truths in an effort to “lie” without actually lying. We are told that if a lie comes from good intentions, it truly isn’t a lie at all. Many of us hide behind this “white lie” myth and stretch it as far as we think it will go. Does God see our stretches, omissions and bending of the truth as harmless?  Leviticus 5:1 says, “If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding someone he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.” Perhaps omission matters more to God than we thought. Psalm 62:4 talks about another form of lying. It warns against the ones who, “With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse.” In Acts Chapter 5, we are told of a man and a woman who chose to lie about how much money they had made from the sale of their property. The lie was merely self-serving. They were under no obligation to give the church the entire sale price. They were offering it as a gift to the new church congregation. They told a ‘victimless’ lie, or so they thought. The money was theirs to keep and theirs to give (verse 4) Their lie was intended to make them appear to be overly generous. They, and all who lie, discovered that God “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19) Lies never are as harmless as we think they are. They destroy the truth. Whether we scheme to deceive, manipulate through deception, or leave out the truth to fool, God sees our lies. Lies belong in the shadows. God’s people are called to live in the light. Speak truth and walk in the light of God’s truth. (Written by Keegan Harkins.)
The story of the good Samaritan has been told and retold for thousands of years. It is the story Jesus told to illustrate the depth and scope of who we are called to love, protect, and help. He told the story to show a Samaritan loving and providing for an injured Israelite. These two ethnic groups didn’t just not get along, they hated one another. They refused to speak to one another. However, Jesus used them as the example of the definition of “love your neighbor”. We must not leave this story in the realm of fairy tale or bedtime story. We need to put it into practice. Jesus challenges us to view our neighbors as those beyond the normal group. Our neighbors aren’t simple the people we see as moral or acceptable. They are the ones we wouldn’t be caught hanging out with. They are the ones who hate what we stand for. They are the ones that refuse to speak or associate with us. Jesus commands us to love even these. How well do we follow that command? We are quick to ridicule when we should pray. We are quick to ignore when we should reach out. We are quick to ban when we should be an example. We are quick to hate when we are called to walk in love. Love bigger than your ethnic group. Love stronger than society’s norms. Love more steadfast than the change in political power. Love with the love of a neighbor. Love the unloved, the unwanted, the enemy. The reward of love far outweighs the cost. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself… Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:27-28) (Written by Keegan Harkins.)
What stands in your way of seeing Jesus? Before Jesus began his earthly ministry, John the Baptist stood in the desert and fulfilled God’s command to be “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Matthew 3:3) Jesus comes to reach our heart and save our soul. We need to declutter the path from God to our heart. What do we have blocking the way? Pride can keep us from seeing our need for a Savior. Guilt can avert our eyes from grace. Anger throws roadblocks between us and forgiveness. What blocks your way? Take some time today to examine the path from God to your heart. He will cover any obstacle to save you. He will climb any mountain we build up with the delusion of protecting our heart. We needed fear that our cluttered past will keep Him from sees and saving our lives. However, what can we do to make the path “straight”? Jeremiah tells us we ought to “examine our ways and test them” in Lamentations 3:40. Examine the pathway to your heart. Remove the clutter. Don’t let any of this world’s foolish and temporary distractions block you from God’s gracious freedom. (Written by Keegan Harkins.)
When you examine your life, what characteristics define it? It is something we should all do from time to time. Our lives are defined and understood by what they produce. In the same way that you know a tree is an apple tree when you see apples hanging from the limbs, the world knows we are Christians by the characteristics we show in our lives. Galatians 5:22 explain to us that the “fruit” we should have flowing from our lives should be: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. These qualities do not come naturally because we are no longer ruled and controlled by the natural but rather the supernatural and spiritual. The qualities that come naturally stem from selfishness. Galatians 5:19-21 describe them as: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish-ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like”. These come naturally. It is human nature to chase after things that bring us pleasure or increase our wealth, status or popularity. When we focus on these things and nurture those pursuits, we display worldly fruit (characteristics). No one needs to teach us how to pursue these things. They are the fruit of humanity, the natural effects of living in this world. We shouldn’t be surprised when they begin to grow in our life – when we are tempted to chase after them. Instead, we should be looking for buddings of these qualities so we an immediately turn from them and reject their natural pull. We were saved to be different. We have been released from the curse of following the sinful desires of our heart. We have been given the seeds of righteousness. We can be loving, peaceful, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled, but we cannot do it in our own power. These are fruits of the Spirit. These are qualities we receive through the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can be a life that grows characteristics that mimic God’s. Give your life over to the Master Gardener. Allow God to grow His good fruit in and through your life. Be on guard against the weeds that sprout up and cultivate the spiritual. We all bear fruit. What kind of fruit depends on whose seeds we water. (Written by Keegan Harkins.)
I cannot tell you how important the encouragement and love of my brothers and sisters in Christ has been in my life. I cannot say how often doubt creeps into my mind and whispers the pointlessness of what I do. I don’t want to admit how many times I get distracted by simple things that fight for my attention. I would never be able to carry on if it were not for the beautiful superheroes God sends into my life. These are the people who reach out, across oceans of distance and send me a message of encouragement. These are the people who smile at me in the grocery store and lift my spirits to carry on. Never underestimate the power of these little moments when we can encourage someone else. The smile you share may be the one someone desperately needs. The note you send may be the message that gives someone the courage to step out in faith. We all have special jobs to do in this world. There was no mistake as to when and where you were born. This is to fulfil God’s plan for your life. And, while we all have different jobs to do, some of us teach, some serve, some lead in worship and godly living, all of us are called to support and encourage one another with love. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” And verse 10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” We have many different gifts, but we should never let these tasks be done without the coating of love and support. Our acts of service and faith may move mountains, but it is our love that emboldens the broken to carry on. Find someone you can encourage today. Be the smile that heals their souls and encourages them to step out in faith. (Written by Keegan Harkins.)
Many choose to hold on to scars from the past. The pain endured from previous experience is worn as a badge of honor instead of being released. Stories of hurtful words spoken over us is on constant replay. We find ways to bring up how others hurt us in most of our conversations. If we don’t have an audience, we retreat to our minds with the same agonizing stories. Unresolved pain distorts our vision. We can no longer see God for who He is or ourselves for who He made us. It is easy to accuse God or even question His goodness when pain is the blanket, we choose to insulate ourselves with. We allow the pain to redefine our identity. Sometimes we have operated in that false identity for so long that we forget who we really are. We cannot erase the hurtful words or evil actions done toward us, but we can control our response. They may have tried to change our name to worthless, stupid, ugly, etc. but they should not be given the power to change who we were created to be. Reliving the past is a great way to remain in chains. Freedom is not based on my external circumstances, but it is more of an inward reality. We have the authority to reject the lies, release the offense and move forward in our destiny. Remaining stuck in our past pain is not the only option! It is wise to make the choice to move forward, and when we do the grace of God meets us in powerful ways. (Written by Anika Jones.)
Reflection Questions: Have you settled on believing the lies and wallowing in the pain from the past? Do you often relive past pain in your conversations? I encourage you to bring it to Jesus.
Psalm 34:18 (NIV) “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Hebrews 4 Ministries

"For the word of God is alive and active."
Hebrews 4:12