Abraham the Obedient

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Hebrews 11:8

Abraham had no guarantees. Like many of us, he didn't know where he was going, when he'd get there, or what he would experience along the way (Genesis 12). It was certainly a faith journey, especially because he was 75 at the time, and many others also accompanied him (Genesis 12:5). It might have been easy for him to ignore the calling God had on him by making excuses. At 75 people tend to get set in their ways.

But Abraham (at the time Abram) was faithful. If God told him it would happen, it was the real deal. Not only had God told him to go to a different land, but God also told him he would be the father of many nations even before he even had one child.

God is leading some of you to do great things for God. He is prodding you to take some first steps. He knows your skills, your strengths, your weaknesses, and your passions. He will use you. God will reward your faithfulness to Him.

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Stubborn For Christ

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Hebrews 11:7

I return to Noah because he's such an intriguing man of God. I was thinking about him today and it dawned on me: Noah was stubborn.

That's it. Yes, he had faith. No one denies that. But he had grit and spunk that few ever had. He preached righteousness for 120 years. How many converts? Today, the church growth experts would shut down and defund his gigantic construction project for lack of "results."

Say what you want about Noah, but he was a stubborn man of God.

I've traveled all over the world and lived in places you only hear about on the news. I don't really consider myself stubborn until I recall what I've had to do just to get there: support raising (and subsequent rejection), prayer letters, visas, passports, shots, belongings placed in two duffle bags, giardia (google it), insults because of my skin color and nationality, pockets picked, regular power and water outages, and a whole host of other events. I was stubborn. I had to be.

And chances are, if you've known God for any length of time, you've had to be stubborn for God too. You've had to make tough decisions that non-believers didn't have to face. Your faith gets regularly ridiculed in the media. At times it's totally unfair and downright nasty. But you press on. Giving up is not an option.

Keep it up. Keep up the faith you knew when you were a baby Christian. Hang in there. You're not alone. You are not alone. Renew that first love you had for Him.

Become stubborn for Christ!

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Noah’s Faith

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Hebrews 11:7

It has to be the longest construction project ever: 120 years working on a wooden ship.

Noah did it by faith.

Up to that point, it had never rained before, so even the concept of rain was foreign to Noah and those who watched him day after day (Genesis 2:5-6).

I suspect he was harassed and ridiculed. The people probably laughed at the monstrosity Noah was building. His family probably thought he wasn’t altogether with it. He probably continued to warn them that it was going to rain and that they needed to be prepared. But he labored on because he had faith in what God had told him. God was sustaining Noah for all those years.

God had given him specific instructions on how it was to be built and who would go in.

One hundred twenty years he labored.

Then it neared completion so he started gathering the animals. Big. Small. Colorful. Ugly. Beautiful. Creepy, Cute. Then he corralled the people: his wife, three boys and their wives, and himself. They were in the ark for seven days before the rains came (Genesis 7:7). Those last seven days had to test his faith, waiting, just waiting for the water to fall from the sky.

Perhaps God has “told” you something and you have no idea how it could possibly come true, but you know beyond a doubt that it was God. You may have to wait a long time to see it occur before your eyes. There will be doubts and fears. Hang in there.

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By Faith

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

After discussing creation, Cain and Abel, and Enoch as they all relate to faith, the writer of the Book of Hebrews pauses to expound slightly on pleasing God. It's perhaps one of the better known verses in Hebrews. How can we please God?

By faith.

The two words are as complex as they are short. People have faith in a lot of different things: Some strongly believe that there is intelligent life outside this world that will be able to help us. Many truly believe that saving the Earth and its animal inhabitants is our salvation. Atheists have faith that what they believe is true. And many people believe that mankind will be saved when there is absolutely no oppression or financial inequities in the world.

As we continue to work through the Book of Hebrews, pay careful attention to the two characteristics that the people in the Hall of Faith had: (1) believing he exists and (2) earnestly seeking Him. And they were sure of what they hoped for and certain of what they didn't see. These faith warriors will provide us much food for thought as we seek to imitate their faith

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Translated

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. Hebrews 11:5

Pleasing God. It's what many of us aspire to do. We yearn for God to find favor in the things we say and do. We long for His approval. Enoch did just that and God commended him for it.

Enoch was a unique individual. He was one of three Bible characters (Melchizedek and Elijah were the other two), who was translated from life to eternity without stopping at death. So if we seek to please God, what are our chances of this happening to us? Researchers estimate that 106 billion people have ever populated the earth. Three have never died. It's not likely that you or I will be the lucky ones to experience this.

Enoch walked with God, he was married, had children, and lived 365 years (Genesis 5:21-24). Another reference to him in Biblical literature is in Jude: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him."

Other than a brief bio in Genesis and his only recorded words, we see a man who walked with God and pleased Him. It's probably the highest compliment we could ever receive from others. It's certainly what we long to hear God say about us.

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A Growing Faith

By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. Hebrews 11:4

Genesis 4. Cain and Abel. Cain brought "the fruit of the land" as an offering and Abel brought the firstborn from the flock of his sheep. Both were probably taught about offerings and the need to bring first fruits or the firstborn. The passage is clear that Abel brought the firstborn while Cain gave some of his fruits and vegetables. It was Cain's poor attitude that made the difference.

Some have suggested that the issue was vegetables vs. meat that the Lord didn't like, but Leviticus 2 discusses grain as a bona fide offering to the Lord.

Abel was commended for his offering. He didn't wait until the lamb grew before offering it. It was an act of faith. Abel had no way of knowing that the ewe would continue to birth additional offspring.

How can we learn from this faith? Sometimes God requires us to do things that will cost us: time, money, talents. Fortunately our faith grows as we exercise that faith to accomplish the things that cost us the most.

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Something From Nothing

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:3

We've all heard the story: God created the world out of nothing. At His command. Nothing to something. First there was God. Then he reached into the void to create something out of nothing. Essentially, it's the creation story. Intelligent design is the fancier, more modern phrase for it.

Even as an unbeliever when I was growing up, I had a sense that there was a God in heaven who could pretty much do as He pleased. To an Almighty God, nothing would have been too difficult for Him. Nothing.

I still believe that. There is an element of faith in believing that He created something out of nothing. It's not a large leap of faith for me, but I know others struggle with it.

Be encouraged today that an All Powerful God created this world. At times it's chaotic and confusing and downright hostile to people of faith, but there is order when you examine it. If we can wrap our minds around the events of the creation story (from a formless void to a populated earth), then a lot of other “faith” issues may fall into place.

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Hall of Faith

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. Hebrews 11:1-2

In the next few weeks I will be going through the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. I will spend at least one day on each of those mentioned in this chapter.

Entire libraries have been written about faith. We have a sure hope in Jesus although we do not see Him. A number of years ago, Larry King asked Billy Graham, “do you have any doubt about your eternal destiny?” Absolutely not. King asked the question a number of different ways, and Mr. Graham's response was the same: “I have a hope, and this hope is Jesus.” Without hesitation. Without fear. Period. Paragraph.

Those "cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us in Hebrews 11 have left us with a fantastic legacy. We would do well to remember their faith and courage. We don't have all the facts about end times and the future and what will happen when we pass on, but we do have enough information to see us through.

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Help Them We Should

A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away. Proverbs 13:23

If you do a quick search throughout the Scriptures, you’ll see that God has a special place in his heart for the poor and needy and those who cannot defend themselves. The poor rarely have an honest voice (when they have a voice at all) in government. In many lands, what they do have is ripped away by greedy bureaucrats and power-hungry officials.

Stop today to consider the plight of the poor and the needy. Many, through no fault of their own, are in desperate situations. We all need discernment in how to help. But help them we should.

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