Pastor Scott's Blog

(for more blog entries, go to:  http://jcctracy.blogspot.com )

10/20/17 - Heb 5

Oct 20, 2017

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. Heb 5:13

Continuing to sin is a sign of infancy... don’t stay childish.  Grow up and hunger for the meat of God.

One summer, my parents took us on a very long trip from central Ohio to Virginia to spend time with my Uncle Tom & Aunt Elaine’s family.  Bits and pieces of the trip come back to me from time to time, but there is one memory I clearly recall ALL the time.  It was the night Uncle Tom took us all out for dinner at the Country Club they were members of.  We didn’t get to order a hamburger that night.  It wasn’t on the menu.  My parents had my brother and I split a steak.  I remember clearly how much different steak was from hamburger --- WOW !!!  It was like an explosion of taste in my mouth!  Hamburgers were no longer the favored meat after that meal… steak was now king!  Even today, I love a good steak.

There is a dividing line in life called puberty.  It’s a point in life when everything starts to change drastically.  The body starts maturing into an adult, voices change pitch, hair starts growing, our minds embrace abstract thought, and morality gets tested.   Throughout the ages, it is the time when children are turned into adults, and take on new responsibilities.  It’s like moving from hamburger to steak.

While our bodies are programmed to “kick in” at a certain age, our spirits depend on us to flip the switch.  Even though thinking might change from concrete to abstract thoughts, our behaviors can stay locked into the 1stgear of childhood.  (Certainly, all of us have seen 40-year-olds still act like they are still 18, or at least TRY to act 18 again.)  And if we are honest, there are probably seasons in our own life where we wanted to throw out the responsibilities of adulthood, and live like a teenager.

The Hebrew preacher uses that picture to describe the deadly impact living as spiritual infants can have.  It’s okay to be an infant when we are first born (or even first born again), but to STAY that way is unhealthy and inappropriate.  Just as awkward as having a teenager be nursed by his mother is having a Christian still living like an infant in obedience.   Spiritual infancy is a SHORT SEASON… we must all grow up into righteousness and faithfulness.

You can’t understand the true depths of sin, grace, mercy, forgiveness and other great lessons without growing up in your faith.  But many people prefer to be given the milk of salvation and stay an infant, expecting God to bless them and take care of feeding them from the bottle while they keep living in ignorance.  Jesus didn’t die on the cross to give us a free license, He died to give us access to holiness. 

Hebrews instructs us to stop living like infants and grow up.  To Grow is to better Know …  so dig into the rich doctrines of the Scriptures, and discover how amazing God’s Word really is.  You will find amazing pictures of God’s Sovereignty and Love, see His signs of Mercy and His patience with people, and even get a bigger picture of how GREAT His Love for you and I really is.  Don’t be satisfied with the baby bottle, discover the tasty pleasure of the steak of His Word.
10/19/17 - Heb 4

Oct 19, 2017

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword,... it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Heb 4:12

God’s Word will either direct our hearts or judge our hearts---don't just root for Jesus, follow Him.

Van Morris tells the story of a woman sitting in the waiting room for her first appointment with a new dentist. She noticed his DDS diploma, which bore his full name. Suddenly, she remembered that a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with the same name had been in her high school class so many years ago. Could this be the same guy? she wondered.  But the thought was quickly dismissed when she met the balding, gray-haired man with the deeply lined face. He's way too old to have been my classmate, she thought to herself.

Still, after he examined her teeth, she had to ask, "Did you happen to attend Morgan Park High School?"

"Yes! I'm a Mustang," he gleamed with pride.

"When did you graduate?" she asked.

"1959," he replied. "Why do you ask?"

"You were in my class!" she exclaimed.

"Really?" he said, looking at her closely. "What did you teach?"

(Oops!)

That lady faced a rude awakening.  We all have those at moments in our lives.  But as rude as that wake-up call was about her aging appearance, there is a far greater awakening coming to all of us when we face God one day.  Many will discover that Jesus was 100% accurate when He warned us He was the only way to eternity.  More will suffer eternal disappointment when they find out that they were NOT good enough to get into heaven.  People will weep when they see the destruction of their disobedience, both on their own lives AND the lives of their loved ones.  Jesus warned us it will not be pretty, because ONLY those who Believe In Him will live with the Father.  That belief calls for total obedience of Jesus, not just rooting for Him.

We can’t obey what we never learn, and we can’t learn what we never hear.  If your Bible is collecting more dust than it is notes, you’re not really BELIEVING in Him, you’re at best believing about Him.  If you’re relying on His forgiveness to be your license to sin, you’re not really following Jesus, you’re following another god called ‘self’.  The Word of God is not given to be a good idea for our lives, it is given to be the Lord of our lives.  Because the Word of God is Jesus!  It is His essence and His character.

Don’t let that rude awakening happen to you.  Before you face God for judgment, face His Word today for direction.  Make His Word your friend, and let it do the work on your heart it needs to.  Obey what it says --- because it’s the only way to avoid an eternal rude awakening.
Start today!  It’s the only thing that can save you a terrible embarrassment later.
10/18/17 - Heb 3

Oct 18, 2017

But encourage one another daily, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Heb 3:13

Surround yourself with faithful people, so that sin doesn't take control.

It’s an old adage that still carries weight:  You are what you eat.

Not that we turn into an orange if we eat oranges, but if we eat vitamin-based products, we’ll have that in our bodies.  If we eat fats, we’ll have that too.  More importantly, if we constantly take in anger, we’ll become more angry.  If we surround ourselves with sin, we’ll sin more.   So if that’s the case, when we surround ourselves with faithful people, we’ll tend to become more faithful.  It’s also true that being among encouragers gives us more courage. 

In every letter Paul wrote, he called the churches to get rid of sin in their lives.  And in this book, the writer of Hebrews tells the church the same thing, but with one helpful instruction: we stand against sin when we stand together with faithful people!  So often, when we are surrounded by people who don’t believe in Jesus, we’ll find ourselves questioning our faith.  Doubts will creep in, behaviors become compromised, sin becomes accepted, and faith gets lost.  However, when we are surrounded by people of faith, then challenge turns to change and behaviors become beliefs.  You will be more successful by connecting to a body of believers than you ever will on your own!  (Yes – that flies in the face of our independent mindsets, but it’s still true today!)

Sin is just like a terrorist, he is an unfair fighter.  It preys on people who live alone.  It attacks when we are at our weakest.  And it knows how to defeat us when our defenses are down.  Sin knows how to form a majority party when we are voting alone!  Don’t let sin control your life.  Surround yourself with a much larger party of faithful people, and allow the positive encouragement of the crowd to fight off that terrorist called sin.

And yes… faithful people make mistakes.  They sometimes set up stricter rules than necessary.  They too fight pride and arrogance.  They fail to defeat sin every time.  That’s why YOU are there!  You’re supposed to help others as well fight off sin, by sharing in fellowship and serving each other together.  If you have been hurt or disappointed by believers, don’t let Terrorist Sin separate you from the group.  Kick out sin and help the group to grow.  Both you and the group will be FAR BETTER OFF together with Jesus than you ever will be alone.

Listen to the wise writing of the Hebrew preacher.  Encourage each other daily!  We all need help fighting off sin, so encourage those around you to be faithful, and surround yourself daily with faithful people.  And remember, in addition to those in your church, family and small group, you also have the faithful witnesses of Scripture to add to your party!  Bring them all into your life, so that you can fight off the deceitfulness of sin. 

After all: You are what you eat!
10/17/17 - Heb 2

Oct 17, 2017

Because Jesus himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Heb 2:18

Temptation doesn’t lead us to sin, we sin by not seeking Jesus in the temptation.

You may not know this, or want to hear it, but you’re not strong enough to defeat temptation.  

Decades ago, a comedian by the name of Flip Wilson coined a phrase: “The devil made me do it.”  People laughed and he used it for incredible parodies to show how we tend to excuse ourselves for sinful behaviors.  Unfortunately, it was both true and terrifying.  The devil is excellent at tempting us, and we let him dictate our actions way too much.

The challenge of temptation is not having the strength or discipline to overcome it ourselves, but having the humility and dependence to seek Jesus in the midst of temptation.  Jesus is the only one who gives us the power to overcome temptation – whether that’s through His intervention, or His instruction, or His discipline.  Sometimes He works through the help of others, and sometimes He does the work Himself, but you and I don’t overcome temptation without Him.

By the same token, we also can’t blame the devil for our failures.  It’s our choice whether we pursue the help of Jesus or not.  We have the ability to call on Jesus to help us.  We can pursue His Word to teach us, and follow His example to lead us.  It’s still our choice whether temptation is permitted to rule over us, or whether Jesus is.  Jesus is ready to help, but we must make the choice.  Jesus knows how to win!

Best of all, Jesus endured temptation just like we do, so He knows how we feel.  That’s as important as anything else about Jesus.  He understands our struggles, because He faced them.  Jesus knows our pain and loneliness, because He endured it like us.  That makes seeking Jesus much easier, because we don’t just pursue a far-away God who is disconnected from our situation, we call on a friend who understands our situation.  Getting Jesus to help is like calling a sponsor or phoning a friend.  We get help (not a lecture). 

Get it clear.  We can’t overcome temptation on our own.  We are just as susceptible to sin as every other person around us.  Our only answer is to call on Jesus, and get His help.  He has the power to overcome it with us, or take it from us, but we must choose to pursue His help.

So what are you waiting for?  Seek the help of Jesus, and you’ll have a friend who can help you win!
10/16/17 - Heb 1

Oct 16, 2017

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Heb 1:3

Jesus shows us the image, character & will of God---imitating Jesus honors God.

When we read about Jesus, we think of Him as a man.  Our understanding of Jesus is based on the people we are used to living around.  We read His miracles and His teaching, and recognize His Lordship by the Scriptures, but still imagine Jesus as a divine man.  That’s understandable, since we only have direct physical experience with human beings.

But Jesus was far more than that.  Jesus was “the Word in flesh”.  He wasn’t just a Divine Man, He is humanized God.  Out of love for us, Jesus chose to take on the limitations of flesh and live among us in the limitations of earth, so that He could be sacrificed in our place.  Just because He took on the limitation doesn’t reduce His divinity.

That means Jesus was still the image of God, He still had the full character of God, and He lived out the will of God – because HE IS GOD!  Don’t miss that!  He wasn’t just a man with godly qualities, He is God living inside the flesh of a man.  That makes Jesus far more important than just a great teacher or leader, it makes Him fully qualified to be Lord of our lives. 

I encourage you to spend today THINKING ABOUT THAT!  Jesus is the complete Godhead, taking on the limitation of human beings out of love for you and I.  How amazing!  His love for you and I is SO GREAT that He was willing to limit Himself in a bodily form.  So if you want to know what God’s will is for your life, look to Jesus.  If you want to know what character qualities to develop, match to Jesus.  If you want to be a success in life, imitate Jesus.  That may not require a physical crucifixion, but it will likely require taking on limitations.  It definitely will call us to follow Jesus and imitate His lifestyle.

It also speaks to the power of Jesus’ words.  Everything He said was Divine!  That makes His words SO IMPORANT and so vital to understand, because they carry the weight of both authority and power.  Just as God’s Word had the power to create everything in the universe, Jesus’ words have the power to change our lives forever.  Learning His Words should be the top priority in our life, because they define the structure and essence of how life is created.

We have been given an amazing gift!  Unlike those in the Old Testament, we don’t have to try and figure out God’s will by following rules.  We get to learn how to follow God by imitating Jesus.  Instead of an outline to live by, we have an image to follow.