Slide 1 Title
Plans and Promises
Slide 2 Scripture
32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,
“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay
Slide 3 Scripture
“But my righteous[b] one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”[c]
39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
Slide 4: People of Faith
3 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.
4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
5 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.”[d] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 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.
7 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 is in keeping with faith.
8 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. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[e] considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[f] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.[g]
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[h] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
Slide 5 Scripture
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Slide 6 Ukraine War
You all know what this is right? Yes war in Ukraine. It is on our minds and in our hearts.
Slide 7 Civil War in Mali
You know what this is? Civil war in Mali. I was thinking, how come this is not also on my mind?
Slide 8 Wars in the World 2022
This is the big picture of war in the world in 2022. These are all countries at war, with terrorist insurgencies, in civil war, in drug war, in ethnic violence that kills between 1000 and 10,000 people in a year.
Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. On top of that there are 14 other countries where conflict deaths have only in this past year dropped to below 1000. That is a total of 29 countries dying over conflicts and war. That’s the big picture. I don’t know about you but I find I can’t keep the big picture in my head. It is good to remind myself of how much more is happening globally, how much more I need to pray for and consider in my giving. How much more we ought to remember on Remembrance Day.
Slide 9 What is on my Mind?
I think the Russian Ukraine war occupies my mind because it affects me more directly: My daughter in law is polish Ukrainian. Many Ukrainian people make up the heritage of Alberta. The countries of NATO are affected. World oil and grain prices impact my life. And the news holds this war and its needs in front of me constantly. Same on Remembrance Day, we remember Canadian military and perhaps our allies, those who were in our hearts and prayers during the wars we were part of, that struck close to home. A connection we don’t have with the big picture.
Slide 10 God’s Macro Plan
God also has a macro plan. Most of us know it. That was the focus for Pastor Dan’s series, “More to the Story”. A perfect creation gives way to sin, brokenness and death in the fall. This is the origin of all war and pain. Then God gets involved in moving towards redemption. A people living for him are created through Abraham. They fail over and over. God sends his Son and a child who begins a renewal based on his sacrifice for sin, his death, his resurrection. A new people are begun infected with the spirit of God and believing in Jesus. A new day is coming. Jesus’ return, the healing of all that is broken and in pain. Perfect peace. As Pastor Dan said, “One story about God overcoming barriers for us to live in his love.”
Slide 11 A Tough Life Can Erode Confidence
But like the Hebrew Christians, I find it hard to hang on to hang on to that macro plan and its promises, that big picture. I tend to focus on what affects me in the here and now.
The here and now for the Hebrew Christians scattered through the Roman Empire was most on their minds. A difficult life. “(10:32) Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those who were in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So don’t throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God you will receive what he has promised. For ‘in just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.’”
Slide 12 Struggling with Faith in God’s Big Picture
Do you hear their problem? In those verses a tough life sits side by side with God’s promises, God’s macro plan. A tough life has eaten away their faith. Heb 11:1 “Faith is confidence in what we hope for (macro plan) and assurance about what we do not see (God’s promises for a healed world). And honestly, when you read, “he, Jesus, who is coming will come and will not delay,” is there not a part of you that that says, “Not delay? What do you call 2200 years?” How much is life eroding your confidence, your faith in the unfurling of God’s kingdom coming?
Slide 13 How is Life?
How is life?
Pandemic is over? Last week of September 33 people died of Covid in Alberta, 134 more in hospital, more that 400 new cases…in one week. OK it’s not over. Add flu season. Add new respiratory illness in children. Losing your confidence in what you hoped for.
Business trying to recoup their losses, pay off debt, creating pressure with many open jobs, but rising cost of groceries and housing. How many times can you cut expenses to pay for basics? They tell you to cut coupons to save on groceries but you don’t have time. You work more and find good child care hard to come by. Losing your confidence in what you hoped for.
Cracks in the fabric of democracy especially south of the border. The radicalization of ideas as frustration with life bubbles over. The Russia –Ukraine war. Displaced peoples. North Korea firing multiple warheads. Losing our confidence in what we hoped for.
The church in moral turmoil. That also sucks our energy. Talk of uncertainty. Losing our confidence in what we hope for.
We all have our personal stuff too right? Last few years I had sepsis, prostate cancer, shingles for 8 months, and just a month ago surgery to repair a hole in my chest wall. I have more zippers on my body than a hiking backpack. I struggle sometimes with not growing weary and losing heart. How do I do that? What is the hopeful message when the big picture of life is tough to hang on to?
Slide 14 By Faith…
Hebrews 11. “By faith”. Does not say, “Have faith”. Does not say, “Keep the faith”. Does not say, “More faith.” It says, “By faith.” Confidence in what you hope for when you can’t grasp the big picture of what God is doing, confidence, overcoming weariness, gaining your heart back (Heb 12:3) comes when by faith you take a step.
Look at the people of Hebrews 11. Through their faith they took a step forward. Through his faith, Abel brought offerings. Through his faith, Enoch pleased God, earnestly sought God. Through faith, Noah built and ark. By faith, Abraham became an emigrant, moved away. By faith Sarah brought a child into the world. By faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau. Notice that each person’s step forward was different. Each person’s action was in some ways ordinary. But they did something. By faith, Jacob blessed each of his children and worshipped. By faith, Joseph made burial plans for his body in the promised land. By faith Moses’ parents hid him in the bulrushes. What are you going to do?
Slide 15 A Shift in Focus
We live between the fall season and advent which starts soon. Next week, we begin to decorate the darkness, plan our family and social celebrations, consider meaningful gifting, light the advent candles. Prepare for the coming of Jesus into our troubled lives and world.
Life moves from the stresses of our world to the hopefulness of Advent and Christmas. Pastor Dan’s preaching is going to shift from God’s macro plan in the “More to the Story” series to focus on how Biblical people lived by faith, what they did with the promises of God. It is also your opportunity to shift from the macro picture of God to the micro picture of your personal life. Hebrews 11 invites you to rebuild your confidence. Increase your confidence in life, in the future, in God…by taking one step forward. An action unique to your life. An action that rises from faith. Because faith works. Faith without works (without action) is dead James tells us. God is inviting you in this upcoming advent season, to shift focus from his grand kingdom building dream, through faith, to adding one small kingdom building action to your life. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth.”
Three quick tools to help you zero in on your next move by faith. Heb 12:1-3.
Stick to it
Focus on Someone
Slide 16 Tools to Take a Step: Drop it
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” DROP IT. We are doing another round of purging at our house. I struggle with that because I have this mantra that says, “Keep it cuz you never know when it comes in handy.” You have that too? Well we are doing this together, so I can’t fudge it. Right now I am going through my clothes. Don’t need the same clothes when you are retired than when you worked. So pack it up and give it to a good cause. What do you need to pack up and get rid of? What keeps you from taking that next step by faith in your life? It could be a sin, to be stopped, forgive or be forgiven, a healthier life practice to begin, a gift to use. Work with others to do this. What hinders you, what blocks you? Is it time, bad habits, fear to try it, wrong priorities, finding an opportunity? Don’t hesitate. Get rid of one thing that keeps you from living out the dream, your step in the renewal plan of God.
Slide 17: Tools to Take A Step: Stick to It
Two. “Let’s run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us.” Stick to it! Once you know your target, do not quit. I have to be physically active to be mentally and spiritually healthy. My last surgery was 3 weeks ago and I can’t lift anything over 5 pounds. Luckily my Bible is light. I am half way. I started reading practices, prayer, walking, and elliptical machine. I started on this sermon. Cut back on food intake. But it has been hard to keep going, every day a pattern of living that is new for me, without some of the things I love. Persevere. Take that new step, move toward your goal. When you get down, or tired or just want to give up, talk to God, talk to someone. Regroup and push forward. Let’s run with perseverance the race that is marked for us.
Slide 18 Tools to Take a Step: Fix Your Focus
Three. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus” Focus on someone. You are a Christian only because of Jesus. He is the pioneer and perfecter of your faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorned its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. His lordship is success. Sin and sinners did not stop him, did not wear him out, did not make him lose heart. He still has it. He has heart for you. Make him your inspiration, your partner, your model of success. Focus on someone. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
Slide 19 God’s Great Plan Comes with Great Promises
God’s great plan of salvation comes with great promises. Heb 11:40. Though none of the people of faith had yet received what had been promised, because God had planned something better for us so that only together with them would, all of us be made perfect. Jeremiah 30 says, “I will restore you to health and heal your wounds. Vs. 21 whoever devotes themselves, I will bring near and she will be close to me. 31: 2 I will come to give rest. On and on and on rise the promises that will lead to a day without night, a life without pain, and a world without end. Faith is that confidence, conviction and assurance about what we do not yet see.
Slide 20 God’s macro plan is made up of small steps each of us takes by faith. Advent is where the macro story of God comes into your story. The how is the question asked of you as Jesus comes into the world…how will you live with the promises in the in between time, in the already and not yet, between the past and future? Heb 11:14 “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”
It is the question of what are you looking for and how will you live towards it? (Hebrews 11:14. How do you live in this world while living beyond this world?
Slide 21 One Small Step into Darkness…
Use advent to drop it, stick to it and fix your eyes on Jesus. By faith, what step will you take? Watch God’s one small step. A virgin will become pregnant. She will give birth to a little baby. Then see what happens. One small step into darkness becomes and explosion of light. The kingdom of God continues unfurl. Every step matters. Your kingdom come, your will be done… in me.
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