October 17, 2009

In the Clouds

There is a destiny that makes us brothers:
None goes his way alone;
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.
—Markham

(verses from Hebrew 11, 12 and 1 Corinthians 10)

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that all our ancestors who left Egypt were under the cloud, and they all went through the sea. They were all united with Moses by baptism in the cloud and in the sea. All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual drink. They drank from the spiritual rock that went with them, and that rock was Christ. Yet, God was not pleased with most of them, so their dead bodies were scattered over the desert. These things have become examples for us so that we won’t desire what is evil, as they did.
These things happened to make them an example for others. These things were written down as a warning for us who are living in the closing days of history. So, people who think they are standing firmly should be careful that they don’t fall. There isn’t any temptation that you have experienced which is unusual for humans. God, who faithfully keeps his promises, will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power to resist. But when you are tempted, he will also give you the ability to endure the temptation as your way of escape.
Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see. God accepted our ancestors because of their faith .Faith convinces us that God created the world through his word. This means what can be seen was made by something that could not be seen. We don’t belong with those who turn back and are destroyed. Instead, we belong with those who have faith and are saved.
What more should I say? I don’t have enough time to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephtha, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, did what God approved, and received what God had promised. They shut the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, and escaped death. They found strength when they were weak. They were powerful in battle and defeated other armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. Other believers were brutally tortured but refused to be released so that they might gain eternal life. Some were made fun of and whipped, and some were chained and put in prison. Some were stoned to death, sawed in half, and killed with swords. Some wore the skins of sheep and goats. Some were poor, abused, and mistreated. The world didn’t deserve these good people. Some wandered around in deserts and mountains and lived in caves and holes in the ground. All these people were known for their faith, but none of them received what God had promised. God planned to give us something very special so that we would gain eternal life with them. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.
You struggle against sin, but your struggles haven’t killed you. You have forgotten the encouraging words that God speaks to you as his children:
“My child, pay attention when the Lord disciplines you.
Don’t give up when he corrects you.
The Lord disciplines everyone he loves.
He severely disciplines everyone he accepts as his child.”
Strengthen your tired arms and weak knees. Keep walking along straight paths so that your injured leg won’t get worse. Instead, let it heal. Try to live peacefully with everyone, and try to live holy lives, because if you don’t, you will not see the Lord. Make sure that everyone has kindness from God so that bitterness doesn’t take root and grow up to cause trouble that corrupts many of you. Make sure that no one commits sexual sin or is as concerned about earthly things as Esau was. He sold his rights as the firstborn son for a single meal You have not come to something that you can feel, to a blazing fire, to darkness, to gloom, to a storm, to a trumpet’s blast, and to a voice. You have come to Jesus, who brings the new promise from God, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better message than Abel’s. Be careful that you do not refuse to listen when God speaks. Your ancestors didn’t escape when they refused to listen to God, who warned them on earth.
Continue to love each other. Don’t forget to show hospitality to believers you don’t know. By doing this some believers have shown hospitality to angels without being aware of it. Remember those in prison as if you were in prison with them. Remember those who are mistreated as if you were being mistreated.

Just think...we are part of that cloud now, and we have an opportunity everyday to be a person lifting up another to look from our shoulders...and see higher than we did. Isn't that awesome?
Much love,
Candace