Putting God's Word into Practice…

Hebrews 12:14-17 Guidelines for Living

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

We are in this race together!  We are accountable for how we handle and help one another!

  • Strive for peace with EVERYONE!  Peace among people does not come naturally–especially with everyone!  It requires work.  Peace with others means that we have to lay down our rights, our grudges and our preferences for the sake of others.
  • Strive for holiness.  There is a constant battle between the Spirit that lives inside  us and the spirit of flesh and rebellion against God that we are born with.  Never give up striving for holiness!
  • Our job is to offer God’s grace to others.  It should be our driving purpose in the race of life.
  • We need to protect others from being defiled by our bitterness.  We can cause people to fall into sin by our bitterness.  Bitterness is born and grows under the surface, but when it springs up it causes trouble and defiles many.  This past week my son and I visited Myakka State Park outside of Sarasota.  There is a beautiful flower that grows in the lake called a Water Hyacinth.  Unfortunately it is a weed that overtakes all the surrounding healthy growing water lillies as it multiplies and causes the death of many creatures in their habitat.  That is what bitterness is like!
  • Protect each other from falling into sexual immorality. How can we protect others? a) modesty; b) entertainment choices; c) sex outside of marriage and “teasing” men; d) developing relationship with someone other than spouse (emotionally, electronically, physically)
  • Help each other grow in wisdom and holiness.

The example of Esau is given.  He made choices without thinking ahead, but only gratified his instant desire, forfeiting his future blessing.  He was the opposite of Moses–the man of faith–who forfeited the pleasures of the world because He was looking ahead to His eternal blessing (Hebrews 11:24-26).

There were two phrases in this text that gave me trouble, but thanks to the whole counsel of God’s Word and His Spirit’s guidance, the trouble was resolved!

Esau “found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.”  2 Corinthians 7:10 says that godly sorrow leads to repentance and to salvation.  Worldly sorrow leads to regret and death.   We can be sorry we did something–made a foolish choice–but it is the consequences that make us sad, not the sin.  That is not true repentance!

Strive “for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”  We can only be made holy through the blood of Jesus Christ covering and washing away our sins.  But that must change our lives.  We must no longer strive to sin, but strive to be godly like Him.  It says in Ephesians 4:2 that we are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, and in 1 Peter 1:15-16, we are called to be holy like God is holy.  Our desire to be holy and work to add godliness to our lives is proof that we have been changed by the grace of Jesus Christ.

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Acts 25–The End Result of Bitterness

When we left off, Paul was in prison for two years in Caesarea at the command of Governor Felix, who left him there when he passed on his title.

The Jewish “principled” “men of authority” were consumed with anger and bitterness for two years while Paul was imprisoned over 60 miles away.  A new governor, Festus, had taken over for Felix and found himself in Jerusalem being bombarded by the same men who wanted Paul dead over two years prior.  Two years spent waiting and plotting, consumed by anger and bitterness.  They were in a prison of their own in a manner of speaking.  These men were pious, devoted, workers for God, yet they were wasting their lives because they had switched from really living for God to living for a lie.  These men lived their lives as if Jesus was still dead.  They brought all kinds of serious charges against Paul, but their main disagreements with Paul was who he claimed Jesus to be and that he claimed Jesus was alive. (25:19)

The Lord continued to protect Paul from these men by supernaturally directing Festus to make Paul’s enemies come to Caesarea, and by Paul’s appeal to go to Rome for trial. In the end, Paul’s enemies went home empty and disappointed.  That is always the end result of bitterness!

After Paul’s enemies left, King Agrippa II and his sister Bernice came to visit Festus.  Festus told them what a quandary he was in over Paul–an innocent man who had appealed to Caesar when he could have been released.  King Agrippa wanted to hear from Paul for himself and Paul was given the opportunity, further evidence of prophesy fulfilled in Paul’s life.  (9:15, But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”)

I’ve been reading these several chapters for days.  Honestly sometimes it’s difficult to get life application out of narrative verses.  And embarrassingly, I have been identifying myself with Paul.  Yesterday, I begged the Lord to show me something that was meaningful and applicable to my life, and it came by changing my view of myself from Paul-like to more like his enemies.  Over this past year, I have been caught in a trying cycle of disappointment, anger, bitterness, emptiness in my pious working for God.  Thankfully there have been times of repentance, freedom and joy mixed in, but I still feel like I have wasted a lot of time in an emotional and spiritual prison.  I’m praising the Lord today for the recent freedom He’s given and the renewed knowledge that Jesus is alive and the hope I have in His resurrection.  I’ll write more about that in Acts 26.

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Mark 6:7-29-Devil with a Blue Dress On

Herodias must have been some special lady, a prized sister-in-law in order for King Herod to take her from his brother and make her his wife.  Seeing as John the Baptist’s purpose for living was to plead with people to repent and to prepare their hearts for the coming of Jesus; he couldn’t very well overlook the king.  So starting at the top, John confronts the happy couple on their law-breaking.  As most men would, King Herod takes action having John bound and held in prison.  And as most women would, Herodias holds a grudge.  She harbors bitterness to the point of fantasizing over John’s death.


Herodias didn’t realize the effect that her bitterness was having on her daughter, or the powerful influence of a mother.  With total love and respect, I can say that I’ve seen this in my own life as a daughter.  How my mom felt about people transferred to me.  When I overheard a negative (or positive) opinion of someone else it would stay in the recesses of my mind so that every time I saw that person her thoughts were the first ones to pop into my mind.  I’m sure that my sons have the same experience when I vocalize my critical spirit or dislike for someone’s actions.  (Probably after hearing John–and God’s–thoughts on her marriage to Herod, every time she looked at Herod those words of John rang in her ears, too.)

Unchecked bitterness leads us to devalue human life.  It causes us to think evil thoughts and plot evil plans.  It can even allow us to bring other people into our sin and cause their fall.  When Herodias’ daughter danced at King Herod’s party, the men were pleased.  King Herod offered to give the girl anything she wanted even up to half his kingdom.  She went straight to her mother for advise.    This was just the opening Herodias needed.  She told her daughter (imagine this) to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter!  Talk about dysfunctional family!  The girl goes “with haste” to the king and gives her request.  He, exceedingly sorrowful, follows through with his promise.  A plate with a man’s head is presented to the daughter (can you say “traumatized for life!”) and she takes it to her mother.

This may seem excessive and not applicable, but there are deep truths here.  

  1. I am an influential women.  I have been entrusted with the hearts of two sons.  How I feel about others can positively or negatively impact the next generation.  
  2. All people are made in God’s image, and I am called to love them and value life because God is the life-giver.
  3. Proverbs 17:19a says, “Whoever loves transgression loves strife.” When someone points out an area of sin in my life, I need to humbly repent and forsake it.
  4. All grudges are unacceptable and need to be caught and killed immediately.  They are capable of leading me to far worse sins.
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