Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 NAS

Here’s a Bible reading tip that most have heard before but it so relevant here: “When you see a ‘therefore’ see what it’s there for.” What we’re studying is there because of Hebrews chapter 11: the great discourse on faith. Let’s review a few principles without listing the dozens of people who make up the great crowd of witnesses surrounding us, cheering us on.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible… And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him… All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. (from Hebrews 11 NAS)

I don’t know many people who have suffered through worst-nightmare circumstances such as those chronicled in Hebrews 11, but these folks are among us nevertheless. In this moment, people we will live together with in eternity, cherished of God, are saying goodbye to loved ones, to jobs and careers and to their health. In spite of the promises of smiling, handsome, eloquent TV Christian-types, such is life on earth. Have all those who succumb to the designs of evil men, time and gravity, failed to live by faith? Based on many pop-Christian teachings it would seem so. I think of this group as the the First United Church of Denial. (Don’t attempt an acronym here.)

The membership is united in their denial of Hebrews 11. They have moved on beyond the inferior revelation of scripture where loving God without seeing the promises had previously been thought of as running the race with endurance. They have put away childish things like loneliness, broken hearts, dark nights of the soul, paralysis, mental illness and a thousand other things (aka; suffering) as the unnecessary byproducts of weak faith. I think of the First Church of Denial as the place where the Whopper is served up fresh.

The Whopper does not use any secret sauce. It is favored with a very straight forward batch of half truths and blatant lies. That God is good and that He loves us is the sauce’s absolute truth but it is mixed with the notion that, because of this, we have been immunized from decay, if we will only believe and confess it.

The Whopper preaches well to those who are longing for health, wealth and prosperity in this life. It does not preach well in hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, mental institutions and in occupied nations. It thrives in the West where Whopper Talkers can point to material blessing as proof of their faith. Somehow (with great labor it seems to me), they claim that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are the collateral for their abundant (material) life. They are the bona fide children of God. Jesus was the first born of their new race. When I hear this message (and I hear it in many forms) I cannot say. “Amen.” I want to say, “Are you kidding me! Have you even read the New Testament? Do you not see that you are adding to the revelation of Scripture!”

As we prepare to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, we should calibrate our thoughts with His. He was our example and he did not come as a merchant seeking an equity stake in this world. I believe Jesus was saying, “Take care. The balance sheet is misleading. The income statement is a lie.” Jesus was teaching that in and of themselves, financial statements are false bench marks. Seeing them in black ink, as evidence of faith, is an encumbrance that will entangle us with the world, greatly effecting our friendship with Him.  Jesus was not just saying that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. With His His life and death, He was trying to say, “I AM the Reward.

Father, deliver us from every evil half-truth that has impaired our vision, every blatant lie that has dulled our hearing and every whopper that has blunted our hearts. Amen.


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