“Follow Me.” Two simple words spoken by Jesus that proved to be difficult to obey for four fishermen. In Mark 1:16-20, we read of one of times Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him. It wasn't the first time, and it wouldn't be the last time Jesus called these men.
In fact, we considered at least four different times Jesus called these men to be His disciples. But why would Jesus have to say, "Follow Me," to them so many times? Why would they hesitate?
It's a question we asked and considered our own hesitations to follow Jesus. And yet, despite their hesitations and our own, Jesus continues to call.
Watch our listen to our study of Mark 1:16-20 and learn just how much Jesus wants to be with you.
There is often an initial romance after God calls you and sends you. But after the romance of that initial calling, there is the reality of a time of testing. This testing may be so severe that it tempts you to question your calling and His love for you.
And yet, God is just as much in control in that time of testing as He was when He first called you. You don’t have to thrive during this time of testing—you just have to survive.
Even for God’s own Son, His initial calling into earthly ministry was immediately followed by the reality of ministry (see Mark 1:11-12). All of it was preparing Jesus for a more fruitful, impactful and compassionate ministry.
We considered this time of testing in Jesus’ ministry and how we can learn from it to prepare ourselves for times of testing in our own walk with the Lord during our study in the Gospel of Mark this past Sunday.
Centuries of significant prophecies are fulfilled in the first eleven verses of the Gospel of Mark. Two of the most influential men cross paths. Two influential ministries come to a crossroads. One man's ministry was ending. The other man's earthly ministry was just beginning. And to truly appreciate all that was happening in these few verses, we went back to the beginning—the the time when these two men were just babies in the womb.
The Gospel of Mark begins with one of the most subversive, controversial, influential, and important sentences written: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." (Mark 1:1)
It is difficult for us as 21st century Gentiles to fully grasp just how dangerous and revolutionary it would be to write these words. It's only when we consider the context of the culture that this was written that we can fully appreciate how subversive this sentence truly is.
Life for the 1st century Christian was full of government overreach, persecution, and financial uncertainty. It was a time when the world needed hope—hope from a leader other than Caesar. Hope from a servant-leader who was not of this world. Hope from someone who had every right to be Ruler, but who chose to be a servant.
He came. He led. He served. And He saved. His name is Jesus.
The whole Gospel of Mark revolves around a singular verse: "For even the Son of Man did not come to serve, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45). This Gospel shows us how Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to lay down His life to set people free.
As we study this book and look closely and carefully at Jesus, we will hopefully become more like Him. Not that we would die on a cross for anyone's sin, but that we would be willing to lay down our preferences and our pride so that others can be set free.
This past Sunday, we wondered how we will be changed as we begin our study of the Gospel of Mark. Watch or listen to our study as we asked the Lord to transform us through His word.
The Gospel according to Mark was written in a time of incredible political and societal upheaval. A time when people were concerned about their children’s future. A time when quitting and running away was a tempting prospect.
Mark wrote this book for a specific purpose. He didn’t just want people to know about Jesus—he wanted them to know the grace of Jesus. How the grace of Jesus is sufficient to sustain anyone though any difficulty. How this amazing grace floods a heart with the love of God and renders fear powerless. How this grace is only given to failures and sinners.
Mark knew about this grace so well because he had failed. He had endured struggle after struggle that made him cherish the grace of Jesus more and more. But how did Mark come to know of this grace and who strengthened him with the grace of Jesus that inspired Mark to write a book about it?
Watch a replay or listen to our study as we considered this man Mark and the influence that the grace of Jesus had on his life.
On the first Sunday of every year, we review the history, vision, purpose, and practice of Refuge so that we can confidently answer these questions:
What are we doing? Why are we doing it? What does it look like?
Year after year, this study hasn’t really changed—but we sure have! As we behold the glory of God in the face of Christ, the Spirit of God transforms us from the inside out. That’s a promise God makes and fulfills through His Word.
And so we turn again to His Word to find the answers to those important questions—what are we doing? Why are we doing it? And what does it look like?
Watch or listen to our study from Sunday as we reviewed God’s vision for God’s church.
The final chapters of the books in the New Testament are interesting to study—since they are so rarely read. Many of these books were originally letters written to a specific person or group of people. We naturally start reading letters at the beginning—but even with the best of intentions, the end of the letters are not as often read as the beginning.
Like any letter, many of these final remarks are personal in nature. Some may seem unrelated or disjointed from one another, like a rapid-fire list of parting thoughts. It’s almost as if the writer has finished the majority of his persuasive argument and ends the letter with a list of practical ways to live out the faith.
We see this in Hebrews 13—and while these final remarks might seem disconnected at first read, they actually weave a rich and significant conclusion to this important letter to the Hebrews. Watch or listen to our final study of Hebrews and be encouraged by the great grace of our amazing God!
“And it came to pass in those days…”
So begins the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke. It's interesting to observe the simplicity that Luke uses to describe the most amazing miracle that would ever take place—God becoming man. And it's interesting to consider the world at the time when Jesus was about to be born. In fact, if you listen closely to the second chapter of Luke, you'll hear the narrative of a young woman observe and consider, preserve and ponder what was happening—not only to her, but to the whole world.
“No training seems pleasant at the time. In fact, it seems painful. But later on it produces a harvest of godliness and peace. It does this for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
At times, running the race that is set before us is wearisome and discouraging. The difficulties we experience along the way may tempt us to slow down, to draw back, or maybe even turn our backs against any forward progression.
But as we’ve learned in previous studies, turning back isn’t an option for followers of Jesus. If we are disciples of Jesus, we need to be disciplined by Jesus. His discipline is not punishment but training, preparation for the work He has for us to do. When we allow ourselves to be trained by what the Lord allows in our lives, knowing every circumstance is filtered through His love and used for our good, the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of righteousness in our lives.
God acknowledges the difficulties involved with following Him. He understands the hardships we face. But He doesn’t just passively observe them—He actively trains us so that we can endure the hardships to come. He is always bringing about His glorious purposes in and through us. Watch a replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study of Hebrews 12:4-13 as we gain perspective that allows us to endure the pain.
There is a particular race that the Lord has set before you. This race is grueling and extremely difficult at times. It’s not a sprint…it’s even more than a marathon. In scripture, we see that God acknowledges over and over again how difficult things can get. But like a good coach, He encourages us to lift our eyes past the pain to the prize that makes all of the agony and effort worth it. He stirs our spirits and renews our minds as we find a fresh wind—a second wind—from the Holy Spirit. We have the strength to go another mile with eyes fixed on Christ.
At times, running the race marked out for us is exhausting. Just ask the first century Hebrew believers who contended with outward cultural pressures, outward persecution, and inward fears. Just ask Jesus, who was despised, betrayed, and ultimately gave up His life. How did Jesus endure to the end? How can we follow His example?
Listen to our study of Hebrews 12:1-3 this past Sunday to hear how Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, coaches us to persevere. Watch a replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study and receive the encouragement you will need to endure difficult times.
What does it look like to live by faith? The answer to that question will help us understand what the writer of Hebrews meant when he wrote, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Understanding this question begins just before and just after Hebrews 11. When we consider the context of this chapter (often referred to as the Hall of Faith), we gain a better understanding of what it means for the just to walk by faith.
What we find just before Hebrews 11 is an encouragement to not “cast away your confidence…” (Hebrews 10:35) followed by an exhortation to endure and believe (10:36-39). Likewise, just after Hebrews 11, we are encouraged to “run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1)
And in Hebrews 11, we read of men and women who clung to their confidence in the Lord and ran the race in the faith they received as a gift. Running as we should run—looking to Jesus and living in faith and by faith. Their examples of endurance give us encouragement as we “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
When we began our study in Hebrews, we said this book would be full of worship and warnings. Worship that encourages us to behold the glory of God in the face of Christ. Worship that results in us being transformed by His Holy Spirit. This book has certainly encouraged us to view Jesus and the glory of God in Jesus in a way that we aren’t used to.
But it is also a book of warnings. We need those warnings because there is no middle ground in following God–there is either hot or cold. Throughout the book so far, we have read a series of warnings that caution us against falling short of God’s best for us. The first warning we read in Hebrews 2:1-3 is repeated in various ways and intensity throughout the book—but none with more intensity than the warning we considered this past Sunday.
Watch the replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our message as we carefully considered this important warning in the book of Hebrews.
As we continue our study in the book of Hebrews, we need to remember that this text was a letter to the Hebrews. The writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was writing to Hebrew Christians—those who grew up under the rules and rituals of the Old Covenant. At some point, these individuals were born again—saved by grace through faith.
But when the ropes of religion were removed, only grace was left. This was scary for some of them, who chose to retreat back into the ritual of religion under the Old Covenant. Out of fear and uncertainty, they were turning their backs on the New Covenant (and even on Christ Himself). So the writer of Hebrews is addressing them and calling them back to Christ. He does this by constantly comparing the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
Watch the replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study as we considered how the rules, regulations, and rituals of the Old Covenant pale in comparison to the righteousness and relationship we have by grace through faith.
The value of a model, no matter how detailed or how intricate, can ever reach the value of the genuine article. That is the point the writer of Hebrews makes in chapter 9. The Old Covenant—specifically the tabernacle—was merely a model of the real tabernacle of the New Covenant.
The Old Covenant tabernacle was meaningful and valuable because it was given by God in incredible detail. But its purpose was to point to the real tabernacle that God was going to give one day. So now that we have the genuine article—the real deal—why would we continue to meddle with the model?
This past Sunday, we worked out way through Hebrews 9. Watch the replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study as we reviewed the reasons why the real deal is superior to the meaningful model.
Under the Old Covenant, over 300 High Priests serve in succession, offering millions of sacrifices over and over and over—the same sacrifices again and again and again which could never cleanse the sinner, but only cover their sin.
Until…one High Priest under a New Covenant offered one sacrifice—Himself. This sacrifice was unlike any other before—perfect, sufficient, and substitutionary. And then…He sat down, because it was finished.
And now, this High Priest sits and serves as High Priest forever. “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
If you’ve been studying the book of Hebrews with us, you know by now that this High Priest is Jesus. Watch a replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study as we behold His glory as our Great High Priest!
In our previous study in the book of Hebrews, we considered the man Melchizedek. First introduced in Genesis 14, the writer of Hebrews references him as he points to Jesus. But why? What comparisons exist between this mysterious man and the Messiah? Plenty!
We know that this mystery man is named Melchizedek and called the King of Salem. His name means “King of Righteousness” and his title means “King of Peace”. Jesus is the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace. In the cross of Jesus Christ, the righteous judgment for sin was dealt out—which brought peace & reconciliation between sinful man and Holy God.
But there was something more about this man that we learn about in Hebrews—he was priest of the Most High God (Hebrews 7:1). Melchizedek was not only a king, but also a priest. Those were two roles that no mortal man could have at the same time…unless he was more than just a man. Like Jesus—both God and man, both King of kings and the Great High Priest.
There is a message in this man Melchizedek and Jesus is the key to understanding this message—because Jesus is the message! Watch the replay of our live stream or listen to our study as we continue to decipher the message in Melchizedek.
Hebrews 7 opens with the writer mentioning Melchizedek. It’s not the first time this name has come up in this first century letter written over 2,000 years ago. Before that, he was mentioned 3,000 years ago in the book of Psalms (Psalm 110), and 4,000 years ago in the book of Genesis.
So what about this mysterious man did the writer of Hebrews want us to know? Who was he? Why does it matter? And why is any of it important for us today?
To answer these questions, we need to go all the way back to Genesis 14 and meet this man for the first time with Abram—who was tired and bruised from a battle that was his fault. That’s when we meet Melchizedek—a man that seems like more than just a man. The King of Righteousness (that is what his name means) and the King of Salem (Peace)—that was his title. A King…and a priest.
Watch the replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study as we took a closer look at this mysterious man named Melchizedek.
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul…” (Hebrews 6:19)
In the open sea, an anchor is essential for stability and security. Without it, the ship is adrift—rocking to and fro, moved by the whim of the wind and waves. It’s the same in life. When we find ourselves in the storms of life, it is vital to stay grounded, stable, and immovable.
In Hebrews 6, we’re told we have such an anchor—an anchor for our soul. We have a source of stability that will keep us unmoved by the wind and the waves. And yet, this passage tells us that we have far more than that! This chapter is full of incredible encouragement, timeless truths, and strong words—words like immutable, strong consolation, steadfast, refuge, and hope. Hope that we hold on to as we wait out the storm. Hope that is only found in God—in His word, His promises, and His testimony.
Watch the replay of our live stream from Sunday or listen to our study of Hebrews 6:13-20 as we were encouraged by the hope that is found in God.
In our study last week, we saw a particular component of the Old and New Covenants compared and contrasted—the ministry of the High Priest. In our study this past Sunday, the writer of Hebrews wanted to carry that comparison further, but he didn’t. He wrote that it was difficult to explain—not because of the subject matter, but because the original readers had become “dull of hearing.” Even though they had found life and salvation in Jesus—they had grown and matured in the Lord—now, for various reasons, they had stopped advancing, stopped growing, and stopped maturing. They started to slide back.
While the letter of Hebrews was originally written to Hebrew believers, we know that the Word of God is living and active. So when we come to a portion like this, we pause and ask ourselves, “Is it I?—Am I moving forward in my faith, or am I sliding back? Are there things God wants to share with me but can’t because I’m dull of hearing?”
These are sobering questions we asked of ourselves this past Sunday. Watch a replay of our live stream or listen to the recording of the study as we worked our way through an initially challenging and eventually encouraging portion in Hebrews.
As Christians, we know Jesus was appointed by God to be the mediator between God and man. We know of His compassionate ministry. And we know that He offered Himself as a sacrifice for sins.
But what we might not appreciate is the fact that these are the aspects of the ministry of a high priest. To a Hebrew, certain questions would come up with claims of a new high priest. Questions like:
When was he appointed by God? How can he have compassion on those to who he ministers? What sacrifice does he offer to God on your behalf?
In the letter of Hebrews to the Hebrews, the writer understood these questions and how Jesus uniquely fulfilled the qualifications of the High Priest. So beginning in chapter 5, we see proof from the Scriptures that Jesus is not only a high priest, but the Great High Priest with a ministry superior and preferable to the ministry of the high priest under the Old Covenant.
Watch the replay of our live stream or listen to our study as we took a deeper look at Jesus – Great High Priest.
As we work though the book of Hebrews, the writer continues to contrast the Old and New Covenants for us. In chapters 3 and 4, he specifically looks at the leaders that God chose to lead His people to rest. Moses in the Old Covenant and Jesus in the New Covenant.
In our comparison of these two leaders, we see quite a few differences:
Moses was a servant in God’s house. Jesus is a Son over God’s house. Moses was a butler in God’s house. Jesus is the Builder of God’s house. Moses was unable to enter God’s rest because of disbelief and disobedience. But Jesus extends an invitation to those in the New Covenant to come to Him, to learn of Him, and to find rest for their souls.
If we hold fast to the confidence of our confession and come boldly to the throne of grace, we will find that rest and we will obtain mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.
Watch a reply of our live stream or listen to our study from this past Sunday as we considered the leaders of the Covenants and which one leads us to find rest for our souls.
That’s how chapter 3 of the book of Hebrews begins. And if you’ve been studying the Bible with us, you know that when we come to a “therefore” in our study, it is important to find out wherefore the ”therefore” is there for!
Which is something we could do a lot of in the book of Hebrews, given that there are 28 ”therefore’s” in this book. That’s significant, since the Bible often builds upon what was previously written. In order to understand a particular idea, we can simply read what was written before.
That’s exactly what we did this past Sunday as we began our study of Hebrews 3…and only studied the first verse—but what a verse it is! Watch the replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study as we discover wherefore the ”therefore” is there for!
The book of Hebrews is filled with warnings and with wonder. Warnings against neglecting so great a salvation. And wonder that encourages us to consider how great our Savior is.
Warning and wonder are coupled together throughout this book. And that’s not by accident. We need to heed these warnings as we continue to look at Jesus with wonder so that we don’t fall or fail on the battlefield of faith. The more careful attention we give to our salvation and our Savior, the more confident we will be in knowing that the battle belongs to the Lord.
Heeding the warning and enjoying the wonder, we continued our study in the book of Hebrews this past Sunday. Watch a replay of our live stream or listen to the audio of our study of Hebrews 2.
The book of Hebrews is a letter written to the Hebrew followers of Jesus—believers who were born and raised under the old covenant. They once related to God through rules, regulations, and rituals until the new covenant—the better covenant—was made when the Lamb of God came to take away the sin of the whole world.
These previously religious people experienced the joy, strength, and freedom that came with this new relationship with God through Jesus. Religion—with its rules, repetition, and ritual—might seem safe, but as we’ll see throughout the book of Hebrews—Jesus is better.
What makes Him better? And what is He better than? It’s something we considered as we continued our study in Hebrews this past Sunday. Watch a replay of our livestream or listen to the audio of our study of Hebrews 1:4-14.
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends