Friday, November 27, 2020

Run The Race

Do we run the race and finish the course? We should. That is the way we are to live our life of faith. The Apostle Paul fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith and received the crown we can be sure. He taught his disciple Timothy how to do that. And so he teaches us today how to run and finish the race set before us.

The Bible is full of admonitions and descriptions of the race. Metaphorically it speaks of a course like the suns, “Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit is to the other end”  (Psalm 19:4-5). We all know the magnificence of the sunrise and the sunset, yet the earth moves around it as it rightly courses through the skies. It is perfect and methodical; doing exactly what God intended to keep us alive and not burned or frozen out. And so should be our own race, although with many detours, bumps and bruises.

 Ecclesiastes 9:11 talks of the wisdom needed for our race. “The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong…but time and chance happens to them all.”  We do not know our time, for we are as a vapor as James tells us. We have the present and do not know about tomorrow.

            Run the race set before you,
            I don’t know the pace to pursue.
            But you make the way during the day,
            Because the night is coming soon.
            Don’t delay for we are way past noon,
            And you don’t want to swoon at the moon.
            Your walk is not to the swift or strong,
            But to the One whose voice is strong saying,
            This is the way to stay,
            Walk on while it is day and pray.

“Do you not know that those who run the race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24).  Paul is speaking of single-mindedness, determination and perseverance in our race. We need to be in condition to do so. It takes concentration and a lifestyle that is set apart from the world. Why? Because the world is only in touch with what feels good and may gain them traction in the culture or the bank. As Christians we must walk a different way, away from that or alien to it. Yes, this can bring suffering or persecution, but Jesus said that would happen. He said to put up our treasures in heaven or to be heavenly minded towards eternity. This is a lifestyle that will bring joy to the Lord and us in the long run. We have a cheering section in heaven, a “cloud of witnesses,” which will help us put aside the worldly things that bind. Then “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”  (Hebrews 12:1-2).

We can’t beat the flood of immorality through political process. That is not our role. But we are to keep our eye on Jesus and our purity in it. Our primary roll is not to change minds, but speak the truth and bring hearts toward eternity as Jesus commanded.

Thursday, November 26, 2020


 Happy Thanksgiving

Scripture tells us to be thankful over 150 times. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 New International Version (NIV) 
Paul tells us that we are to give thanks in all circumstances, God is in the praises of His people. As we draw near to God He draws near to us. Therefore:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

Friday, November 20, 2020

Fight The Good Fight

Do you think that you ought to be prepared to fight? Is there a time? Are we in a time when it seems like the dark side, evil is spreading very quickly across our country? I certainly think so. The behavior of many is so outside biblical norms and so off base on many subjects that it is hard to believe it. What, yes I know that the Bible said that it would be so in the end times. People would do what tickled their fancies. It seems that selfishness and entitlement mentality is soaring.  Really, what happened to the Scriptural basis upon which our country was founded? Well, the time is coming and it is already hear requiring us as Christians to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 4:16). The Bible talks of fighting over 250 times. Why? Because the world is dark and we must fight to bring the light of the world for others to see. But they will fight it from fear and arrogance and pride of their own desires. This makes sharing risky, something you have probably learned many times over.

The Apostle Paul taught his protégé Timothy, to fight for it, truth, like he had. Paul was reaching the end of his life as he was imprisoned for teaching the truth of his faith about Jesus Christ. “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). And he did finish it well preaching the Gospel so that all of the Roman prison guards had hear it and came to faith. What a loyal and trusted servant of the Lord. He did not fear or fall away; he grew in Spirit-filled power in Christ. This story of storms and imprisonment, stoning, flogging from the religious leaders is graphically delineated in the Book of Acts. But God’s providence to use circumstances for His glory is clear.

We don’t have to strike back when someone persecutes us. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that ours is the Kingdom of Heaven. We are to rejoice and be glad for our reward is great in heaven. This is counter cultural, especially now. This does not mean be silent, but fight justly with humility and kindness as Micah 6:8 teaches us.

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Kingdom of God

What is the kingdom of God? I am glad the Bible tells us clearly through parable and story as well as from Christ’s own words. As the Apostle Paul is talking of doing good to a brother even with appropriate food he says, “Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men” (Romans 14:16-17). This passage identifies that the kingdom of God is within us through the Holy Spirit as we serve God. It is in serving Christ through the power that He has given to us through His life, death and resurrection. A little earlier, regarding “peace” he says, “If it is possible, as much as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). He does not want us to be stumbling blocks but joyful peacemakers even though others may choose not to be at peace with us.

Jesus in His teaching of the disciples in the Sermon of the Mount tells them not to be worried but with peace and joy to pursue the kingdom. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). He had been talking about all those things, of which we are worried, like what we are going to eat or wear. He says a little later that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Even though the rich man knew the commandments, he could not give up his riches for God. This takes faith and risk, with benefits that are eternal. Jesus spoke of bearing fruit through Him to enter the kingdom. Just repent and believe the good news and the kingdom is yours’ He tells His disciples. In Mark 4 we hear the parable of the sower and the kingdom of God. The seed sown grows in faith like a tiny mustard seed, or even as the faith of a little child. Jesus spoke in parables of the kingdom of God being in Himself for the believer who is willing to be last not first. Our treasure is in heaven not here. He is the kingdom and His word will not pass away but bring us peace and joy of the already, not yet kingdom until His soon return.

For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God(Ephesians 5:5). We are all impure, but with repentance and faith in Christ we will inherit the kingdom. Do not let your heart become hardened. “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?” James 2:5).  Be rich in things other than the worldly. This includes being rich in spiritual things and not greedy in worldly ones.

Be patiently enduring brothers and sisters because He is coming soon as the final Book of Revelation tells us, “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down” (Revelation 12:10). Rejoice and know that the Kingdom of God is near. He is in our hearts and will soon be ruling on earth as well as heaven.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Fullness of Joy

“You have made known to me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11 KJV).

God shows us the path of life. He is the source of all wisdom. If we seek His face, His ways and walk in it, we find joy. Do you believe that? I wrote a two-volume book, This is The Way, Walk in it, describing what that means. The Apostle Paul said, “And now I will show you the most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). He was describing the way of faith, hope and love. He also spoke to the Galatians about the fruit of the Spirit, which is “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). He said that there is no law against these things. So I choose “joy” as a characteristic of God that I want to emphasize this year, 2017.

The thought that in God’s presence is fullness of joy is very encouraging. The biggest selling devotional books of the new century are Jesus Calling and Jesus Today, speaking of peace and hope in the presence of God. I believe that there is also joy as the Psalmist tells us. It is our strength. We must never lose hope and we must strive to find peace in His presence. But this psalm tells us that in God’s presence is fullness of joy. If we trust in Jesus, God’s Son, as our Savior and Lord we have God living with and in us. In other words, we have the presence of God, which is “the fullness of joy.”  Paul tells the Philippians to be anxious for nothing and to pray for all things and then the “peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). What a wonderful promise. Yet even more so the joy of the Lord given to us in His presence now and in the life to come is a wonderful promise also.

Do you ever have joy? I am beginning to find joy often. Once in my life joy was just not present. Growing up in an alcoholic and dysfunctional family did not help me find it. I know it is a spiritual strength that God Himself brings in His presence, but constant fears for my first 40 years just counted out joy. I had good times and happiness at times, but not joy. In fact I lived a life that looked like an EKG strip, up and down. I lived with a sense of nausea from my childhood well into my adulthood, until I met Jesus at Age 40 years. Not until then did joy begin to come. I had privilege and travel, good things and safe upbringing. But never joy, because it certainly did not exist in our home. Joy is a spiritual concept. Jesus was not present, but more so a constant fearfulness about keeping up with the Joneses and achievement kept it out. Achievement for resume was a mantra.  

All of us undergo difficult times and losses. But perhaps most important in these moments is, who is with you?  Do you have relationships that encourage and build up or criticize and push you down? This psalm verse talks of having God in your presence and His right hand in your hand. This is a hand of encouragement and power, peace and joy. This joy is to be overflowing.

I have found that sense of joy even though circumstances try to take it away. Satan wants these difficult times to overwhelm us. He does not want our cups to overflow.

I see a man at the YMCA regularly who is angry at life and does not believe it will get better, but worse. He complains continually about everything. He wants me to get him a job. Sadly, even if I could, I hesitate to recommend him, because he needs something else even more. I have been unemployed more than once for several years during my potentially most productive years. God used these times for growth in spirit and maturity. My friend’s attitude would exclude him from employment in any business in which I am familiar. He has no joy and no sense of how to get it. Yes I try to help, but am always rebuffed. The opportunity for joy in his trials is there, he choses darkness over light, emptiness over fullness. We have an opportunity to choose joy.