Monday, June 26, 2017

Unfailing Love

When I was in college I heard a song by Seals & Crofts called Wayland The Rabbit. It changed my way of looking at things. There are different ways we can receive things into our hearts. Life. Death. And love.

We humans always tend to see things through our own eyes. That seems rather obvious. That's what we use to see things with. But what I'm actually talking about is our perceived importance of our lives in this world. It's always about us.

Here's an example of what I mean. There once was a young family - a father, a mother, a sister and a brother.  A happy family as families go, but one day all that changed. The young girl was kidnapped and then murdered. An incredibly tragic tale that is also, unfortunately, all too true.

Her mother and father grieved. The girls brother too. The whole community where they lived was in shock. Who could do such a thing? And why?

That's what things looked like from a human perspective. That's the way things looked here on earth, through our eyes. From a heavenly perspective things often take on a different view.

What if I was to tell you that, as a result of that young girl's death, her mother would become a comfort to other parents across the nation who had suffered similar losses. And this mother's faith was on display for all to see.

What if I told you that an entire community, and state, rallied around this grieving family - showing a state's love and compassion for a hurting family.

What if I told you that there was a young father who was also devastated by this young girl's death? He too had a young son and daughter. The mercy in this man's heart for area youth sprung out of this girl's death and he became a youth leader in his church, telling hundreds about Jesus. Countless others were effected and changed in some positive way.

I'm not saying that God allowed a young girl to be abducted and murdered but look at all the good that came out of her death. That sounds uncaring, even harsh, but look what God did to a community. He turned a tragedy into a positive. And now she is with God in heaven, where she always wanted to be in the first place.

And don't ever forget that God changed the lives of millions for good with the death of one man. His Son.

We humans tend too look at things through our own eyes, instead of God's. God loves us in ways we cannot begin to see or fathom the depths of. We may never even know the countless times He has protected us from harm or even saved us from death. His love for us, His children, reaches to the heavens! His faithfulness reaches to the skies! Let us rejoice in God's love every day of our lives. Even on the darkest of nights His light will still shine bright - the promise of a new day and a new life to come. Lift your eyes up. Your hearts too. And rejoice in a great God who cares.

"5 Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. 6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, LORD, preserve both people and animals. 7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. 10 Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart." - Psalm 36:5-10

Your Love Oh Lord - Third Day
Wayland The Rabbit - Seals & Crofts

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The High Places

Today's message is about a young man named Josiah. Josiah was made king of Israel at a very young age. But what I found most amazing about his story is the incredible example he gave us about how we ALL need to live our lives in today's world.

When Josiah was made king of Israel in 640 BC he was eight years old. That's right. Eight years old. The Bible tells us that "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord."

So, what did he do? Josiah was probably best known for turning the nation of Israel back towards God. Or more likely, God used Josiah to turn His people back  to Himself. Something happened in Josiah's life when he was 26 years old that would change the course of the entire nation. It could also change you. Go get your Bible and open it to 2 Kings 22.


"22 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.
In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the Lord. He said: “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the Lord - the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are honest in their dealings.” - 2 Kings 22:1-7

Nothing too special there. Josiah was having the temple repaired. That was good of him to do. It was acceptable in the eyes of The Lord. But what happened next changed an entire nation.

"Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.” 10 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king." - 2 Kings 22:8-10

The Book of the Law was the book that Moses had placed in the temple back in Deuteronomy 31. It contained all of the law that the people should live by, given to Moses by God.

"24 After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, 25 he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord: 26 “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. There it will remain as a witness against you." - Deuteronomy 31:24-26

When Josiah heard the words spoken from the Book of The Law, words he had never heard before, he was broken. He became convicted and repented of his sins - the previously unknown sins that had been revealed to him by the hearing of God's Word.

"11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. 12 He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 13 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.” - 2 Kings 22:11-13

Josiah became convicted upon the hearing of God's Word. This is why it is important that we continue to read our Bibles. The Holy Spirit, through God's Word, convicts us of OUR sins. It encourages us to "do what is right in the eyes of The Lord."

"23 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the Lord with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets - all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord - to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant." - 2 Kings 23:1-3

In the chapters that follow, King Josiah did away with many things that were brought into the Lord's temple against God's will . . . His law. One of the things he did was to remove the high places where incense was burned to other gods.


So what are "the high places"?  Places of worship to other gods or idols, like various animals, constellations. Not God.

As we look back on OUR lives, on the road WE have traveled, what are the things we have done, or not done, that were contrary to God's Word . . . to His will? What do we need to repent of in our lives? What are OUR high places - the things we "worship" that are contrary to God's Word?

We must examine ourselves, just as King Josiah did. When we find "Asherah poles" and "high places" in OUR lives we must get rid of them.

"5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test? " - 2 Corinthians 13:5

This week I removed one of my own "high places" - Facebook - from my life. If not controlled, it can become a distraction - a diversion away from God. The question I asked myself was "Do I spend more time reading the Bible or scrolling through Facebook?"

I tore my robes.

What is in YOUR high place?


Change My Heart - Sidewalk Prophets
Three Questions - Leslie Ludy

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Help!!


The office where I work is currently being remodeled. Old materials are being replaced with new. There is new paint on the walls, new carpet on the floors, and new music on the intercom system. The all-Beatles channel!

Now, I like the Beatles as much as the next guy but I've been listening to the Beatles for five weeks straight now at work and . . . I need some . . . Help!!

However, this sudden immersion into the songs of my teen years has allowed me to hear these songs in a new way. There are many songs that can be taken "two ways" and the Beatles song Help! is one of those songs. The interpretation of the lyrics depends on your view of the world.

Let's examine the first line of the song for example.

"When I was younger so much younger than today, I never needed anybody's help in anyway."

Form a secular world view it sounds like an older person, remembering his or her youth, and how they never asked for anybody's help back then. They were too prideful perhaps.

Now read that same line again only from a Biblical world view.

"When I was younger so much younger than today, I never needed anybody's help in anyway."

Suddenly it sounds like a mature believer reflecting on his immature youth and recognizing his need for help . . . for a Savior.

"Now I find I've changed my mind I've opened up the doors."
He's changed his mind.  And opened up the door?

"7 Lift up your heads, O gates, And be lifted up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in!" - Psalm 24:7

And the chorus sounds more like a prayer than anything else.

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
 And I do appreciate you being 'round
 Help me get my feet back on the ground
 Won't you please, please help me?

"16 Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did. 17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me." - Psalm 86:16-17

When we place out faith in Jesus, calling out to God to help us in our time of need, He will answer that prayer. He will open the door. He will help us get back on our feet. Whenever we are down, He will lift us up. How wonderful to have a God who cares, who provides a solid rock upon which we can stand. Our great God who helps those who love Him.

Help! - The Beatles

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Numbering of Days

What would we do if we knew the exact day of our death? How would we react? What would we do with our remaining days? Would we live our lives any differently than we do now? Or would we become changed somehow because of the knowledge of our end?

In the Book of Job we read about a wealthy man who underwent an incredible set of catastrophes in his life. He lost everything - his possessions, his children , his health. He cried out to God to leave him alone so that he might enjoy the days he had left.

"5 Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass, 6 look away from him and leave him alone, that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day." - Job 14:5

Job went through a lot. Would we act any differently than Job if faced with all of the troubles he went through? Job was hoping that God would leave him alone and let him live out his remaining days in peace. Iss that what we want from God?

There is another man in the Bible who was struggling in life. Someone was pursuing him, trying to kill him. Only his take on the numbering of HIS days was different.

4 “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!" - Psalm 39:4

This man's name was David. He wanted to know the number of his days so he could live them more effectively, for God.

When I read that verse this week I wondered, "If I knew the number of my days, how would I live them? Would I live them more intentionally than I do now? Would I live my remaining days with a sense of purpose to them, knowing that I would be dying soon?"

My friend Ali died of cancer a few weeks ago. Cancer patients and those with terminal illnesses often are told how many years or months they have remaining. Do they live their remaining days any differently? I think they do. My friend Ali did.

The question we must ask ourselves is, "Where do I place my hope?" In doctors? Or in Jesus? What should be the purpose of our last days? Should it be checking items off some bucket list of things to do "before you kick the bucket"? What a waste.

When I was a kid my answer to the "What would you do if you knew you were going to die tomorrow?" question was "Rob a bank today so I could have lots of money to do stuff with. Hmm, when I was a child I thought like a child.

Today, my answer is much different. My hope is found not in money or physical things. No. My hope is in the Creator of ALL things. My hope is in the one who created each of us in His own image. My hope is in The Lord God Almighty.

"12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." - Psalm 90:12

Father, teach me to number my days so I may be reminded of whose I am and the reason you created me. I was made to worship. I was made to praise you. I was made to love you and to love others. I was not made to complete a bucket list. I was not made for selfish reasons. I was not made to entertain myself, I was made for YOU. Let me live all of my days . . . in You, Lord.

7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you." - Psalm 39:7

My Hope Is In You - Aaron Shust
My Life Is In You, Lord - Joseph  Garlington

Saturday, June 17, 2017

You And Me

So what happened? The life that we had planned together, for our family and our future, has faded away. All that remains now are the echoes of memories and what-could-have-beens. Where did things go wrong?

If you are human you have probably experienced the pain of a loss or of a broken relationship. Deaths are easier to understand I think. A person in our life dies. We get that. People die. But the death of a relationship among the living carries with it many more things to deal with.

There are the questions, of course. "Why?" is probably the biggest one. Why did the relationship end. Was it something I said? Was it something somebody has done? Questions are haunting things. They lead to sleepless nights, self-doubt and loneliness. What we need are answers. Those can be hard to come by.

There are some people in this world who are users. That's what we used to call them anyway. People who are in relationships for their own gratification. They consume freely, but they don't commit fully. When the storms come they tend to abandon ship. They don't ride things out for the sake of the relationships or the other person in it.

The 13th chapter of Corinthians is often called "the love chapter". In it we can find a list of things that true love should be.

Love is patient
Love is kind
Love does not envy or boast
Love is not arrogant or rude
Love does not insist on its own way
Love is not irritable or resentful
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing
Love bears ALL THINGS
Love believes ALL THINGS
Love hopes ALL THINGS
Love endures ALL THINGS

When we are resentful in our relationships, that is NOT love. When we are rude, there is no love there in that moment. If I had to describe the characteristics of love in two words those words would be "unconditional love." And if I was only allowed ONE words to describe what love is, that word would have to be "God".

"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." - 1 John 4:16-21

The key to fining unconditional love is finding God, first. We can think we know what love is but unless God is part of our relationships, TRUE love is not there. We may think it is but, if we don't know God, we will never know the heights and the depths of love. God . . . is . . . love.

"38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." - 1 John 4:7

You And Me - Lifehouse
Slow Fade - Casting Crowns

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Integrity

Everyday we are presented with opportunities to either succeed or to fail. Sometimes the tests are easy. Other times they are more difficult. Like yesterday for example.

I received a call from my insurance company. They wanted to know how my recovery was going from the accident I had five weeks ago. Gee, that was nice of them. They also wanted to know if I had missed any work because of the accident. Why? Because they wanted to reimburse me for lost wages. However I had already taken the two days I missed as "sick days" and had already been paid for them.

There it was. An opportunity to either succeed or to fail. This would be a good time to consult the Bible about what to do. Proverbs seems like a good place to look.

"25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 26  Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. " - Proverbs 4:25-26

"Integrity - the choice between what's convenient and what's right." - Tony Dungy

C. S. Lewis said, "Integrity is doing the right thing. Even when no one is watching."

I was presented with an opportunity to gain hundreds of dollars by simply allowing the insurance company to pay me the money. There is absolutely no one stopping me from receiving a check in the mail to spend on what ever I wish. Well, that's not quite true. There are two people - me, and this guy.

"Yet you know me, Lord; you see me and test my thoughts about you." - Jeremiah 12:3

God watches our every move. He knows what choices are the right ones to make and which ones will lead down a path He doesn't want us to take. He sees what we see and He knows what choices we will make before we have even made them.

"3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." - Proverbs 21:3

Integrity Test - "Courageous" movie


Monday, June 12, 2017

Light Up The Darkness

Have you ever gone to a jeweler to look at some diamonds? Yeah, me neither, but I have heard that when they show you their diamonds they place them on a piece of black velvet. I guess that's so they appear as bright as possible against the dark cloth and are therefore more attractive to the buyer.

One thing that's always bothered me about "the church" is why it looks so much like the world around us? Despite being "saved" we continue to live sinful lives. The divorce rate among Christians is basically the same as unbelievers. There is adultery in the church, stealing, pride, greed . . . we're just like everybody else. The Bible says we are to be holy, set apart from the rest of the world. Shouldn't we stand out and being different?

"No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed (The Holy Spirit) remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister." - 1 John 2:9-10

There are several young adult couples that I know who profess to be Christians yet are living together "in sin" as they say. And what about Christians who hate others? That's a sin. Does that mean they are not really Christians? Based on that verse we just read, I think it does.

And then there's me. I try but still failing in serving God as much as I should. Why don't I do more? Why don't I spend more time in prayer and worship. Why don't I take more time out of my to speak to others about you, to pray with them, to love them?

We ALL sin. Everyday. But there is a big difference, I think, between committing a sin and wallowing in it. Christians are not to be "wallowers." Swine are. Maybe that's why the Bible doesn't think to highly of them.

Jesus told us that, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." - John 14:15. Uh-oh. So what's our problem? If we profess belief why aren't we living it?

Exactly.

There is a verse in Joshua 24 that reads, "14 Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” - Joshua 24:14-15

The key to all of this is choosing whom we will serve. In my opinion, either we are serving God or we are serving ourselves.

Most Christian theologians agree that we are currently living in the end times as prophesied in the Bible. Jesus coming to earth for His children is Biblically imminent. There is no event that must take place to announce His return - only the sudden rapture of His church. I would think that, if we are Christians, we should act like it . . . especially now!

As we walk through this dark world "let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). When we see a brother or a sister wallowing in sin, let us LOVINGLY come along side them and speak our concern for them. But the responsibility for changing them is not our job. That is God's job, along with the Holy Spirit.

You and I were called to SHINE. We are called to be HOLY. So let's light up the darkness with all we've got and shine our light for the whole world to see. Let us fulfill the reason God created us in the first place. Shine a light!

Washed By The Water - Needtobreathe

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Parable of The Master Gardener

I wasn't sure what I was going to write about this morning until I watched my wife transplant a bush in our yard last night. It was quite a chore for her but she was determined to move it. There were lots of roots to be cut and lots of dirt to be dug. But by moving that plant my wife also provided a deeper, more meaningful lesson to be learned about life.

The bush wasn't really producing where is was so my wife bought a new plant for that location and moved the original plant to a new spot in our yard. Painful for the plant being moved I'm sure but my wife moved it to a location where she hoped it would thrive.

God provides so many lessons to be learned in our lives. Many of them can be learned simple by observing nature or the relationships we have.

Have you ever heard the phrase "Bloom where you're planted"? It means to "take advantage of the opportunities we have in life and be grateful in our present situation."

The bush in our yard simply did not bloom where is was planted so it was replaced and moved to a different location where it was given another opportunity to bloom. I am convinced that God does the same thing for you and me.

"20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you - although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them." - 1 Corinthians 7:20-24

When I reflect on where God has planted me in my life "when I was called" it is easy to see the Master Gardener's overarching plan in my life.

There have been several times in my life at work when relationships have bloomed because of God's foreknowledge and plan. God planted me at work and He gave me two gifts to help others grow - fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). They are compassion (mercy) and encouragement (exhortation).

This past week I used those gifts and prayed with and comforted a friend at work who was suffering trough the loss of a close friend. The month before I prayed with a life-long friend and co-worker who was undergoing some life-altering surgery. I have prayed with another who was going through a messy divorce and another who struggled with the death of a mentor.

I tell you these things not to brag  but to show you how good God is when He can use even a wimpy, spindly plant like me for His ultimate glory. And God, in the amazing way He does things, has turned each of those "acquaintances" in to dear, precious friends.

Where has God "planted" you? Is there a situation at work or in your life where you could use the gifts God has given you? I encourage you to keep your eyes open. God provides opportunities nearly every day for us to honor Him by our showing His love to the people in our lives.

I have a friend who is a master gardener. She likes to take strolls through her garden and take pictures of her plants for all to see. I that any different from what God does with us?

God is the Master Gardener. We are His plants. The way we bloom is a reflection of The Gardener's skills. May we bloom brightly and beautifully where we have been planted. And may God, the great Master Gardener, continue to water us and nurture us to produce a bountiful crop of fruit in this amazing garden He has made.

I had all
But given up
Desperate for
A sign from love
Something good
Something kind
Bringing peace to every corner of my mind
Then I saw the garden
Hope had come to me
To sweep away the ashes
And wake me from my sleep


The Garden - Kari Jobe

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Something's Wrong

If you look out our living room window you can see a robin's nest. It's right there. It is literally two feet from our house.

One day, when mama robin was off the nest, I peeked inside and saw three blue eggs. My wife and I were excited. Soon there would be baby birds! We've never had a family of birds in our yards, despite living in the woods.

We were excited about watching them grow and, someday, taking wing. But one day the mama robin wasn't sitting on her nest anymore. Something went wrong. Without mother robin on the nest the eggs cooled and they never hatched.

We were so excited. And then we were disappointed and sad. Life can be like that sometimes. When things don't so exactly as we planned. Something goes wrong and we find ourselves questioning things. It's almost like we begin searching for things that are sure and solid and won't disappoint.

Let me tell you about Jesus. He is the only person I know who will NEVER disappoint. His Word, The Bible, is a place we can turn to ALWAYS find truth.

Robins have nowhere to turn. They just go on searching for worms. They can act as if they don't even care when eggs don't hatch. We, however, are humans. Things effect us, they things bother us. We have a need to be comforted in our  pain.

Jesus is the answer.

When something goes wrong I often will open my Bible to the Book of Romans. After reading the following passage I usually pray and thank God for that things I DO have and the blessings I already have been given.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:18-39
Amen.

There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Your Love Never Fails - Jesus Culture

Monday, June 5, 2017

Run To Win

Two weeks after Vince Lombardi led his Green Bay Packers to a 33-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II, he retired as head coach of the Packers. He went out on top, winning the first two Super Bowls and three national championships before that.

The leagues championship trophy is named The Lombardi Trophy. Why? Because it epitomizes winning. It's about being the best. Vince Lombardi was all about winning. But not necessarily in the way you might think

Lombardi instilled character in his players. He made them into men. Honorable men.

Do you know that there is a three word phrase inscribed on the Super Bowl II rings? Lombardi had it put there. It is a reference to a Bible verse. Look real close near the bottom of Bart Starr's ring pictured at the right.

"Run To Win"

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win." - 1 Corinthians 9:24

Run To Win.

Why would God want us to run a race to win it? Jesus tells us that "the last will be first" in Matthew 20:16. Let's read a little before and after that "run to win" verse to see if things become clearer.

"19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
- 1 Corinthians 9:19-27

What is the prize we are trying to win? In Paul's case the prize is running his race, his life, in such a way to win the prize - to bring others to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

I have a friend named Mark who led someone to Christ by having a beer with them. Mark doesn't drink but he saw it as a means to an end. Mark's beer drinking bud was so amazed that a "Christian" would drink a beer with him that he listened to Mark and heard the Gospel message. Mark ran in such a way as to win.

Am I running MY race to win? How am I leading others to Christ? Do they even know where the finish line is? Do I? How can I become a better runner? Verse 25 has the answer. Strict Training! Read God's Word, strike up relationships with others so you can earn the right to speak into their lives. We must do whatever needs to be done so we can have the opportunity to share the Gospel with others.

Yes, that can be dangerous. But the alternative of not sharing the Gospel is far worse for the person who does not know Jesus. We are all in a race but most of us aren't even running. Are we running to win?

On your mark, get set, GO!!

Running To Win - Heather Dorniden
Run To Win - CSI Christ Church Youth Fellowship