Thursday, September 20, 2018

Stay With Your Race

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
2 Timothy 4:7 (NKJV)

When I was in high school I participated in some running sports.  One thing I was a part of was what was called track and field.  This consisted of different types of running events and things like pole vaulting and the long jump.  My area was running the one and two mile races, I was a better distance runner than sprinter, and I was definitely not a pole vaulter or long jumper.  Once, when we were missing some people at an event, my coach had me run the 400 meter dash.  That was not my usual event and the results showed it as I finished behind most of the other runners.  While I was good with running longer distances I was not very good at the sprinting events. 

In Hebrews 12, the Bible compares the Christian life to a race and Paul also used that example in 2 Timothy 4:7.  As Paul neared the end of his life, he talked about having finished the race.  Paul was confident that as his time on earth was coming to an end that he had done the will of God for his own life and run the race God had given him.  This is similar to what it says about David in Acts 13:36, that David served his generation by the will of God, in other words, David ran his race for God.  Jesus Himself said in John 17:4 that He had finished the work God had given Him to do.

Just like Paul, David, and even Jesus, God has a plan for our life; God has a race for us to run.  You can't run my race and I can't run your race, each of us must run their own race according to the will of God.  We must first find out what the will of God is for our life and then fulfill it.  Through the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit, God will help us to discover the race He has for us and He will help us run that race.  We can't just choose our own race, we live, or run, in  response to His will.  Discover your race and find the will of God for your life so that all of us can say we have run our race, served our generation, and done the will of God.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Staying Sharp

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV)

Things like knives, scissors, and various kinds of blades need to be sharpened on a regular basis.  If you only use your knife, scissors, or blades without the regular maintenance of sharpening them, then the time will come where you will no longer be able to use them effectively.  If you keep cutting instruments sharp, it is not a problem to cut through whatever it is you need to cut.  It is easy for some of these things to be dulled through normal use, and without those things being sharpened they will end up dull and useless.

The things that we do and the people we spend our time with will have an impact on us.  It is interesting to see that people can do many of the right things, but if they spend a lot of time with the wrong kind of people it will have more of a negative impact on them than the positive things that they do will have.  The people we spend our time with should be those who help us stay spiritually sharp and do more for God, people that discourage us and take our focus away from the things of God are really just making us dull.

The Bible talks about the kind of people we need to be and the kind of people we need to spend our time with.  Yes, we can walk in love and be kind to everyone.  But, the question is whether or not we have people in our life who are helping to build us up, people who help us to be "sharp".  Do the people we spend our time with help us to be "sharp" and godlier, or do they dull us to the things of God?  We can also ask that about ourselves, do we help to improve other people or do we make them dull?  Our goal should be to build relationships with people that will help to build us up and to be that kind of person for others. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Standard We Should Have

"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ."
Colossians 3:23-24 (NKJV)

What kind of attitude should we have with the work that we do?  Is there one attitude that is right for one kind of job but not for another, or is there a certain attitude we should have for every job?  Is there a level of work that is acceptable sometimes and not at others, or should our level of effort be consistent no matter what job we are doing?  The answer, which most people would agree is correct, is that our attitude and our effort should be the same with everything that we do, because we should have a standard that does not change from task to task.

In the Bible we can see the standard that God has.  When the temple was built, when God gave the details about the clothing that the priests would wear, and when instructions for the different sacrifices were given these things needed to be done in a certain way.  God gave a standard of excellence in everything He instructed people to do and this should be our standard as well.  No matter who may or may not be paying attention to what we are doing, we need to realize that even if no one is watching us or approving of what we do on earth we have a Master in Heaven who is paying attention.

As Christians, no matter what we do or who we work for, we should do it as to the Lord because He is the One that we are really serving.  Our natural work on the earth should show a pattern of excellence because of Who we serve and represent.  We can always ask ourselves the question, if this was some work I was doing directly for Jesus how would I do it?  That is the standard we should have all of the time for everything that we do.  No matter who our earthly leader or boss is, no matter what standard they might require, we serve someone even greater and our standard should reflect that.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Sensitivity Training

"For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil."
Romans 16:19 (NKJV)

Sensitivity can be a very subjective thing.  Some people are more sensitive to light than others while some people are more sensitive to certain smells.  In both cases, the person with the heightened sensitivity is more aware of, and more influenced by, the things they are sensitive to than other people are to those same things.  Some sensitivities can be developed, like sensitivity to certain sounds or tastes, because of someone's repeated exposure to and experience with these things.  While many types of sensitivity seem to occur naturally in a person, some sensitivities can be developed.

The things we spend our time with will develop a sensitivity, an awareness, within us.  If, for example, someone was to listen to classical music all day long it would become easier and easier for them to recognize certain selections of music and their composers.  This same kind of thing can, and should, happen with Christians.  As we spend more time in God's Word, talking to God in prayer, and being with other like-minded believers our sensitivity to the things of God can increase.  Spending less time with these things would make us less sensitive to godly things.

As with most things, we can develop in our sensitivity to what is good and God honoring. We can develop an understanding of how God sees things and what He considers to be right and wrong, rather than having our concepts of these things being influenced by society and other people.  By our continuing to spend time in God's Word and in prayer we can develop a sensitivity and awareness to be wise towards what is good, as Romans 16:19 says.  This helps us to follow God and live a life that is not only satisfying, but one that is pleasing to Him as well.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Delays Do Not Determine Destiny

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

Having a flight, train travel, or a trip delayed is not much fun.  But, as long as the flight will still leave the airport, the train will reach its destination, and the trip will still take place then the delay is not a serious problem.  If our travel plans are delayed, but not cancelled, we may be inconvenienced or even be a little late for something, but we will still reach our destination.  In the overall scope of things, a simple delay is not the end of the trip we are taking and not the final outcome of the plans we have.  A travel delay does not determine whether or not we will reach our destination.

Most of the time, things do not happen as quickly as we would like them to.  It can be that we are expecting something to happen in our life and in our walk with God and that thing does not develop as soon as we expected it to, and we can become frustrated.  But, just because something does not happen in the time frame that we expected does not mean that the thing we desired is wrong or that it is not actually coming to pass in our life.  Just because something is delayed does not mean that it is not on the way, that thing could in fact be just around the corner, so to speak.

God has a great future planned for us; God does not make bad or negative plans.  But, that does not mean that our destiny will show up overnight.  The Bible is full of examples of people who were promised something or had great plans and those things did not come to pass as soon as those people had hoped.  But, a delay in a plan coming to pass is no determination of destiny.  We must discover God's plan and purpose for our life and then continue on in our relationship with God knowing that He will help to lead us into His will.  We cannot get caught up in the timing of God's destiny for our life, but we can be sure that as we follow Him that His plans will come to pass.  

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Relationship, Not Rituals

"Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him."
John 14:23 (NKJV)

If you look in a dictionary, you can find several definitions for the word "ritual".  One of those definitions is that a ritual is something that is done in a certain way and repeated, something done in a predetermined method.  Rituals are not necessarily a bad thing and some rituals are helpful.  For example, we can have a certain way that we do some things at home, or at our place of work, where the routine of a ritual helps us to remember what it is we need to do and how we need to do it.  But something could also become such a ritual to us that we lose the real meaning and purpose behind what we do.

When Jesus walked on the earth He talked about His heavenly Father in a way that was different than many of the religious leaders of the day, it was more personal than what most people were used to at that time.  In the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John we can often see Jesus confronting the religious leaders about how they had turned what was supposed to be a relationship into nothing more than a ritual. The sad thing is that today many believers are falling into the same problem, they have a set of rituals and a routine that they follow without the corresponding relationship to God.

While the Old Testament did prescribe rules for how many things needed to be done to please God, the religious leaders had completely lost touch with the God that the Old Testament pointed to and the Redeemer who was to come, which was Jesus.  It is true that there is a right way and a wrong way to live, but if we only focus on those guidelines and rules we will fall into rituals that will hurt the real relationship we should have with God.  We build our relationship with God through His Word and by spending time with Him in prayer, it is not just a ritual that we follow, it is a way for us to maintain a close relationship with God.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Holy Spirit, Our Helper

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you."
John 16:7 (NKJV)

Years ago, I worked at a company that produced wood paneling.  Logs were cut down into pieces that would then be manufactured into paneling.  For a while I was involved working in this process as the logs were being cut.  My job was to take the log that had been cut and put it on the conveyor that took it back to the operator to cut another piece.  This job was too much for one person, so a helper was always needed.  With someone helping me I was able to do the job that I could not do alone.  To be most effective, my helper and I had to work together, we had to cooperate.

When Jesus operated in His earthly ministry He led His disciples, taught them, and helped them do what was necessary.  The time came when Jesus was about to leave the earth and Jesus said that it was better for Him to leave.  This must have been a shock to the disciples, how could it be better if Jesus left them?  The answer was that after Jesus left the disciples He sent the Holy Spirit, the Helper, to them.  When Jesus was on the earth He could only be in one place at one time with the disciples.  The Holy Spirit is not limited to one place and He is not only with us, today the Holy Spirit lives in believers!

The Holy Spirit was sent to be our Helper.  The Holy Spirit is not called the Doer because He does not do everything for us and then we just sit back and watch things happen.  The Holy Spirit is not called the Watcher because He does not just stand by and watch all the things happening in our life without offering us assistance.  The Holy Spirit is our Helper and whatever it is we need to do, He will help us to do it.  No matter how big the task, no matter what God is leading us to do, no matter how it may look to us, we can trust the Holy Spirit, our Helper, to work with us and help us get the job done!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Not Me

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

There is a comic strip that started several years ago and still exists today that focused on a family with several young children.  In one installment something had happened and the parents questioned the children as to who had caused the problem.  The response from the children inspired a reoccurring joke in the comic of a character they called "Not Me" because this was supposedly the person who was behind the problems.  All of the children insisted that they were guilt free and the culprit was "Not Me", which of course was not true.

One reason this joke in the comic had such a long-lasting impact was because this idea is something familiar to many people, when something happens it was "Not Me" who caused the problem. We tend to not want to take responsibility for things and we will often first look for someone or something else to blame as the source of our problems.  It is much easier to believe that someone else is at fault for our troubles than it is to look at ourselves to see what we could change to resolve our problems, but the Bible is very clear that we are responsible for our own lives.

Throughout the New Testament we are taught that we must control our bodies and renew our minds.  If we do not present our body to God as a living sacrifice and we let our natural desires run wild it will cause nothing but trouble.  If we fail to change our thinking to line up with what we see in the Bible and we do not control our emotions the results will not be good.  We cannot just blame other people, our circumstances, or even the devil for all our problems.  We need to fill ourselves with God's Word, be a doer of the Word, follow the direction of the Holy Spirit, and allow God to work in us and help us live the life He has prepared for us.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Rest In Faith

"There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His."
Hebrews 4:9-10 (NKJV)

When you are traveling to a place the time will come when you that know you have arrived, the journey would be over because you had reached your destination.  If you were looking for something you would come to the point when you know that you have what you were looking for, you are no longer seeking that thing but you have found it.  It would be very strange to not know that you had reached your destination or that you really had what you were seeking.  In both situations, there is something you have and know that indicates that your journey or search has ended. 

The Bible shows us that faith is what we need to receive what God has provided.  Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  This shows us that we get faith from the Word of God.  We also know that according to 2 Corinthians 5:7 that we walk by faith and not sight, so faith is not based on physical evidence.  But, there is a way to know if we have really put our faith in God and placed our trust and confidence in His Word rather than in something else.  The thing that shows us whether or not we are really in faith is rest.

One of the key elements of the Christian life is peace.  This is also a good way for us to see whether or not we are really in faith.  If someone is at rest then they are at peace, if there is no peace then there is no rest.  If we are really trusting in what God has told us and we in faith for what the Bible has said then we are at rest, we are at peace about the situation.  When we are at rest it means our confidence is in God and we are not trusting in our own works, we have put our trust in the work of Jesus.  We rest in faith expecting to receive what God's Word has said; if we are in faith then we are at rest.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Adapt, Improvise, Overcome

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

There are several documentaries I have seen that show how people in the special forces of the military are trained.  These people go through specialized training that is designed to equip them to be able to fulfill the duties required of them.  During their training, the special forces recruits are put into situations that are designed to take them out of their comfort zone and the things that they are used to doing.  The point is that through the training the instructors are trying to teach the recruits how to successfully adapt, improvise, and overcome in any situation.

It is easy for us to get used to doing things a certain way and to get into a routine.  Getting too settled and comfortable in our usual way of doing things and our normal routine can hinder us from doing things that we are not familiar with.  This can also mean that we then withdraw ourselves from anything out of the ordinary and we limit ourselves in what we are willing to do.  However, if we really commit ourselves to following God's plan for our life we will undoubtedly find ourselves confronted with situations that are not a part of our ordinary routine.

God has a wonderful plan and purpose for each and every believer.  But some Christians have difficulties when they face a situation that is new to them or that forces them to step outside of their usual routine and go beyond what they have done and experienced in the past.  This is why we need to learn to rely on the empowerment and leading of the Holy Spirit and realize that because we are in Christ we can do whatever God directs us to do.  With God's help we can adapt to any situation, improvise with the help of the Holy Spirit, and overcome in every circumstance of life.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Watching Over Your Prayers

"Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;"
Colossians 4:2 (NKJV)

Have you ever been cooking something, operating a machine, or working on a project that required some repeated attention?  It may have been that you were preparing some food, and once you started the process you needed to continue stirring or turning something over to make sure the food was prepared properly.  You might be working with some machinery that needs repeated attention once you start its operation to be sure everything is working correctly, or if you just started a project you may need to recheck what you did to be able to have things turn our right.

Prayer is simply talking to God and the Bible has a lot to say about prayer.  We can talk to God about what He has shown us in the Bible that has been provided for us through Jesus.  This kind of prayer can be called the prayer of faith.  We see what God's Word says, we ask in faith according to what God has said, and we expect results.  But, this prayer of faith does not always bring instant results and that is where we need to be watchful, or vigilant, with our prayers.  The word "vigilant" used here in Colossians 4 can also be translated as watchful, watching, and keeping watch.

After we have talked to God about something according to His Word, we keep watch over what we have prayed, we are vigilant about our prayers, through giving thanks.  Once we have prayed and asked we do not need to keep on asking, but we should continue to give thanks to God for the answer.  This helps us to keep our faith active as we thank God for His answering our prayer rather than complain and wonder when we will see the results we desire.  The next time you pray in faith for something God has promised in His Word, keep a watch over your prayers by giving thanks that God is faithful and the results are forthcoming.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

No New Direction Is Direction

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye."
Psalm 32:8 (NKJV)

Traveling by car is easier today than in the past because of the of navigation help that is available.  In the past, if you wanted to know what route to take you had to rely on a map, which can be difficult to use while driving.  Today some cars have navigation systems built into them, some people have separate devices for navigation, and there are even apps for phones that will help to give you directions.  But, no matter what type of navigation you use, you must rely on the information given to you and not continually stop to question if you are really on the correct route.   

God has promised to lead us and give us the direction we need for our lives.  As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit in us to lead us (Romans 8:14) and we have the Word of God to give us direction as well (Psalm 119:105).  One problem that believers have in following God's direction is as we follow the direction we have from God we sometimes wonder if there might be something else we should do.  We sometimes think that maybe we missed something that God has said, because it seems like we have not had any updates to our course for some time. 

But, just like a navigation system would tell you to drive on a certain road, without constantly reassuring you that you are on the right road, once God gives us some direction for our life we can keep moving that direction until He tells us something different.  God is a lot smarter than we are and if we are pursuing His plan and will for our lives with our whole heart then He will find a way to let us know if we need a course correction or additional route information.  One thing that we need to realize with God's direction in our life is that if He has not given us any new direction then we need to just continue doing what He has already told us to do.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

What Kind Of A Book Is It?

"and he said to them: "Set your heart on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe - all the words of this law.
For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess."
Deuteronomy 28:46-47 (NKJV)

For as long as I can remember, I have always liked books and reading them.  Today, I own many books that cover a variety of topics.  There are some books that I mainly use for research and information, I have many books that focus on different Bible topics, some books that are historical in nature, and other books that are filled with pictures about different places in the world.  Of course, not every book is the same kind of book.  Knowing what type of a book you have will help you to get the most out of that book.   

People have many opinions about what kind of book the Bible is.  Some people think the Bible is just a historic book, recounting the lives of people who believed in God.  Some think the Bible is a rule book that was given to us so we would know right from wrong.  Others think the Bible is a book filled with great ideas that can help us to be wise and successful in life.  The truth is that the Bible is all of these things and much more!  The Bible has been given to us by God to help us know Him better, understand the significance of everything that Jesus did for us, recognize our purpose in life, and give us guidelines for successful living.

When Moses related to the people of Israel all of the things that God was saying to them, Moses emphasized that God's Words are not just some trivial, vain thing; God's Word is our life and it will help us in every area of life.  God's Word can counsel us (Psalm 119:24), revive and strengthen us (Psalm 119:25, 28), guide us (Psalm 119:105), give us understanding (Psalm119:130), and much more.  God's Word is really God speaking to us.  The more we know and understand the Bible and put it into practice in our lives the better things will be.  What kind of book is the Bible?  It is the best of all books.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Proof Of Purchase

"Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, though the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
2 Peter 1:2-4 (NKJV)

Normally when you go to a store to buy something you will get a receipt.  Once you have paid for the item it is yours and the receipt is the proof of purchase.  It could be that what you bought was expensive, like a phone or a computer, and it was something you had wanted for a long time, so at first it is almost too good to be true that it is yours.  Someone could stop you outside of the store to question you about what you bought, but no matter what they said you know the item is paid for and you have the proof of purchase to show it is yours.   

In the Bible we learn about all of the things that God provided for us through Jesus.  Through His death and resurrection, Jesus paid for everything we would need to live the abundant life that He came to bring.  When you learn about what Jesus did it might not seem real to you, like it is too good to be true, or someone may tell you that it does not really belong to you for some reason.  But, with God's Word showing us the proof of what Jesus purchased for us we can know what belongs to us, this is why it is so important for us to read and study the Bible.

If you are not sure something belongs to you, or if you do not have a proof of purchase, someone could claim that thing was theirs or convince you that what you had really belonged to someone else.  When you know something belongs to you, then you will not only ignore anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, but you would even resist any attempts of someone trying to take it away from you.  As we grow in our understanding of everything that Jesus provided for us we grow in faith and our confidence of what belongs to us.  The Bible is our proof of purchase for everything that God provided for us through Jesus.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Building On Our Foundation

"For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it.  But let each one take heed how he builds on it.
For no other fountain can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 3:9-11 (NKJV)

When I was a child, I would build what I called a "fort".  Either I would put some chairs together, draping a blanket over them, pile up some cushions from the sofa, or in some other way make an enclosure that was my special place to be.  In my mind, what I had created was a wonderful thing, but what I had built was not really very stable.  Because I was creating this "fort" in our house I had a good foundation to build on, but my flimsy structure would not have withstood anything.  Even though I had built something with good intentions on a good foundation, I had not built with the right materials. 

Paul talked about being a wise master builder who laid a foundation.  Paul went on to say that Jesus was the foundation that was laid.  Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Christian life and Paul spent his life telling people about Jesus.  Paul then helped people learn the significance of what Jesus did to help those same people build on the foundation of Jesus Christ.  Once we receive Jesus as our Savior our foundation is settled and then we build our life on what Jesus has done for us.  But, as Paul said, each person has to be careful how they build on the foundation.   

Just like Paul said, there are many things we can use to build with, but is what we build in our life based on Jesus and what He did for us?  Some Christians struggle in life because while their foundation is secure, they have never spent the time to get to know God through His Word and what they have built their life with is contrary to the Word.  What we believe, do, and say in our life must be based on what Jesus did for us, which is revealed to us in the Bible.  If we build our life using something else, we will not build a truly successful life.