Sunday, December 30, 2012

Steady Race

Steady Race
Dec 31, 2012
Hebrews 10:36  "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised."

I am not a runner, as least not for long distances.  I don't like to run for very long; it makes my heart pound harder and louder.  My lungs tighten and it feels like I am breathing through a little red drinking straw.  Apparently, those symptoms suggest that my cardiovascular health needs strengthening.  Maybe I should run more, for longer distances than from the couch to the refrigerator.  But that would require effort, a considerable amount of effort and time, maybe even aforethought.  It would be the right thing to do for my overall health.  Doctors all agree that daily physical exercise is required to maintain a healthy lifestyle, with running being a very good way to accomplish that.  A goal of one day running a marathon would be a great idea.

A person cannot, however, start running a marathon if he has never run before.  It takes daily practice to get up to that level, daily practice with increasing levels of intensity.  This is the same with our Christianity.  A person cannot be a successful Christian, living righteously everyday, having never done it before.  It takes daily practice with increasing levels of intensity.  The Apostle Paul likens the Christian lifestyle to running a race, like a marathon.  He said we all should run our Christian race as to get the prize (he wants us to WIN).  He knew that running and winning a race required training and daily commitment, steady commitment.  It isn't for the timid or weak in heart.  And just as a marathon isn't a sprinting-kind-of race, but requires a steady pace, so is our Christian race.  It isn't a sprint to the finish; it requires a slower, more calculated cadence.  AND it requires perseverance.

In running, if you don't persevere but give up before the race is over, then you will not win.  It is absurd to consider running a marathon, persevering to the last few feet of the race and stop short of completion.  Of course the runner would want to cross the finish line, but he still must take the last few steps, continuing in his race.  While you may not be near the end of your race, you have certainly entered it and have run a considerable distance.  It is foolish to throw that hard effort away, reverting back to a pre-Christian lifestyle.  You must continue in your race, putting forth the daily effort that is required.  You cannot expect to sprint later on in life hoping to catch up and possibly win; you must keep running the race set before you with perseverance.  It requires a steady pace to get you to the end
Yes, your legs may be tired and your muscles might be sore.  Yes, the road has not been easy.  But you cannot give up.  In fact, this next year is an opportunity to push harder, stronger, and with even more fortitude than ever before.  Your marathon will not end until the Lord invites you home.  Until then, it is up to you to run with perseverance, running in such a way as to get the prize and WIN!  The enemy does not want you to win; he wants you to quit the race altogether.  This new year, determine you are going to run the best you have ever run before.  Persevere through the difficulty; the Lord has promised a reward if you do.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   1 Cor 9:24, Gal 2:2, Gal 5:7, Heb 12:1-3

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Choose Wisely

Choose Wisely
December 24, 2012
Luke 10:42  ". . . Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

There is a relatively new branch of economic study call Behavioral Economics.  It is the study of the human behavior behind the economic choices and decisions that we make on a daily basis.  Thinking minds suggest that if we study how and why we make decisions then maybe we can learn how to influence those decisions for better financial outcomes.  Economics can be pretty boring, but Behavioral Economics is as interesting as the people it tries to explain.  Why do we prefer to buy things with a higher price tag, but only when they go on sale?  Why do we annually invest more money on consuming ice cream than into saving away for a rainy day?  How do we convince people to make better economic choices with their purchases?  If people made different economic choices, better choices, they might have better economic outcomes.  I, personally, find it very intriguing because I know that if I make better economic decisions, I will have less economic regret.

While the story of Mary and Martha at the feet of Jesus is not exactly Behavioral Economics, it is a lesson in behavioral choices with a resulting reward.  Jesus came to the house of the two sisters and found Martha busy preparing the meal, cleaning the house, and taking care of chores.  On the reverse side, He found Mary sitting at His feet, hanging onto every word He spoke.  Martha complained to Jesus and asked Him to rebuke Mary for not helping with the chores.  Instead, Jesus rebuked Martha for choosing poorly.  Martha chose to go about her busy work, fretting over details of the house and meal while she could have been gleaning from the wisdom of the Lord, the Savior.  Jesus knew the house work would always be there and He also knew His time on the was coming to a close.  It would have been a wiser decision if Martha had left the housework for another occasion and invested her time with the Lord at that moment.

Yes, there is housework to be done.  Yes, there are meals to be prepared.  Yes, there are many chores in life that are completely necessary.  Jesus was not saying that the work should never get done.  He was suggesting that the timing of them was not so critical.  He was suggesting that maybe Martha worried about those things TOO  much and TOO often.  She placed a higher importance on those things than on her relationship with the Lord.  This week is a great opportunity to choose how you invest your time with others and with the Lord.  It is a great opportunity to choose what is really important to you and what things can be given much less attention.  It is a great opportunity to choose something with a lasting effect rather than fretting and worrying over things that are really not that important.

When Jesus rebuked Martha, He told her that Mary had chosen well and she would be rewarded for it.  I like rewards; you probably do, too.  If we made better Jesus-type decisions we will garner greater rewards someday than if we invest our moments worrying about the frittata or the dirty grime.  Each moment is an opportunity to decide was is really important in life and what can be put off for later or altogether.  Each moment with our loved ones is a chance to evaluate our time spent with them, speaking into their lives the Truth of God's Word and avoiding frivolous gossip.  Each moment alone can be a moment with the Lord, getting closer to Him, sitting at His feet and hanging on every word He has for us.  Choose wisely, your future rewards depend on it.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  1 Chron 28:9, Ps 9:10, Ps 14:2, Ps 34:10, Zeph 2:3, Luke 10:38-42

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Uninvited Guests

Uninvited Guests
Dec 17, 2012
Revelation 19:9  ". . . Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb. . ."

Jesus told a parable of a wedding banquet.  In the story, a king was hosting a huge wedding celebration and had previously invited many guests, making sure he sent out proper notice with correct invitation protocol.  When the day of the celebration arrived, the previously invited guests chose not to show up.  The king was very angry and so decided to invite anyone and everyone who could be found on the streets, without discrimination.  The good, the bad, and the ugly showed up to the wedding celebration.  When the king noticed that some of the wedding guests were not dressed appropriately, he threw them back out onto the dangerous streets, with no care for their safety.  This is a unique story that tells us what will happen to those who are not dressed for the wedding.  But there is more to it than that.

The wedding banquet represents the day when we will all be united as one with the Lord in Heaven.  If we are not dressed appropriately (with the salvation that comes alone through Christ), the Lord will send us out onto the street, which represents eternity in Hell.  It is wonderful to know that people can be invited to "the wedding" at the last minute, all people: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Those without a proper pedigree in life can still enter into Heaven as long as they have the proper attire: being clothed with the salvation that comes only through Christ.  Anyone who is not dressed appropriately, regardless of the type of invitation they received, cannot come to the wedding.  Disheartening as it sounds, you will go to Hell if you are not clothed in salvation.  What is even more disheartening, however, is what happened to the previously invited wedding guests.

Remember that the king sent out proper notice, with proper protocol, when he first began inviting guests to the wedding banquet.  These original invitees had ample opportunity to prepare for the celebration, to ensure they would be there on time and clothed properly.  They knew the celebration was near and knew what was expected to be worn.  But those who were invited, with plenty of notice, elected not to show up, even after they promised to be there.  The Lord does not require that any appear at the wedding; it is voluntary. They chose not to be there.  This part of the parable makes me sick.  Those people it was describing represent modern day Believers, and other fellow church-goers who know of the Lord and the salvation that can be theirs through Jesus the Christ.  But for whatever reason, they get preoccupied with life and decide to turn away from the invitation, maybe falling into the entrapment of the world or never fully accepting the free salvation that could be theirs.  What a travesty.  People will be burning in Hell someday, needlessly, simply because they were not fully committed on coming to the celebration.  They had an invitation and possibly intended to come, but still elected otherwise.  If we have complete disregard for the invitation, then the Lord will have complete disregard for us. 

Christian, I want you to be there at the wedding celebration.  I want to see your family members there, too.  However, many are in danger of not making it despite their excellent church attendance record.  Going to church will not get you into Heaven; it takes a commitment to wearing the proper salvation on the day of the celebration.   It takes staying prepared for that day, knowing that it WILL come and there WILL be a dress code.  The dress code is easy, but it must be adhered to, without exception.  During this week leading into Christmas, focusing on the birth of our Salvation, Jesus Christ, take a moment to ensure those around you have been invited to the wedding and are aware of the dress code for the coming day of celebration.  Make sure they have the opportunity to be prepared for the wedding.  Salvation is free; Jesus came to earth as a child to make that happen.  But we must all accept the invitation and clothe ourselves with His Salvation.  Even if your family members have gone to church with you all their lives, they must still fully accept the invitation.  Give the best gift this year for Christmas, a wedding invitation with notice of proper attire.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Matt 22:1-14, Luke 14:15-24

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Face of God

Face of God
Dec 10, 2012
John 6:46  "No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father."

No one has ever seen God, the Heavenly Father, at least not His face.  The only instance where the Lord has ever revealed Himself was to Moses way back when they had a deep and intimate walk.  But even then, the Lord did not show Moses His face.  The Lord told Moses that he couldn't handle it, seeing the full glory of the Lord's face.  In the New Testament, Jesus said that if we have seen Jesus, then we have also seen the Father.  This is clearly referring to the persona but not necessarily His actual face, what the Father looks like.  So, is it worth a conversation to speculate what the Lord actually looks like, what His face resembles?  There are many descriptions of Him in the Bible but all of them are metaphorical in an effort to describe deeper into His character.  So what does He look like?  Does He look like a white-hair, grandfather-type? Does He even look like a human?  What does He look like in your mind?

The answer to knowing what He looks like will NEVER be revealed while we are on this earth.  It is for a reason we are left in the dark regarding what His face really looks like.  If you consider all the pictures of His Son, Jesus, you'll instantly think of a Caucasian with brown hair and a light facial complexion because that is how artists famously painted Him many years after His ascension into Heaven.  In reality, Jesus probably had coal black hair and very tan skin, and probably resembled nothing of an Eastern European.  But we continue to paint pictures of Jesus, carve statues, and give honor to physical images of the Son of God.  There are even Christians who wrongfully worship actual images of Jesus.  And therein lies the answer as to why we will never know what God looks like.  If we knew what He looked like, we would paint pictures of Him and carve replicas of Him and possibly worship those things instead of Him.  If we knew what color His skin was, then we may speculate He could not be our own Heavenly Father.

The Lord was very clear that He did not want us worshiping carved images (of Himself or false gods).  In the Bible, they are called graven images.  To grave something is to carve it with tools, fashion it with human hands.  The Lord is not human and cannot be replicated by human hands.  To do so would lead to sin.  While trying to honor the Lord with an artistic rendering is not a sin, in and of itself, it would lead others to sin or possibly turn them away from who the Heavenly Father really is to them.  If we carved Him with our hands, there are those who would worship the actual image.  If we carved Him with our hands, there are those who would judge His existence as human.  If we carved Him with our hands, there are those who would limit His powers.  If we carved Him with our hands, there are those who would deny His deity, deny Him as God.

There are infinite reasons as to why we will never know what the face of The Almighty looks like.  I'm glad.  My own sin would not allow me to look upon His face (if Moses wasn't worthy, there is slim chance I could pass muster).  It reminds us that He is God and we are mere mortals, fleshly and faulty human beings.  It keeps Him elevated to the High position He deserves and still allows us to worship His Majesty with awe and wonder.  There is no other way I'd rather worship Him then the way He currently has it set up: in Spirit and in Truth.  So, don't ever think you know what He looks like, don't even speculate, as it will limit who He really is and can be in your life!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Ex 3:6, Ex 33:12-23, Ex 34:17, Deut 5:1-11, John 1:18, John 5:37, John 6:46, John 14:9, 2 Cor 4:6

Sunday, December 2, 2012


December 3, 2012
Numbers 6:14  "There they are to present their offerings to the LORD . . . a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering . . . "

When you think of a baby, you cannot help but think of its innocence.  A baby is precious and delicate, helpless and completely dependent.  It is pure and sinless.  Jesus was born a baby with this same spotless record, completely and utterly innocent.  But unlike our babies who grow into sinful adults, Jesus grew in His innocence.  He was not tainted by the world; He did not indulge in sin.  He remained holy, never falling from perfection or succumbing to the ways of this earth and the path the rest of us have walked.  It is because of His maintained innocence that He became the perfect sacrifice for our own sins.  Irony rests in this statement though, as Jesus, the most perfect of people, innocent as a newborn baby, was murdered because of His innocence.

Before being sentenced to death, Jesus stood before Pilate and Herod who both declared His innocence, stating He had done nothing wrong deserving of death.  The Pharisees contended, however, saying Jesus was guilty of claiming to be the Son of God.  That was the one thing Jesus was actually guilty of: being the Son of God.  Irony abounds in the guilt of Jesus being the Son of God.  It was foretold that the Son of God would come to be the perfect and innocent sacrifice for our sins.  This innocence of sin combined with the guilt of being the Son of God was ultimately what killed Jesus.  Thankfully, He overcame this death by rising from the dead, but the travesty of killing such innocence should weigh heavily upon us as we enter this Christmas season celebrating His birth, the birth of innocence.

Christmas is a time to reflect upon the arrival of Jesus, the birth of an innocent baby.  None of us would ever think of killing an innocent baby and would rightfully condemn anyone who did.  But our own sins required just that: the killing of innocence.  It gives fullness to the thought of what our deliberate sins did to our Savior on that cross; He had to die in order that we might be free from sin.  Someday we will enter the Kingdom of Heaven and be declared innocent of our sins by the one who died for them, by the one who was innocent of them.

Our innocence, though lost since we were babies, can be obtained again by the work of the Savior who entered this world as a baby.  It is good to reflect on Jesus as a baby, since a baby epitomizes the essence of innocence.  It took innocence to make us innocent again.  As we comprehend what the Lord did for us in sending His Son, think upon Him in a new light: the light of knowing His pureness, His spotlessness, His innocence was required to cover over all the dirty rotten filth we have allowed into our lives through sin since the time we were babies.  Be thankful He came as a baby because that's what it took for you and me to have forgiveness and eternal life.
Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Lev 4 & 5, Is 7:14-15, Matt 27:11-19, Luke 23:1-15, John 8:45-46, Heb 10:10, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10