Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Promise of Crossing the Finish Line

I was telling my grandson Luke about the rigorous training athletes follow to pursue their Olympic dreams. Of course, that then led to a discussion about goal-setting and persistence.

I read once that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve proficiency in almost any challenging task. Ten thousand hours!!! That's nearly five years of full time work.* How often do I become discouraged if I haven't achieved my goal within a few months or even weeks! Do I even know what persistence is?

I want to get to the finish line. Yet, how do I overcome my own inertia and predisposition to slothfulness? I think it has to do with keeping my eyes on my Trainer Jesus Christ and following Him to the end. As instructed in Hebrews:

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
~ Hebrews 12:2-3

As I watch and enjoy the Olympics, I want to keep this in mind. None of those respected athletes got where they were by focusing on others, but rather by focusing on improving their own times and endurance. On the course, they run their own race and, in the end, they hope to be the winner.

In the race of life, those who are in Christ keep their eyes on Him and--lo and behold--one day we'll end up at the finish line . . . only to discover that the streets of Heaven are paved with gold, and the medal is His "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord."

*2080 hours per year is considered full-time employment.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Promise of Life

We find promises of life in both the Old and New Testaments. This is good news for the many of us who often feel overworked, overtired, and under-appreciated. Like dead men walking, we wonder when we will EVER feel alive!

"In the way of righteousness is life,
and in its pathway there is no death."
~ Proverbs 12:28 (NKJV)

Of course, this verse is talking about eternal life. But that eternal life begins when we decide to walk in the way of righteousness. Webster's defines righteousness as: 1) acting in a just, upright manner; doing what is right, virtuous. 

However, the Bible says that nothing we can do on our own has any eternal merit.

"All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags."
~ Isaiah 64:6 (NKJV)

So what are we to do to get in "the way of righteousness"--the kind that leads to life? God gives us the answer in John 3:16, the verse that even little children memorize and recite with gusto!

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, 
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
~ John 3:16 (NKJV)

Jesus is the way of righteousness that leads to life. And Jesus later affirmed this when speaking of Himself as the good and true Shepherd:

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
~ John 10:10 (NKJV)

So let us take heart and know that those of us who have trusted in Christ as our personal Lord and Savior are on the right path, the path of righteousness that leads to life. 

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
for His name's sake."
~ Psalm 23:1-3

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Promise of Increase

Things feeling pretty tight in this economy? Are you feeding your family a lot of pasta? Has your giving decreased--to charities as well as to the Lord?

Did you know there are several Scripture verses that promise you will "increase" if you are generous with what you do have?

"There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.
The generous soul will be made rich
and he who waters will also be watered himself."
~ Proverbs 11:24-25 (NKJV)

"Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.
Give a serving to seven and also to eight,
for you do not know what evil will be upon the earth."
~ Ecclesiastes 11:1-2

Giving with reckless abandon--and that is what some would call it if you have barely enough for yourself--honors God. In a very practical way, it says that you trust your heavenly Father to provide for you, to give you your daily bread and to meet your needs.

That begs the question: what are my needs?  Does my list of needs include some of my wants?

I read in the paper yesterday about a man who gave away his millions because he discovered they were making him miserable. And earlier in the week another wealthy family sold their house (giving half of the proceeds to charity) and moved into a much smaller one in order to live more simply. The end result is that they grew closer as a family.

I'm not suggesting that you sell everything and move into a poorhouse--that would be irresponsible. I am suggesting that each of us develop a more generous spirit and, when opportunities arise, give what we can, trusting God to supply our need.  

Remember how Jesus commended the poor widow for giving out of her poverty?

"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put
and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.
Many rich people threw in large amounts. 
But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,
worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said,
'I tell you a truth, 
this poor widow has put more into the treasury
than all the others.
They all gave out of their wealth;
but she, out of her poverty, put in everything--
all that she had to live on.'"
~ Mark 12:41-44

Why did she do that? I'll hazard a guess--she trusted God. Do we?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Promise of Fanfare in the Heavens

Yesterday we concluded that, at the proper time, our Good Shepherd would come and lead us each safely home to Heaven. And He will!

But there's also coming a time when He will return to lead a whole bunch of us safely home to Heaven--all at once! Scripture talks of a time when:

"The Lord himself will come down from heaven, 
with a loud command,
with the voice of the archangel
and with the trumpet call of God,
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
After that, we who are still alive and are left 
will be caught up with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
And so we will be with the Lord forever."
~ I Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV)

When He comes on that occasion, there will be a loud command with a voice so powerful it will rock the heavens! 

Following this, there will be fanfare such as has never been heard on earth--the trumpet call of God--prompting even those dead bodies buried six feet under to rattle their cages and rise. 

Then we get to go. The time will have come for us to turn our backs on this sin-scarred world and follow. 

The day is coming, friends. Some think it's close upon us:

"And so we will be with the Lord forever."

Are we listening for it? Will we be ready when He comes for us?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Promise of Discernment in the End Times

In Bible study this morning we watched a Beth Moore video <> on the seventh chapter of the book of Daniel.

Fascinating, as always, Beth transported us into end-time events. We read of the beast who will have "eyes like the eyes of a man," and we learned that, in his arrogance, he will rail against God and hurl blasphemies at His name.

Tragically, the beast will find no shortage of followers. In a corresponding passage in Revelation we read that "all who dwell on the earth will worship him." Well, not quite all. Read the verse in its entirety:

"All who dwell on the earth will worship him,
whose names have not been written in the Book of Life 
of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
~Revelation 13:8

The verse says that he will be worshiped by those "whose names have not been written in the Book of Life." Those who belong to the Lord will not join in this foul adoration.

When Jesus described signs of the times and the end of the age, He spoke of tribulation and false christs and false prophets. He said how deceptive, how cunning, they would be. Then He made this statement:

"For false christs and false prophets will rise 
and show signs and wonders to deceive,
if possible,
even the elect."
~Mark 13:22

Praise God, it won't be possible to deceive the elect! The Spirit of the Living God indwells us. He knows our names and we know His. He is our good shepherd, the One who gave His life for His sheep.

"I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep,
and am known by My own."
~John 10:14

It gives me confidence to know I won't be fooled by the treacherous lies of the devil. And even if that discernment results in tribulation, I know my good shepherd will enter the door of the sheepfold at the right time and lead me safely home to Heaven.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Promise of Deliverance from Evil

On Saturday, we discussed II Peter 1:2-4 and rejoiced in the Father's great love for us. "He gives us everything we need for life and godliness and delivers us from evil."

Let's mine this vein some more. When Jesus was teaching His disciples to pray, He asked the Father to "deliver us from the evil one."

Jesus asked the Father. Will God deny His Son anything?
Will He deny those who believe in Jesus anything we ask according to His will? Count on it: God will deliver His children from evil when we ask.

Not convinced? Check this out. Paul is speaking here.

"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one."
~II Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV)

Still not convinced? John, the "beloved" disciple of Jesus said,
"I write these things to you
who believe in the name of the Son of God
so that you may know that you have eternal life.
This is the assurance we have in approaching God:
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--
we know that we have what we asked of him."
~I John 5:13-15 (NIV)

Are you dealing with oppression today? Do you feel the sting of the enemy's darts? Then turn to the One Who has promised to strengthen and protect you. Ask and it shall be given to you . . . .