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4 Reasons Why Finishing Strong Is So Important

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What an incredible journey we’re on with Jesus!  Just thinking about the years spent with Him as my Lord brings back so many memories, memories of happy, joyful times of serving Him with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

journey-with-jesus

Preston Hollow UMC

When I reflect upon the seemingly impossible situations I’ve seen God’s children come through, I just want to shout out a hearty “Praise The Lord Somebody”!

Alas, none of us can stay in that happy place where the sweet memories of our past reside forever. Sooner or later, we have to pick up where we left off and press forward.

Unfortunately, mixed in with those happy memories are those of not so happy times, when my new faith was challenged by family and friends who did not approve of “the new me”.

But one’s life is made up of the sum total of both good and bad, positive and negative,which is why I think it’s been the experience of a lifetime, and as the old gospel song says ” I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now”!

And that brings me to the subject of this post: Finishing Strong.

For all of us, there is a real danger in becoming complacent in our walk with Christ. So easy is it to fall into our own comfort zones, that often we don’t even realize we’re there until something happens to awaken us out of the slumber.

The Apostle Paul recognized this danger and encouraged us to stay ever vigilant, continuing to move forward in our walk with God.

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14   KJV   emphasis mine

With this in mind, here are 4 reasons why I believe finishing strong is so important.

  1. We have an obligation to those who have gone on before us to finish well. Christian history is resplendent with countless examples of those who have preceded us and were faithful until the end. The Bible speaks of “a great cloud of witnesses” who have paved the way. Our faithfulness in turn serves as inspiration and hope to those coming up behind us.

    great cloud of witnesses

    sarasmusings.wordpress.com

 

  1. This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation’s lost souls. Think about that one for a while. This means that we have a solemn obligation to win the lost of our generation. We cannot stop evangelizing our world, but in fact we should be increasing our efforts in this area, especially as we see the day approaching. Paul said that he “pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus“.

Pressing equals tremendous effort!  All of us have been given just one life in which to accomplish everything we’ll ever do. We should live like we believe that!

  1. At the end of the day, when our journey has ended, only those things which we have done for Christ will really matter. To the Corinthian church Paul said: “Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad

It is important that we finish strong because there is coming a judgment that all of us will be required to attend. Whether we have done good or bad, all must be accounted for in that day. Is this not sobering?       Scripture reference 2 Cor. 5:9-10  

  1. Finally, we must finish strong because we have been given a promise that if we endure till the end, we shall be saved (Matt. 10:22). Finishing our race as strongly as we can simply means that we cannot coast to the finish line.

    can't give up now

    flickr.com

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”   I Cor. 9:24-27

I trust that this post has been an encouragement to you to finish as strongly as you can. While it is true that there are many obstacles in our path, and for certain there will be more to come, I am confident that Jesus will walk alongside us as we finish this race.

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

Man shall live by what?

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Most of us have a code, or creed that we live by. A set of principles, they guide us each day through this life. They can come from family, church, the military, even the streets.

What may come as a surprise to many is that God also has a set of principles. It’s called the Bible. For example:

But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”.  Matthew 4:4

The verse above comes from a very hungry and tired Jesus, who, after being tempted for 40 days, is responding to Satan’s temptation to turn stones into bread.

He is repeating something stated in the distant past of Israel’s history by Moses, who was reminding Israel of God’s providence during their trek through the wilderness.

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”     Deuteronomy 8:3

I find it interesting that the interpretation of both Jesus and Moses is the phrase” every word”. What’s so interesting about that? Well for starters, the phrase “every word” disallows the selective application of God’s Word to our lives.

In other words, every word means none may be excluded!

Lots of things today are thought of as being selective. Husbands may have been told that they have selective hearing, for example. Or those of us who tend to be forgetful at times may have been told that we have a selective memory.

For the child of God however, there can be no selective application of the Word if we are going to walk in obedience to it. In other words, we cannot selectively pick and choose those verses we wish to live by. It doesn’t work that way.

If Jesus stated that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God, are we to argue that we don’t like or accept certain parts of it?

I first became aware of this selective application of the Word many years ago when having a discussion with a neighbor about the Millennial Reign mentioned in the book of Revelation.

This neighbor, who was also a deacon in his church, told me that he didn’t believe in the thousand year reign of Christ. When I asked him how he could not believe in something that was obviously written in the Word, he simply said “I just don’t believe in that”. Not knowing how to respond to that, I just walked away.

Really? You can read it for yourself. You know it’s there. Yet you arbitrarily reject it just because? Like I said, that was my first exposure to the selective Word mindset. Unfortunately, it’s far from an isolated incident.

There is a very simple, logical reason as to why God says we are to live by every Word that comes from him. The Word of God offers us instructions for living according to His plan, not our own.

And therein lies the problem, doesn’t it?

His plan vs. our plan. His Words vs. our words. His way vs. our way. The age old battle of the human will vs. the will of God.

Paul reminds us that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”   II Tim. 3:16    emphasis mine

Could it be that part of the problem is that we think we “have arrived” and are above being taught?

Peter addressed this attitude in his first epistle. He tells us that our hearts need to be pure so that we can desire the word that will encourage growth.

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.”   1 Peter 2: 1,2      emphasis mine

It is obvious then that we are to live not just by the Word, but by every Word that comes from God if we are to be nurtured and strengthened in our faith.

None of us “have arrived” to the point of no longer needing to learn of Him. To think that we have is to be in deception.

My prayer is that every one of us will take heed to the words of Jesus, who when rebuking Satan said that we must live by every Word from God.

After all, He’s still working on each of us.

Ron

Anoint Me Lord

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On Sunday my wife Debbie sang a beautiful Vicki Yohe song entitled “Anoint Me Lord”. If you’ve never heard this song before, I highly recommend giving it a listen.

The message this song conveys is one of asking the Lord to equip us for His service. So often if we aren’t careful, the life we live as Christians can easily become one where it’s more about us than Him. How easily it can turn into being about us being served, rather than us serving Him.

I think about how our vision becomes blurred at times, clouded by the cares and responsibilities of this life. Before we know it, it’s happened to each of us and we are no longer able to focus on the really important things.

That is when God has to pull us back and remind us that when he saved us, He had a greater purpose in store for us than to sit by and watch others struggle along their way.

You see, you weren’t called of God to become just another member of the “frozen chosen” club, but to be Salt and Light in the lives of others.

““You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16

May we all fully realize that God has called us to win others, and to shine our lights upon a world groping in gross darkness, that the people might see that there is a great Light in the midst of such darkness.

Anoint Me Lord by Vicki Yohe

Here I am again Lord, Asking for more
Fill me up completely, With the anointing oil
Not only my head, But every part of me
I’m yielded and humbly thine, A servant to thee

Anoint me Lord this day, As I go along my way
Let my life send forth a glow, Let the oil around me flow
Anoint me Lord, This day I pray
Amen

Broken hearts and lives, Can be mended anew
Just with one touch, Dear Lord from you
Let the oil and the wine, Bring healing divine
To every wounded soul, Let it overflow

 

It’s not the size of the gift…

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It’s funny, in an odd sort of way, how we Christians try to impress the Creator. As if we mortals could do such a thing. Sometimes it seems as though our positions, titles, and degrees have gone to our heads to the extent that we actually believe God is fortunate to have us.

Do you suppose the Almighty notices how many letters follow our names? Or what prestigious school we graduated from? Or how many Facebook “friends” we have? Thankfully, we serve a God whose ways are “higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).

I personally believe it would take a lot more than that to impress God!

Of course, there are other ways we common ordinary types try to impress the Lord. Take giving, for example. I’ve known people who go out of their way to make sure others know how generous they are with their church giving. Jesus had a thing or two to say about those folks (Matt. 6:4).

Giving

Pimterest.com

Contrary to what some would have you believe however, its really not the size of the gift that matters to God. Take this familiar story for example:

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said,“Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God,but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.””    Luke 21:1-4

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When the poor widow gave her two mites, or the equivalent of less than a penny, Jesus said that she had given much more than the rich people who had given large sums of money. How is this possible?

The rich gave of their great abundance. They had money to spare. What they gave would never be missed. Their gift required no real sacrifice on their part. I see this played out today as I read about the ultra wealthy and their giving in the local newspaper near my home.

Someone will give a million dollars to a charitable cause, and at first glance it sounds almost unbelievable. That is until you realize that the person making the donation lives in a twenty five million dollar home, and likely has several such residences around the world. This is giving from their abundance.

Not making any judgements here, just offering it up for perspective. I’m pretty sure we’d all like to be in that situation!

The poor widow,on the other hand, though she gave little,gave out of the abundance of her heart what to her amounted to a great sacrifice. Her little offering was all she possessed. Yet she gave it all,holding nothing back.

You could say she was a sacrificial giver, but I think it goes beyond that. Her giving spoke volumes about her priorities. Her priority was to participate in the offering being collected for the treasury. In other words, she was not to be denied this opportunity to worship.

Tithes-And-Offering-Imporance-To-God-And-Business

Brooksvillechristianchurch.org

The Bible doesn’t speak to this, but have you ever wondered if she hesitated in turning loose of those coins? She knew it was all she had, and no doubt it would be some time before she had two coins to rub together again. So it may have been a natural thing to hesitate in participating in this offering, especially if she had children to support.

Even though the above scenario sounds plausible, I don’t believe she hesitated for a second when she came to this offering. Again, this poor woman came to participate, not be a bystander.

For you see, that’s what worshipers do…..they actively participate, even if it means giving out of extreme circumstances, and they do it cheerfully (II Cor. 9:7)!!

No, it’s not the size of the gift that matters to God, but the size of the giver’s heart.

Giving to impress our Lord is pure folly, yet giving out of the abundance of our hearts is a sweet smelling sacrifice to Him.

Have a great day of worship!

Ron

Giving to the Lord: just money or is there more to it?

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Last night my daughter and I were having a discussion on giving to the Lord’s work, specifically in the areas of tithes and offerings. I always love having these types of discussions with her because her perspective tends to mirror those of her generation. Which, btw, don’t always line up with my own!

We talked about the origins of tithing, the Law, the how’s and why’s of Old Testament  giving, and finally how Jesus and Paul spoke of giving in the New Testament. To be sure, like most millennials she had lots of questions, which, believe it or not, I actually enjoyed.

We spent a fair amount of time talking about giving to receive a blessing, vs. giving as an act of worship. Since she has been raised in a Christian home, she has learned by observing her parents that giving to the Lord’s work is not optional, but rather a part of worship.

She has also heard conflicting views on the subject, particularly among those who espouse the “sow your best seed now to receive a blessing” crowd that permeate the airwaves today. Being a very bright young woman, it thrills me to know that she will not be numbered among those who succumb to such error (insert proud dad smile here).

We also talked a lot about the motivation to give to the Lord’s work. Do we give out of fear? Do we give because there is a “church rule” about giving? Do we give because that’s just what we do? As I said, she’s a bright young lady and has a lot of questions!

Our discussion concluded with the understanding that giving, like most everything else related to the Lord’s work, ultimately is an issue of the heart. We give to the Lord not to receive a blessing, but rather as one more type of personal worship. After all, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

We know that the Lord loves a cheerful giver (II Cor. 9:7), and as such we should not give grudgingly. As an act of worship, I believe giving should be looked upon as one more thing that we get to do for the Lord, not another thing we have to do.

For me, the highlight of our discussion was when she asked me “what about the poor, those that have nothing to give. Does God still bless them”? I think at that moment I saw my daughter in a different light, because she has a heart for the poor and underprivileged. I pray that she guards her heart well as she grows older and that she always remembers those less fortunate than herself.

Thankfully, she understands that as Christians we have an obligation to help the poor and to work to make their plight easier if possible. I wish all of us could come to the same conclusion because I think we could have a tremendous impact on our communities. If I really think about it, I can think of few things more pleasing to God than to aid the poor.

Tossing money into a basket or plate is one thing, the motivator behind our giving however is what is important. Giving from the perspective of a grateful heart is a wonderful part of our worship. A part that all are invited to participate in.

Have a wonderful day!

Ron

 

Heart Felt Worship

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You and I were created in the image of an emotional God.

Worship that comes from the heart is emotional. It elicits emotions from us in response to our being in the presence of God. Worship draws from our hearts what He has placed within it. In fact, you might even say that you were created to worship God!

Studying the scriptures gives us a beautiful picture of worship, and one quickly sees that worship is offered in many ways, but with one central theme: that of worshiping a living, loving, personal God.

Jesus said that God is a Spirit, and “they that worship Him must do so in Spirit and Truth”. He went on to say that the day would come when “true worshipers would worship the Father in Spirit and Truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him”. John 4:23,24

Pick any Christian church, and the methods or styles of worship are as varied as the colors of carpet on the floor. Some go through a ritualistic form of worship, while others worship spontaneously. Some worship in silence and still others worship enthusiastically with guitars and keyboards blaring.

worship-696x371

Babylonbee.com

Then, there is this kind of worship:

And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod.”   II Samuel 6:13-14   NKJV

I look at David as one of those people who approached worship from the perspective of not having to go to worship, but rather privileged to get to go to worship. Not being made to go, but getting to go! What a difference perspective makes, wouldn’t you agree?

What is your perspective on worship? Do you have to, or do you get to? Is going to worship a habit, a ritualistic drudgery that you have come to accept as just another part of life?

Or perhaps you approach worship like David did; you worship with all of your might?

As David was “dancing before the Lord with all of his might”, do you suppose he cared what others in the group thought of him? Do you wonder if they were embarrassed by his worship, hoping he would settle down and act normally?

worship dance

extravagantworshipdance.wordpress.com

Do you think someone thought about pulling him to the side and telling him that “we don’t do it that way here”?

Here’s what I believe. I believe David was worshiping his God with his whole heart, and no one was going to deter him from doing so. David had a relationship with God, a personal one; therefore he determined to worship Him with reckless abandon. To David, there was no shame in that!

Far too often I believe we hold back from expressing our hearts to God out of fear for what others will think of us. In doing so, are we fulfilling the command of Jesus to “worship God in Spirit and in Truth”?

What on earth is wrong with God’s children worshiping their Creator with total submission to Him? If this walk with God is truly about a personal relationship, why do we withhold from Him that which He expects from us?

We all know the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, how that the people cried out “Hosanna to the King as they worshiped Him”. The religious leaders demanded that the people stop such worship, yet Jesus said that if the people didn’t worship, the rocks would cry out in adoration of Him!

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rolchur.ch

Seriously, do we get that? Do we truly understand the implications here? God is to be worshiped, regardless of whether or not it fits someone’s preconceived notion about worship, or if we “fit in” with the crowd. Get this: style points don’t matter!

I believe true worshipers have a different attitude than those who simply go through the motions, from those who follow a prescribed method or style that has been predetermined by others.

True worshipers have an attitude of gratitude. This attitude determines the level of intimacy in our worship. If our attitude is one of merely going to a meeting rather than meeting with God, there is likely precious little intimacy involved.

On the other hand, when we approach our Lord in sincere gratitude for His blessings on our lives, there is a personal level of intimacy experienced that cannot be conjured up or manufactured. Simply put, it is real!

Above all else, I wish to be known as a worshiper. One who isn’t inhibited by the person setting next to me, or one who is concerned about whether or not I follow the proper worship etiquette.

In times like these, we should be expressing our innermost hearts cry to God with a purposeful heart of gratitude. In times like these, with instability the new order of the day, we should come boldly to the throne of grace with a heart prepared to give God our very best worship.

It’s up to you of course. You can leave worship exactly as you came, or you can leave worship enthused, revived, and encouraged in Jesus name!

Have a blessed day!

Ron

Why God is Trustworthy

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For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29   NKJV

Once He has decreed a thing, God does not waver and change his mind like men do. Nor is He temperamental as many of us are, allowing our moods to dictate our actions.

Even when we do things we know we shouldn’t, God is faithful to us. He does not discard us upon some trash heap, but instead draws us to Himself. If He has called us, that calling is without revocation, or as the King James says” without repentance“.

Because He is a keeper of His promises, we can trust Him completely.

Hebrews 6:18 says, “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). If he spoke it, then he will carry it out unto completion. Think about that statement; “it is impossible for God to lie“. If we were to say that about ourselves, that in itself would be a lie, wouldn’t it?

Because God always sees things through to completion, we can trust Him completely.

in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,” Titus 1:2    emphasis mine

Before time ever was, God had ordained that those He has called to eternal life will indeed live and reign with Him forever.

Because God has always been and will always be, we can trust Him completely.

God alone is worthy of our complete trust, for what He said He will do will come to pass.

Resting in the sure promises of God this day…..

Be blessed!

Ron

 

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