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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

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  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

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“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

 

 

 

 

 

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“This work isn’t for wimps”…

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I recently heard these words from a sermon preached by a young minister named Reggie Abraham. Reggie and his family attend the same church we have been attending the past several weeks, and this was my first time hearing him minister.

The thought behind this statement was that we all stumble and fall as we journey on with Jesus, but that just as our Leader stumbled on the way to the Cross but got up and continued on, so must we.

I was struck by the irony of Reggie’s statement for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it’s true that we are often knocked down and must pick ourselves up and start again. Sometimes we have the help of fellow believers to assist us, yet there are also times when it takes the Lord to raise us up and right our ship. Either way, we press onward.

I also found it ironic that Reggie spoke about falling down, because for the past six years he has had more than his share of being down. You see, six years ago Reggie suffered a serious stroke while riding his motorcycle. His right side was paralyzed and it was a miracle that he was able to get his bike stopped, especially considering how fast he was going.

While I don’t know all of the details, having just met him, I do know that he has spent a long, long time trying to rehabilitate his body and return to some sense of normalcy. Today, six years later he is still greatly afflicted on the right side of his body and just recently was able to find employment.

What is so remarkable about Reggie, and others like him who have had to overcome tremendous obstacles in their lives, is his indomitable spirit. His smile is contagious and his sense of humor will leave you laughing along with him as he delivers the Word in a manner that is guaranteed to touch your heart.

All of us face obstacles don’t we? I honestly don’t know a single person who can truthfully claim that their life has been one without hardship, regret, illness, or some sort of catastrophe.

I’m not saying it isn’t possible, but I have yet to meet the person who lives in a bubble, unscathed by the world and all its trappings.

Jesus in fact told us that we would have trouble in this life. He said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world“.   John 16:33.  ESV

I love how Jesus tells us to “take heart”. Even though trouble will no doubt come our way, He’s saying to us to be encouraged and empowered because He has overcome the world. Do you know that because He has already overcome, you also are an overcomer through Him?

He has gone before you and has walked in some of the same places you walk through. Scripture reminds us that “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin“.   Hebrews 4:15.  ESV

It is a faithful saying that Jesus understands your predicament. He’s been there, done that. Your greatest temptations, the ones that knock you off of your feet, the ones that send you reeling from their consequences, know that Jesus understands them because no one has ever endured the magnitude of temptations He endured.

Unlike many of us however, He successfully overcame them all, and so can you if you’ll place your hope in Him.

As Reggie said, “this work isn’t for wimps”. We all know serving the Lord brings with it unique challenges, and sometimes the journey can seem difficult at best. But the great thing about it is we don’t need to fight or overcome by our own strength or abilities.

Thankfully, God isn’t looking for perfect physical specimens to carry out His work. He isn’t concerned with our BMI, or if we have 13.1 or 26.2 decals on our car windows.

No, we have a great high priest who is leading the charge against our enemies. Our hope, our ultimate victory, is assured in Christ. His resurrection spelled defeat over Satan, over death, over Hell, and over the grave!

And besides, even if you are a wimp, it’s not your battle to fight but Jesus’s. All we need to do is get out of His way!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

How to have faith in God’s timeless process

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Face it.As much as we’d like to believe that hidden somewhere in the pages of God’s Word there exists a little known formula for living a charmed life,life’s journey has taught us that there is no quick fix,no potion,no enchantment that will deliver the kind of success being touted by the proponents of the prosperity gospel.

No glitzy TV programs,no Sunday snake oil salesman,no faith/power of positive confession/self help/sow your best seed now types of conferences,no slick self promoting “get in on this special offer now” spiel,will ever supplant God’s timeless process of faithful maturation.

You can’t buy it. You can’t steal it. For certain you can’t con your way to get it.

You have to earn it.Like a badge or a medal that is awarded to only a select few,growing in the faith and grace of our Lord is a process that will literally take the rest of your life.Indeed,our faith is continually growing, and that is as it should be lest we become stagnant and die.

In his 2nd letter to the church at Thessalonica,Paul was encouraged by their demonstrations of faith and love toward one another. “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;” II Thess 1:3    KJV

Paul draws us to the fact that their faith was “growing exceedingly”. For him to note this he would have had to have seen some outward,physical proof of this growth,which of course he recognized in their infectious love for one another.

These early Christians serve as wonderful examples to us today of the kind of growing faith and love that comes from God as we walk with Him daily. Did you notice the absence of so much of what we think of as church today? Are we missing something?

Could it be that these early Christians had already discovered the “formula” that so many seek today? I suggest that they had indeed found the secret to living the successful Christian life that the church today is searching for. In all the wrong places I might add.

The fact that this early church loved one another abundantly is ample evidence of their growing faith in God.Consider if you will that these Christians had no internet,no phone,no TV,no church buildings,and no programs for every member of the family.What they did have however… was each other!

Given the current church’s appetite for a “one stop shopping”brand of Christianity where an attempt is made to provide something for everyone,we are left to wonder how these poor,unfortunate,backward men and women ever survived.

They not only survived,but they also prospered because they trusted the Lord to see them through every situation.In other words,they trusted the process. James also,in speaking of the process said that “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”   James 1:12   KJV

All too often this flesh does not want to endure much of anything, but will instead look for the closest exit or way of escape.In doing so we fail to see the hand of God guiding us through the process,thus stunting the growth of our own faith.

So how do we get to the place where we can have faith in God’s process? I think the writer of Hebrews said it best.”For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”  Heb. 10:36

Patience in the process.Patience and endurance to see the race ran to completion.If we can learn patience,we will see a faith that grows exceedingly,a love for one another that abounds,and an enduring spirit that understands the process.

The truth about reading the Bible in one year.

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It’s a New Year,time for those one year Bible reading ads to pop up all over the web.

  • “Download your free Bible reading plan”.
  • “Read the entire Bible in just one year”.
  • “Walk through the Bible in one year!”
  • “Helping you read through the Bible in one year”.

These plans are very popular.I know many people who follow one of these plans and read through the Bible every year.I even did it once myself,just to see what all the fuss was about.

There is a plan for everyone,no matter your preferred reading style. Let’s see, there’s the Chronological plan,there’s the Old and New Testament each day plan, there’s the Old and New Testament plus Psalms each day plan.You get the picture,right?

These plans provide a guide to assist in keeping our reading on track. One glance will quickly tells us if we’re on target or if we’ve slipped a little and have some catching up to do.They are perfect for that.

I remember when these first showed up.Christians everywhere were quick to grab hold of this new method of Bible reading,and pastors soon began encouraging their members to find a plan they liked and stick with it.Can’t go wrong there.

By the time the end of December rolled around you had read the entire Bible through.WOW! That was quite an accomplishment!

By the way, you’d be shocked to learn how many people who are long time church members have never read the entire Bible through.More on that in a bit.

If there is a shortcoming with the one year method,I think it’s that they don’t go far enough.Once you’ve read through the Bible in a year,what’s next? You did it,you read the entire Bible in a year,and that’s it? I earned the Bible reading badge,so now what?

In my opinion where these plans fall short is that they fail to teach you how to take that next step,to actually study the Bible,which is very different from simply reading the Bible. What they do really well however, is introduce you to the discipline required to read a very lengthy and occasionally dry (keeping it real here,remember all those “begats?”) account of God’s Word.

Following a daily reading plan is great. If you actually do follow the plan! It will acquaint the reader with the books of the Bible and introduce some of the core foundational truths of God’s Word.Again,you have to actually follow the plan though!

They are not designed however, to take you to a deeper level where we begin to grow and mature in our walk with Him.

That takes time. A lot of time.I mentioned at the beginning that I followed one of these plans once just to see what it was like.I read the Bible through in a year by following the plan.An accomplishment,to be sure.

Since that initial complete reading of the Bible,I have read it through several more times as well.But none of those were accomplished in one year.In my Bible study, I have spent weeks on a single chapter! There is no plan for that,other than to keep faithfully plugging along.

I guess what I’m really saying here is that it’s great to use one of these Bible reading plans as a starting point to reading the Bible. Just don’t get caught up in the idea that “I did it,I’m done”,because the statistics are not very encouraging concerning Bible reading in America.

According to a survey that the Barna Group conducted for the American Bible Society, over 50% of Americans think the Bible is not influencing our society as much as it should be.Yet this same survey revealed that only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis.

Let’s see..too little influence caused by too little reading…Well DUH!!

Interestingly,we Americans think very highly of the Bible.Per this same survey,88 percent of those surveyed said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles.

This raises an interesting question,does it not? If we in America believe that the Bible is so important to us, why isn’t it having more of an impact against the unrestrained moral and social decline we are witnessing? If you’re paying attention,I already gave you the answer!

We have all these Bible,but we’re not reading them! Plan or no plan!

Doug Birdsall, president of American Bible Society, said he sees a reason for why the Bible isn’t connecting with people.“I see the problem as analogous to obesity in America. We have an awful lot of people who realize they’re overweight, but they don’t follow a diet,” Birdsall said. “People realize the Bible has values that would help us in our spiritual health, but they just don’t read it.”

If they do read it, the majority (57 percent) only read their Bibles four times a year or less. Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis (four or more times a week). Am I the only one shocked by these statistics?

But is that the result of a faulty reading plan? Uh, no, it isn’t. What good is the best plan in the world if we don’t follow it? The fault dear reader,is with us. You. Me.

We aren’t staying with the plan! Any plan!

I encourage everyone to find a plan that will help you to develop good reading habits.Just do me a favor will you? Please stick with it!

And once you’ve accomplished your goal of reading through the Bible in a year,commit yourself to a serious study of the Word.It will take you farther and deeper in your journey than you could imagine.

Be blessed!