Tag Archives: faith

Race to the Finish!

“… let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith …” – Hebrews 12:1-2

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If you were in the Olympics, would you stand still and just watch or would you strive with all your heart to win?

The apostle Paul encouraged Christians to race for victory as we run for Jesus.

Paul admonishes us to “lay aside every weight” which could cause us to fall.

It is easy to become distracted, and even consumed, by the things of this world. Those things might even be good and wholesome in their own right, but they can sideline us.

For instance, it would be better to memorize Scripture than song lyrics, sports stats, or trivia.

Beware the peril of remaining stationary. It is easy to forget the race we are in and to simply stand still. Let’s stay awake and keep moving forward in our journey with Jesus.

If it hinders you, get rid of it. We each have our own hindrances. Set them aside. Run your race.

Reject the negative voices within you and from the world and listen to the right voices coming from God and his Word.

Paul warned against “the sin which so easily ensnares us.” That sin is unbelief (Hebrews 11:6). Let us renew our faith by “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

How do we get back on track?

Believe and look to Jesus!

God did not send us here just to run the race, but also to finish it. Let’s finish it in faith!

Life at the Cross!

An instrument of cruel death was used by God to bring life to all.

The Easter season celebrates the fulfillment of Jesus’ most beloved words in John 3:16: “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.”

Life at the Cross

Jesus fulfills those words at the cross. There, he paid the penalty for all of our sins (1 Pet. 3:18, Rom. 6:8, Heb. 9:28). And it is there where we find Him to receive the gift of everlasting life (Rom. 6:23). It is a free gift when we repent in faith.

Jesus actually predicted the manner of His death in the words preceding his great promise. In John 3:14-15, we read: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Notice that verses 15 and 16 end with almost identical words. Why? Because Jesus was drawing a parallel between a spectacular Old Testament event (which prefigured the salvation which would be provided at the cross) with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

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As recorded in Numbers 21:4-9, the ancient Israelites rebelled against God in the wilderness. God punished them with “fiery serpents who bit them, killing many. After the people repented, God provided a means of salvation:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”

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In similar fashion, whenever anyone who has sinned looks at Jesus  in repentance and faith, they shall live.

Speaking to the crowd, Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32). The next verse expressly states, “This He said, signifying by what death He would die.”

Just as Moses lifted up a bronze serpent on a pole to save all those who looked at it, God lifted up Jesus on a cross to save all those who put their faith in Him.

Let us all turn to Jesus, who beckons us with arms wide open, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).

Choosing Life in Christ

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14

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Are you lost? Confused? Fearful of the future? Angry at the world or at yourself? Do you feel as if your life is all messed up? Are you without hope?

The world is desperate for salvation but few know how to achieve it. Many people offer false hope through false religions or humanly-devised programs. However, our Father in heaven gives us a sure promise of salvation which can only be found in Jesus Christ.

A relationship with Jesus is our only one true hope.

Jesus claims to be the only way. During the Christmas season, we are reminded that he is the Savior of the world! But this is something we should be reminded of every day: God’s love for us is so deep and so complete that he gave his only Son, Jesus Christ, so that we might have a relationship with him – forever (John 3:16).

Salvation is a choice. Do we choose one of the many ways which lead to destruction, or will we choose Jesus and be given the gift of eternal life?

The choice is ours. Will we admit our faults, our failures, and our need for help? Will we accept the love of God so freely and fully given in Jesus Christ? Will we choose Christ and follow him?

Our Father is eager to forgive us and to free us, if we will but receive his gift.

The world is lost and hopeless, as were we, who once did not know Christ.

But now we know him, and that makes all the difference.

HOPE in Dark Times

As we remember the shock and terror of 9/11 – and consider the state of the world and of America today – let us not lose hope.

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As we look upon the world scene, chaos reigns in much of the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Central and South America. Tyrannical regimes and terrorist states around the world are expanding their spheres of influence and employing their power for evil purposes.

In America, we are experiencing perils considered unthinkable just a decade ago, from unbridled immigration and race riots to Islamic jihad and domestic terrorism. The White House has become tyrannical and the judiciary is making laws. People who regard America as fundamentally flawed are in power and those who deny American exceptionalism have the loudest (and most heard) voices. The Church writ large is yielding to the world, endorsing homosexuality and promoting narcissism. Identity politics and political correctness have seized our political and cultural institutions.

Nevertheless, God is still on His throne. The supreme ruler of the universe – by whose providence America was founded and to whom America owes credit for her greatness – remains sovereign in the affairs of men. Our Father is faithful to His people and He hears their cries. His promises are sure.

Scripture is replete with assurances from our Creator and Redeemer. Psalm 147:11 declares, “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

In Romans 15:13, the apostle Paul offers a succinct prayer for God’s people: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Let us abound in hope.

You Were There

Let me share two songs with you (YouTube videos hyperlinked).

Avalon’s You Were There reminds us of God’s omnipresence. God is everywhere and has always been there in key moments in history. He was there, giving David the courage to slay Goliath “when the hardest fight seemed so out of reach.” He was there, showing Abraham that He “had bigger plans” and provided a sacrifice to substitute for Abraham’s son, Isaac.

And God was there, “during history’s darkest hour,” when He gave His only begotten Son, that we might have eternal life with Him (John 3:16).

God “alone [can] keep the universe from crumbling into dust.” And He can keep our lives from falling apart.

You Raise Me Up

Selah’s You Raise Me Up points to the One who lifts us up when we are weary and overwhelmed. God lifts us up to the mountaintops and empowers us to “walk on stormy seas.” Indeed, our strength derives from the One who rules in majesty: “I am strong, when I am on your shoulders. You raise me up to more than I can be.”

Perhaps not so surprisingly, it is in those moments that our hearts are “filled with wonder” and we get glimpses of eternity.

We now face challenges which can appear insurmountable. We know our own frailty and our own powerlessness in certain circumstances. It is in times like these that despair can fall upon us. But it is at those very times when we must most remember to whom we should turn.

We live in dark times, times where it seems that evil has been unleashed from hell, yet our hope resides in one person – Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Light of the World, entered our world to pierce the darkness, to conquer death, and to redeem humanity. Jesus conquered Satan and death. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Let us keep our eyes on Him as we struggle for what is right and true in this life.

Ask God! (He just might surprise you.)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8

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Some regard Jesus’ words as Pollyannaish or simply too good to be true. But what if they’re not?

Those with faith in Jesus’ promise have already experienced his bountiful goodness. We can, too. The promise Jesus gave is to “everyone” – without qualification or limit. All we have to do is ask in faith.

As the apostle James said, often we do not have because we do not ask. Rest assured that when we go to God in prayer, he hears – and he answers! The whole of heaven is open to everyone who prays.

Prayer is a passionate, personal conversation with God. When we speak from our heart, when we openly share our inner being with the One who created us, God is pleased.

When we share our hearts with our Father in prayer, he gives us more of himself. He changes our hearts and transforms our lives beyond our imaginations.

Surrounded by the here and now, distracted by the world around us, it is all too easy to miss the spiritual reality that prayer is an invitation to connect with eternity.

Jesus called every broken believer into a life of continual prayer that eternally changes life. In Jesus, we can be healed and become whole.

Jesus instructed us to “Ask … Seek … Knock …” and he assured us that our Father would respond generously, lovingly (verses 9-11).

Let us trust him.

Father, let Your will be done in our lives.

Living a Worry-Free Life

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus admonishes each of us not to worry, yet … we worry. Why? And how can we stop worrying?

The solution to worry, though simple, is not easy.

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Jesus began His discourse on worry after declaring “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Jesus made the simple point that we should be more concerned with the things of God than the things of this world.

Jesus then declared the infinite worth of every human life and His providential care for us. He feeds the birds and clothes the lilies of the field, but we are of far greater value in His eyes. So, we should trust Him.

The pivotal point in this section is reached in verse 30: “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

According to Jesus, worry is a matter of faith, or, more accurately, worry is faithless. When we worry, we are exhibiting “little faith.”

The things we tend to worry about – food, clothing, money, possessions – are all temporary. Someday, they will perish. We worry about things that, in the grand scheme of things, are worthless.

Moreover, as Jesus points out, worry won’t change reality. Worry won’t give us even one more moment of life, though it will squander many moments from our lives.

Worry ignores the hand of God in our lives. It denies the reality that God’s sovereignty over the universe extends into our lives. Simply put, if He can keep the universe in order, then He can take care of us.

Jesus tells us that we are of more value to God than what we see around us. He names the stars, counts the hairs on our heads, and knows our names.

We can trust Him. Will we?

When we do – when we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” – we can rest assured that He will take care of all those things we tend to worry about so needlessly.

One website offers “22 ways to living calmer and anxiety free life,” with a graphic captioned: “Take Charge of Your Worry.” Excluded from this blogger’s worry-free program: God. Not one word about the One who frees us from worry. Indeed, the graphic itself should be emblazoned: “Give Your Worry to God.”

We don’t take charge of our worry. Rather, we yield our lives to our Creator and trust in Him.

Our Father in heaven will be faithful in His provision for us.

Giving Up Self for God’s Glory

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do … But when you fast, [do it] so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” – Matthew 6:16-18

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Jesus warns his disciples against making public displays of giving, prayer, and fasting in order to obtain glory for ourselves. Rather, we should seek to bring God glory. When we do, he will reward us.

Spiritual fasting (privately) stands in stark contrast to fame, which wants instant gratification. Fame wants to be recognized, admired, esteemed. Fasting, on the other hand, is slow and does not gratify the flesh.

But fasting can be a powerful means by which we can draw closer to God, improving our relationship with him, and growing spiritually to become more like his Son.

As my pastor, John, says, “Fasting is not about fame. It is about faith. It leads to breakthrough.”

Fasting is an exercise in faith which builds up our faith and can accomplish much for his glory.

Jesus is our model.

Before he began his ministry, Jesus fasted for forty days. And he was hungry. (Matthew 4:1-11.) Satan tempted Jesus three times. With each temptation, Jesus rejected the instant gratification that Satan offered, relying instead on the power of faith and God’s Word to withstand temptation.

Jesus offers us a tremendous example of humility and dependence upon his Father in heaven.

When we fast, we should seek God for something bigger than ourselves. Fasting is God-oriented, not self-oriented. When we fast with this attitude, we give up our self for the glory of God.

A Gleam in Our Father’s Eye

“So he called his disciples to himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;  for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.’” – Mark 12:43-44

No one else noticed her, but Jesus commended this poor widow for her faith and generosity in giving all that she had – (what those around her considered of no value) – to God.

Gleam

Can you picture the face of her Father in heaven? The gleam in his eye as she honored him? Trusted him?

Giving is not about the money; it’s an act of faith. This widow exhibited great faith in God and in His providence. She let go of all that she had.

The proof of our faith is in letting go, too.

How can we bring a gleam to our Father’s eyes?

We can begin by understanding that our lives are realigned and redefined by one relationship – with Jesus Christ. If we have Jesus, we have everything.

If we believe that, nothing will be more valuable to us than God.

Do we rely on God or on our possessions?

Like the poor widow, do we give gifts to God that actually cost us? Or is our faith journey one without cost? If so, where is our faith?

We can ask God how he wants us to sacrifice for him – and then do it.

Missionary Jim Elliot had it right when he said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Resurrection: Life & Liberty, Power & Purpose

He is Risen!

The Passion of the Christ drew record audiences when it was released in 2004 and, even today, a spiritual hunger persists in our increasingly secularized culture.

Resurrection

Easter is upon us and the message of the cross and the open tomb are destined to be commercialized and corrupted. Yet, God’s Word will prevail and His will be accomplished. The cross and the risen Christ prove His power and His love, just as they demonstrate God’s commitment to those who will be with Him in Paradise.

Life & Liberty

The words of John 3:16 speak of salvation and eternal life: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” – yes, Jesus, the Son of God, was given (sacrificed) because of God’s love. Continuing, “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

That is the essence of the gospel and Easter is the proof.

For believers, God gives eternal life. Jesus’ resurrection vanquished death and, when we are spiritually born again, we are given eternal life. We are joined with Christ in newness of life and God’s Holy Spirit inhabits us.

Death no longer has dominion over us. Life is triumphant! Along with life, God gives us liberty. We are freed from sin, which also no longer has dominion over us. While we will sin, we are no longer slaves to sin. God’s Spirit within nurtures us and heals us.

In our darkest hours – whether external circumstances or internal battles – God provides hope and healing. Our hearts and souls are resurrected in Christ.

Nicol Sponberg’s song, Resurrection, is hauntingly poignant and peculiarly powerful. It speaks of our translation from darkness to life, the renewal (or resurrection) of our lives. The chorus reads:

 Here I am at the end, I’m in need of resurrection.

Only You can take this empty shell and raise it from the dead.

What I’ve lost to the world, what seems far beyond redemption,

You can take the pieces in Your hand, and make me whole again, again.

This modern-day psalmist expresses confidence in the Lord of life and the only One who can resurrect her life, who can make her (and us) whole and complete.

Power & Purpose

Along with life and liberty, God provides power and purpose. Jesus conquered death that we might live and He has given us liberty in that life – liberty to grow and mature and become more like Him. We are to emulate Jesus, who empowers us to do so. In my sermon, “Living the Resurrected Life,” I addressed our dependence upon the One who alone can work His will in our lives and empower us to bear His fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. With that power, as we grow to maturity in Christ, He calls us to proclaim the gospel, known as the “Great Commission.”

The power of the Easter message is unstoppable, as is the One who accomplished it. “It is finished!”

We no longer need fear death or the dangers we face in this life. We are freed from ourselves and given a new life. In the dark valleys of our lives, Jesus again resurrects us, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. He empowers us to seek and do His will, which includes spiritual growth and evangelism.

Life. Liberty. Power. Purpose. …

Paradise

Easter points us to Jesus, to what He accomplished in the past, to what He accomplishes every day, and to our future with Him in Paradise. (Jesus called it Paradise for a reason.) As we eagerly await our entrance into His presence, let us remember the words of the apostle Paul, who wrote: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18).”

One of my favorite songs, Selah’s All My Tears, is irresistibly exuberant and triumphant. It rejoices in knowing Jesus annihilated death and that at the end of this life we will be with Him for eternity. With confident faith, it beautifully anticipates our future home, where there will be no more tears and sorrows. Here is a sampling of lyrics:

When I die don’t cry for me
In my father’s arms I’ll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
Will all be healed and I’ll be whole

It don’t matter where you bury me
I’ll be home and I’ll be free
It don’t matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

 So weep not for me my friend
When my time below does end
For my life belongs to Him
Who will raise the dead again

 

Happy Easter!