Victors and Victory 2 Timothy 4 Part 2

What makes this amazing journey a true victory?  As an athlete, I was never a star.  My brother was amazing–won decathlon 2 out of 3 years and finished 2nd the middle year by 10 points–sporting a cast on his right arm. He was the fastest most gifted runner we knew.  Me, history explains, not so much…my coach said it best, “Well Smith can’t catch, but he sure is slow!” So, early on, I learned that for me it truly was a victory to simply finish the race and fight the good fight.

Paul was, by far, a greater spiritual athlete. He completely embraced the faith he sought to destroy.  He focused his ministry upon the people he was raised and trained to abhor. He taught salvation by faith–when his legal righteousness was above reproach–he was a Christian superstar. Yet, on this day, as his final appeals were winding down and Nero was soon to take his head, Paul faced the truth–HE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, FINISHED THE RACE and kept the faith. He realized this marathon was not about the medals; it was about the journey and the struggle.

As he was sharing his heart with Timothy, he expressed his loneliness, his regret for not using John Mark–and his gratitude to Luke and to God who had remained along side.  Paul never expected to win the race or win the fight–that was for God.  He only expected to finish strong and fight to the end–a great goal.

As for us–we are called to follow Paul’s example–Phil 4:9-“ Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” If we will embrace what is tough, focus on those no one else will, and keep battling until God calls us home; even if you are not a christian decathlete–you can run, fight and finish–ready to claim the reward for which you were prepared. Not a bad trade off!

God Bless You

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.

16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Worship of Creator, not the Created–Acts 17 Part 2

Paul had come to the spiritual farmers market–Athens, Greece.  In Athens, all the idols of all the gods that men worshiped appeared.  Greek, Roman, Asian and even some idols from other lands appeared in the city.  It was the Las Vegas of religion.  there were temples on every corner and the people loved debating and discussing the merits of each.  So, when Paul began sharing the Gospel, the people listened, but, not with a desire to know God, but with an ear to debate God’s legitimacy.
 
Paul seized the moment and used the people’s natural apathy to religion to actually ignite the Holy Spirit’s draw to their hearts.  Paul seized on their desire to understand spirituality–he then showed them the basic truth, men spend their time, thought and treasure worshipping things that are created; rather than turning that energy to worship the creator.  Worshipping the sun, the harvest, the act of love or any other creation is simply embracing a side affect not embracing God.  In Athens, their were gods for every created thing, feeling and desire–but, there is only one inscription for the one unknown creator.  Paul helped them to understand that if they worshipped the creator, he would provide all the attributes their gods claimed to provide.  In addition, The true God would restore and complete them–and give them back the ability to be in relationship with Him–not just a token curiosity of Him.
 
As silly as the worship of the created sounds, it is as or more prevalent today than any time before.  Men today worship the very things worshipped then–Power, Love, Money, War, Entertainment, Beauty, Sex and the list goes on.  We have made the temples our living rooms and the alter our flat screen TV’s, Laptop computers and Smartphones–but the natural desire to understand the spiritual coupled with a strong desire to be self-sufficient and self-absorbed still resemble the people of Athens.  We still need to recognize our need for God and His redemption.  We need to accept there is only one true God–and we are not it.  If we will; we will be saved from the sin in our life and restored to follow him. Then we will experience a full, meaningful and eternal life with the creator, not the created.
 
God Bless You
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
 

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead

Eternal Security–John 10 Final

It would have been so much easier to simply not have discussions with the religious leaders.  They were trying to trap Jesus at every turn.  He neither avoided the conflict nor couched his statements.  He answered plain questions with straight answers. Still, in the midst of the banter, Jesus showed the rest of the crowd and us the character of God. 

Jesus spoke to the leaders about his relationship with the Father, but, more importantly, he reminded us of the security we have in Christ.  He told them three things of note–1.I know my sheep, 2. they will not be taken from me and more importantly, 3. they will not be taken from my father. 

The idea of eternal security was novel and drove the religious leaders even more crazy.  But for those that believed, they had a God that wanted them to know they were safe in his hands,

Today, we have to trust in that same security.  We can rest safely in his arms and know that he not only protects and provides for us here; but he has a place prepared for us in heaven for all eternity. As our shepherd, we are safe and can follow him with confidence, knowing that he has us safely in his care.

God Bless You

22 Then came the Festival of Dedication[b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

Living the Life–Hebrews 6 part 1

It really is about living the life.  So many churches in my life have focused on getting folks to say a prayer, walk an aisle, join a church or follow some tradition.  God has always said, since Adam that this journey is about walking with God following him, worshipping him and ultimately becoming like him.  Romans teaches us that it is a gift we cannot earn, I John teaches us that even when in the journey we will fail, but, the key is that once you have decided to follow God, you will be different.  If it was casual, if you would walk away simply because you were tired or sad, would be a sign that you were never really in the relationship.

Once we have tasted God’s grace, glory and love, we would be fools to walk away, and if we do, we can’t simply come back later as if nothing happened.  We were bought with a great price and to walk away from it will also be very costly.  Each day, we choose whom we will serve–but, praise God that our daily choice neither voids his commitment nor puts our salvation at risk.  If we follow him, Nothing can separate us from his love.  Follow him and allow him to make a life for you that will astound you beyond your wildest dreams.

God Bless You

Once people have seen the light, gotten a taste of heaven and been part of the work of the Holy Spirit, once they’ve personally experienced the sheer goodness of God’s Word and the powers breaking in on us—if then they turn their backs on it, washing their hands of the whole thing, well, they can’t start over as if nothing happened. That’s impossible. Why, they’ve re-crucified Jesus! They’ve repudiated him in public! Parched ground that soaks up the rain and then produces an abundance of carrots and corn for its gardener gets God’s “Well done!” But if it produces weeds and thistles, it’s more likely to get cussed out. Fields like that are burned, not harvested.