Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Running This Race

I thought I'd take the time out to share with you some thoughts from my favorite scripture in the bible. Even having a favorite scripture is a stretch since there is so much good there, but we all have areas of need, concentration and significance in our lives and this matches well with mine.

"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." Phi 3:13,14

Let's take a closer look at this:

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended..."

A perusal of the previous verses will show that Paul's main goal is to win Christ, to know Christ intimately, to be found in him and to know and attain the power of his resurrection (vs 8-11). These are lofty goals indeed, but to Paul, goals are indeed what they are, for according to his word, he has not yet attained or apprehended them. He goes on to say in vs 12 that he is diligently pursuing this apprehension, the attaining of all aspects of a relationship with and true understanding of Christ. These are worthy goals for all Christians. I submit to you that we are all in the same state Paul was, having not fully grasped all that is Christ Jesus.

"...forgetting those things which are behind..."

Paul outlines his pedigree in vs 3-6. In it, he explains why he is a Jew of Jews, and had every right to brag on his lineage, upbringing, education, associations and accomplishments. The key is in vs 7 & 8, where he says he willingly turned his back on all of that and counts it all as dung compared to the quest for Christ! Too often we put more stock than we should on things that pump us up, even as we fail to give Christ credit for who we are and what we have. This interferes with apprehending him. Think about it this way: looking back often results in going back. Remember Lot's wife?

"...and reaching forth unto those things which are before..."

Now I'd like to introduce you to the race analogy that Paul is employing. The Olympics in Greece were a big thing during this time and everyone could identify with athletic competition, particularly running. In fact, athletes were the rock stars of their day. The thought is that everything, the gaze, the legs, the arms, all reaching forward toward the goal, with great intent and never looking back. The Greek word here indicates stretching and straining. How often do we slip into remembrances and old habits that distract us from moving forward in our Christian lives? How much effort do we really put in to "winning" Christ?

"...I press toward the mark for the prize..."

The Greek here refers to the speed and effort. It conveys that he is doing everything to win. We know that the race goes to them that endure rather than the swift, nevertheless, you must figuratively be the first to cross the line in order to win. Paul wants to win, but what he wants to win is the prize of the high calling of God. What is that we are hoping to win? Popularity, wealth, fame, or heaven?

"...of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

The high calling is nothing short of the upward calling. It conveys not only that we need to lift our lives, lift our spirit and lift our way of living, but that we want to attain that which is above. God has been calling us home since Adam and Eve got thrown out of the garden. We can only make it home through Jesus (John 14:6). Godliness and our final reward should be the goal of all Christians and it should be seen in the lives that we live.

Brothers and sisters, consider your own favorite scriptures, why they are and what they truly mean to your life. Study this scriptures and attempt to extract every bit of meaning from them. I assure you that the longer you live and the more you go through, the more God's word will have to say to you.

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Slippery Slope of Sin

I saw a movie once that imparted the following:

If you were to toss a frog into boiling water, it would hop out immediately.
If you were to place a frog in temperate water and slowly increase the heat, it would stay there and boil to death.

In thinking about sin, I find it to be a lot like that.

Faced with things that offend our Christian sensibilities and that we might find egregious in nature, we typically avoid quite easily. We know the difference between right and wrong and for the most part avoid the wrong, particularly if it is blatantly and obviously so. We will give that type of sin a wide berth and go a long way to avoid it. In fact, we may even speak out against it warning others of its harmful nature, just like we would boiling water.

The challenge comes when we allow the "little things" to creep in. You know those things by some of the following names:
  • little white lies
  • minor indiscretions
  • no big deal
  • just a little
  • slight exaggeration
  • everyone else does it
  • at least it's not _______
  • it was just once

It is these things that begin to drive up the temperature of the waters of our Christian lives. When you participate in whatever your particular variety of sin might be, you may find that you experience all types of remorse, anguish and depression over your transgression. But when the opportunity comes around again, you find that it's just a little bit easier the next time and the pain of godly sorrow is a little less. It is in fact, a slippery slope that will speed your descent into a pattern of regular and premeditated sin.

Brothers and sisters, this will ultimately introduce you to temperatures I am confident you will not find comfortable.

"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren." James 1:14-16

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Experiencing Prayer (Prayer II)

Today, prayer is on my mind. In fact it's on my mind all of the time (as 1 Thes 5:17) directs.

Prayer is such an important aspect of Christian life. It is nothing short of our direct and private conversation with our Creator.

I was speaking with a member of the congregation the other day and he mentioned that he was feeling very close to God at the moment. My response was, "When is the last time you talked with Him?" I went on to explain that any relationship depends on communication. The more you talk with someone, the more you get to know them. If it is a positive and healthy relationship, the more you get to know them, the more you feel close to them. The closer you feel to them, the more you love them. This is what God desires of all of His children.

So I thought I might continue a series of messages on prayer I began a month or so ago. Many people have no idea how to pray, but instead imitate what they've heard what someone else does, without making it a personal communication with God. For this reason, I'll continue this series of notes with an analysis of the model for payer Jesus established in Matt 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.

Our Father which art in heaven,
  • Acknowledge your relationship to Him
  • Acknowledge His presence and preeminence

Hallowed be thy name.

  • Offer glory, praise, reverence and honor to Him

Thy kingdom come.

  • Express faith and trust in his promises

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

  • Express hope and look forward to the day when all will be as originally designed by God

Give us this day our daily bread

  • Don't be afraid to ask God for the things that sustain you. He knows what you need, but remember, you are communicating with Him and he loves to grant the requests of His children

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors

  • Ask for forgiveness of all sins you have committed while keeping in mind your need to provide forgiveness (Matt 6:14, 15)
  • Ask for blessings for others, include those who persecute you

But lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

  • Request support and and a means of escape from the influences of Satan and from our own lust of the eye, lust of the flesh and the pride of life

For thine is the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

  • Praise Him again for all He is and all He has, can and will do
  • Closing your prayer with "Amen" indicates "so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled"

It is my prayer that these thoughts will be of value to you and your prayer life. Later, we'll discuss examples of prayer, contents of prayer, instances of prayer and results of prayer.

Stay tuned...

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.