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Posts Tagged ‘Hebrews 12:1-4’

Abiding and Abounding

August 5th, 2014

“I am rejoicing to see . . the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5.

The life which abides in faith abounds in Christ.

My thoughts and comments today are about “abiding and abounding.”

England has long been one of my favorite places to visit. I especially enjoy having lunch in British pubs, the older and authentic the better. I enjoy seeing signs on businesses, such as, “Established 1868.” Such information evidences pride in history and heritage, implying promise of reliability.

Several things have prompted my thoughts today. A few days ago, I came across the notes from my first sermon as a young pastor at Trinity Church, “The Life That Is Established,” May 25, 1975. I knew that was a Biblical principle I wanted to visit again. And over the weekend, I officiated at long-time friends’ Renewal of Vows on their 70th Anniversary. Then Sunday, I dedicated our great grandson, Carter, as Gayle and I also celebrated our 51st Anniversary. I guess I like people, places, and things that have been and will continue to be around a while. Your faith in Christ should be like that.

Paul was intent on Christian life being lived with confidence and security. I am rejoicing to see . . the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in [the faith] with thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:5-7. Paul refers to both “your faith,” which you are to exercise and be “steadfast,” as well as “the faith” in which you are to abide and be “established.”  Your faith abides upon the greater faith. See John 15:7, 9-10/1 John 2:24. What God begins in grace He continues in faith and concludes in thanksgiving. That process results in your being “established and abounding with thanksgiving.” The life which abides in faith abounds in Christ.

The world is a complex state of flux, symptomatic of shifting politics, international alliances, erratic economies, disintegrating marriages, and dysfunctional families. You need a place of emotional, moral, and spiritual equilibrium. David wrote, “He set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth – praise to our God.” See Psalm 40:1-3. Such a place is only found in God and His truth. There you recover direction and determination.

A proper outcome requires much more than good intentions and optimistic beginnings. A final outcome results from what you do between where you begin and when you finish. Keep God as “the Author and Finisher of your faith,” at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. The Bible provides a practical guide for abiding and abounding. Read Hebrews 12:1-4. There is much that will oppose and discourage you. The Bible describes those oppositional forces as, the world around you“every weight and the sin that ensnares you” (vs. 1-2), and the flesh within you “weary and discouraged in your souls” (vs. 3), and the devil against you“striving against sin” (vs. 4). After Paul’s lengthy and practical discourse about the Resurrection, he logically concludes, “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58.

Today, my prayer for you is that you abide in Christ and abound with thanksgiving.

Christian Communications, Inc.

(All Bible references are NKJV unless otherwise noted.)

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Breaking Points

April 11th, 2014

“We should trust not in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:9 NKJV.

A breaking point may actually become your breakthrough.

My thoughts and comments today are about “breaking points.”

Breaking points are times when you come up empty – no further resources, no fresh ideas, no better options, and you are left with nothing in reserve, financially, mentally, emotionally, or physically. At the end of yourself, you will meet God there. You are not alone. The prophet Elijah was at a breaking point – in fear for his life, fleeing from an angry monarch, drained physically, feeling alone and abandoned, and wishing to die. Read 1 Kings 19:1-20 NIV. Elijah was empty and exhausted – disappointed with people, discouraged by threats to his safety, and depressed about the future. That’s what a breaking point looks like – until you meet God there. Let’s consider some practical truths for such moments.

Quitting is not an option. If you think giving up is a viable option, you will eventually find an excuse to do so. My dear friend, Kenny, often reminded me and others, When you find yourself at the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hold on tightly till help comes. The Bible says, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” Hebrews 10:35-36 NKJV. Perseverance is a virtue. “Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us . . do this by keeping your eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish . . so that you do not become weary and give up.” Hebrews 12:1-4 NLT.

Don’t pick up what is not yours to carry. Over-involvement in too many things or assuming too much responsibility for too many people soon becomes an unbearable burden. Keep the load light, and remember, As your days so shall your strength be.  Deuteronomy 33:25 NKJV. Jesus will give you wisdom and daily strength if you, “[Cast] all your care on Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NKJV.

A breaking point may become a breakthrough. Paul found the renewed strength and assurance he needed, when at his own breaking point God said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT. That discovery is life changing when embraced in faith. Read Hebrews 11:32-35 NLT. In God, your breaking point may be preparing you for a breakthrough. When you can’t be strong, let God be strong in you.

With a future dire and uncertain, Paul affirmed this practical, liberating truth, “We were burdened above measure, beyond strength, so that we despaired even of life. We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should trust not in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in Whom we trust He will still deliver us.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NKJV. Think about your Heavenly Father as, “God who raises the dead.” If God can do what is impossible, the most extreme circumstance can still be alive with hope. “What is impossible from a human perspective is possible with God.” Luke 18:27 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you are always preparing yourself for a breakthrough.

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Overcoming Temptation

October 15th, 2012

“Temptations [in] your life are no different from what others experience.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT.

Turn every negative temptation into positive motivation for greater Godliness.

My thoughts and comments today are about “overcoming temptation.”

Temptation is the rule, not the exception. Being aware and prepared for such situations is the best protection from being overcome by them. Temptation reveals that you know the difference between wise and unwise, profitable and unprofitable, right and wrong, or grace and sin. If you don’t recognize those differences, your ignorance will be more the problem than temptation.

The enemy of your soul, whom the Bible calls “the tempter,” uses your vulnerability for his purpose and your harm. The Bible is very clear about temptation’s inevitability. Being tempted evidences your humanity not lack of spirituality. Temptation is not itself sin, but yielding to its appealing attraction inevitably leads you into sin. After citing instances of Israel’s failures across their history, Paul warns his readers, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you too may fall into the same sin.” 1 Corinthians 10:12 NLT. Pride blinds you to the possibility of your failure. No one is immune to sin’s appeal, unless one’s heart is steadfastly committed to God.

This is God’s reminder for every time you are tempted, “Remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptations from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT. God’s counsel and promises are simple and clear: temptations are common, so don’t get discouraged; God is faithful, so remember you are not alone; God sets the limits, so resist confidently; God knows the way out of every temptation, so don’t panic, pray! If there was a way in, there is a way out.

Paul was clear with young Timothy, “Flee evil desires . . and pursue righteousness” Read 2 Timothy 2:21-26 NIV. There is no age limit to Paul’s wise counsel. Spiritual success results from actively pursuing a righteous lifestyle, as well as avoiding wrong behavior. A simple word of advice, don’t fight temptation alone. There are two things that are important for your victory. First, be open with God about your temptation. Jesus faced the tempter alone so you will not have to. Read Matthew 4:1-11/Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV. The more you try to hide your struggle, the stronger temptation grows and the harder to overcome. “Because [Christ] Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. Therefore . . fix your thought on Jesus . .” Hebrews 2:18/3:1 NIV. Hebrews 12:1-4 NIV.

Secondly, ask a Godly and trusted friend to walk alongside you. “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT. Don’t be secretive, sin thrives in shadows. But be selective about how and with whom you share. You need a prayer partner who will hear your heart, pray for you, walk with you, and keep you accountable for your conduct.

Lastly, in temptation be proactive, not passive. Leave no room for tempting thoughts by setting your heart and mind on, “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praise-worthy . .” Philippians 4:6-9 NIV. Turn every negative temptation into positive motivation for greater Godliness. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that passion for righteousness exceeds desire for lesser things.

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Marathon Runners

February 22nd, 2012

“Let us run . . the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT

“The life of faith demands the effort and endurance of a marathon, not the enthusiasm of a sprint.”

My thoughts and comments today are about “marathon runners.”

Amy, our daughter-in-law, mother of four and avid runner the last several years, decided she wanted to run a marathon. She has now successfully concluded two marathons in San Antonio and Houston in recent months; that’s 26.2 miles of sheer determination, endurance, and mind-numbing physical and emotional anguish. I cannot imagine the regimen of training, mental strength, and physical stamina that requires. It is safe to say that not just anyone is able to accomplish such a physical achievement.

Like other serious runners, she must have grown weary with the discipline of training. She experienced soreness, strains, and exhaustion during relentless hours of training. She sacrificed precious hours she could have used in a busy family, and expenses for proper clothing and equipment. There were some things she gave up in order to achieve a greater goal.

Along the 26.2 miles every runner stares down the possibility of failure, times of struggling with their own limits as faster runners pass with more strength and experience, moments when others quit along the way raising doubts of their own ability to finish, and a weariness to the core of one’s being – until seeing the finish line requiring just a few more steps and last ounces of strength. A runner’s success does not come easily nor without sacrifice; real success in any demanding effort never does! Your best effort must endure until you cross the finish line.

Finishing the race requires stringent training, settled determination, physical stamina, mental toughness, demanding perseverance, and a superseding goal that inspires and empowers your best effort. I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words, “I consider that what we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18 TEV.

I would suggest that every follower of Jesus is in a marathon of even greater importance, one of eternal consequence. The life of faith demands the effort and endurance of a marathon, not the brief enthusiasm of a sprint. Dare we expect minimal demands or marginal sacrifices to be sufficient? There are mile markers along the way, but the journey is measured in days, months, and years rather than miles. Anything short of the finish line is too soon.

Following the most amazing histories of faith and perseverance (Hebrews 11), the writer speaks to us, “Therefore, since (you) are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, strip off every weight that slows (you) down, especially the sin that so easily hinders(your) progress. And run with endurance the race that God has set before (you) . . do this by keeping (Your) eyes on Jesus, on Whom (your) faith depends from start to finish . . so that you don’t become weary and give up.” Hebrews 12:1-4 NLT.

My helpful reminder is this: “Remember in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win . . They do it to win a prize that will fade away; we do it for an eternal prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT. See Acts 14:22 NKJV. Run to win; the finish line is in sight. May you be as confident as Paul as he faced his impending death, “I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness.” Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you never lose heart or hope short of hearing God say, “Well done!”

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Too Soon to Quit

May 11th, 2011

“We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.” 2 Corinthians 4:9 NLT

“What happens to you is not what matters most; what happens after that matters more.”

My thoughts today are about, “too soon to quit.”

Everyone feels like quitting sometime. If you haven’t yet, you will; just don’t quit permanently.  That’s not negative or pessimistic; that’s just reality. Things don’t always go well. Things won’t always go in your favor. It’s not always what happens to you that matters most; usually, it is what happens after what happened that matters more! Don’t give in to your feelings to give up. Dust yourself off, and get ready to resume the journey. You will heal. Neither your frustration nor your failure is final, just inconvenient bumps in the road. Wow; that sounds like a lot of clichés. But I think that’s good and practical advice.

Do you wish your situation had happened differently? Of course you do, but it didn’t; deal with the reality. Examine your situation honestly but positively. Lay it out before the Lord, asking His wisdom and direction. Don’t waste the experience; learn something useful to help you in the future. Resume life quickly; continue forward as soon as you feel capable of doing so. Expect things to be better not worse. If Paul, writing from prison, was able to say “the things that have happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:12 NKJV), then you and I can trust God to rule in the events and circumstances of our everyday lives.

The Bible puts disappointments, disruption of schedules, and minimal inconveniences in perspective by comparing your experiences in contrast to Jesus’ sacrifice for your salvation: “Let us run with perseverance the race . . fixing our eyes on Jesus . . who endured the cross, scorning its shame . . consider Him that endured such opposition from sinful men . . so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Hebrews 12:1-4 NIV. That clarifies the context for times when things don’t go well for you. Jesus didn’t quit on you; don’t lose hope in Him. I guess my Dad did not support quitting. He said, “It is always too soon to quit, especially when you feel like it.”

Resisting reality won’t change it. Sitting in the midst of a mess will not make anything better. Everybody struggles occasionally; not everybody quits every time. Some people don’t quit anytime! Paul describes such fateful moments of decision this way, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down be we get up again and keep going . . that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT.

Pressured, perplexed, pursued, or punched? Whatever your situation right now, you are in a good company of overcomers. “To Him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:21 NIV. Overcome or overcomer? I choose the latter for both of us.

My prayer for you today is: don’t give up on yourself or on God, however tough the moment.

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