Choose To Move Forward

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

Paul chose his life. He chose to pursue the Father and His plans despite all obstacles. Paul never denies his challenges, weaknesses, mistakes, frustrations, and disappointments. He admits life was extremely difficult at times. Yet, he never views his struggles as failure. He viewed them as reason to press into God and charge forward even harder… to the glory of God.

Paul doesn’t brag of winning the race, he boasts of finishing. He stayed in the race because that’s where God wanted him. Paul chose not to allow his obstacles to become an excuse to give up or say he was too weak.

He made the ‘choice’ to move forward and in return, God used him and blessed him in incredible ways. And in the end, Paul’s result was “Henceforth, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day…”

So, I guess the point here is to keep “choosing” to move forward. Let the struggles we face sharpen and grow you. Let them make you stronger in Christ and stronger as a person. In this, you will not grow weary.

 

Forgiveness Because Jesus

I read a devotion this morning about forgiveness by John Piper. It caught my attention and was convicting.

No doubt, God alone reveals my anger and bitterness toward my trespassers. And in my flesh I long for justice against those people. Regardless of whether they are believers or not, strangers, friends, family, or spouse, I mentally hold out for justice. Once justice has been delivered, I will then consider forgiveness. Without that justice, I hold onto my bitterness with great pride. It’s all pride.

However, Romans 8:1 says:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

There is no more condemning others because God has sufficient justice (poured out onto Jesus) to forgive all who ask. Which means I have no right to hold onto anger toward those the Father has already forgiven. How could the debt my trespassers ‘owe me’ be any greater than my debt to God? I’m realizing this is because God sought reconciliation, through Jesus’ death. I should be doing the same.

This is one way God is chipping away at my heart.

Boldness In Our God

My daily reading yesterday took me through 1 Thessalonians 2. Verse 2:2 jumped off the page at me.

But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.”

That line, ‘we had boldness in our God’ is both exciting and convicting. Despite conflict and suffering persecution for being Christians, Paul declares their boldness in sharing the gospel. This demonstrates their secured confidence in Jesus Christ. That boldness (not being ashamed or afraid) led to the salvation of many and the furthering of the gospel.

Here’s another great verse that demonstrates the power of boldness.

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

Knowing in your heart that Christ is Lord and the Savior of sinners leads to uncontrollable profession of that faith to all who can hear. For this, I’m convicted and encouraged. It makes me reassess my level of boldness (confidence) in Jesus Christ.

My prayer: Lord give me a deeper passion for your Word and Truth and a boldness to share the gospel as if you’d just been with me.

A Daily Prayer From Paul

“… 9 we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” Colossians 1:9-12

Paul is writing about his appreciation for the faithfulness of fellow Christ-followers in Colossae. He is encouraging them and ‘fanning the flame’ of their joy in the Spirit. In my reading yesterday this stuck out in a big way.

To me it represents a powerful prayer. Paul is affectionately describing the kind of people he desires for the people in Colossae to be, in Christ. He is prayerfully yearning for these people to enjoy the fullness of God. To be aware of their inheritance.

We should be asking that God make us these kinds of people in v. 9-12. Leaders should be praying this for those in their ‘flock’. Brothers/Sisters under Christ should pray this for one another. And all Christians should pray for the unsaved that they may see the joy in being the person in Christ that Paul describes here, thus coming to a saving faith through Jesus.

We should “not cease” in this prayer. May God be glorified as we become the benefactor of “His power and glorious might”.

 

Heavenly Treasures Reign Supreme

No person can deny there are horrible things in this world. No religion or belief system claims otherwise. The things of this world are no doubt full of pain and disappointment. There is some good. However, it’s important to note that all of it comes from God (who is not of this world).

Many people deal with the junk of this world in different ways. Some strive for personal pleasure, material wealth, or various drugs to numb the physical/emotional pain. Suffering comes in different forms but it seems fairly unprejudiced. We can all relate on some level.

One simple, but powerful, Biblical principle is the idea of storing up treasures for yourself in Heaven. Heaven is beyond ‘this world’ and is a place without pain, misery, fear, disappointment, etc. So, during this life, focus your energy on preparing for life in Heaven.

2 Timothy 4:8 give support to this idea.

“Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing.”

If you have no ‘hope’ for life after death, you will likely aim to squeeze every drop of achieving and acquiring out of this life. Yet, as I’ve heard it said before, “you will never see a hurst pulling a U-Haul trailer.”

What you get here stays here. However, there is joy in knowing that Heaven is real. Therefore,

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:20

All treasures you store up in Heaven will undoubtedly dwarf anything you achieve/acquire here on earth. Nothing on earth can compare to our eternal freedom and joy in Heaven.

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Why Good Leaders Pray

I am slowly learning that good leaders pray for those they are leading. Having a great team, smart people, exciting events, powerful teaching, and plenty of resources help tremendously. But these are merely the tools God uses to impact lives. Without Him, we are only going to get the best our flesh can muster.

As sinners, it’s very tempting to rely on our own wisdom, influence and skills to change lives. However, as a leader to any degree our greatest strength is God. Without Him there is no healing or growth or joy.

Prayer is a command.

“… pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

The people we lead need God’s authority and power, not ours!

Praying for God to have His way in your group/flock is the best way to lead and care for people. It gets US out of the way and invites Him in to be front and center. He becomes the focus in private through prayer, thus refocusing the public’s attention from you to Him.

If you want those under your leadership to grow, find freedom from sin, overcome struggles, and increase in fervor for the Lord… pray for them. Invite God to share His desires for your group/flock and have His way. He will be faithful. He will move and heal. Desire to see HIM at work and you will learn to trust in Him not yourself. Enjoy that peace.

After all, isn’t that what you want for each person you lead? Just be the model and pray.

A Wealthy Eunuch Gets Baptized

Last night our life group topic of discussion was Acts 8:26-39. The passage is a great snapshot of God’s redeeming power and the response of man. We see Holy Spirit leading, Biblical teaching, evangelism, salvation, and baptism. All within a few verses.

Philip, a Christ-follower, hot off the missionary trail in other villages comes upon a wealthy eunuch. The eunuch is reading a passage in Isaiah out loud. Philip is ‘led by the Holy Spirit’ to approach the eunuch. Philip asks the man if he understands what he’s reading. The eunuch replies, “how can I if no one explains it to me?” So Philip explains that it points to Jesus.

We don’t see all the detail of what happens next (and apparently there is some debate on whether v.37 should be there), but we get the grand finale. The eunuch spots some water and says he wants to get baptized right away. So, Philip goes into the water with him and is baptized.

Now, there is a ton of meat to this story. Many cool realizations to dig around and discover.

Focusing on the baptism part of the story we see a few key things.

  1. The Holy Spirit was involved from beginning to end.
  2. Jesus represented an OT promise fulfilled and was the reason for the eunuch’s joy and salvation, which led to his public profession of faith in baptism.
  3. ‘Submersion’ was practiced.
  4. Baptism was the finale, for the eunuch, of this incredible conversion. Then “he went on rejoicing”.

Matthew 28:19-20 > The great commission to “make disciples” and “baptism them”.

Ephesians 2:8-9 > Explains that salvation is “the gift of God’s grace received through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 6:3-4 > Explains the symbolism of baptism. Putting “death to our sins” underwater and be cleansed. Then, rising up from the water representing Jesus coming back to life and defeating death.

This is a great story. The whole conversion picture. All the pieces work together for God’s glory and our freedom. Amen