Therefore, if you…remember that your brother has something against you, first go and be reconciled to your brother… Matthew 5:23-24
Okay, first of all, it is important that all our relationships are right before we can have a right relationship with God. Note in this particular verse, it is not that you have a problem with someone, but that someone has a problem with you! If someone feels slighted, cheated, or merely angered by something you have said or done it is imperative on our part to reach out to that person and seek reconciliation. Never walk away thinking it is their problem even if you are not angry. If someone is not right with you, God declares the responsibility lies with you to make it right.
More than likely, people develop issues with others due to misunderstandings or something failed to be communicated clearly. Any interpretation of the facts without your input only fuels the other person’s fears of rejection. Certainly, I cannot promise that all the fences may get mended by your earnest efforts, but the majority will. For those seemingly unmendable fences, allow time to do its work. Rest assured that you at least made a God-pleasing effort to make it right.
Remember we are God’s ambassadors and He too works daily to patch up broken relationships between people. Reconciliation is God’s goal with all His creation. It’s not that God needs our relationships for any ego purpose. He desires our relationship with Him and with all others to be right because we are His creation. So do as God is doing each day and go the extra mile when trying to make right our relationships that have gone astray no matter who is at fault or to blame.
“…let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1
What about your day-to-day living causes you to lose focus as a Christian? Are there choices you’ve made that continue to hurt you physically, mentally or spiritually? The Apostle Paul rightly proclaims an urgent request of all young Christians – STOP doing what you used to do. It is interfering with your new life being like Christ. Take away the idols that hinder you and sidetrack you from enjoying the fullness that God desires for you.
Who we are as a person begins with a thought that grows and sprouts like a seed planted in fertile soil into visible attitude and action. An incorrect notion may seem innocent enough, but it may prevent you from pleasing God, pleasing only yourself.
Consider all the areas of your life. Pray about the changes you need to make in your life. Some will be harder than others, but your decision to change will reap incredible rewards. You will also discover that there is nothing you cannot change about yourself if you allow God to be the impetus for change. He will become and provide his spirit of change.
Enjoy this short sneak-peek into Sanctuary’s story, then click on the video links on the side panel to learn even more.
After [enjoying our first meal in Shiloh], we decided to stretch our legs and venture into the center of town. On the town square, Liddy found a bench next to the walkway and admired the unique architecture of Shiloh Baptist Church across the street. My interest fell upon the bronze statue we saw earlier.
Spotlights highlighted the young man’s chiseled face. He wore a collared polo shirt with a “SHS” monogram above a fleur-de-lis over his heart. A coach’s whistle hung from his neck, and a Bible rested in one hand while the other pointed upward. The life-like detail monopolized my attention until my eyes drifted to the plaque at the base:
JESSIE MASTERSON, BELOVED COACH AND TEACHER, SACRIFICED HIS LIFE SAVING THE LIVES OF TWO OTHERS THE NIGHT THE ORIGINAL COURTHOUSE BURNED DOWN, DECEMBER 8, 2010.
I stood with my arms crossed while my instincts conjured the possible story behind those two dozen words.
Sanctuary covers a specific timeline as Theo and Liddy’s story unfolds in the late Fall and ends on Christmas Eve in Shiloh. This makes this heartwarming small-town Southern mystery a wonderful holiday gift for family and friends.
Nothing changes about the original book cover, however the promo images infuse the “Christmas in Shiloh” imagery.
As a proud author-member of Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA), I personally encourage you to contact your local independent bookstore to purchase your copy of Sanctuary.
For those in the Greater Atlanta area, visit Horton’s Books and Gifts in Carrollton, GA. I’ll be there on Saturday, September 23rd. They already have Sanctuary conveniently available on their online shopping page… Horton’s Online Book store
REMEMBER: There are two current noteworthy promotions underway.
(1) From all the reviewers of Sanctuary, twenty-five will be selected after December 31st to receive advance copies of Testament, the sequel due to release early 2018.
TESTAMENT, available 2018 – “Shiloh wrestles with an unexpected visitor from its past…”
(2) On a first come first serve basis, there are four (4) Kindle versions of Sanctuary available. Just go to my Facebook Author Page and comment why you love Southern mysteries or what you find intriguing about Sanctuary. Remember this is a limited offer so don’t hesitate to respond.
For schedule of all my author events in the coming weeks please go to my Facebook author page. As the holidays approach, do you think Sanctuary might make a convenient holiday gift for your book loving friends and family members on your Christmas list.
The Value of a Sanctuary Rests at the End of the Story!
“In a surge of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but I will have compassion on you with an everlasting love,” says the LORD your Redeemer. “For this is like the days of Noah to Me: when I swore that the waters of Noah would never flood the earth again, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you or rebuke you. Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says your compassionate LORD. “Poor Jerusalem, storm-tossed, and not comforted, I will set your stones in black mortar, and lay your foundations in sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling stones, and all your walls of precious stones. Then all your children will be taught by the LORD, their prosperity will be great, and you will be established in righteousness. You will be far from oppression, and you will certainly not be afraid; you will be far from terror, it will certainly not come near you. Isaiah 54:8-14 (HCSB)
In the Book of Revelation, Chapter 21, a parallel passage echoed God’s declaration about Jerusalem as a sanctuary city.
The foundations of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone; the first foundation jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. The 12 gates are 12 pearls; each gate made of a single pearl. The broad street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I did not see a sanctuary in it because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its sanctuary.These words are a direct reflection of the Lord’s promise to God’s chosen people who were witnesses to Jerusalem’s downfall and demise during the Great Exile.
However, what seems to be the point? Is it that what the people took the greatest pride in – their gold and precious stones – will be nothing more than building materials in their new city? And, the point of the new vision is this: the most valuable thing will be who not what is in the center of the city. The Lord will reign there and shed His light (a metaphor for the revelation of wisdom and truth).
Where do you place your value in life? What do you invest your time and energy to gain? Your retirement portfolio can be the envy of your peers, but what good is your portfolio when your days come to an end. Unlike Disney and Universal Studios where fantasies come true, there is a cost to get in. God’s sanctuary city requires only a smile to affirm your faith in God’s grace to enter.
What is the focus of your life? What relationship is more important to you, financial or spiritual? Remember, Jesus declared that you cannot serve God and money equally? One will influence your interest in the other.
“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be. You know the way where I am going.” “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:1-6 (HCSB)
NOTE: I believe Jesus was speaking about the ultimate sanctuary when he mentioned preparing dwelling places in my Father’s house. Sanctuary is God’s gift affirmed by Jesus, found by following his example.
Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait… Philippians 3:17-20
Many love the promise of God’s heavenly kingdom, but few are willing to bear the burden of conflict at the crossroads along the journey. Many desire comfort, but few accept the tribulation that waits beyond the crossroads. Many companions seek to dine at God’s table, but few are unwilling to fast to be closer to him. Who willingly pursues labor and hardship, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst; often lacking shelter and proper clothing to reach the heavenly destination?
Many desire to rejoice with him, but few are willing to suffer for him – or with him. We quickly forget that God promised that through our suffering, our comfort awaits. Many acknowledge their weaknesses before they discover their God-given strengths. As a result, many find consolation in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in other pressures of life?
It has been given to us on behalf of Jesus not only to take heart in his example but also to struggle and suffer for and with him. However, do many understand what that means or are they merely words we claim?
Many follow the example of Jesus into the breaking of bread, seeking fellowship with him, but few willingly strive to share the cup of his suffering. Many revere and desire God’s blessings, but few choose to share in the humiliation of suffering. Many profess to love God, so long as adversities do not happen in their lives. Many praise him, so long as they receive comfort from him. However, if God abides in us and then seems to leave us for even a little while, how many start complaining or become depressed?
How powerful can our love for God be when mixed with self-interest or self-love? Those of us who love God for who God is and do not seek some personal comfort of our own – they are the few who bless God amidst the heartache, tribulation, and anguish of real life. There is no difference in their love manifested in a state of perfect comfort and peace. However, many always seek after the blessing of comfort and thus should be called a “mercenary,” because they only reveal their association with God when they receive their expected compensation. They are lovers of themselves, not God? They only desire to profit and take advantage of the relationship.
Who is willing to serve God seeking nothing in return? Is that not what God’s love with us reveals? Is that the example we learned from Jesus? It is rare that anyone becomes so spiritually disciplined that they willingly release their “white knuckle grasp” upon their worldly treasures. Consider how hard it is to find the truly poor in spirit, those free from the world’s afflictions and influences. Such a person would surrender all their material wealth and possessions as if they were nothing. This individual would still sense in their heart that all they have would never be enough. That same person would desire all knowledge and yet realize how little they know and far removed they are from ever knowing God. They may live an exemplary virtuous life and be fervently devoted, yet lack much because such a life would recognize one most necessary thing is missing. What is that one thing? Be willing to surrender everything, forsaking even ourselves. Turn completely away from our desires. Cling to nothing out of self-love. Release our “white knuckle grasp” on what pleases us and seek first and foremost God’s will, ways, and wisdom.
When we have accomplished all that needs to be done, so far as we know, and are able, consider it as having done nothing at all. At that point, we will realize that no one will be richer, no one more powerful, and no one freer because we can freely disregard all worldly things of value, humble ourselves, and rejoice in God, who exalts us with his blessings of comfort and peace.
My daily prayer: Lord God, I seek to understand the joy and discover the contentment found in knowing you for your sake, not for my sake. I rejoice in the blessings that flow from walking alongside you each day, no matter the conflict going on around me. May all I say and do honor and praise you. I lay all my worries and concerns that will affect my family and me that I have little control over. Direct my steps according to your perfect, good and pleasing will. Lord, may my life inspire my family and others to seek you to lead their lives as well. Amen
For additional reading: 2 Corinthians 1:5; 11:27; 12:10; Philippians 1:29-30; 2:21; Luke 9:14; 17:10; 18:14; 22:41-42; Mark 10:38; Matthew 16:24-25
I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them. I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far,” says the LORD, who heals them. Isaiah 57:18-19 NLT
Can we trust in the comfort that is made possible by God’s great mercy and his heavenly grace?
Whether surrounded by a large circle of right-minded, faithful friends, an abundant library of inspirational books offering beautiful prose and poems, and reassuring sweet songs and inspirational hymns keep you company, all offer but temporary relief should God’s grace depart our midst leaving us in spiritual poverty. In such times no better remedy exists than to wait patiently, remaining resolute in the pursuit of reconnecting with God’s will, ways, and wisdom. It is there where we can rediscover the comfort made possible only by God’s great mercy and his heavenly grace.
Everyone, no matter the depth or breadth of their spiritual walk, will experience times when the comfort of God’s grace wanes. Never has a saint been so highly enraptured and enlightened that they never faced temptation sooner or later. In fact, no one grows closer to God without enduring the challenges of life-changing trials and tribulation.
Temptation serves as a harbinger signaling a time of comfort is yet to come, because God promises such as a blessing upon those tested by times of trials and temptations. God’s comfort galvanizes a person’s resolve to endure the certainty of adversities in life. Also, God allows temptation to prevent us from growing proud of any good we might feel we initiated because God knows the carnal lusts and desires that remain a threat to us. We must never cease preparing ourselves for the battle at hand; our enemies continue to be all around us. However, we can find solace in the revelation that we are not alone in our times of trials and temptations that without fail will confront us. All of us must take to heart the donning of the full armor of God for the battles we must face each day. His comfort is the reward for the victory that he enables us to win when we place our trust in him alone, rather than try to fight the battles alone.
Commit our hearts unto patience to find comfort and then engage the crucible rather than pursue pleasure. Because, who in this world would refuse the joy and comfort that God has revealed, if we firmly believe that it is available to us? There is no comparison to the eternal joy and comfort available from God that this world can offer. In fact, all worldly delights and pleasure are empty, worthless, or short-lived. Whereas, the pure pleasures that come from God are pleasant, overly-abundant, free and unequaled. However, we cannot claim God’s blessings anytime we desire, he alone dispenses them according to his will.
God continually demonstrates his love for us by extending his mercy and grace though we do not deserve either, which begs the question: Why should we continue to fail to return to him our heartfelt thanksgiving, especially since trials and times of temptation will never be fully behind us in this world? Remember: Grace always accompanies those who are duly thankful, and what the humble receive always comes at the expense of the proud!
My daily prayer: Gracious Lord God, your word is truth and you have proclaimed that your grace is abundant and free to all who trust in you by faith. Please accept me as an available channel of your grace so that others may discover the same blessings that you have bestowed upon me. I recognize that I cannot continue to grow in your grace unless others around me are sharing in the abundance of grace and comfort you have afforded me. Lord, use me according to your will so I may witness your blessings upon my family because as they are comforted in your grace, I too am comforted. May your mercy and grace provide the confidence we need when temptations attack my family or me. You alone Lord win the victory! Amen
For additional reading: Luke 9:23; 14:27; 1 Timothy 4:4-5; Revelation 2:7; 2 Corinthians 12:6-7, 9; 1 Peter 5:8-9; Matthew 9:37-38; John 7:38; James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these, he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4
When we walk in harmony within ourselves, uncluttered, we will be freed to comprehend the divinely important things in life without effort, because we will receive understanding from God. Likewise, pursuing knowledge of ourselves provides the surest way to know God, as opposed to solely trusting in intellectual or academic expositions written by the wisdom of man.
God created us in the image of himself. What would it serve to consult with another image of God? Have we not a unique knowledge of our creator within each of us? Our quest to know and connect with God begins with understanding ourselves.
How can we confidently grasp what we need for life and godliness? Doesn’t the study of God’s will, ways, and wisdom contained within our particular translation of the Bible point out the futility of our efforts to try and understand the unfathomable thoughts and ways of God? However, when we accept that reality and humble ourselves, then God presents the benefit of knowing him and his godly wisdom through his whispers within our heart. From our creation, his spirit has resided within us making available to us everything we need to hear and understand. In truth, God enjoys revealing his truth to all his children, especially those who seek him with the uncluttered innocence of a child; whose soul, heart and mind are far more receptive to listening and learning about God’s will, ways, and wisdom to guide their lives. For this reason, our Heavenly Father always rejoices and smiles upon us as his children, no matter our age in life.
For those who believe we can learn about God through worldly sources and understanding, how can anyone believe that the created can know the mind of the creator? Thus, our only hope is to freely surrender our souls, hearts, and minds to the author of all knowledge and understanding. We need to trust that God’s Spirit will guide us in the thoughts and knowledge that we need to know so that we will know him for who he truly is, our Heavenly Father.
Learning for the sake of learning about worldly matters is good, but when it comes to eternal, divine, heavenly understanding and wisdom seek the author and creator directly. He alone knows best what we need to understand and to pursue in this world, so that we may enjoy this life and the life to come.
My prayer today: Heavenly Father, there remains much that I wish to learn and know about you, but I do trust by faith that your Spirit will share all that I need to know if only I will quiet the clutter and distractions in my life and just continue to listen intently to your whispers. Please allow my soul, heart, and mind to heed what I need to know and to apply to my life. May I strive daily to be worthy of humbly pursuing your will, ways, and wisdom. May I never tire of wanting to share my thirst for you with my family. May I likewise inspire others to seek a closer walk with you, my Lord and Savior so they too may discover the life-giving truth you make available to each of us. Thank you, my God and Savior. Amen
For additional reading: Deut 30:17; Isa 44:1-2; 45:9,18; 24-25; Pro 3:5-7; 13-18; 8:35; Ps 112:1-2; 128:1; Matt 16:26; John 1:18; 4:23; 2 Tim 2:15; 2 Co 3:6
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So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and the years approach when you will say, “I have no delight in them”; before the sun and the light are darkened, and the moon and the stars, and the clouds return after the rain; on the day when the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, the women who grind cease because they are few, and the ones who watch through the windows see dimly, and the doors at the street are shut while the sound of the mill fades; when one rises at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song grow faint. Also, they are afraid of heights and dangers on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper loses its spring, and the caper berry has no effect; for man is headed to his eternal home, and mourners will walk around in the street; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the jar is shattered at the spring, and the wheel is broken into the well; and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile.” Eccl 12:1-8 (HCSB)
Most decisions about one’s relationship with God originate during one’s childhood, before the age of accountability. An innocent time before a child leaves the safety and security of their home. This fact impacted me many years ago but also continues to serve as a primary motivation for my desire to teach and write at my stage of life.
The Bible offers a strong emphasis on the proper rearing of our children. Parents have a divine mandate passed down through the ages, generation to generation, to teach their children about God. Beyond the setting of the home, parents expose their children to a church’s children or youth ministry, even though the parents may not even attend that church?
I am not declaring that everyone who has received the biblical message taught in the church will ultimately live out all the teachings they received, all the time. Each of us must travel through various stages during our life-long journey with God. Many, if not most, mature their faith as they grow beyond mere blind acceptance to a maturing, questioning of what and why we believe about God. However, each of us experiences a desire to connect with our Creator. Hopefully, we receive our initial introduction to God during our formable youth, long before the stresses of life have choked most of our receptivity to God away from us!
It is also a fact, most teenagers, especially after they leave the house, will wander testing their abilities and understandings about life for an extended period as young adults. Many will listen to others question God’s reality and existence, and hear differing opinions about the authenticity of the biblical writings in academic circles. Freedom of thought and self-understanding are important stages in each person’s life. I believe, God allows us to challenge our faith.
For those who received a solid grounding during their youth about God, the challenges in life will draw them closer to God again, with a stronger relevant understanding and conviction than ever before. I believe, the parable of the prodigal son reveals this to be true. You see, people in pursuit of all the options life affords them, sooner or later, come to the reality that no acceptable option exists beyond our faith in God. Some may try to live in denial of God, but even in fighting against the reality of God one struggles with the origin of God’s gifts in their life.
There is no greater, more unequivocal evidence regarding God’s existence than the fact people around the world believe in God. Even scientists, doctors, engineers, architects, and philosophers admit their journeys of discovery almost always conclude with them staring at God for the answers they seek about life. From a worldview, all the religions found across our planet may never fully agree about God, but they all exist because of man’s desire to connect with and understand God.
Why is this so important? In life, times of trials and tribulation will happen that will be beyond our abilities to cope and survive. They will cause each of us to acknowledge we cannot make it without our faith in God. God allows such formidable challenges to nurture our faith in God as we grow older with God. Yes, our life-long journey with God may falter from time-to-time, but, sooner or later, most all of us return to seeking out God’s will, ways, and wisdom as the cornerstone of our life. God enjoys receiving each person who realizes that life without God risks an end whereby the laughter of children fades, the colors of the seasons fail to change, the clouds become swallowed by darkness, and the wind offers no relief at our last gasp of breath. What happens next rests with God…
Whether you read Matthew, Mark or Luke’s passage on the young rich ruler, the words of Jesus, “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last!” stand out and cause so much controversy and hard feelings. Some see it as a reversal of values in the kingdom of heaven, others see it as some consequence for those who complain of God’s seeming unfairness to those who have given more time and effort towards the work of the kingdom. So what does it mean?
Take a moment to look at the context of Jesus’ ministry teachings about the kingdom of God (or Heaven). Who was the recipient of most of the teachings? The disciples, the crowds, or the Jewish self-righteous leaders and teachers? Chapters 18-19 in Matthew (compare with Mark 9-10 and Luke 14-18) are parables and teachings directed at the self-righteous attitudes that prevented God’s Kingdom on earth from growing. The Jewish hierarchy had become the stumbling block. Wealth, power, rank and pride were their badges of exclusion and separation. Has much changed in the church hierarchy today?
Child-like attitude is the key to the kingdom, but what does that mean? How can we share the innocent enthusiasm of our children or grand children? Or as some adults tend to do, tire of their playfulness as a nuisance interrupting their sacred adult thoughts and privileges? Yet, Jesus says it is a great offense to impede such innocent enthusiasm to enter the kingdom. Millstones are plentiful as necklaces for those who miss the point.
But what about those faithful workers int he church? How many begrudge equal acceptance of new believers? Who demands the louder voice in the church on matters concerning the ministries and missions of the church? Of course, the older, most influential members make their “rank and authority” tend to feel they carry more weight than some child or a “novice” member! Its funny, the greatest sinner has no problem searching for the tiniest portal into the kingdom of God, even if it means slithering on their belly to get in by the “eye of the needle” gateway, but others demand a procession to announce their presence in the kingdom.
When it comes to banquet hall of fellowship, who eyes the seating arrangement? Are their nameplates on the chairs and pews to denote ownership?
To gain a better grasp of Jesus’ sayings and teachings in the Gospel account, context is all important! Are you satisfied to wait for the Master’s table to be swept of the breadcrumbs or do you demand to be served at the table? Who appreciates God’s provision more?
So what is meant by “last will be first and first will be last”? If you believe that God is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and end, then what should it matter to you where you stand? God is with you and loves you no more and no mess than those before you and behind you, above you and below you. Being content with who you are in God’s eyes and loving others as you are loved by God answers the question.
Yahweh, the great “I AM” has no beginning and no end! He straddles all time and sees us all in the context of our uniqueness that he has given to each of us. Don;t be like the Young Rich Ruler and allow yourself to ask God what “YOU” can do to gain eternal life? No matter how good you believe you have been and how hard you worked for God, your efforts will be your own downfall.
Faith requires humility. Pure faith knows no rank or value outside of God’s acceptance.
Note: When you read Jesus’ Gospel – understand the context and the message will be clear.
I am tackling the completion of two large projects and will be posting again a new devotional series right after Easter. In the meantime, Carpe Diem, or seize the day you have been given and make the most of it while you can!
Champions don’t focus on comparing themselves with others, but on themselves to become better tomorrow than they are today. Otherwise, a potential CHAMPION could fall short of their true potential by convincing themselves they are good enough and fall short of their true potential.
The apostle Paul wrote this to his young protege, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. And now the prize awaits me…which the Lord will award me…on the great day of His return.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8
What testimony do you believe you are casting about yourself to your friends? Paul testifies to his good and faithful young co-worker the following attributes:
He has fought the good fight:Paul felt satisfied about how he faced the struggles and trials as a faithful Christian soldier. Paul acknowledges the evil forces in this world fought against him, but he fought valiantly and confidently of the victory. Paul had shared the kind of armor he had but he never engaged the enemy without Christ at his side. No matter how battered, bruised or left for dead, Paul never, never, never quit the fight; he always got back up, brushed himself off and went back to fight again for God’s glory, never his own glory. That is the example of fighting the good fight.
He has finished the race:Paul had a mission planted in his heart by God. Even facing his imminent death he wrote this passage of encouragement from Rome. Paul ignored the false accusations that were trumped up against him and smiled as he realized the finish line was near at hand. Paul had been responsible for planting and nurturing churches throughout the know world in his lifetime, stretching from Asia Minor to Greece and Rome as well. The enemy seemingly had won with execution of Paul, but the Christian mission had been successfully launched and it continued its rapid growth and within 250 years became the official religion of Rome itself. Paul testified, when we finish the race well future generations are impacted.
He kept the faith:Paul never wavered or felt dismayed in all he faced along the journey that his mission led him. His enduring strength was found in his faith in God’s grace. He knew that he lived in God’s care what could man do to him. He believed fervently that he too would be raised into eternal glory upon his death just as Christ had been by His heavenly Father. So proudly Paul proclaimed, Death where is your sting! Just as Christ defeated death, he would as well. Paul illustrated the eternal value of our faith is based upon belief in God’s grace, not our ability to finish the race.
He knew the prize awaits him:Paul knew what was in store for him, and he welcomed it with a smile. He was confident in the crown of righteousness that was waiting for him. He held a clear vision that his Lord and Savior was waiting to embrace him and then crown him as a faithful and victorious servant. Death was just a portal to eternal life and Paul understood it marked only the finish line for this life. The real prize that waited was eternal life in Christ.
What kind of confidence do you have about your Christian life? What testimony will your life reveal to encourage others as they face the struggles of life? We all may not be able to live up to the life of Paul, but we can share his strength and confidence relative to the daily challenges and struggles we face.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:57
What victories last? Can you remember the last handful of NCAA Basketball and Football Champions? Can you name the most recent Olympic Champions? What about who won the last few Super Bowls? How about the World Series of Baseball?
In man’s narrow view regarding the value of victories, only the present victor is reviled for a brief period of time until another victor is declared. Victory in men’s eyes is fleeting, but in God’s eyes it is eternal and for the benefit of all for all time! God has given us the victor Christ Jesus who shares his victory for all who follow him to the finish line of the race set before us. He alone offers us a victory that lasts! It is not a race that is run in competition with others or requires you finish in a certain record time – all this race requires is that you finish! The crown he shares with all who finish the race will never rust nor tarnish like all the many worldly trophies we find on display that recall the glory days of our past. When we experience victory with Christ, the Crown shines forever because of the glory and grace of our heavenly Father gives it to us.
What kind of victory is worthy of one’s lifetime?
It’s okay to enjoy our short-lived victories through our games and competitions, but may they never take our eyes off the real victory that is within our reach thanks to what Jesus has demonstrated to us, thanks to our heavenly Father who loves us.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. Philippians 1:3-5
Have you ever received such a love letter or testimony from someone who truly cares about you?
Have you had someone state plainly they rejoice just thinking about you, although you are apart from one another?
The reason Paul rejoiced and felt blessed was his warm memories rested in the love and zeal for the gospel that the people in the church of Philippi exhibited. Though he was far from them he felt connected to them because they continued in their faith after he left. All good teachers feel connected to most of their students long after they go their separate ways. Teachers love hearing how their former students were somehow influenced even if but a little bit while they were together. Nothing stirs and inspires the heart of a teacher more!
What an awesome testimony to a caring mentor or teacher from your church past that your life testifies of their influence and they would be inspired to remember about and pray for you daily. Such a person has a motive that states I want to hear how your week went since we last spoke, that person is uplifted and inspired by the blessings they receive hearing about your success in life.
How about you, would your life bring a smile of joy on a former mentor, teacher or coach? Does your life offer such a blessing that they are inspired to pray on your behalf? If not, why not? Would you like someone like Paul praying for you daily? Now you know what to do! Reach out and thank a former mentor, teacher or coach who made a difference in your life.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
Walking daily with a close circle of fellow Christians encourages, equips, and enables the circle of Christian friends to be better individually and as a collective group.
The influence of a close Christian friend helps us sharpen our thoughts and beliefs so that we can be better when ministering to the needs of others. It is far too easy to become discouraged when facing the hardheartedness of others, but a good Christian friend helps us to recognize and respond with a positive attitude.
“As iron sharpens iron”, means literally we help each other to become sharper. It symbolizes the challenge of relying on each other and keeping each other accountable. This is a clear trait of a committed Christian who is seeking to make a difference in the world today. Jesus sent his disciples out in no less than pairs for a reason.
How about you? Do you have one or more close Christian friends who you can turn to; who will challenge you and encourage you? There is strength and great wisdom in walking daily 2×2 or groups of 3 or more. It is biblically sound, and is obedient to Christ’s instructions to his disciples and exemplified the apostles as they established and supported the early church communities.
Come to think about it: A solitary Christian is actually an oxymoron… one cannot be a faithful Christian and walk alone through life.
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
Context is always important when trying to understand the Bible and its relevance. First of all, the Apostle Paul in his second letter to the church in Corinth is referencing to his appeal to the churches throughout Greece and Asia Minor to provide assistance financially because of a famine that impacted Judea and the surrounding regions, including Jerusalem. This is the first appeal in the New Testament for disaster relief giving. This is not related to the support of one’s local church.
How do you respond when there is a tragic event that impacts others, such as when unexpected disasters strike, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, drought, earthquakes and sadly even war?
Do you evaluate your discretionary income and consider giving up some fun activities or planned gifts to redirect the money otherwise selfishly spent and decide rather to invest in the pressing needs of others? However, in your considerations of the sacrifices that you would willingly make, what was the motive of your giving? Even if you had money set aside for such giving to meet the immediate needs of others, do you offer your gift with any strings or expectations? Sadly, more often than not, we give reluctantly out of a sense of obligation because everyone else is giving. Sometimes, we give because of our own guilty conscience because of our own abundance. Then there are times that some give for the sake of the recognition and prestige, and some may even begrudge their gifts if they are not identified and thanked openly. Jesus recognized such givers as receiving their blessing from the people not from God for such attitudes.
Of course, then there are those who truly love God and they understand the gift of grace they have received. They joyfully and willingly give in the same manner that God gave – GRACE. Many struggle to understand grace because they struggle accepting God’s grace in their own lives. They struggle in the joy of giving because they have not discovered the joy of God’s grace in their own life.
Yes, be a faithful and sacrificial supporter of your local church, but also be sensitive to the needs of others in need. But, most of all make your benevolence be cheerfully given and joy will come as the recognition from God of His approval, which is far more eternal than the temporal applause of others.
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well – are worthy of double honor, especially those work is preaching and teaching. 1 Timothy 5:17
Everyone needs the guidance of a mentor in your church family. This may be the pastor or another church leader that is actively investing in others through their inspired role as a teacher and/or preacher. The term “elder” refers to an older, more mature or experienced leader of the church body. If they are out front day-in and day-out leading by their words, actions and attitude, setting the example of divinely inspired leadership and you feel their inspiration upon your life then reach out to them, encourage them – share with them how they are encouraging you.
The stories about the early church offer many examples of encouragers developing and encouraging new Christians to grow and develop into leadership. These stories are not be just feel good reading but to inspire others today to accept their roles as encouragers to newer members of the body of Christ in the church. Consider the stories behind the likes of Timothy, John Mark and of course all the disciples of Jesus. There are also many Old Testament examples to consider and compare as well.
Will you take a moment to more than just offer a prayer for a special pastor or church leader in your church circle? Will you take the time to tell him or her (yes, women can certainly be spiritual leaders and encouragers, just read your Bible.) how much you appreciate how they have inspired and encouraged you. Write a card, send a special gift, or just tell them face to face. We all need a special mentor from the church in our lives, do you?