Bulldog Tenacity

Today's Devotional Thought: Bulldog Tenacity

Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

There is an evangelist who loves to hunt and he tells the story about the time he bought two setter pups that were top notch bird dogs. He kept them in the backyard, where he trained them. One morning, an ornery, vicious looking bulldog came shuffling and snorting down the alley. He crawled under the fence and into the back yard where the setters spent their days. It was easy to see he meant business. The evangelist's first impulse was to take his setters and lock them in the basement so they wouldn't tear up that little bulldog. But he decided he would just let the creature learn a lesson that he would never forget.

Naturally, they got into a scuffle in the backyard, and those two setters and that bulldog went round and round and round! The little critter finally had enough, so he squeezed under the fence and took off. All the rest of that day he whined and licked his sores. Interestingly, the next day at about the same time, here came that same ornery little bulldog--back under the fence and after those setters. Once again those two bird dogs beat the stuffing out of that little bowlegged animal and would have chewed him up if he hadn’t retreated down the alley. Would you believe, the very next day he was back! Same time, same station, same results. Once again after the bulldog had had all he could take, he crawled back under the fence and found his way home to lick his wounds.

 “Well,” the evangelist said, “I had to leave for a revival meeting. I was gone several weeks. And when I came back, I asked my wife what had happened. She said, “Honey, you just won’t believe what’s happened. Every day, at the same time every morning, that little bulldog came back in the backyard and fought with our two setters. He didn’t miss a day! And I want you to know it has come to the point that when our setters simply hear that bulldog snorting down the alley and spot him squeezing under the fence, they immediately start whining, and run down into our basement. That little, old bulldog struts around our backyard now just like he owns the place.” (Charles R. Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity)

Perseverance leads to success. We as Christ followers must have that same kind of bulldog tenacity that perseveres and just keeps coming back. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) It is those who persevere that come to maturity and lack nothing. That perseverance becomes a blessing for them. James says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

This is the difference between the righteous and the wicked according to the Proverb writer who says in Proverbs 24:16, “for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” The righteous get back up. They may lick their wounds for a time but they come back again to fight another day.

So, since we have the great promise of God that we will reap a harvest if we do not give up we persevere; we hold onto our bulldog tenacity and are unshakable and undefeatable. We are overcomers in Christ and we hold the victory assuredly in our hand. “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:4-5)

PRAYER: Father, God, give us the type of bulldog tenacity that will persevere in doing good and persevere till the end. You promise us if we don't give up, if we persevere, we will reap a harvest, so we don't quit. We get back up gain, lick our wounds, and go back to the fight. With our faith securely in a Jesus Christ we are guaranteed victory. We claim that victory today in the name of Jesus, Amen.

A picture out of context...

Today's thought:

Psalm 14:1a, "The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."

When you take God out of the picture, the picture looses its context and life becomes meaningless. 

In the heart of Manhattan, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hangs a famous painting by the 16th century Spanish El Greco. The painting, titled The Vision of St. John, was completed around 1614. But it looks like it could have been painted in Paris in the early twentieth century. Its feel is not only modern but also contemporary. 

Evoking the opening of the Fifth Seal in Revelation 6:9-11, the martyrs who bore faithful witness to Christ are given white robes while John (it seems) looks heavenward toward the epiphany of the Lamb. The colors of the painting are themselves a startling revelation of another reality.

But the painting as we view it today is only a fragment. The canvas that hangs in the Met doesn't tell the whole story. In the course of a "restoration" project around 1880, the unfinished canvas was trimmed by at least 68 inches (or almost half the original painting). In the name of "improvement," the scene is truncated by almost half. And so, in what seems a fitting parable of modernity, the exultant arms of the Apostle John reach upward to—nothing: to the top of the frame, to the edge of the canvas. The martyrs seem to receive gifts from nowhere, and John seems to praise the nonexistent. All of them seem to look for something no longer there.

Is it possible that much of our world operates the same way? In other words, we've been cut off from the Source of reality, the Source of all that is good and true. Is it possible that someone has trimmed the frame and we no longer see that there is so much more to the beautiful portrait of life? The problem is, if we cut God out of the picture it looses its context and therefore, its meaning. I see it over again, people living lives out of context to God and feeling the picture is incomplete. They search for something, anything to complete the picture. To live life out of context to God is foolish. It is an incomplete picture. Only God can complete the picture.

Prayer: Father, you complete the pictures of our lives and put our lives into a context that brings understanding, that is, a context that makes our life picture complete. Thank you that you have revealed yourself, and the greater scheme of the larger picture, to us so we may be complete. And we are complete in Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, amen.

No explanation...


Today's thought:

Philippians 1:20-21, "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

Author Randy Alcorn recalled a two-month missions trip that he and his family took some years ago that included a visit to Egypt. While in Egypt, Alcorn's hosts took him to visit an abandoned graveyard located at the end of a garbage-lined alley. The host pointed out one tombstone in particular—that of William Borden (1887-1913), heir to the Borden dairy estate. William was a millionaire by 21, but he renounced his fortune, giving nearly all his wealth to missions. His heart's desire was to take the gospel to Muslims in China. On his way to China, William stopped in Egypt to study Arabic, but four months later he contracted spinal meningitis and died at the age of 25.

Alcorn writes:

I dusted off the inscription on the headstone of Borden's grave. After describing his love for Christ and his commitment to and his love for the Muslim people; and his sacrifices for God's kingdom; the inscription ended with some words I wrote down on the spot—and I have never forgotten them to this day. The inscription ended with, "Apart from faith in Christ there is no explanation for such a life."

Then Alcorn wrote, "And I thought, Lord, what's the explanation for my life?"

A new year is like a blank page or a white canvas. What will be written and what scenes shall be painted? Each decision will be a line on the page or a color on the canvas. By year's end 2015 what will you title this work? May I suggest one? Write in such a way, paint in such a manner, that at the end of the project you can title it, "Apart from faith in Christ there is no explanation."

Prayer: Abba, Father, thank you for the gift of a new year. I place it at the foot of the cross. I want to give it back to you to make it into that which will bring you glory. Help me to lift Christ, that he may become greater that I may be less, by my life or by my death, that in all things he may be exalted. In his name, amen.

A prowling lion...

Today's thought: A prowling lion...

"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8

More than 1,000 people in southern Tanzania, Africa were attacked by lionsbetween 1988 and 2009. Over two-thirds of the attacks were fatal, with the lions eating the victims. When Peter uses this imagery of a lion he does so because being attacked and devoured by a lion would produce in his readers the type of terror that is appropriate in considering our enemy. 

Many people are flippant when it comes to talking about our enemy. We picture him as a little red cartoon character with horns and a tale. The reality couldn't be further from the truth. In Jude 1:9 it says,"But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" This is telling of the power of this devil, our enemy. Michael is the highest angel in all the heavens and yet he dares not confront this devil. Not only is the devil incredibly powerful but as a lion he is stealthy. Satan won't come at you as himself, as the evil he is, but will camouflage himself as good, as light, as truth. As Paul says, "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:12).

Peter wants us to not underestimate our enemy so he compares him to the most lethal predator on the planet. There are facts about this predator that Peter's readers would know, from experience, that we may not know. First is the fact that lions attack mainly in the dark. During daylight the prey will see the lion coming and they will evade him. Therefore, lions prefer the darkest dark to hunt. Those darkest hours are before dawn. Often right around 3am. A recent study found that lion attacks during the full moon were markedly less than the attacks when the moon was in wane or the wet season when the clouds covered the moon. In the darkest dark the lion would approach its prey quietly and stealthily. The prey would never know it was coming. When the lion had slunk close enough to his pray to catch it he would roar. His roar attack is meant to freeze the prey in fear and terror. Then the lion walks up to its paralyzed prey and sinks its teeth into the jugular vein. The lion then devours its prey.

This is telling. It is light that is the greatest safety factor for avoiding a lion attack. The idea of light and dark is very rich in Scriptures. Light is related to understanding, purity, righteousness, the scriptures and Jesus. Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." To avoid the devil start by bringing the light of God's word to your daily life. Next, Peter's advice against the devil is, "Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believerss throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings" (1 Peter 5:9). To resist him is to not go along with him. His philosophies and tactics are attractive but resist. He will devour you. Standing firm in the faith is, in essence, holding to the truth about, and from, Jesus Christ despite external pressure. Paul has the same concern for us when he says in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3, "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." Standing firm in the faith is maintaining a "pure devotion to Christ" in the midst of trials, tribulations and persecutions. 

When we feel weak, when attack is immanent, we remember two things. First, we are not alone. Peter says, "that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." If they resisted the devil so can you. Secondly, that the Lion at our back is stronger, greater and more powerful than the lion at our front. John, in his revelation, was told, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals" (Revelation 5:5). The Lion at our back, Jesus, has already won the victory over the lion at our front, Satan, on the cross. It is not by our strength we defeat him but by our faith. "...for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4). So, with faith in hand, resist this prowling lion, the devil, and he will flee from you, for the One who is with us is greater than he who is in the world.

PRAYER: Jesus, You are the source of victory over the devil who seeks to destroy us. It is our faith that resists that devil and by our faith we have victory through Your blood. We claim that victory today by Your grace and in Your name, Jesus, Amen!