About The Finish...

Today's devotional thought: About The Finish

1 Corinthians 9:24, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."

Stuart Briscoe in a message entitled, "Ordinary Folks Make Great Disciples," relates this story: "I taught all my kids to enjoy running. Then they taught me how not to enjoy it. While I could keep a pace ahead of them, it was great. But when they began to haul me out of bed early in the morning on a frosty morning to run, or when my daughter had me running a 10,000-meter race, I started asking, "What in the world am I doing?"

"I asked the question even more when we got to the start. There were 24,998 others. Being Milwaukee, some of them were dressed as beer bottles. One guy dressed up as a banana, another as a bunch of grapes. The gun went off, and everybody was laughing and waving. The banana was shaking hands with the crowd. And then it got rather interesting after about a quarter of a mile. The banana and the beer bottle were hanging over a garden fence--didn't look good at all.

"After about a mile there was no chattering or laughing. And after the second mile, the only sound was labored breathing. After the fourth mile, it was so quiet you could hear the birds singing. At 6.2 miles, people were dribbling in one at a time, and not many of them. The moral of the story is this: You get all kinds of people goofing off at the start, but that doesn't count. To finish does, and disciples of Jesus Christ keep on going."

After all, it doesn't matter how you start but how you finish. To get the prize you need to cross the finish line. So we run with the end in mind. We press forward knowing the end is ahead and the only way to get there is by going forward one step at a time. In another of Paul's letters he says, "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-24).

Has your run turned more into a perpetual break? Are you making forward progress in your relationship with Jesus? Then get your eyes on the goal and move forward. "Run in such a way as to get the prize."

Prayer: Our Father, give us endurance to run the race marked out for us. Give us a glimpse of the goal of our race today. Imprint an image of heaven upon our heart today. We are running to You...and with You. Give us the strength to keep moving. In Jesus name, amen.

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 Long Time To Create Something Worth While...

Devotional thought: A Long Time To Create Something Worth While...

Philippians 1:6, "...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

When Peter Jackson released the first movie in the trilogy, The Lord Of The Rings, in 2001, millions became enchanted in a world of fantastical creatures and magic. The movies were an instant hit due in some part to the genius of Jackson but mostly due to the immersive world that J.R.R Tolkien created in his fantasy series. The world that Tolkien created feels so complete in detail and so effortless in its creativity, so perfect, that most do not realize the expansive amount of time it took to create.

Tolkien did not initially set out to write fantasy novels and create an entire world that he called "Middle Earth." He first ventured into his brilliant writing career when he read the phrase "Middle Earth," in an Old English manuscript and it inspired a poem. That was in 1914 and he was only 22. Three years later in 1917, he wrote "The Fall of Gondolin," which was the first story of his fantasy works.

Then, 13 years later (1930), he began telling his children a bedtime story about a strange and funny creature called a hobbit. Seven years later his book titled The Hobbit was published. The publisher immediately asked Tolkien for a sequel, and 12 years later in 1949 he completed the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The trilogy was published five years later (1954). In other words, from the time he first saw the phrase "Middle Earth," to the time his masterpiece about Middle Earth was published, it took Tolkien 40 years of creative effort. It can take a long time to create something worth while.

Shouldn't the same be true of us? The Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon. Though when we are born again we receive the benefits of Jesus Christ's perfect, sinless life upon us that is only the beginning of a process by which God is creating us into the image of His Son Jesus. God is working in you to change you and this process takes time. 

I once visited a saintly elderly woman's house who had the familiar sign on her wall, "Please be patient with me. God isn't finished with me yet!" This isn't an excuse for living a sinful lifestyle but a reality that calls us to press on towards the upward call in Christ Jesus. Paul explains this later in Philippians 3 where he says, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12-14).

You are a work of God and He is not finished with you yet. It is a work of a lifetime. It can take a long time to create something worth while. So, be patient with yourself and press on, never giving up. For I am certain of this, "...that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Prayer: Holy Father, we are grateful today that you are working in us and that You will be faithful to finish what you've begun. Help us to never give up but to press on knowing You will not give up on us but will see us to completion in Jesus Christ. In His name, amen.

Always pray and never give up!

Today's devotional thought:

In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus tells us the parable of the persistent widow. In verse one we are told why Jesus is telling us this story. "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'

"For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually come and attack me!' "

And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off ? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

When Jesus returns will he find faith? The kind of faith that will always pray and never give up?

Early in my ministry I was witness to an answered prayer a lifetime in the making. It happened one Sunday at the end of the service. During the invitation time an elderly man got up and came to the front to accept Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord. His name was Herbert. Holding his hand as he came forward was his wife of fifty years, Delores. The atmosphere was charged with excitement like I had never experienced before or since in ministry. I knew why. Through ministering at the Church I knew of Delores' prayers for her husband Herbert. 

Over fifty years earlier after being married for a short time Delores became a Christian but Herbert did not. When her attempts to share Jesus with her husband failed Delores did the one thing she knew she could, she prayed. 

Often at times of corporate prayer she would ask for us to pray for Herbert. "Please pay that Herbert would except Jesus." And so every prayer time included us praying for Herbert. I found myself feeling sorry for Delores. If God had not answered her prayer after fifty years maybe God was not going to. It only took me a couple of years of praying for Herbert to feel like giving up. Yet, Delores never did. 

In the end Delores' persistence in prayer payed off. Herbert came forward to put his faith and trust in Jesus. After Herbert was baptized I went and hugged Delores. Her face was radiant and tears slipped down her cheeks. "God is so good," she kept saying. "God is so good to me."

It was less than a year later that Herbert passed away. During that short time each time I saw Herbert in Church there was Delores at his side. Her face always radiant with a smile that nothing could erase. A smile that said, "God is so good."

A number of years later, as I was ministering at another church, I heard that Delores had also passed away but her story of persistent prayer has lived on inside of me—the legacy of a woman who knew exactly what Jesus meant when he said we should always pray and never give up.

What answer to prayer are you waiting on? How long have you been waiting? Let me tell you this, always pray and never give up. God is so good.

Prayer: Holy Father, help us to be persistent. Help us to never give up. We know you are good. We know you love us. We trust in you. May you find us faithful. In Jesus name, amen.