Archive for December, 2017
“The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops” (2 Timothy 2:6).
Perhaps no vocation portrays the life of faith as vividly as does farming. A farmer sows a seed with the faith that God will provide the necessary amount of both sunshine and rain. A farmer works hard; not just praying for a harvest but working for it, recognizing the symbiotic relationship between prayer and perspiring. A farmer waits patiently as maturity is being accomplished. Keep plowing ahead!
“Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5).
In athletics a failure to know the rules of one’s respective sport can have disastrous results. It can mean the difference between victory and defeat; penalties and fines; disqualifications and suspensions. For followers of Jesus, the Bible is our training manual. While not so much a book of rules and regulations, it is the means by which we come to understand the nature and character of our Lord and, thus, how we shall then live. Let the training begin.
“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).
Just a few days from the new year, it’s impossible know what new will be introduced to any one of our lives. Death, birth, misfortune, relocation, sickness, vocational change—the new of a new year can take on any number of endless possibilities. Though Israel could never have imagined how God would deliver them and redeem their circumstances, he did. God is a God of the new—new beginnings, new challenges, new possibilities. Each one leads to his purposes and glory.
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself” (Revelation 19:11-12)
While the Advent observed during the Christmas season is associated with the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love, the Advent of the Lord’s return will look quite different. Instead of a babe in the manger, he will gallop forth victoriously as the righteous Judge, and waging war. No longer a cooing defenseless infant, he will emerge with eyes ablaze and a sharp sword from his mouth (v.15). While the first Advent we celebrate with appreciation, the second Advent we anticipate with preparation.
“And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6).
Coming to faith overcomes any identity crisis heretofore ever experienced. To answer the simple call of, “Follow Me,” brings clarity to life—its purpose, direction, and focus. Kingdom life defines who we are and what we are about. Whatever the circumstances of any given day, it is the stage upon which we bring honor and glory to One who made us into a royal priesthood.
“To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood” (Revelation 1:5).
The freedom that God’s love has afforded us can be fully experienced only when we resolve once and for all that it is the result of what He has done and not us. Our freedom has been procured by His redeeming blood, not our religious sweat; by his sacrifice, not our effort. We can never do enough to escape the guilt of our past; only God’s grace can release us to pursue the future he desires for us.
“and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us…” (Revelation 1:5).
Never has one verb, “loves,” communicated so much about the giving nature of God. The sacrificial gift of his Son embodies a kind of love that is a direct contrast to the performance-based affection offered by this world. It is an eternally forgiving love that thinks and wants only the best for every individual; that’s willing to wipe away the past and to start over with the present. It is the greatest gift you will ever receive.
“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
The Apostle Paul often utilized militaristic language to describe the Christian life—soldier, army, shield, sword, helmet, breastplate, warfare, being on the alert, and fighting the good fight. As in the wearing of a uniform, to be a follower of Christ means to embrace the duties, responsibilities, mission, and obligations of the name it represents. At every rank and file we must stand at attention until our Supreme Commander-in-Chief says “at ease.”
“The things you have learned and received and heard and see in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
Whether it’s our vocational choice, athletics, the arts, or the life of faith, there are role-models to whom we look up and aspire. What you may have not considered is that others are watching you. In regard to your commitment to Christ, is it being lived in such away that you could say to others, with the same degree of confidence as the Apostle Paul, “The things you see me doing and hear me saying; do these and you will find peace in your relationship with God”? Are you living a faith worth imitating?
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
The difference between courage and cowardice has nothing to do with whether or not fear is experienced but, rather, the response to the fears that inevitably confront us. We either flex and step forward into our fear or flinch and remain frozen in our footsteps. Walking forward into our fears and uncertainties is the telling sign of a faith willing to move beyond the predictable comfortable, and familiar routines of life. Life will inevitably lead you into a place you have never been before. Whatever your fear today, step into it.