Sttrrreeeeccchh Yourself

Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me (Psalm 1387)

No matter who we are, what we do, when or where we do it, we are either making progress, stagnating or moving forward.  In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul compares moving forward to an athlete preparing for a competition.  Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize?  So run to win!  All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.  So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadow-boxing.  I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.  Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified (I Corinthians 9:24-27)

I competed for many years, and then coached for many more.  To become better, you have to constantly push yourself to higher heights.  Doing the same thing over and over will keep you wherever you are right now.  Fitness expert, Fred Devito says it best:  If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

Our Christian walk is the same way.  As we grow older, the challenges become greater.  But so should our ability to cope with them.  Trials and temptations are simply one of the means God uses to stretch us into becoming what He wants us to be.  The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure  (I Corinthians 10:13)
And this keeps happening throughout our lives.  We never arrive at perfection, not even Paul or any of the other disciples. 
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).

Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13).

 

Fact or Faith?

Billy Graham wrote a wonderful devotional regarding faith vs. fact… If you are saved, you are saved through a personal faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as defined in Scripture.  Though many may see this as too dogmatic or narrow-minded to many, the fact remains that there is no other way.  I Corinthians 15:1, 3,4 states, Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before.  I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.  He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

Capture

The Bible says that we are saved when we believe this objective fact.  The work of Jesus Christ is a fact.  His cross is a fact.  His tomb is a fact.  His resurrection is a fact.  Historical records of the time verify these facts.  The best-known historian of his day, Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37?-101?), mentions Jesus in his Antiquities, Book 18, chapter. 3, paragraph. 3.  Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles.  He was [the] Christ.  And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, (9) those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; (10) as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.  And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.
The facts are there.  Faith is what we believe about these facts.  It is impossible to believe anything into existence.  The Gospel did not come into existence because people believed it.  The tomb was not emptied because some faithful people believed it.  The facts preceded the belief.  This is important because we are psychologically incapable of believing without an object of our faith.
So not asked to believe something that is only in our imagination or is not credible, but to believe that the fact of the Gospel, in Jesus Christ’s life, purpose, death and resurrection.  These facts transcend all history.  And this historical figure, Jesus Christ, said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me (John 14:6).
Trusting in Him for your eternal salvation is trusting in facts, not in a figment of someone’s imagination.  And you know what?  When you have faith in these facts and act accordingly, you can be joyful most of the time.  Are you trusting in these facts?

A Do-It-Yourself Guide?

Man proposes, God disposes.  (Or, as the old Yiddish proverb says, Man plans, God laughs.)

This is a translation from a passage in “The Imitation of Christ” by the German-born, Thomas à Kempis (c.1380-1471): For the resolutions of the just depend rather on the grace of God than on their own wisdom; and in Him they always put their trust, whatever they take in hand.  For man proposes, but God disposes; neither is the way of man in his own hands.  This may be a reflection of a verse in the Bible (Proverbs 16:9): We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.  Shakespeare, too, had a similar message in Hamlet by Hamlet: There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will.

 

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Human beings can make any plans they want, but it’s God who decides success or failure.  Can you imagine what would have happened if Moses had tried to explain the burning bush that couldn’t be extinguished?  Or how about him leading the Hebrews through the Red Sea on his own?  On dry land?!?  What would Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have done on their own in the super-heated furnace?  Could the young Jewish girl, Esther, have been able to save the Jewish people from the savage attacks that were already planned on her own?  What could Jonah have done about being swallowed by a great fish?  Could Elijah have made a fiery chariot to take him up to the Heavens?  Could the Hebrew soldiers marching around Jericho have torn the walls of the city down by themselves without being killed by its inhabitants?  Does it make any human sense that a young teenager named David could win the battle with an enemy giant–armed with only a slingshot?  None of this makes any sense in the natural.

The Word for You Today notes that Allied bomber carried thirteen.50 caliber machine guns.  Scientists suggested the planes might be safer without them since they could fly higher and faster, increasing their odds of survival.  The pilots wouldn’t hear of it.  They wanted to be able to fight back on their own.  Too often we make the same mistake when it comes to fighting our daily battles.  We don’t need bigger guns, we need more of God.  We want to reason, argue, blame, excuse and manipulate.  Instead we need to take up the shield of faith and arm ourselves with the weapons of God (Ephesians 6:16).  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)  So stop trying to do it yourself and let God be a shield to those who take refuge in Him,(Proverbs 30:5) for though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does (2 Colossians 10:3).  If you think that you can do it yourself, don’t!  It rarely works to your benefit.