Ruth 1:1 “In the days when the judges ruled…”
Ruth 1:1 “In the days when the judges ruled…”
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Matthew 2:11
At our house, fall Saturdays (and several summer Saturdays, too) are all about cross country. My son is a senior and has been running cross country since 6th grade. And this momma has grown to love watching the boys compete. I wonder how much more our Heavenly Father loves to watch, encourage and cheer on His children who are giving it their all out on the course.
Perhaps the writer of Hebrews was a runner himself, or had been to the games to cheer on his runner. He wrote, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1). There are indeed so many parallels between the sweaty, tiring, exhilarating, physical sport of cross country racing and the spiritual race we are all in – for even when we are hunkered down, unmoving – the race is going on around us.
First off – it is most important to know that the race isn’t just what is done on Saturday morning on the course. It is all week long, all season long, all the training – effort – preparation – dedication – time – perseverance – discipline. Likewise, if your spiritual race consists solely of an hour or two at church on Sunday morning, it will not be a very impressive race. God desires more. The daily workouts – Bible reading. The high protein snack after a work-out – digging deeper into Scripture study. Hydrating daily throughout the week – prayer. Avoiding the ice cream, pizza and pop – staying away from negative and harmful influences, entertainment and activities. There are disciplines to follow to be a great runner – just as there are disciplines for being a follower of Jesus.
Paul also got some good mileage from the racing metaphor. He wrote to Timothy, “Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5) On the cross country course it goes without saying that you actually have to run the assigned, mapped out race and follow the rules in order to compete. Yet, in our spiritual race so many times we try to create our own course or our own rules.
One thing I didn’t know about cross country 6 years ago was how much it is a team sport. Sure, every runner wants to compete their best, finishing the race in a shorter time than before. However, a team won’t win if they have just one or two top finishers. Their team score is compiled by what place their first 5 racers take – and the lowest score wins the meet. So, it is in the best interest of every member on the team to run the best race they can – while at the same time helping and encouraging and motivating their pack of runners to finish well. Similarly – the spiritual race is not an individual event. We are called to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4), build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), gently restore one caught in sin (Galatians 6:1), and of course, love (lots and lots of verses, including John 13:34). How can you help a fellow runner better prepare for a strong race this week?
It’s God’s course – run it well according to His rules.
Jesus makes an awesome coach – he’s run the race and knows what you need to succeed on the course of life. Keep your eyes on him.
Be disciplined – daily. Your race requires dedication
Help your fellow runners.
Keep Running with Perseverance,
My guilty pleasure shows, the ones I watch on those rare occasions when I am home by myself and have nothing to do (or at least would like to put off what I am suppose to do), are restaurant makeover shows. It doesn’t matter the title, the host, or the characters. I am sucked into the identical plot over and over again. A failing entrepreneur invites a celebrity chef into their restaurant to help them become more successful. Initially, they admit that minor changes are in order, but don’t see any major cause for concern. The business owner’s management is flawless. The food is great. The decor could be updated. Just a tweak here and there and efforts will move from futile to flourishing. And then celebrity chef gives the reality check (in a varyingly dramatic way). He/she tells them the decor is dismal, the food is frightful, and by far the most monstrous piece that brings each element together is the mismanagement. Yet the owners who willingly invited the chef into their restaurant, who have seen this play out on different channels, seasons, and time slots, express shock. They shake their heads and fingers. “Not us!” they say. “We are different!” they say. “We only invited you here because we thought we only needed small changes!” they say.
It is hard to accept the jarring reality that we’re terrible. That the entirety of everything we have accomplished for ourselves is considered a heap of filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Our corrupted (Eph 4:22) business-as-usual model is rubbish, garbage, doo doo. You don’t need to drop a couple items off the menu; you need a new menu. You don’t need to gloss over the interior with a new color; you need some serious demolition work. Most of all, you are not one or two adjustments away from being an excellent entrepreneur; you need a new manager. A major overhaul is in order, not a minor adjustment. In order to do this Christian life, you must face there is a thread that tethers most of your issues: you making the decisions. Conversely, there is a simple solution to overcome challenges and have meaningful and lasting change: follow the model of Christ. Less us, more Christ until we are gone, and there is only Christ.
“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20
The Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18). Man, oh man – it is so hard to read his story because it hits so close to home. He invited Christ into his life to look at what He had accomplished because he had a pretty good thing going. He thought he only needed a quick makeover. Then Jesus delivered some nauseating news to this guy: “You still lack one thing: Sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” “Not me!” he thought. “I am different!” he thought. “I only invited you here because we thought we only needed small changes!” he sadly thought and walked away from Christ. Had he not heard this requirement from Jesus already? Matt 6:19-24 Luke 12:23; Or read about them in the law he kept? Deuteronomy 8:8-10; Psalm 62:10; Proverbs 11:28
Christ doesn’t call us to a simple makeover or even a renovation. Our response cannot be accomplished by purchasing a new Bible, hitting up church camp, signing up for a mission trip, going to a Bible college, following commandments, or doing good works. All of those things are beneficial, but they will not lead to lasting, permanent change – said by someone who has done ALL of those things. TRANSFORMATION is literally changing (trans-) our very form (uh, form). Tearing down the structure, ripping the very foundation from the earth, and then replacing it with a new foundation – our Cornerstone, Jesus Christ. THEN we seek our Chef, Architect, and Father for the new plan for our life. For some of us, God may have used His infinite plan to provide us with the tools to build with for His glory or repurpose some pieces from the rubble, but more likely than not, we may be called to do something completely new, difficult, and can only be accomplished with a new creation.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! Do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 1 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 12:2
TRANSFORMATION is not ours in a single day. It begins with the decision to demo, but is a lifelong, day-by-day challenge to change not only the way we act, but our very mindset that allows us to test and approve what God’s will is for our lives. When we transform our thinking, health, sickness, wealth, poverty, where we live, what college we attend, our occupation, our family, persecution, what we eat or drink, and even death are not our simple circumstance but tools at the disposal of our God. Every moment, every action becomes an opportunity to spread His good news of a coming Kingdom to begin the radical change in the hearts of others. Ultimately, we have a great hope in the struggle of living a transformed life now. Our lives will be transformed once-and-for-all, not over the course of a lifetime, but in a single instance – In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Cor 15:52,53). It all begins today with listening and looking to the one who has already accomplished it.
Good morning everyone! (Or afternoon, or evening, depending on when you get to this!) Let’s take a look at John 2, a much easier chapter to dig into compared to yesterday’s in my opinion…
Thought #1 – Vs. 1-12: The author here writes about Jesus’ first miracle; turning water into wine at a wedding. We’re all probably relatively familiar with this passage, and most are probably aware that when Jesus answers his mother with “Woman” it does not mean disrespect in Greek like it might in today’s world (and if not, now you know!). There is so much in this little story that we don’t know, such as who was getting married, why Jesus and his mother were attending, what the reactions were of the people who saw Jesus perform his first miracle, etc. Despite reading this multiple times, I did find something new to think about this time through. This time I saw that Mary already had faith in Jesus’ abilities before he had proven anything to her. While we also don’t know much about Mary, we can pick up a few characteristics or insights into her life from the little we read. For example, Mary’s faith has always relied on the idea about not needing to see to believe. She has always had a deep trust in God, and in His power, and isn’t afraid to boldly ask for a miracle, at least according to what we can read in the Bible. She has probably experienced God’s power in the most personal way of any human on earth, and I think it shows. In this story, she doesn’t even really acknowledge Jesus’ response, but simply tells the servants to obey him. What a mom thing to do… give a direction and not listen for any ifs, ands, or buts about it! Mary knew what Jesus could accomplish before even seeing it happen, she had no doubts in God’s power that was within Jesus. We are lucky enough to live in the present day where we have very easy access to a Bible that lays out all the miraculous things done in the past by Jesus. I think we take that for granted! I know in my own life I do not always fully trust in God or in His power to work in my life, yet I have 66 books’ worth of examples of how He has already done amazing things with that power! How can you shape your faith to be a bit more like Mary’s – trusting God’s power to do the work needed even if we can’t see the outcome yet?
Thought #2 – Vs. 13-23: I love this story about Jesus clearing out the Temple. Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of people getting in trouble when I know they are doing wrong… I was definitely that kid in elementary school that ratted out any misbehavior immediately. But beyond that, I think this story also makes for some great analogies and comes up with a lot of good thoughts! In this story we see Jesus experiencing what can be termed a “righteous anger” towards the people who have dirtied the Temple. He wasn’t just freaking out, or getting angry with people for messing up, he was upset that they were tarnishing the Temple of God in such a public way. They knew very well what that Temple was for, and yet they chose to set up shop for a personal gain that did nothing for them in the long-run. So Jesus clears them out in a very active way! Later on we see Jesus compare this Temple to himself (vs. 21) and that got me thinking about how our bodies as temples for God sometimes need a good clearing out. I’m not talking about a juice cleanse or anything like that, but I’m talking about an active removal of the things that aren’t supposed to be there. This can be a wide variety of things… fear, sin, poisonous habits or relationships, you name it. Sometimes we need to experience that same righteous anger in order to be motivated to clear out our life and get back on track with God. Do you see any areas of your life that you feel need to be cleared out so you can be back on track with God? What are you doing, or what can you do, to actively clean yourself out?
I hope our questions for today bring about some quality reflection time! I know they got me thinking!
Do you ever find yourself doing things that you don’t want to do, or know that you shouldn’t? Do you ever stop and think of something that you know you really should be doing, but aren’t doing? I find myself in these situations, especially when I get busy. I know that I should stop and take time to pray or spend time in scripture, but I am so busy that I put it off till later, and then to even later, and sometimes to the next day. Paul talks about this same thing:
14 “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”
Paul apparently had the same problem at times. He wanted to be filled with the spiritual things of God, but had sin in his life, just as each of us. This kept him from being completely filled, completely focused on the spiritual things.
This is something that we will not completely overcome until the Kingdom of God is established. It is something we won’t be able to do on our own, not even a little bit. To make any progress on this will require help from God’s spirit dwelling in us.
I find comfort knowing that I am not alone in doing what I do not want to do, and not doing what I do want to do. I also find hope in the fact that God has promised that He will help me and guide me, and that His power is available to me. I encourage you today to reach out and seek God’s help, His power, and His guidance to do what you are called to be doing.
– Andrew Hamilton
In the past couple of chapters, we looked at how we are justified by faith, and being saved while we are sinners. So, the natural question is whether it matters if we sin. I love the way Paul answers this question after he asks it.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
In my head I hear this with a lot of passion in it. Then Paul says basically the same thing in verse 15:
15 “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!”
Again, I hear so much passion in this statement. This is obviously an important point, and something that needed to be talked about when Paul wrote this letter. It is something that needs talked about and understood now too. I am confident that Paul spent this much time on this topic because it is so easy to think that “this” sin will be okay. I’ll be forgiven, and then I won’t do it again. Then, the next time it is again easy to think that doing it one more time won’t hurt. I’ll be forgiven again.
That is an extremely dangerous place to be. It is easy to cross the line into sin, and can be very difficult to cross back. We need to stay as far away from that as possible.
16 “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”
We are either slaves to sin or to obedience resulting in righteousness. We each must make that choice. We are justified by faith, and then that faith should lead to obedience. It is all really summed up in the last verse of chapter 6:
23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
– Andrew Hamilton