Press, follow… persecute?

 

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How is your “press” going? Are you “pressing?” I’m not talking about removing a wrinkle in your shirt—I’m talking about checking for a possible wrinkle in your life.

The Greek word for press is more often translated as “persecute” (24 times–the only thing I can figure is, if you are going to persecute someone, it says something about your dedication to a cause!), but it is also translated as “follow” or “follow after” ten times. (I’ll list some of those verses at the end. I thought they were very helpful. Comparing scripture with scripture is one of the best ways to study the Bible and gain a deeper understanding of its meaning.)

Philippian 3: 14 is the only place which translates the word as “press,” and the illustration which Paul is alluding to is that of a runner pushing himself towards the finish line. I’m not a long distance runner (unless you consider running to the mailbox 50 feet away as a long distance!) but I would think that the most difficult part of the race is the middle where you cannot see any signs of the finish line, and isn’t that where we spend most of our time?

people doing marathon

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

So, that makes me throw out another question: Can you see the prize? According to Paul, the prize is not just crossing the finish line but a “high calling” or the race itself. Winning the race is not just a single moment of completion but the culmination of hours of running and training!  Commentator Albert Barnes puts it this way:

 

God has called us to great and noble efforts; to a career of true honour and glory; to the obtainment of a bright and imperishable crown. It is a calling which is “high,” or upward—that is, which tends to the skies. The calling of the Christian is from heaven, and to heaven. Compare Proverbs 15:24 (The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath), He has been summoned by God, through the gospel of the Lord Jesus, to secure the crown. It is placed before and above him in heaven. It may be his, if he will not faint or tire, or look backward. It demands his highest efforts, and it is worth all the exertions which a mortal can make even in the longest life. (emphasis added)

We all need to be “pressing,” diligently seeking to finish well. I’m not sure how that translates for you today. It may mean not hurling angry words at a clerk or fellow driver or thinking the worst of someone who chooses not to do what you think they should. OUCH! Or perhaps for you, dear mommy, it means showing patience to those little gems who are driving you crazy!! (Showing them patience does not mean letting them have their way, but guiding them in the right way with a right heart.)

Each of us has a race to run, and every born-again believer’s race should include a local church. OUCH AGAIN! (I’d better stop all the toe-stomping or no one will read my posts!) Seriously though, there are shut-ins, doctors, and other occupations that just cannot be in church on a Sunday morning but too often, we make all kinds of excuses for missing out on the best part of the week! Here’s the last question:

Can you honestly say that you are running your Christian race well and not be involved (concerned, occupied, implicated, immersed, enmeshed, entangled, aboard, participating, on the team, with us, on our side—all synonyms!) in your church? A very famous preacher said this:

Today thousands of local churches are dying because of Christians who are unwilling to serve. They sit on the sidelines as spectators, and the body suffers. God calls you to a service far beyond anything you could ever imagine. He created you for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for you to do (Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.). Whenever you serve others in any way, you are actually serving God.

I can certainly “Amen” that statement! Do you need to follow the Nike motto and “Just Do It?”

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Philippians 3:13-15

Here are some of the verses that use theGreek διώκω (diōkō) translated as “follow after:”

Rom 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. (This verse actually had the Greek word in it twice.  I’m not a Greek scholar, but it looked as though you would say, “Let us, followers, therefore follow…”)

1Co 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

Phl 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after,  that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

1Ti 6:11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

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My Mission Field

 

cogan house viewThis photo is my desktop screen.  I LOVE it! It is also my mission field. You may say, “But where are all the people? What do you have, I ministry to cows?” No, but there are folks in them there parts! God did not call us to the foreign field or to the city.  He called us to a zip code which has about 3,000 spread over approximately 64 square miles. (VERY rough figuring!) That’s not a whole lot of people! But…

  • Are there people who have not trusted Christ as their Savior? YES!
  • Are their families that are broken? YES!
  • Are there families that are searching for the truth? YES!
  • Are there elderly who need to see Jesus? YES!
  • Are there teens who need hope? YES!
  • Are there children who need to hear the Gospel? YES!

What does your mission field look like? Do you have a mission field?  Is there something that God wants you to do? For example…

  • Does the cashier need a friendly word and smile from you? And maybe even a Gospel tract?
  • Does a neighbor need to know that you care?
  • Does a family member need help? Or even a heartfelt Gospel letter?
  • Could you bake a cake for a busy mom or even watch the kids while she goes for groceries?
  • Maybe someone in your church needs a listening ear or an encouraging phone call or a smiley face text.

All of these ideas are little seeds that may someday bring forth fruit! Go! Enjoy the summer! Plant some seeds in YOUR mission field! And maybe, just maybe, the Lord will even allow you to see some sprout!

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Matthew 10:42

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. John 4:35

 

The Best “CLEAN”

 

downloadThis is not an ad for NORWEX, but I must admit—I’m sold on these cloths, and that’s saying a lot. I’m a hard sell, and when my daughter started selling NORWEX, I thought, “I’ll buy a few things just to help her out.” Well, nearly a year later, I’m still overly amazed!

This morning, as I washed my face with a NORWEX face cloth, I thought once again how amazing this microfiber/silver “baclock” cloth is! Lately, I have felt like I have to wash my face several times a day. We live in NE PA at 1700 ft. elevation. There are times when AC is nice, but for the most part, especially in the spring, the cool evening temperatures make life livable without it. HOWEVER, we’ve been having high temperatures and high humidity and my blood hasn’t thinned out yet. (Is that really what happens? :))  Yesterday, the temperature dropped but we literally lived in a cloud for most of the day. When I went down the mountain I was surprised to see that it was just a cloudy day, but then I noticed that the tops of the mountains—the place where I live—were shrouded in clouds!

CLEAN!  What a nice feeling! The dirt and grim (and glistening, if you know what I mean!) are gone! My skin feels fresh… and super clean!  And, of course, that made me think of my soul.

Not only do we get to enjoy the cleansing power of the cross when our souls are redeemed—made completely spotless in the sight of God because of His Son’s ultimate sacrifice—but we are able to enjoy a deep daily cleansing.  I call it Daily Soul Scrub (DA-P3 = Daily, Alone with Paper, Pen, and Prayer, explained in “Still Waters”).

We sometimes think that a splash of the Word to our souls is enough.  You know: you fling open your Bible, read the first verse you see, and yell, “Done!” The Word of God is alive and it is powerful, but it needs to be applied carefully! Some days, that may be all we can afford, but can you imagine the physical example if that becomes our normal habit? Yikes! Peeyoo! Without sounding too harsh… why do we notice when we need a bath but we don’t notice when our spirits are dirty?

Often, we are tempted to sprinkle the Word into our souls, taking in the little bits of Bible that are splattered within a podcast or radio broadcast. We are blessed to have wonderful resources and I’m all for using them, but DA-P3 is like the first scrub of the day.  It’s alone.  It’s personal. It’s essential!

When our daughter smeared margarine on a mirror and then simply wiped it away with a NORWEX cloth, I was stunned. It was miraculous! (Not really.) But I thought, “This must have been how the Native Americans felt the first time they saw a stick shoot fire and bullets!”

Oh, how miraculous is the Word of God! Trying to cleanse our souls with Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, or the Five Pillars of Islam is like trying to wash my face with a mechanic’s rag. It’s a very useful item to the mechanic, but it belongs in the garage, not the bathroom! Those manmade truths may clean up my life, but they will never be able to remove the sin from my heart! Years ago, I had a wonderful conversation with a Hindu woman. She really knew her religion and her sincerity broke my heart. However, when I asked the question, “What do you do to get rid of sin?” she had no answer even though she admitted that she often pondered the question!

Ah… the best clean! Aren’t you glad that it is free and available to all!!!

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:7-10 (Such powerful truths!)

 

 

 

 

 

Burning, Burning, Burning

Candle_(Slava_celebration)“A good teacher is like a candle, it consumes itself to light the way for others.” I saw this quote in one classroom and thought it was worth sharing, but couldn’t we broaden the scope a little:

“A good pastor is like a candle, who consumes himself to light the way for others.”

“A good Sunday school teacher…”

“A born-again believer…”

Isn’t that our calling–to be spent so that others will see the True Light–Jesus Christ? How are we “consumed?” Like that candle, we become consumed as we live and walk for our Lord.  Our testimony shines because we are “consumed” or are willing to sacrifice…

  • Our ways — living in the light of the gospel may require giving up our ways for His Way.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

  • Our thoughts — EVERYONE has an opinion.  I overheard a 7th grader explaining that she didn’t follow any religion.  She just goes on her experiences. WOW! It made me realize that many people are missing the one essential factor which directs my path. As believers, we are three-part beings: body, soul, and spirit. Our goal is to have the Spirit of God control our mind which, in turn, controls our bodies. When a person leaves God out of the picture, he will listen either to the desires of his flesh or the dictates of his mind.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Below is a chart of the outcomes when we allow either the bodies or our minds have greater sway than God’s Holy Spirit.

Body-controlled Mind-controlled Spirit Flesh wins every time.
Body-controlled Spirit-controlled Mind Spirit is controlling the mind, but only when the body allows.
Mind-controlled Body-controlled Spirit A disciplined person who factors God right out of the equation.
Mind-controlled Spirit-controlled Body A disciplined person, but logic overrules faith.
Spirit-controlled Body-controlled Mind Physical actions overrule common sense quenching the Spirit of God.
Spirit-controlled Mind-controlled Body Spirit has His way in the mind, which, in turn, dictates the body’s actions.
  • Our Expectations — Sometimes we just assume the outcome.  We assume that our marriage will be bumpless, our houses spotless, our children nearly sinless. God’s plan may be different from ours because He sees and knows everything, and His expectations for us to “come forth as gold” often require circumstances beyond our expectations.

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10

A good teacher or pastor gladly pours himself out for his class/congregation, thrilling when he sees a student gain understanding or a church member yield and grow.

Burning with a passion for Christ can cause burnout unless we experience a Maccabee’s miracle! Around 200 BC, a Syrian king took over Jerusalem. He allowed the Jews to stay but prohibited them to worship in their traditional way, encouraging them to worship the Greek gods. Some did, and they were called Hellenistic Jews. However, when this king built a statue of Zeus in the Temple, the Jewish people had had enough and revolted.

When they successfully ousted a much larger and better-equipped army, they cleared out the Temple and rededicated it to the Lord; however, they only had enough oil to burn the Menorah for one day.  Miraculously, it burned for eight, and this miracle is celebrated every Hannakuh.

We will soon be consumed if our strength is not from God.  There isn’t enough wick or wax to finish the course.  Some Christians sputter at the very beginning of their walk, perhaps because they are CINOs: Christian In Name Only. Sputtering is also caused by the splash of the world, our flesh, and Satan who would gladly extinguish our light IF HE COULD! (Praise God, He can’t!) It may be caused because we are too close to the world’s faucet of foolishness, and we are not regularly dipping our candles into the wax of the Word.

Daily, we need to do a self-check to be certain we’re ready to shine brightly, by…

  • Trimming our wicks
  • Cleaning our chimneys
  • Being filled with the Word.

 

“Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.”

Recalcitrant, Dead and Inert

ID-100159550The first word in the title stopped me  — what does it mean ? In this wonderful age of devices and gadgets, I just highlight it, and, bingo, there’s the definition: having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline.

So, when the call comes that a funeral has derailed our plans for Bible Conference, I find myself a bit recalcitrant, and that, my friend, is not an attribute of holiness!

Lately, the desire for holiness in my life has moved to the front burner. Am I living a holy life, and what does that mean? A recent quote said, “Think not on a holy life, but on a holy moment as it flies” (John Kitto).

Holiness is a lifelong process of making right choices! So, when I read this devotion, I felt that perhaps it could be a help to you as it was to me! R.C. Sproul has a way with words, even if they are big ones ! 🙂

Becoming a New Creation

As Christians, we are new creations. Our hearts of stone have been turned into hearts of flesh. In this metaphor, flesh is used as a positive figure, not a pejorative one. Where once my heart was cold and recalcitrant, dead and inert to the things of God, now it throbs and pulsates with spiritual life. Once I was biologically alive but spiritually dead. Now I am biologically alive and spiritually alive as well. I am a new person.

There is radical discontinuity between my new self and my old self. This radical discontinuity, however, is not total discontinuity. A link between the old man and the new man remains. The old man has been dealt a mortal blow. His total destruction is certain, but he is not yet dead.

The conflict of the Christian life is a struggle with sin. Sin no longer has dominion over us if we are in Christ, yet sin is still in us. Regeneration liberates us from the bondage of original sin, but our corrupt nature is not totally annihilated this side of heaven.

Paul speaks of the warfare that goes on between the flesh and the spirit. “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:17).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Thank God for the new heart of flesh He has implanted in your spiritual being.

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul

Growing Old… Gracefully?

Related imageWe’ve all heard that phrase, but as I approach six decades, I’m beginning to think I fit more accurately into that category than the “middle-age” bracket I’d like to claim. Certainly, my body creaks and groans like an old, sagging door, and my stiff joints remind me of our twelve-year-old Cocker Spaniel when she first awakens. But what does it mean to “grow old gracefully,” and how is it accomplished?

I’m sure I don’t have all the answers, but another phrase often comes to mind when I’m around older people.  “What we practice in our youth we will magnify in our old age.” For example, a cantankerous man will be a cantankerous old man. We don’t just suddenly become something that we haven’t been “practicing” all our lives! In our younger days, we may be able to cover our cantankerous tracks with grace, but when we are older, sadly, either we don’t care anymore to apply tact, or we aren’t able to because of the effects of the dreaded duo: Alzheimers and dementia.

Our church recently had the funeral of a 100-year-old woman. My husband has been pastoring her for eleven years, and in that time I can’t recall EVER hearing an unkind remark, complaint, or wrangling word come from her mouth. She loved the Lord, loved everybody, and everyone loved her. Her funeral was a celebration of her life and testimony before the Lord. At the end of the service, the family gathered round the casket in the front of the church, but it seemed as though they just didn’t want to leave.  This happened again at the graveside as well. They hated to say good-bye to this dear, dear mother, grandmother, great-grand mother, aunt, sister, and friend. Yes, they knew they would see her again, but this withered and worn shell had housed a dear, sweet soul. That face had lit up so infectiously so often that it was hard to let go.

Mary Wilson had her mind and body nearly to the end of her life, and she always praised the Lord for it. I’ve visited dear saints who have lost their minds and make no sense in their speech or understanding; however, when my husband would begin to quote scripture or we would sing a hymn, their faces would brighten and they would quote the verse with him or sing along.  Hallelujah! What a wonderful example of the spirit being willing but the flesh weak! (Matthew 26:41)Years of tucking verses away in the heart and keeping a song on the lips will bring great dividends!

So what are you “practicing?” Are you working daily to develop a kind and gentle spirit?

“Well, I’m just naturally …” you fill in the bitter blank. But know that we all come with a bent toward sin. Yes, some are, by nature, more easy going, but the fruit of the spirit is available to all! You will preach what you practice when you practice what you preach!

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. Hebrews 11:4

 

Bile (Boil) That Cabbage Down

If you’ve lost a loved one, then you will understand this scenario:  I’m preparing to teach elementary music when my eyes fall on the 5th Grade Chorus music—Bile That Cabbage Down.  I choke and a tear springs to my eye because it brings back a very fond memory of my father who passed away in 2009. He didn’t play the guitar often and he didn’t sing often, but when he was being silly, he would sing this song while playing the guitar… and I loved to hear it! My dad, who was very private with his feelings and not an “in front of people” guy, could be so different in the shelter of our home. He was silly! He loved to tease. Oh, the memory just makes my heart ache for him!

Then my next thought stopped me short. I wish I had…

  • Spent more time with him
  • Not wasted so many moments being a rebellious teen. (One summer we rode to work together and they were the most silent rides of my life! Why didn’t I try harder to talk to him? I hear you saying, “But he should have talked to you.” True, but now he’s gone.)
  • Worked harder to know him better
  • Been more patient with him

Even though these are relatively minor regrets, they do come to mind and bring with them a lesson for today that I would urgently suggest you consider…

  • Spend more time with people than your computer
  • Get out of your comfort zone and SAY SOMETHING!
  • Work at family relationships. They can become so strained by miscommunications, lack of time together, morbid self-introspection, jealousy, selfishness, and just plain meanness
  • Be more patient, especially with elderly folks and teens. These are two groups of special needs people.  We’ve all either been there or will be there! Teens bark more than they bite, and I have yet to be bitten by one because I started a conversation.  And as a pre-older person 🙂 (OK, so I might not be speaking the truth in my heart!) I’m beginning to understand the aches and pains, the disappointments life seems to throw at us, and the frightening thought that time is changing more than I can handle.

You may say…

  • “But I can’t!” Are you sure?
  • “You don’t understand.” No, but God does!
  • “It’s impossible.” But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
  • “It won’t change anything.” Oh, but you don’t know until you try! Sometimes we are so busy looking for the other person to change that we fail to realize the change that needs to happen in our own hearts!

Sometimes, when counseling with someone or in a teaching moment when I’ve tried to encourage someone to make right choices and do the hard thing, I wish that I could play back all the excuses I hear. But then there are those precious moments when the listener hears with a heart surrendered to do God’s will, and I know there’s hope for that one!

I hope this challenge blesses and changes you—I know it has touched my heart!  I needed it. Praise the Lord!