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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Success!

Well, for the first time ever, we have grown cantaloupes—just had one tonight for dessert, and it was delicious! I’ve tried before, but they never completely ripened before our sunshine and warm weather gave way to fall. I love living on top of a mountain, but it cuts our growing season by two weeks.  So, what made the difference?

Putting paper down. I had a 4×8 foot sheet of the black stuff left from planting our roses, so I put it in the garden and covered it with straw.  As the vines grew, I added newspaper and stretched out the straw. (The straw was really just for pretty!) I guess it worked because we now have fifteen cantaloupes! Yum! Can I find a spiritual application?  Need you ask?    cantaloupe

  1. Find what works

We have cooler temperatures, about an average of five degrees, than the surrounding lower altitudes; so covering their little roots made all the difference. It retained the moisture and the heat. How is your spiritual growth progressing? Are you faithfully spending time alone with God? Perhaps you have always done your devotions in the morning, but now that is not possible.  Have you always read through the Bible every year?  Perhaps it’s time for a change.  Something that has really helped me is to read through the Bible every other year, and then have a different plan for the alternating year.  For 2016, I’m studying the Gospels using commentaries and the Amplified Study Bible. Just seeing different words has really been helpful. The Bible contains everything we need to live a successful Christian life. Sometimes we just need to dig in and find what works!

  1. Know your situation/circumstances

Everyone is different.  We try to make the Christian walk a one-size-fits-all.  God has placed you into your circumstances and given you your set of difficulties and challenges, as well as blessings, to teach you something. The fifty-year-old woman is facing a totally different set of issues than the thirty-year-old new mom. How wonderful that we can all go to the same Source for strength and wisdom, as well as help each other.  That’s why we have this thing called church!  It’s a place where we can help each other along the way. We can read the same passage, hear the same sermon and each come away completely refreshed, challenged, and blessed because God’s Word is all-powerful! This is NOT situational ethics, but it is applying God’s Word to your situation which may be very different from mine.

  1. Be faithful!

I’ve been tempted to plant grass next year in my garden! It’s so much work and, at times, produces little fruit.  But then the Lord sends a bumper crop of cantaloupes!  Isn’t the same thing true in our Christian race?  At times, it seems all uphill with no end in sight! We’re tired, discouraged, lonely, depressed, frustrated, confused, and just plain worn out! Don’t give up!  Ask God for a little “shower of blessing.” He is SO faithful and He has given us countless promises to claim. Just when we think the race is not worth it, He does something extraordinary. Perhaps it’s just a smile from a stranger, but it’s all we need because we know Who sent it!

 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

 Success to the end. King Ahab is not known for many good things, but this statement is always a challenge to me. When a neighboring king was threatening to annihilate Samaria, this was his response:

 Tell him, Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.

1 Kings 20:11

And don’t forget those famous, encouraging words from our little, blue friend:

Keep on swimming!

Get up, Bambi—GET UP!

firebambiAh, if you are an expert in “Bambiology,” you will recognize these words as an admonition from Bambi’s father.  Bambi has just been shot while in midair and lands on the other side of the canyon, safe from the hunters but not from the forest fire.  It is imperative that he gets up! Time is of the essence! Such high drama! He is down!  Can he get up?

Are you down? Is fire raging all around you? Has Satan shot you? Or is he poking you with his two-prong pitchfork: discouragement and depression? Let’s learn from Bambi!

  • He was sorely wounded. It would have been easier to just lie there and let the pain win. Have you ever felt that way? What’s the use? Defeat is just around the corner. I GIVE UP!

NO!  We can’t give up!  The cost is too great! When we choose the “low” road, we have no idea what we may lose: our testimony, our children, our homes, our church, a future… but most of all, we may damage the cause of Christ. AND, we sometimes forget that “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” (1 John 2:1)  AND… “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)   Although the wounds of the spirit do not bleed, those wounds sap our strength just as much as a flesh wound, perhaps worse! Spirit wounds go to the very core of our being! Remember: “…the joy of the LORD is your strength,” (Nehemiah 8:10) so when you are wounded in the Spirit, Satan is like a blood-thirsty lion ready to devour you!  (1 Peter 5:8) He knows that our strength is intrinsically tied to our joy, so he will work hard to destroy it.

  • Bambi had a helper. His father would not leave him, but urged him to get up.  Now, I know some of you think I’m nuts, but there is a lesson here for us. The father continues to order him to get up, and when Bambi finally gets to his feet, he leans against his father.

What a beautiful picture for the born-again believer! Our heavenly Father is there urging, perhaps even demanding us to get up, because He knows that if we don’t, there will be consequences—and He knows what those consequences are, even when we don’t!

  • Slowly at first, but then gaining strength—perhaps from his father or from the raging fire—Bambi increases his pace; and after a hair-raising run and an incredible jump down the falls (really? Is that even possible?) Bambi leaves his father and joins his true love, Feline. Ahh!

Where will you go for strength? Is there anywhere to go but to God?  Are you trying to run the race on your own strength?  Have you found out yet that your strength will never be enough? Do you need to pick up your speed a bit? Are your enemies—the world, your flesh, and the devil—nipping at your heels?  Remember, your heavenly Father is right there to lean on and to draw strength from.  Whether running because of the fear of a foreboding enemy, or because of our love for God, we can do incredible things in the face of trials.

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”(Psalm 84:11)  What a God we serve!!!

 

Is it your time to run? There are times to  “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10), and there are times to “run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrew 12:1)  Whether we are still, or running pell-mell, the focus is always in one place: Jesus Christ, who gives us the victory!

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory

through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Corinthians 15:57

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,

but one receiveth the prize?

So run, that ye may obtain. 1 Corinthians 9:24