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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An Overflowing Heart

ID-10051375Is there any better time to write a post than when my heart is overflowing? You may ask why? … a raise? … a new sofa? Is it because of the beautiful covering of snow this morning? … the 25+ birds on my feeder? … my terrific husband? …wonderful kids? … adorable grandchildren? No, none of these.  My heart is overflowing because of the feast I just enjoyed this morning from the Bible! Oh, the joy of precious time alone with my Lord and Savior! It brings tears to my eyes and a pain in my chest because my heart is ready to burst!

Just a little background …

I started off this year using a new Bible reading plan which will take me through the Bible in 90 days! That’s a lot of Bible, but I wanted to give it a try.  Now, here on day 13, I’ve been able to keep up with it, but it’s been a challenge. The greater challenge is getting something from the Word.  With that much Bible pouring into my brain, there hasn’t been the luxury of “studying” the Bible, and I’ve missed it.

So, this morning I studied God’s Word. My friend, Matthew Henry, was a great blessing and took me over the top! I suppose I love his writing because he wrote before…

  • The 2000s millennial worldview
  • The 1990s fundamental shift
  • The 1980s contemporary movement
  • The 1970s Christian school movement
  • The 1960s anti-establishmentarian movement
  • The 1950s post-war era

He wrote before…

  • The colonies were even established in America!
  • Voltaire made his inroad into “modern” thinking
  • World Wars
  • Hitler’s diabolical Third Reich

However, his times were not without troubles:

  • His father was ejected as a pastor from the Church of England because he would not conform to church policy (Act of Uniformity 1662)
  • Matthew Henry himself was a Nonconformist, which certainly meant swimming against the tide!

That was a bit of a sidetrack, so back to this overflowing heart and a challenge:

Will you be at church tomorrow?  Why do you go to church? You see, when we spend time with God it will make our hearts overflow with joy, gladness, thankfulness, adoration, praise.  We just want to honor and praise and glorify our wonderful God.

We go to church for those reasons: to glorify, praise, worship, and honor God. We go to express our love and thankfulness to Him for all that He has done for us! We don’t look at the color of the carpet, the outfit someone is wearing.  We don’t complain about what hymn or song is sung.  We don’t go to critique the teacher, pastor, song leader, pianist or instrumentalist.  We don’t ultimately go to see our friends, but we go to focus on God and realign our hearts and lives back to HIS normal.  It’s sort of like going to the chiropractor!

Here are the thoughts and Words from God that triggered the overflow:

How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!  My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.  Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Psalm 84:1-2

The whole sparrow thing took me to Matthew Henry.  Look at this:

 David … would rather live in a bird’s nest nigh God’s altars than in a palace at a distance from them.  It is better to be serving God in solitude than serving sin with a multitude.  David envies the happiness not of those birds that flew over the altars, and had only a transient view of God’s courts, but of those that had nests for themselves there. David will not think it enough to sojourn in God’s house as a way-faring man that turns aside to tarry for a night; but let this be his rest, his home; here he will dwell. And he takes notice that these birds not only have nests for themselves there, but that there they lay their young; for those who have a place in God’s courts themselves cannot but desire that their children also may have in God’s house

I hope your church is your “home away from home” –a place where you gather with your fellow journeymen and gain strength, rest, and the satisfaction that you have done what God commands, not grudgingly, but with a heart overflowing! Make your “nest” there! Own it! Make it yours! 🙂

 

Preparing our children… for what?

What parent does not want to prepare their children for a bright and hopeful future? Sadly, there are those who are more consumed with meeting their own pleasures than preparing or even providing for their offspring, but I would tend to believe that most of my readers fall into the first category!

As I was reading Acts 21-22 this morning and then turning to my friend, Matthew Henry for his wonderful insights, several thoughts came to mind—one more than any:

“Every experience GOD gives us, every person HE puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” Corrie ten Boom

Acts is an exciting book of the Bible. It is a great book to study: learning where all the cities are which Paul visited, linking people and places together, understanding the related vicinities of towns and churches which were being established. All give a better understanding of Paul’s letters.

In Acts 21, he has returned to Jerusalem after his second missionary journey. (He made three such journeys before ending up in Rome.) There’s been some conflict with the Jewish believers concerning his teaching of the Gentiles, and he is now in Jerusalem to straighten things out. He has just been in the temple, completing a purification ritual with four other men, when some of the Jews from Asia spot him and stir up the crowd, to the point that Roman soldiers intervene and rescue Paul from probable death.

While extracting Paul from the mob and hauling him off to the garrison, Paul tells this centurion that he is a Roman. The soldier’s entire attitude changes. Instead of looking at Paul as a rabble rouser, he now looks at him as an equal; and when Paul tells him that he did not obtain Roman citizenship by purchasing it but is Roman born, the man’s respect is even greater.

Matthew Henry says this:

Some think he became entitled to this freedom by the place of his birth, as a native of Tarsus, a city privileged by the emperor with the same privileges that Rome itself enjoyed; others rather think it was by his father or grandfather having served in the war between Caesar and Antony, or some other of the civil wars of Rome, and being for some signal piece of service rewarded with a freedom of the city, and so Paul came to be free-born.

 

We don’t really know what Paul’s circumstances were which made him a Roman citizen, but could it be that a father or grandfather had forethought, knowing the great privileges of Roman citizenship, and made a point to serve in a war so that his children or grandchildren would have that privilege? Did Paul’s predecessor know that his son or grandson would be a great warrior for Jesus Christ and need that protection on more than one occasion? Probably not, but if the above scenario is true, that parent unknowingly was used by God to prepare His messenger!

It could also be that Paul’s patriarch was just doing the right thing1

“Every experience GOD gives us, Every person HE puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” Corrie ten Boom

How are you preparing your child to be successful? Where do you think he/she will need to be successful—in what area of his/her life?

Do you wonder what the benefit is for running a child to every sport practice, every dance lesson, and every social group?  All of these activities are fun and have developmental benefits, but will they prepare that child for a future that only God sees, especially when it interferes with biblical training?

The following is a quote from All the Gallant Men by Donald Stratton who was stationed on the battleship Arizona and is one of the few living survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. “We were ordinary men. What was extraordinary was the country we loved.”

That ‘Greatest Generation’ had something that we’ve lost in America: a strong spiritual foundation and direction. We have moved from a society where nearly everyone went to church to a generation which thinks that church doesn’t matter.  There’s a strange thing about church attendance. While it is true that attendance can be ritualistic and actually harmful when thought of as a merit for salvation, it seems impossible for a family to be truly on-fire for God while not attending church regularly. Why?

BECAUSE WHEN A FAMILY IS PLUGGED INTO GOD’S WORD AT HOME, THE SUPERNATURAL OUTCOME IS A DESIRE TO BE WITH GOD’S PEOPLE IN GOD’S HOUSE.

Only God knows the future our children will have to face, but the future doesn’t really matter. When we are consumed with giving our children all they can get concerning God and His Word, they will be prepared to face whatever their future holds!

For I know him, that he will command his children and hishousehold after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. Genesis 18:19

Why Go to Church…

Well, how did you make out yesterday: Sunday? Did you make it to church, Sunday School, PM service? Life is full of choices, and those choices shape who we are and what we believe about ourselves, others, and God.

Choices:

  • I went to church vs. I did not go to church

That decision may have been made for you: the kids were sick, you were traveling, you had to work.  Or, you made a choice: a child had a music practice or ball practice, you needed to do laundry, shop, you stayed up too late Saturday night and were too tired, you just didn’t feel like going.

I am a pastor’s wife, so I probably see things from a slightly different perspective!  Church is what we do.  It is our lives; however, I can honestly say that before we were in the ministry, that was also true, AND that’s probably why God called us into the ministry. Duh!  That is a fairly recent revelation for me! I realize not everyone thinks that way.

  • Why is going to church so hard?

The world makes it hard because the god of this world knows how important it is.  The world sees Sunday as just another day to fill up with activities.  They even fail to recognize it as the first day of the week, placing it at the end of the calendar week.As Americans, especially if you’re old enough to remember the Blue Laws, we have this Christian attitude woven into the very fiber of our culture which colors our thinking; however, the rest of the world scratches their head and looks incredulous, saying, “Really? What’s the big deal?”

Our flesh makes it difficult, especially if we are prone to allow our flesh to have its way! We stay up too late on Saturday night, we grumble about having to put on more than our sweats or jeans, and we find that Sundays become a battleground for everyone in the family as sleepy teens grumble and younger siblings join the bandwagon!

Our adversary, the Devil pulls out all the stops on Sunday.  (By the way, did you know that’s an organ term: pulling out all the stops?  If you’ve ever seen a pipe organ, those white knobs are called stops, and when you pull one out, it opens another set of pipes, adding to the sound.  Pull them all out, and you’ve got a really BIG sound! 🙂 )Satan can only do what we allow, but when we make foolish choices about Sunday, he’s right there cheering us on!

Is it worth all the effort?  Quite frankly, I don’t understand how a born-again believer can live without going to church.Did you know that when you are NOT in church, you are missed? Imagine the church as a body.  We’ll call him George.  This week, George is missing an eye, next week a leg, and then one week, he has no arms and only one leg! Sounds funny, but that’s exactly what it feels like, especially to those who have prayed for you to come, and you didn’t show up.

Why come to church? There are lots of reasons.  I’ll just list a few:

  1. God commands it:  Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
  2. We need to worship our God to keep life in the right perspective!
  3. We need to be fed and challenged by the Word.
  4. We need each other:  Hebrew 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
  5. We are giving our children an example to follow which will either encourage them or destroy them!

SNathan's anniversary breakfast.jpgometimes, we throw the baby out with the bathwater! We don’t come to church because there are too many hypocrites, or we know we have a wrong spirit, or the preacher is too long winded, they don’t sing the songs I like, the seats aren’t comfortable, or… But if we would just take a moment and think about the Keeper of the House and His heart, all the problems and excuses seem fairly human.

God gives us 365 days every year, and 366 once and a while! Can’t we give Him 52?
One of my favorite TV shows is “Blue Blood,” and one of the most amazing parts of the series is that the family gets together every Sunday for dinner. Wow!  How many extended familes do that?  Yes, this probably means more to me because the move to South Dakota is now a reality. There were several years when all my children, their spouses, and all my grandchildren worshiped together every week!  I remember looking across the pew and telling myself that it wouldn’t always be true.  I can honestly say that I truly enjoyed every Sunday we had together; but that’s done now, and I’ve come to realize that every Sunday is special.  Each gathering is special, and I don’t want to miss even one!  Will you take the challenge?