Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Listening and Moving According to the Spirit

12Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, 13I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia. (2 Corinthians 2:12-13)

Thoughts: There are some subtle truths we see in this passage that indicates Paul's great trust and faith.  He sees an opportunity to preach and bear fruit in Troas (the ancient site of Troy).  The truth that could apply to us is that God provides a way- opening doors of opportunity for us.  It is also important to note that Paul was looking for an opportunity and had placed himself in a position to do something.  Paul went forward and God blessed his effort by making a way.  Paul was still trying to listen to the Spirit about where he should go.  Sometimes we can be overly dependent on our plans and are not willing to be flexible and adapt to where God is leading us.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to see the doors you open for me.  Give me grace to have a listening ear to your Spirit. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Forgiveness After Discipline

5If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.9Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11)

Thoughts: Paul is referring here to someone who sinned and he asked to discipline him.  But now he says there is forgiveness for them, and the need to reaffirm love.  Paul knew God's grace.  He knew that though he had thrown Christians in jail and assisted in the stoning of Stephen he had been forgiven.  Those who have forgiven much can forgive much.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to forgive those in my life that  have hurt me.  

Monday, August 29, 2016

Against Divsions

1So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. 2For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? 3I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. 4For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you. (2 Corinthians 2:1-4)

Thoughts: There have always been problems wherever humans have been- this includes the church.  People can rub each other the wrong way.  But truth is, we need each other- with our different gifts and perspectives.  The Corinthian church was full of divisions.  There apparently were some who did not want to listen to Paul.  There were some who said they were followers of different leaders (Apollos, Peter, or others).  There were others who were divided over immorality going on in the church and how to handle it.  There were others divided over their different gifts (the eye should not say to the hand "I don't need you.):.  The church in many ways is the place where we rub elbows and learn to love and get along.  Paul is right to urge them to stay together in unity to get along instead of dividing in order to go on the futile quest to find the pure church.  

Prayer: Lord, give me grace not to be divisive but to be an instrument of peace and hope. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Trustworthiness of God

18But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” 19For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silasc and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.(2 Corinthians 1:18-22)

Thoughts: You can trust God.  In our world, so many give up on us- and we likewise give up on others.  This passage reminds us that God's promises are not fickle.  His truth matches His intentions and purposes.  It is this faithfulness- this steadiness that enables us to stand firm and steady.  His Spirit in our hearts is a guarantee of what is to come.  We know God is trustworthy not by some argument or rational thought- but by the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts and convincing us we can stake our lives on the promises and trustworthiness of God. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to rely and trust in you.  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Intentions and Expectations

15Because I was confident of this, I wanted to visit you first so that you might benefit twice.16I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. 17Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both “Yes, yes” and “No, no”? (2 Corinthians 1:15-17) 

Thoughts: Paul was saying he wanted to come back by to see them but could not.  He was not just saying this to try to make them think well of him- it really was his intention though he had to abandon these plans.  We should not tell people we are coming to something when we have no intentions of doing so- that is the way of the world.  But we also need to realize that in this world our best intentions do not always come to fruition.  Paul had stated he wanted to do this in 1 Corinthians 16:6.  It was not the shortest way to go from Ephesus to Macedonia by way of Corinth- that was hundreds of miles out of the way.  Yet, he wanted to be able to encourage the Corinthians and then have them encourage him on the long journey back to Judea.  But for whatever reason, he could not.  This also teaches us not to be too disappointed when leaders in the church or the church itself do not meet our expectations.  As humans in this world we will disappoint each other and often that is out of our control.  We must always rely on God whose promises are always "Yes" -- pure and clear.  Only God makes unbreakable promises- for He knows all factors and (as Augustine said) the future is present to Him.  Jesus promises are promises that lead to life and not to the "No" of death.  Our promises should not be made lightly- but as carefully as we can so we might fulfill them as Christ fulfills all of His promises- for we are His servants.  

Prayer: Lord, let my promises be true, imitating your true promises to me.  When others' promises fail- and my own fail- give me grace to rely on you.  You alone can keep your promises truly and purely.  




  

Friday, August 26, 2016

Boasting

12Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrityb and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. 13For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, 14as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus. (2 Corinthians 1:12-14)

Thoughts: The Sophists were common Greek philosophers and teachers that taught rhetoric but without virtue.  They could teach deception (which is what "sophistry" means today).  They would often boast more than they really knew or were.  In contrast to this, Paul was careful that He boasts only of what God is doing through him.  Paul was not trying to impress (like the Sophists), but trying to be a person of integrity and sincerity who meant what he said and says what he means.  Instead of boasting of ourselves, we seek to boast in and of the Lord.  All glory goes to Him.  Our pride is not in ourselves but in the Lord and even in each other (vs. 14).  

Prayer: Lord, help me to understand and boast in you.  You are worthy of all glory, honor, and strength.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Prayer for Deliverance

8We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,a about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

Thoughts: Paul is praising God as the Deliverer.  He delivered Paul out of many troubles and Paul knew He would help him through many more.  Paul also believed God's grace was poured on him in answer to their prayers. We need to pray for our brothers and sisters in other places who are oppressed- that God would deliver them.  In the end, God always delivers- even from the shadow of death.

Prayer: Lord, we remember those who are in prison for the faith.  We ask you deliverance for them.  You are the one who gives hope when there is no hope.  You set the prisoner free.  Deliver us all from fear, oppression, and death.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Purpose in Comfort

 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:4-7)

Thoughts: One of the purposes of God's comforting us is that we may be able to help others, steering them to the God of all Comfort.  Our comfort is not just so that we would be comfortable- that is not the greatest purpose in life.  So our sufferings and distress are sometimes so we may be able to sympathize, empathize, and point to the One who can help each of us.  It would be an interesting life if Christians did not suffer but the rest of the world did.  Some think in this direction.  They believe that when you become a Christian you are so blessed by God that nothing bad should happen to you.  But, while God is able to help, comfort, and bless- God does not want us to always avoid suffering.  Suffering can sharpen us like iron sharpening iron.  Suffering can shut a door that would take us down the wrong path.  Sometimes we can suffer so that others would be set free from suffering (Like Jesus on the cross or the old story of Peter and the dike).  Sometimes suffering teaches us lessons and priorities- like burning off the dross from gold or silver.  But sometimes suffering comes so that we can teach other people where comfort lies and how to patiently endure suffering.  The incarnation is about God coming down to comfort us with salvation and hope.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to see the value in both suffering and comfort.  Help me to point others to you the great Comforter.   

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Suffering and Comfort

 5For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:5)

Thoughts: We share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, and we share abundantly in Christ's comfort.  The Greek translated as "abundantly"is clearer as "overflow."  This is not just saying we will have pain and blessing as Christ did.  It is saying that the comfort of Christ will overflow to us.  There will be tears- but He will wipe every tear away.  This is an important part of Christ's message.  The suffering here will not compare to the comfort and glory we will have in abundance with Him.  There is always hope in the worst of suffering for those who believe.  Do not let your disappointments in life and the sins of life change or degrade your faith.  For the sufferings do not compare to the comfort and glory.  The glorious healing is far better than the suffering just as the resurrection is greater than the cross. 

Prayer: Lord, give me hope and comfort.  Give me grace to have hope and perseverance in my sufferings as Christ did.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

Comfort from the Comforter

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Thoughts: Jesus called the Holy Spirit the "Comforter" (parakletos).  Literally, "The one who comes alongside to help."  We know that Jesus came alongside to help us-- that is the hope of the incarnation of Christ.  But here we see that the Father is the Father of compassion.  He is caring and sympathetic.  In fact, the claim is that all true comfort comes from Him.  The comfort of God is the healing that goes beyond what any medicine, salve, exercise, or doctor can give.  It is the comfort that goes down to the soul.  Jesus once said, "Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest for your soul."  The healing of Jesus came from within.  So he tells the man who is lame (Mt. 9), before he is enabled to walk, "Your sins are forgiven."   God comforts us when no one else can.
     One of the great reasons God comforts us- is not just that we should be comfortable.  He comforts us so we may comfort others.  The person who has had cancer and has been helped by God, can help others with the help they have received from God.  


Prayer: Lord, give me grace to see your comforting hand that I might comfort others. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Youth Group

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands. (Psalm 119:9,10)

Thougths: Tonight youth group began.  Now youth group is not sports  It is not scouting.  It is not dance or cheer.  It is specifically designed to feed our soul, and to make the inside last a lot longer than the outside.  I have seen many a young person lost their soul.  There was a time just a few years ago where the coaches of sports would make allowances for people to go to church on Sunday nights. Now there are travelling teams that pretend to be professional, and try to elevate some over others.  Today young people need each other.  We need good role models like youth advisors.  We need other youth who will encourage us to stay on the right path- teaching us the example of living according to the word of the Lord. 

Prayer: Lord, help me seek fellowship because I need it.  Help me seek others because I need them.  Let me seek you because I am who I am supposed to be when I am with you.  You are my true joy and hope. 


Saturday, August 20, 2016

I Can Jump Over a Wall

In your strength I can charge against an army.  By your power, I can jump over a wall. 2 Samuel 22:30

Thoughts: Who gives us power to run fast or jump high?  Who gives us strength to go beyond our own might? The Olympics are almost a way that we rejoice in human ability to do things.  We stand amazed at how fast we can run- but the antelope and cheetah make us look slow.  We are amazed at a six foot four inch jump, but the antelope and kangaroo make that seem minuscule.  Our great weightlifters cannot compare to the elephant's ability.  The best human swimmers pale compared to a seal, otter or dolphin.  The highest divers seem slight compared to the eagle's or osprey's dash into the water from its height to get a fish.  Yet, it is still interesting to measure how fast, how high, how long we can go.  Thirty million+ watched the opening ceremonies.
    All our ability- is given by the design and plan of God.  We can come together to celebrate human ability- but really we are celebrating something that God gave us and that we fine tune with exercise, diet, practice, determination and prayer.

Above- Chaunte Lowe- US High Jumper

Friday, August 19, 2016

Keep Your Focus

6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
7You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. (Galatians 5:6,7)

Thoughts: Paul uses a track term- "who cut in on you to keep you from running a good race?"  Our race is not one of obedience- who can obey the best.  Rather we are all called to believe and to love.  It is not trying harder or doing more things that counts.  
    In the 100 meter relay the U.S.A. team dropped the baton.  But upon further review, they were cut in on- bumped- by a runner form Brazil.  We should keep our eyes focused on the prize.  

Prayer: Lord, let my focus be on faith and love- holding these two things together. 

  
  

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Courage

1After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2“Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites...7“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.8Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Thoughts: Laura Wilkinson was not expected to win anything at the 2000 Olympics in platform diving.  Three of the people closest to her died within a year. This was similar to the state Joshua was in.  He was grieving over the loss of his friend, Moses, but had to face a tremendous challenge anyway.   She injured her foot six months before the Olympics and could not practice.  The 10 meter dive is nerve racking.  It scares many.  Laura calls the dive "a leap of faith."  You go into the water at about 35 miles per hour and you can easily injure a shoulder or a joint.  Laura was the first woman to do a handstand before the dive, which shows a great deal of courage. In her first dive in 2000 she was in a horrible position: eighth place and with a broken foot.  Against all odds and expectations, she ended up with the first U.S. Gold in platform diving since 1964.  Laura is a person who openly believes in Jesus as her source of courage and joy.  She speaks of choosing joy regularly to the Revolve Christian Conference. She is one of the commentators for the Rio games.

What is courage?  It is facing up to hardship with strength and grace.  It is possible that evil people have courage.  Courage is not in itself good.  The hijackers at 911 had courage.  It takes courage for people who do wrong to continue to do wrong.  But godly courage is a different thing altogether.  It is a combination of a fear of God that overcomes a fear of humans or a fear of circumstances.

Prayer: Lord, give me courage to overcome my grief, my regrets, my sins by the blood and grace of Jesus Christ.





Wednesday, August 17, 2016

American Sweep- 100 meter hurdles

They that wait on the Lord will renew their strength- they shall mount up with wings like eagles.  They shall run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:31).


Brianna Rollins is a USA Olympian who ran in the 100m hurdles tonight.  She is a graduate of Clemson in 2013.  Her team mate at Clemson, Kendra Harrison, broke the world record at 12.20.  It was frustrating for Rollins to be behind Harrison for almost two years.  However, Rollins said this about her confidence and faith: "I like to think that God, he does things in our lives for a certain reason, so I felt like throughout those past two years, he was letting me grow and progress," Rollins said. "I had to become a little more humble and just learn and become a little more disciplined in the sport."  Harrison did not qualify for the USA Olympic team (running 6th).  This left the door open for Rollins.  Tonight (8/17) Rollins won the first Olympic track gold medal in Rio by an American athlete. She won the 100m hurdles.  Americans (Nia Ali and Kristii Castlin) won the silver and bronze for an American sweep.  This was the first sweep in American women track history.  All three in an interview talked about being blessed and praying for strength in the race.    


(Picture LA Times)



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Even athletes Grow Old

27Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Thoughts: Even young people- strong young people- the strongest grow weary.  The Olympians we see today- handsome and fast, will not be so handsome and fast. Below are pictures of two great American Olympians.  Mark Spitz was one of the greatest Olympians ever.  Mark Spitz won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich games- surpassed only by Michael Phelps.  He was ranked 33 of the top 50 athletes by ESPN in 1999.  Today Spitz is 66 years old (see below) and will not win any more races.  Richard Fosbury invented the famous back jump that enables people to jump higher heights- they named it the Fosbury Flop from the 1968 Mexico City games.   The most beautiful of girls will one day not be so beautiful.  The fastest get slow.  Only God never gives out of energy.  Only the eternal God never grows tires or old.  But in this life, God can give us strength and energy we do not have.  God will, raise our old bodies up to make them new- like Jesus' resurrected bodies.  We do not need to despair about slowing down and getting old.  God renews our strength and gives us eternal life.  



Monday, August 15, 2016

All things are Possible

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  (Philippians 4:13).

Thoughts: This is such a wonderful verse.  It is written in the context of handling anxiety and stress- and it says to handle these things with prayer (Philippians 4:6-8).
    Jesse Owens was one of the great heroes of the modern Olympics.  Hitler had said only the aryan (whites) would be the superior race.  Jesse was the grandson of a slave and the son of a sharecropper. He overcame tremendous odds just to get to the Olympics.  He was on Ohio State's track team but not on a scholarship.  He worked as an elevator operator to pay his way through school.  He set three world records and tied another in less than an hour in college.He had won against the odds all his life, but to win when everyone was pulling against him in the midst of Hitler's arena was a miracle.  In the long jump he fouled out his first two jumps.  His German competitor, Luz Long,  gave him a tip to help him qualify.  Jesse had a strong faith in God and commended that faith often to others.  Jesse won 4 gold medals (100m, 200m, 4 x100 m relay, and long jump).   Owens life was a roller coaster of successes and failures and bankruptcy.  In the end, people could not forget what he had done and he was able to get the ear of presidents and congressmen. He spent most of his non-business life working to help young people to choose sports as an alternative to getting into trouble (like for the Illinois Youth Commission).
     Part of  our task is to not let our past, our environment, our ups and downs to keep us from doing what we believe God has gifted us and called us to do in life.

Prayer: Lord, help me to have strength and grace.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor

1 Samuel 2:30- "Those who honor me, I will honor."

Thoughts: Eric Liddell was running in the 1924 Paris Olympics, but he withdrew from the 100 meter race because it was run on a Sunday, which went against his conscience. We have come so far from this, that it is hard for us to imagine someone who would rather keep one of the Ten Commandments than win a gold medal in the Olympics.  Liddell went on to run the 400 meter race, a race he had not really trained for- and he did it in world record time.  Someone handed his this verse before the race as a means of encouragement.  Liddell said (quoted from the 1981 movie "Chariots of Fire"), "When I run I feel His pleasure."
    Liddell went on to be a presbyterian missionary to China.  When the Japanese caught him during World War 2, Liddell was well known as a servant and preacher in the prison camp.  Today, we still remember him.  God honors him for honoring God.

Prayer: Lord, help me to honor you above all others and above all else.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Olympic Origins

6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Thoughts: Olympics originally honored pagan gods.  It disappeared as belief in these gods disappeared.  In the 1800s Jesuits tried to bring back the Olympic games but in a way that honored the Lord Jesus*.  Barron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of modern Olympics, was influenced by a movement called, "Muscular Christianity."  This was also at the height of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) that believed athleticism and morality and spirituality were meant to go together-creating social strength and a hope for peace among the nations.  Scholars indicate that De Coubertin was especially influenced by 2 Timothy 4:7- "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."  De Coubertin helped found the Athens games of 1896 upon the idea that participation is better than winning. He preferred amateur sports over professional, seeing the games as a way to have people of various classes- rich and poor- taking part at the same time.
       The fight is the good fight- not out of anger but in a way that honors God.  The race is the good race- not in a way that puts down the slow but lifts up the limits of human achievement as a way to point to the God who enables us to walk and run.  Much of this idea of peace and of class togetherness is being lost today as Olympic athletes become more and more professional.  Yet because the games do not pay much, the very rich and greedy will tend to withdraw in order to preserve their bodies to earn more money (much like why professional athletes do not try hard at all star games).   Almost as many NBA players who were invited turned down the invitation as accepted it (to be fair, most have played in previous Olympics).  


*Henri Didon was a Dominican who gave the Olympics their motto: Citius altius fortius ("Faster, higher, stronger"). 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Who Do You Race For?

6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

Thoughts: Paul knew his time was coming to a close.  But he could rejoice in how he finished.  Jesus similarly said, "It is finished" on the cross.  It is not just the end, but a good finish.  Paul was getting ready to have the door closed on his life.  
      David Boudia competed in the Beijing Olympics in diving.  He admits that he was out for his own glory and his own money. He thought if he could medal he would find happiness in life.  David finished fifth and tenth in his events and left the Olympics empty handed and empty-hearted.  He began a life of self destructive partying in college.  He called his coach one night lost.  His coach introduced him to Jesus Christ noting that Christ can give you a purpose and a reason to do your best.  David's approach to the 2012 games was totally different.  Diving was not his life, but means to honor God.  He won the gold in the 10 metre platform.  In Rio he won the silver already in the men's synchronized 10m platform.  It is one thing to live your life- or run your race for yourself.  It is another to live and run for God.  Paul found satisfaction that he had a purpose that was fulfilled in his life.  

Prayer: Lord let your purpose fill my life. May my race be run for you.  


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Preparing for the End of the Race

6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Thoughts: I will look at these important verses for the next few days.  Paul was writing this (and I believe it was indeed Paul) as an older man.  His style and his words were different- as mine are different from when I was much younger.  Paul was comparing ending his life and ministry to finishing a race or completing the fight.
     He says, "I am already being poured out like a drink offering" (cf. Numbers 15:5). The drink offering is poured out as a part of the ritual of offering a sacrifice.  Paul saw his impending martyrdom as a sacrifice to God.  Paul said many years before in Philippi - "for me to live is Christ and to die is gain."  Paul knew his time for his departure was near.
      Tonight (8/11) Ryan Lochte, who has won 12 Olympic medals in his career finished his last race at 32 years old.  He finished the second turn leading the pack, but his 32 year old body was not able to sustain the lead.  Even the strongest and fastest among us get tired and weary.  But when we know our race is finishing, there is still hope for those who believe.  It is a hope that goes beyond worldly strength.  It is a hope to see our rewarder- our greatest Judge of who we are face to face.  We do not fear the judge- for He will give us our medal!  Our departing the track (or the pool) of life is only so we can go to the stand where we will receive our reward-  before the Judge who gives it to us.  Are you living your life preparing for the end of the race?  Is your faith such that you are ready to look the judge in the face to receive your reward?  


Prayer: Lord, help me to always have hope when I am young, or when I am older.  May my hope be always on you- the Rewarder who stands at the finish line.  




Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Necessary Swim

41But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.
42The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely. (Acts 27)

Thoughts:  The other day I took my grandchildren for a swim.  We had all watched some of the Olympics and so there was pretending and dreaming we were not in the local 4 foot deep community pool.  Rather we imagined we were in Rio in the Olympic Race.
      Swimming for fun or for games reminds us of swimming for life.
      Yusra Mardini is a Christian who fled Syria who also is an Olympic swimmer.  She, like Paul in the passage above, was shipwrecked in the Mediterranean.  She and her sister and 18 other refugees were in a dinghy whose motor broke.  Mardini, her sister, and another woman jumped into the water and took turns pulling the boat for the rest of the three and a half hour journey.  Mardini is on the Olympic Refugee Swim Team.  She won her heat in the 100 meter butterfly but lost in the semi-finals.  Yet her dream was to swim in the Olympics.  God is using her story to bring glory to His name all over the world. 

Prayer: Lord, whether the world knows me, let me live for you.  Whether I win a medal or a trophy or not- let me still honor you.  


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Fast Do Not Always Win

I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn't always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn't always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don't always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

Thoughts: As I watch the Olympics, it is obvious that the best person doesn't always win. Sometimes the best person gets nervous and blows it; sometimes they get hurt; sometimes they get overlooked because the right person was not watching to see their ability.  The classic story is that the artist is starving while alive but famous after death (El Greco, Van Gogh).  Smart people may not always have a lot of money or popularity.  A 2007 Ohio State study indicated that smart people may not have any more than people with lower IQ.  Smart people may have higher income but may be in debt or made bad investments.  This seems ironic.  For the fastest, the strongest, the smartest and the most skilled it may seem unfair.  But there is more to life than just talent.  There is also a God-factor to motivate, inspire, help someone sacrifice in order to do more than they are physically capable of doing.  It is this mystery, that makes sports not totally predictable, and frankly fun.  

Prayer; Help me, Lord, to trust in you instead of in my own abilities.  Help me also to not be overawed at human abilities- which can be fickle.