Press On

Philippians 3:13,14 (ESV) Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Too often, we spend too much time looking back.  We dwell on past hurts, disappointments, failures, mistakes.  We carry a great deal of baggage that serves to weigh us down and stymie our progress.  It is true, that our past experiences shape how we behave, and our perspective on the world around us.  However, our past is not “who we are”. 

We have a tendency to dwell on our past successes and accomplishments, as well.  That is actually what Paul is analyzing for us here in Philippians.  If we allow or desire what we accomplished in the past to define “who we are”, there is no room for growth and progress.  We’ll settle.  You’ll always be as good as yesterday. 

As an archer and bowhunter, going forward from today, I could choose to do things exactly the same from here on out.  It’s working for me now, why reach.  I accomplished this, I filled this tag, climbed that mountain, back when.  Or, I can remain open minded, willing to press forward, seek new methods, techniques and equipment.  I can choose to expand the variety of game I pursue, the competitions I attend, the mountains I climb.  In doing so, I will find that some of the things I know are right, some of the things I do work.  I will also find new methods that work better, gain greater insight and become a more well rounded, experienced archer and bowhunter.  I will improve, mature. 

So it is when it comes to our spiritual maturation.  If you are content with, “this works, I accomplished this in the past, this is who I am”, what possible hope for growth and greater intimate understanding of our Lord can one possibly hope for?  Answer… NONE!  Press on!  Have a blessed weekend.

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace   

Born Again

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17

When have you felt the most alive?  Maybe you can still remember a moment that is frozen in time and feels like it was just yesterday.  Many of us remember moments around when we graduate, are born again, get married, have a child, celebrate with friends, or experience the death of a loved one.  Some of these things are planned, and some catch us by surprise.  The moments we remember that are most meaningful to us are usually tied to a strong emotion such as extreme joy, fear, sadness, or even peace.  How do these moments shape your life?

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  James 4:14

One big day for us we may not remember is the day we were born.  Just 5 days ago, I had the opportunity to welcome a new person into the world, as my wife gave birth to our daughter.  While she was not new to us, as we had talked to her and prayed for her several months prior, she is now a much greater responsibility and joy to interact with each day.  Holding her for the first time in my hands brought up thoughts and emotions that I had never experienced before.  A new life is definitely a life changer.  It also made me jump down the road 5, 20, or 40 years to what the future might hold for this little girl, as I asked God to look after her and bless her in ways that I would not be able to do.  I asked Him to use me in whatever way would bring about His will for her.  It humbles me to think of what lies ahead, all expectations aside.  This was a moment for me. 

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Psalm 46:10

People can spend their whole lives chasing experiences, trying to make it from one thrill to the next to fill the emptiness in between, and in doing so miss much of the full experience of life that God offers us.    My greatest thrill during my failed attempts to surf were not in catching a big wave, but just in lying on the board and taking in the world all around me as I moved with the waves.  A term used fairly loosely today is the word ‘mindfulness’, which means an awareness of something, or oneself, and is often tied to practices like meditation.  A similar, but different, take on this is a focus not on oneself, but others, and notably on God, which Brother Lawrence outlines in ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’.  You can experience God’s presence with you not just in the peaks of life, but in the valleys and day-to-day routines as well.  Can a life have significance without acknowledgement or interaction with God?  Have you visited with God today? 

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

While it is good to celebrate unique experiences and milestones in life, we also realize that life is more than just these things.  One feeling that most fills my heart during these times is gratitude – an appreciation of what God has done for me, and others, in any given moment.  One speaker termed this ‘appreciation love’.  When we regularly, and sincerely, give thanks to God for all things in life, we live life with a greater awareness for what He has done and is actively doing in our lives and the world around us.  An attitude of gratitude helps us be more aware of opportunities to share with others, the love that God has shown to us. 

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Dirty Theology

Sever months ago, I was invited to go on a trail run with a friend.  He rans with several runners.  I am not much of a runner, so when they took off I gave everything I had to keep up.  It was a dry day, and their trail shoes threw tons of dust.  There were 4 of them and they were all ahead of me.  So 4 peoples worth of dust cloud lingered infront of me. I already couldn’t breath from running, now add their dust to this and I think I am running in hell.  By the time I got home I looked like I had fallen and rolled in the dust. 

The word “disciple” was a common word in Jesus day.  Everyone went to school until they were 10. The smart ones were invited to another 8 years of school where they would memorize our old testament, while the rest went to learn the family business.  Then at the end of the 8 years, they ask a rabbi if they can be their disciple.  The word disciple comes from the greek work Diakonis, which mean to be “caught in the dust.”  They only had dirt roads and if you traveled close enough to someone you would be covered in their dust.  So when an 18 year old would ask to be a rabbi’s disciple. He was asking to follow them so closely that they would always be covered in their dust.  They would talk like their rabbi. Teach like them. Live like them. 

Matthew 9:9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.

Being a disciple of a rabbi was only for the most intelligent and when the rabbi believed you truly could be their disciple.  So when Jesus invites 12 men to be His disciples, everyone was floored.  Rabbis did not ask and the 12 had already been told they were not good enough.  Jesus was making a huge statement!  You are good enough to be my disciple and I choose you.  Then Jesus invited all of us to be His disciple.  

I am here to tell you that Jesus chose you and you are good enough to “be caught in His dust.”  He was able to look at you through the lens of grace and see you as you could be not just as you are. When He looks at you, he does not see your brokenness and sin.  He sees you as He designed you to be and invites you to become that person as you are caught up in His dust.

So I encourage you to follow Jesus, obey Jesus, worship Jesus, and like Jesus so closely that you are caught up in His dust.  May you ever be caught up in the dust of your rabbi!

Recklessly, obsessively following Jesus

Brandon Sereg

Ending Friendly Fire

A lot has changed in ministry since the days of Jesus, Peter, and Paul (like the fact I can write in Nicaragua, hit “Publish,” and instantly share it with the world). Here’s one extremely unfortunate constant: the body of Christ continues to fight against itself. The problem has been with the Church since the beginning. The religious leaders did not like what Jesus was teaching, and eventually had him killed for it. Jesus’ own Disciples disagreed with one another, jockeyed for position, and even rebuked Jesus. In the years after the resurrection debates waged over leadership, circumcision, who the gospel should be preached to, worship, etc. When we read the letters of the Apostle Paul we quickly see that he was constantly having to “put out fires” in church after church. And the history of the church does not exactly get better after Bible times! As one of my seminary professors put it, the history of the church can be summed up like this: 2,000 years of humans trying to tear apart what Christ built. 

Yes, the Church has accomplished MANY great things in the name of Christ over the past 2,000 years. I love the Church and the impact it has had, and continues to have. But, my heart also breaks for all the fighting that occurs. I’m guessing I don’t need to offer a detailed explanation about fighting in the church, as you’ve all likely experienced it firsthand. I’ve come to the conclusion that we all have two options in the face of this problem: we can keep complaining about, it or we can start being part of the solution. Paul lays out the basics of the solution:

Speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy. And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.  Titus 3:2-5, 14

Let me break that down for us into some simple points 

  1. Remember the belief we all share: that Jesus died to save us. That uniting belief is much greater then any disagreement we may have. 
  2. Never speak poorly of others. Correct if you must (with love and respect), but never seek to tear down and cause hurt. 
  3. Love and respect should govern our interactions. We can (and will) disagree on a host of things, but that should never lead us to stop loving others or showing them the respect they deserve as brothers and sisters in Christ 
  4. Remember that we are to do good works and to be fruitful. Stop getting lost in preferences, and always focus on bearing fruit for God’s Kingdom. 

Let us strive to strengthen the Body of Christ so that it can truly be a shining light for God on this earth. 

Are You A Light Shiner?

Matthew 5:14 New International Version (NIV)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

This actually could be Part 2 from my last Monday’s devotional. Jesus is telling the crowd and his disciples to be both salt and light. If you, up to this portion of Scripture in the Greek is says, “You and you alone are the light of the world.” 

As men, we are called to be in the shining business. We are lights in an unbelieving world. So you might be asking, “How do I let my light shine?” The answer is by living the Gospel. That means we live a separated, holy, Biblical life. This means we refuse to live worldly. That means we live a Spirit-filled life.

To be a light shiner for Jesus will require every man to step into action. You will have to make a conscious effort every morning. I often will make this prayer, “Jesus, put someone in my path that I can shed your light into their life.” Then be ready for the encounters.

Even today, as I was writing this devotional, I was sent out to return some props we used this past week. The women who owned the props said that her husband have Harleys. She said that her husband was not much on going to church. So, I invited her and her husband to join us on our Vital Bikers Couples Ride.

The action step was being aware of what she said with her circumstances and looking for an opportunity to shed light. The Holy Spirit is always willing to help those who walk in a Spirit-filled life.

Take action today, men, and be a Light Shiner.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

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