Heroism

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  John 15:13 NKJV

This is certainly a very familiar verse to many Christians.  It is quoted often, especially when praising heroic actions of soldiers, law enforcement, emergency response and good samaritans.  It’s true.  It’s written in red, spoke from Jesus’ lips.  Jesus Himself succeeds in this ultimate act of heroism, laying down His physical life in defense of ours.  No greater love!  

This verse has been repeatedly coming to my attention for several weeks now.  It has come in a number of media forms, and various context.  I have read this verse, discussed this verse, studied this verse, examined the context and pondered the possibilities.  

I think most of the folks reading this devotion, could with confidence and conviction, state that they would be willing to lay down their life in the defense of another.  There is no doubt Jesus is speaking of such an act in this verse.  Sacrifice your life, so that another can live.   

My study and meditation over the past few weeks has brought me to an additional perspective.  I believe that Jesus is also referencing another form of death, a figurative one, that is no less heroic.  That is to “die to self”.  To sacrifice your physical life to save another’s is certainly a noble act and I would never diminish that.  However, equally noble is taking up your cross, dying to sin and self, so that you can have life and help lead others from death to life through Jesus Christ.  

Romans 6:10 (NKJV)  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 

I believe John 15:13 is as much about the spiritual sacrificial death, as the physical.  After all, what greater service can one provide another, than allowing God to use you to lead another to Jesus?  There is none greater.  That’s our mission.    

Die to sin, confess, repent and continue forward a champion and example of Jesus’ love, grace and mercy. It is imperative to put the needs, physical and spiritual, of those around you ahead of your own.  To the husbands and fathers reading this, lead your family in the way of the Lord.  Lead by example.  Share quality time with your family, share the bible, admit when you fail, love them, guide them, teach them. Die to sin and self, put others first, so that they may live in the fullness of the Lord, due to the example God provides through your sacrificial death.  So often it’s merely a matter of doing what you may not want to do, or not doing what you may want to, proceeding in a course of action that you know to be right and life giving to another.  Living a life glorifying God in word and action, being a Godly example is a tremendous act of heroism and love.  

I pray if the moment should come and I’m faced with the decision to defend another’s life to my own death, that I would respond quickly, resolutely and without hesitation.  In the mean time, I have the opportunity to die every day, in my day to day, that others may live.  Whether dying in the flesh or dying to sin and self for the life of another, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this”.  I will challenge myself and all of you to go forth today, remember John 15:13 and “die to self”.  Save a life today!  God bless you!

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace  

Too Fast?

 

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,  so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18

For most of us the question is if we fast more than when we fast. Giving up food for spiritual reasons is not something we see much of anymore, especially in places where food is easy to get. Many of us are living life too fast to give up much of anything, but always seem to be seeking to add more to our already too busy plate. Taking a break from one or more of those things may be the best prescription, and help us realize that less can be more beneficial.

“Well, you know, I’m actually giving up watching TV commercials for Lent, that’s why I’m going to binge season 4 of my favorite show.” “Oh, really, I’m giving up chocolate on Tuesday nights.” While some things may seem trite, whether we give up any type of food, entertainment, social media, or other indulgence, only we know the degree to which the sacrifice we make is meaningful in our lives. Bragging about what we are giving up kind of misses the point of the verses we read in Matthew. If we want our spouse or a friend to hold us accountable, that may be helpful if we need encouragement. We can believe any small or large sacrifice to be significant, but only God knows our hearts true motive, regardless of what others think.  

We are reminded by Richard J. Foster in Celebration of Discipline about the point of fasting or any other spiritual discipline:   “We must always remember that the path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur.” So, the process of fasting is to create a greater hunger for God in our lives, not just to check fasting off our list of spiritual things to do. We might say, I would never intentionally stand in front of people looking ragged and seek their attention when fasting. But don’t we do the same with our words, when we seek the attention of others? That is what Christ was addressing when he talked about prayer, fasting, and other spiritual practices, as they were more matters of the heart, not just outward appearances.  When we try to make fasting easy, we miss the whole point. It is difficult, a sacrifice, which makes it significant.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

I would encourage you to give up something for Lent, even if for the wrong reasons. Hopefully, you will grow closer to God through the experience, and be challenged when you evaluate the reasons for what you do and the decisions you are making. I already know I am overdue for an inventory, and giving up some meals over the next 40 days will only serve to help me accomplish that. May you be blessed in the small and large sacrifices you make each day, and in doing so, may you grow in love toward Christ and each person you encounter from one hour to the next.

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

Don’t Remove Ancient Boundries

Proverbs 22:28 Don’t cheat your neighbor by moving the ancient boundary markers set up by previous generations.

Right now in the USA there are major reforms in immigration.  Controlling our borders is a major issue.  Many wars have been waged over borders and ancient boundary markers.  Land means money. Boundaries mean control.  However they also mean security. Though annoying, security in the airport is a big deal, and I am very grateful it is taken seriously. 

God has set up some major ancient boundaries when it comes to our sexual lives:

#1- No Sex Before Marriage 
Sex was God’s idea designed for marriage.  1 Thessalonians 4:1-5 encourages us to stay away from sexual sin and control our own bodies. When I do premarital counseling with a couple who is having sex, it is very different from the one who is not.  The wedding day is different.  It is pure!

#2- No Dating or Marrying Unbelievers
2 Corinthians 6:14 There are not good people and bad people.  There are only lost people and found people.  Lost people still walk in darkness, and as believers we are to share Jesus with them but not be pursuing intimate relationship with them. 

#3- Homosexuality is a Sin
Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Homosexuality is not the “unpardonable” sin, in fact it is not greater than lust, pornography, or sex before marriage. It is still a sin, and, like all sexual sin, it has the power to destroy you.  God is working for you, and the enemy is working to destroy you.  

#4- No Sexual Touching (outside of marriage)
1 Corinthians 7:1. In teenage world, I get asked all the time “How far is too far?”  What they are really asking is how close to sin can I get without making God angry and making me feel guilty. The better question is how far from sin can I get, to not get caught in its trap?  Also, masturbation alway has lust attached to it, and Jesus said lust is the same as adultery. Run from sexual sin!

#5-No Lustful Thinking
Matthew 5:27-28, Job 31:1, 2 Timothy 2:22. Purity is about the heart and not just our hands.  In sexual sin, people ALWAYS get hurt.  This is not a victimless crime!  Run from sexual sin, stop feeding your sinful nature.  

#6- Avoid Immoral Friends
1 Corinthians 5:9. Do not have friendship with people who claim to follow Jesus and live sexually immoral lives.  Notice I did not talk about people who do not claim to follow Jesus. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.  The closest people you have to you shape the most important parts of your life. 

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Being a Vital Man is impossible if you do not RUN FROM SEXUAL SIN! Go be Vital

Brandon Sereg

Making others Better

I’ve come to the opinion that cookies are able to simultaneously be the absolute best and worst things for me. They are the best because, let’s face it, a really good, warm, and fresh chocolate chip cookie is just about the best thing there is. On the flip side, however, is the fact that eating just four of these scrumptious creations blows my ENTIRE calorie allotment for the day. Every time I see an awesome looking plate of cookies I’m faces with that tension of I know it’s a wonderful thing, but I also know it can be a bad thing if I’m not careful.

As crazy as it may sounds, our relationships (friendships, marriages, work, etc.) can be very similar. Few things in this life are better then a thriving relationship. A solid relationship can make you better in so many ways, offering you encouragement, helping you through difficulty, drawing your nearer to Christ, and answering questions. A bad relationship, however, can lead to immense pain, conflict, and more. In fact, broken relationships may be the number one non-medical related problem I see people really struggling with in life is relationships.

While relationships can take on many facets and be incredibly complicated, let me offer up one piece of advice today: the overall goal and focus of every relationship we are in is to make the other person better. The point of a relationship should never be about what we get out of it, but about what we are giving to others. If we all adopted this view of relationships we would rather quickly see the extinction of gossip, slander, betrayal, bruised feelings, and the like. Philippians 2:3 puts it like this:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

Relationships can be one of the greatest aspects of our lives, or one of the worst. To make the most out of them heed Paul’s advice in Philippians and make the goal of every relationship not the betterment of yourself, but the betterment of others.

What About Honor?

 

1 Peter 2:17 New International Version

17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

 

Peter tells us to honor those who are in authority over us. This includes a mayor, a governor, and the president. We need to remember the fact that God gives all governing authorities.

I am especially reminded of this as we head into this year’s presidential election. I am mindful that our vote is a privilege and honor that we have been given from our founding fathers in the beginning of our nation.

It is essential for us to know of the candidates and what they stand for. We need to know who they are as a person. We need to know their previous stances in how they have voted. Every election is important. It is our American right to vote, and it is a good right.

I would encourage us all to look at the person we vote for as to their Christian beliefs and what kind of a family person they are. This speaks volumes into the honor of such a high position as president.

Remember that honor is not always about awards, wealth, political clout, worldly power, or celebrity status. Those who seek and thrive at the world’s honor are not mindful of things of God. It becomes all about them. 1 Peter 5:6 says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’

I like the quote, ‘A man who would die for something has everything to live for’. 

Jesus did that as the Son of Man. Jesus is the ultimate authority and a man of great honor.

Let’s be Vital Men and respect those who are in authority over us. Let’s be ‘In the Know’ as we seek the next person who will be in authority over us as president of our country. Keep in mind the characteristics of being humble before our Lord Jesus Christ.

Strength and Courage

Mike

 

 

 

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