|By Perseverance the Snail Reached the Ark|
In the classic movie, Chariots of Fire, the champion sprinter, Harold Abrahams, was sulking over a first time defeat. Finding his way to some nearby bleachers, he sat down and spiraled into depression. Seeing his condition, his girlfriend tried to lift his spirits. Refusing to be comforted, he cried out, “If I can’t win I won’t run!” To which she wisely replied, “If you don’t run you can’t win!” Abrahams went on to win the hundred meter run in the 1924 Olympics and took home a gold medal. Abrahams won his race because he persevered when tempted to quit.
In out text, James tells us that trials are actually blessings disguised as problems. They are allowed by God for the purpose of teaching us to persevere. Once perseverance is branded into our character, we experience spiritual maturity. Perseverance enables us to keep on keeping on with a victorious attitude and a joyful heart.
twithout perseverance you and I will faint in the way and never reach God’s best.
This is why the Bible encourages, “So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest” (Galations 6:9). The temptation comes to us all to give up, walk away, and say “If I can’t win, I won’t run.” This is when we must learn to take our cue from the greatest Perseverer of all, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross!” (Hebrews12:2).
Jesus refused to quit the race even though the dark and gory cross awaited Him. Instead, He focused on “the joy that was set before Him.” Jesus’ eyes were locked in on what lay on the other side of His suffering, and He persevered on.
In the days following the invention of electricity, the effort got under way to provide this wonderful new power source to all of the towns and places that had been built when folks depended solely on candle and lantern power for light. First one town and then another experienced the miracle of flipping a switch to experience immediate light and power!
But for the electricians doing all the work, the process of getting power to the next town was often daunting. Time and again they were forced to cut wide swaths through densely wooded forests. Hills and mountains were laboriously crossed in order to reach their destination. They encountered wild animals and poisonous snakes on a regular basis. Indeed, the task sometimes seemed impossible. Many quit.
But those who successfully got the job done soon hit on a key. Rather than focusing on the vast distance and difficult obstacles, they broke their job down into bite size chunks. Their motto became, “Dig a hole, set a pole, string a wire.” In other words, We don’t have to go all the way from A to Z in one day,” they thought. Today we shall be content to dig a few holes, set a few poles, and string a little more wire!
This new viewpoint enabled them to view their task in a way that made it doable. The fact is we often lose our perseverance because we’re focused on the entire project rather than a “one day at a time” approach. We view our trial in its entirety and say, “No way I will ever get through this.” But the best approach is to say, “Today I will dig a hole, set a pole, and string a wire. I may not reach the end, but I will get one hole, one pole, and one wire closer!”
One day those early pioneers would dig their final hole, set the last pole, and string the last wire and the town lit up! It’s the same with you and me. As we persevere with a “one day at a time” attitude, we finally reach our destination. The power of God is released into our situation and the victory comes. So don’t give up. You may be digging your last hole, setting your last pole, and stringing your last wire today!
|Skunked: How Offenses Can Ruin Your Life|
Poor Ollie knew he’d been hit with something uniquely awful. On leaning down to get a closer look, I found that he’d been sprayed in the face, which burned his eyes and made him sneeze so much I feared he might wheeze his brains out. He began rubbing his nose into our rug before it dawned on me that whatever he touched transferred the vile smell, leaving it wafting from the floor like some horrific cologne.
Did I mention this happened at around midnight? Stores closed. No one to call. What to do? I remembered hearing something about soaking the victim of a skunk in tomato paste, of which we had none. By now the entire house was reeking with the revolting, omnipresent smell. Ollie stood there looking like Pepe Lepew. Skunked he was! The only real solution at hand was to take him out back (first checking thoroughly for the original perpetrator) and shampooing him down within an inch of his life. Looking like a drowned and somber rat, we brought his little bed into the living room, closed the door, and let him seriously ponder the consequences of having lunged at a skunk.
Ollie’s experience brings to mind a man I once met while conducting an evangelistic outreach in a popular Dallas park one hot summer day. I was there with a band, ready to play some fully amped up music, after which I was to step to the mike and bring a gospel message. I was nervous, having never done anything quite like this before. Enough people were milling around to attract a pretty good sized crowd. What if I bored them? Or they walked away after realizing what I was saying?
Joe approached right about then. “Whatcha up to?” he asked with a mischievous sort of smile on his face. Joe was an older man, bald, sharp featured, and short. He sported large, brown eyes with big, bushy eyebrows that furrowed down when he wasn’t smiling, making you wonder if he was mad or just studying you in a scrutinizing kind of way. I told him we were there to play some songs and share the gospel. “Want a sno-cone?” he suddenly asked. Just the ticket! “Sure,” I said, as we began strolling toward the sno-cone stand on the other side of the park.
So Joe, are you a member of a church? I asked, trying to find some common ground with him. It was here that I encountered a skunk of a different kind—the skunk of an offense. “I don’t go to church!” Joe shot back. Realizing I’d stepped on a land mine, I asked quietly “Why not?” From there I heard the story of Joe and his former pastor locking horns in a hot disagreement. Incredibly, the spat had ended with blows. Ouch!
Ever the restorative type, I thought that maybe I could get Joe and the pastor together and mediate the situation. “Where is your pastor now?” I ventured to ask. “I don’t know!” Joe retorted again, his eyes spitting venom. Then the bomb. “I haven’t seen him in 24 years!” Twenty four years!
Standing there speechless, the truth of it all washed over me like a tidal wave. Joe had been “skunked” by an offense twenty four years before, and it had sucked the spiritual life out of him like a spiritual vampire. He had not darkened the door of a church in all that time. His spiritual potential had been dwarfed. His adult life was defined, not by Jesus, but by an offense. A spiritual tragedy stood before me.
My encounter with Joe lingered like skunk spray long after he was gone. A lifelong message burned itself into my soul that day. Never allow an offense to have longer than a 24 hour shelf life. No person, place or thing is worth the heavy toll of an unsettled offense. The best time to forgive is quickly. Even if you don’t feel it (and you usually won’t) you can say it. Let the offender go. Give him or her to God. Focus on the brightness of your future, not the offenses of your past. God will help you do it! “And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” —Ephesians 4:26
There is a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
There is nothing sadder than to see the number of families in our country where no father is present. Never have more American children lived in a single-parent home minus their dads than today. But the good news is, where earthly men fail, God takes up the slack!
“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take care of me.”--Ps. 27:10
When I think about the “Fatherhood” of God, several characteristics come to mind. First, God is a willing Father. We are told that Jesus prayed in the Garden, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me.” If I had been God, I’d have whisked my Son out of there that very moment. But because of the Father’s great love, He was willing to let His Son die on the cross for you and me. That is a willingness I cannot comprehend. But thank God, He was willing!
Second, God is a weeping Father. He weeps over our sins. When Jesus stood looking out over Jerusalem, He saw the handwriting on the wall. Because they had rejected their Messiah, the clouds of judgment were already forming on the horizon. Jesus wept over them, saying: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you willing.”—Matthew 23:37 Likewise, our Heavenly Father’s heart is broken every time we walk away from Him into sin.
And third, our Heavenly Father is a waiting Father. When the Prodigal Son demanded his inheritance and set off for the far country, the father in Jesus’ parable patiently waited. He knew that one day his boy would awaken to the folly of his decision and long to return home. The father waited. Not with folded arms or angry brow, but with longing eyes and loving heart his eyes were peeled on the horizon. So our Heavenly Father patiently waits for us to return to His arms.
Our Heavenly Father is a willing, weeping, and waiting Father Who loves us more than our finite minds can possible imagine. Wherever our earthly father may be, we can thank God that we have an awesome Heavenly Father to rejoice in today!
I love mixed nuts. Put a bowl of them near me and I can’t resist. Cashews, almonds, pecans, Spanish peanuts, walnuts—the whole nine yards, I love them all. They are “good fat,” I’m told. In fact, I love a lot of things mixed. Even more transparently, I love to mix up my cereal with two or three different kinds at the same time. Variety is the spice of life!
But there is one thing we should never enjoy in a mixed condition—our faith in Jesus Christ when “mixed” in with other “faiths.” One good example would be a new erroneous movement currently afoot in America dubbed “Chrislam.” Chrislam is the misguided attempt to combine Christianity with Islam with the intent of “embracing in love” those of other “faiths” that we might all have peace. (Peace at that price is a no good peace.)
How prevalent is Chrislam? Prevalent enough that dozens of Christian churches, from Park Hill Congregational in Denver to Hillview United Methodist in Boise, Idaho, and First United Lutheran in San Francisco to St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church in Honolulu are planning to send "a message both here at home and to the Arab and Muslim world about our respect for Islam" by incorporating a time to read the Quran during worship this Sunday (today).
Imagine that! In professedly Christian churches throughout America, tragically misguided ministers will stand in their pulpits and read from a book filled with orders to kill “infidels” (that would be us), that encourages pedophilia (Qur'an 65:4 and several other verses), and that was penned by a false prophet. God help us. This is one mix from which we must flee in terror!
The Bible repeatedly warns last-day believers of this very thing. Paul wrote, “The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some people will turn away from the faith. They will pay attention to spirits that deceive and to the teaching of demons” (1 Tim 4:1).
And again Paul prophesied of our day, “There will come a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will collect teachers who say what they want to hear because they are self-centered. They will turn their back on the truth and turn to myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4).
Jude also warned, “Godless people have slipped in among you. They turn the grace of our God into unrestrained immorality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Judgment was passed against them a long time ago” (vs.4).
Chrislam is the perfect example of what the Holy Spirit has warned us against in Jude 3. Dear church, the time has arrived to “fight for the faith delivered once and for all to God’s holy people.” Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life. Let’s tell the world like we’ve never told them before!
|Can You Hear It?|
The story is told of a young man who grew up in the country, far away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It was quiet out there in the country. The daily sounds that greeted his ears were the moos of cows, the songs of birds, and the gentle rustle of the wind as it blew through the massive trees. And at night there was another sound—the chirping of the crickets. In the middle of the summer there were so many that they sounded like an other-world symphony, their song rising and falling in perfect harmony, as if keeping time to the beat of some distant drum.
The day finally arrived for the young man to leave it all and head for college. With bags in hand and a lump in his throat, the country boy kissed his parents goodbye and headed for the big city. He was greeted by a very different world indeed. People rushed everywhere. Horns honked and lights flashed. It wasn’t long before the young man’s nerves sat on edge. He remembered fondly the majestic woods, slower pace, and the familiar sounds.
With time he made a few friends. They certainly weren’t the type his mother would have smiled upon. They liked to drink, carouse, curse, and party, seemingly without end. Peer pressure began to wear him down until he found himself going places and doing things that shocked even him.
Then one night, as he and one of his new friends walked down the street toward yet another wild party, the young man stopped in his tracks. Grabbing his friend’s arm he said, “Do you hear that?” His friend cocked his ear. “I don’t hear a thing!” he snapped. But the young man insisted, “I do. It’s right up there.” He pointed to some stairs leading to a second story porch bedecked with flowers and a couple of chairs.
Leaving his friend behind, the young man resolutely climbed up to the porch. There it was, huddled in the corner; a cricket chirping with all its might. He had heard what his friend could never have heard because he’d never come to intimately know the cricket’s chirp. Tears filled the young man’s eyes. That one lone sound had brought back to him all the memories of his boyhood. Convicted in his heart for his wayward lifestyle, he returned home to rediscover his soul.
Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me.” Sometimes when we wander away, we may suddenly hear something those around us don’t. It is the voice you came to know intimately in days past—the voice of Jesus calling you home. Follow it!