Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Blessed by Discipline

"Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law;"  Psalm 94:12

Does this verse feel like an oxymoron?  "Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord,".

If you're like me, you hate being disciplined.  You hate the idea of being disciplined.  Yet we all applaud well disciplined people.  "Wow!  Your kids are so well behaved."  "That team plays a discipline style of basketball."  We appreciate the idea that well disciplined individuals and groups are better off than undisciplined individuals and groups; so, why don't we appreciate the Lord's discipline?

When I think of discipline, I think of getting a spanked or grounded.  When I think of discipline, I think of punishment.  But my fiance Christine made an excellent point a few weeks ago while we were reading Hebrews 12.  She said that discipline does not necessarily equal punishment.

Discipline does not necessarily equal punishment.

With this in mind Psalm 94:12 makes a lot more sense.  "Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law;"  See, this isn't a sentence with two main points, it is one thought.

A parent can discipline a child not to play in the street by simply saying, "Don't play in the street."  Parents don't wait for their children to frolic in traffic and then beat them to teach them not to play in the street.  Parents discipline their children through their teaching and through their lifestyle.

God is no different.  When God is teaching us His law He is disciplining us.  Now, does God also punish us?  Absolutely, but as a wise Father that is not His first resort in discipline.  God teaches us His law to discipline us for our good.

Look at the next verse.  "... you grant him relief from days of trouble, till a pit is dug for the wicked."  Psalm 94:13.

See, God disciplines us through His law in order to keep us from trouble.  And much more than that, he will dig a pit from the wicked.  God will destroy wickedness because our trouble doesn't just come from our own wickedness.  Our trouble can also come from living in a wicked, unrighteous world.  God disciplines us now to help remove us from trouble and He will soon rise up against wickedness to remove us from every trouble once and for all.

"Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law; you grant him relief from days of trouble, till a pit is dug for the wicked."  Psalm 94:12-13

Embrace the discipline from God's Word before you endure unnecessary days of trouble and punishment.  Do yourself a favor and live your life according to God's Word today.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

10 Signs of a Mature Christian

Today let's look at some signs of a mature Christian.  These signs can be found in Hebrews chapter 13.  Please take time to read this chapter.

Mature Christians are:

1) Loving toward their local church body.
"Keep on loving each other as brothers" Hebrews 13:1
A healthy church will be full of love for one another.  You will never enter a healthy church and feel widespread animosity amongst those worshipping there.  Mature Christians love one another.

2) Hospitable.
"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2
Mature Christians realize that their stuff is not their stuff.  Mature Christians view their possessions as tools in the service of God and others.  They will be hospitable, and hospitality is a high virtue in the Word from Genesis to Revelation.

3) Empathetic.
"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."  Hebrews 13:3
Mature Christians feel the heartbreak of others and do something about it.  Now, we can't all feel heartbreak for everyone, but if your heart isn't broke because of some sort of suffering I'll venture to say you need to grow in Christian maturity.

4) Honorers of marriage.
"Marriage should be honored by all,"  Hebrews 13:4
Marriage is to be kept pure.  If you are sleeping around, before or after marriage, you have much room to grow in Christ.  Also, singles are to honor marriage.  This means to honor your spouse before you meet them, and to help married couples by honoring their marriage.  Maybe you could offer to watch their children so they can have a date night, for example.  All mature Christians honor marriage because it is a picture of Christ and the Church.

5) Content.
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  Hebrews 13:5
This one is tough.  We are not to be like everyone else in the rat race for more and better stuff.  We are to be content because mature Christians have the mature belief that God is more than enough to fulfill every need and want we have.

6) Rooted in sound doctrine.
"Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings."  Hebrews 13:9
Mature Christians know the orthodox teachings of the Bible and can spot or sniff out things outside of that.  Above that, they don't get carried away by strange ideas even if they take the time to hear them out.

7) Prone to think of the Kingdom of God.
"For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come."  Hebrews 13:14
Mature Christians realize that the things of this world will pass away and only what's done in the name of Christ will last.  Mature Christians think on an eternal time scale when they consider their priorities.  They know what lasts forever and what is like dust in the wind.

8) Continually offering a sacrifice of praise.
"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise... the fruit of lips that confess His name." Hebrews 13:15
Mature Christians confess the name of Jesus without shame.  Do you do this, or are you shy to confess that Jesus is your Lord and Savior?  Until we are bold confessors of His name we have room to grow.

9) Good followers.
"Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.  They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.  Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."  Hebrews 13:17
Mature Christians realize that their leaders in the Church must give an account to God for their souls.  This is serious business!  Mature Christians are good followers.  Do you follow the leaders in your church in a way that makes leading you a joy or a burden?  Do you pray for them?  Unless leading you is a joy you have not entered into complete Christian maturity.

10) Doers of good.
May the God of peace... equip you with everything good for doing His will,"  Hebrews 13:20-21
Mature Christians do good things in accordance with God's perfect will.  Good things don't make you mature; rather, a mature Christian realizes he/she has been given the opportunity to do good by God and he/she chooses to do good.

Do these ten things describe you?  I'm doubting any of you can say 'yes' perfectly.  Find the one that you need to work on and grow in that aspect of your race toward Christ.  But remember, Hebrews is first and foremost about the supremacy of God's grace through Christ Jesus.

Grace be with you all today.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Surprise for Christine

Today I got the chance to finally surprise my fiancĂ© Christine with the song she's going to walk down the aisle to.  She had no idea what the surprise was until I announced it and played the song this morning on the air. 

Thank you Kat Bell for playing piano, Cody Drilling for playing the 12 string guitar and Austin Mittelstadt for recording and producing the song for me.  You guys made it easy to sing.

Here is the link to my station's website to hear the announcement and the song.  (This link won't be available forever.  If you're reading this long after this post it will likely not be available.)

Thank you Christine for being a blessing in my life today.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Running the Race

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

This blog is called Running the Race for a reason and these verses are part of the reason.  So, obviously this is a chapter of Hebrews that is going to be fun for me to write about.  Today I want to focus on a few ways to run the race successfully.

1) Remember we aren't the first people to run this race.
Hebrews chapter 11 is known as something of a faith hall of fame.  Hebrews chapter 12 begins with the word "therefore".  The therefore is there for the purpose of helping us remember that we aren't the first to run this race.  Others have run the race with great success; knowing this should inspire us to keep on running because it can be done.

2) Throw off hindrances.
The writer of Hebrews says hindrances and sin.  I think he does this because hindrances aren't necessarily bad things.  To run the race well we need to prioritize.  Many a good thing will keep us from God things.  We need to prioritize our lives to maximize the strengths God designed in us.  Throw off hindrances to run the race well.

3) Remove sins.
Sin trips us up.  The writer of Hebrews says that sin entangles us, we get caught up in sin.  This is because unlike hindrances that may weight us down sin is actually out to destroy us.  If we don't remove sin we will be strangled by it.  If we don't remove sin, we will stop running the race.

4) Run with perseverance.
The race toward Christlikeness is not a sprint; it is a marathon.  In our lives we may slow down, but we are never to stop moving toward Christ.  Our race may become a walk or a crawl, but Christians are called to move forward.  We must persevere.  Perseverance is one of the cornerstones of our faith, so keep on keeping on.

5) Fix your eyes on Jesus.
We are told at first that the saints of old are our motivation, but above and beyond that our motivation is Christ Jesus our Lord.  Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith and He is the goal of our faith.  We run toward Jesus.  Like a greyhound runs toward the rabbit on the track we too are to run toward Jesus with abandon.  Jesus Christ has blazed the trail for us.  He marked the race for us.  We aren't left guessing what route our race goes.  We don't have to search for some secret personal calling when running the race.  Not at all, we are called to run the race marked out for us by fixing our eyes on Jesus.  This means we run toward Jesus and no runner can run blindly, so fix your eyes on the prize.

Hebrews chapter 12 is packed with even more great truths so please read it.  But above all I want you to remember to run your race today.  Even if you only take a few steps, even if you walk rather than run, continue to move toward Christlikeness.  Run with perseverance the race marked out for you today.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

By Faith

Take time to read Hebrews chapter 11.  This chapter has come to be known as a kind of faith hall of fame.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  Hebrews 11:1

I'm sure many of you are familiar with this verse about faith.  "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  We see from this verse that faith leads us to certainty.  We can know for certain that our faith in God will not fail us.  We have a certain hope, not a "Well, it'd be nice if it happened" hope.

We have hope and certainty through faith because of the One we have faith in not because of our efforts.  Amen!  Hallelujah!

But what about all the verses that follow Hebrews 11:1?  Many of these verses speak of great men and women who had faith and effort commingled.  Let's take one example.

"By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built a great ark to save his family."  Hebrews 11:7

Noah had faith and made an amazing amount of effort.  Noah built an ark that was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high.  How did Noah do this?  Hebrews said he did it by faith.  I'm stealing this from my friend Harold; but Noah didn't pray a prayer of great faith and have an ark miraculously appear.  No!  Noah spent years building this big 'ole boat with his bare hands and the help of his sons while being ridiculed no doubt.

Noah had faith according to Hebrews chapter 11 but we can see from Genesis chapter 6 that Noah had to work in response to his faith.

So, is faith achieved through works?  No.  But faith without works in not faith.

"... faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."  James 2:17

"As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."  James 2:26

Our faith is not found in our works.  Our faith is exclusively found in the person of God Three in One.  And if we have genuine faith and trust in the sovereign Lord of the universe we will operate more like Him each day.  We will do works by faith.  Why?  Because the One who began to change us to be more like Him will not stop until He is done, and we can have faith in that.  And sometimes exercising faith involves effort, ask Noah.

Walk by faith.  Be sure of what we hope for yet do not yet see.  Do great things for God and His Kingdom today.