Monday, November 28, 2011


Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it. You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. Colossians 2:18-23 (NLT).

We must learn to differentiate between what is of God and what is of man. What is of human origin and what is of Godly origin? Someone may say to you that you must trust God a certain way or live your Christian life a certain way or follow an experience they had or have a certain kind of experience with God. I’m not saying there is no merit in those things, but we should question the source. The danger is for anyone of us to make ourselves feel pious, godly, and “in touch with God – you can’t touch me,” by the actions we take or the words we speak. The question we must always ask is whether we do these things for ourselves or for Christ. Do we do these things because they make us feel good or feel spiritual? Or do we do these things to give praise and glory God?

Devotion, self-denial, and discipline are all necessary to follow Jesus. But they are not the answer to conquering the old flesh, the old you. The answer is in accepting the fact that the old you has died with Christ. You are a “new you” now. And the new you is capable of sincere selfless devotion, self-denial, and discipline in the strength of Christ because He now lives in you and through you.

Colossians 3:3-4, 10 (Ph) says, As far as this world is concerned, you are already dead, and your true life is a hidden one in Christ. One day, Christ, the secret center of our lives, will show himself openly, and you will all share in that magnificent denouement. … You have finished with the old man and all he did and have begun life as the new man, who is out to learn what he ought to be, according to the plan of God.

It’s time now to learn all about who you are as the “new person” in Christ. Learn what God’s plan is for you. Learn the truth and live it. You are new! You are alive! You are connected to Christ and His power forever! Live your new life with your new freedom in the new power you have from Christ living through you. This is your life now.

Monday, November 14, 2011


“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Cor. 9:24-25.

Last week our son Andrew ran the City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh, NC. Charlyn and I had the great opportunity to be there and watch him and cheer him on. It was an enriching time. As I think back on his race and the preparation he put into it, I think of some things that would encourage us in our spiritual race of faith in Christ.

Living and growing in the Christian life is a long distance race. The Bible says, 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, Heb. 12:1. The journey of faith is a marathon not a sprint. When people think of a marathon, most simply think that a person runs for several miles and that’s a really cool thing. But a lot goes into the preparation and a lot happens during the race. After all it’s over twenty six miles. To run that far is a huge feat in itself.

We’re all in the race of faith. Paul points to the finish line for us when he says, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace”. Acts 20:24.

When I think of Andrew completing his marathon I think of several things that apply to each of us in our “life-long race of faith”:

One is self-discipline. To rise early in the mornings, even when it was dark and cold, and run twelve or eighteen or twenty miles – takes self-discipline. To be faithful to the Lord and to what He says to do requires self-discipline. To follow Jesus as a disciple takes discipline. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Tim. 1:7

Setting our minds on what we are going to do is essential too. Andrew made the decision to run the marathon months before the event itself. He set his mind to it and trained for it. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Col. 3:1-2. Set your mind on the interests of the Lord and you’ll run a worthy race.

Stay in the race even when you’re attacked by the enemy. Early one dark morning as Andrew was running his eighteen mile training run, he was attacked and bitten in the back of the leg by a pit bull. He fell down and began kicking. The dog ran away. Andrew got up and kept running for another eight miles before he felt the pain, and then decided to go back and tend to the wound. I’m thankful to say he required no stitches, only a tetanus shot, and the dog was not rabid. The next morning Andrew was out running again. We will be attacked and even knocked down at times, and momentarily hindered, but we must get up and get back to running the race. Just because you’re knocked off your feet at a point in time doesn’t mean you’re finished. The race is still in front of you. Run it! …finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given…

Hydration is a must when running a long distance. Andrew took advantage of the water stations along the way. He, like the others, paused and quickly gulped down cups of water. Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life”. Rev. 21:6. Unless we pause regularly along the course of faith to drink of the life-giving water from Jesus, we will lose energy, stumble and fall, and bring unnecessary pain and problems to ourselves.

Encouragement from others injects strength into our weary spirits. We are dependent on the cheering from others to “keep going, don’t stop, you can do it, take the hill,…” Andrew was greatly motivated by someone he didn’t know who ran up along side him and said, “Be strong brother. There’s a hill up ahead.” Paul emphasizes the significance of encouragement when he speaks of Titus – “In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you.” 2 Cor. 7:13. Get around people who are encouraging and be refreshed.

There’s a saying among marathoners – “The real race is the last six miles. That’s when the race really begins.” The first twenty are hard, but the last six are grueling. It becomes a matter of pure endurance. And there is nothing wrong with gritty endurance. It’s everything right. The Bible tells us over and over to endure and persevere. It’s a component of faith. Jesus said, “The one who endures to the end will be saved”. Matt. 24:13.

So be strong brothers and sisters. Hills are up ahead. And by God’s grace and our gritty endurance we will cross those hills and then we’ll cross the last one. And as we come over that last hill we will see the finish line in the distance and we’ll run with renewed vigor because we know the arms of Jesus are opened wide and waiting for us on the other side.