Finish The Race

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12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, 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, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16Only let us hold true to what we have attained.             Philippians 3:12-16 ESV

Paul is trying to teach the Philippians what it is to simply trust God. In Chapter 3, the first eleven verses, he is instructing them on what it is to live a life of faith and righteousness. If you go back and read it you will find that it is encouraging, only if you are willing to pay the price. What Paul is really saying is that there is a price to be paid to see the fulfillment of the plan of God in your life.

When we walk into verse twelve, Paul begins in what I often refer to as one of his personal accounts. He has lain open what his life and his own personal desires. He knows well the pain and cost of following Christ, but his heart begins to cry out in these verses what he truly desires.

As we are coming to the end of this fast I have to be open and admit that yesterday was my hardest day. I do not know what happened, but simply put, it was miserable. There was much to accomplish and much that simply did not get done. So close. So very close to the end. I knew that I was within hours of completing the twenty-one day fast and I just wanted a sonic burger and banana cream shake! I told Valerie when she got home and she got excited…she thought the Pastor had canceled the fast and we were going to Sonic!

I had to stop myself. That is an interesting statement. Stop yourself. Is that really possible? Let me rephrase myself on that one. My soul had to stop my flesh from fulfilling the desires of the flesh. As I woke this morning and realized that I had done it; I made it all night without cheating on this fast.

I turned this morning to Paul’s words here in Philippians 3. Paul expressed what is going to keep me going to the end.

1. My flesh is not perfect, but with Christ I am being made in His image!

2. I could not do this on my own; it is the spirit of God in me that does it!

3. My goal of fulfilling my commitment is more important than anything else!

4. Some will not understand; but God is faithful to continue teaching us!

5. I am holding fast to what I have obtained!

Today is the last day for me to blog about the fast. I have challenges today and tomorrow on this fast. There will be activities that will be a trial for me. I could easily say, I made it this far…it will be fine! That would be like the runner getting within a few feet of the finish line and saying…oh well, I made it this far I think I will just stop here!

Let each of us finish the race that God has put before us. It might not be easy and there will often be distress included in it. But if we desire to be like Christ, remember, He didn’t just carry the cross up the hill and say that was enough…he died on it. If he can do that for me; what can I do for him?

Just a thought for the day!

I am so “board” with this….

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This coming Saturday I will be doing an elder/deacon board training for another pastor. As I have been working on this over the past few weeks, I have discovered that some of the greatest teaching comes not from our successes, but our failures. I am thankful that I have had few failures with the boards I have served with, and have had to work to draw from many successes.

I was asked to help define the role of the board in the local church. In looking back over the last twenty-five years of pastoral ministry I have to admit that I have many stories to tell; most I simply can’t! But in this I began to clarify my perspective on a few things. I have discovered five goals that I feel members of a church board must adhere to be a success in a local church.

1. The communication of the board with the church is not the voice of the people to the pastor; the board is the vision of the pastor to the people.

In the way that boards are elected it would be easy to compare them to congress being voted in to be the voice of the people. The simple truth is that Jesus put a group of men around him so that the vision He had could be taken to the ends of the earth. The churches with the greatest growth are those that have a group around the pastor that take the vision that God has given to the pastor, out to those that they influence; not the complaints of the people to the pastor.

2. The character of the board to the pastor must be one of burden bearer.

There will be over 1700 pastors leave the ministry each month. There is a wonderful article that you can look up at www.churchleaders.com that is simply called “10 Real Reasons Pastor Quit Too Soon”. After reading the ten reasons I think that they can be summed up in this one. The pastor feels that he has very few that will carry the burden with them. There are very few that understand the life and burden of the pastor.

It can be compared to a blind man who is expected to put 100 square pegs in a round hole within sixty seconds. There are times that it seems impossible to do; it is the board’s task to help carry that burden.

3. The commitment of the board to God must be without question.

The members of the board must remember that they are called of God to this position. If they are called of God to this position, their actions must be within the guidelines of always living in the light of God. Doing what they are called to do for the one that has called them. To serve God’s house and God’s people with God’s pastor. This commitment continues on from God to a loyalty to God’s house and God’s people.

4. The cooperation of the board with everyone must be with a team mentality.

The board must be a team. For a team to work sometimes you have to pass the ball to someone else and other times you have to sit out while the other players play. The final goal, the run, the three point shot…that is all that matters in the end, not who made the shot…just that the shot was made!

5. The challenge of the board must be for unity.

There is always a price to unity. Unity costs someone giving up their desires and compromising on issues. Little children learn early on to say “mine”. The board cannot in anyway continue on with the “mine” attitude. The cost of unity is giving up “mine” for “ours”. With God, “ours” becomes “His”.

I know that this says very little about the fast that we are completing this weekend. But today, this has been on my mind. I feel that when the members of any church board accept that communication, character, commitment, cooperation and challenge are the calling that God has given to them, life in the local church will become stronger for the entire congregation and the pastor.

As I continue to pray about what I will share this coming Saturday, I continue to look back. I am so thankful for the board members who I have served with that fulfilled every one of these goals. God has been good to me and I know that I have been blessed! To all those, I simply say thank you!

Just something to think about today!

Rejoice

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“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

When you begin a fast there is very little to celebrate. What you see is everything that you have to give up. For me that was meat, dairy, sugar, coffee…oh the coffee! Yesterday I had to be up very early to drive to a hospital for a wonderful, beautiful birth of a lovely little girl. It was a joy to experience, but I was shocked that my eyes were open to see her!

When you come to the final days of the fast things begin to change. No longer are you looking at what you have given up, you are seeing the blessings that are coming in the end. You begin to see what God has done, miracles that have happened, answers received and you begin to change your view.

In Paul’s final words to the Philippians he is trying to encourage them on their walk. I love how he begins this portion of scripture reminding them to rejoice. It will be easy to rejoice on Sunday we come to the end of this fast, but in the midst of it I had to remind myself to rejoice!

But as I look past this familiar line of rejoicing I see four keys to living the life of miracles in God.

1. Don’t be in a rush…God is already there. So often we are looking for immediate answers when we pray and fast. The act of faith believes that God truly is in control…even if we have not seen it yet!

2. Keep your prayer and supplication going. I was asked this week if I would be glad to be off this fast and prayer time. I answered; I can never get off of it. I am sure that there will be foods that I will add back into my repertoire, but there are still needs to pray for. This is a lifestyle for those that want miracles to continue in their lives.

3. Your prayers and supplication (fasting) must come with thanksgiving. A thankful heart is one of the greatest joys to the ear of God. When we are thankful for all that He has already done, He is faithful to continue to bless us. We need to make sure that we let Him know how thankful we are for the miracles.

4. It is His peace that keeps us going. When you have gone through a time of fasting and prayer you often wonder where this contentment is coming from. I know from experience, there have been great stresses during the last eighteen days, but there is a peace that I know comes from God. Close your eyes and allow His peace to cover you.

There have been many miracles that I will talk about later on this page. But today I wanted to simply thank the Lord for all that He has done. Not looking at the miracles as signs of what we have done…but seeing them as gifts that He has given. I encourage you today to take a moment to let Him know how very thankful you are for all that He has done!

Just a thought for today!

He is doing wonders

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The book of Joshua chapter three communicates an interesting story of the power of God. Joshua is leading the people after Moses had died, and God is preparing to show the people what great things He is going to do through Joshua.

In verse 5 Joshua tells the people “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” I think that there are a few interesting facts that need to be excavated from these eleven simple words.

First: If we want God to do something great, He expects something out of us. When Joshua told them to consecrate themselves, he wasn’t just telling them to get dressed! He was telling them that they must put their lives into position to show God they are expecting something from Him!

Second: It is the Lord that does the wondrous things. Moses saw miracles, Joshua was going to see miracles; it was God who does them all. But, it is through a leader that will believe the Word of God that the proclamation will come forth to prepare for what God is doing.

Third: God’s timing is not always our timing…He is showing up tomorrow when the need is real! We think that the need is real today, but God sees what is coming tomorrow and He already has a plan…if you will just believe.

We went through fourteen days on the Daniel Fast praying and asking God for miracles. It was not until last night that I truly began to see all that God was doing.

We had prayer meeting last night. I have to be honest and tell you that not a lot came out for prayer; I didn’t serve food! But those that came received. I have spent today hearing miracles of healing, finances and jobs! I told Valerie a few minutes ago, I am simply rejoicing today for all God is doing!

We had to go through the first two weeks as our consecration. We had to believe for wondrous things to happen. We had to be willing to wait on His time table. And today…yes, today…I have seen it happening!

This coming Sunday we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. It is going to be a day of celebration for all those that have been praying and fasting with us. Miracles are still coming this week. How do I know? Because He is going to do wondrous things among us!

Just a thought for today!

Temptation

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“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6 ESV

I have been on the Daniel Fast for thirteen days. During that time period I have had no meat, sugar, caffeine, flour or dairy; in other words no coffee, no McDonalds and no Georgia Bob’s bar-b-q. I am happy to say that I do not think that I have cheated. But that is not saying that I have not been tempted.

Last Sunday my son stood up in front of The Refuge Church and announced that this coming Sunday we would be having a bake sale to raise money to help send kids to camp. As he stood there my heart dropped. How was I supposed to bake or buy? I thought I would just sit back and not worry, but then he added the most dreaded words “I know if my dad bakes it, it will be great”. The pressure was on, the temptation was coming.

Friday is my day off, so I simply use it to catch up around the house and do the needed things of life that have to get done. I rose early for devotions and prayer. Then it happened…I had to start baking. I walked in the kitchen and decided to make two cream filled pumpkin bunt cakes, a carrot cake, some different breads and brownies. Yes, when I bake to help young people go to camp I do not limit myself!

As I did the first two cakes I caught myself. The smell and aroma was something that I had not experienced for almost two weeks. The temptation hit me, not to have a piece of cake, but to simply lick the spoon.

In slow motion I looked down as the beautiful batter was still clinging to the spoon. In that moment I could hear the batter calling my name. There was such a temptation to simply take a lick…not a bite…not really cake…just a lick of the batter.

As I sat drooling over the spoon I felt a voice inside me say “welcome to your apple”. As I heard that I knew what it meant. The look was beautiful, the effects would be deadly. I probably would not have felt it at that moment, but in the end…I would lose!

Quickly, I threw the spoon into the sink and began to run water on it as fast as I could. I began to pray and then reached for my glass of water. I drank my water to quench my thirst and forgot all about the wonderful batter that was sailing down the drain.

I wonder what would have happened if Eve had simply said “no” to the offer? Where would she have ended up? Where would be today? I know that God knows everything, and everything happens in His plan…but just for a moment, what if?

Here is what I know: in the last thirteen days I have experienced some of the greatest miracles in our lives. We have seen miracles in the Church, personally and with our children. I am standing absolutely amazed at what God is doing because of our commitment to His call! No, right now, can’t tell anything!

When you stop and look at the spoon in your hand you have to make a choice. Are you going to lick or wash? I wish that there were other options, but temptation does not give but two. You are either going to hold to the commitment or you are going to fall to the temptation. Stop for a minute and ask what your apple is?

My belief is that the rewards of holding fast to the commitment are more eternal than the results of the temptation.

Just something to think about today!

Fellowship

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Today I had a busy day. There was simply a lot to get accomplished and time was getting away from me. A friend called who is also on the Daniel Fast and asked if I had time for lunch. I took the time and went to meet him.

When I arrived at his place of work he had a salad, water and a bowl of delicious chili waiting for me. He sat down on one side and me on the other; an hour passed before I realized what had happened.

I got on my bike to drive back to the office and my mind looks back on the precious minutes that I had just spent with my friend. We talked about life, kids, the fast, the needs of others and I simply felt revived.

This is where I learned today’s lesson with the Daniel Fast. There comes a time in life that the fellowship is more important than the food.

I thought back to a familiar verse in Hebrews that says “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25

Not neglecting for what purpose? I think that there are three simple keys given to us by the writer of Hebrews on the purpose of fellowship.

1. So that it becomes a habit. We need to practice being together and helping each other. We are going to have eternity to perfect it!

2. To encourage each other. Very seldom do I get to simply be encouraged. There is a place in our life that we need someone to tell us that we can do this!

3. In preparation for what is coming. You never know what life holds.

What if we were not in the habit of spending time together, encouraging each other and without notice, all of life falls apart? What if you reach that point that you feel like you can’t go on…and there is no one there to catch you? What if we reach the day that Church is not allowed to meet and we need to fellowship in our homes? Do we ever know what is coming?

What I learned today is simply this; I need people more than I need food. My lunch today was rich, oh so rich. Not from the salad and chili which were good, but from the fellowship of a friend.

Take some time this week to simply look at a friend across the table and ask the question, how are you? If you mean it, they might just tell you and the relationship will take a leap in a new direction.logo3

Just something to think about today.

Limited

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In the book of Matthew chapter three we read in verse four “Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey”. As I just happen to fall upon this today I began to think about what these words meant.

We all have pictures in our head of how John looked. We can picture the camel’s hair and leather belt and the wild hair going all directions. Man of the mountains I would call him. One that was not looking like the man most girls would take home to meet their parents. As I have found myself thinking of how he looked I had to stop today with what he ate!

I think on the Daniel Fast I have had to purposefully limit what I eat. Last evening Valerie and I finally sat down after an exhausting day to answer emails and text messages. I turned on the television and the first thing on was an ad for Longhorn steakhouse. Following that was Red Lobster. I looked at Val and we both began to laugh; laugh as we thought we were going to cry!

We knew that we could not have those things. We knew that we had made a commitment, but at that moment we felt limited. Limited is simply not being able to have all that you want.

We limit our children on candy, video games and other things that we feel will be harmful to them. We limit the hours of television that someone watches. We limit when we are young. We never limit when we are old. When we are old, limits seem to be removed.

John was the voice crying in the wilderness to make way for the King! John was the cousin, the forerunner of Jesus Christ himself! Could he not have had more than locusts and wild honey?

As I began to think about this I realized that the one thing John truly exemplified was the example of putting it all out there for Jesus. He wanted nothing for himself, but was willing to limit himself so that Jesus could be lifted up. In other words, Longhorn simply didn’t matter to John as much as showing that he was below his king.

Today as I am moving on in the midst of the Daniel Fast I find that I have to limit myself to things, so that He be lifted up. I am getting more than locusts and wild honey, but not much! And as I do this I am finding that when I limit the “things” in my life it is giving more room for Him!

As we limit our children because we think we know what is best for them, possibly we need to begin to limit ourselves, for what is best for us.logo3

Just a thought for today!