Monday, September 23, 2013

The Christian Marathon pt. 1

PART 1: HEBREWS 12:1-4

Title: The Christian Marathon
Scriptures: Hebrews 12:1-4, Philippians 3:7-14, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
1. A good runner is focused! Hebrews 12:1-4
2. A good runner perseveres! Philippians 3:7-14
3. A good runner runs to win! 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 11:31-40

Anyone out there a Marathon Runner?  If you are a runner, or even if you aren’t a runner, there is an object in each marathon that causes a lot of stress & strikes fear in the mind of the runner.  This obstacle is typically between mile marker 18-20.  Just when a runner is running along, it will suddenly come out of no where, even upon skilled runners it will appear, right smack dab in the middle of the course.  This obstacle, is never seen by human eyes, yet it is there.  It is a large, brick wall.  The wall.  The notorious wall. This wall is the bane and ruin of many runners.  It is at this point, where the runners training, preparation, & stick-to-it-ness is really challenged.  Either they will break through this wall, or the wall will break them.

Well, you don’t have to be a runner to be able to relate to The Wall.  We all face them.  We all face a lot of them.  Places along the marathon of life, where there are seemingly impossible situations or circumstances.  Today, I want to start a series with you titled, “The Christian Marathon”  and encourage you with God’s word, kind of like Apollo Creed alongside Rocky, so you will be able to run your race with honor. And one day, cross the finish line, fall in the arms of Jesus and hear him say, “Well done my good, and faithful servant.  Welcome home. Get some rest.”

Prayer thanking God for His encouraging words.

Book & Look
Hebrews 12:1–4 (NLT)
1.The runner’s setting
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith,
-Remember the people from last time I was here?  The ones sawn in two, murdered because of their trust in Jesus?  This is our crowd.  These are our examples, our inspirations, our fans who cheer us on and yell, “Go.  Go.  Go. It is worth it.  It is so worth it.”

2. The runner’s presentation
let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.
-I picture here a runner, at the gate.  Removing the warm up pants, the jacket, the headphones, and preparing to slim down, to get rid of all unnecessary weight so they can run their best.
-I also picture a conversation I had with a patient, who is a police officer.  He told me that the police love people who wear saggy pants. It is so easy to catch them.

Q: What slows you down from running for Jesus?  What creates drag to your pace?
Q: What sin do you hold on to that is slowing you down from running your race? 
Q: Luke 14:16-20. These made excuses of why they couldn’t follow Jesus. What excuses do you hold onto, that keep you from running? Most people are accustomed to comfort.  They want peace here (which is a good thing, right?) But God has called us to stand up, get out of the bleachers, get over your sins & yourself & run.  So let’s get over excuses & run. Go for it.

3. The runner’s pace
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
-I don’t know if God has set before you a short race here on earth, or a long race here on earth.  But what I do know is that God has set your race before you & he wants you, he enables you to run it well. 
-prokeimenon -present, MIDDLE/PASSIVE, participle.  The race is not one of our making, it is the race that is set before us.  God has set this path before us, for our good. For our best.
-upomonhv- endurance, to remain under, to bear up under, persevere, be patient. And there are at times during every runner’s race, where we will need to remember this word. 

So how do we do this?  How do we endure when we face the walls in life?

4. The runner’s focus
2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
-The 100yd. dash in Cadets-my focus, my dad
-Trypho the Jew accuses us of likening Jesus a Greek champion of the Pantheon.[1]
-Jesus is our focus (ie dream of me preaching at Moody), he is our example on how to run, he initiates & even helps us run the race.

Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

So, Christian, how is your race? Are you focused, are you running lite?
-Eric Liddell, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”[2]

Christian, the gun has sounded.  God has called you to run.  So run! Yes there will be walls.  Yes there are temptations & difficulties ahead.  But we have a great champion & helper, who will never leave our side.  It is time for us to step up & get going, running in such a way that as we run, we, like Eric Liddell, can feel God’s pleasure and one day, when we run into His arms, will hear him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

[1] Martyr, Justin, “Dialogue With Trypho”, 2nd century AD.
[2] Chariots of Fire

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

God's Message to the Catholic Church....and everyone else.

I have heard people say that all Catholics are going to Hell.  People have said that I am a person who believes that all Catholics are going to Hell.  Being baptized Catholic, I want to say that I disagree with this.

I have a heart for the Catholic people & believe that God loves them very much.  I know many Catholic people who are born again/saved/children of God, & are more engaged in the Cause of Christ than many Protestant people.

That being said, there will be Catholics, Baptists, E-Freers, and just about every other group in Hell.  There will also be many from many different backgrounds in Heaven. The then is, how can you know which one you will be?

God has opened wide the gates to life, that all who come to the gate (Jesus) may enter.  Here are some verses from the Bible that the Catholic Church follows.  It teaches us how a Catholic, or Baptist, Muslim, Hindu, or anyone else can be saved.  It teaches us the ways of Jesus.

Here are several verses from the Holy Bible:
1. Jesus taught this in Galilee, "The Kingdom of God is here!  Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!" (St. Mark 1:15)
2. Jesus taught this in Jerusalem, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.  There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him.  But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God's one and only Son."  (St. John 3:16-18)
3. St. Paul & St. Silas taught a Roman jailer that you should "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your whole household." (Acts 16:31)
4. Jesus taught St. Thomas & the apostles, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No man can come to the Father except through me." (St. John 14:6)

So how can we Catholics or anyone else be saved?  Put our hope for salvation in the Lord Jesus, and then walk in His ways.  There is assurance of salvation in this.  And know that he who perseveres to the end WILL BE SAVED.  So be of good cheer and know that if you have Jesus, you have life.

Jesus is the gate.  The big question is: Do you have Him?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How to Pray Like David

Lord’s Day, Sept. 8, 2013
How to Pray Like David
Psalms 13

This blog is best served printed, with a cup of coffee.

Do you know how to pray?  I mean to really pray?  Do you know how to pray like David, the man after God’s own heart? 
1. When I was a child, I was in a Bible study once when the leader asked us how to pray.  They asked, should we pray on our knees with our hands lifted toward heaven/should we pray with our hands folded and our eyes closed?  I excitedly raised my hand and said, “Like this…” and got on my knees and lifted my arms and eyes toward heaven.  The leader reprimanded me with a quick, firm, “No.  You fold your hands and close your eyes.” 
2. When I was at Bible College I was praying in class, with a Messianic Jewish professor.  During the prayer I peeked.  I opened my eyes and was shocked to see the prof praying with his eyes wide open and staring right at me.  I immediately bowed my head, folded my hands & shut my eyes tight….just like the old Bible Study leader said, so I wouldn’t get in trouble in class.

So how do you pray? 
Recently, I told you of a lady at work I was trying to share Jesus with.  Well, guess what?  She accepted Jesus!!!  About a week before she got fired.
 Now comes the hard part.  And that is to make sure she grows in Jesus.   Well, she texted me this message the other day, “I wish I knew how to do it (pray) right but mine sounds like mumbling through tears.”

What would you say to her?  This is a huge question!  How do you teach someone how to pray?  What would your response have
Mine was, “Perfect job then. God wants a relationship, not a religion.  So when you pray, be yourself.  Share your heart.  But pray with thanksgiving because it’ll help lift your spirits.”

So how do you pray?  How do you pray like the man after God’s own heart?  A champion in prayer? How do you pray in such a way that you grab Heaven and bring it down to earth?

 Well let's eavesdrop into a conversation between David and God.  This is a Psalm I call the wrestler’s psalm, because in it, you don’t see much religious piousness.  You see a real man, going through a really hard time, dealing with the real God.  Let’s dig into it together-

Psalm 13 (NLT) –The Wrestler’s Psalm
For the choir director: A psalm of David. –David’s “Prayer Journal”

A.  David’s Complaint- God, where are you?
1 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

What do we observe here?
Observation #1. David is clearly sharing his heart to God. 
See also
A) -Hosea 7:14 (NASB95)
14 And they do not cry to Me from their heart When they wail on their beds; For the sake of grain and new wine they assemble themselves, They turn away from Me.

B) -Matthew 6:7-13 – Don’t babble.  God knows what you need.  Just pray.

C) Jacob wrestled with God until God blessed Him.  Israel means to wrestle/contend with God.
D) -God doesn’t want our religion, He wants a relationship.  He has adopted us, we are His children, and He has given us the right to call Him our Father.
E) These people weren’t rude, they were real with God.
Is your prayer stiff/can you open up and be real with God?  Remember, he wants a relationship.

Observation #2. David is moving in great faith.  It takes faith to speak out to God.  To be vulnerable & trust the character of God. 
-Jesus did it, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  “Father, if possible take this cup…”

Observation #3. David is in pain, and the godless are winning. David is in anguish over his situation.
Isn’t the Christian life supposed to be easy?  What about all this talk about “Victorious Living”?  Don’t a lot of tv preachers preach prosperity, the more faith you have, the better life will be?  Don’t they teach that faith is rewarded with riches & health?
Because you are a Christian/child of God/beneficiary of God’s blessings does NOT mean that life will be easy.  Jesus tells us this (Jn.16:33), “In this world you will have trouble.” There will be times in our lives where we will struggle.   (Hebrews 11:35-38) If I can be so bold, at least sometimes God brings pain in order to mature us, and help us to share in the sufferings of Jesus.

B. David’s Request- God, turn and answer me!  Restore me!
3 Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. 4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

His prayer was very specific & David had an expectation that God would answer.
*Our family has a prayer book, in which we write down specific requests/needs and how God has met those needs. 
*In my Prayer Journal, I use a red pen to write down the date the Lord answers my prayers & sometimes how it happened.
One promise in Scripture is Jesus’ teaching Matthew 6:25-33. God cares for His people.  Therefore, we can pray with the confidence of David. 
Another promise is Hebrews 4:16, we can boldly approach God, like a child boldly approaches his dad. 
*Ellie, our 2 year old, is all about food.  She will come up to me sometimes, hold my face & say, “Daddy, come here, I have to show you something.” She has a relationship where she can boldly come to me & ask me things.  God wants us to feel free to do the same.

C. David remembers God’s character
5 But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. 6 I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.
We can boldly approach God, share our heart with Him.  But…
As I told my friend, we should pray with thanksgiving.  Now sometimes our  circumstances make this hard. 

Imagine praying, “God, thank you for letting that team slaughter us!”
“Father, I am thankful that my child failing at school.”
“Thank you that I got fired today.”
“Thank you for bullies, who teach me to be humble.”

David rejoices here, not that He is struggling but for God’s character.  Yes there are times where we will be thankful for things.  But there are other times where we can at least be thankful for God’s character.
Notice what David does at the end of his request.

Notice #1- David remembers God’s unfailing love & decides to trust God through this circumstance too.
Notice #2- David remembers God’s past rescuing of David & chooses to praise God.
Notice #3- David remembers how God has been good to him so far & it moves him to sing.

So, how is your prayer walk?  Is it a list of needs that leave you more depressed than when you first started praying? Isn’t it freeing to know that we don’t have to be eloquent or a pastor in order to pray well?  Isn’t it refreshing to know that we can be real with God?  That, through trust in Jesus, we have a Father that we can run too & share our desires?  And to remember what God has done in our prayer will keep us from going into the rabbit hole of depression & despair.

So how do you start?   Here are 8 Brainstorms to help you pray.
1. Read David’s prayer journal-the Psalms & continue to observe how he communicated with God.
2. Buy a Prayer Journal & write down your requests (remembering to write down the answers).
*Bill Hybles need for a PJ.
3.  Commit to always thank God for something before you say amen.
-Make it a pattern to not let your feet touch the ground in the morning until you thank God for the day & lay any burdens before Him.
-End each day on your knees.  Not letting your head hit the pillow, until your knees have hit the floor.
-Like David did in Psalm 13, make it a pattern to always end prayer on a high note, thanking God for His character & for Jesus.
-Don’t stop your prayer until you thank God for at least one thing.  It will keep you from depression & from being spoiled.
4. -Prayer=talking to God.  Although it can be fancy or poetic, it doesn’t have to be.  Like Nike, just do it.
- Quit thinking about it and just do it!  It doesn’t matter how long you pray.  Just do it.  It doesn’t matter where you pray. Just do it. 
5. The next time life starts to overwhelm you, call a PT Prayer Timeout. 
-The next time you are angry at your kids or the boss or that driver from Michigan.
-Tama Times- Instead of complaining, gossiping, or slandering another or God.  Go to God & share with Him your burdens.
6. Be expectant.  This is an old prayer skill. -Learn to expect God to answer your prayers, as you seek Him and His kingdom.  Maybe make a prayer log with a column that says, “Answered”.  –Micah 7:7 As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me.”
7. 1 minute focus prayers.  In your mind picture the person/need you are praying for as if they are laid before God.  Then bask them/it in prayer for a full minute.
8. When you pray, picture Jesus sitting there next to you.  He is.

You got it.  Now get at it.