Complete the Race, Receive the Crown

Complete the Race, Receive the Crown

We all understand that in order to receive the crown (reward, wreath), we must complete the race as a winner.  A winner can also be called a conqueror, a victor, or an overcomer.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  (1 Cor 9:25 ESV)We are called by the Lord to complete the “race of life” as a conqueror who will receive an eternal reward.  One factor that is required, even as it is required of athletes, is self-control in all things.  But we are able.  Let’s remember that Romans 8:37 tells us:  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.We are “more than conquerors” because the true Conqueror, Jesus Christ, has shared His victory with each one of us through the gift of salvation.Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.  (2 Tim 2:5 NIV)Obviously, every race has rules that must be obeyed.  In order to receive the victor’s crown spoken about in the Bible, we must obey the Word of God.  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Tim 6:12 NKJV)The battle in which we must engage is the battle for our very own souls, and the only way to win this battle is by FAITH.  This is emphatically taught in Scripture:For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  (1 Joh 5:4 NKJV)Who is the one who overcomes the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  (1 Joh 5:5 NASB)But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Cor 15:57 NIV)

If we stay on the path of obedience to God and to His Word, we shall surely win the race and receive the crown!  Glory to God most High!

LOVE

LOVE

As we know, 1 John 4:8 teaches us that God is love.  The love of God gives us stability and assurance in our faith.  It surrounds us and upholds us in our daily lives.  But God’s love accomplishes many other things as well.

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.  (Pro 3:3 ESV) 

We need to write God’s steadfast love and faithfulness upon our hearts, and one way of doing that is to memorize Bible verses about Him and His love.  His Word is truth.

Mercy and truth preserve the king, and by lovingkindness he upholds his throne.  (Pro 20:28 NKJV)

God’s lovingkindness actually supports, maintains and sustains His throne.  Wow!  What an idea worthy of meditation.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.  (Eph 5:1-2 NASB)

We should walk in love, allowing it to motivate us, to lead us, and to flow from us towards other people.  As we live in this way, we are being transformed by the example of our Lord and Savior.

If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.  (1 Cor 13:3 NET)

As 1 Corinthians reminds us, without love for God, for ourselves and for others, we have received nothing.  This is quite an enormous truth to wrap our thoughts around, so take some time in the weeks to come to meditate upon today’s topic.  God bless you.

God Supports & Sustains Each Believer

<strong>God Supports & Sustains Each Believer</strong>

God blesses each and every follower and disciple of Jesus Christ daily.  He supports us by giving us enabling and empowering grace to encourage us to endure trials and tests.  He maintains [sustains] our very life, health, strength, and faith, as well.  We may safely hope in Him.

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.  (Ps 94:18 NIV)  He supports us by His unfailing love and mercy.  Thank You, Jesus!

He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.  (Ps 121:3 KJV)  God, our Sustainer, never slumbers nor changes His will.  He keeps us from stumbling.

A man’s steps are established by the Lord, and the Lord delights in his way.  24 Though he stumbles, he will not fall down flat, for the Lord will hold up his hand.  (Ps 37:23-24  ISV)  The delights in our lives, and establishes our steps.  He holds us up with His hand so that we won’t fall down.

. . . but I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail; and you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  (Lk 22:32 NASB)  Jesus prayed for us, that our faith would not fail.  And we are encouraged to strengthen and support our fellow believers.

. . . who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  (1 Pet 1:5 NKJV)  We are KEPT by the mighty power of God which means that we are preserved, sheltered, and kept separate unto God.  He will not let us go, so long as we do not reject our Savior and Redeemer.  He has given us such hope and assurance.

This is how valuable we are, individually, to God.  Think about having such a Friend and supporter as the Living God.  Hallelujah!

Have You Got It?

<strong>Have You Got It?</strong>

Have you received the thing for which you most recently and fervently prayed?  The answer should always be YES!  Why?  Because the Bible says so!Let’s read these Scriptures:Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  (Mk 11:24 NIV)  Believe that you have already received what you need and faith operating in you will bring it to you!  And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.  (Mt 21:22 KJV)  When we pray and ask the Lord to give us something based upon His Word, we must always mix our prayer with the faith that we have received at salvation.  If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  (Joh 15:7 NASB)  Keeping God’s Word (the Bible) ‘before you’ means reading it regularly—daily—and memorizing and meditating upon it.  As we make these habits a part of our Christian lives, we may ask WHATEVER we need, and it will be done.  Hallelujah!Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.  (1 Joh 5:14-15 NKJV)  Note first of all that this Scripture passage mentions our CONFIDENCE in God; this is crucial.  Once, we have that confidence and we pray according to God’s Word—which is His will—then we are positive that we have received our prayer requests.  Praise the Lord!But those who seek the Lord lack no good thing..  (Ps 34:10b CEB, emphasis added)Our Lord and our God, you are like the sun and also like a shield.  You treat us with kindness and with honor, never denying any good thing to those who live right.  (Ps 84:11 CEV, emphasis added)

Both of the verses above from Psalms say that we, as followers and disciples of Jesus Christ, will never be denied any good thing.  What a joyous and blessed security our Savior has given to His children.  God bless you!

Our True Daily Bread

<strong>Our True Daily Bread</strong>

Bread is a symbol of many things.  In the Old Testament, the Lord provided bread from heaven when His people were wandering in the wilderness after escaping from Egypt.  (Ex 16:4, 14, 31)  In this context, bread was a forceful symbol of God’s provision for His people. 

For decades in America, the husband in a family was referred to, in informal terms, as the breadwinner.  Even now, bread is a synonym for money.

Let’s read what God’s Word says about bread.

Give us today our daily bread.  (Mt 6:11 NIV)

Give us day by day our daily bread.  (Lk 11:3 ASV)

Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say:  ‘No one can live only on food.  People need every word that God has spoken.’ ”  (Mt 4:4 CEV) 

In the above verse, Jesus reminds us that we need to know and love God’s Word as much as we do our daily food.

Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  (Joh 6:31-35 ESV)

In John, chapter 6, Jesus clearly declares Himself to be the true bread from heaven.  Through faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we become partakers in eternal life.  It is vital to maintain an ongoing faith in Jesus and an ongoing relationship with Him because we need to depend upon Him continually for our every need. 

The Lord Jesus proved Himself to be forgiving, merciful and loving to those who followed Him.  He was a fount of wisdom and grace, and being in His presence provided a powerful blessing.  He was also the hand of God who healed the sick, maimed, deaf, blind, and hurting.  People received deliverance and miracles and wonders through the ministry of Jesus Christ.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  (Heb 13:8)

 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.  (1 Cor 10:16-17 NIV)

When we partake of the Communion elements, we are remembering the sacrifice and obedience of Jesus. Through the ceremony of remembrance—which is the observance of Communion—we declare our unfailing gratitude to God for the precious gift of salvation that we have received.  Praise the Lord!

When God Speaks, His Word is Fulfilled

<strong>When God Speaks, His Word is Fulfilled</strong>

The Bible establishes the truth that when God speaks, His word is fulfilled.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.  (Gen 1:3 NKJV)

Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.  (Josh 21:45 NIV)

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made; all the heavenly bodies by the breath of his mouth.  (Ps 33:6 ISV)

For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood firm.  (Ps 33:9 NASB)

For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.  (Lk 1:37 AMP)

God’s words are always realized (executed).  God is dependable and faithful to His word—unlike human beings.  He is a Being that it’s safe to put our trust in.

God’s word is tested, tried and proven.  His word will always bear fruit no matter how people act, what people utter or what people believe.  Glory to God!

Whenever we choose to believe and act upon the timeless word of God, God will cause that word to be performed in our lives.  It will surely come to be.  Understanding the faithfulness of God’s word strengthens our faith and enables us to trust in His word.

I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.  (Phil 1:6 CEB)

We can also be assured, as the above Scripture passage above verifies, that the work the Lord has begun in each of His children will be fully completed.  God bless you.

The Kingdom of Heaven

<strong>The Kingdom of Heaven</strong>

The terms “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God” are synonymous; they represent  the same thing.

“Many people think of the kingdom of God as heaven or as the church. However, the kingdom of God is not an actual physical place. A working definition of God’s kingdom from a biblical perspective can be seen as God’s universal reign as Creator and Christ’s exhaustive work as Redeemer. Since God is eternal, His kingdom is eternal. The Kingdom of God transcends time and space.” 

(Source:  https://www.ibelieve.com/faith/what-is-the-kingdom-of-god-10-things-christians-need-to-know.html)

Let’s see what the Bible says:

. . . and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  (Mt 18:3 NKJV)

In order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, one needs childlike faith and trust in the Lord.  Just as earthly children trust their parents for their daily needs, we also must place our faith and trust in God the Father for daily shelter, food, protection, and all of life’s necessities.

Jesus told them another story:  The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when a farmer plants a mustard seed in a field. 32 Although it is the smallest of all seeds, it grows larger than any garden plant and becomes a tree. Birds even come and nest on its branches.  (Mt 13:31-32 CEV)

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”  (Mk 4:30-32 RSV)

The Kingdom of Heaven is compared, in these Bible passages above, to a mustard seed that grows into a mighty plant whose branches become a home for birds as well as a protection from the shade for other animals. 

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  (Joh 3:5-6 NKJV)

The Kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of all who have become part of His kingdom by submitting to His authority, and by accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.   

Wherever God’s faithful people are gathered is where the Kingdom of God can be found.  God will meet us wherever we gather, whenever we call upon His Name. 

A relationship with Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord is the basis of the Kingdom of God.  It impacts all actions, thoughts, relationships, families, institutions, and governments.  Everything on earth will come into contact with God’s Kingdom. 

This Kingdom has grown all over the earth, and is still growing and overcoming all obstacles in order to touch the hearts and minds of people everywhere.  Glory to God most High!

Joy & Safety

<strong>Joy & Safety</strong>

This may seem like a quirky combination to write about, but I hope that you’ll take time to study this along with me.

Not only does the Lord want us to be filled with joy, but He also wants us to know that we are safe and secure thanks to Him.

You have put joy in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine are abundant.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, Lord, have me dwell in safety.
  (Ps 4:7-8 NASB)

This Bible passage above acknowledges that the Lord has placed joy in our hearts.  He is the author of joy!  Also, it talks about our sleeping peacefully because the Lord causes us to live in safety.  What wonderful blessings!

For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.  (Ps 92:4 NIV)

We may rejoice and have joy because of God’s righteous and upright acts. 

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.  (Pro 3:24 NKJV)

This verse again speaks about our sleep being sweet and peaceful because our faith in God allows us to be free of fear.  Glory to God!

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.  (Ps 3:5 RSV)

Even our ability to awaken on any given morning is because the Lord sustains our very life.  Think about that!

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.  (Ps 16:8-9 ESV)

In this Psalm, David is discussing the fact that he was aware of God’s presence with him at all times.  David felt God’s face before him, and God’s presence at his side.  As a result, it filled David with joy and rejoicing.  This also made him feel secure (protected, sheltered, and safe).  We are just as beloved by God as David was.  God’s presence is always with us, and His Spirit dwells within each and every one of us.   We are His temple.  (1 Cor 6:19 NKJV)  Hallelujah!

God Speaks to Us

<strong>God Speaks to Us</strong>

The Word of God gives us multiple instances of how God has spoken to His people over the centuries.  The written Word of God, the Bible, is one way that the Lord communicates with His people.  In His Word, He gives us instructions and promises which will lead us, guide us, and encourage us.

. . . and said to Moses, “If you speak to us, we will listen. But don’t let God speak to us, or we will die!”  20 “Don’t be afraid!” Moses replied. “God has come only to test you, so that by obeying him you won’t sin.” 21 But when Moses went near the thick cloud where God was, the people stayed a long way off.  (Ex 20:19-22 CEV)  The Jewish people who followed Moses didn’t want to hear God’s voice!  They wanted Moses to speak with the Lord and to be their intermediary.  They wanted to receive their instructions from a man rather than directly from the Lord. 

From heaven he spoke to you in order to teach you, and on earth he showed you his great fire from which you also heard his words.  (Deu 4:36 NET)  God speaks to us in order to teach us, to encourage us, and to bless us.

Then you and your son and your grandson will fear the Lord your God. You will obey all His Laws that I tell you, all the days of your life. And then you will have a longer life.  (Deu 6:2 NLV)  One of the Bible’s promises concerning obeying God’s instructions is that we will have a long life.

This is the one who was in the assembly in the wilderness together with the angel who spoke to him at length on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to you.  (Ac 7:38 NASB)  God’s Words are living words.  (See Heb 4:12)

There are multitude of ways that God communicates with mankind.  He speaks to us through the beauty and majesty of His creation.  Also, he speaks to us by the Holy Spirit through dreams, visions, and our inner thoughts.  As we’ve already mentioned, the Lord converses with us through the Bible. 

Two Bible passages remind us that we who follow Jesus, our Shepherd, hear His voice and know His voice.  (Joh 10:16, 27)  This should reassure us, and encourage us.  Place your faith in God and in His Word, for God cannot lie!  Glory to God!

Enduring Faith Through Temptation & Testing

Enduring Faith Through Temptation & Testing

As believers in Jesus Christ, we must learn to persevere and to prevail in faith even in the midst of trials, temptations, and testing.  The grace of God will carry us through such times if only we rely upon the Lord.

The Scriptures talk frequently about the ways in which we will face tribulations, adversity, and hardships in our walk of faith.  And to the overcomers, the Lord will give a crown of life.  Praise God!

My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.  (Jas 1:2-4 CEB)

Such difficult and painful life encounters produce a tenacious and durable faith.  Exactly what we need for life on this earth.

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  (Jas 1:12 NKJV)

When we come through temptation victoriously, we will have tasted and experienced the sustaining grace of God at work in our lives.

You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.  (Mt 10:22 NIV)

Expect to be hated and persecuted, because Jesus also experienced such treatment.

You greatly rejoice in this, even though you have to suffer various kinds of trials for a little while, so that your genuine faith, which is more valuable than gold that perishes when tested by fire, may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus, the Messiah, is revealed.  (1 Pet 1:6, 7 ISV)

Our faith is more precious than gold; and just like gold, our faith is tested and tried in order to purify, concentrate, and refine it.  Our coming through testing triumphantly results in glory and honor being given to Jesus.  What an honor!