What Prize Are We Seeking?

What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. (I Corinthians 9:18,19;24,25 NKJV)

Sometimes people find themselves competing for something when they don’t understand what the prize is. There are people seeking greatness and recognition, but not wiling to do great things. There are people seeking the starring role (in everything they do), yet they have no clue as what the role encompasses. And many others seek positions of authority when they have no respect for authority and then wonder why, they are not respected as an authority in any aspect.

Before anyone seeks the end reward, they should know what prize they are seeking–how much they will have to give of themselves in order to be considered–prizeworthy.

Paul understood this dilemma well. He knew his conversion from religion to relationship was worth the prize–a crown given by God at the end of his journey. He also knew the journey would not easy. In fact, while he was in religion, he was a person who had been given authority to persecute Christians–as an authority for the Pharisees. He was free to travel and do all the evil he wanted to do–in the name of religion. Now, as a convert–in relationship with God–he found himself a servant of the Most High, willing to sacrifice himself by preaching the Gospel so that all might have an opportunity to know Truth, knowing the risks involved. He understood what the prize was and how he would obtain and he was determined to accomplish his goal.

Are we as determined to accomplish our goals? Do we even understand what the prize is when we find ourselves competing (sometimes against ourselves)? Do we understand the rules of the competition before we begin or are we just concerned about winning recognition from others?

In the church and outside of the church, we have people who want to be in the spotlight, the star of the show, but they have no clue what it means to “earn” the position. People (men and women) claim God has called them into ministry and they want everyone to know–they have a word from The Lord, but when they open their mouths, those who know The Word, recognize the person speaking has not read The Word with understanding. And when these same people finish making a fool of themselves, expecting a standing ovation for their performance, they are disappointed when people sit on them and think there must be something wrong with the people.

At the same time, we have others who seek leadership roles without understanding and when they fall on their faces at every turn, refusing to seek guidance or scorn it when offered, they get angry because others are recognized for “doing good works” and not just talking about doing things.

If we do not have a servant’s heart–a heart to please others–the prize we seek will always be just out of reach. In the pulpit–the prize should be a soul won or encouraged if all are saved. Outside the church, the prize should be to make a difference in the lives of others, not in seeking greatness. God knows our heart and He knows who has a servant’s heart and who is simply seeking recognition of people, rather than in pleasing Him.

Pleasing God means doing all things decently and in order–according to His Word. Of course, if we don’t know His Word, it would be difficult to do things His way and achieve His results. With His results, we earn His prize–eternal life. In the world, if our goal is to stand in the spotlight–for all the world to see–we get the world’s prize–temporary acknowledgement and when the spotlight falls upon others, we are soon forgotten.

Now think about it–will the prize sought be permanent or temporary? Eternal or temporal? From God or from people? I’m seeking the prize that only God holds–the crown of life and my goal–to promote the Gospel so as many who hear or read what I say, will be saved.

Kept By His Word!

“The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:5-8 NIV)

Thank You, Lord for watching over us

Waking us each morning, protecting us each night.

Walking with us, guiding our steps,

Keeping us from faltering along the way,

Creating a clear path, according to Your plan.

Thank You, Lord for keeping us shaded by Your hand,

Making sure no harm is done by moon or sun,

Healing diseased bodies, broken spirits,

Comforting saddened hearts, quickening weakened minds,

Providing us with wisdom to know when to move,

Knowing when to stand still and wait.

Igniting creativity, stirring up the gifts given,

Desiring to please You in all we do.

Thank You, for the angels You have assigned

Giving them rule to assume the roles

Needed to keep us from dangers seen and unseen.

Thank You, Lord for loving us enough

Sacrificing Self, Dying for our sins,

Rising from the Grave, Interceding for us.

Thank You, Lord for providing all we need,

On this planet to do Your Will and for

Arranging a place for our eternity, with You,

Forevermore, greeting us at Heaven’s Gate.

The Covenant of Grace!

“By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13 NIV)

The old covenant between God and man consisting of ritualistic sacrifices for the atonement of sin, which man could not keep because of their willful nature, became obsolete, when the new covenant of grace appeared.

What is this covenant of grace? It is the recognition that God loved us so much that He was not willing to see any perish in their sins, and provided a means of escaping the fate of sinful behavior, by becoming the ultimate sacrifice for the atonement of sin. Our part in this covenant of grace–receive the finished work on the cross and obey Him in loving others. For if we love–Him and others--we will do nothing to disappoint Him or others. That’s what love does!

Under the covenant of grace–we have access into heaven by simply believing and accepting The Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. If He is Lord over our lives–we give Him complete control--no longer desiring to just please self, but to please Him. There is no more sacrifice for sin–just the judgment that comes with disobedience and unbelief!

Thanking God for the Covenant of Grace and for His willingness to be the ultimate sacrifice for me!

Restoring Relationship!

“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:10 NKJV)

How did we become–enemies, separated from relationship with God in the first place? Sin–the disobedience of Adam (both the male and female were called Adam since they were “one” in God’s sight). Before the fall–they were in position to converse with God on a daily basis and were not ashamed of their nakedness in the Garden of Eden. When they succumbed to Satan’s influence and allowed their “lust” of their eyes to override their heart, they were exposed to themselves as “fallible human beings” and created a gap between them and the “infallible” God of Heaven.

Time after time, God made a way for people to be reconciled to Him, and time after time, people failed to obey–The Law and The Prophets. Loving His creation the way He did, He decided to come down and once and all, bridge the gap created by sin, so we would be saved from ourselves and our relationship with Him, restored.

Since Jesus–was God in the flesh–it was important that His life remain untainted until the end when He who knew no sin, became sin for all of us and was the ultimate sacrifice, offered for the remission of sin and reconciliation with The Father.

Unless we have a heart to know God, understanding how much He loves us by what He did will never make sense. But once we know, every time we think of His sacrifice, our hearts should be flooded with tears of gratitude and our minds made up to live to please Him. Just knowing that He hears me when I call upon Him, sees every effort I make to live right, and feels every pain that I feel, is enough for me–to praise Him, for the rest of my life. Hallelujah!

Truth That Endures Forever!

“The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160 NKJV)

God’s Word–all of it–from beginning to end is the truth and the truth that must be understood is that each time God spoke to people, He had a specific reason for saying what He said–to those who He was talking, during the time, He was speaking to them.

His decrees, judgments–whatever someone wants to call them–have enduring power and since they do not change, they will be the same as from the beginning until the end.

Jesus–God in the flesh–came to fulfill The Law–of sacrifice for repentance of sin. He did not come to change what God has said and He said, that He could only say what the Father said. Now, we need to see this very clearly. If we believe that God came to earth in the “likeness of sinful flesh” then we would have to understand that since He established His Word, He would not change it–simply because of a change in appearance.

How does Jesus fulfill The Law–by becoming the ultimate sacrifice for the remission of sin. There is no longer any reason for “sacrifices of animals or grain” to be made. The only thing that He expects from us is to fulfill the commandments of Love–Loving Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and Loving one another as we love ourselves.

When we love Him–we will obey Him. When we love others–we will not cause them harm; especially if we know how to love ourselves. The love that is referenced in the Bible is not lust and we know that lust is the reason that people sin against God; their fleshly dictates overrule any desire to please God. For The Word has said, we cannot serve two masters–God of heaven and the god of the this world. Either we function in the spirit or in the flesh. We either do what God says or allow man to manipulate what we do. It is an “either” “or” proposition–submit to God or submit to man.

I choose to submit my ways and thoughts to God so I can receive the benefits and results that God has chosen.

When we learn to make a distinction between love and lust, affiliation with religion and relationship with God, we will hopefully see the need to have a relationship with God rather than affiliation with religion and then–only then–will we see a change in the environment with weather patterns, violence, and unrest, as we return to enjoying the “peace of God” on a daily basis. His peace, surpasses all understanding–is greater than all of man’s wisdom. For if we claim to have wisdom and it is not the wisdom of God, we actually have nothing.

This is a Truth–based upon God’s Word–that will endure forever!

No Way of Escape!

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26,27 ESV).

Under the law–animal sacrifices were made to atone for sin–the shedding of blood on an altar had to be made for the people–once a year.

Under grace–the blood sacrifice of The Lamb of God to atone for the sin of mankind–has been made on the cross–once for all times for all who receive the sacrifice on the altars of their heart.

If we understand the sacrifice made, the blood shed on the cross, the love of God for us in willingly taking on the likeness of flesh so we might be saved from ourselves, we would not deliberately sin–do all or any of those things that God says is sin. For if we deliberately sin–there won’t be another sacrifice made–only the assurance of a fearful fate of judgment by God.

If we have a relationship with God, we want to please Him and only do those things that are right in His sight, receiving His love and loving Him and others in return.

If we have a relationship with religion–rules and rituals created by man to control others in order to pacify men and justify doing anything they want to do (changing what God has said), we will not inherit the right to enter into heaven, but leave ourselves open to the judgment of Christ–with no escape.

If we have never acknowledged, or accepted the sacrifice Jesus made for us, we will be still be judged if God’s truth has been revealed to us and we simply refused to accept it.

There is only one way to achieve entrance into heaven and to shore up our eternal resting place–accept God’s Word–The Truth of the sacrifice made–and choose to live according to God’s directions and instructions–and not by the dictates of our flesh.  If we choose to ignore God and all whom He has used to warn and teach us, we have no escape from our deeds, but certain judgment awaits us, for the wages (the payment) for sin is death.

Sin Still With Us!

“Sin-any act regarded as a transgression; especially a willful or deliberate violation of a religious or moral principle” (Webster). [hamartia: violation of God’s law]

1 John 1:8 NIV  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

From this verse, John reminds us that even though the sacrifice/atonement for sin was completed on the cross (thereby needing no more physical sacrificial acts of atonement), people are still subject to sin–because they have free will and can make their own choices; some which are not always the right choices.  If the world was without sin, there would be no need for us to have laws that govern the land. But since there is sin–and we do have laws–there are also consequences for violating the laws.

I John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Since we are not perfect and capable of straying from the path upon which God set us, when we do commit an act of sin, deliberately, if we confess it (own it, take responsibility for it), He will forgive us and when repentance is made (turning completely away from the act, not practicing to do it again–surrendering our hearts), He will cleanse us and purify us from all unrighteousness.  However, God’s forgiveness of our sins does not negate the consequences of our actions. This is a mis-teaching that has people believing that when God forgives–that is the end of the matter.  It is not. When we violate a principle or law there are consequences to be paid. If we kill, we either spend time in prison or will be killed. If we steal–we go to jail. If we abuse children–we suffer the consequences. Whatever it is we do, we will reap the consequences of our actions. God forgives–but consequences are never negated.  

1 John 1:10  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Paul reminds us that we have all fallen short of the mark of perfection and committed some act of sin at some time or another.  If we say we haven’t sinned; we lie  and we are actually saying that God has lied, indicating we do not know or understand His Word.  We know that Satan is the father of liars and if Satan is our father, God cannot be. But having sinned in  the past, does not mean we should continue to sin.  Once we know The Truth and make a decision to allow Him to be the Lord of our lives, we should not deliberately, plan or practice to commit acts that we know God would not like.

The work on the cross–the sacrifice made for all mankind–the atonement for sin, means no more sacrifices (as prescribed under The Law of Moses) are necessary, but if we do go astray, we have an advocate–who is interceding on our behalves to The Father. Sin was not eliminated on the cross–the need for a sacrifice to atone for sin was eliminated on the cross.

Lord Jesus, thank You for making the ultimate sacrifice for us to atone for our sins. Thank You for being our advocate, always interceding for us.  Thank You for giving us understanding of Your Word through Your Spirit when we are willing to receive instruction from Holy Spirit. Thank You for loving us enough to die for us, now create in us a heart that is willing to be obedient to Your Word as a demonstration of our love for You. Thank You for revealing to us that relationship with You is better than religious affiliation since You reveal all truth to us, not religions. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!

First Sibling Rivalry

After being forced to leave the garden, Adam and Eve had to find a place to begin, anew. They knew that life was not going to be as easy as it had been because they had been disobedient, but they had no idea what was really in store for them. Everything they had taken for granted—the beauty of the trees, the coolness of the water, the abundance of herbs and fruits and vegetables—was now understood to be a necessity and they had to learn to use what they had proficiently.

They scouted out the land and chose a spot near a well of water.  They claimed it for themselves before anyone else could come along and use it, exclusively.  Adam and his other children managed to hew trees and find huge stones they could use to build houses to protect them from others who now, appeared to be a bit suspicious.  It didn’t matter that they were all related.  That change in the atmosphere (penalties for disobedience) was now leading every man down a different path and it was not always a path of cooperation.

Adam discovered that tilling the earth was not easy; especially since he had to create some tools to use to make it easier.  He shaped pieces of rock by rubbing them together until he had a sharper edge on one side and then he tied that piece of rock to a piece of sturdy broken branch.  He had to bend over and push the tool along the earth to turn the soil in order to get the soil ready for the seeds he had ready to plant.  This was hard work and he really didn’t get very far each day.  But every day, he rose with the sun and when the sun went down, he went to sleep, tired and his eyes burned from the sweat that poured down his face.

Eve’s life was not any easier.  They still enjoyed following the mandate to be fruitful, but now, having a baby was miserable work.  Just as God had promised, she brought forth her children in the midst of agonizing pain and there was nothing anyone could do.  They had a number of children after being evicted from the garden and most of them learned to help her and Adam; the girls in the house and the boys in the field either tending the animals that had been domesticated or in planting the fields. When Cain was born, there was an air of expectancy—something about him was different and his parents knew—they would never forget about him. Cain was competitive and had an angry, dominating spirit that often got him into trouble with his parents. A hot-head who didn’t want to listen to anyone because he always thought he was right. Then, Abel was born and once again, there was air of expectancy about this birth as well. Abel was compliant and totally obedient.  He listened wisely to everything his parents said and learned that pleasing them always brought with it a reward.  He loved getting rewarded for doing the right thing. The children grew and were trained to help sustain the family.  Cain was trained to be a tiller of the soil, while Abel was trained to keep the sheep.  For a long time, they were satisfied with their roles in life and with their family, until they decided to bring offerings unto the Lord.

During those years, Adam and Eve had taught their children to respect and worship God, the Creator of all Things and without Whom, nothing would have ever been created.  They had also taught them to bring an offering unto God.  Apparently, their parents had established a scheduled time for which these offerings should be made and when it was time to make that offering, Cain brought unto God an offering from the ground he tilled and Abel brought unto God an offering of the sheep he tended. He remembered the story his parents had told them and the sacrifice that God had made of the animals to clothe his parents.

God was pleased with Abel’s offering and not so pleased with Cain’s.  He took Cain aside and tried to explain a few facts to Cain, but Cain was angry and would not hear what God said.  The only thing he cared about was Abel winning God’s favor.  He had totally forgotten about the story about how his parents had been kicked out of the Garden of Eden and didn’t seem to appreciate the fact that God was not happy with his offering—an offering from the land He had cursed. He found an opportunity to confront Abel and that’s when things went awry.

When Cain got to the field where he knew he would find Abel, resting against a tree.

“Abel,” Cain asked, “You got a minute?”

“Sure, Cain. Anything for you brother,” Abel responded lazily, twisting a piece of straw in his hand.

“Why is it that God always likes your offerings and never cares about mine?”

“I don’t know.  Did you ask Him?”

“He tried telling me something that didn’t make any sense so I stopped listening.”

Abel looked at Cain, wondering why they were having this conversation.  “Cain, if you didn’t want to hear what God had to say, what makes you think I can explain things any differently?  Why would you listen to me?”

“I thought you might know something other than sitting around on your butt all day being a smart…!”

“Whoa!  There’s no need for that kind of language.  I only do what Mom and Dad said we should do.  I actually listen to them.”

“So, what are you trying to say, I don’t?  Cain was heated by now and not by the sun.

“What I’m saying is that we both heard the story about how they got kicked out of the garden and how God cursed the ground as a punishment for Dad.  The way I see it is, if God cursed the ground, why would He want anything from it?

“So, now you’re saying I’m stupid?  Cain had moved closer to Abel by now and Abel had to stand up to try to get out of the way.

“I didn’t say you were stupid.  I said that I listened.  Now, if you get my calling you stupid from that, that’s on you,” Abel smiled teasingly.