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Friday, April 11, 2008

Horses in pasture
We passed these grazing horses about a mile from our house yesterday on Colebrook Road.

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"The Crown That Lasts Forever"

"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 Corinthians 9:24, 25).

For the last five years I've had a chipped off tooth that has progressively worsened until I finally knew, due to the overbearing pain, that I had to get it fixed. Yesterday morning Brooksyne called our dentist and I gratefully went in at 6:15 last night.

Dental crownMy dentist, a friendly fellow who really likes to talk (which I consider a positive), examined me and said, "You ready to go ahead and get this fixed now?" Well, I was actually expecting to have to wait for another appointment but was more than ready to just get it over with.  He spent a rather painful 45 minutes drilling and grinding although he did his best to deaden the pain.  I now have a temporary stainless steel crown and feel a whole lot better. In a couple of weeks I will get my "permanent" crown, my first and hopefully my last crown of that type.  But I anticipate getting an altogether different future crown.

My parents named me after the only Stephen in the Bible.  Of course he is one of my favorite Bible characters, although his ministry was cut short after just one power-packed sermon. Stephen comes from the Greek name Stephanon, which means "crowned one".

The New Testament uses the illustration of a crown seven times in regard to a future promise and today I want to examine just one of them.

Blade runnerThe Apostle Paul wrote this portion of Scripture to the Corinthian believers. Corinth was located in Greece where the ancient Olympic games were held and many of his readers would identify with this illustration which stresses a vital spiritual truth.  I believe Paul was interested in athletics since he uses athletic illustrations in his writings such as running, wrestling and boxing.  In this passage he is urging diligence in the Christian life with the spirit of an overcomer.  He urges the Corinthian believers and us to: "Run in such a way as to get the prize." He reminds them of the strict training that was involved for the serious contestant.  (The photo to the the left is Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who is a world-class runner using artificial legs.)

"They do it to get a crown that will not last." This contrast in the crowns is the part of the verse that especially grips my heart. Indeed the ancient crown of victory was a laurel wreath that eventually withered and died.  I have a temporary crown over my tooth that will last several weeks until my permanent crown, custom made just for me, comes in.  But it's not going to last forever.

Even the gold medals received by the winners in the modern games will one day perish. Today many, perhaps most, are in pursuit of the various types of temporal crowns that will not last. For the great majority the pursuit of God is placed on a back burner in life to be dealt with at some later date.

Crown"But we do it to get a crown that will last forever."  Praise God!  Look at that verse again: "But we do it to get a crown that will last forever."  This crown is not for a select few; note the plural pronoun "we".  Earlier in the passage he wrote regarding the competition in the ancient games that "only one gets the prize."  Consider all the athletes who sacrifice many years of their time, money, and endure strict training to be in the Olympics but don't receive a medal. 

This is not so in regard to our future crown.  All who faithfully live their lives for Christ will receive this righteous crown! It is not by our diligent works of righteousness; instead this crown is a gift to the faithful believer because of the shed blood of the righteous One!  In his final letter Paul expresses a tremendous assurance in God as he prepared for his departure from this life.  "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8). 

Today let me encourage you to keep in clear focus the heavenly coronation ceremony where we will receive our crown of righteousness.  In doing so it will properly motivate us to align our priorities on this side of heaven.  It will also help us to run the spiritual race with our brothers and sisters in mind.  We'll not compete against them, but we'll spur them on as we run this race together and receive our crown of righteousness from the righteous Judge.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Lord Jesus, even as athletes go into strict training to reach their physical goals, there is much sacrifice involved.  Their appetites, exercise, endurance, activities, and their mindset must work toward their physical goal.  I am willing to experience earthly loss in exchange for heavenly gain.  I want to know You, Jesus, and the power of Your resurrection and even the fellowship of Your sufferings.  As I fix my eyes upon You, Lord, the heavenly crown of righteousness that awaits me surpasses my desire for worldly accomplishments or human praise.   I anticipate with great joy that which is yet to come when I am crowned with the crown of righteousness by You, Lord, the righteous Judge.  Keep me faithful and trusting till that glorious day.  Amen.

Some of you may be interested in what these seven crowns are:

1. The crown for those who love His appearance. "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing"  (2 Timothy 4:8).

2. The crown for those who compete according to the rules. "Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5).

3. The crown for enduring trials. "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

4. The crown for those willing to feed the flock. "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;  not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away" (1 Peter 5:2-4).

5. The crown for those who are faithful unto death.  "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

6. The crown for those who win souls. "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes? Is it not you?"  (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
7. The crown for those who master the old nature. "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 Corinthians 9:24,25).

Matt, Shannin and Veah Pettigrew
Yesterday we joined our friends, Matt, Shannin and Veah Pettigrew, for lunch in York, PA.  Brooksyne met Shannin in the course of her chaplain work about five years ago and now we are friends with the family.  It has been a joy to observe both their spiritual and family growth over the past few years.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"Crown Him King Of Kings"  Video

"Crown Him With Many Crowns"  Video  (Classic version)

"Small Town Dentist" Audio story from the American storyteller podcast. This story kind of reminds me of my dentist and I also think of my cousin Doug, a small town dentist in rural Wisconsin. His wife Georgia and Brooksyne always enjoy visiting. They both thorougly enjoy gardening. Here's a photo taken last summer at our family reunion in Branson.  Our wives devised a way they could be taller than their husbands!  (I'm 6 foot 2 inches and Doug is obviously taller than me.)
Doug and Georgia

Info about multi-media files used on daily encouragement.

Toast with jam
Earlier this week we shared an illustration with Brooksyne's Strawberry Rhubarb jam.  As requested by readers here is the very easy recipe:

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
16 Cups Rhubarb, chopped
11 to 12 Cups Granulated Sugar
2 large boxes Strawberry Jello
Cover rhubarb with sugar for several hours or overnight.  Bring to boil.  Take off stove and add dry jello.  Can and seal 10 minutes in water bath or you may also freeze.  (Makes 18 C. or 9 pints.)

I have made this recipe continuously for 17 years and it has always thickened perfectly.  If you want to change the amount of jam just adjust the math according to the original recipe and you'll have no problems.  For me it's a no-fail recipe no matter how I adjust the amount I want to make (which is always a "no no" with jam/jelly pectin recipes.)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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