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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sunset over Newport, Rhode Island
Ocean sunset
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"Lessons From A Coach"

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1,2).

Bill & Pat Preston
Last night we joined some friends for dinner. Bill & Pat Preston just celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary and demonstrate a committed walk with the Lord, both turning to Christ early in their marriage. Pat has served with Christian Women's Clubs for many years. Bill is a college cross country and track coach. He has run in many marathons including the Boston Marathon. At 71 years of age he remains in excellent fitness and is a beloved coach to many.

In my younger years I enjoyed sports as a participant and actually ran in both cross country and track (long distance).  I recall to this day how I esteemed my coach and for a number of years was a high school tennis coach when I lived in northern Pennsylvania.

My conversation with Bill has given me cause for considering a passage that has spoken to me for many years.  
Based on the illustrations the Apostle Paul uses, I believe he also enjoyed sports or at least recognized their value in "connecting" with his readers.

Heartbreak Hill
All of us who follow Jesus Christ are participating in a great contest. The writer of Hebrews alludes to this in our daily Scripture portion (many believe to be Paul but this is not specified).  The writer speaks to us like a coach. Today let's examine some lessons from this coach!

This coach begins by reminding us that "We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses."  These witnesses are the men and women of faith chronicled in Hebrews 11.

These witnesses are those all throughout the age who have gone on before us after a life of faithful service to Christ. They include Biblical people of faith and well-known heroes in the church with names many of us recognize such as D.L. Moody, A.W. Tozer and other great gospel preachers and hymn writers such as Fanny Crosby.  

But I also receive spiritual encouragement as I consider among the witnesses those who personally ministered to me such as my mom and dad, along with many dedicated people that most of you have never heard of like Pastor John Howard, Elbert Sherrell, Tracy Sutherland, Bill Shibilo, Earl Martin and many, many others.* (It might be well for you to develop a similar list with those unique to you.)

We are to take this event seriously and this coach instructs us to "Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles."  This speaks of singe-minded dedication, surrendering all to the Great Cause.

This coach specifically calls us to a race, "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." This race is most analogous to a marathon, which begins the moment we accept Christ and continues throughout the remainder of our lives until we either meet the Lord in  death or in the rapture.  It's a lifelong race!

Coach reminds us that a great character quality essential in any athletic contest, but certainly a long distance race is expressed in the phrase "Run with perseverance."  All great athletes are characterized by perseverance.  They overcome pain, rejection, adverse weather, and all kinds of setbacks to achieve their goal. 

Likewise, strong, persevering followers of Christ just keep pressing on in spite of the hardship.  Coach calls us to keep looking unto Jesus our greatest example, "Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." 

Today let us stay faithful and keep running this great race with perseverance!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Jesus, the race You've marked out for us doesn't require nearly as much physical stamina as it does spiritual endurance.  Those who are physically weak due to disease, illness, and aging are just as qualified to run as those who have young athletic bodies.  It's a spiritual race where You call us to perseverance as we discard anything that would trip us up or lead us on a disastrous detour. The great cloud of witnesses spur us on; those from the Biblical period, throughout history, and from our own generation.  But above all we thank You, Jesus, that You endured the cross and all the suffering that accompanied it, being spurred on by the joy You knew that would be Yours afterward.  You cheer us on by Your own example and by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit that sustains us in our struggle against sin.  Keep us faithful to the end, for the end is only the beginning.  Amen.

* So many have had a personal impact on me and of course most are not known but to a few. In fact I believe the greatest personal impact in each of our lives is from these types of people.  
As I do some reminiscing I could list many more. One I have written about is Bill Shibilo, a dedicated man in our church in New England who departed for heaven shortly before we left that area.  See here.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
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"Find Us Faithful" (Video)  Steve Green

Call 2 Fall logoRegardless of what country you may live in we sure need a revival! On Sunday morning July 5 our church will join many others in participating in "Call2Fall", a nationwide prayer meeting. We encourage others to look into this, especially pastors here in America. Essentially this is a definite time during worship on Sunday, July 5th when we get on our knees before the Lord in repentant prayer, pleading with God to reshape our lives, renew our land, and send times of refreshing (See 2 Chronicles 7:14; Acts 3:19).

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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, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 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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