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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Keep running!

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"Running For The Prize!"

"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). "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1).

Old running shoesOn the way to our midweek church service last night we heard an interesting interview on Moody Radio with a specific comment that prompted today's message. It was an interview with Twila Paris who has been writing and singing inspirational songs for the Lord for many years. The host, Janet Parshall, commented that "Runner", one of Twila Paris' songs, had prompted her to request that a pair of worn-out running shoes be placed on her tombstone, indicating she had faithfully run the race!  I like that!

Hebrews 12:1

The Apostle Paul wrote today's first 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 in 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 his readers of the strict training that is required for the serious contestant. 

"They do it to get a crown that will not last."
The ancient crown of victory was a laurel wreath that quickly withered and died. 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, if at all.

"But we do it to get a crown that will last forever."  Praise God!  Look at that 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 or may never even make it to the Olympics for that matter. 

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 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)

Race to run
Today let me encourage you to keep in clear focus the heavenly coronation ceremony where we will receive our crown of righteousness. It will properly 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

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we know that when athletes go into strict training to reach their physical goals, there is great sacrifice involved. Their schedule, appetites, exercise, endurance, and mindset must be yielded to their physical training with the goal of winning the prize. As believers, we too must be willing to sacrifice earthly loss in exchange for heavenly gain. We must lay aside that which takes our mind off the prize and fix our eyes upon the Author and Finisher of our faith who will reward us with the heavenly crown of righteousness as we run the race to the finish line.  This crown will never perish, spoil or fade and is awaiting us already in heaven. Keep us faithful and trusting till we receive it on that glorious day.  Amen.

Twila ParisWe served a church in New England with an interesting historical detail pertinent to today's message. I have been unable to confirm this since it took place over 30 years prior to the time I assumed the pastorate in 1993.  Pastor Bergstrom served the church in the early sixties. His daughter and son-in-law, Leland Paris, either worked in the church with him or came as an evangelist. Their niece was Twila Paris who was born in 1958 and some old timers recalled that she visited the church as toddler. As a child she released her first album, "Little Twila Paris", in 1965. The album included songs drawn from among those she sang with her family in their evangelistic outreaches. (*)

Whiteboard witness
Mike, a friend in one of our companies, expresses his faith by using a changeable whiteboard witness that he regularly updates.

Today's Suggested Music and Sup
plemental Resources

The interview with Twila Paris referred to in today's message is posted here. (It starts at 25 minutes into the show with a Twila Paris song followed by the interview.)  It is an outstanding interview and well worth listening to!  It has encouraging words for those weary and discouraged in the Race as we see conditions deteriorate around us.

"Runner"  Video  Twila Paris  (The song that inspired the worn-out running shoes on the tombstone request.)

Let us share several of our favorite Twila Paris songs through the years.

"How Beautiful"  Video  (with lyrics)

"Lamb Of God"  Video  

"We Will Glorify"  Video  

(Note: I notice more and more YouTube videos have a brief advertisement at the beginning.)

Ester made a YouTube video of Mollie's astounding jumping ability, some six feet! We are training her to win the prize (a dog biscuit!)

Yesterday I placed up a photo of our dog Roxie meeting a really big Saint Bernard as well as a link to a previous encouragement message with several suggested captions. John, a friend of ours, made some additional suggestions for what Roxie may be saying to the Saint Bernard.
"Make a move buddy and you are in trouble!"
"Just because you're bigger than me doesn't mean I have to like you."
"Yes Sir, I'll be your friend!"
"Nice hair day big fellow!"
"Are you a Christian? Better pray quick!"

Prize-winning Contest!

Find the 30 “hidden” books of the Bible in this paragraph! Two examples are seen highlighted in yellow  (Mark and Nahum)

Email us your finished copy of the 30 hidden books you have found.
(Indicate your answers by highlighting, boldfacing, or underlining the books of the Bible.)  The first one to do so with all correct answers we will send a copy of "Earthen Vessels" Devotional Thoughts from the best of J. Oswald Sanders.

This is a most remarkable puzzle. It was found by a gentleman in an airplane seat pocket, on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, keeping him occupied for hours. He enjoyed it so much he passed it on to some friends. One friend from Illinois worked on this while fishing from his john boat. Another friend studied it while playing his banjo. Elaine Taylor a columnist friend, was so intrigued by it she mentioned it in her weekly newspaper column. Another friend judges the job of solving this puzzle so involving, she brews a cup of tea to help her nerves. There will be some names that are really easy to spot.  That’s a fact. Some people however, will soon find themselves in a jam, especially since the book names are not necessarily capitalized, truthfully, from answers we get, we are forced to admit it usually takes a minister or scholar to see some of them at the worst. Research has shown that something in our genes is responsible for the difficulty we have in seeing the books in this paragraph. During a recent fund raising event, which featured this puzzle, the Alpha Delta Phi lemonade booth set a new sales record. The local, The Chronicle, surveyed over 200 patrons who reported that this puzzle was one of the most difficult they had ever seen. As Daniel Humana humbly puts it, the books are right there in plain view, hidden from sight. Those able to find all of them will hear great lamentations from those who have to be shown. One revelation that may help is that books like Timothy and Samuel may occur without their numbers. Also keep in mind, that punctuation and spaces in the middle are normal. A chipper attitude will help you compete really well against those who claim to know the answer. Remember, there is no need for a mad exodus, there really are 30 books of the Bible lurking somewhere in this paragraph waiting to be found.

Finally today:

Seven crowns are mentioned in the New Testament:

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).

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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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