Finishing with Joy

Acts 20:24  “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

June is graduation month.  We watch as family and friends receive their degree or diploma. I saw an article this year where a 103-year-old lady graduated from college. I also saw an article about a 12-year-old boy who is graduating from high school. Each individual had completed the course and has earned his diploma/degree.

In Acts 20:24, the apostle Paul is talking about completing his life’s ministry in spite of the trying times and hardships. By the grace of God, Paul was determined to finish the course.  Each of us must face the trials and hardships of the Christian life.  Perhaps it’s time to ask yourself, “Will I continue on by the grace of God, or will I be sidetracked from my ministry? I think it is fair to say that none of us possess the stamina and determination of the Apostle Paul. We do have the same God. Let me share three things that might be a help in crossing the finish line.

Each of these is from the verse quoted above.

   1. Paul knew how to prioritize. He put completing the task over personal pleasure.

   2. Paul knew what he had.  He had a serious responsibility.

   3. Paul knew what he had personally received. He received his ministry from God.

I cannot stress enough that each of us has a ministry. It is something that God wants us to do, and he has equipped us to do it. Maybe it is time for serious look at your life and your ministry. What are you counting as dear to you? Do your personal priorities match the priorities that God has for you? Are you sidetracked by the cares of the world? Has discouragement come your way causing you to want to quit? Completing God’s task for your life is a wonderful thing. I challenge you today to finish your course with joy.

If you have never received Christ as your Savior, your number one priority is to receive him today.  John 14:6, “Jesus saith onto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh onto the father, but by me.”  (For help, call 424-4673.)


Resist Temptation!

     The story is told that Queen Victoria of England was in need of a new and experienced coachman to drive her carriage.

     Word was spread, and on the appointed day several men met to apply for the position.

     The Queen’s secretary met with the men to seek their qualifications.  He asked each man in turn, just how close to the edge of a cliff he could lead the Queen’s team and carriage.  Each man in turn made his reply.  One boasted he could come within a foot of the ledge, another six inches and so forth.  Finally the last driver, who had remained silent, was asked.  He replied, “With such a precious passenger in my carriage, it would be my duty to see how far away I could keep my Queen from danger, not how close I may come.”  Needless to say he became the Queen’s coachman!

     How like ourselves!  We play with sin, seeing just how close we may come instead of working to remain far from sin, even its very appearance.

     The Lord delights in those who keep His commandments ….. not those who see how close they can come to the edge!

     Pray the Lord will give us the strength to overcome temptation!

     I Corinthians 10:13 tells us not only will He not allow us to be tempted above that which we are able, but will also provide and escape for us!  What a wonderful, loving God!



God’s Plan in Our Trials

Believers are not immune to the challenges of life.  Our loving God allows us to go through many hard tests and trials.  Disease, injury, loss of loved ones, financial reversals, and fear are among the many common events in many individuals lives.  We know that God works all these things together for good for the believer as he is a part of God’s family (Romans 8:28). God has His purposes for each event that comes our way.

God wants us to grow more and more into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). This is part of God’s process of sanctification.  James 1:1-13 shows us how God works through our trials.  We need to focus on the good that He can do.  We also can rest in the comfort He brings through them.

When challenging times come into our lives and we find that we are unable to comprehend fully, the enemy is quick to have us question what is happening.  We may be tempted to question God’s goodness and wisdom.  Sometimes we will get angry and bitter and wonder if God really understands.  God’s Word confidently reminds us that He does understand.  Events do not just happen to the believer without any purpose from God.

God is in control, and even the most difficult of circumstances cannot separate us from His love. We are reminded in the book of James that God wants us to trust Him through the trial and let Him use it to mature us into His image which was marred starting with the rebellion of Adam and Eve.

When our thinking does not line up with His, we are the ones who need to change.  God’s will for us is to trust Him, keep our eyes on Him, and see how He will use these trials for His glory.  God can give us wisdom, understanding, and help us to focus on Him to learn the most as we go through these trials for His glory.


Seeking the Preservation Shelter

But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD:

he is their strength in the time of trouble.

And the LORD shall help them,

and deliver them:

he shall deliver them from the wicked,

and save them,

because they trust in him.

~Psalm 37:39-40

In these two verses, the Psalmist reminds us that the LORD is in the preservation business.  He desires to save.  He desires to deliver.  He desires to be the stronghold.  For the righteous, He is that refuge from the wicked.  He is that fortress in troubled times.  The simple question comes almost naturally: Why

Why does the LORD save the righteous?  Why is He the stronghold in times of trouble?  Why does He help and deliver them from the wicked?  Why?  Why?  Why?

The answer: they, the righteous, seek refuge or shelter in Him.  They trust in Him.  They don’t just sit back and ask questions or complain about their circumstances; they actively seek Him for their protection, their refuge, and their shelter in troubled times.  And, in Him, they find that stronghold that preserves them from the wicked.

Do you seek the Preservation Shelter?


Why are we so fearful?

               In I Samuel 13, we find Saul, King of Israel, offering a sacrifice that only Samuel, the Priest, should have offered. Why? Because Saul and his people were afraid of the Philistine army. How silly to think that by disobeying God’s spiritual law they would get God’s physical blessing. Fear quite often plays a part in our disobedience. We say, “I’m too afraid to sing, or too afraid to teach a class or I can’t talk to people so I’m not going on visitation.”

               In Matthew 14, we find the disciples fearful of the spirit (vs26) that they saw on the water. It was Jesus who encouraged them to not be afraid. Then in Mark 4 the same disciples, who were fishermen, were out on the Sea of Galilee, and a storm blew up, and they were afraid. Again, Jesus response to them was, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” That really is the issue. Our lack of faith in the God who knows all, sees all, and loves us more than we can understand causes us to fear all types of things. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God hath no given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

               Allow God to use the circumstances in your life to grow you and help you trust Him more. What can God do? Does He know where you are? Does He love you? Then trust Him.

The Ultimate Goal

Romans 15:1-6

“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In a world saturated with self-gratification, these verses jumped out to me.  Paul was reminding the Roman believers that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to encourage and edify others, especially those who are “weak.”  Almost every time, the easy thing to do is to gratify self – do what feels good to me.  But I have found that every time I choose to please myself in my actions or even my reactions to situations that cross my path, it results in something that does not resemble Christlikeness in any way. 

Being personally transparent here, I was wrestling with this idea as I sat here trying to get settled on the mission field.  I have not even been here for one month, and already my selfishness was rearing its ugly head in my thoughts and sometimes in my actions.  This chapter was on a scheduled reading for me that was begun months ago.  Isn’t it just like our God to have exactly what we need from His Word at the exact time that we need it?

Look at the end of the passage included above – the ultimate goal is to be likeminded, to think with one mind and to speak with one mouth.  Why?  To glorify our Savior.  May the ultimate goal of likemindedness for His glory never be hidden from our view no matter how difficult our circumstances may seem! 

Vladimir’s Homing Pigeons

God’s Word tells us that we are not prone to seek God.  God is the one Who seeks us out.  Forty-five years ago I heard an illustration of a young Chinese boy.  Someone asked him how long it had been since he found Christ as his Saviour.  The boy responded, “Me no find Christ.  Christ find me.”  How true it is that we all have sinned.  We all have gone our own way, and it is the loving Saviour who chooses to seek us out like the Shepherd of the one hundred sheep in the Gospel of Luke.

Twice last summer our family had the privilege to be guests in the home of Vladimir, our friend from Siberia.  He lives in New England and showed us his homing pigeons in his side yard.  We were invited into the pigeon and quail house.  We were able to see them in the coop and the pigeons flying in circles as a flock over the yard.  

These birds are free to leave, yet they keep coming back to Vladimir.  There is nothing restraining them from taking off never to return.  They choose to return to their owner and willingly submit to being put back into the coop every afternoon.

Of course, when Vladimir takes one or more of them to a distant location and releases them, they fly over head, circle a few times and then make a bee-line for home.

Oh, that sinners would want to be close to the Saviour.  It is sad that many times Christians choose to stray from the Lord and do not desire to be in the presence of their loving Lord.  As Christians we can learn a lesson from Vladimir’s homing pigeons who willingly submit to him every day.


Attached picture:  Three of Vladimir’s many homing pigeons 

The Culmination

The culmination was Memorial Day Monday!

As a parent, you train, teach, guide, and lead your children in ways for them to find God’s will.  What a blessing when our fourteen year old middle daughter returned from summer camp and said God had called her to Missions!  We helped and encouraged her to visit mission fields from then until the time she settled on the part of the world in which God wanted her to minister.  That involved taking her to mission fields on family vacations, planning mission trips for our youth group of which she was a part, encouraging her to visit fields on her own that in which she had an interest, and never being negative about her calling.

People have asked, “Won’t you miss her?”

“Terribly!” Is always my answer.

“What will you do?”

“I’ll get on a plane and go see her!”

Hindering or stopping my child from doing God’s will is not a choice for me.  So last Monday, we took her to the airport, and (with a very sweet farewell from many church members) she left for England on a one-way ticket.  Heart-wrenching!  But remember, God only loans us our children for a short time to train, and then we are to send them out as godly disciples to do His will.

So that day was the culmination for us!

To God be the glory, great things He hath done!

Responses to Who Christ Is

In John 1, we can find an amazing description of who Christ is.  He is the Word.  He is Eternal.  He is God.  He is the Creator of all things.  He is Life.  He is the Light of the world.  He is the one sent from His Father.  He is the one who came to His own Creation that He had made and that He knew would not receive Him.  He was made flesh.  He is preferred.  He is the source of grace and truth.  He is the Lord prophesied by Isaiah.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He is the Son of God.  He is Rabbi (Master).  He is Jesus Christ the Messiah.  And He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  He is the Son of God and the King of Israel.  He is the Son of Man who came to bridge Heaven and earth. 

While it is great to contemplate this description of Christ, it is also great to consider how people responded to Him in John 1. 

John the Baptist testified of Him, speaking well of Him and proclaiming Christ to be the Lamb of God and Son of God. 

Andrew followed Christ, and brought his brother to Him. 

Philip followed Christ, and witnessed to Nathanael of Him. 

Nathanael worshipped Him. 

These are all great responses to who Christ is.  His own people did not receive Him.  “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12).  Have we responded to Christ by receiving Him?  Have we responded by witnessing of Him to others around us?  


The Strength to Believe

This weekend our pastor preached about our tendency to not believe when God brings things into our life that we would prefer He leave out.

He challenged us to view everything God brings our way as an expression of His sovereignty and of His design for our lives, as He makes them to be lives that bring glory to Him and purpose (and ultimate happiness) to us.

My husband and I had been at a memorial service the previous day that exemplified what Pastor was saying. 

A man had died of a massive heart attack at 56—his wife and two college age children were eulogizing him.  His wife said that she saw thirty-something years of sheer joy with her beloved mate, and she could have no regrets.  She shared about his integrity with everyone and his special love for her and their children.  She summed up her husband’s life of service very well, along with the joy it brought to many people, not just the four of them.

What we could all see radiating from her were peace and joy, without a drop of self-pity, without a tendency to question God over why her husband died so young.

She was and is a walking miracle and a reminder to all of us that God’s grace is big enough to get us through even tragedies such as this. 

I thank God for teaching us through each other in His family.