Christian Gladiator Race

He created you in the first place. Then, after you were sold into slavery to sin, he bought you back at the cost of his own life. Finally, he personally summoned you by name to be his own.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit collaborated as one (because they are One!) to make you a child of God, bought with the blood of Jesus Christ.

He is your Savior and Redeemer. Now you can be fully confident that you are God’s child. You belong to him. And he will afford you his full protection.

It’s a good thing because life is a lot like one of those “gladiator races” you see on TV.

Life is full of obstacles. Problems and heartaches may threaten to flood you. And you may even get “wet” from those floods.

And life is full of challenges. Adversity and opposition may lick at you like flames of fire. And you might get “hot” from those flames.

Nevertheless, you and I can run that race confident that we are his.

“But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3, NIV).

Lord, I know that life is full of obstacles and challenges. Problems and adversity are just part of the deal. Help me to run my race confidently, knowing that I am yours, and that you have promised me your divine, supernatural protection.

Our Bible reading for Friday, September 18, is Isaiah 43:1 – 44:23, Galatians 3:26 – 4:20 and Psalm 108:1-5.

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Give Honor, For You Have Received Honor

God’s love for us is amazing. His mercy and grace are astonishing.

When so many others dismiss you and say, “I don’t need you any more,” God says, “I want you near me. And I will always want you near me. My love for you is faithful.”

When others disparage you and say, “You are too weak. You have nothing to offer us,” God says, “I will strengthen you. You are indispensable to me. My purpose for you is glorious.”

When others disdain you and say, “You are worthless. it would be better for you not to be seen or heard from,” God says, ‘You are my honored child, whom I love. Speak to me in prayer. I do see you every day. My ears, for you, are always open.”

When others despise you and say, “You don’t belong here,” God says, “You absolutely belong here, because you are my treasured possession. My bond with you is unbreakable.”

When others disregard you and say, “I have no time for your suffering,” Jesus says, “I have suffered in your place. Come to me, you who are weary and burdened. My grace and mercy toward you will always be abundant beyond measure.”

Paul speaks to the Corinthian Christians, and his encouragement is clear.

The way we treat each other in the church is not the way we’ve been treated by other selfish sinners. The way we treat each other in the church is a reflection of the way God first treated us.

The way we honor each other in the church is the way God first honored us…

…with his unconditional, unearned, and unimaginable love.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:21-26, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, August 18, is Song of Songs 1:1 – 4:16, 1 Corinthians 12:1-26 and Psalm 99:1-9.

Lord, help me to honor others with love and kindness, as you have first honored me with love and kindness. Jesus, your cross reconciled me and brought me close to our Father. Now may your cross be the inspiration for me to remain close with my brothers and sisters in the church.

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Two Are Better and Three Is Best

Most of us recognize intuitively that being dependent well into adulthood is not healthy or correct. So we often strive for independence. We get a job, we move into our own apartment, we start to pay the bills. We take responsibility for our own lives.

But the trap in this is that we can come to believe that this is as far as we need to go. We feel we’ve arrived, so we don’t perceive any need to ask ourselves if there’s something more.

But Solomon tells us there is. There’s something far better, he claims. And this is the true destination we should be stepping towards.

It’s not independence. It’s interdependence.

It’s understanding that the reason we need to learn how to take care of ourselves is really so that we can get into position to be able to take care of the needs of others, and have them also take care of our needs in a mutually beneficial relationship.

This is all the more true if God is in the midst of the relationship. Solomon’s father David had experienced a relationship like this. It was his relationship with his best friend, Jonathan. And right in the middle of that relationship with each other was their mutual relationship with the Lord.

It’s true. Two are better than one. And, as Jonathan and David demonstrate clearly, when the third party is God, three is best of all.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, August 12, is Ecclesiastes 4:1 – 6:12, 1 Corinthians 7:17-35 and Proverbs 19:23 – 20:4.

Jesus, thank you for coming to love and support me. I know that I am dependent on you and your love for forgiveness, peace, and eternal life. Help me to grow beyond independence to interdependence, so that I can fulfill the purpose you’ve given me to love others as you first loved me.

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Eternity In Our Hearts

Solomon is one of the wisest and wealthiest men who ever lived. He truly had it all. When it came to power, position, possessions, prestige and the playthings of this life, he seemingly had no peer in his own lifetime.

And yet, as he pens the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon wonders aloud where all this has really gotten him. His book starts with him writing, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

Apart from faith, God is inscrutable to us. From our point of view, he often seems to have hidden himself behind his creation. God’s hiddenness is a burden on us as humans because we sense that God exists and yet we can’t see him without the eyes of faith.

Is God really real? We have a “burden” in our hearts to know!

Yet, God has also left plentiful hints intended to “unburden” us. All around us are signs of his existence and his presence. As Solomon points out, the beauty and order that we see around us in the creation are clear indicators of God. Have you ever noticed, for example, how many people like to claim that being out in nature is their “church”?

Inside of us are further hints that God is real. The constant nudge from within is that there must be something more than this life.

God created us to be eternal beings. We will never be truly satisfied in our inner being with earthly things. We sense that our value is eternal. And the things that our heart is most drawn to — whether we like to admit it or not — are eternal things.

In the end, only the love of the eternal God can truly satisfy us.

“I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, August 11, is Ecclesiastes 1:1 – 3:22, 1 Corinthians 7:1-16 and Psalm 94:12-23.

Lord, I feel eternity in my heart. Thank you for sending me a Savior named Jesus to make sure that I will one day enter eternity and spend it with you. Send me your Holy Spirit so that I may always trust in Jesus as my Savior from sin, and my Lord who even now sits at your right hand in heaven.

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Our Help

Paul invested his heart and soul in people. He also invested his time in them — and nowhere more than in the city of Ephesus. Paul spent three years with the Ephesians, preaching and teaching.

He uses an interesting turn of phrase as he speaks to the Ephesian leaders for the very last time. He tells them that all along, he wanted his messages to be helpful to them.

I don’t know if we always get the fact that this is what God wants to do when he gives us his word through the apostles — he wants to be helpful. Yes, the end goal, as Paul says, is that we turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

But do we understand that it’s not just a matter of God getting his way, or self-importantly making his kingdom larger, or forcing his will upon us? God doesn’t need us to get his way, he’s not about making something larger to impress anyone, and he woos us rather than tries to force matters.

Actually, for God, it’s not about him at all. It’s about us. Everything he teaches us is about trying to help us…

Help us overcome sin. Help us find our eternal home in heaven. Help us out of the hurts, habits and hang-ups that threaten to cause us to self-destruct.

Jesus sent apostles like Paul to be helpful, because that is his heart. Jesus is a servant. And he came to serve, not to be served.

He came to help us. And isn’t that what the Psalmist said hundreds of years before the apostle Paul? He wrote: “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield” (Psalm 33:20, NIV).

And just as Jesus came to be helpful, so it is with the church today. We come to be helpful. We teach and we preach to be helpful. And that’s exactly what we know will happen when people repent and put their faith in the Lord Jesus.

They will be helped — and in the most important way possible!

“You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:20-21, NIV).

Lord, thank you for your word. Thank you for the message of Paul and the other apostles. Thank you most of all for the gospel. Grant me your Holy Spirit and lead me to repentance. Increase my faith in your Son Jesus. Be my helper throughout life, and lead me to life eternal.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, June 30, is 2 Kings 1:1 – 2:25, Acts 20:1-38 and Psalm 78:40-55.

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Your Will Be Done

David’s own son, Absalom, was rebelling against him. It didn’t look good for David, with his own flesh and blood conspiring to take his throne from him — and then the report came to David that “the hearts of the people are with Absalom.”

All this after David had just shown Absalom an amazing amount of grace and forgiveness! But this is the account of a man who over a long career as King of Israel had learned to seek the Lord’s will in matters.

A thousand years later, Jesus would teach the apostles to pray, “Your will be done,” when addressing their Heavenly Father. But by faith, David knew this was the correct course of action centuries before that.

And how about us, two thousand years after Jesus? Have we learned to pray by faith, “Your will be done,” in the crucible of our own life, when times are tough, when injustice seems to rule, when grace seems to have been wasted?

Do we have the confidence in God that David did? Confidence to say, “If God wants me to make a comeback from this, then I will make a comeback.” Or what about the meekness and humility to say, “If God is not pleased with me, then I am ready. Whatever he thinks is best, that’s what he should do to me.”

Those are words of awesome faith. Those are thoughts that only the Holy Spirit can teach us to think. Hearts like these and courage like this — only Jesus can give that to us.

And that’s the heart I pray to Jesus for you to have — and me to have! It’s the courageous heart to pray daily, “Lord, your will, not mine, be done!”

“Then the king (David) said to Zadok, ‘Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him’” (2 Samuel 15:25-26, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, June 10, is 2 Samuel 15:13 – 16:14, Acts 6:1 – 7:19 and Psalm 71:19-24.

Dear God, grant me the heart and the mind of David. When I am in trouble, treated unjustly, receiving all too little grace in my life, help me to pray with confidence in you, and meekness in regard to myself. Help me always to pray, “Your will be done!”

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Heavy Things

Life is filled with heavy things. Sadness. Grudges. Responsibility. Depression. Debt. Guilt. Fear.

That’s the short list. Many, many other heavy things constantly weigh us down and exhaust us.

And way too frequently, people live under the impression that they have to lift and carry all those heavy things on their own.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Our God is a Savior. He loves to help us. He loves to carry those heavy things for us.

And he does it every day.

David knew this. He trusted God to protect him from Saul when Saul wanted him dead. He looked to God to comfort him when he grieved the death of Samuel the prophet. He waited for God to bring about justice when Nabal, his Israelite brother, foolishly failed to assist him in a time of need.

David looked to God to carry the heavy things in his life. God always came through. And David sang songs of peace and joy.

Life is a lot lighter when we don’t have to carry all those burdens on our own.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Friday, May 29, is 1 Samuel 24:1 – 25:44, John 18:25-40 and Psalm 68:15-20.

Lord, life is so heavy at times. I’m not capable of carrying my burdens on my own. You are my Savior. I need you. Thank you for hearing my prayers. Thank you for carrying my burdens for me every day.

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