RUNNING THE RACE WELL IN 2020

“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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”RUN THE RACE

We all want to run the Christian race well in 2020. In this passage of Scripture we are encouraged to throw off anything that will hinders us and the sins that might entangles us, so we can run with perseverance the race marked out for us. In verse two, we see three things we must consider if we want to run the race victoriously. We must consider:

1. Our Focus
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2a).

2. Our Example
“Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2b).

3. Our Hope
“And sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2c).

Let’s stand back for a moment and ask how this great text can help us in the coming year.

A. The only way to win the race is to keep your eyes on Jesus.

B. When hard times come, don’t start with your circumstances and try to find Jesus. Go to Jesus first!

C. When you feel like giving up, remember that in God’s eyes you are already a winner.

Here is good cheer for the New Year: Everything we need we will find in Christ. He has all the hope, all the love, all the grace, all the power, all the strength, all the wisdom, all the patience, all the guidance, all the encouragement, all the joy, all the endurance, all the gentleness, all the forgiveness, all the determination, all the submission, all the boldness, and all the meekness that we need. Every virtue is in him. Every good thing we need he has. And what he has, he willingly gives to us. Let no one falter in the race that is set before us. Let no one drop out because of discouragement, fear, doubt, despair, anger, or bitterness. The Lord Jesus has already run the race. He is the Captain of our Salvation and the Savior of his own body. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus in 2020 and all will be well. Amen.

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God’s plan of salvation is wrapped in a Person….

Do you know where the very first verse in the Bible that mentions Christmas is found? It is found in Genesis 3:15 where God is speaking to Satan after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. God says to Satan, “And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).mary-baby-jesus

You say, are you sure Christmas is in that verse pastor? You might have missed it because the name Jesus isn’t in the text, but he is there nonetheless. Jesus is the “seed of the women” who would one day make his entrance into this world in a most unlikely fashion.

As the centuries rolled on, Satan kept winning victories and God kept raising up men and women who would continue the godly line on the earth. I like to think of this verse as the top of a wide funnel. When the promise was given, no one could have imagined the coming Jesus Christ. The “seed of the woman” simply meant that he must be member of the human race. But after the flood the line was narrowed to Noah’s descendants, then later to Shem’s descendants, and later came to rest on one man–Abraham, the father of the nation Israel. Then to his son Isaac, to Isaac’s son Jacob, to Jacob’s son Judah. Centuries later the line was narrowed to the house of David. Finally, some nine centuries after that, the line came to rest on the firstborn son of a virgin named Mary. What started with the whole human race has narrowed to just one man–Jesus Christ.

He didn’t come in the usual way; he came by means of a virgin birth. No one before or since ever entered the world as he did. Thus, he is the ultimate “seed of the woman” since no man was involved in his conception.
*  When God wanted to save the world, he didn’t send a committee; he sent his Son.
*  When God wanted to say, “I love you,” he wrapped his love note in swaddling clothes.
*  When God wanted to crush Satan, he started in a stable in Bethlehem.

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HOW TO LIVE IN A STATE OF REVIVAL

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:19-21).

The word for “restitution” in this passage is the Greek word – “apokatastasis”. This is the one and only place it is found in the New Testament. The word literally means to “restore again” or “to repair”. The plan of God in sending His Son, Jesus, was to restore that which had been broken and ruined. The Lord’s saving work is a global repair job. Each one of us has come to Him already ruined by sin. But God’s will and His promise are to restore and renew us through His Son.

This restoration process isn’t a one-sided affair. Having been initiated by the Lord, it requires of us humans, one essential response – that is repentance. The passage above draws a clear parallel between repentance and refreshing. Anyone who has walked with the Lord for a while knows this well. Repentance brings refreshment, over and over……and over again.

Allow yourself to be refreshed…seek the Lord today and let Him show you where you need repentance. Then, go ahead and make the turn, and watch how quickly and beautifully you’ll be restored, repaired and refreshed. Make it a daily habit, and you’ll find yourself living in a state of revival!

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CHRIST BEFORE BETHLEHEM

MY NEWEST BOOK, “CHRIST BEFORE BETHLEHEM” IS NOW AVAILABLE AT AMAZON AND BARNES & NOBLECHRIST BEFORE BETHLEHEM COVER

Yes, Christ was born in Bethlehem, but Christ’s existence didn’t begin with His coming to this earth as a baby in Bethlehem. The Apostle John emphasized this in the beginning of his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3, ESV). Jesus was present at the beginning of creation. He was and is our creator. His pre-existence is further affirmed by His many appearances documented throughout the Old Testament.

John F. Walvoord, Christian theologian, pastor, and president of Dallas Theological Seminary believed and taught that “It is safe to assume that every visible manifestation of God in bodily form in the Old Testament is to be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

These pre-incarnate appearances of Jesus Christ are called Christohanies. In this book Dr. Raymond Horne digs deep into Scripture giving details of Christ’s pre-incarnate appearances to Abraham, Hagar, Jacob, Moses, Balaam, Joshua, Gideon and Sampson’s mother, lifting out life principles and practical applications for today.

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DON’T LET YOUR PAST DEFINE YOU!

Wouldn’t you like to have a time machine so you could travel back in time to change some things in your past? You may have done some things that you’d like to undo. But the past doesn’t exist anymore except in your memory. You can’t go back and do it over, but you can start today and make a new ending. You can’t change your past but here are three things that can change.

1. You can’t change what you did in your past…but you can be cleansed of what you did.

We all have sinful pasts, but none are out of reach of God’s mercy. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 speaks to a shameful past: “and such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified….” God’s forgiveness changes everything! “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Think of Peter who failed the Lord miserably just before the Savior’s torture and death (Luke 22:54-62). No doubt he felt unworthy to even be in Jesus’ resurrected presence. But forgiven in Christ, Peter became a mighty leader in the church, feeding the Lord’s sheep (John 21:15-17).

Jesus died for all your sins, not just some of them. If you’ll receive Jesus as your Lord and ask His forgiveness, He says, “I will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 8:12). If He doesn’t remember them anymore, then neither should you.

2. You can’t change the consequences of your past…but you can trust God to use your past as His testimony.

Many want to keep their past a secret, yet God may be saying, “I want you to tell others how Jesus rescued you.” Consider new opportunities to reach out and make a difference. Allow lessons from your past to drive you toward greater God-planned (Ephesians 2:10) ministry and service.

A testimony has powerful impact. People may dispute scripture and deny the Lord, but it’s hard to deny the transformation God makes in a life. Stories of victory over the sin, pain and hurt in your past are evidences of change. God has great purpose in redeeming each one of us. What Satan means for evil in our lives, God wants to transform and use for His glory.
God “works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11). Paul persecuted and murdered Christians before he was converted (Acts 8:1,3, 26:10) but God used his tainted past as a testimony of His mercy. People said, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy” (Gal. 1:23).

3. You cannot change anything in your past…but you can change everything about your future.

Philippians 3:12-14 – “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.…”

Your life is a book that you’re writing. The past is gone so you can’t go back in time to rewrite it. But the future hasn’t happened yet and you can choose the ending of the book. You might have had a bad start but you can write a good ending. Your book isn’t finished. Start writing that great ending right now. Forget what is behind and press on and you will win the prize!

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REPENTANCE & FORGIVENESS

BLESSED IS THE ONE WHOSE TRANSGRESSIONS ARE FORGIVEN

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven; whose sins are covered. I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart (Psalm 32:1, 5, 11).

Sometimes it takes a lot to force us to confess sin to God. It’s not something we like to do, and many avoid it at all costs. In the Bible, it took seven years of living like an animal for King Nebuchadnezzar to confess his pride to God. It took wars, famine, and numerous judgments from the Lord for the Israelites to confess their sin. And, it took a crushing work from God for David to finally acknowledge, uncover, and confess his sin to God.

Let’s look more closely at David’s sin. He tried to hide, deny, and be silent about his sin. It took a prophet named Nathan to spell out the ugliness of his sin before he finally manned up. Only then did he acknowledge his sin before God. It’s as if David finally said, Okay, I give up. No more silence. I officially make the declaration that I have sinned before the Lord. Then David tells us he no longer covered up his iniquity. He pulls back the cover on his sin and says, there it is. Uncovered. Out in the open for the Lord to see.

And then David says that he confesses his transgressions. See all of that twisted up sin? David exclaims, It’s all mine. I confess that I, and I alone, did it all. They are my horrific sins. That is no light-duty repentance. That is sin fully acknowledged, uncovered, and confessed to the Lord. And it pleased the Lord. See Psalm 51 for more detail.

What a relief it must have been for King David to know his sins were now erased from God’s ledger book. Gone! Eliminated! Wiped out! It is important to note that David understood not only did God erase his sin, but He also took away the guilt of his sin. David was forgiven and guiltless before God! What a relief!

The result of repentance that leads to forgiveness is threefold: gladness, rejoicing, and song. The forgiven experience a supernatural gladness that permeate their very souls. The forgiven have good reason to give verbal expression of God’s amazing goodness and grace in their lives. The forgiven sing! They shout because they indeed have something to sing about.

King David, the adulterer, murderer, liar, repented. He confessed and turned away from his sin. And the Lord forgave. Need forgiveness? Need the song back in your heart? Then confess that sin, don’t hide it!

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HOW TO CLAIM A PROMISE OF GOD

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

God’s promises are very precious. Not only do they remind us of His personal interest in our lives, but they also provide hope and encouragement during difficult times.

Before claiming a promise, we must check ourselves in three areas: faith, obedience, and patience. First, we must trust Jesus as our personal Savior and live on the basis of our belief in Him. Obeying God is also necessary. If we willfully continue to disobey the Lord, then He is not obligated to fulfill His promise (1 Peter 3:12). Finally, patience is another requirement. God operates on His timetable to accomplish His purposes according to His perfect plan. Waiting on Him is necessary.

At times it will seem as if a divine promise is not being fulfilled. When that is the case, take a second look at the biblical passage to be sure it applies to you. Then verify that you have met any conditions, and examine whether there is a genuine need. If you are still convinced the promise applies, then you can look a little deeper at your request. Will the Lord be honored when this promise is fulfilled? Can He answer this prayer without harming others or hindering His will in their life? Will this help you grow spiritually? These additional questions will assist you in claiming a promise of God.

The Holy Spirit is our instructor, who will teach us about the Lord’s promises. He wants to build our faith through Scripture, provide the strength necessary to obey, and develop in us the fruit of patience. These qualities help us as we look to God to fulfill His promises. What promise will you claim today!

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THE EYE OF THE STORM…….

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

The eye of the storm is the most peaceful place on earth. While wind and rain wreak havoc all around, pilots who fly storm-tracker planes say that all is perfectly still in that special place. In Psalm 91, David speaks about terror and plagues but says “but it will not come near you.” Why? Well, David tells us why. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver me” (Psalm 91:1-3).

There are two ways to go through a storm: in panic or in peace. When a storm suddenly threatened their boat the disciples cried, “Carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38). And where was Jesus? Sleeping peacefully in the back of the boat. That’s because He understood:

1.  To get to where God wants to take you, you must go through certain storms. It’s not optional;

2. When you’re in the center of God’s will the storm can’t take you under; it’s in the storm, not the calm, that you discover this;

3. When it’s over you come out knowing God better, and more equipped to help others! “So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord is an everlasting Rock (the Rock of ages)” (Isaiah 26:4 Amp). That’s what it means to live in the eye of the storm! 

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DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST?

Understanding who we are in Christ is important if we desire to walk in victory over sin and failure in our Christian life. Although it is not the only step in claiming victory, it is the first step. Confusion about your identity makes you a sitting duck for Satan.

One of the many reasons many Christians don’t live in victory is that they truly have an identity crisis. While we aren’t what we are going to be someday, we certainly aren’t what we once were and we must understand that.

Let’s look at who we are in Christ:

1.  We are children of God.  I Peter 1:23; Galatians 3:26; I John 3:1;  I John 3:3

2.  We are heirs of God. Galatians 4:7; Romans 8:17; 1 Peter 1:3-6

3.  We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 2:6

4.  We are justified in the sight of God. Romans 5:1

5.  We are new creations. 2 Corinthians 5:17a; 2 Corinthians 3:18

6.  We are free from condemnation. Romans 8:1-2

7.  We have everything we need for life and godliness. 2 Peter 1:3

8.  We are more than conquerors. Romans 8:7

9.  We are Spirit-indwelt. 1I Corinthians 3:16

10. We are ambassadors of Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:20

Prayer: O God, remind me of who I am in Christ. Help me remember that I’m forgiven, righteous, whole, filled with your Spirit, justified, and your personal representative. Help me in my daily walk to be who I am and to delight in my identity. Help me to bask in my new name, my new destination, my new companion, and my new agenda. Amen.

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HEAVENLY TREASURE imageOne night, a group of thieves broke into a jewelry store. But rather than stealing anything, they simply switched all the price tags. The next day no one could tell what was valuable and what was cheap. The expensive jewels had suddenly become cheap, and the costume jewelry, which had been virtually worthless before, was suddenly of great value. Customers who thought they were purchasing valuable gems were getting fakes. Those who couldn’t afford the higher priced items were leaving the store with treasures.

In our world someone came in and switched all the price tags. It’s hard to tell what is of value and what is not. Great value is given to the accumulation of material wealth and the power that goes with it. The world puts a high price on popularity, prestige, beauty, and fame. But Jesus taught that such things are virtually worthless in the only “jewelry store” that matters: the kingdom of God.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Earthly treasures—we all know what those are. We can see and touch the shiny sports car, the fancy boat, the big new home, and all the other creature comforts that money can buy. Compared to vague and elusive heavenly treasures, these things seem so real and attractive, especially when a neighbor has them and you don’t.

Why would Jesus warn us about these earthly treasures that seem to make so many people happy? The answer to this can be summed up in three words: “temporary,” “perishable,” and “shortsighted.” We are destined for eternity, but the treasures of the world are not. It’s shortsighted to set our hearts on things that will fade away (Colossians 3:2). What will last forever, Jesus says, is the treasure of heaven. This treasure really is worth seeking,

We lay up our treasures in heaven when we give ourselves to the service of others in Christ’s name. On the great day when Jesus will sit upon the throne of glory as Judge, He will turn to those on His right hand and say, “‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me'” (Matthew 25:31-39).

“Heavenly Father, help me to put you first in all things and seek first the kingdom of God, rather than earthly treasures.

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