Saturday, December 29, 2012

Finishing Well


Habakkuk 2
2  Then the LORD answered me and said: "Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.
3  For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.

Throughout the Bible God calls attention to beginnings and endings. (Genesis – Revelation) At the end of the book of Revelation we read:

Revelation 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

 I am Alpha & Omega Beginning and End, the First and the Last … The scriptures also say that we should:

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; 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.

“Look to Jesus who is both the Author and the Finisher of our faith …” and that:

Hebrews 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;

We are “Made partakers of Christ”, if we keep on holding on to the very first act of our faith, which is the salvation of our soul, unto the very end.

Furthermore we are told that:

Isaiah 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

“God knows the end from the beginning and has known from the ancient days the things which are yet to be done …”  And, He has decided that when it is all said and done, He is going to end up “pleased” with the outcome.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

For some reason it seems that God has a greater consideration for end of a thing more than the beginning thereof. And He evidently thinks more of those who exhibit patience than of those who are proud and hasty in spirit.

Suffice it to say, God appreciates a good finish.

John 4:34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.

In fact, Jesus said that He was all about finishing the work of God.

John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and he bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.

This He did on the Cross of Calvary when He took upon Himself the sins of the world and completed the work of redemption. “It is finished!”

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.

The Apostle Paul took this same mind unto himself when after continual physical hardships and overwhelming persecution he declared that he was not going to be moved but would “finish his course with joy” as a testimony to the grace of God. What a testimony it is.

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Right near the end of the Apostle’s life he wrote to his son in the faith and told Timothy that he had fought a good fight and “finished his course” and kept the faith which had once been delivered to him in Christ Jesus.

Both heaven and earth, as well as each one of us, appreciate a good finish. We know first impressions are important but we also realize that:

Last impressions are lasting impressions.

At first impression Judas Iscariot was chosen from the multitudes, and a whole host of disciples, to become an Apostle of the Lamb. (Mark 3:14) Jesus chose Judas along with the other 11 to be with Him and to send him out to preach. However, first impressions can be deceptive …

I don’t mean to be critical, judgmental or insensitive but only stating the fact that the beginning of a thing reveals little if any substance of the outcome of the matter … however … the end speaks for itself just as our text for today declares. (Write the vision down – wait – in the end it will speak) This is just the way of life -

·        Abraham’s promise of being a father of many nations spoke louder at the end than at the beginning.
·        Moses’ declaration that God had sent him as a deliverer spoke louder after they crossed the Red Sea than before.
·        Joseph’s dream spoke louder at 110 than when he first told it at 17
·        David being anointed to be King over all Israel spoke louder at the end than at the beginning (BTW – it was a long road in between)
·        Ruth’s commitment to her mother-in-law spoke louder at the end of her life than when she first made that committment.
·        The sacrifice of Mary’s alabaster box of fragrant oil spoke louder in the end than it did when she first used it to anoint Jesus.

From Judas to Zacchaeus, from the young rich ruler to those spoken of in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 … last impressions are lasting impressions and finishing well is important. We may never get the new thing right if we do not finish the old thing well. Finishing well may be more important than we first realized.

How can we know if we are finishing well? The truth is: Only God can measure success and only He can say “well done” in the end.

Finishing well boils down to one thing – Pleasing God!

Pleasing God is the result of:
1.  What we believe
a.   Without faith it is impossible to please God – Hebrews 11:6
b.   What do we believe?
                                         i.    we believe the Bible is God’s Holy Word
                                        ii.    we believe that Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God and the only eternal payment for sin.
2.  Who we worship
a.   We know Who we worship – John 4:22
b.   Who do we worship?
                                         i.    we worship Jehovah Almighty, the One True Eternal God
                                        ii.    we do not worship our faith, our money, our nation, our comfort, our families or our future – all of these are important but we worship Jehovah alone.
Luke 4:8  And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ’You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’"
3.  Why we work
a.   Why do we work?
                                         i.    because the harvest is plentiful only the laborers are few
                                        ii.    because they will not know if someone does not tell them
                                      iii.    because faith without corresponding action is dead
                                      iv.    because in the end why we do what we do will speak …
Matthew 25:14ff  … His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord … inherit the kingdom … for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; … stranger … naked … sick … in prison …”

How can we finish well – Ask yourself: Do I trust Him? Who or what do I worship? Why am I a committed Christian? – Determine to be pleasing to God and finish 2012 well so that you can begin the New Year right with God. Finish well, please God, in all you do … the end will speak!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Countdown to Christmas Part 6 – Life Lessons


Luke 1
39 ¶  Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah,
40  and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.
41  And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42  Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
43  "But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44  "For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

Life Lesson #1

Some things can only be done now
·       Would not have worked to have waited
·       The Word to Zacharias was that the baby would be filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb … that has a limited time frame.
·       Opportunities may abound but they are only opportunities – we can meet them or mess them up.
·       Jesus told Judas, that which you are going to do, do now!
·       There is a time for everything and God makes all things beautiful in His time.

45  "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."
46  And Mary said: "My soul magnifies the Lord,
47  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

Life Lesson#2

We may not be able to embrace the blessing unless we are willing accept the burden
·       Mary was blessed indeed but also
o   pregnant out of wedlock
o   inspired to take a 200 mile round trip walk during the first three months
o   forced to take another 100 mile trip at 7 to 9 months pregnant
o   left out in the cold to bear her baby in a stable cave
o   made her escape to save her child by way of a long journey to a foreign country
o   ponder/wonder with concern in her heart for over 30 years about what had happened and was happening in her life
o   watch her firstborn be accused of blasphemy in a national trial and endure his torture, sentencing and execution
o   all before getting to the resurrection and Pentecost after which began the growth along with the persecution of the Church
·       Mary was blessed – truly blessed to be a part of the plan of God, and so are we.
o   I feel certain that if you ask her today that she wouldn’t change a thing … that might not have been the story had asked her in the middle of her moment

Life Lesson #3

48  For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
49  For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.
50  And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.
51  He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52  He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.
53  He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty.

God loves the humble heart
·       Those who refuse to feel
o   better than their parents
o   brighter than their teachers
o   bigger than their God
o   a superiority complex
·       Proverbs 6:16ff puts a proud look at the top of the list of abominations in the eyes of God
·       Philippians 2:5  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus
·       Self righteous superiority complex with delusions of grandeur

Luke 18
10  "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11  "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ’God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.
12  ’I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
13  "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ’God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
14  "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Life Lesson #4

Luke 1
54  He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy,
55  As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever."

Have patience with God – His job might not be so easy
·       He will get it done but He may need a little cooperation from you
·       Jonah’s resistance to helping God made the job more difficult for the both of them
·       God told Moses that the Children of Israel had aggravated Him ten times and that He was fed up with trying to gain their cooperation.
·       Numbers 23:19 …

56  And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Countdown to Christmas Part 4 – Life Lessons


Luke 1
26 ¶  Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

Life Lesson #1

God calls greatness out of obscurity
1.   Mary was a nobody living in a small town, going nowhere
2.   Like her great, great grandfather David, living in obscurity
3.   The only thing special in her life was that she was special to God

28  And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"
29  But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.

Life Lesson #2

God does not first seek our permission before He interrupts our plans.
1.   God may have a different view of our life than we do
2.   But whatever God’s will is … you will be outfitted for the job
3.   God knows what He is doing
4.   Not every time does everyone affected hear from God.
5.   The Bible does not intend to tell the whole story
a.   Mary’s parents’ response for example

30  Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

Life Lesson #3

One moment of favor is worth a 1000 days of labor.
1.   Chose favor over fear …
2.   Right now there are a bunch of nobodies God is preparing to be the next somebody He uses.

31  "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.
32  "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
33  "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."

Life Lesson #4

When God fulfills His Word in one person’s life, it fulfills His Word in many people’s life.
1.   God affects many by affecting one
2.   Zacchaeus’ changed life changed the lives of many
3.   The Word to Mary was a Word that touched many more than her

34  Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"

Life Lesson #5

God is not limited by those things which limit us.
1.   Customs and culture, thoughts and traditions or doubts and beliefs
2.   Your rod will outstretch your ability.

35  And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

Life Lesson #6

God always has a plan
1.   Sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture until you put all the pieces together.

36  "Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.

Life Lesson #7

There is always time for a testimony
1.   Revelation 12:11 They overcame by … testimony

Life Lesson #8 kind of stands alone and no one could say it better …

37  "For with God nothing will be impossible."
1.   Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane – He said, “Father I know that all things are possible with You … If it be Thy will …”
2.   All things are possible but not all things one wants are God’s will
3.   One Word from God changes everything … or it should!

38  Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Life Lesson #9

We are often limited by our unwillingness or inability to lose control
1.   The true test of a servant is how you react when treated like one
2.   Krystal McCullough heard someone teach this point several years ago and shared this truth with me. I have found it to be a valuable reference to keep my perspective in stressful times.
3.   Life should be a script which only God can write.
4.   It can be difficult to appreciate the big picture when focused only on one piece.