Just a few things about the community outreach/toy giveaway held here at the River at Tampa Bay on Sunday, December 13th. We had to come in at 7:00am but we were still pretty pumped. Even though outwardly there was increased activity in anticipation of the upcoming events of the day, inwardly I felt the peace of God more strongly than I’ve felt in a very long time. It was the most peaceful I can ever remember feeling prior to launching out for the bus ministry. I felt like I was in a zone: there was nothing forced, no fretting or anything like that. It was if the Lord was saying “I’ve got this. You just flow with me.”
We expected a large amount of people and we weren’t disappointed. But one thing became apparent to me though: this wasn’t all about the toys. On our route we picked up over one hundred people for the fourth straight week (During the summer, forty people was a good Sunday). Still, adults outnumbered children four to one…even on toy giveaway Sunday.
The people come now not because of food, though we still give it; nor because of Christmas toys, but because they want to come. They tell their friends and neighbors. There is a man on 22nd Street who has become a regular. On Sunday he met the bus and then pulled me to the side. He said he was being evicted, so he couldn’t come to church today. But he had evangelized three of his neighbors and they were getting on the bus. It was incredible. I fully expect God to meet his needs and that we will see him on the bus this coming Sunday.
There is a young disabled lady who has been coming faithfully for three months. When she first started coming, she used a walker. She has been using a cane the past two Sundays. There is also a gentleman who is disabled who has been coming faithfully for about a five weeks. This past Sunday, he left his wheelchair and came with a walker. The faith of the people is being built up.
Like the races that were run by those heroes we looked at yesterday in the “hall of faith” of Hebrews chapter eleven, our race isn’t an easy one.
the 1st verse of Hebrews twelve urges us to “run with endurance the race that’s set before us.” the first Greek term that’s interpreted “race” is ah-go-na ( said with a long “o” ), from which we get our word “agony.” Life is troublesome sledding for the majority, not unlike a painful marathon full of challenges and tests. And so, for us to endure it, we want to “lay aside every encumbrance”—all the things that distract us and keep us from running well—and “the sin which so simply entangles us” ( Hebrews 12:1 ).
In the area of the prior chapter on religion, this no doubt refers back to the sin of unbelief. To remain active and powerful from one day to the next, unnecessary distractions must be laid aside and powerful religion must be applied.
Religion in what? A better query would be religion in whom? The following verse tells us:. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the writer and perfecter of religion, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat at the right hand of the throne of Almighty God. Just as a runner in a race fixes their attention on the tape at the end of the distance being run, we are to mend our minds only on Christ. The first word interpreted “fixing” suggests the concept of looking away from the rest and staying centered absolutely on Jesus Christ our Lord. There’s no smarter way to endure life’s race than that.
did you know Christ? Have you placed your religion and trust in Him and Him alone? If you havenot, the secret for you—before you start running this race—is Religion .
If you have placed your religion in Christ, the secret for you—as you are running this race—is FOCUS.
Just as there’s a Hall-Of-Fame for superb sportsmen who distinguished themselves in assorted sports in America, the Bible contains what we would call a “hall of faith.” It is found in the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews—a entrancing record of names and events in which each individual modeled a faith-related achievement. Pretty fantastic stuff, isn’t it? One individual after another, acting on religion, stepped out of the ranks of the ordinary and trusted God in remarkable tactics. When you checked out the remaining 9 verses of the chapter, you find still others who stood powerful, refusing to give in when the going got coarse. The list includes folks in countless classes : kings, prophets, judges, and soldiers.
I remember reading of these heroes when I was only a boy, imagining one scene after another, thinking how great it might be to have them standing nearby cheerleading for us today.
We can’t actually see them with our eyes, but they are surrounding us, nonetheless. since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside each impediment and the sin which so simply entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that’s set before us. There they are—all those women and men of religion, who have died and gone on to their reward—but they are not lounging around heaven strumming on harps. No, they ( with many others not discussed in Hebrews eleven ) form that “great cloud of witnesses surrounding us.”.
As we carry on without them today, they inspire us to stand powerful, to run the race of life with discipline and diligence.
I read about a consultant latterly who got anxious that his work was becoming far too inactive as he was aging. He was gaining weight and feeling increasingly more slow. Realizing that his schedule failed to permit plenty of additional hours to spend at the local health club each day, he made a decision to switch some unacceptable habits on his own. He stopped taking the lift when he wanted to go only 3 or 4 floors up ; he began to use the steps. And when he parked at the surgery, he’d park a reasonably long distance away.
The same at the mall when he would do some shopping.
He purposely selected a parking bay quite some distance from the store, so he could get in some additional yards of fast-walking exercise. And rather than eating a long and giant lunch, he’d bring a pair pieces of fruit and a healthy treat to keep him from hungry. At home, whenever he selected to watch a fave TV show or some sports event, he’d do so while working up a light sweat on the treadmill. Nothing difficult or super-expensive, just practical things that kept him active.
He currently maintains his correct weight by those and a number of other disciplines he privately carries out on a consistent basis. What a sensible, reasonable plan he put into first gear all on his very own. There’s sensible advice along these lines found in one of Paul’s letters : “Therefore be cautious how you walk, not as foolish men but as smart, making the best of your time” ( Ephesians 5:15-16 ).
To execute that good recommendation, what about doing an appraisal of your private schedule, giving some thought to a wiser use of your time? Anything you ought to start doing that would break the passivity mold? Or anything you could consider stopping, as it’s obstructing your desire to become more active? Why not take a few cues from the person I discussed who found practical methods to get back in shape? I have found that keeping a chart of my progress in my daily calendar is a genuine help. What type of activity is the best kind? The one you’ll really do. Whichever works best for you, as the Nike ad reminds us, “Just do it.”.
He charged north out of Jerusalem with the ire of Alexander the Great sweeping across Persia and the dedicated resolve of William Tecumseh Sherman in his burning march across Georgia.
Such barbarous resolution and blind loathing for the fans of Christ drove him hard toward his distant destination : Damascus. If you used to be a fan of Jesus living anywhere near Jerusalem, you would not have wished to hear Saul’s knock at your door.
We read this : “As he was traveling, it occurred that he was approaching Damascus, and all of a sudden a light from heaven flashed around him ; and he slipped to the ground and heard a voice exclaiming to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ “( Acts 9:3–4 ). At that moment, Saul’s murderous journey was brought to a divine halt.
No heavenly calligraphy scrolled across the skies with the caution, “Watch out tomorrow, Saul, God’s going to getcha.” God stayed silent and restrained as Saul proceeded with his murderous plan to invade Damascus. At the hour it might have its best impact, God stepped in. Perhaps it’s a sad vehicle accident that claims the life of your buddy. Or it may come thru the passing of a kid. In the hour of deepest grief, your life and the lives of your folks are impacted forever. Often , life’s sudden turns come in the hideous crash of an aeroplane, causing a tragedy that wipes out half a neighborhood. Or in the halting words of your consultant as she admits, “You have cancer.” Like a rogue wave, grief crashes onto the tranquil shores of our lives and knocks us flat. Incredibly, the jolt awakens our senses, and we all of a sudden remember that God is in control, regardless of what.
Don’t rush to judgment.” In his words : “Stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it’ll be overthrown ; but if it is of Almighty God, you won’t be in a position to overthrow them ; or else you could even be found struggling with God”. The young Pharisee [Saul] shook his head in skepticism. “This man was meant to be a spokesperson for Judaism. He taught me much of what I know about Judaism and the Law.
He schooled me in a way to do exactly what I am doing. Saul, naturally, had no technique of realizing that it might be this type of calm reasoning that would hold him together when he later carried the torch for Christ.
He would remind himself that those that battle with him were truly fighting God. He could not think the Sanhedrin would heed such calm recommend and consider going soft on these infidels. If you would permit me a minute of digression here, I believe Peter stayed alive then and in the years that followed due to Gamaliel’s sensible intervention.
I believe this “unexpected ally” saved his life. Saul and the remainder of them would have stoned the entire bunch.
He made use of the words of a sensible professor to save the lives of people who would later play strategic roles in the formation of his Christian church. Keep that under consideration when you’re feeling your situation became hopeless. Irrespective of what you are facing, God is still in control, noiselessly and sovereignly working all things out according to His perfect plan. He has His Gamaliels waiting in the wings.
At the exact moment when their words will have the best impact, they may step out of the shadows and onto the stage to supply their life-saving words.