Sunday, March 20, 2011


Friday and Saturday our town had a business expo that drew hundreds of interested of people to its lineup of local businesses, many of which gave away prizes and food, in addition to their own particular spiel about their service or products.  Grand prizes were to be given to those who returned on Saturday for the drawing.  Having invested some time to visit the booths on Friday, we decided to go all the way and be there for Saturday's finale.  When we showed up we weren't surprised at the numbers who returned.  There was a general air of expectancy, coupled with a good time connecting with friends also in attendance.  When we arrived, we immediately encountered another fellow pastor and his wife and proceeded to just "hang out" and enjoy the crowd and each other.  As the time for the drawing came near, we moved to a central location in front of the announcer who was at a mike on the balcony above the room.  The press of the crowd left little walking room so we stood together, looking up to the action taking place above us.  Following some preliminary announcements and gifts thrown out for people below to catch, they were ready to begin drawing the names.  Before the first name was drawn and read, the announcer called out my wife's name and told her to go to a nearby booth where her name had been drawn for a prize.  Surprised, she obeyed while we waited for her to return, which she did in moments, bearing her new blue digital camera.
Only moments earlier, as we spoke to our friends, they had mentioned the pastor's wife had won three prizes from individual booths the day before, and the pastor laughingly commented that they'd returned so she could be drawn for the new set of tires he wanted.  Needless to say, when my wife's name was called, it renewed the amusement over the wives being the "lucky" ones.  Within moments the announcer had the first name for a major prize.  Imagine our added surprise when an elderly lady standing next to me raised her hand to claim it! This added to our amusement as we waited for the next name to be called.  This time we were shocked to hear my pastor friend's name called, though not for the tires he wanted.  The winner's circle around us was widening! Finally, the name for the tires was drawn.  You'll not believe it! Another man standing within six foot of us raised his hand in response! Out of five names drawn, three were within touching distance! Truly mind blogging, er, bogging!
We laughed all the way home about the shock on our pastor's face! It was truly a photo moment, but the wife's new camera battery was not yet charged!

As I reflected on the day's amusing turn of events, I was struck by the spiritual applications.  As God's children, indeed we are in THE WINNER'S CIRCLE!  The Scriptures tell us that our names have been written down in the Lamb's Book of Life, if we have, by faith had our sin's forgiven, and have invited Jesus Christ into our heart and life.  In effect, we've "signed-up" for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  And it is no "luck" of the draw when we "look-up" to hear our name called to come away with Him to claim the prize.

As we stood there in the crowd, two called pastors and their wives, so close to the hundreds that surrounded us, I was further struck by the "calling" of God that puts us "in touch" with a world who need to know the Lord as we do.  As physically we stood, almost touching the other winners of grand prizes, our spiritual "winner's circle" of "gospel touching" influence came into clear perspective for me.  All too often we do not realize the impact for the gospel that we may have upon the crowds where we walk and live each day.  We truly have a "winner's circle" of influence to enlarge with every day's encounters.  And oh, the blessed joy that results will cause all of the world's passing prizes to pale in comparison.  Now that will be a true "photo moment" to capture! Just be sure that your spiritual batteries are fully charged!

Note this passage about the High Calling of God:  "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:12-14

Be encouraged toward such a prize, my friends!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I read a friend’s facebook comment today. It stirred within me a latent thought, bringing me face to face with the very real struggle that daily wages its war in my goings and doings, and even my thinkings!
The sign says WET PAINT!
Why don’t I believe, and think I must TOUCH?
The fire is HOT! I’m told it will HURT!
Why must I reach for the PAIN in SUCH?
The place is too high, keep off of that LEDGE!
Why then must I test, to peer down from the EDGE?
The street’s not safe to walk in the NIGHT!
Why then do I think I can go without LIGHT?

Every day, in every way
I seem to push, and fail to stay
Where I am told I’ll be okay.

I’m told I must diet, my life to EXTEND.
Why then do I eat so, and my body OFFEND?
The doctor says walk, to care for my HEALTH.
Why then do I sit, with health on the SHELF?
I’m told that some movies I shouldn’t OBSERVE.
Why then do I watch, throwing my mind a CURVE?
And when I’m commanded to read my BIBLE and PRAY,
Why then do I put these in last place TODAY?

Every day, indeed, in every way
I seem to go, and do, and think, and fail to stay
Where, indeed, I know I’ll be OKAY!
~jb, 3-10-2011

I could go on, and perhaps you can add to the list of goings and doings and thinkings that take you astray from the path that is right. To quote my friend, we have a renegade heart! But we are not alone, for it is a condition that affects all in some way or other.

But, we’re in good company, so to speak! The Apostle Paul had his own list and summed it up in his writing to the Roman Christians. In what sounds on the surface like “double-talk”, Paul records his own struggles when He writes about the law and its revealing of the “sin which doth so easily beset us”. (Heb. 12:1) Romans 7:7-25 is his recounting of the Christian’s struggle with it.

His wrestling with our common malady is filled with the paradoxes of “woulds”, “shoulds” and their antitheses. Note these excerpts:

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” (vs. 15)

“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (vs. 19)

Sound familiar? Well, read on - the frustrated plea from his self-inflicted misery. “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (vs. 24)

Paul knew very well the human condition, which was and is under the law of sin. He also knew that the law of God was given, not to be as much a standard of behavior, though it is that, but as the revealer of sin that is in our nature and practice. As he says in verse 7, “…I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”

Paul also knew very well the account of the wilderness temptations of Jesus, and how the Devil had put the Lord to the test. In His forty days of fasting, He was tempted to use His power to change stones into bread to feed His hunger, to perform a miracle in leaping down from the top of the temple without hurt, and to bow to Satan to gain worldly rule. (Matthew 4:1-11) All of this Jesus did without sin, to become the perfect sacrifice for our sin plagued nature, that in spite of our bent to sin, and its sometimes victory in our lives, we might have the promised law of God inwardly that assures us of final victory.

So, how do I proceed in this quandary of struggle? First, I realize and admit the true nature of sin in me and the reality of God’s law in my mind, the inward man. The struggle is inevitable, however, the more often I acknowledge the greater victory over sinful thoughts and actions by the Indwelling Presence of God’s Spirit, the less frequently will Satan take the upper hand in the conflict. I will never, in this earthly life, be completely free of his attacks nor yieldedness in thought and action to his temptations, but the greater my time immersed in the word and walk of the Lord, the more completely will the Lord’s shield repel the tempting arrows of the enemy. As Paul says, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God” even though “with the flesh the law of sin.” (verse 25)

Be encouraged in Him, my brothers and sisters.