Then There Was Mary

Throughout the Bible are numerous examples of God using the ordinary to achieve the extraordinary. There is no better example of that than the little teenage peasant girl from a small village in Galilee. It was so small that no list of villages in the area mentions it. Mary was among the last of persons suspected of or expecting to be God’s chosen vessel.

First, her hometown. Nazareth was tucked away in a remote village near the nice size Roman/Greek town of Sepphoris, a major ancient city located in lower Galilee, in what is today Israel. Most prominent in the Roman era, the city was located within sight of Nazareth.  It afforded manual labor opportunities for those who walked from Nazareth. 

Some hundred or so who lived in Nazareth dwelt in caves, it was so primitive, while Sepphoris was a sophisticated progressive city. 

Much to her astonishment, an angel appeared to Mary. Tradition says she was at a well when this occurred. However a well isn’t mentioned in the Bible narrative.

Her faith was revealed at the first message shared by the angel. She responded with a question, “How can these things be?”

She was informed she would conceive of the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine what happened at home when she told her mom. Her response might have been, “The Holy what.” Though the Bible mentioned the Holy Spirit working in some lives during the Old Testament era, it was not a doctrine taught in Synagogues. 

She knew that being pregnant out of the bounds of marriage was punishable by death. She willingly risked such. In a little settlement the size of Nazareth there was no way to hide the fact. She even amplified that possibility by visiting her cousin Elizabeth in Emmaus, who was married to a priest who served in the Temple. According to custom Elizabeth told her husband. According to law he was obligated to report the “crime.” The two of them evidently believed Mary and kept the confidence.

Flash forward, one of the best evidenceS she believed the angel and her conception was of the Holy Spirit was at the crucifixion of her Son. As she saw Him carrying His cross she would have heard and seen the charges against Him as He was the Son of God. Custom allowed any person knowing a charge was false could step forward and deny it. She did not deny it; she knew it was true.

Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem to be taxed because he was of the house of David. Years before Israel was conquered and the people of the Galilee were carried away as slaves. When Israel became free they moved people from Judea to repopulate that region. Among them were some of the House of David from Bethlehem. God staged it all.

Scripture tells us that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. We assume it was immediately after they arrived, but Scripture doesn’t say He was. They may have left Nazareth earlier in order to avoid the critics.

There in Bethlehem the angels announcement was fulfilled. God had used the ordinary to achieve the extraordinary. He who enabled it can use you.

Are You an Ingrate

In II Peter 1: 2 – 6 it is as though God is saying I have made, and am keeping these grand and gracious promises to you. Now, I want you to do these things for me, and the Lord lists His standards. Following is the full text with the part for our consideration, at this time, in bold print, and my notes inserted in italic. It is expedient that the full context be noted so it can be understood in the setting.

“2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (In Scripture there are seven thousand promises that are pertinent to believers.) 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, (In these promises there is included reason and strength that will enable you to…) add to your faith virtue, ( virtue is moral excellence) to virtue knowledge, (which is rooted in faith) 6 to knowledge self-control, (control over self. God expects us, to control our self not for Him to have to inject His will and do it for us) to self-control perseverance, ( endurance, in maintaining His standards.) to perseverance godliness, (God’s standards.)7 to godliness brotherly kindness, (kindness that goes beyond mere duty.) and to brotherly kindness love. (Unselfish love,) 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”

In verse 8 is the promise that  if you keep these standards you will not be unproductive, but will be productive.

In verse 9 the person who does not live by these standards, even  those associated with salvation is an ingrate.

Now consider those standards in light of Exodus 20:7 which says: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” 

The Hebrew word “nasa” can be translated as in the King James “take.” Its full meaning is seen when it is also properly translated in its full meaning “bear,” which means to carry. When you become a Christian you take, that is, carry the name of the Lord, Christian, meaning Christ partisan. You take the name of the Lord wherever you go. If you don’t allow God to work in you, enabling you to take it, that is, bear His name properly, you are taking the name of the Lord in vain.

Now, read the text again and evaluate your compliance with it. Are you taking, carrying His name, so others can see Jesus in you?

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

Is Your’s An Entry Level Faith? 7/11/99

II Peter 3:17, 18

Jesus Christ offers abundant life. That is a meaningful life with super additives. The new birth, like physical birth, is an event that results in a process. The process is growth.

When we come into the family of God we are spiritual infants. Even the weakest of faith invested in Christ brings us into the kingdom. It is enough to save us. It is not enough to sustain us. We are instructed to “grow in grace and in knowledge.”

When a person trusts Christ as Savior and is born again the challenge of growth awaits. In medical science if a child experiences arrested growth there is concern. Reasons and responses are sought.

While learning a new computer program I felt defeated almost before I began. I knew so little and there was so much to learn. The person instructing me said, “Take your time, you are at the base of a steep learning curve.” That is where we all are spiritually. Being there is wonderful. Staying at the base is tragic.

If we got spiritual growth reviews like many employees reviews would we rate any better than these which actually appeared on reviews:
“This young lady has delusions of adequacy.”
“Since my last report this employee has reached rock bottom and has started digging.”
“Works well under pressure and when cornered like a rat in a trap.”
“He would be out of his depth in a parking lot puddle.”
“He sets low personal standards and constantly fails to reach them.”
“This employee should go far and the sooner the better.”

Is your faith in Christ an entry level faith? There are ways you can answer that for yourself.

Certain faith based misconceptions reveal a need to grow.

Health, wealth, and prosperity will be mine if I trust Christ as Savior. NOT! That would be a poor motive for coming to Christ and it can’t sustain you. Yet, some new believers are given the impression trusting Christ gives immunity to problems.

Perhaps some mature Christians unintentionally give this impression. Being mature they know how to deal with defeat, survive suffering, overcome obstacles, and enjoy spiritual victories. That doesn’t mean they don’t have problems and often grow through travail to resolve them. It means they look “cool” and new Christians feel it because they have no problems. It is simply because they know their spiritual resources for handling problems.

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment” (Phil. 1:9).

Early followers of Christ left us a heritage that helps explain our suffering. After being ridiculed for Christ ….

“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41)

This is a grin-and-bear-it mentality. It is a big-boys-don’t-cry philosophy. Persons who adhere to this concept can’t acknowledge they are afraid when they are. They are reluctant to be transparent about their problems. Check this text:

“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3).

“Whenever” means there are times we are afraid. Most of the “fear not” passages in Scripture are in such a verb tense as to mean “stop being afraid.” Some of the Lord’s strongest servants had moments of apprehension, tension, and uncertainty that tested their strength. Such tests are comparable to weight lifting. It is not to produce failure but to develop more strength.


A child might ask, “Did you ask you mom if we could go? What did she say?” “She said, no!” We need to learn “no” is an answer. God responds to every prayer in one of several ways:


Paul had an unidentified “thorn in the flesh” which he prayed on three occasions would be removed. It wasn’t. Did God answer His prayer? Yes, He said, “My grace is sufficient for you” (II Corinthians 12:8, 9).

Every answer is predicated on two things: 1] God’s love, and 2] God’s knowledge and it is intended to make us all the more reliant upon Him.


God likes for you to be good, but He loves you even when you aren’t. We are not saved by works:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).

Ours is not a performance or perfection lifestyle. God likes for us to be good because He knows that’s best for us. However, when we aren’t good He still loves us. Don’t go loosie goosie because of that. When we aren’t obedient He loves us with a tough love. He disciplines us as a process of discipling us.

Some Christians who still have an entry level faith tend to withdraw from Christian friends and the church when in a state of rebellion. They feel unworthy. That is the very time they need the church.

Obedience is for our good!

A little child had the words to a Christian song wrong but his theology right when he sang, “Trust and OK, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and OK.”

Whatever our Lord says do our response should be “OK, Jesus.”

II. SOLUTIONS (To the problem of an entry level faith.)
Take the initiative in three ways.

Most don’t need to know any more than they know, they just need to do it.

Make deposits in your memory bank that you can draw interest from for the rest of your life.

If we become forgetful of Biblical precepts we are in a danger zone.

This is an appeal to be stable in the Christian faith.

Having withstood the persecutions of Nero from without, an appeal to be alert to deception from within the church is given.

Under the persecution inflicted upon Christians by Nero one of the worst was to be sent to work in the mines of New Media in Africa. The prisoners were brutally whipped, burned by the sun, branded on their brow by a hot iron, forced to work long hours, and endure unimaginable suffering. When Roman persecution ended and those mines were opened to tourists they found the prisoners had left carvings on the mine walls. The one word that appeared most was “Christ,” the second most frequent word was “life.”

Jesus is the Christ that comes to make abundant life possible.

Consistency in Christ is needed today.

To be steadfast means to have a set of core values not for sale. It is to establish your own credo based on Scripture, a personal “This I believe and stand for.”

I believe Sunday is God’s day and I will respect it as such and devote it primarily to my spiritual development and bodily renewal.

I believe the Bible to be God’s divine revelation and I will not be ignorant of it.

I believe in the stewardship of all my possessions and will give, spend, and save them in a Christ honoring way.

I believe in the dignity of human beings and will treat all with courtesy and respect seeking to be a friend to all.

I believe my body to be the temple of the Holy Spirit and will not pollute it with alcohol or any other drug.

I believe Christ’s church to be His body and will serve Him through it. I will give it a place in my priorities.

I will attend those events designed for my spiritual growth.

I believe in the efficacy of prayer and will spend time each day alone with the Lord.

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12).

To be able to REMEMBER and be STEADFAST we must —

To have something to remember we must grow in knowledge.

To remain steadfast we must have grace.

“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (I Peter 2:2).

No one is born mature. Tourist in a small beautiful village asked, “Were any great men born here?” The answer, “No, only babies.” We are spiritual infants at the time of salvation in need of growth.

Longfellow wrote: “Great men are not born great. You are born with the capacity of greatness. It is up to you to discover and develop the person God created you to be.” In partnership with the Lord this life-long process is a joy.

We are to grow in knowledge. Not just knowledge about Him but experiential knowledge of Him.

Great athletes don’t necessarily make a good team. It is by practicing and playing together they learn one another’s ability and style. This enables them to bond and become a unit. So our experiences with Christ enable us to experience His grace to acquire His knowledge.

As a result: “To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”

The World’s Greatest Comeback 4/4/99

John 20:1-8

Jesus Christ said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).

Then He walked through the jaws of death and out the other end of the valley of the shadow death and proved it.

He who was decidedly dead was assuredly alive.

Christ passed through death —- in both directions —- unharmed and thereby declared there is life beyond the grave.

Because He lives you can face life knowing death is behind you and only eternal life awaits you.

Love and wisdom resulted in heaven downloading God the Son in order that He might provide an uplink to heaven for us.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Abruptly Christ’s mission to planet earth ended with Him being crucified. Those performing the execution were schooled and skilled practitioners of death. They knew how to bring a life to the vortex of death and suspend it there to inflict the maximum suffering. They also knew how to push a life over the brink to certain death. Having done both the centurion in charge of the execution squad reported to Pilate. The passionate Pilate asked if He had been dead long. Upon hearing, he released the corpse that it might be disposed of (Mark 15:44, 45).

For the followers of Christ life went into an eclipse. The darkness at midday that darkened the earth mirrored the bleakness hiding their hope. All hope died with Him.

We each can relate to the apostles. There is a pattern applicable to our lives. It is this: ANTICIPATION, FRUSTRATION, REALIZATION.

The apostles had great anticipation. For three years they followed Christ, heard Him talk, and observed His miracles. They anticipated the coming of the kingdom.

Frustration caved in on them. There was no kingdom only crucifixion.

Three days later, marvel of marvel, the resurrection and realization. On that third day God the Father in His own way said: “SURPRISE!”

Life had gone into slow motion for them. In despair on the third day a contingency of those who followed Christ went to His tomb before daylight. Frustration seemed to have triumphed. What they saw and in the next few days experienced changed human history and destiny.

The stone door of the tomb was rolled away a great distance uphill indicating a mighty force had been engaged to move it. Indeed an angel of the Lord had done so. The Roman guards were in a state of shock. The unsuspecting women thinking the body of Christ had been stolen by grave robbers fled to tell the disciples. This set in motion a series of events resulting in thousands in that era believing in the bodily resurrection of Christ and millions through the ages.

He was seen indoors, outdoors, on shadowy roadways and sunny beaches. He was talked with, walked with, and dined with. He was seen by one, by two, by five, by ten, by eleven, and by over 500 people at once. He who was known to be dead was seen to be alive.

One of the most validating evidences of the bodily resurrection is the fact those who believed it were so convinced they would not deny it even under the penalty of their own death. By all fundamental methods used to prove a person to be alive, He who was declared dead by the very ones who extracted life from Him is now seen to be alive by those unsuspecting a resurrection.

If all the stellar bodies of the heaven had personalities and could talk when speaking of the distinctive features of planet earth they would not say that which is unique is our atmosphere, water, or even life. They would say the distinguishing feature of earth is a vacated tomb in Judea.

His earthly mission over it is wise to review the reason for it. Consider – – – –

Abundant life is the best life.
It is the best life can offer.
It is the fullest satisfaction.
It is the optimum joy.
It is the ideal guidance.
A person in prison has life.
A person having a picnic on a river bank with birds singing, flowers blooming, and the fragrance of jasmine in the air has life more abundant.

What Christ offers is life at its best plus super additives.

Our culture has so corrupted our concepts that most people think that fulfillment and contentment is to be found in material things. As one friend explained it, when I finally got my dream home with all the gadgets and the view I had always envisioned I was still empty inside. Life with Christ, life more abundant is fulfilling with or without a dream home or other material things.

Many people exist but few really live. Many are like a hamster on a wheel living a frantic life. They cover a lot of ground without getting anywhere.

For many life has faded. It isn’t colorfast. The torrential downpour of calamities, crisis, conflicts, and confusion has left life colored a sickly grey. If life is to regain its sparkle and vibrance it must be restored by Christ. Without Him life has lost its song. The song is there but it can’t be sung.

As a child we had canaries. A distinctive trait I noticed of some of the birds was they wouldn’t sing until they had their bath. Our spirit is like that. Until cleansed of doubt, guilt, and fear life’s song is unsung. Once Christ cleanses us life sings because of the abundant life quality He provides.

Christ wants us to get in the spiritual surf of life and let His glorious, invigorating waters of the new life He provides wash over us.



As prophesied in Scripture Christ died in the way it was said Messiah would die.

The efficacy of His death on the cross is seen in that little word “for.” On our behalf He who had no sin died as a substitute for us.

He did not swoon, He died. Tomorrow’s uncertainties attacked Christ’s followers in the midnight of their fear. Death had engulfed another victim.

Faith, veil your eyes in anguish.
Unbelief abides.

Hope, moan and sob away your enthusiastic anticipation.
Despair gloats.

Love, hand down your blushing head and cower away.
Hate prevails.

From the cross Christ shouted one final word: TETELESTAI, translated “it is finished.” The Greek word means “it is finished as I intended to finish it and it stands perpetually, eternally finished.”

There is no record from that era, secular or sacred, that even suggests that anyone, detractor or devotee, had any thought but that Jesus was dead. Fate de comple!

There are many ancient tombs from the period in Israel. For any skeptic who might protest that Christ merely fainted on the cross and was revived in the tomb come inside such a tomb with me. The traditional sights of His burial have been so glamorized and beautified that much of the reality is missed. There are even a few of the unchanged tombs under the dome of the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. On our last visit there we went off the tourist path and into one. The chamber is small with cavities dug into the side walls into which bodies were placed. These claustrophobic tombs were dark, tight, musty, with no circulation.

Here the hope of humanity lay shrouded as a mummy.

The Light of the world was now indeed a candle under a bushel.

The seal of Rome was on the tomb verifying it contained a dead man.

Then God the Father said – – – – SURPRISE!

Early on that inaugural Easter morning the women came to the tomb. Their minds were filled with doubt, questions, and fears. All the pastels of life had faded from their sunrise. Not the least of their questions was who will roll the stone away that we may enter the tomb.

When they got there the Lord had sent an angel who had rolled away the stone a great distance uphill. It was God’s little surprise. Isn’t that just like God. He deals with our worries and problems.

As it was prophesied He would, He arose.

To put that miracle in perspective it is no less dramatic than it would be for the sun to rise in the west.

What a difference a day makes. Because of that day no day has ever been the same again.

Because the resurrection doesn’t fit into our realm of familiarity some people have difficulty believing it. It being outside the sphere of normal human happenings it is considered with skepticism by some because they can’t comprehend it.

Suppose you and a friend were having a detail conversation about the most complex topic understood by both of you. In the room with you is your favorite pet: a cat or dog. That believed intelligent dog would not be able to fathom what you were talking about. It would not be able to comprehend what you were saying. It would not be in its realm or normal reasoning. That doesn’t mean what you are talking about isn’t reality. It is in effect a higher reality than the pet’s norm. The resurrection is a higher reality than our normal routine of life.

In the Bible land it is often hard for shepherds to get their flocks to cross rain swollen streams. To encourage them the shepherd often picks up one and takes it across. The others hearing its voice and seeing it follow.

Jesus Christ has enjoyed safe passage across death’s swollen stream. His responsive flock can follow fearlessly.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).

Having considered WHY HE CAME and WHAT HE DID now note:

Having provided for all who would believe in Him in time He has gone to prepare a place for us in eternity.

In that eventful final week with His disciples Jesus went from Jericho to Jerusalem. As they journeyed the Scripture says, “Jesus went before them.” That is the secret of a joyous journey. He went before them and it is said, “they were amazed…” With Him leading the way life is amazing.

Our Lord always keeps a promise before His people. His creativity enables Him to keep a fresh challenge and reward before us. For the infant there is childhood. For the child adolescence. For the adolescent there is adulthood. For the adult there is maturity. For the mature there is age. At any point and inevitably with age there is a question mark as to what is ahead.

All of life we live with an “encore” mentality. More, more of the same. However, God has something more that is different and better. It is called heaven. It is there in part to motivate NOW. To motivate us to excellence and expectation. To challenge us to keep on keeping on.

In the Psychology Department at the University of North Carolina they conducted an experiment. They put two rats in separate containers half full of water. One was sealed with no way out. The rat in it sensing futility gave up and drowned in three minutes. The other rat was in a container only partially sealed. Sensing possible survival this rat swam for over thirty-six hours. An awareness of the possibilities of the future inspires a sense us enabling us to cope an have courage. Heaven isn’t an encore, more of the same, it exceeds our grandest imagination. Our Lord’s resurrection assures us it is there and that makes this life better. It keeps us going.

Our resurrected Lord has gone to prepare a place for us. After the resurrection He sent a message to His followers. The one bearing it with great joy said, “He has gone before you…” (Matthew 28:7).

When our moment of passing comes we’ll do just fine because He has gone before us.

History is full of pseudo-saviors and mock messiahs who have made extravagant claims and promised cure-alls. The renowned historian Arnold Toynbee in his classic work The Study of History, devotes a chapter to the topic of saviors. He groups them in four categories:
the savior with the scepter – the political savior;
the savior with a book – the philosopher, the metaphysician;
the savior with the sword – the military type and tyrants.

He concludes that all these demi-gods of history have come to the same end and been defeated by mankind’s old enemy — death. Then he resolves that when the last civilization comes to its end and stands on the banks of the river of death there on the opposite shore, filling the horizon will be the Savior, Jesus Christ, the resurrected Christ.

He has gone to provide a prepared place for prepared people and He prepares people for the place prepared for them. A vital question is how do you get prepared?

This simple formula bears repeating. Come to the conclusion:

  1. God is God.
  2. I am not God.
  3. I sin when I get number 1 and number 2 reversed.
  4. Christ came to help me get number 1 and number 2 in order and to forgive me of number 3.

Christ said, “If any man will come after Me let him take up his cross and follow me.”

Today, and every day our response should be, “You go first, Lord, and I will follow.”

He said, “I GO to prepare a place for you.”

Life In a No-Loss Zone 10/24/99

Philippians 3:7-10

Jesus Christ said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21).

Most of us have a strong gathering instinct. We are still collectors. Likewise, we are competitors. We like to win and have trophies to prove it. In proper balance these are highly motivating predispositions. They drive us to achieve.

Are you a collector? Some collections are very valuable.

Are you a competitor? Winning is wonderful. It is imbalance about which we should be concerned.

Jesus Chris said, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

That puts things in perspective.

All of us like to achieve. That motivates us to be and do our best. It is a driving influence that results in a sense of fulfillment. A sense of accomplishment is bought at the price of effort. It is a sin not to want to be and do our best.

Our every task should be driven by this exhortation: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).

It is expedient to put these instinctive drives in perspective. Out of control they, though having the potential of achieving great good, can become our all consuming god.

A Biblical model of an achiever is the paragon of success from Tarsus named Paul. He knew he had a pedigree and personal profile of which to be proud and he noted it: “though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:4-6).

Of his achievements he summarily says: “…these I have counted loss for Christ,” they are, “rubbish” (Philippians 3:7, 8).

Comparatively speaking all our trophies, awards, medals, titles, bank accounts, market investments, houses and lands are rubbish compared to having a personal relationship with Christ. It is the lasting quality of our identity with Christ that counts.

A visit to my high school put this in perspective. During my high school era trophies were rare and only given for extremely significant accomplishments. The Balfour representative came to our school to take orders for senior rings. By the way, do you know where your highly treasured ring is today? He learned we were to have our first football game of the year against a team contending for the state championship. He promised us a trophy if we won —- which was highly unlikely. Actually, out of the question. That potential trophy was a safe offer by him. However, to us the idea of a trophy was highly motivating. We blew away a far superior veteran team and proudly claimed our trophy. I can remember standing at that trophy case and smiling at that trophy many times. What an achievement! We won.

Some years later I revisited my high school remembering with pride our victories. They were moving the school’s administrative offices. Moving always involves cleaning out and straightening up. There in a large box of trash I could see sticking out from under waste paper the little gold football player mounted on top of our trophy. That treasured trophy was now being trashed.

Paul said of his “trophies” they are “rubbish.” SKUBALON, the Greek word translated “rubbish” can be translated several ways. It was a term used for left over food to be thrown away. It is a term used for scraps given dogs. It was also the word for dung, excrement, body waste.

This is a bit indelicate but the Authorized King James translates it “dung.” Some of you having been in cow pastures know of what he is speaking. Those little meadow muffins you try to avoid stepping on aren’t considered valuable.

By comparison our relationship with Christ makes all other trophies look like dehydrated meadow muffins.

Consider what is number one in your life. After what are you striving most earnestly? We are to seek first the kingdom of God. That is, God’s will and rule in our life. Are you putting any meadow muffins ahead of that? They some times take the shape of a car, house, sports league, job, person, or financial balance sheet. All of them with Christ as number one are wonderful. Without Him they are dung.

With Him and them in proper relationship life takes on meaning. It then has a power source.

We are a society driven to achieve and acquire above all else. We are so fast paced there is a report of a new microwave fireplace soon to be marketed. You can sit in front of it and enjoy it all evening in just eight minutes.

I have a desk in my study and one in my office. Both contain many little personal treasures and valued items. I have told my wife of the desk in our home and my executive assistant of my desk in the office that everything in those desks is important to me, but if anything happens to me there is no need to go through them just bring in the trash can and dump it because it will mean nothing to anyone else. It then will be rubbish.

When Elvis took his last breath a lot of treasures became rubbish and much was recently disposed of. The same is true of Princess Di and JFK.

That moment will come for each of us. Now is the time to put things in proper perspective. Don’t wait until a crisis or dramatic moment to drive you to do so.

We recently had such a dramatic moment. While in San Diego for the Tom Landry Associates Week End with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes we stayed on the 22nd floor of our lovely hotel. At 3:55 AM I was awakened by the shaking of our bed. Suddenly there was a jolt. I had always said Trudy could sleep through an earthquake. This was her moment as an earthquake registering 7.1 shook the earth. As I awakened her the hotel began to creak and sway. Some walls cracked and plaster fell from some. Clothes in the closet and curtains began to swing back and forth. In fright some persons cried, others screamed, some ran down long flights of stairs to try to escape. We stayed and prayed.

We found out we don’t do earthquakes well. We also found out who the dominant personality in our family is. I kept begging Trudy to make it stop.

It was a moving experience. For nearly three minutes that hotel swayed back and forth with us wondering if the next sway would be too much and the building would crumble. If it had everything we have would have been rubbish. Everything that is but one. Our relationship with Christ would have been more precious than gold. In Him is our victory in time and for eternity.


I. POWER Vs. 10 “that I may know Him and the power…”

You might well be musing: “Well somewhere between Him and me the power-line has been short- circuited. There is a power outage in my life.” That may well be. If it is, it can be corrected. You may feel you don’t have enough power to light a pen light for ten seconds. There is a reason.

You may be so lacking in spiritual power you can’t conquer that sin which does so easily beset you. Perhaps every time you meet sin on the field of temptation you suffer defeat. Instead of saying “I came, I saw, I conquered,” you may feel, “I came, I saw, I concurred.”

To do battle in the energy of the flesh is to suffer repetitious defeats. To wage spiritual warfare in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be assured of victory for, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”

Satan recognizes this to be true even if we don’t. He knows He can’t deal with the power imparted by Christ. His only successful ploy is to mislead the believer. He started in the Garden of Eden and still uses the same tactic. It simply is to convince believers God is cheating us and denying us good things that are harmless. Adam and Eve believed that lie rather than the fact that God is trying to preserve our good

Do you desire to know Christ better? This expression does not refer to mere academic information about Christ. It means to come to know by experience. This results in a faith-union that grows. Every venture in faith lets you know the power of Christ to perform in your life.

The power of Christ is available to you as a Christian. That is the same power that removed the grave clothes from Jesus and put back on Him the robe of immortality.

The God who conquered Canna waits to help you conquer your besetting sin. The power that shook the realm earth and the region of the underworld is available to you.

The power that fed the 5,000 is available to you. The power that stilled the storm on Galilee is accessible to you.

A. It is the ability to achieve purpose.
B. It is authority to perform.

To have His power enables a believer to respond as He would to any circumstance. We more often respond like the little boy whose mother had of necessity been very stern in disciplining him. He hid and she looked for him. She finally found him in her closet and asked what he was doing there. He said, “I have spit on your dress. I have spit in your purse. I have spit in your shoes and I am just sitting here waiting for more spit.

II. PARTICIPATION “fellowship of His suffering”

“Fellowship,” KOINONIA, means to associate with. Paul aspired to be so sensitive to Christ’s heart that when a person insulted or affronted Christ, it grieved him also.

Suffering is often the cost to be paid for allegiance. It is His power that enables the believer to endure it as did Christ. Christ not only endured the agony of the cross, He will enable persons to bear their physical sufferings.

He not only endured the mocking and ridicule of the mock trial He will enable the believer to endure and grow through social and emotional abuse.

The Christian life isn’t a detour around suffering; it is a straight guided path through it. If Paul longed to walk in the footprints of Jesus, should we not.

Everybody suffers. EVERYBODY. Christ only gives strength to endure and the ability to interpret it.

It was suffering that purified and prepared the disciples. After seeing the resurrected Christ, it was Peter who strolled back before the very Sanhedrin that condemned Christ and said, “I count it all joy that I am considered worthy to suffer for Him.”

Peter later wrote, “…rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (I Peter 4:13).

We can expect to suffer as did Christ. How did He suffer?

^ He suffered Satanic attack. In hell’s game-plan sleeping saints are allowed to lie. Once they awaken, they become fair game.
^ He suffered ostracism and rejection. Identify with Him and you will alienate certain people. It is strange how a warm heart can result in a cold shoulder.

III. PURSUIT “being conformed to His death”
A simple principle must be applied. There is no resurrection without a crucifixion.

Can you say, “I am crucified with Christ…” (Gal. 2:20).

Do you exhibit the fact, “I die daily” (I Cor. 15:31).

We should share Paul’s desire to reflect the living and glorified Christ in all our present attitudes and actions.

A grub worm in the earth and a pupa in a cocoon both have a butterfly nature. In each stage they are in the process of becoming a full grown butterfly. The moment we are saved, we receive our new nature -our butterfly nature. In this body, our “caterpillar shell,” our true nature is that of a butterfly. In this body we are a child of God. We are in the process of becoming all we can be through Christ.

The text exhorts us to pursue: “if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Vs. 11). The butterfly process is seen in this statement. We should live with the aspiration of attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

There will come a day when all the dead will experience resurrection. This text is the only place in the Bible this Greek word for resurrection is used. It consists of the regular word for “resurrection” with the prefix meaning “out of.” The word means “to be resurrected out from the dead.”

Our ambition should be to be included in the resurrection of the saints out from among the wicked dead who are later to be resurrected.

Back to the opening of our text. In the Greek the word translated “gain” is plural and the word for “loss” singular. Thus, “For Christ’s sake I have learned to count my former gains (plural) as a loss (singular).”

All earthly gains are bundled as one collection and totaled as a “loss” when Christ is omitted.