The Cheerleader

I went to the park today to watch my son run in the first practice of the district meet. There were lots of kids running from lots of schools. As I waited for my son, I sat in the shade of a tree near the last leg of the course. As I watched, you could see the kids coming. Some were exhausted, some discouraged, some strong, but all were confused when they got to this point of the run. Here the track turned and was marked off by little pylons to go through a grassy knoll before they reached the finish line. The problem was that the kids hadn’t run this course before and they didn’t know that they had to run a little farther. Many of them saw the crowds of parents hanging about and thought that the race was over. They would slow down or even stop running. As one lady saw what was happening, she took it upon herself to direct them as they came by. It didn’t matter if it was her child coming or the kids from her favorite school, she simply stepped out as she saw any child and started cheering them on. She would call out, “You’re almost there, just a little further! Run through the pylons, keep going!” As I watched her I couldn’t help but cry. I felt foolish tearing up in a public park while I was just sitting there waiting, but I was overwhelmed by the idea that we all need that cheerleader in our lives.

Some of us have run strong and are simply confused about what direction to go from here. Some of us have the energy to carry on, but not the will as life has left us discouraged and hopeless. Then there are the rest of us, who have given the race our all and have simply run out of steam. All we want to do is stop so we can toss our cookies along the side of the track. Without the cheerleader, none of us may actually complete the race or win the prize. It reminded me of the encouragement we find in the scriptures:

Hebrews 12:1-2: “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,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

And Paul’s charge to Timothy:

2 Tim 4: 2-3a, 5-8: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.  For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

We all have been given a race to run. We must gather the strength now to press on and sprint to the finish. As my son was coming up to this last leg of the course, his friend, who had finished the race ahead of him, ran back to find him and run with him to encourage him to press on. Can’t you hear the voice of the Spirit calling out, “You’re almost there! Keep going!”? Don’t you feel Him running with you when you are about to give up? There is an urgency is His voice to pick up the pace. But sometimes we don’t hear Him. Sometimes the negative thoughts or the noise in our heads or the cookies in our tummies drown out the voice of the Lord. Sometimes we need God to speak through someone who will hold our hair back on the side of the trail.

Paul admonishes us in Hebrews 10: 23-25 and 36-37:

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.””

Time is limited. There may not be second chances or opportunities to pray for someone, to reach out to someone, to encourage someone to keep fighting, or to tell someone of the good news of Christ. Seize the day. Lift your eyes to Jesus and press on. The finish line is in sight. Don’t give up! You’re almost there!

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No Room for Jesus

When we were in prayer last week, the Lord brought to mind a song that I sang many years ago in church at Christmastime. It was called, No Room. The second verse and chorus go like this:

No sweet consecration, no seeking His part, No humiliation, no place in the heart; No thought of the Saviour, no sorrow for sin, No prayer for His favor, no room in the inn.

No room, no room for Jesus, O give Him welcome free, Lest you should hear at Heaven’s gate, “There is no room for thee.”

He also reminded me of a recent conversation where someone was stating that all religions are the same, we all believe in God, etc. And my response was, “But you are forgetting about Jesus!”

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 1-8 tells us:

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

This is our gospel – our good news!

He also goes on in vs 14 and 17-19:

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Christ is the crux of our faith. There is no hope without Him!

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 he says:

“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

I find it remarkable how quickly I can lose sight of Jesus. Whether through laziness, distraction or deception, my life suddenly seems to run out of room for Jesus. I start to operate in my own human wisdom and fall back into religious tradition. As a result, my faith has no power, and when I am attacked by the evil one, I am unable to stand.

I am grateful to our pastor who, this past Sunday, delivered a passionate message reminding us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, and appealed to us to wake up and take up the fight!

I must determine to push through the haze that blinds me to my need for Jesus and God’s power every day in my life. I must fight to make room for Him and the time to cultivate my relationship with Him. Without Him I am weak, my focus becomes misdirected and my compassion for others and their salvation disappears. Satan would like nothing more than to keep me in this stupor.

Just think – if the church at large is under the same spell, what would happen if the sleeping giant awoke? What magnificent demonstrations of God’s power might begin to be seen by the world? Time is running out. The battle is on. We must take up the fight and it begins by making room for Jesus!

One Day Too Late

A couple of days ago I went to visit a lady who was dying. I didn’t know her very well and I asked her how she was feeling and if there was something I could do to make her comfortable. So, I fluffed her pillow and straightened her blankets as she asked. But there was something inside me that said I needed to do more. She looked scared, and anxious. I started to converse about our mutual friend and it seemed to lighten her spirit. But still I felt that I needed to ask her about Jesus. There were other people around and I didn’t know if she was open at all, so I didn’t go there. I said to myself, “I will come back tomorrow.”

Well, tomorrow came, and I went to visit her again. However, now she was not able to respond to my questions. She simply stared blankly. I knew she was near death and I thought, “Oh no!” I started telling her about Jesus, that He loves her, that He died to save her, that He wants to give her new life, that He is waiting for her. No response. I started to pray that God would help her to hear my words and accept Jesus before it was too late. As I watched her light start to dim, I prayed that God would give her peace. Then I held her hand as she slipped away.

Overwhelmed with the sense of regret and shame, I hung my head and cried as I asked God to forgive me for not listening to His prompting the day before. Really, what did I hold back for? Was protecting my pride more important than her eternity? How many people would get upset if someone told them that God loved them? Really.

Later that same day, I had a friend challenge me about my faith. This time though I knew that this moment was important. I prayed silently that God would give me the words that they needed to hear. I ignored the attack and presented God’s love as well as I could. This time I felt no regret. I pray that God will use that seed to change their life.

Tomorrow is not a guarantee and a second chance may never come. So, in the words of this song, “stop saving your best for last.” Make each moment count.