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Archive for the tag “Finish the Race”

The Fig Tree

As my small group discussed the cursing of the Fig Tree found in Mark 11, I sat there wondering why Jesus would curse a tree and then tell His disciples to have faith when He was asked about it. Jesus hardly ever answered people in a direct way. His conversations never seem to flow as expected.

The Samaritan woman at the well comes to mind (story found in John 4). She asked Jesus about physical needs, but Jesus responded about spiritual needs. That was Jesus’ way – we look for physical fulfillment when Jesus looks for spiritual fulfillment. But the fig tree didn’t seem to be about anything spiritual, or was it?

The story of the fig tree starts with Jesus going to the fig tree to feed his hunger. Because the fig tree had leaves, the fruit was expected to be hanging from underneath, but the tree bore no fruit. Jesus said to the tree, “May no one eat fruit from you again.” Seems a bit harsh since just before Jesus cursed the tree, Mark wrote it was not the season for figs. Shouldn’t Jesus have expected to find no figs since it was not the season? Yet, He looked for figs.

The next day, the disciples passed the fig tree once again. However, this time the tree was withered from the roots. Peter remarked about the tree being withered and Jesus responded “Have faith in God.” Doesn’t His response seem a bit odd? That’s the thing that had me a bit stumped as I listened to the small group discussion. As I sat there, thoughts began to flow concerning this tree and the time this all took place – the last week of Jesus’ life.

Jesus’ ministry was coming to an end. The disciples were getting ready to embark on a new path – they didn’t know it yet, but a new age was about to begin with them. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree may have been the beginning of the end of Israel as they knew it. Israel had been back in the land for a few centuries by that time. They had been looking for their Messiah to come to save them from the physical presence of Rome. Jesus didn’t come as their physical savior, but as their spiritual Savoir. The leadership didn’t get the distinction.

John the Baptist came on the scene to open the way for Jesus – repent for the Kingdom of God is near.  He prepared the path for Jesus to walk. Jesus continued the message of repentance, but the leadership rejected His message and they did not repent. God gave Israel three years to hear the truth. Some responded to the message and recognized Jesus as the Messiah. They were the ones selected for the next season – the harvest season.

Throughout Scripture I am told, fig trees represented Israel. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree was ultimately cursing Israel for their lack of repentance. When Jesus left this earth, Israel was doomed to fall. Forty years later, Rome conquered Israel and dispersed most of the inhabitants to the rest of the world. The unfruitful season for Israel was complete and a new season dawned. The church age began – a season of great harvest.

It would begin with the followers of Jesus who brought forth the Word of Jesus throughout the world over the next two thousand years. The early Christian Jews were not part of the curse because they had faith in God as Jesus told them in Mark 11:22. They believed Jesus was who He said He was. Jesus spoke about having faith in God as they prayed and to do so in His name. Jesus told His followers do not doubt in your heart but believe what you say will happen, it will be done for you (my paraphrase of Mark 11:23 about telling the mountain to move). It was the main instruction for the church age to flourish.

If you read through Mark 13, you will see the signs of the end of the age – the end of the church (harvest) age. Jesus said the lesson of the fig tree was to watch for twigs to become tender and the leaves to come out then we will know when summer is near (Mark 13:28). Jesus said when these times begin, we are to know the end is near, right at the door (Mark 13:29).

Again, the fig tree representing Israel, we can gather from this passage: when Israel is once again established in their land and prospering, which they are today; the church age is almost done. There are more Jews today who are tender toward Jesus than ever before. The leaves of prosperity are abundant and before long, Israel will be the one bearing the fruit – the church will be gone and it will be left to Israel to bring home the final harvest. Jesus will return to Israel to receive the bounty.

As followers of Jesus, it is our responsibility to share what we know and tell others of the Good News. We have a Savior the world needs – they may think they have physical needs, but in reality we all have spiritual needs. If God can bring Israel back from the far corners of the world, then He can and will fulfill the rest of His plan. He will finish what He started – in each one of us and throughout the world. Believe and do not doubt – have faith in God – this is the lesson of the fig tree. He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.

“Be careful that you never allow your hearts to grow cold. Remain passionate and free from anxiety and the worries of this life. Then you will not be caught off guard by what happens. Don’t let me come and find you drunk or careless in living like everyone else. For that day will come as a shocking surprise to all, like a downpour that drenches everyone, catching many unaware and un-prepared. Keep a constant watch over your soul, and pray for the courage and grace to prevail over these things that are destined to occur and that you will stand before the presence of the Son of Man with a clear conscience.” Luke 21:34-36 (TPT)

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World Changer

Seven years ago this weekend, I had a major decision to make. I was given the opportunity to move into another area at work or leave my full-time job. It was a hard decision, but I chose to walk out in faith to do something new. I believed God had something else in mind. It had seemed over the last couple years of employment that circumstances made me more uncomfortable in that place. I felt God had positioned me to leave. Was it right or wrong, I second guess it every now and then. But during these last seven years, I think God did do something new – in me.

It’s not easy stepping out of full-time employment. Yes, I have had freedom to do what I wanted to do. However, with no real money coming in, resources are very limited as to what can be done. I made the comment a couple of years before I left my job that I just wanted to quit my job and write. Guess what? That’s the opportunity I was given when I quit – I started writing. I wrote two books within the first five years. I started this blog during that time as well. The last two years, I picked up part-time jobs to help pay the bills. Yet, I still feel like there is something waiting in the future that I just don’t see. After seven years, I really thought I would have the revelation by now. Here I sit still waiting.

One of the things God has been doing over these last seven years is work on me. He has changed my heart and changed my perspective on a few things. He has given me a greater thirst for Him and His Word. I have had a great opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him. I haven’t been perfect in my attendance or in my attention. However, He has been faithful to teach me right where I am. There have been many opportunities to grow closer to Him. I desire to be closer still. I need more of Him and less of me – I need to be emptied of my selfish desires. However, I struggle with it.

I just finished two books by the same author on Seven Great Men and Seven Great Women and the secrets of their greatness. Eric Metaxas picked men and women throughout modern history to reflect on what they did to change events in history. The men and women weren’t great because of who they were but what they did when they surrendered everything to Jesus. They emptied themselves of their selfish desires and totally surrendered their future to God.

Joan of Arc was the first woman the author introduced us to. I had read her story a couple of years ago – a peasant girl who changed France single-handedly led by the Spirit of God (her “voices”). George Washington was the first man and how he could have become king of this nation – it was his right to do so, but through providence he chose to begin something new. William Wilberforce changed his nation and the world by two significant choices – he chose to end slavery through legislation in Great Britain and he taught the world how to be kind again – it’s an interesting story and it changed the western world in both regards. Mother Theresa and Rosa Parks were two small women who changed their worlds. Jackie Robinson did the same when he broke the color barrier in sports.

We look back at how these men and women changed their worlds and wonder if it could be done again. These men and women didn’t set out to change their worlds. They just surrendered to Jesus and look what He did through them. They gave up their comfort to endure the storms and the battles that were waged spiritually in order to change the world. It seems impossible to believe that one person could do all that; and it was. There were many behind the scenes that didn’t get the notice, but supported the efforts and championed the cause. It’s not done alone. No one can withstand the storms or battles alone. We need each other. If there is a cause, it takes one person to notice; but it takes many to engage in the battle.

The last couple of weeks of December, I had this word before me. I don’t know what this word means for me or for my circumstances. Maybe it’s really not for me but what God is going to do and I can be a part of it. The word is multiply. What’s God going to do? How will God do it? Those are the million dollar questions, right?

I don’t know what 2018 will bring. But I do know that we all need each other to engage in the battle that God places before us. We may not get noticed by the world as world changers, but God knows what He has determined for us to join together to make a difference. Multiply. Maybe it’s the people He will bring together to change the world as we know it.

You know what it takes to do it? Surrender. That’s what these great men and women did. That’s what we are called to do for our generation. We have to finish what has been started and we need to finish well. This world is waiting for someone to step into the gap. Are you the one? Am I? How about we do it together?

As I began my journey years ago, God gave me this verse and it’s the verse I leave with you today. Let it encourage you for this year.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen
you and help you;
I will uphold you
with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Blindsided

One of my favorite television shows is Survivor. It’s a game played out on a remote island somewhere far away. It starts with 18 people of different backgrounds with different life skills and different game skills. The players have to outlast and outplay the others to remain on the island and ultimately become the sole survivor (and the million dollar winner). Each episode ends with a person voted out of the game. The one voted out can be blindsided by the vote. The people they thought were their alliance will turn against them; they don’t see it coming, and they are voted out of the game. No more chances to play; no more chances for the million dollar prize – they go home.

It’s interesting to see the dynamics shift. Bonds are formed. Alliances are made. You place great confidence in the ones who you think will take you to the end. But in the end, all the people are voted out of the game except for the one who will take home the prize. There is always a celebration at the end of the game. Everyone comes together to celebrate the winner. It’s a great game, and everybody on the show recognizes it’s just a game.

But what happens when we are blindsided by life? My next door neighbor was blindsided yesterday. They didn’t see it coming. They moved in about a year and a half ago. They were excited to have a new house. I remember the wife’s enthusiasm as they moved in and got settled. They have a small son. He’s too young to know what’s going on in the house today.

You see, about six months after they moved in, the husband was diagnosed with cancer. He did all the treatments and thought he beat it. It came back; and as cancer does, it came back in multiple places. They gave him about six to nine months until the cancer would take his life. He would be voted out of this game called life. He would exit the playing field. This morning, the wife and the son will wake up to a new chapter in their lives.

I watched a program last night on John Paul Jackson on Daystar. He too had a battle with cancer. I watched the program as he talked about beating the cancer. He talked about the time he discovered the cancer. He had been a runner and found the tumor one day while he was running. It came out of nowhere. Blindsided. He was very encouraging as he talked about how he trusted God through it all. God would see him through it.

At the end of the program, I waited to see when the program was originally on. It was dated 2014. I was hoping for a more current date thinking that maybe I had heard wrong. You see, I found out last year, John Paul Jackson lost the battle and died. I assume the cancer came back, and it beat him. We never know when circumstances will turn against us; when we will be blindsided by a diagnosis or the death of a loved one or anything else that knocks us down. But we have a loving Father who knows everything from the very first breath to the very last, and we can trust him to see us through each and every day – no matter what. Even if the diagnosis comes and the outcome isn’t good, God has a plan to get us to the other side of it. It’s a matter of trusting in the One who knows it all.

John Paul Jackson had a celebration in the end. When the battle ended, there was a celebration in heaven when he walked through those pearly gates. He received the greatest prize ever – a life with Jesus for eternity. I don’t know about my neighbor’s outcome. I don’t know where he stood with Jesus. I hope the prayers I offered on his behalf were answered, but I won’t know it until I go home myself.

We will all face those moments when we will be blindsided. There will be a moment in time when we don’t see it coming. Our friends and family can surround us, but it’s a moment when the only one you can have confidence in is the One who knows how the game will end. Our loving Father will never leave us or forsake us. He is trustworthy to get us to the end. He is also the greatest prize we could ever hope for. And the celebration that we receive will be amazing if we endure to the end.

A new chapter begins as the old one closes. My prayers will shift now to the wife and son who are beginning again this morning. The birds are singing. The trash has to be taken out. The lawn needs to be mowed. Life still goes on even when we have been blindsided. The moment comes when we have to decide to get up and trust God to work it out in the end. And He will because that’s what He does. Trust Him.

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:6-8

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