Dean Farrar was a privileged personal friend of Queen Victoria though he seldom referred to the distinction. But on the first anniversary of the accession of Edward VII to the throne of England, during the service in Canterbury Cathedral, he told how the Queen, after hearing one of her chaplains preach at Windsor on the second coming of Christ, spoke to the Dean about it and said, “Oh, how I wish that the Lord would come during my lifetime.” “Why does your Majesty feel this very earnest desire?” asked the great preacher. With her queenly countenance lit up with deep emotion she replied, “Because I should so love to lay my crown at His feet.”—Light and Life Quarterly
What an amazing witness, what an amazing confession of faith. For an earthly ruler to understand her place before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul shows us how different Jesus is from earthly rulers in Philippians 2,
So God raised Him up to the highest place
and gave Him the name above all.
10 So when His name is called,
every knee will bow,
in heaven, on earth, and below.
11 And every tongue will confess
“Jesus, the Anointed One, is Lord,”
to the glory of God our Father!
A few quick observations here, the phrase, “every knee should bow and every tongue should confess” draws us to the imagery of the knee and the tongue which stands for worship and confession that Jesus is Lord. At some point in history, the entire world will come to understand what Queen Victoria did, we are not God. We are accountable to a higher power and someday the entire world will confess that Jesus is Lord and the entire world will bow before him in worship. So the first stage of Christ’s presence is his glory.
The second stage is Christ’s humility. Paul says, Christ ‘… made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross’ (vv. 7–8).
In this political season and at this point I don’t have a dog in this hunt on either side of the political spectrum, a good dose of humility would be welcomed. Christ who had every reason to brag about who he was and his pedigree did not. Notice how he is described by Paul,
6 Although he was in the form of God and equal with God,
he did not take advantage of this equality.
7 Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant,
by becoming like other humans,
by having a human appearance.
8 He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
death on a cross.
Jesus did not cease to be God but taking on this humble stance since God cannot cease to be God! Instead, he laid aside the glories and riches of heaven to be our Savior, our champion, our Redeemer. So we lay down our earthly crowns before this king who put on a crown of thorns to suffer and die for us and for our sins. And through his sacrifice offers us a crown of Righteousness through faith in Him. All Hail King Jesus.
Luke 23:42-43 “Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Today you will be with me in paradise.”
There is in Paris a famous picture by Zwiller called “The First Night Outside Paradise.” Our first parents have been driven out of the Garden of Eden and are preparing to spend the first night in the desert beyond. In the distance can be discerned the figure of the angel with the flaming sword, but the eyes of the exiles are not fixed on him. They are gazing far above his head, and there, outlined in light—faint, but unmistakable—the artist has painted a cross. In wondering awe their gaze is fastened on it.—Leslie Weatherhead
What an awesome reminder of the promise Jesus made to the thief on the cross and to us as well. That at the end of life’s journey we can look up and find strength in the power of the cross. It may seem to some as an instrument of torture, but to Christian, it is a symbol of how deep the Father’s love for mankind extends. It extends all the way to the grave and victory is celebrated in the empty tomb.
When I survey the wondrous cross; On which the Prince of Glory died. My richest gain I count but loss. And pour contempt on all my pride.
See from his head, his hands, his feet; Sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did ever such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown.
That beautiful hymn during lent always brings me to tears. I picture the sacrifice my Savior made on my behalf. He hung on the cross when he didn’t have to. To take on a punishment that wasn’t His. Faced the anger and resentment of the crowds that should have been praise, all because he wanted to give me a life eternally that I didn’t earn. All because of a deep and lasting love for me and for you. Oh that wonderful cross, oh that glorious Savior. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you because the life that was reclaimed was mine.
Michael Yaconelli articulates this powerful story in his book, Messy Spirituality—God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People. Chronicled during World War II, he recounts the actions of a group of soldiers and one old priest in the rural countryside of France:
“During an intense battle, one of the American soldiers was killed. His comrades did not want to leave his body on the battlefield and decided to give him a Christian burial. They remembered a church a few miles behind the front lines whose grounds included a small cemetery surrounded by a white fence. After receiving permission to take their friend’s body to the cemetery, they set out for the church arriving just before sunset.
“A priest, his bent-over back and frail body betraying his many years, responded to their knocking. His face, deeply wrinkled and tan, was the home to fierce eyes that flashed wisdom and passion. Our friend was killed in battle,’ they blurted out, ‘and we wanted to give him a church burial.’
“Apparently the priest understood what they were asking, although he spoke in very broken English. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘but we can only bury those of the same faith here.’ Weary after many months of war, the soldiers simply turned to walk away. ‘But,’ the old priest called after them, ‘you can bury him outside the fence.’
“Cynical and exhausted, the soldiers dug a grave and buried their friend just outside the white fence. They finished after nightfall. They next morning, the entire unit was ordered to move on, and the group raced back to the little church for one final good-bye to their friend. When they arrived, they couldn’t find the gravesite. Tired and confused, they knocked on the door of the church. They asked the old priest if he knew where they had buried their friend. ‘It was dark last night and we were exhausted. We must have been disoriented.’
“A smile flashed across the old priest’s face. ‘After you left last night, I could not sleep, so I went outside early this morning and I moved the fence.’”
Isn’t that truly the power of God’s grace through Christ’s death and resurrection? Jesus through taking our sin upon himself on Calvary’s cross changed the rules of the game. Those who were at one time outside the fence now are included in God’s plan of salvation. The Apostle John in one of the most famous verses in all the world says it so eloquently, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God showers on the world that would reject his love grace upon grace through his Son, Jesus Christ. Who moved the fence? Jesus did. Why did he move the fence? Because of his love for the world. How did move the fence? By taking on himself the sins of the entire world. And what does that mean for us? If we believe in him we will not perish but live life eternal reunited with the Creator. I am so glad he moved that fence and included me in his kingdom.
Here is the link to the accompanying devotional on this video.
Finishing With A Kick
Paul spoke the words of 2 Timothy 4:7 as he sat in a Roman jail, knowing that he was soon to be martyred for the faith. You sense the incredible relief in his spirit as he says, “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.”
Hebrews 12:1-3 is not only about running the race, but it is about finishing it well.
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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In Hebrews 12 it says, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders.” Paul is using the metaphor of running. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance.” There’s that “P” word I know that I don’t enjoy very much.
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
A cross-country team ran on a golf course. In order to do this official had to go out and placing flags on the course to show the runners where they were supposed to run. One color indicated “left turn.” Another color meant “right turn.” Another indicated to the runners to go “straight ahead.”
That was the race marked out in advance for the runners; if they wanted to win a medal, they had to follow the course marked out.
In this Christian life, God has gone before us laying out the flags for our journey. The faith given to us by God himself allows us to run the race God has marked out. Faith in the God who knows your end from your beginning. The God knows all the days of your life. In his great foreknowledge, he has gone ahead of you and planted these flags ahead of you. And the Scripture says, “Run with perseverance the race marked out for you.”
This is one the most difficult parts of the life of faith. The Christian life at times seems unfair. There are times in your race when you will wrestle with thoughts like, “Why does my race seem so tough?” You want to feel sorry for yourself. It will become easy to look at someone else and say, “Boy if I had his or her race to run, no problem. I could handle that. If I had their bank account, I could do that “p-thing”, persevere. What If God had given me a better partner then I could complete this race? For those traveling this journey alone, you may wish God gave you a partner to run alongside you.
When the race gets tough Satan tends to whisper in your ear “It’s okay for you to quit. You don’t have to run with perseverance because God gave you a raw deal. Your course is so much harder than that of other people’s. It ok just quit.” Have you ever felt that way? I know I have. When the going got tough I wanted to just quit going.
But God says, “I want you to run this race. This is what I hold you accountable for. Don’t think about others. You just look at me. And together, we’ll run your race.” On the blog Friday, I have a video designed to inspire you in your race.
Some of you saw the movie Chariots of Fire back in 1981. It was the true story of Eric Liddell, a man who ran for Scotland, after the Olympics and his graduation he returned to North China where he served as a missionary from 1925 to 1943. You may recall that he refused to run on the Sabbath, forfeiting some of the awards he probably would have won in the 1924 Olympics.
Well, there was another scene in that movie that may have appeared like Hollywood fiction, but it was also true. One year before the pivotal event in the movie, Eric Liddell ran in a meet between England, Ireland and Scotland. He ran the 100-, 220-, and 440-yard events.
In the 440, he got off to a bad start. When that gun sounded, there was a lot of shoving to get in front to the inside lane, the advantageous position.
Liddell tangled feet with J. J. Gillies of England and tumbled to the track. He sat there dazed for a moment, not knowing whether he could get up, when the official screamed, “Get up and run!”
He jumped to his feet and took off after the pack, which was now full twenty yards ahead of him. In a quarter mile, that’s a big distance to try to make up. In his unorthodox style of running, he took off after the pack. He pulled into fourth place ten yards behind the leader, J. J. Gillies.
With forty yards to go, he pulled into third place, then second. Right at the tape, he passed Gillies, stuck his chest out, won the race, and collapsed to the track in total exhaustion. Medical personnel had to assist him off the track that day.
An article appearing the next day in The Scotsman newspaper said, “Veterans whose memories take them back thirty-five years and in some cases longer in the history of athletics were unanimous in the opinion that Liddell’s win in the quarter mile was the greatest track performance they had ever seen.“The circumstances in which Liddell won the race made it a performance bordering on the miraculous.
Some of you have been knocked down. Maybe Satan has tripped you up. Perhaps you have made some foolish decisions. Perhaps other people have done you wrong. When we’re down on the track we’re embarrassed. We’re ashamed. At times, we feel self-pity, we get angry at the world even at ourselves. We’re depressed. At times like this, we just feel like staying down on the track. But the only real shame is to stay down on the track. We are people of the resurrection. We are people of grace. We are forgiven. God’s grace says to you don’t have to stay down. Christ picks you up. He dusts you off and he says run!
God’s word of encouragement to you today is, “Get up and run!” Forget those who have wronged you. Forget those who have said your race or your background disqualify you from the race. Forget what lies behind and run for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. You still have a race ahead of you.
Philippians 1:6 doesn’t say, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day you fail and flop on the track.” It says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus looked Peter right in the eyes and said, “You’re going to deny me.” But he said, “When you turn back, strengthen your brothers.” Get right back into God’s calling and purpose for you. Don’t stay down on the track. Get up and run! By faith finish. May God give you the grace and strength to finish your race with a kick!
A young pastor was conducting the funeral of a war veteran. The dead man’s military friends, wanting a part in the service, asked him to escort them to the casket, stand with them for a moment of remembrance, then lead them out through the side door. The pastor did precisely that, but not being familiar with the funeral
home, he picked the wrong door. They marched with military precision into a janitorial closet! That story says two things about leadership. First, if you’re going to lead, you’d better know where you’re going. Second, if you’re going to follow, you’d better
support someone who knows where he’s going.
Being someone who has been blessed with or cursed with the spiritual gift of administration, this concept of not using my leadership gift is troubling. Is it right for me as a pastor to sit on or bury my God-given gifts? Scripture would caution me not to conceal that gift, saying apparently this is an unfaithful management of God’s gifts.
Matthew shares this parable of Jesus,
24 “Now the one who had received one valuable coin came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man. You harvest grain where you haven’t sown. You gather crops where you haven’t spread seed. 25 So I was afraid. And I hid my valuable coin in the ground. Here, you have what’s yours.’ 26 “His master replied, ‘You evil and lazy servant! You knew that I harvest grain where I haven’t sown and that I gather crops where I haven’t spread seed? 27 In that case, you should have turned my money over to the bankers, so that when I returned, you could give me what belonged to me with interest.”
If you have been given the gift of leadership, then lead. There is a way to shepherd a congregation faithfully as a pastor let us explore a few key things to keep in mind.
Christian leaders place God first.
‘‘As we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so, we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.’’ 1 Thessalonians 2:4,
Authentic, godly leadership places its focus on equipping His saints for service not to puff ourselves up but to do the will of our Father. One reason pastors and other Christians do not want to lead is that leadership is hard, it comes with a high cost. When the Apostle Paul tried to lead he had to deal with a major pushback. People questioned his motives, they questioned his theology and questioned his methods. Paul reminded them that his teaching and leadership came from God’s truth. Too often leaders ask, ‘‘Will it work?’’ rather than ‘‘Is it true?’’
Look at how Paul responded to the attacks when he was questioned. He told
the Thessalonians, “You can testify to our work. 2 As you know, we suffered rough and insulting treatment in Philippi. But our God gave us the courage to tell you his Good News in spite of strong opposition. 3 When we encouraged you, we didn’t use unethical schemes, corrupt practices, or deception. 4 Rather, we are always spreading the Good News. God trusts us to do this because we passed his test. We don’t try to please people, but God, who tests our motives. 5 As you know, we never used flattery or schemes to make money. God is our witness! 6 We didn’t seek praise from people, from you or from anyone else, 7 although as apostles of Christ we had the right to do this.” (GWN)
Authentic leadership places its focus on God: His approval, his purpose, and will above all else. How do we recognize such leaders? By the testimony of those they serve. The focus of their message and ministry squarely centered on the proclamation of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and delivered with care and love for God’s people. You hear that so clearly in Paul’s words, “8 We felt so strongly about you that we were determined to share with you not only the Good News of God but also our lives. That’s how dear you were to us!” (GWN)
Christian leaders focus on God’s kingdom.
Leadership is more than talents and techniques; it is humility and caring for those we’re leading. Notice the images in verses 7 and 11: ‘‘We were gentle . . . As a nursing mother . . . As a father.’’ In verse 9, Paul says he supported himself on behalf of the church. If we’re going to be leaders in God’s service, it can’t be done from a distance. We must lower our defenses and love people for Christ’s sake. That makes us vulnerable. That means when attacks come it hurts more, but that is the high cost of leadership. It is easier to not lead but doesn’t the mission of God, and his sheep deserve our all our sacrifice? God provides
the courage and the strength for us to lead, so we need to lead.
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