No Days Off

My oldest son is a sports enthusiast, athletically talented and drawn to anything that resembles a ball. And in a family that has very little experience or interest in organized sports, he is proof that nurture may direct a child, but it is the Lord who formed him uniquely in the womb.

One of his recent interest has been the YouTube show “No Days Off,” a series of documentaries that highlights young athletes who are performing at levels above their peers. Raw talent may be exhibited in each to some degree, but it is their level of commitment to the sport and to their own fitness that is breathtaking. At twelve, ten, or eight years old, these kids are out practicing every single day, physically training their bodies to endure the rigors of the sport, and even enlisting personal trainers to teach them the finer details and keep their motivation elevated. And they take joy in every minute of their pursuit.

What a witness to other athletes to step up their commitment to their own athletic development and raise the level of their love for the sport.

Perhaps there is something here for the Christian.

I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church, where he likens the Christian to the athlete.

“Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win. Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”
-1Corinthians 9:24-25

And what is our prize? Is it to stretch our bodies to new heights, until age or injury eventually ruins what we have worked so hard to build? Is it merely self-exaltation, demonstrating to the public masses what we can personally achieve, immortalizing our lives into meaningless statistics? Or is it to fill a shelf with plastic trophies destined for the landfill?

Or is it something greater?

No, we seek a true treasure of priceless worth (Mat 13:44-46). Jesus Christ—in whom is eternal life (1Jo 5:11; Joh 6:47; Rom 6:23). Not simply long existence, but abundant life (Joh 10:10). For He is the substance of life (Joh 6:48), and knowing Him is life itself (Joh 17:3). He is so glorious a reward, that death is gain (Phi 1:21), and even the sufferings of this life are not fit to be compared (Rom 8:18) with eternity with Him.

But do our lives demonstrate this worth? Or are these young athletes putting our passion to shame?

Do we pursue holiness (Heb 12:14), devoting ourselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship (Act 2:42) so that we can obey all that Christ has commanded us—out of love for Him (Joh 14:15; 1Jo 5:3)? Do we glorify God, even in the most mundane rituals of life—whether eating or drinking (1Co 10:31), sitting in our house, or walking down the road (Deu 6:6-9)? Do we praise him continually (Act 2:46-47), for both the good and the bad (1Th 5:18), because we trust Him so much (Rom 8:28)? Do we so selflessly live that all our possessions are turned over to the Lord (Act 2:44-46)?

Because our pursuit is not just about our own future, but the future of others. We have been commanded to multiply and fill the earth (Gen 1:28), not with warm bodies, but obedient disciples (Mat 28:19-20). For that definition, we must hear the hard words of Christ which demand absolute surrender and radical allegiance to Him alone (Luke 14:25-33).

And we cannot multiply what we ourselves are not.

So let us consider His glory, and seek to become singular focused (Phi 3:13) on building something great (Mat 6:33)—both within ourselves (Phi 1:20), and in others (Phi 1:9-11). Through it all, loving God with our entire being (Deu 6:5), exalting Christ in both word and deed (Col 3:17), in order to lift Him high in exaltation (Psa 68:4) so that He will draw people to Himself (Joh 12:32) and add to our number daily (Act 2:47)—not lukewarm converts (Rev 3:16), but radical disciples given to a surrendered pursuit of Jesus Christ (Luk 9:24).

No days off!

Billy Neal

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Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. — Matthew 3:13-15

Men, Jesus has come from Galilee to John the Baptist. Feeling inadequate, John tries to deter Jesus from being baptized by him. John expects that he should be baptized by Jesus. He knows that Jesus is the Lord in flesh and will soon baptize with the Holy Spirit. John relents when Jesus explains “it is right for us to fulfill all righteousness”.

Jesus was not going to be content to fulfill most of what we needed to see from Him. He wasn’t going to walk “most” of the steps of faith and leave the rest to interpretation. From the start, Jesus is intentional about fulfilling all the acts of righteousness. John knows He doesn’t need to be baptized to wash away any sin. Jesus is sinless. Jesus came to redeem from sin, but first He is committed in obedience to every basic step outlined in the Word.

Today we say we should baptize to identify with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Rightly so, but do we also identify with His commitment to fulfill all righteousness? Jesus could have appeared in glory, demonstrated His full authority, lain down like a King upon the throne. But He chose to humble Himself. He chose selflessness. He chose to be among us in every way. Baptism is not the first example to follow from Jesus.

Move forward men, with humility as we walk among our brothers and sisters in humanity. Through Christ and by His examples, we too can engage in every act of righteousness. In fact, read it again. Jesus tells John “it is right for US to fulfill all righteousness. As agents of Christ we participate with Him. John consented to the request of Jesus. What is His Spirit asking of you? Have we even been listening? Through His Spirit, Jesus approaches us. Do we recognize Him, His voice, His compelling? As John did, recognize Him for who He is regardless of the form He comes in. Consent to His request of you with humility. All righteousness is in Him all the time within all His forms, flesh, Spirit and in Glory.

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And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.Mathew 2:11-12.

Men, when the Magi reached Jesus and had worshipped Him, they offered gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are lavish gifts given to deities and royalty. But we only hear about it at “Christmas”. We understand gold and its economic importance, but what about the other two?

In the first century frankincense was used as fragrance in embalming rituals as well as medicine, and burning it acted as a mosquito repellent. Myrrh was used as an anointing oil, a healing balm, and an embalming oil ingredient. Both frankincense and myrrh are resins from specific trees that grow in selective regions. These gifts filled many needs.

The Magi received another dream, warning them not to return to Herod. They departed for their home another way. The Magi were noted for their ability to interpret dreams. But let’s not underestimate the value of a group of polytheistic astrologers bowing to the One True King and receiving a dream from God.

Nothing about this event is common. The Magi arrival, their worship, the gifts, and the dream all have deep significance and point to Jesus’s incomparable value and importance. He is every bit as valuable today. Have we recognized the signs in our life leading us to Him? Have we bowed and worshipped Him? Have we given Him any uncommon gift? The only uncommon gift He desires is what He has already asked for. To keep His commands, to love Him and love each other. It’s really that simple. With this simple pair of gestures all else is fulfilled.

Move forward men, with an uncommon faith, in an uncommon Lord God, with an uncommon love for Him and others, which He empowers us to do if we allow. He is who He said He is. Worthy is the King.

Vance Durrance

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God With Us


Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.  — Matthew 1:22-25

Men, all this was done so that the prophecy would be fulfilled. Isaiah prophesied about the virgin birth of “Emanuel” in Isaiah 7. Another translation spells it “Immanuel”. Either way, it means “God with us”.

Joseph wakes from the dream, does as he was instructed, and married his wife but did not consummate the relationship until after the promised Son was born. They called His name Jesus. Earlier we recognized that Jesus’s legal lineage was secured through Joseph. In Luke’s account we learn that His blood line was secured through Mary.

There are more moving parts to the fulfillment of Jesus in prophecy than could ever be accounted for by a fraud. We’ll see more in following passages. There is no comparison anywhere else. Jesus is Joseph’s first born. Read Exodus 13:11-16 and consider, the redeemed first-born Son of God, Mary and Joseph would also be our redeemer.

Think about “God with us”. Not above us, but with us. Not somewhere distant in the clouds, but with us. Earlier we mentioned from vs1-17 that Jesus marked a new era. No longer would there be a separation by the curtain. Later in Acts, the Holy Spirit is sent to indwell us. We will never be alone. The complexity of God’s love for us secures it. From His physical presence in the 1st century, to His indwelling Spirit in this life, to His immediate glorified presence in the next chapter, we are never alone who call on His name as Savior.

There is an entire study which could be done on all the ways the adversary tried to stop the Lord’s redemptive plan from taking shape through history all the way back to the garden. Nevertheless, Jesus is born as prescribed.

Move forward men, with the accompaniment of the Lord our God. Fearful, alone, insufficient? Why? God is with us. As we walk with Him, darkness flees, and bows to the light. Victory is secure in His steps. Without fully comprehending all the variables, Joseph knew the dream was true and did as instructed.

Vance Durrance

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