Devotional

Press On to Win the Prize! Part 1 of 2

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 NIV

The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Philippi that he counted everything as loss because of the unsurpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ and having a righteousness through faith in Christ. He wanted to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. How did he prepare for the prize? One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. He kept his focus on the goal despite setbacks, persecution, prison, and a “thorn in the flesh.”

As I join the nations in watching the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in China, I am impressed by the stories of athletes who have gone through trials and setbacks that threatened to keep them from competitions, yet they press on to compete in the Olympics. Allow me share a couple of their stories, and the thoughts I have of how the athletes’ perseverance can also be applied in our Christian race for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  

The first thing I noted was the media focus on the past and present failures the athletes had. The world is watching the athletes, and it is watching us, noting failures as well as success. How we deal with our falls will determine how we do in the future.

Our race can be filled with difficulties of all sorts. Some are of our own doing: sin and its accompanying bad choices cause additional problems, pain in relationships, distance between us and God, and sometimes, scandal. When we fall into sin, we need to stop our sin, accept the consequences, and ask Christ’s forgiveness which He freely gives to us.

Other trials may include health issues, separation from others, financial difficulties, fear, or other issues that make the race hard. Many of the Olympian athletes were returning from injuries that could have stopped their quest for the medals even after their injuries healed.

Consider the hardships faced by Team USA’s Elana Meyers Taylor and Kaillie Humphries, both bobsled pilots, four time Olympians and until last week, three time medalists. They spent the first week of their time in Beijing in quarantine. Meyers Taylor tested positive for COVID-19. Humphries was a close contact. That quarantine time impacted their ability to train before their bobsled events, and especially training for the debut of the monobob event. On Meyers Taylor’s first training run back, she finished fifth; and 10th on her second run.[i]

Meyers Taylor and Humphries pressed on through the competition over the following days. Meyers Taylor won silver, Humphries won gold. After their wins, Meyers Taylor shared her feeling about it. “It feels better than gold.” Meyers Taylor said. When she tested positive for COVID-19, she spent a week in isolation away from her husband and almost-two-year-old son, Nico.  “This is definitely the most difficult medal I’ve ever earned,” she continued. “It’s definitely been the hardest journey to get here. I am so excited to take this medal back to my son.” [ii]

Some athletes never make it to the Olympics. “Speed skater Erin Jackson, the first Black woman to make the American long track team in 2018 and the number one in the world at 500m, finished third at the U.S. trials in January” after slipping. It knocked her from the Olympic competition —until the selfless act of her friend and teammate Brittany Bowe. “Bowe went on to win the 500m as a result. Having already qualified in her better events, the 1000m and 1500m, Bowe gave up her spot” to her friend.[iii]

We also have fallen, each of us. We don’t deserve the chance of the prize. Our own teammate, Jesus, took our penalty for sin with His death on the cross. His selfless act allows us, through faith, to win the prize of being found in His righteousness and knowing Christ!

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Like Paul, our prize is so much greater than a gold, silver, or bronze medal. Let’s keep our focus on the goal.

In Part Two, I’ll share some lessons on overcoming failure shared by Olympians which may be applied in our own lives.

Dear Lord, Thank you for the prize of the unsurpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ and having a righteousness through faith in Christ. Help us keep our focus on You and Your Word. Amen.

_______________________________


[i] KAILLIE HUMPHRIES AND ELANA MEYERS TAYLOR MAKE THEIR DEBUT IN OLYMPIC MONOBOB By Lisa Costantini | Feb. 13, 2022, 1:12 a.m. (ET)

https://www.teamusa.org/News/2022/February/13/Kaillie-Humphries-and-Elana-Meyers-Taylor-Make-Their-Debut-In-Olympic-Monobob

[ii] KAILLIE HUMPHRIES & ELANA MEYERS TAYLOR WIN GOLD & SILVER IN INAUGURAL OLYMPIC MONOBOB By Peggy Shinn | Feb. 14, 2022, 2:46 a.m. (ET)

https://www.teamusa.org/News/2022/February/14/Kaillie-Humphries-Elana-Meyers-Taylor-Win-Gold-Silver-In-Inaugural-Olympic-Monobob

[iii] Erin Jackson’s gold-medal story, co-written by Brittany Bowe, is “unbelievable”By Shintaro Kano| 13 February 2022 6:57 https://olympics.com/en/news/beijing-speed-skating-women-500-erin-jackson


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Thank you for joining me and for reading my blog. Devotionals post every other Thursday, with past devotionals still available under Devotionals. You may follow my blog and it will be sent to you. Please leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you! ~ Kathryn

Devotional

Let Love Be Genuine

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:9, 10 RSV

Valentine’s Day decorations flood the stores right now with hearts, flowers, lace, jewelry, and candy. Some items are fun to see for a week or so, and then end up as clutter or are packed or thrown away. Others are beautiful or delicious. Don’t forget the cards! Choosing a Valentine’s card from the wide selection can be a bit overwhelming. My husband has learned that I like cards that express a loving feeling, so he usually gets me one written in that style, yet he prefers the humorous cards, which fit his fondness for making jokes and telling funny stories. No card will adequately express how much I love my husband, my grown children, or my friends and relatives, yet I still have much to learn about loving them more genuinely and showing them honor.  

The Apostle Paul wrote to Christians telling them, and us, to let love be genuine. The NLT version says, Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.

Think how wonderful the world would be if everyone really loved each other. Genuine love is patient and kind. I know I need to grow in this; how often I have shown my impatience at delays, interruptions, or at someone not hearing me when I’ve said something three times already.  

When people disappoint us or hurt us, sometimes it’s easy to dislike or even hate others. Instead, may we hate what is evil or wrong, and hold tightly to what is good. I’m not suggesting anyone should stay in a dangerous situation. There are consequences for the person’s behavior that may require distance even after forgiveness has been given. However, when a person is rebellious or difficult, we can lose sight of the good part of the person. Our focus can become that of gossiping about and belittling the person with whom we have problems. Anger and resentment will eat at our peace and joy. 

Genuine love shows no partiality, it does not play favorites. When we love each other in sincerity, we can live in harmony with each other.  Real love serves other people. Real love honors others.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:10 NLT  

How can we honor others above ourselves?  This is only a short list. Feel free to send me more ideas that can be shared.

  • Honor the Lord God in all that we say, do, and think.
  • Show respect.
  • Really listen to what others say to us. Engage in what the person is saying by paying attention.
  • Listen to the same story someone shares even though we heard it fifty times before. Laugh if appropriate.
  • Don’t gossip.
  • Put another’s needs before our own.

Boyd Bailey gives several suggestions of ways we can honor others in Honor One Another. Consider this excerpt:

How else can you honor those in your circle of influence? One wise habit of humility is to ask a friend for advice and then act on their advice. A spouse or colleague feels valued when their suggestion makes a positive impact on your life. When you truly listen to another’s opinion you give oxygen to their esteem and you give respect to the relationship. Honor accepts a person where they are and looks to discern their heart.

Used with permission from Wisdom Hunters. See additional insights on honoring others in Honor One Another by Boyd Bailey at Wisdom Hunters https://www.wisdomhunters.com/honor-one-another/

Let’s delight in honoring each other! May our love for others be genuine.

Lord, thank you for being the ultimate example of genuine love. Help us to love our families, friends, strangers, and ourselves as You love. Help us to delight in honoring others.

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Thank you for joining me and for reading my blog. Devotionals post every other Thursday, with past devotionals archived. You may follow my blog and it will be sent to you. Please leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you! ~ Kathryn

Devotional

God’s Hope Does Not Disappoint

HOPE series part 3 of 3

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5 NKJV

Do we hope in God?

Consider how great God’s love is for us. His love is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. His love is so deep that God wanted us to be reconciled to Him.

Perhaps you have a loved one cut off from you or your family that you desperately want to reconnect with. Maybe that person is you. That separation cuts like a sharp knife. I know my heart breaks by division between some of my loved ones, and also by those who have chosen to walk away from God. The cost is high when any relationship falls apart.

Division breaks God’s heart, too. As sinners, all have been separated from God. That hurt God so much that His only Son, Jesus Christ, paid our death sentence for sin. God’s righteousness is accredited to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. By faith, we are justified, or made righteous in the sight of God. (Romans, chapters three and four) I hope that you have come to God, through faith in Jesus Christ. If not, I pray that you will start there in your journey of hope.

Photo by Sean Valentine on Pexels.com

We have hope because of the reconciliation God made available for us. Jesus’ loving gift of his death and resurrection for us bridged the chasm between us and God that was made by sin.

In addition to hope, we have so much more! Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 NKJV, emphasis mine)

This hope is not just for our eternity. We have hope now! God gave us the Holy Spirit as a promise of our reconnection to Him. The Holy Spirit lives within us to guide us in the truth, assist us in obedience to God, and help us to become more like Jesus. Paul wrote, More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that all suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (Romans 5:3,4 RSV) While I struggle with rejoicing in suffering, it is helpful to know that the Holy Spirit is with me through it, and that it will help me build endurance, or patience.  It in turn develops a tried character and hope.

Let’s hold on to the hope we have in Jesus for the now as well as for the future. God’s hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5) Like Simeon, we can have hope that is based on God’s word and that is certain of fulfillment. (Luke 2, Hope –part 1) Like Abraham, we can grow strong in our faith, fully convinced that God is able to do what He promised. (Romans 4: 20-22, Hope-part 2,) May we always remember the love God has for us and the Holy Spirit we have within us as believers in Christ. We have access by faith into God’s grace in which we stand.

Thank you, God, for the certain hope I have in You. Thank you for making my reconciliation with You possible through faith in Christ Jesus, who died and rose again for me to have life. Thank you for the hope I have because of Your love poured out in me by Your Holy Spirit within me.

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Thank you for joining me and for reading my devotional blogs. I hope and pray that you will be touched by God in a special way each time you visit. Blogs post every other Thursday. Past devotionals are archived for your convenience.

Devotional

HOPE – Part 2 of 3

Hope for the New Year

 [Abraham], contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” …He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Romans 4:18, 20-22 NKJV

It’s a new year. How can we get through the year ahead? We don’t know the future. Perhaps this time will be smooth sailing for us; but maybe a health issue looms, a loved one may die, or a job is either unstable or lost. Will worry consume us? Will we give room for the doubts and fear? It’s easy for me to say God will come through on something, but to later doubt it while waiting for it to happen. But I don’t want the despair of unbelief. You probably don’t either. Will we face this year with hope?

Look at Abraham. He certainly had reason to question the future, and to wonder how God was going to fulfill His promises. Before God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, God had told him, “…all the land which you see I give to you and to your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants could also be numbered.” (Genesis 13:14-17) Years later, Abraham still was childless. To make it more hopeless, he was about 100 years old, his body as good as dead regarding fathering a child. His wife, Sarah, was 90 years old and now past her barren child bearing years. Without even one child together, how were they to become the father and mother of nations?

His wife’s earlier scheme of having his child through her maid servant had resulted in the birth of Ishmael when Abraham was 86 years old. Fourteen years later, God told Abraham that while Ishmael would begin a nation, he was not the child of promise. The LORD’s everlasting covenant would be through Isaac, whom Sarah would deliver a year later. (Genesis 16 & 17)

Abraham in hope believed God, even when all seemed against his hopes of the promises coming true.  He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. How was he able to praise God? How was Abraham able to believe the impossible would happen?

Abraham was fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised. Abraham had learned over time to believe God. He had seen Him be faithful and trustworthy.  Abraham’s belief in God’s promise was accounted to him for righteousness.

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Are we truly convinced that the Lord is able to do what He says He will do?

Let’s think back to all of the times God has been faithful and kept His word. Let’s write down what God has done for us and in us. If you journal, a look into past journals will help jog the memory of God’s care for you.

In reviewing what God has done, may we be strengthened in our faith. Let’s not waver in believing the many promises God has made to us, but claim His promises for us with the expectant hope that God will fulfill them. Then, like Abraham, let’s give glory to God.  

Dear Lord, thank you for Your care for me. Thank you for the times You have delivered me from situations beyond my endurance, and carried me through times of difficulty. Thank you for the lessons I’ve learned from Your Holy Spirit and Your Word. Help me to remember Your faithfulness when I am overwhelmed so that I may believe without wavering. Strengthen my faith, God. I give You the glory. Amen.

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Thank you for joining me and for reading my devotional blogs. Blogs usually post every other Thursday. Past devotionals are available on my website for your convenience. I pray 2022 will be a year of growth in Jesus for you and for me.

Devotional

HOPE – Part 1 of 3

Hope Came on Christmas

[Simeon] took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”  Luke 2:28-32 NLT

HOPE. It seems that the Christmas season is full of hope. Perhaps it is to get the gift we want, or that we may get a Christmas bonus this year. Sometimes, we use the word ‘hope’ like it’s a wish because of the uncertainty of it. Our hope may be a deeper anticipation. Will we get a new job? Will we get together with family and friends? If we do spend time with them, will everyone get along? We can’t live without hope. A person who is hopeless soon gives up or falls to depression.  

Yet there is a certain hope, which is based on facts. It is an expectant hope, because the One filling it is trustworthy to come through and fulfill the desire. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines hope: To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future.

In Luke, chapter two, Simeon realized a certain hope. Living in Jerusalem before Jesus was born, Simeon was righteous and devout, eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel, also known as the Consolation of Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah, or Christ. Simeon believed God, knowing that whatever God said was true, and so he could hope with the certainty of having it come to pass.

The day that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple as the Law required, the Holy Spirit led Simeon to the Temple. Why was it so important to Simeon to see the Messiah? His hope was based on faith in God’s Word. God would be revealed to the nations! The promised and long awaited Messiah would come to Israel. How excited he must have been when the Holy Spirit revealed that this couple carried the Messiah with them into the Temple! The Savior had come at last!

Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Joseph and Mary marveled at the things Simeon told them about Jesus.

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

Do we marvel at the hope we have in Jesus? He revealed God the Father to us in human flesh, while being God Himself. He bridged the gap so we could have the relationship with God that sin had broken. Do we trust Jesus with our future?

Let’s read verses every day that will remind us of who Jesus is. Here are a few to start with, if you like: Matthew 1:18-25, especially verses 20, 21, 23; Isaiah 9:6; Luke 2:36-40.

Dear Jesus, Thank you for the hope we have in You. We don’t have to go through life alone, for You, Immanuel, are God with us. May we never take You for granted. Amen.  

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/hope/

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Thank you for joining me and for reading my devotional blogs.  Blogs post every other Thursday. Past devotionals are archived for your convenience. Merry Christmas! May the Lord bless you throughout the New Year!