Saturday, June 29, 2013


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Well, I’ve been “off” for the past two Sundays (vacation and Annual Conference), and I’ve got one more to endure….uh…enjoy.  

The churches I serve take 5th Sundays as a Sabbath from worship services and fellowship, so I won’t be preaching this Sunday.  What do you call a preacher who doesn’t get to preach for 3 weeks?  I’m not sure, but inside he feels like a caged lion.  There’s a compulsion to share God’s Word on the inside which must be satisfied.  To repress that messes with everything holy (and human)!

But there are those times!

Jesus sent his apostles out to heal, cast out demons and preach.  When they got back they were exhilarated and enthused; they couldn’t wait for the next assignment.  Jesus could have sent them right off again – they were energized for the task – but it would have been like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain…lots of energy, short on direction and purpose.

Jesus knew the apostles needed to take some time aside to reflect and learn from their ministry experience.  

So do you.

Today, especially if it’s your habit to jump-into the day, slow down; the world will be there tomorrow!  And Jesus has much to teach you when He takes you aside.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Building the Home With Wisdom

These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s king— Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; A manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair; To teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality.  There’s something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn— Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.  Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.  Pay close attention, friend, to what your father tells you; never forget what you learned at your mother’s knee.                            Proverbs 1:1 - 8 (TMSG)

A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense.  Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables.  The wise are mightier than the strong, and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger.  So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers.
Proverbs 24:3 - 6 (NLT)
After church and the baptism of his baby brother, the four year old little guy cried all the way home.  His father asked him three times, Johnny, what’s wrong?  Finally Johnny replied, When that man bapatized Christopher he told you an' Mom God wanted him an’ me raised in a Christian home; but I wanna stay with you guys.
A Christian (Biblical) home is set-up by wisdom, strengthened by good sense and
filled with everything you need by knowledge.  John Wesley’s wisdom painted that very picture with four main areas of focus he claimed would build a healthy Christian life.  In recent years this has come to be known as the Wesleyan quadrilateral.
The handout you were given shows the four focus areas.  Of these, please note Scripture is on top, meaning it is more heavily weighted than the others.  Really, in Wesley’s thought, Scripture governed the others.  That is to say, the other three could not be considered over Scripture.  God’s Word is our main guide.
When it comes to building a home with wisdom, there is nothing which truly expresses “family values” than the Scriptures, reinforced by loving parents, with reason, the tradition of the church and knowledge, or experiential learning of Christ’s way.
The picture on the handout is of my son-in-law, Shannon, with his two boys, Micah and Jonah.  I’m proud to say that Carrie and Shannon are setting a fine example as Christian parents who are employing these Scriptural principles in raising their boys.
This morning I want to talk about how living out these principles is the key to establishing, strengthening and growing a family.  Along the way we will also see how to acquire and activate what Solomon calls “wisdom, good sense and knowledge”.

I.           wisdom (reason)

Acquired by reverence for God

For the reverence and fear of God are basic to all wisdom. Proverbs 9:10a (TLB)
True wisdom is not merely the accumulation of a great deal of information, or even knowing where it’s stored.  Anyone with an               I-Phone™ and an internet connection has more information at his fingertips than he could possibly read in a thousand lifetimes.
True wisdom is discernment, the ability to judge between right and wrong, good and best.  It is, in part, being able to sense the will and heart of God.  Without this kind of wisdom we can miss the mark so often.  Truly worshiping God brings you close enough to hear his heartbeat; you know when God is speaking.

Activated by a life of prayer

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.     James 1:5 (NRSV)
There is no PhD required to be a person of wisdom.  I’ve known some people who were in a seemingly lifetime pursuit of education and had little (if any) Godly discernment.  But I can give you quite a list of folks who hardly made it through elementary grades, yet other people beat a pathway to their door for advice when they were facing tough decisions in their lives.
No matter what your “formal” education level, ask God for wisdom and show Him you’re serious by reverencing Him in worship, establishing a lifestyle of prayer.  You will find that discernment becomes that internal growing sense of confidence in God’s ways.

II.        Good sense (tradition)

The tradition of the church (as Wesley called it) is that counsel of wisdom developed over the last 20 centuries.  “Good sense” in the original language gives a word picture of the strong steering ropes attached to the rudder of a large ship[1].  With those ropes (tradition) the helmsman (God) brings the ship safely to port.
But good sense finds itself constantly engaged in a battle with foolishness.  That is the nature of good and evil.  In every generation foolishness says the church is out of date, too constricting or judgmental.  But the tradition of the church is that hard-earned wisdom from suffering centuries of immature folly – when Christian saints fall-away from God’s Word and way, only to experience the heartache of the consequences of sin.  Tradition became the developed memory of believers who saw how departing from God’s way is dangerous; keeping God’s way is profitable.  How do you get “good sense”?

Acquired by counsel of the body of christ

Pay close attention, friend, to what your father tells you; never forget what you learned at your mother’s knee.   Proverbs 1: 8 (TMSG)
Father and mother refer to more than our biological parents; it includes those who are father and mother in the faith…and brothers and sisters.  The body of Christ – the church, this church and the worldwide Christian church takes counsel together to understand the mind of Christ.  This is the “good sense” that is wise counsel.

Activated by submission in the body of christ

This kind of “good sense” is available to those who, in faith, take a step of confidence towards the body.  In short, becoming a full part of God’s church – membership, declaring your allegiance and support-for/continued presence and prayers – this is how you initiate the wise counsel of God’s church in your life.
My daughter and her husband united with a church and have immersed themselves in the life of that congregation, seeking not only friendship within that body, but accepting the counsel of their pastor and fellow church members. 
Just this week our daughter posted on Facebook this picture of her sons
delivering flowers to residents at the nursing home.  Shannon is a deacon-servant in their church; he and Carrie are committed to visiting those in distress, and sharing God’s Word.  He is training his sons to do these things too.  They understand they do this because Jesus gave to us this ministry of care for each other.  That is the tradition of the church.  My son in law is bringing wise counsel to the table to build his house with wisdom!

III.      knowledge (experience)
Knowledge is what fills the house with what’s worthwhile.  In the Wesleyan sense, experiential faith is that which God teaches you as you live your life for (and with) Him.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians (3:10)…to know him.…  This is the essence of knowledge, or knowing God through fellowship with Christ.  This is what fills your life and household with precious treasure…knowing Jesus Christ!

Acquired by investment in relationships

True experiential knowledge of Christ is found in a daily conversation with Him, and others.  When asked about the greatest (most important) of the commandments, Jesus said it was to love God with everything you’ve got…and the second was to love others.  Think of it as the vertical (up towards God) and horizontal (outward towards people) of knowledge – loving God, loving neighbors.
Genuine, precious treasure is never measured by your performance on a job, or how much money you have in the bank.  Rather it is that daily conversation, or interaction (with God and man) that makes investment in other lives. 
Knowing God results in every other kind of understanding. Proverbs 9:10b (TLB)

Activated by accepting christ as lord of life

Knowing Christ is something that happens in your spirit…deep in your spirit.  And it is begun by choosing to follow Christ as a disciple.  It goes beyond merely knowing “about” Christ, or just accepting the fact that He is God’s son who was born in a manger…all those facts are easily “knowable”, information-wise. 
To genuinely know (experience) Jesus Christ as Savior is to choose Him as Lord over life…your life!  It means you choose to follow Him every day of your life, on His terms.

time for choice

Solomon was the wisest man of his time.  He experienced virtually everything that was available, everything under the sun.  He understood Scripture.  He could discern people and even divide a child between two arguing women.  In the end, he decided there were only two important things to which we need to pay attention:
Here is my final conclusion: fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the entire duty of man.            Ecclesiastes 12:13 (TLB)
How do you fear God?  Believe what the Scripture says about Jesus being your salvation.
How do you obey his commands?  Ask Him for wisdom, follow the wise counsel of the body of Christ and immerse yourself in a daily conversation (prayer life) with Christ and others, so that you can know Him.
And if you’ll build your own life with this kind of wisdom, those children and grandchildren of yours will get it; they see much more than you could ever say with words!  
You’ll build your home with wisdom!

[1] Strongs Hebrew and Greek Dictionary

Friday, June 7, 2013


Friday, June 7, 2013

“Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him.  “Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’”  So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe.  But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe.  “TheLord knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,” he said to his men.  “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.”  So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.

A friend shared a story on his Facebook page about The Grove United Methodist Church
which severed its relationship with the United Methodist denomination this past week at their annual meeting in the West Florida/Alabama conference.  The pastor surrendered his credentials and the church went its own way.  That’s not unusual; it happens because people have different opinions.  That is the nature of humans – we differ, and diversify!

The comment my friend (also a United Methodist minister) made on the story was Start of a trend?  Well, I think not; this is rather a continuation of a much older trend than the United Methodist Church.  For an analogy, consider Lot as having belonged to the Abraham denomination.  Not being able to stay together, there was separation.  Cain and Abel’s separation was not so amicable.  My comment posted on my friend’s wall was that at least The Grove church left with civility.  After all, not everyone’s able to be content with the connection we United Methodists still hold dear.  Some are meant to “strike-out” to blaze new independent trails.  I pray for “The Grove” that their trail leads to where God is pointing.

What of us who choose to stay with the old UMC ship?  I can only speak for myself.  I’m like young David.  After more than 20 years serving in another denomination, I was tired, emotionally and spiritually from the struggle of that group’s typical church politics, which (in the places where I served) always included open bickering and blaming.  No matter where the storm started, the pastor was usually the lightning rod that drew the volts of criticism.  Now, that’s part of the job description of a shepherd – protect the sheep, fight the wolves, and don’t ever get the two mixed up.

I came to the point of either having to lash-out at the denomination which ordained me and was my home for 27 years….or leave.  After a period of prayer, soul-searching and waiting, God opened the United Methodist door, and I gladly limped through.  What I found was a gracious, soft place to regain my ministry bearings and inner composure.

So, how is that like David?

David hadn’t done anything wrong, other than try to serve his king (Saul).  Saul repaid David’s loyalty with loathing and attack; he chased David, tried to hunt him down like a wild dog.  At one point, however, David found himself in a cave standing over a sleeping King Saul.  He could have erased his tough situation with one thrust of his sword.  Instead, David withstood the impulse.  On a much deeper level than even he understood at that moment, David knew you don’t mess with the Lord’s anointed (see verse 6).

So, that’s where I am (was).  I found myself standing over opportunity to lash-out at my former denomination – make a great splashy-loud exit and justify Russell’s righteousness in his own mind.  God saved me from myself and allowed me to leave for a kinder, gentler place.  

Result:  Like David, my hands and heart were preserved from the kind of sin to which I’m prone.

What are you going to do with that?

Been wronged lately?
What are you standing over? 
And where will the road you choose lead you to?

May I offer “The Grove Church” as an example?  If you can’t do good where you’re standing, don’t bludgeon and bash the lightning rod as you see it…you may just be messing with the Lord’s anointed.  Rather, seek the place where God will give you opportunity – and do it with civility and grace.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

For Such a Time as This

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Book of Esther reads like one of those real-time serial dramas so popular on TV.  Week after week you’re kept on the edge of your seat, wondering if the world will end and who will die next.

In the drama of 6th Century (BC), the Jews were a captive people, subject to the Persian king.  As the story unfolds, the king’s umpteenth wife-queen displeases him, and she’s suddenly history.  A search is made for a suitably-beautiful new queen.  Esther is drop-dead gorgeous, and she is brought to the king.  At this point nobody suspects that she is also a Jew.  We have a feminist Horatio Alger-type story, rags to riches in a heartbeat.

Enter the antagonist

The plot always has a bad guy.  Haman, the king’s henchman, engineers a scheme to keep himself on the good side of his boss; he manipulates the king into making an irrevocable decree that all the Jews are to be put to death.  (And you thought Hitler was the first?).

Mordecai, Esther’s Jewish uncle, pleads with Esther to intercede with her husband the king.  At first she is hesitant, but Uncle Mort sends her a postcard from reality and she understands her duty, puts it all on the line and somehow all the tables are turned.  The Jews are saved, and bad-guy Haman winds up on the gallows.

Although the name of God never appears in this story, still, the miraculous power of Jehovah to watch over his people is nonetheless implied.  John Wesley[i] wrote that “…the finger of God directs events.”

Of course the punch line to the story comes from Uncle Mordecai’s lips as he prods Esther to action – “Perhaps you were born for this moment”.  Esther’s beauty and her chance ascension to the throne of Persia was for a reason; God’s reason.  

How about you?

The same holds true for us, as it did for Esther; all we have and are is given to us.  And God makes no mistakes about putting a special talent, gift, possession, personality trait, “handicap” or heartache in our hands.  Often our biggest blessing (or disaster) is at the very center of God’s calling on your life.  There is a purpose for it!

Have you found yourself in a tough situation that won’t let go?  Do you have an opportunity to do something, but the risks seem overwhelming?

Who is YOUR “Uncle Mordecai”?  And what has God placed in your hand?
Perhaps your whole life has been pointing at just such a moment.  

[i] in his “NOTES” ¶1

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fresh Start

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared
for those who love him.
                            --  1 Corinthians 2:9

I love fresh starts.  And there’s no fresher start than when you’re as weak as a kitten and somebody else does something for you…and better than you could have done it.
When you’re really sick, stuck in the hospital, sometimes it feels like death would be an improvement.  Then that nurse comes in and rousts you out of bed, changes the sheets and helps wash away the bed-grime from your aching body.  You get back in the bed and somehow the freshness of a bath and smooth, cool cleanness of the sheets just make you want to smile.  Fresh start!

You might have had this same experience.  I’ve been in the hospital a few times.  I’m not a really good patient.  It’s been said preachers talk because they love the sound of their own voice…when I’m sick I whine a lot, just to hear my own whining; it’s somehow reassuring just to hear how miserable I feel.  Whenever I’m sick at home Elizabeth just nods quietly and goes about doing all those “nursing things”.  I’m truly blessed to have a great caregiver when I’m so puny.  She knows how the fresh start of a bath, change of sheets and chicken soup will keep me quiet for several hours!

Paul writes about the freshest of fresh starts God has prepared for his children.  It’s so fresh we can’t even imagine how good it’s going to be.  In Revelation (chapter 22) John’s picture is of a bright, crystal-like flowing river, flowing from God’s throne.  It flows down the middle of heaven’s main street, which is lined with the tree of life healing everything in sight!  Nothing accursed will be found there any more. Rev 22:3a.  

I can’t claim to understand that completely, but the freshness of knowing God’s going to handle all the details of what I need most sustains me through this life’s difficulties!

Need a fresh start?  

Jesus cleans more than your bed sheets, he will cleanse your soul whiter than snow, and that’s better than chicken soup when you’re sick!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

On a hot summer day in the early 60's, our family pulled into a gravel parking lot and walked a short beaten pathway to a clearing.  It was an unpretentious setting, and in a small clearing there stood a cabin.  You couldn't go in; you could only stare at it from a distance.  The cabin was insignificant; I wanted my parents to hurry-up and get on with our travels.  That is, until I learned of the prior history of the cabin.  This was Illinois, and the name carved on the inside of the rough-cut timbers was "A. Lincoln." 

Suddenly, there was no hurry.  I would've stayed all day!  I wanted to know so much more about the days young Abraham Lincoln spent here.  Even as a twelve year old, historically-significant places fascinated me; I couldn’t get enough.  I recall that day I wanted to check for footprints where he might have spent time carving initials on a tree.  I wanted to touch everything in hopes of touching that era of history.

A place takes on the significance of its owner.  This world can be dreary for the tired, and fearful to the weak, burdensome for the "have-nots."  But, as we take a look at the inscription on the owner's plate our evaluation can change in a hurry.  The Name is "Yaw.sad".  He is the Creator.  The name with which we’re more familiar is “Jesus”.

Our Scripture this morning says that the hands which formed all things are the hands of Jesus.  Even the chair you’re sitting on and the house in which you live – all of it was once touched by Jesus.

Does that make any difference in the way you will look at God’s world today?

Monday, June 3, 2013


Monday, June 3, 2013

Moses, Israel’s first leader was dead.  God told Joshua to take Moses’ place to lead the people in possessing Canaan, the Promised Land.  Joshua had been there from the beginning – the plagues, the Exodus, gold calf, 40 years of wandering.  As Moses second in command he’d seen it all.  Yet in God’s first few sentences to the new leader, what dominates the Lord’s message to Joshua is “be courageous”.  It seemed hardly necessary; a bit of restating the obvious.  Joshua was already a man of courage and action. 
But, sandwiched in-between the “be brave’s” was the caution to let God’s Word be the glue that would hold together everything.  God told Joshua to constantly meditate on the Word, with the purpose of obeying it.  Ah….there’s the rub.  It’s easy to read and even understand – but, obeying requires a more industrial strength faith!
And that’s where God’s “be courageous” comes in.  Courage and success are linked.  It’s not a matter of summoning-up enough bravado, or false courage to convince others you are strong and capable (or even convince yourself).  To be courageous means to trust someone else’s strength; it means to have faith.
God told Joshua to meditate on all God said, put it into action and remind the people that everything depended on obeying the Word of God.  It takes faith to lead that way.

How do you lead in your home, school, business or community?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Burning Bridges; Building Bridges

Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the greatest allegories of the life of a Christian.  In it the author, John Bunyan, characterized our journey through this world as a pilgrimage; a race that everyone can win…but not easily!  If you read that 17th century classic you find there are many trials to overcome and mountains to climb. 
Paul the apostle used athletic struggle to frame the trials of Christian pilgrimage.  Today we are going to talk about the Christian race in terms of focus, bridges burned and bridges built. 
The Principle 
Running the Christian race requires burning some bridges,
and building others.
There are some qualities to consider in the Christian runner:
#1.  A Christian Runner Ought To
Burn the Bridge of Mediocrity and Run to Win
In a race everyone runs, but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win.  To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears. 1 Corinthians 9:24 - 25 (TLB)
Years ago I first heard the expression, don’t let the good become the enemy of the best.  This is an encouragement to choose well what your target will be.  Often we are tempted to settle for a safe, but lesser-goal, than to reach for the stars.  Paul says “nonsense” – go for the gold; there’s nothing higher than Christ.
“First prize” is Christ.  Our victory is our faith in Christ.  “Running to win” means trusting Christ for the victory.  We sing the hymn, Faith Is the Victory; “Oh, glorious victory that overcomes the world.” 
That’s burning the bridge of faintheartedness or fear.  It is building the bridge of faith – and that’s what will do – the only thing that will do – in serving Christ.
#2.  A Christian Runner Ought To
Burn the Bridge to Self and Build the Bridge of Sacrifice
So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. I’m not just shadow-boxing or playing around.   1 Corinthians 9:26  (TLB)
There’s a bridge to burn if you’re going to run by God’s rules.  That bridge is self.  Jesus said,
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  Luke 9.23b
If you listen to our culture (and you don’t have to listen too closely), it is a commonly held belief that following the rules is for other people.  Being selfish in this generation is almost considered a virtue.  But, that’s this generation; that’s not Almighty God.  He considers selfishness sin. 
If you’re going to run the Christian race, the bridge you’re going to build is sacrifice.  Paul sacrificed the luxury of receiving any financial compensation for his work as an apostle.  He did so because, to him, the hardship of poverty was worth the results he saw in reaching people for Jesus Christ.
Paul made it clear in personal example, and in other letters, that it is not wrong for God’s people to support those who labor in the Gospel.
For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.   And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.      1 Timothy 5:18  KJV
In the early years of serving as a pastor, there were times when I went to a 9-5 job, then made visits and calls at night.  I spent all day every Saturday studying for sermons.  Sunday afternoons were for all the church meetings, sandwiched in-between hospital visits and an hour my family got while we cleaned the house and did the dinner dishes. 
You can do that kind of thing for a while – but the family suffers, your health suffers, and eventually the ministry suffers.  Paul loved that schedule – but he had no family responsibilities. 
What about you?  Many of you volunteer so much time, give your talents teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, working on committees, and doing every new thing the preacher comes up with…. revivals, and projects!  You never get paid for a single bit of it.  Many of you put self on the back burner.  Things get repaired, painted, donated.  Programs get staffed, upgraded, and promoted. 
Every week volunteers do things in and for the church.  They do it all for the glory of God.  That is the center of the issue – that’s why you run!  I am grateful for the salary I receive, but I don’t run for it.  If that ever becomes the case, I’ll quit!  Burn the bridge of self….build the bridge of sacrifice.
#3.  A Christian Runner Ought To
Burn the Bridge of Laziness and Run Hard every Day
Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside. 1 Corinthians 9:27  (TLB)
Age, temperament, physical condition and energy level aside, we all have 24 hours each day.  We may all work at a different pace, see things differently, or approach tasks from perspectives that demand our special talents.  The one thing we cannot afford is laziness.  That is a bridge to burn.
One Russian proverb is, he's willing to swallow but too lazy to chew.  In place of the burned bridge of laziness is the building of labor.  No church, family, business or individual ever truly achieved something worthwhile without hard work. 
It is sometimes difficult to keep your eye on the goal line.  Running hard means continuing the course even when obstacles come along.  Our unified budget need is something we agree upon each year.  That is the focus of our tithes – the regular 10% of our income.  We bring that into God’s storehouse as a matter of fact.  The regular ministry expenses and mission offerings are included in that. 
An obstacle, or unexpected bump in the road, like paying off the building debt early, going on additional mission trips, unexpected love offerings for singing groups and the like – these are bumps we must deal with, but never forget these are done with over-the-tithe offerings.  In short, give your tithe – the Lord expects that.  When other opportunities come, give sacrificially as you can.  The Lord will bless you for that.  And when pressed into difficult circumstances, be the most generous you have ever been – it’s then His miracles come to the surface.  But, in any event, run hard in building your bridge of labor.

paul’s focus

No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.                  Philippians 3:13 - 14 (TLB)
To press toward something is to keep focused on the desired result.  Bill McCartney is the founder of Promise Keepers.  His testimony about life as a successful football coach includes a bridge of distraction. 
“When I took the job as head football coach at the University of Colorado in 1982, I made a solemn promise: I told everybody that with me, God was first, family second, and football third.
But I didn't keep that promise for long. The thrill and the challenge of resurrecting a football program in disarray simply took too much time and attention. As my teams kept winning year after year, I kept losing focus of my priorities.
When we won the national championship in 1990, many people said I had reached the pinnacle of my profession. But for me, there was an emptiness about it. I had everything a man could want, and yet something was missing. I was so busy pursuing my career goals that I was missing out on the Spirit-filled life that God wanted me to have.   All because I had broken my promise to put God first and foremost in my life.[1]
I have a sign in my office.  It says:  70% of Leaders Never Finish!  That’s what running to win is all about.  I want to finish my course as a pastor, a witness of Jesus Christ, being a son, husband, father and grandfather, and as a good steward – with a win. 
I want to go on like John Wesley, one of the greatest preachers of the last millennium.  Here’s a single page from his journal:
·        "Sunday a.m., May 5 - Preached in St. Ann’s; was asked not to come back anymore.
·        Sunday p.m., May 5 - Preached in St. John’s; deacons said, ’Get out and stay out.’
·        Sunday a.m., May 12 - Preached at St. Jude’s; can’t go back there either.
·        Sunday p.m., May 12 - Preached at St. George’s; kicked out again.
·        Sunday a.m., May 19 - Preached at St. Somebody Else’s; deacons called a special meeting and said I couldn’t return.
·        Sunday p.m, May 19 - Preached on the street; kicked off the street.
·        Sunday a.m., May 26 - Preached out in a meadow; chased out of meadow when a bull was turned loose during the service.
·        Sunday a.m., June 2 - Preached out at the edge of town; kicked off the highway.
·        Sunday p.m., June 2 - Afternoon service, preached in a pasture; 10,000 people came."[2]
I want to be faithful despite whatever my fainthearted ways previously; I want to go out a winner in faith.  I want to come to the end and hear, Well done, thou good and faithful servant
How is your running?  Have you come to that point in your life where you finally said, That’s it!  I am not settling any more.  I am going to stop this merry-go-round right now.  I will not run with the world any more.  I hereby declare my cheese moved!  I want peace.  I want purpose.  I want the power that comes with Jesus.
If you have not come to that point, but sense it may be near…allow me the privilege of praying with you today.  Step forward as we sing the next hymn.  Come in this invitation, ready to pray with others who will be coming.  Together we will make our commitments to run by the rules, run hard every day, and run to win.  Come as we make the commitment to Jesus to be faithful stewards.

[1] Bill McCartney, founder of Promise Keepers. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.
[2] Bob Hartman, Plugged In, 9-16-97