The Dash of Life

dash

The dash of life.

We are born. We live. We die.

We each have an individual journey to travel. The journey we are on is personal and along the way we support and encourage others.

It is the journey between birth and death; the experience of life on earth.

The poem written by Linda Ellis called The Dash carries a very sobering message. (you can click on the link to read)

We can dash through life without passion or purpose. Or we can journey through life by faith with passion and purpose.

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We can meander through life without rhyme or reason; result unknown. Or we can journey by faith with God’s direction; eternal destination secure.

The Bible calls this journey a race of faith.

1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV)

This passage gives some principles to consider on this journey:

1) Look to those who have journeyed well.

The author is specifically referring back to what he just wrote in chapter 11. Chapter 11 is full of faith filled life stories of those who have successfully finished their journeys of faith.

We can look to Abraham, Moses, Rahab and many others who journeyed ‘by faith’.

God gave us these life records as ‘witnesses’ to help us along the way.

The stories of these people, and so many more, are recorded for our benefit. God Himself has preserved the accounts so that we could benefit from their testimony and learn from their experiences. We have a tremendous resource in the written word of scripture.

2) Lay ‘aside every weight.’

Athletic runners, who are serious about their sport, consider everything about their attire including their clothing and shoes. It is important that they carry as little weight as possible to maximize their performance.

It would be ridiculous for a runner to strap on a 20 LB weight and expect to run at their best. But so many of us carry extra baggage without expecting that weight to hinder us. We try to run this race of faith while we carry heavy weights of financial debt, bitterness or fear. We try to walk the journey of faith while we carry in our back pockets the failures of our past and the unfair expectation of others. We insist on holding worry as a badge of honour and pride as a coat of arms without expecting it to affect us. We carry burdens that we ought not carry and they hinder us in our journey.

Folks, It is important to chuck the weight of these kinds of things so that we can journey with passion and purpose.

Jesus said, ‘Come to me you who are weary and heavily burdened. I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:28-30)

What is He saying?

‘Let’s do a trade. You give me your heavy burden and I will give you a light one, easy to bear.’

Now, doesn’t that sound good?

3) Avoid the snare of sin.

A snare is an interesting trap of a hunter. For it to be effective the prey should not realize the danger until it is too late.

Sin is exactly like this. Sin seems ok, harmless and even attractive.

The truth is sin ensnares, entangles, destroys and kills.

One of the problems with sin is that it is so enticing.

Eve discovered this in the garden of Eden. The Bible says that Adam and Eve were in the garden enjoying the blessings of God. God told them not to eat of the fruit of one tree. When the serpent tempted Eve to take of the fruit and eat of it the scripture says that it was seemed good to eat & pleasant to the eye. She ate of it and then enticed her husband to eat of it as well. Everything seemed ok until the trap was sprung. The sin seemed pleasant to eye until it ensnared them and they lost everything. (Genesis 3)

Sin is like that. Sin ensnares. Sin entangles. Sin destroys. Sin kills.

Gossip seems harmless. Talking about people, spreading rumour and slander seems like fun until it is done about you. Remember that those who will gossip with you will gossip about you. Gossip ensnares and destroys lives.

Drinking to excess seems ok. Everyone is doing it and it can be a lot of fun, right? It seems this way but truthfully, it ensnares and destroys. These verses in Proverbs 23 speak about its enticing nature. It says that although it goes down smoothly it bites like a poisonous viper. It can lead to poverty, mockery and violence.

Pornography is attractive and harmless right? NO. It may seem enticing but it can lead to impotency, destroy marriages & families. It debases the dignity of women, empowers human traffickers and objectifies people. It’s a perversion of what God meant to be a blessing in the confines of marriage.

We have all been ensnared by sin; everyone.

The good news is that Christ can set us free and empower us to lay it aside.

4) Don’t quit.

The Hebrews author writes, ‘let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.’

This is an important point. Never give up! We ought never to quit. We ought not to give up.

There is an old saying that goes like this: ‘Quitters never win and Winners never quit.’

It doesn’t matter if you have failed. We all have. Get up and don’t quit.

One person said, “Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from winning a touchdown.”

You may get tripped up … get up and keep moving toward the finish line.

Life may throw you a curve ball … God isn’t surprised. Trust Him, don’t quit and keep moving toward the goal.

Our greatest example is Jesus. He had a specific race to run and he ran it perfectly. He had a certain journey to finish and he successfully did.

We can encourage ourselves with the testimony of the ancients but especially with the story of Christ’s work.

He is the author and the finisher of our journey of faith.

He endured the cross on our behalf. He despised the shame in order to save us. He ran His race and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

He is our great example. And He, I will follow!

So, we have a journey still before us.

Our birthdate is known but our death date isn’t.

the dash of our life

The dash in between is the journey we are experiencing.

What are we going to do with this dash of life?

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Living Hope

1 Peter 1:3-4 speaks of the living hope that we have been spiritually born into through the resurrection of Christ.This living hope brings life to our souls and hope for our futures that nothing else can bring. No system of philosophy or thought can bring living hope. The resurrection of Jesus Christ does what nothing else can do; it brings living hope into an otherwise hopeless existence.

The modern idea of hope is “to wish for, to expect, but without certainty of the fulfillment; to desire very much, but with no real assurance of getting your desire.” This is what many people have; a wishing type of hope.

“Well, I hope everything is going to turn out alright.”

“I hope that what the Bible says is true.”

The Biblical use of the word hope has a much different meaning. In Scripture, according to the Hebrew and Greek words translated by the word “hope” and according to the biblical usage, hope is an indication of certainty. “Hope” in Scripture means “a strong and confident expectation.”

The hope we have isn’t built on wish or a maybe. The hope we possess in Christ in a surety and a certainty. If your hope isn’t sure than your hope isn’t in the biblical Christ. If your hope isn’t a certainty than your hope isn’t anchored in the Living Rock, Christ Jesus. Biblical living hope we have is sure and certain.

The reason our hope is alive is because Jesus is. If he wasn’t alive then our hope would be dead; BUT because He lives our hope lives.

In Matthew 28 we read the account of two ladies who were both named Mary. They went to the tomb on Sunday morning after Jesus’s crucifixion. Their hope was shattered. Their hope had died when Jesus died.

When they arrived at the tomb they were greeted by an angel. The angel’s appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. This is the same angel that rolled away the tomb’s stone. He greeted the ladies by saying, “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.” This news changed their shattered hope into a living hope. This news changes everything. hope pic

You see, the hope we find in the Living Christ is different than hope found elsewhere. Hope found in Jesus death and resurrection is a hope that isn’t just wishful thinking. Hope found in Jesus death and resurrection is a hope that isn’t an uncertain hope. It is hope that is built on certainty.

First, the Living Hope that we have because of Jesus’s resurrection includes the certainty that death is not the end.

Some have said that when we die our existence ends. Some have said that death is the end.
Death is not the end, my friends. When our bodies die we do not cease to exist. 2 Corinthians 5:8 says that, for the Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

‘Heaven is for real’ is a movie about a little boy named Colton. I have read the book but haven’t seen the movie yet. Colton had died on the surgical table and was dead a for a number of minutes. When he was revived he began to tell his experiences in heaven. He met relatives that he had no knowledge of beforehand. He talked with historical figures of whom he didn’t know about beforehand. He spent time with Jesus in heaven and understood theological truths in an experiential way no boy could know. You see, Colton had gone to heaven and he made no mistake when he said, “Heaven is for real.”

Secondly, the Living Hope that we have because of Jesus’s resurrection includes the certainty that that evil does not win.

Sometimes we believe that it is the one who cheats that wins. It is the one who cheats on his taxes that seems to prosper. It is the one who claws his way over his friends and coworkers that seems to get ahead. It seems that the bad guys often wins and that the good guy loses.

It may seem that evil wins but in the end evil loses. It may seem that following Jesus and living for Him puts you at a disadvantage. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it puts you on the winning side!

Following Jesus’ death, I would imagine the the disciples felt that evil had won again. ‘Corrupt leadership has won again. They stopped this great teacher and prophet. Evil has again won over good.’ They likely questioned why they ever believed in Him. It was a very low point and their hope had died.

That is … until Sunday!

Jesus now boldly declares, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:18 NIV)

We can take our hope from this. Jesus won. Evil, sin and the kingdom of darkness lost.

Let’s stop living with an uncertain hope. Let’s live with certainty, knowing that our hope is alive in Christ. It goes beyond this life and past the curtain of death. It is stronger than any evil that tries to rise against it. Our hope, when anchored in the Living Christ, is a Living Hope.

Paul had it right when he penned these words …

‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.’ (1 Peter 1:3-4 NIV)

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Walking with Jesus

05-01-11 Walking with Jesus
Sometimes the walk with Jesus is easy, effortless and sunny. Other times the walk with Jesus seems difficult, hard and gloomy. Walking with Jesus, though, is always the best alternative. It is always the best choice regardless of whether the moment is a mountain top moment or a dark valley moment. With Jesus leading the way we can rest assured that the way is the best way, maybe not the easiest, but the best way.

In John 12:12-19 we read about one of the easy days. It was a day of celebration and a day of victory. It was Palm Sunday, the day of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Jesus fulfilled a long ago spoken prophecy that day. (Zechariah 9:9) It was a prophecy spoken of the Messiah, the Christ, the one who would usher in a new kingdom. 

That day was a great day of rejoicing. In that crowd of people were those who had walked with Jesus for his whole ministry and some who were new to faith in Him. There were those who had experienced his healing touch & most of his followers were probably there. Lazarus, his sister Mary, and maybe Martha (if she wasn’t doing the dishes) were probably there too. It was an enjoyable day to walk with Jesus.

It is great when the walk with Jesus is sunny, easy and effortless. We all enjoy those times. We rejoice and it is easy to shout Hallelujah or Praise the Lord! You know the days I speak of; the ones where everything is going right. The times when your day starts out right, you’ve slept great the night before; breakfast is bacon and eggs done just the way you like them. The Orange Juice is squeezed perfectly and your coffee is brewed just right or, as in my case, the tea is steeped just the way you like it. :-) You leave for work in the morning and the temperature outside is not too hot and not too cold. Everybody loves you at work and everything goes well there. Your favourite meal is served for supper when you get home and you have a relaxing evening with your loved ones … These are the days that make walking with Jesus seem easy …

For most of us, reality is much different…

You wake up with a start, realizing you are late for work or for an appointment. In a rush to get where you are going you stub your toe on the bed corner. You shower is cold because the hot water heater has died. The dog is vomiting all over the living room carpet and, oh yea, you have to shovel the driveway because of the 4th blizzard in a week has come through. You know those days, your eggs are runny, your toast is cold and your coffee is terrible. Somedays just don’t go right.

Life can be a struggle. Sometimes we seem to face set back after set back. It is when these days weigh heavy on us that we need to be very sure to walk with Jesus. We need to make sure we are by His side; that we are walking closely to the shepherd of our souls. We can’t afford to walk on our own, away from the protection and direction of the Lord.

It is in the bad days, and the good days that it is important to learn to ‘Bless the Name of the Lord.’

The lyrics of Matt Redman’s song Blessed be Your Name reflect this attitude. ‘Blessed be the Name of the Lord whether I experience streams of abundance or desert places. Blessed be His Name when the sun is shining down on me or on the road marked with suffering’. These are words to live by.

The walk with Jesus sometimes takes us through difficult times, and dark valleys. “Yea, tho I walk through the valley of the shadow death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me.” We often quote this phrase from the 23rd Psalm when someone is on their death bed. It can bring great comfort at such a time but I would submit that this great truth can be applied many times in life. When life is hard, when things are dark or when it feels like you exist in death’s shadow it is vital to know that you are walking with Jesus and that Jesus is walking with you.

Sometimes is seems that you walk alone and that you’ve been forsaken. Let me remind you that He hasn’t left you . Let me remind you that He will always be there with you. He promised that He would never leave you or forsake you.

Mary Stevenson’s poem Footprints (1936) is a timeless classic. Mary describes having a dream about her life’s walk with Jesus signified by two sets of footprints in the sand. She said that she noticed when things were the toughest were the times that only one set of footprints are visible. Mary incorrectly took this to mean that the Lord had abandoned her. Jesus reminded her that He would never leave her and that ‘When you saw only one set of footprints, 
it was then that I carried you.”

He hasn’t forsaken you. He hasn’t left you. He never will. When you can’t walk with Him, He will carry you. He will always be faithful.

The day we read about here in scripture was a day of celebration. For those who have been walking with Jesus since the beginning it is a great time of rejoicing.

These disciples and the others had left all to follow Jesus. It wasn’t an easy road to follow. The religious leaders of the day looked down on them. They travelled from place to place. But wow! It was wonderful to see Him heal the sick. It was phenomenal to see Jesus raise the dead! To be a part of the feeding of multitudes with little food. To see the demons flee at the mention of His name. To see the blind eyes open. It was awesome to walk with Jesus! They walked with the Living Word of Almighty God; the Word of Life.

But make no mistake, the road wasn’t always easy. They were misunderstood because Jesus was. Peter summed it up real well when at one time a particular hard teaching was given by Jesus. Many of the crowd and followers left Him because of it. Jesus turned to the 12 and asked if they would leave Him too. Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

You and I have been given the call to follow Jesus. The call is true. The call is sure.

“Follow Me” is the challenge before us. Will we follow Him? Will we walk with Jesus?

The Lord knows that the call to follow Him isn’t an easy one to answer. He is calling us to leave our selfish lives, our sinfulness, to follow His way. The Lord knows it won’t always be an easy road. Regardless, His words still ring load and clear today. “Follow Me”.

His invitation is unmistakable – ‘Walk with me. Walk with me and your life will have purpose beyond yourselves.’

On this Sunday of rejoicing, no one knew what was coming, except Jesus. No one knew that in just a few days the one they hailed as King would be crucified between two thieves. No on knew that the darkest days of their walk with Jesus was just ahead.

Some in the crowd were probably some of the same ones who would cry out ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’

Judas, one of the 12, would betray Him for a just few coins. All the disciples would desert Jesus in His hour of greatest need. Jesus was left to walk the final walk alone to Calvary. He walked that walk for you & me. He walked that walk alone.

It is easy for us to stand back in judgement of these people for abandoning Jesus. It is easy for us because we have the benefit of hindsight. We know how it all turns out. Jesus dies, yes, but He rises again on Sunday! We understand what was going on because we are looking back and have been given the revelation of scripture. But they did not. They were caught up in fear and thoughts of self preservation.
These who abandoned their walk with Jesus because of fear and intimidation were not a whole lot different than most of us.

Most of us have abandoned Him due to selfishness or rebellion, very much like these. The good news is that He redeems and restores. No matter what our mistakes have been, or how many there have been, His invitation is available, regardless.

footprints 2It won’t always be an easy walk. You won’t walk it perfectly; But, it is a rewarding walk. It’s a road that leads to purpose, fulfillment and life eternal. You’ll have to depend on His amazing grace but it would be the greatest decision you will ever make.

Will you walk with Jesus?

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