November 19

Today's Bible Reading
     I Chronicles 13-14
     James 1
     Amos 8
     Luke 3
''Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." (James 1:12) 
            It is both an encouragement and an indictment to believers to know that someday we will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ and receive crowns. I am interested in receiving the biggest, brightest, and best crown of Heaven because these crowns will be laid at the feet of our wonderful Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ!  He alone is worthy of them, but we shall be the recipients of them in order to lay them at His feet. 
            The crown mentioned in our memory verse could be called the crown of those who love God. Upon examination of this verse, we discover that, through his love for God, the believer finds strength to overcome temptation and endure trials.
Paul said, “we also glory in tribulation.” Do we today glory in tribulations? We can do so only if the ''loveof God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit."  Without the love of God in the heart of the believer, trials could cause him to become bitter and critical; therefore, he may lose the crown of life.  All believers have eternal life, but not all believers will be rewarded with a crown of life. This crown will be given to those who are faithful until death. (Revelation 2:10) 
            To receive the ''crown of life'', the believer must love the Lord more than his own life.  I am convinced that this kind of Christianity that endures trials and temptations, and produces love for the Lord within, comes about only through spiritual discipline and spiritual exercise. ''For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come." (I Timothy 4:8)  Getting in shape can be dangerous. According to one report, two of the favorite ways that middle-aged Americans get in shape is by riding bicycles and playing basketball.  This report also revealed that in one year, 201,000 people were hurt on their bikes, and another 264,000 were sidelined with injuries they sustained on the basketball court.
            Why do we do it?  Because we see benefits like feeling better, maintaining the body structure, or living longer.
People are willing to endure the sweat and tears it may take to get that heart pumping and those weak muscles working.
            The Bible tells us that ''bodily exercise profits us little'', but it is also our greater responsibility to exercise spiritually. Do we have the same determination as those bikers and hoopsters who are risking pain and injury to get in shape? It is only then that we will be able to love the Lord, endure trials and temptations, and receive the ''crown of life.” What steps can you take to get in shape spiritually? What food makes for a healthy spiritual diet? How can you exercise your faith today?
            The church is the gym, the Word of God is the diet, disciplined living is the holy sweat, and fellowship with other believers is the joy of teamwork. It is indeed time to get in shape.
Pray for the state of Eritrea in Central Africa. This land of more than 4 million people is arid, mountainous, and then has desert lowlands along the Red Sea coast. The country is about half and half Christian and Muslim. Most of the Christians are orthodox, and there are very few evangelicals. The evangelical churches, however, are growing but are limited in resources for training and outreach. Pray today for the School of Leadership Training in Asmara facing a great need along with several other schools.  Pray for the maturing and expansion of the relatively small evangelical witness in Eritrea.
The pessimist says, ''If I don't try, I can't fail." The optimist says, ''If I don't try, I can't win."