He Will Hold Me Fast

He Will Hold Me Fast
When I fear my faith will fail
Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail
He can hold me fast

He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
For my Savior loves me so
He will hold me fast

(Ada Habershon/Robert Harkness 1906-07)

This beautiful old hymn has become one of my favorites in recent times. It seems almost on a daily basis we are confronted by bad news, difficult prospects, and personal tragedy. The world, the flesh, and the devil conspire to attack our joy, shake our faith, and subvert our confidence in a Holy God and the sufficiency of His Word.

I could never keep my hold
He will hold me fast
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast

We must always remember that even when our love for Him “cools,” perhaps because of the “cares of life, the lusts of the flesh and the deceitfulness of riches”; His love for us remains ever fervent. Why you may ask? Because…

I am precious in His sight
He will hold me fast
Those He saves are His delight
He will hold me fast

This hymn has its roots in three continents. American evangelist, R.A. Torrey, and his music director, Charles Alexander, were holding an evangelistic campaign in Australia in 1902. There they met a new young pianist named Robert Harkness.

Harkness was invited by the local organizing committee to play the piano for the meetings. During the campaign, Dr. Torrey asked Harkness, “Are you a Christian?” Harkness replied, “No, I’m here to play the piano!”

Charles Alexander shortly thereafter led Harkness to faith in Christ. Harkness then served with Torrey’s ministry team for several years.

The team traveled to Tasmania, New Zealand, India, and eventually to London where they came in contact with songstress, Ada Habershon.

In early 1906, the team was in Toronto, Canada. Harkness met a young convert there who “expressed the fear that he would not be able to hold out.”

Harkness wrote to Habershon in England to request more texts to address this sentiment. At a mission in Philadelphia later that year, Harkness pulled out some slips of paper that Ada Habershon had sent him. Among the lines written down was the phrase, “He will hold me fast.” Harkness immediately worked out the music for the verses and chorus then and there.

The following summer in 1907, the song was introduced at the Moody Bible Conference in Northfield, Mass. Later that year in an evangelistic campaign led by Dr. Charles Gordon, assisted by Charles Alexander (and probably Harkness) in Kansas City; He Will Hold Me Fast was sung and regarded by many to be the “highlight of the experience.”

“The climax of the service of song came when Mr. Alexander united choir and audience – 6,000 strong – in singing Mr. Harkness’ new hymn, He Will Hold Me Fast. The people were electrified by the vast volume of melody, such as was probably never before heard in the building, and by the thought of Christ holding us fast amid all of life’s temptations.”

May we, across the span of time, join our hearts and voices with that “audience of 6,000 strong” as well as many thousands of others who have sung these words amidst the trials and tribulations of their lives.

He’ll not let my soul be lost
Christ will hold me fast
Bought by Him at such a cost
He will hold me fast

He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
For my savior loves me so


The Fellowship of His Sufferings

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom
I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

What a rich text and grand perspective we receive from the Apostle Paul toward the end of his earthly life and ministry. As he reflects upon his life and ministry within the environment of his first imprisonment, he concludes that “all things” are regarded as “loss”; not just the lesser things, the low points we might say, but the high points as well.

Here is a highly educated man, having acquired significant standing within the Pharisaical community prior to his conversion, then rising to significant prominence within the Christian community, post-conversion. Today he is considered by most scholars to be the greatest theologian ever. We know from scripture that he “Knew how to get along with humble means, and how to live in prosperity.” (Philippians 4:12)

But now he considers it all “loss”…in what sense, we might ask, and for what reason?

 “Compared to (or in view of) the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” That’s the answer to “in what sense.”

So then, for what reason? “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings…in order that I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.”

It’s not that the experiences and blessed privileges of his life and ministry were meaningless or inconsequential to him, but compared to just truly knowing Christ, these things were “as loss” in comparison.

Paul realized very early on in his ministry that if true Christianity is anything at all, it is, first of all, a death.

“Christ and Him crucified”… “Crucified with Christ”…”For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

These few familiar quotes from scripture are representative of the entire theme of Paul’s ministry and Christian philosophy if you will. So now towards the end of the aged Paul’s life, he reflects, rehearses, and re-establishes that which he has believed from the beginning.

As he perceives that death may be in his near future, I believe he takes comfort in the fact and encourages his own faith in the truth that his resurrection from the dead is as sure as Christ’s resurrection because “He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.” (Romans 8:11)

Yes, this verse encourages the believer to embrace the fact that His Spirit quickens us or makes us have life while we are alive, but it also reminds and assures us that as Christians, that same Spirit will literally make us alive from death, in our resurrection.

Paul also realizes that through his persecutions, beatings, shipwrecks, and now imprisonment, he is experiencing a greater intimacy than he has ever known through “The fellowship of His sufferings.”

It is this point I want us to especially consider at this moment in time.

I pray for the persecuted church in the world today on a daily basis. We have brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted, tortured, and even killed, all around the world, because of their unwavering faith in Christ.

Do we consider ourselves to be involved with Christ and these persecuted saints, in the “Fellowship of His sufferings?”

Here in America (and elsewhere) we have so-called ministers and ministries that unashamedly proclaim that Christians should never suffer…anytime, anywhere!

Their theology (or lack thereof) is illustrative of their complete ignorance of sound biblical teaching, and their insensitivity to suffering saints. I believe it also evidences a kind of elitist spiritual arrogance that is truly breathtaking! Scripture simply calls them “false teachers.”

I would like to write more of what I am thinking and feeling right now, because suffering either has been, is, or will be part of our life’s experience. Suffering comes in all sizes and shapes, as the saying goes, but it does most certainly come.

I recently read a quote from Charles Spurgeon that I believe articulates, sums up, and authenticates what we know to be true from both scripture and experience.

God’s people have their trials. It was never designed by God, when he chose his people, that they should be an untried people. They were chosen in the furnace of affliction; they were never chosen to worldly peace and earthly joy. Freedom from sickness and the pains of mortality was never promised them; but when their Lord drew up the charter of privileges, he included chastisements amongst the things to which they should inevitably be heirs. Trials are a part of our lot; they were predestinated for us in Christ’s last legacy. So surely as the stars are fashioned by his hands, and their orbits fixed by him, so surely are our trials allotted to us: He has ordained their season and their place, their intensity and the effect they shall have upon us. Good men must never expect to escape troubles; if they do, they will be disappointed, for none of their predecessors have been without them. Mark the patience of Job; remember Abraham, for he had his trials, and by his faith under them, he became the “Father of the faithful.” Note well the biographies of all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and you shall discover none of those whom God made vessels of mercy, who were not made to pass through the fire of affliction. It is ordained of old that the cross of trouble should be engraved on every vessel of mercy, as the royal mark whereby the King’s vessels of honour are distinguished. But although tribulation is thus the path of God’s children, they have the comfort of knowing that their Master has traversed it before them; they have his presence and sympathy to cheer them, his grace to support them, and his example to teach them how to endure; and when they reach “the kingdom,” it will more than make amends for the “much tribulation” through which they passed to enter it. – (Morning and Evening-March 8, Charles Spurgeon)

These are powerful, true, and comforting words that assure us of His plans and purposes for our lives, His faithfulness to see us through (even in the midst of difficult circumstances), and His guarantee of resurrection power that transports us from death to life eternal!

“We are saved by grace through faith.”

Heaven is already our home and soon we will go there to dwell eternally!

But in the in-between called “life”’ we struggle and often suffer.

It is however in the midst of adversity, trial, and tribulation, that we who are “In Christ” actually draw upon a greater richness, fullness and dare I say beauty, from the ever increasing intimacy with our Lord and Savior resulting from “The Fellowship of His Sufferings.”

Are You An Influencer?

Everyone is an influencer. We have influence by what we do or don’t do, by what we say or don’t say, and most certainly as Christians, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, we should have spiritual influence always.

But as is the case with many things in our present culture, some words now denote different meanings and ideas than what has been understood heretofore.

The word influencer is a good example of this. The social media landscape is full of “influencers”. In the world of marketing an influencer is defined as, “Someone in your niche or industry with sway over your target audience, possessing the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others.”

However, the word influencer now, in the realm of social media, might also define someone, anyone who for whatever reason can get large numbers of people to pay attention to them.

There are people and/or entities that are actually willing to offer significant and lucrative contracts to individuals for no other reason than the fact that lots of people follow them on social media.

Even though these influencers may have no skills, talents, or ideas that are of any intellectual, cultural, or spiritual value to society in general; just the fact that they can (for whatever reason) draw a crowd, makes them valuable to someone seeking to exploit the influencer’s “drawing power” for their own personal gain. Crazy? Yes, but this is the world in which we now live.

In this letter, however, I want to challenge you with the idea that God has uniquely positioned you; and in your sphere of influence, you are the most qualified, competent person to influence someone for Christ.

Some years ago I recorded a song entitled, Chain of Grace. One lyric reads as follows:

Oh to be a link in this line of faith
To help steer somebody to see His face
Then watch them turn around
And do the same thing
In this chain of grace

(Billy Simon, Jeff Silvey Chain of Grace/Dallas Holm 1992)

Have you ever heard of Mordecai Ham? Very possibly you have because he’s the evangelist who in 1934, while preaching in an extended evangelistic campaign in Charlotte, NC, offered an invitation to a crowd to repent of their sin, come forward and receive Christ as their savior. Among those who stepped out of the crowd that night was a young sixteen-year-old boy who had previously wanted nothing to do with ministers of this sort. That young man was gloriously saved and went on to be a great evangelist himself; some would say, “The greatest.” The young man’s name was Billy Graham. That is such a wonderful story, is it not? I think however what’s truly wonderful is the “chain of grace” that precedes that night in Charlotte so many years ago.

It all started with a Sunday School teacher….

A Sunday School teacher named Edward Kimball won a shoe store clerk to Jesus – his name was D.L. Moody.

D.L. Moody traveled to England and awakened the heart of a young pastor – F.B. Meyer.

F.B. Meyer became one of the great Bible expositors, came to the U.S.A. and preached on college campuses, and was used to convert a student to Christ – Wilbur Chapman.

Wilbur Chapman attended one of Moody’s meetings in Chicago and became D.L. Moody’s co-worker.

Wilbur Chapman employed an ex-baseball player as his assistant – Billy Sunday.

Billy Sunday became a great evangelist and preached in Charlotte, NC, at a meeting organized by the Billy Sunday Layman’s Evangelistic Club (renamed Christian Business Men’s Committee or CBMC).

CBMC invited an evangelist to Charlotte, his name was Mordecai Ham.

Mordecai Ham preached in the tent meeting where Billy Graham was saved.

Billy Graham has proclaimed the Gospel to millions across the globe, and many lives have been changed forever. Perhaps you are one of them. All because a Sunday School teacher took the time to talk to a co-worker about Jesus.

On the 17th of October in 1965, a young pastor took the time to share his concern for the soul of a teenager in his congregation, who was heading down the wrong path with his life and his music.

As a result of the genuine concern of this pastor (and the conviction of the Holy Spirit), the teenager committed his life to Christ and also made a commitment to use his musical abilities only for the Lord from that day forward.

This new, young Christian singer began to go out many a weekend and sing of his newfound life in Christ. He would also share his testimony of God’s saving grace in any and every setting, whether in jails or rest homes, street corners, or little churches.

One Sunday morning, Pastor Dick (as we all called him) approached me (yes, I was that teenager) and said, “Dallas, may I give you some loving advice? Right now, at this point in your life, let me encourage you to stay home here in church on Sundays. Let me disciple you and build a foundation of the Word of God beneath your life and your ministry. You’ll have all your life to minister; you’ll have only this one chance to prepare.”

I look back now and realize that was one of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve ever received! Because of his influence in my life, I became a Christian. Because of his Godly advice, I have remained committed to His call, committed to the sound presentation of the gospel, and consequently have had the privilege of touching literally millions of souls through recordings, radio, television, concerts, books, social media, and the list goes on. All this because one man cared and took the time to influence another for Christ.

We often don’t recognize where God has uniquely positioned us in someone’s life. We don’t consider ourselves as influential and thereby miss opportunities to influence others for Christ and His Kingdom. There are so many, even Christians, who don’t think that anything of great significance will come from their lives.

Let’s consider Ruth and her story found in the Old Testament. The story is a wonderful story of love, integrity, promise, and hope. Perhaps the most telling and significant verse in the entire story is the last one. “And to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David.” (Ruth 4:22)

What’s the significance of that you may ask? Think of it. This young girl from Moab, upon the death of her husband, decides to honor her mother-in-law, Naomi, and go to be with her people. Thus, she meets and marries Boaz, with whom she has a child…Obed. Obed became the father of Jesse, who became the father of David. David, of whom alone God said, “A man after my own heart.”

But wait, there’s more! Trace down through the lineage of David all the way to the Messiah, Son of God, born in a manger in Bethlehem. A young Moabite girl, surely not thought of as an “influencer” by herself or any other, falls directly inline in the genealogical records as one linked in the “chain of grace” forever to our Lord and Savior.

You, oh Christian, are a link in that same chain of grace. You, dear saint, have been strategically placed by the hand of a sovereign God. You’ve been saved by His grace, built up in the knowledge of His Word, and indwelt by His own Holy Spirit. For the sake of the gospel, for that name above all names, for the blood of the martyrs and for the King and His kingdom…. Are You an Influencer?

Does God Still Speak?

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

This is arguably the most significant announcement ever made by God to man. For thousands of years God’s people had been looking and waiting for the promised Messiah. The religious elite had pored over the ancient manuscripts and studied every word uttered by the prophets in hopes of ascertaining some clue, some key that might give them more specific insight as to when, where, and how this “Promised One” might appear.

It’s hard to imagine the surprise and even contempt that the religious leaders must have felt towards a group of shepherds out on a nighttime hillside, tending their flocks and now suddenly proclaiming that an angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Then, as if this wasn’t enough, there was yet the, “But wait, there’s more” moment! Not only an angel (singular) of the Lord had visited the shepherds but an entire heavenly host lit up the sky over their campfire and shone, proclaimed, and perhaps sang the glory of God! We know from scripture that the shepherds talked among themselves and decided they must go and see and go and tell.

“Let us go straight to Bethlehem then and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us. And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in a manger. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.” (Luke 2:15-17)

It must have been an amazingly difficult thing for most, especially the religious leaders, to accept the fact that God had spoken, announced, decreed to anyone, let alone lowly shepherds, the arrival of the Messiah, the hope of Israel and the Savior of the World! Surely God wouldn’t speak to and through such as these. But He did!

This brings us to the question of the day. Does God still speak?

I believe the answer is yes, but let me carefully unpack my beliefs concerning this.

Have you ever had someone say to you, “God told me this or God told me that?” Or how about, “God told me to tell you…?”

Now, at the risk of offending some who use such terminology, oft times out of habit, not careful consideration, let me say this. Personally, I’ve never said, “God told me this or that.” I’ve also never said to someone, “God told me to tell you…”

I think this can be most presumptuous and oftentimes detrimental, if not hurtful to someone who may take to heart someone saying, “God told me…” When in fact, it was a personal opinion, a misguided attempt at being prophetic, or worst of all, a means to control or manipulate.

I have upon occasion asked those who say, “God told me,” if they actually heard an audible voice. Usually, the reply is something like this: “Well no, I didn’t actually hear an audible voice; it was more a prompting or a sensing.”

How we use words and phrases to communicate with others is so important. It can literally mean the difference between being helpful or harmful.

I’ve concluded that if everything people told me through the years was from God, as they said it was, then He is surely the most confused being in the universe!

Here’s what I believe: God speaks most clearly, specifically, and completely through His Word. God will never, and I mean NEVER speak a word that is contrary to or cannot be backed up, by the Word of God.

Having said that, let us consider some other ways His Word says that He speaks. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1) I am reminded of a line from Ralph Carmichael’s wonderful 1964 contemporary song, He’s Everything to Me: “In the stars His handiwork I see.”

On a side note: I have recently thought of trying to contact Ralph Carmichael to tell him what a huge contribution he made to Contemporary Christian music and how much I honor and respect him and his contributions musically. As I just referenced the previous lyrics from his song, I decided to look up information on him so I might contact him. I was surprised and saddened to see he had just passed on October 18th of this year. (When and if you feel a prompting to reach out to someone, do it! God speaks by His Holy Spirit in such ways.)

The Apostle Paul writes, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they (the unrighteous) are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

That reminds me of a story told to me by a missionary to China, some years ago. The missionary said he was sitting on the deck of a boat cruising down a river in China, bible in hand and having a time of prayer and study. Next to him sat an elderly Chinese gentleman who at one point asked, “What is the book you read?” The missionary responded, “The Bible.” The Chinese gentleman asked, “What is Bible?” The missionary said, “The Bible is a book that tells us about God, His creation, His Son, and His love.” The Chinese gentleman replied, “So there is a God?” The missionary said, “Yes!” The Chinese gentleman replied, “I thought so!”

The man from China had never been to church, never heard a sermon about God, and didn’t even know what a Bible was. Yet…he believed there was a God. How?

“The heavens declare His glory!”
“In the stars His handiwork I see.”

To be sure, this is not salvation but it is God speaking, drawing, and perhaps convicting so that a hunger is created to know God and I believe such hunger will always be fed by one whom God appoints to share the gospel.

We know from the many reports of missionaries to Muslim countries, that so many who are coming to Christ have first been quickened in their spirits by a dream revealing Christ to them. That dream causes them to search out someone who can share the gospel. I had the privilege of talking to a young couple from Iran who attended a concert of mine a few years back. They videoed the entire concert so they could take it back to their family and friends so they might hear the gospel. When I asked how they came to faith in Christ, the young man replied in broken English, “Jesus appeared to me in a dream and from there I learned of the gospel.”

A dream. Do dreams have biblical support and precedent? One should not live their life on the basis of dreams and visions but God does use dreams and visions occasionally to speak.

There is so much to write on this topic but let me say this; the Holy Spirit who took up residence within us when we surrendered our lives to Christ and trusted by faith in His atoning sacrifice is neither dormant nor silent within us.

My pastor preaches wonderful, rich, biblically sound sermons but it is the Holy Spirit that gives life, power, meaning, and application to those anointed messages.

I’ve written many songs through the years that have blessed, enriched, and even led to the salvation of lives. Is that because I have a way with words and notes? Is it on the basis of talent? No, and may it never be! In fact, we know from scripture it’s not by might, power, talent, intellect, or any other thing of which we may boast. Scripture is emphatic. “It is by My Spirit, thus saith the Lord!” His Spirit is neither dormant nor silent.

So yes, God speaks.

God speaks through His Word. He speaks through that which He has created. He speaks by the prompting of His Spirit within us. He speaks through preachers, teachers, circumstances both difficult and uplifting and in many other ways perhaps too numerous to list.

But in any and every way He may choose to speak, the Word of God must always be the foundation, the compass, and the clear point of reference for any such communication of God to man.

I think God is always speaking. The question is, are we always listening?

I pray that you would seek to spend more time in His Word this coming year and desire to develop a greater sensitivity to the ways and means by which He might speak to us.

May we never wonder: “Does God Still Speak?”

The Spirit Within Us

Is a Christian indwelt fully by the Holy Spirit at conversion? The Holy Spirit works in us continually from conversion through sanctification, and subsequently through various giftings and empowering. If the Holy Spirit is God and dwells within us, what does that call us to? We should continually be filled up by the Holy Spirit. In this episode, Dallas talks about spirit-filled living: our lives should show those around us the reality of a risen Christ alive within us by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

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Holy Spirit Baptism

The believers received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and Jesus said when you receive the Holy Spirit, you receive the power to be witnesses. Believers look at Holy Spirit Baptism in different doctrinal ways. These doctrinal differences leave some staying away from the mysterious Holy Spirit, and others with no desire to learn more about biblical spirit-filled living. In this episode, Dallas looks at what Holy Spirit Baptism means through the differing lenses of Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones and Dr. Wayne Grudem.

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God, The Holy Spirit

When we surrender our lives to Jesus, it’s the Holy Spirit who woos us, convicts us, transforms us, empowers us – it’s all the work of the Holy Spirit which is the spirit of Christ, and the Holy Spirit dwells in us. A.W. Tozer says “We will never understand the Holy Spirit so long as we terminate our thought upon Him.” Who is the Holy Spirit? In season 3, episode 2, Dallas talks about God the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit, God.

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Be Filled With the Holy Spirit

“That person is a Spirit-filled Christian! That’s a Spirit-filled church!” What does it mean? Dallas has the privilege of seeing the Body of Christ in its many expressions and in all of his travels and opportunities, there is a noticeable absence of the Holy Spirit. It leads to to hearing phrases like, “It’s a good church, but it’s not a Spirit-filled church,” or, “I was prayed for at this church, but then I went down to the Spirit-filled church to be prayed for.” Season 3, episode 1 is Dallas’ discussion on what it means to be Spirit-filled and what it means for believers.

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Running The Race

I’m running the race
I’m running the race to win
I’m running the race
I’m running the race to win
Sometimes I felt like giving up
And falling down within
But I’m still running the race
I’m running the race to win

(Dallas Holm/Signal 1983)

One of my favorite uncles sent me a birthday card years ago. On the front were cartoonish characters running in a race. Some were tall and thin, some more medium in stature, and some short and stocky. The caption on the front of the card read: “In the great race of life, there are long distance runners, middle distance runners and short distance runners.” Upon opening the card, you saw a picture of a rather nerdish bystander sitting on the curb by the roadside as all the runners ran by. The caption read: “And then there are those of us who sit along the sidelines and laugh at how funny the others look in those shorts!” It’s a somewhat funny, if not silly little card, and yet I believe it carries with it a truth that may apply to us all.

Recently, while watching the summer Olympics, I was struck with the level of training, discipline, and sacrifice it takes to perform at the top levels of track and field in particular. Two runners who especially caught my attention, not only for their strength, speed, and skill but for the beauty and grace by which they exhibited their athletic prowess, as well as their character, were sprinters Allyson Felix and Sydney McLaughlin. Allyson Felix is now the most decorated female sprinter in Olympic history at the age of 35, which in “sprinter years” is getting on up there. Sydney McLaughlin is a relative newcomer at the young age of 22 but recently set the new world record for the 400m hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics.

Allyson and Sydney have enough gold, silver, bronze medals, and records to make any world-class athlete envious. Yet in every interview I witnessed with them, they, first of all, gave “All glory to God.” I know nothing of their personal relationships to the Lord, nor of their doctrinal positions (if any) on issues in scripture. I just know that in an environment of ever-increasing “me first” mindset, it was refreshing if not inspiring to see these young ladies reference God before themselves.

I’m sure even for the nerdy bystander sitting on the sideline, observing “how funny others may look in those shorts,” it surely made an impression on even them.

The apostle Paul must have been somewhat of a sports fan himself, especially in running, for he visits and revisits this theme in his writings.

In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he uses this race imagery to emphasize the need for discipline, self control, and focus so that the believer may win the race and receive an imperishable reward. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (I Corinthians 9:24-25)

Remember, Corinth in Paul’s day was a bustling hub of worldwide commerce, degraded culture, and idolatrous religion. The church that Paul founded in the midst of this pagan culture was uniquely stressed by its very environment and had grown into a very unbalanced spiritual community, especially regarding their understanding of spiritual gifts and the sacred nature of observing “The Lord’s Table”. Observance of this ordinance had degenerated into a self-indulgent love feast.

It is in the midst of this chaos that Paul steps forth to be the trainer of an undisciplined team who will surely lose if they are not properly instructed how to win. Through the years I’ve sometimes wondered at this portion of scripture because it seems to suggest that we’re all running in a race but only one can win. If that’s how it is, then there are surely going to be mostly disappointed Christian losers. Perhaps we’re not running against each other, and I think we’re not. Let’s look at another one of Paul’s sports analogies, change one word and I believe we will gain proper understanding. “For we wrestle (race) not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Now we see the gravity of the situation; the intimidating power of our opponent and the absolute necessity to train, discipline, and sacrifice for this is surely not a race we can afford to lose!

“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave (“Present your bodies a living sacrifice – Romans 12:1), lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (I Corinthians 9:26-27)

I have throughout the years heard this portion of scripture presented to suggest that even Paul was concerned after all he had done that he might not make it to the end, perhaps losing his very own salvation. This, of course, cannot possibly be the meaning of this verse. Do you think the greatest theologian who ever lived, who writes to us most prolifically in regard to God’s pre-ordained plans to save and keep His own, from before the foundations of the world, has any concern about faltering at the finish line? The issue here is not about the ultimate finish of the race but the disqualifications that can occur along the way.

Recently at the Tokyo Olympics, there was an American sprinter who eased up a little toward the finish of a qualifying heat, and for that one-millisecond miscalculation, he missed competing for a prize in the final. He’s still a sprinter and will probably race again, perhaps winning medals, but he was forever disqualified from arguably the biggest race of his life.

There are “prizes” to be won along the way of life’s race. For what purpose, you may ask? As we train, discipline, and sacrifice for Christ in life’s great race, we are awarded such “prizes” as sure faith, wisdom, peace, joy, love, and a list of the merciful gifts of His grace that stretch beyond the space herein to list.

We know that ultimately for those who finish the race for Him; “There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

I don’t think we’ll have individual trophy rooms in Heaven. I think there perhaps will be one great trophy room to the honor and glory of God that will display all that was accomplished by Him, through Him and for Him.

The book of Revelation seems to indicate there will be an occasion to honor and worship our Lord and Savior in a most unique and humble way as we are afforded the opportunity to lay our crowns, given by Him to us, back at His feet.

Perhaps the “prizes” won along life’s race will be as jewels in the crown of righteousness which we will delight to give Him.

One final thought…I have a good friend who used to run track at the University of Oregon. Their program is widely known, especially for success in distance running. My friend once told me that in a long distance race there are ultimately two races within the race. First, there are those who have run hard, jostled, and strategized to the front of the race with hopes of winning. There is a second group, perhaps ill-trained, tentative, and devoid of a sound race strategy, who find themselves lagging behind with no hope now of competing for the prize. They are not running to win; they are running not to lose.

There’s a term for this that dates back to the early 1600s: “Devil take the hindmost”. It is a phrase that best describes a situation in which someone thinks only of himself and his own interests, leaving others to deal with their own fates. Hindmost is an adjective that describes the person who is farthest from the front or who is in the back of the line. The idea behind the meaning of the saying, “devil take the hindmost,” is of a group being pursued by the devil. It begs the question, “Are you running to win or just trying not to lose? Is your eye still on the prize? Can you say with Paul: ‘I press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 3:14) Or are you just trying to keep pace ahead of the devil?”

Train harder, discipline yourself, and sacrifice all for Him so you might win the prizes of His grace and glory along the way and the crown of righteousness upon crossing the finish line.

Keep on Running the Race to Win!

Lyrics for Life

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 NASB)

This is a verse with which I assume we are all familiar. Many of the modern day “prosperity preachers” have wrongly leveraged this verse in a way to suggest that Christians should expect (dare I say, deserve) abundant wealth and material blessings.

This mishandling of the text defies any sense of context whatsoever. Here, Jesus is not promoting materialism in any sense or form, but rather emphasizing and re-emphasizing the fact that He is the door through whom the sheep must enter and if they do, they shall be saved, find pasture (every need met), protection and be valued so highly that the Good Shepherd will lay down His life for His sheep. Try to put a price on that!

To promote the idea that the “abundant life” means health, wealth, and no struggle, not only misrepresents the truth of scripture but also adds insult to injury, as the saying goes, to the saints of God who find themselves in the trials and tribulations of life.

Jesus, in scripture, clearly informs and prepares us for the realities of life on planet Earth when He said, “In this world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NASB)

So can we experience “the abundant life” in the midst of difficulty and tribulation? Scripture says, “His mercies are new every morning”, “His grace is sufficient for every need” and “His love endures forever.”

Are these promises only good for the easy days or are they wholly applicable in the difficult days? For the child of God, scripture is clear throughout that all His promises are yes and amen!

“For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.” (II Corinthians 1:20 NASB)

Once again, as we examine the context of this wonderful verse we must note that it is framed within Paul’s explanation of affliction, enduring and suffering (verse 6) and affliction, anguish and sorrow (Chapter 2 Verse 4).

Why do I write these things to you? I write them because I am increasingly aware of the struggles and sorrows with which some of you find yourselves.

As I consider the prayer requests that come to us by letter or email and as I hear the prayer needs within our own church body, I am deeply moved by the depths of difficulty that some experience; some for long periods of time.

I know the needs are as diverse as each individual, yet I observe that certain difficulties seem to dominate the landscape of our trials and tribulations.

It is my hope herein to offer some lyrics from past songs, born out of Linda’s and my own struggles in life, to bring some hope, encouragement and in a prayerful sense, intercessory fellowship in the areas of physical need for healing, deliverance from depression and comfort in the midst of the sorrow of loss.

In 1987 my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer which was promptly addressed by aggressive surgery and intense chemotherapy. One evening as I was out in my studio, I wrote a song which expressed the cry of our hearts. I invited Linda to come out and give a listen to this new song. As I sat at the piano and placed a set of headphones on Linda’s beautiful bald head, I sang this prayer for us. I now offer these lyrics as a prayer for those of you who need a touch from the Great Physician.

Heal Me

I knew life had its valleys
Never thought that it would not be so,
But even if they’d told me
I never would’ve thought they’d be this low.
I’ve stood upon the mountain
Looked across to higher peaks and more,
But the only way to reach them
Is to journey through the lowly valley floor.

How long have I been travelin’
Days or years, sometimes I just don’t know.
How deep is this valley,
And how many more miles must I go?
My body’s growing weary
Seems my strength has all but slipped away.
Oh, God, You’ve got to help me;
Place Your healing hand on me today.

Heal me, touch me with your love
Heal me, send Your Spirit from above
(And) Hear me, help me Lord I pray,
Jesus come and make me whole today.

Oh, God, I know You’re faithful,
Leading me each step every day,
But sometimes in the valley
I just forget You’ve often passed this way.
The path is steep and narrow;
Seems this upward climb will never stop,
So I’m holding onto You Lord
And in Your strength I know I’ll make the top.

Heal me, touch me with your love
Heal me, send Your Spirit from above
(And) Hear me, help me Lord I pray,
Jesus come and make me whole today.

Linda has often shared that as difficult as the struggle has been against the breast cancer she has battled now for 34 years, it doesn’t compare to a greater battle she endured in a season of severe depression, prior to her cancer diagnosis. The following lyrics offer hope to any who presently share in the difficult depths of depression.

This Too Shall Pass

There’s a heaviness inside your heart
A weight you can’t describe
A feeling that you just can’t hide
There’s a weariness within your mind
The thoughts don’t come too clear
You feel as though I’m not so near to you

But remember I said I’d never leave
Trust in My Word and believe I am here
Forever, I’ll never let you go
This is all you really need to know

I’ve heard every prayer I’ve seen every tear
When I seemed so distant, I’ve always been near
And I know the future, and I know the past
So believe me when I say; believe me when I say
This too, this too shall pass.

I know sometimes it’s hard for you to put your trust in Me
To place your faith in what you cannot see
I know sometimes you feel that I’m a million miles away
But listen to your heart and hear me say:

I’ve heard every prayer – I’ve seen every tear
When I seemed so distant, I’ve always been near
And I know the future and I know the past
So believe me when I say; believe me when I say
This too, this too shall pass.

Finally; it seems the older we get, the more family and friends there are who are passing on. Linda and I have temporarily said goodbye to our parents in recent years. Linda’s mom and sister both passed a couple years ago and she was not even able to attend any kind of funeral for them due to Covid and Linda’s own health issues. Yes, we grieve but… “Not as those who have no hope.”

I pray the lyrics to this final song bring hope to those who have said goodbye to a family member or friend who died, “In Christ”.

Next Time It Will Be Forever

I just said goodbye to someone I loved
Never pass this way again
The time we had
Just wasn’t enough
And it hurts to reach the end.
A whole lifetime
Is really no time at all
Just a moment, then it’s gone.

But… next time it will be forever
Then our hearts will be renewed
There we’ll always be together
Next time it will be forever.

I don’t understand, but I still believe
There’s a purpose in Your plan
And though I may feel that I can’t go on
In Your strength I know I can.
A whole lifetime
Is really no time at all
Just a moment, then it’s gone.

And I know that just as sure as there’s a God above
We’ll be reunited once again someday
Then forever we will be together in His love
And together in His love we’ll always stay.

It is Linda’s and my desire and prayer that this letter will bring some encouragement, hope, and healing to you. Here’s a link to several of my songs which you can download for free.

Our sincere hope is that from these songs, some written many years ago, they will now be to you…Lyrics for Life.