“Finish What You Start!”

Jack H. Exum Sr. (Dad)

Jack H Exum Sr. (Dad)

Dad passed on some valuable principles which still “live on” at least in my life. One of them was “Finish what you start.” Always active, always organized with a rotating list of ten things he needed to do, both for the day and the week, Dad plowed through each one until it was done. This is how he kept things from piling up on him. His ministry, his books, his writing articles, his paying bills, taking care of stuff around the house, taking care of medical appointments, projects big and small… all had a spot on his list and a time for getting it done.
The Bible says regarding the work of God in creation, “Thus the heavens and the earth were FINISHED, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God FINISHED his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation (Genesis 2:1-3) (ESV) (Emphasis mine). He finished what He started!
In Genesis 6:16 God instructed Noah, “A light shalt thou make to the ark, and to a cubit shalt thou FINISH it upward; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. (ASV)(Emphasis mine). Genesis 7:5 says, “And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.” He finished the job given him.
In John 17:4 Jesus says, “I glorified you on earth, having ACCOMPLISHED the work that you gave me to do” (ESV)(Emphasis mine). His mission of selecting, training, protecting, preparing his disciples to carry on after His death and resurrection, WAS DONE. He finished what He started.
Jesus said in Luke 13:32 “And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.”  In John 19:30 it says, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is FINISHED,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (ESV)(Emphasis mine). The third day He rose from the dead… HE FINISHED WHAT HE STARTED.
Several times Jesus spoke about being his disciple and what this involved… In Luke 14, He speaks about counting the cost. (Something very important in considering a project.) He says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to COMPLETE it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to FINISH, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to FINISH.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (ESV)(Emphasis mine).
Paul speaks to the brethren about their purposed giving, in 2 Corinthians 8:11 he says, “So now FINISH doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have” (ESV)(Emphasis mine).
He says to young Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have FINISHED the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7) (ESV)(Emphasis mine).
“Finish what you start!” Make a list of what needs done. Take each one and count to cost, and begin… but keep on until it is done. Do the same with everything, no matter how small or large the job. Break big jobs down into daily or weekly increments… A mission may even take a life time, but FINISH IT.
Grow in grace brethren….

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Hand Ball And The Colonel

Gerald Wright tell this story of the time he took Dad to the gym on the Military Base in Ramstein, Germany, to play handball.
“I was no good, (at Hand Ball), so Jack said he would find someone to pair up with.” He looked on the bulletin board and found the Base Champion, a ‘full bird’ Colonel. He called and introduced himself as “Big Jack Exum from Dallas, Texas,” and said he was looking for someone to play a game of handball with him. That afternoon, they got together and Jack won the first game hands down, but was puzzled at how easily he had defeated this champion. He came over to me (on the bleachers), and said “This guy keeps calling me “Sir!” during the game.” I laughed and said, “The guy probably thinks you are a General or something!” He replied, “Well, I’m going to ‘lay it on him,’ that I am just a preacher and see how it goes.” He did, and the guy ‘beat his brains out!’ Well, I learned a lot that day, because when Jack would miss a shot, he would slam himself against the wall due to his competitive spirit. Jack was not a typical preacher.”
There’s nothing wrong with being competitive, and giving it everything you’ve got, and while life is not all about winning, it is important to us. We go to see our team win. We scream and holler, wear weird things and go crazy to encourage our team to win, and celebrate when we do win.
A bigger issue is how we play the game? We have all heard the saying, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game that counts.”
Life is a game of sorts, and we don’t always win. At times we look back, and see more defeats than victories, but that’s not even the important thing. What is important about life is do we learn? We learn more from our defeats, than we do our victories. Character is tested and built by experiencing and learning from life’s hard lessons. It reveals what a person is, and where corrections need to be made.
Growing in grace as a Christian, is not easy. Paul uses three comparisons to illustrate in II Timothy 2:1-7.
He begins with the “soldier.” Being a good soldier is not easy. Paul says, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Don’t get tangled up in things which distract you from serving Jesus.
He then uses the example of an “athlete.” His focus here is competing according to the rules. It’s good to win, but better to win according to the rules.
Lastly he uses the illustration of the “hard-working farmer.” It takes work to be a farmer, athlete or soldier… and all have their just rewards.
One more thing, don’t quit!
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Timothy 4:7-8).

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Turtles And Hares Again

Growing up, one of our favorite stories was the story of the turtle (or was it Tortoise) and the hare. Most of the pre-video game generation, remember the simple story.
This is my version, or what I remember… One day this particular rabbit was bragging about how fast he was to all his friends. The turtle heard him and said he could beat him in a race. Well, this crawled all over the rabbit, and his reputation was on the line (as well as a bucket of pride), so he accepted the challenge and added a few little statements on just how bad he would beat the turtle. Everyone prepared for the event. Finally the day came for the race, and the two racers got ready to run. “Get ready!” “Set” “Go!” With a cloud of dust, the rabbit leaves the turtle behind, and gets so far ahead of the turtle, that he decides to stop and take a nap, while the turtle slowly, but surely moves forward. After awhile, the rabbit wakes up and looks around and sees the turtle has passed him and is close to the finish line. The rabbit puts all his energy into running as fast as he can, but the turtle, even though he was tired, and never stopped… won the race.
There are some good lessons for us in this story. 1.) If you start something ─ finish it! I have found myself trying to multi-task at times, and I get bogged down. Pressure builds, and accomplishments dwindle. One by one is the way it’s done. Sit down, and make a list, and numbering the jobs in order of importance. Finish the job you hate the most first. This gives momentum for completing the other jobs. 2.) Slow isn’t always bad. Being slow can be frustrating at times, but the idea is to set a good pace and keep with it. 3.) Make the most of who you are and stop trying to be something you are not. You are special and you have certain talents and gifts… use them to the best of your ability. Weaknesses can be worked on and improved as you go and grow. 4.) Slow doesn’t always loose, and fast doesn’t always win. Fast sometimes brings carelessness and mistakes, and time again spent in correcting mistakes. Taking a ‘short-cut’ isn’t always the best thing to do. The more difficult and detailed something is, the slower you may have to work… just make sure when you’re done… it is done right. In the end you may accomplish more than the one who rushes through a job and fails at the quality hoped for. Whether building a house, putting in a water line, or writing for the newspaper, being fast isn’t always good.
When Jesus finished His work here on earth… He wasn’t running a race, but He was finishing the job given Him. Nothing could be left to chance. When He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He meant it. The work of fulfilling the law, and providing a way for lost humanity to be saved was done, and done right the first time!

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I Want The Right To Stumble

We stumble from the cradle to the grave as we make our way through this life.
As infants, we stumbled and thought nothing of it. We had parents who loved us, dried our tears, and encouraged us to get up, and to keep going. We were not embarrassed; we were learning to walk. Direction did not matter much and we were not thinking of ourselves.
As teenagers, we also stumbled, but we looked around to see if anyone was watching. Our thoughts were all about ourselves. We were self-conscious and had problems with pride. Less people were around to encourage us, and more just pointed and laughed.
As adults, we still stumble; sometimes we even fall up the stairs rather than down. Of course, we hope no one sees us, because we are no longer supposed to stumble. Now, there are less people encouraging us to get up and keep going. Incredibly, some hope we will not get up and keep going. Perhaps they have forgotten what it is like to stumble. Perhaps they think stumbling is unforgivable.
Stumbling is not all there is to life, although there are times when it seems to be a big part of it. Sometimes, we stumble out of carelessness or not watching where we are going, or sometimes we stumble due to an inability to clear life’s obstacles. Sometimes we stumble while playing around and acting the fool; sometimes someone puts out an uncaring foot and causes us to stumble. Stumbling is a part of life moving in a direction… a sign of trying.
Everyone stumbles, but not everyone learns. Everyone falls, but not everyone get back up. Those who get up do not always keep on going. Perhaps reflection is needed, a new direction or maybe even a compromise. These are options, but getting up and going on is not an option, not to the believer. It is a necessity! The fool stumbles because he acts as if God does not exist. Believers understand that growing, going, stumbling, falling, getting back up, and going some more, depends on keeping our focus on Jesus.
Simon Peter, when he was walking on the water, saw waves instead of a loving Savior. He was concerned about going down instead of going on. Some may condemn him for looking at the waves or tell him, “I told you so!” He sank like a rock — but at least he tried! We often stumble in life because, like Simon Peter, we tend to see the waves instead of our loving Savior.
I want the right to stumble and you should as well, because it means retaining the right to try, and if you stumble… get up, re-evaluate, and try again. One new Christian in Africa, describing what it is like to live the Christian life, wrote this unique poem. — “Go on, Go on, Go on; Go on, Go on, Go on; Go on, Go on, Go on; Go on, Go on, Go on…”
Paul puts it this way; “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

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Tiny Figure

   Beside the highway leading out of town, he stands beneath the green trees. I don’t know who he is, nor does he know who I am. I do not think he cares to know my identity.
   He waves to me – To everyone. His face is happy. His smile is bright. I feel better after I pass by, because he has shared his joy, his love for life and people with me.
   He does not come to the roadside in a moment of idleness, nor without careful preparation. As I wear a robe, adorned with a cross to raise the sacrament to my people… he brings his chair, a thermos, an eye shade and his shaggy dog.
   I think about him – Tiny figure, beside the road, offering his sacrament of a ‘Good Day’ to everyone who passes. I wonder how his days are spent. Are they long, as mine? Does anyone raise a hand to him? When the cars are gone and the night closes in, what does he do? I do not know but I think he is happy in the remembrance of his ministry of love. I think he falls asleep smiling.
   Tiny figure beside the road — you know so well what one taught so long ago… “For whatsoever ye would that men should do to you… do ye also unto them…” and “… by your standard of measure… it shall be measured to you again.”
   I lift my hand to you — tiny figure — I must learn to sing your song.
   Let me live in my house by the side of the road. It’s here that the wall of men go by. They are good. They are bad. They are weak. They are strong, wise (and) foolish. So am I!!
   Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat, or hurl the cynic’s ban? Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend of man.

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The Christian Life

   It is no small thing to be a Christian. “Marvelous” and “challenging” are perhaps our best efforts at describing this life but these fall far short of the real joy which comes when one is a genuine disciple of Jesus. The blessings are many, and the challenges are many as well… but the rewards far out-weigh all that we go through in this life.
   Alton Howard. a well known song writer/publisher and elder in the body of Christ published 10 things elders need to keep in mind while shepherding the flock of God, and which help in living the Christian life. Dad cut out and pasted this in his New Testament…
1. Focus on Christ
2. A strong effort to spread the message of Jesus Christ
3. The church family must be biblically educated.
4. We must be concerned about rescuing the perishing rather than damning the saved..
5. We must be willing to accept change in methods.
6. We must permit diversity.
7. The church must be a place (group)(jhejr) where saint and sinner can find love, joy and encouragement.
8. We must make commitments to life change – not just form.
9. Must emphasize basic Gospel facts — Jesus in the flesh — crucified — resurrected
— ascended — coming again!
10. Each Christian must live a life that reflects the life (heart)(jhejr) of Jesus!
Another friend and brother (Charles Hodge Jr.) encourages all to “Grow up!” in Christ.

The most precious relationship is that which we have with Jesus… Let’s commit to renewing this with the goal of having the heart of Jesus.

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Making Me His

  When Wiwik and I were married in 2004 we were faced with many difficulties. One was our little house. Some called this type of home a ‘match-box’, but we didn’t care… it was OUR home. However, since I had been divorced… it just didn’t feel like it was OUR HOME. Thus the renovations and changes started. New paint, new molding, walls came down, two rooms became one, one became something else, a bathroom became a closet (mine), a new closet was built (hers), old carpet came up and new title went down, more paint, a window came out and French doors went in and a back porch, and an addition with yet another porch… That’s just on the inside!!! So, what’s the point?
   We read in the scriptures that Jesus came to give his life a “ransom” for sinners (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; I Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 9:15). To “ransom” means to pay the price demanded to set someone free. Jesus did this with his for us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8), when we were spiritually “dead” (Ephesians 2:1-4). We belong to Satan before Christ comes into our lives. I repented of my sins and was immersed into Christ (Acts 2:38-39), I was born again (John 3:1-10)… when I was 10 years old. Then and now I was and am His.
   Jesus moved in, immersed in water and Spirit (John 3:3-5), forgiven, justified (I Corinthians 6:9-11) and no longer under condemnation (Romans 8)… I became a temple for His Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19), but I needed RENOVATION SO BADLY. You see Jesus came to do all this for everyone, but after He saves an individual, HE CONTINUES TO WORK TO MAKE US, RENOVATE AND CHANGE US into HIS DWELLING PLACE, HIS HOME, HIS TEMPLE!!! We just need to ‘yield’ and let Him work!
   A lot of stuff has to go when Jesus comes into a person’s life. Understand, ONLY JESUS AND HIS SPIRIT CAN TRULY CHANGE A PERSON ON THE INSIDE. I had and have a long way to go… so many changes are continually being made… like, “WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE?”, “SEEKING REVENGE AND JUSTICE FOR EVERY WRONG DONE TO ME”, “TRYING TO BALANCE THE BOOKS WITH GOD BY KEEPING LAW”, “FORGIVING” and so much more. Everything from the past life that is a reminder that I was Satan’s property… HAS TO GO! No looking back like Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:26).   
   Is the renovating over? No way! There is still much work to be done in my life by His Spirit, and I say, “bring it on, whatever it takes!” You see there is nothing in the old life of serving Satan, that is worth keeping. There is everything to gain in serving Christ and truly becoming HIS HOLY TEMPLE.
   The apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:7-10a “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ…”

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