Monthly Archives: August 2015

Run the race

I finally did it.  My first race since being a senior in high school…nearly 20 years ago!  To be honest, I was a little nervous.  Not because I had anything major riding on the line, but because I finally put myself out there in front of others.  We lined up at the starting line, I rested my hand on my watch button, and…we were off.  Pacing.  That was the name of my game.  I wanted to find a comfortable pace that I could run consistently.  My goal…8 minute miles.  The course was pretty easy.  Not too hilly, and it was a 5K, so the distance wasn’t that big of a deal.  Yet my heart beat faster than normal, my breathing was more prominent, I was pushing it a little harder.  I hit the 1/2 way mark, glanced at my watch and it read around 12 minutes.  I was on pace to meet my goal.  After running a couple more hills than I remembered, I could see the home stretch.  That’s when I heard the pounding of feet behind me.  I was being overtaken.  I was at the end of my ability that day.  I didn’t have anything left in the tank to race this competitor.  As he ran past me, I resolved that 8th place wasn’t that bad, 7th was looking good, but I could live with 8th.  But deep down inside, I wanted my position back.  I kept my eyes forward, kept my pace steady and then opportunity struck.  He let up about 10 feet shy of the finish line.  I seized the opportunity and surged forward, not knowing if I could beat him to the line, but with all I had left, I crossed the line one step ahead of him.  7th place.  It was mine again.  The reward was sweet,  I felt accomplished.  Not only did I finish the race, but I had met my goal of time, and in the end, I dug deep and found a way to pull out one more place.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.[/pullquote]Life, especially the christian life, is a lot like that race.  In fact, the bible makes mention of racing in several passages.  2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”.  Acts 20:24 “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”  1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  The idea behind these passages is about perseverance and determination.  Not to win a prize in the earthly perspective, but to stay true to God’s word, keep our eyes on Him and strive each day to live for His glory, winning the battle against Satan and reaching every single person on this earth with the gospel message.  This will lead to the ultimate prize in Heaven.  Hebrews 12:1-3 says it best, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scoring its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.   Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

While it was great to accomplish my goal in that 5K race, It was a beautiful reminder of the ultimate race I am running daily and how the same determination to be steady, bold and unafraid will help me run and finish a strong race.

Lord, may my life today be a reflection of the race you have called me to run.  May you word be hidden in my heart and may I be bold and determined to run for you with the goal of sharing your message of grace and of hope.

 

The Prayer Wall

While decorating our daughter’s new room, we scoured the internet for cool ideas. Everything from paint schemes, to play areas, to organizers, etc.  A new trend that is sweeping through our home decorating world is the idea of “chalk-board” paint.  You can now buy this special paint blend at your local paint supplier, put a couple coats on a normal wall, and you have an instant chalkboard.  Since Abigail is 4 years old, and just starting Pre-K, we thought, what a great idea.  She could practice writing her letters and numbers on her chalk board wall.  After a little thinking and discussion, we opted to use her sliding closet doors as our chalkboard project.  The end result…fabulous.  With nearly a half full can left, we started looking around for other “chalk-board” projects.  That’s when we decided we could have an information area in our home – grocery wants and needs, appointments, and so on.

prayerWallSo we painted a small-wall section from floor to ceiling with the the chalk board paint, with the full intention of creating this area for family info.  About a week or so later, we were hosting an Essential Oils class at the house and in an effort (like most host’s) we were scrambling to make the house look perfect…you know like we didn’t live there or have kids and we were staring at this blank “black” wall.  We came to realize, we don’t really have a lot of info to write on an entire wall.  So, the idea popped into my head…what if we made a prayer wall?  It was really just for decoration, but the Lord moved..,as he usually does.  After several comments by our guests, we took another look and thought, why not?

What has this done for our family?  It is a constant reminder that we should spend quality time bringing our fears, concerns, requests and praises to our Father in Heaven.  This wall is a focal point in our home.  You see it when you walk down the hallway, when you come up from the basement, and when you enter from the front door.  Each time I pass the wall, I find myself reflecting on the need of the person that is listed there and lifting up a quick silent prayer on their behalf.  Now, without hesitation we quickly write the names as we learn of the need.  The kids are in to it as well.  Several times, they have mentioned one or more of the names in their meal time prayers, or asked about a name on the wall.

It’s a quick, cheap, easy way to get your family to focus a little more on daily prayer.  And of course, as an adult, it is a lot of fun to “write on the wall”.  A total “no-no” when were growing up.

How to live…today

One of the biggest arguments I hear often is that we are not living in biblical times, so why should the bible be the road map that guides our thoughts and actions?  “The Bible doesn’t apply now”.  And there is a lot of truth to that, I think.   There are many parts of the Bible that aren’t applicable, but not because we have evolved as a society of people, more educated and with greater insight.  If anything, we have become  less educated when you look at the grand scheme of things.  Life is complicated now, more so than I can ever remember, and it is mostly driven by this overwhelming push to be PC (politically correct).

But back to the thought – the Bible’s “rules” or teachings aren’t applicable. What I am getting at is that you have to study and look at the context of the old laws and “rules”.  Some categorize the laws into three divisions: ceremonial, civic, and moral.  Using that approach you would define ceremonial laws as laws that applied to ancient Israel under the old covenant – before Christ.  These dealt with the blood sacrifices, what to eat, what to wear, etc. and were mostly in place to point to the need for a savior, and as a way for Israel to remember what God did for them in delivering them.  The civic laws revolved around a theocracy system that was in place as the rule of the land during biblical times.  We don’t live under that type of rule any longer.  Finally, the moral laws were universal and unchanging.   These laws were based on God’s Holy character and thus are the most obvious for today as we (Christians) are called to live a life that reflects Christ and God’s holiness.

Now that was a very quick and shallow summary of one way to look at how the Bible applies today.  Is that the be all, probably not.  My point in this rambling is that the confusion over what is right and what is not right when it comes to applying biblical principles is not an easy thing to figure out and requires diligent study and constant prayer.  I think that is a key design to how God’s word is delivered to us today.  God doesn’t want us to skim over it, get the jist and move o n.  His word is His communication with us today.  That’s how we know his holiness, and how we begin to understand his character.  I think all the laws (in context) are still applicable.  Maybe not as a right vs. wrong in all cases, but most of the laws had some connection to how awesome our God is and how much he loves us.

So, how do I live today?  I live in reverence to the same  God that delivered the ancient Israel nation from the oppression of  Egypt.  I live in submission to His will, and in obedience to daily communicate with Him through prayer and study of His word.  I will live as a reflection of Him to the best of my ability and let His love shine through me to a lost world.  I will live for the opportunity to share the gospel message of hope and salvation through Jesus Christ with anyone that is willing to hear it.  Finally, I will live with a love that encompasses peace, humility, kindness, gentleness, patience and compassion toward my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Today’s Reading: Colossians 3:12-17

Just a simple prayer

Tonight, my heart is heavy with concern and fear for a friend’s son. 3 year-old West Cox is being treated in ICU for an unknown infection. The situation sounds very serious. So, tonight, I want to lift this young child to the heavenly father…

Lord, I come to you tonight a humble sinner.  I don’t deserve an audience with the most high, but have faith that you hear all prayers from your children.  I thank you for the peace and assurance of my salvation through Christ Jesus.  I come pleading for your healing to be upon this young child and for a measure of comfort for his family that only you can bring.  You are the great healer and your compassion for us is overflowing.  I rest in your perfect will for this and all situations.  Though, I know we are to trust in your plan and have full faith that you are true to your word, that you love us and never forsake us, I still come asking that you work in this situation and bring a complete healing to this young child.  May your arms hold the family as they patiently wait by his side.  In Christ’s name I pray…Amen.

#prayforwest

Praise Him in the Storm

“I will praise you in this storm.  I will lift my hands.  Cause you are who you are…NO MATTER WHERE I AM”

The lyrics from the popular Praise you in this Storm by Casting Crowns, jumped to the front of my mind this morning as I read through scripture.  My reading plan took me to Philippians 4:4-9.  Here, Paul is encouraging the Philippian church by reminding them to Rejoice in the Lord.  He says it twice as to really emphasize the importance of finding joy and peace in Christ.

I started to think through my life and reflected on how easy it is to be joyful when the sky is blue and everything is going my way.  But the joy and peace that Paul is talking about is the joy that is present even when, on the surface, it looks pretty scary and uncertain.  The ESV study bible had this to say, Rejoice. The joy that Paul calls for is not happiness that depends on  circumstances but a deep contentment that is in the Lord, based on trust in the sovereign, living God, and that therefore is available always, even in difficult times.”

God certainly doesn’t expect us to quit caring.  Just the opposite, we are to care deeply.  The rest of this passage reminds us that we are to think about all the good things of the Lord that will cause us to want to worship and serve others because he too, served and worshiped his Father in heaven.  But we should care without worry and anxiety.  God’s hand is in all that we do.  He is never gone, he never “steps back”.  Sometimes we try to run ahead, but we can’t outrun his love for us.  The knowledge that he is there and that His will never fails to come to fruition produces a peace and confidence that lets us serve him.

Service should be the fruit that comes in all our lives.  A total focus on the love of Jesus Christ and his goodness in my life should produce a desire to do what he did – Love others, serve them, build them up,  reflect the Holy Spirit in my heart.  Paul quickly  pointed the believers to this important fact.  It’s great to have the love of Christ in our heart, but what good is it if we don’t ever use that Love and peace to help others?  When we put this into practice we will not only know the peace of God, but the God of peace himself will be right there with us (Quoted from the ESV Study Bible).

Today’s Reading: Philippians 4:4-9

God is waiting…always

As a believer, I have a sense of security.  I know that I belong to God and that He will never let me go.  Sometimes, this knowledge works against me as I find it easier to not do the right thing.  God is right there, He said I am his and no one can take me away from him.  But what can do that damages my walk with God?

Reading Luke 15:11-32, the story of the prodigal son, I looked for the familiar highlights.  Young son is rebellious, gets his money, takes off, blows it.  Sinks to the depths of despair, crawls home, only to find that his return is the highlight of his fathers life.  He finds insurmountable forgiveness and love.  Great story of the sinner finding the love of God.  But as I started reading the notes about this passage, and thinking deeper through it, the Holy Spirit said look a little closer.  While I am not the “prodigal son” described here, I am a wayward child at times.  This passage speaks very highly of God’s patience with the sinner and his overwhelming joy and delight when that sinner turns home…on his own accord.  Today, as I prayed, and asked God to pull me closer to him and for all of my thoughts and actions to be focused on bringing God the glory he so deserves, I realize that there is no bigger smile on his face then when I choose to follow him and when I choose to turn away from sinful pleasures to focus on him.

The father in this story could have went out into the distant lands, searched and found his wayward son and brought him home.  That would have been pleasing, but not nearly as satisfying as his son choosing to return to him and to be restored to his family.  So is the same with God.  He desires to be reconciled to his entire creation, but has given us free will.  It would be easy to make us all come to him.  He is that powerful, but he chooses to be patient and all-loving, waiting for the lost sinner to choose him and desire that relationship.

Thank you God for your love and patience and for your desire to welcome a sinner like me into your family

Today’s reading: Luke 15:11-32

Not by me…but in me

When I first got into “serving” Christ, I was an Awana leader.  It was a new time.  I had just confirmed my faith in Christ alone, assuring my salvation.  I was one of those kids, that went forward at the age of 9, made a profession of faith, and then didn’t really have a life that reflected that.  At the age of 21, I wasn’t sure.  I believe that Christ can save anyone that has full understanding of salvation – even as young as 4 years old.  But I wasn’t 100% sure.  That old charge from the pulpit, “If you died today, do you know where you would go?” I didn’t.  So, I made for sure.  I prayed and asked the Lord to save me.  I confessed that He is and would always by my Lord and that I completely trusted him with my life and more importantly the finished work of His salvation.  So, when I started serving, I was helping in the 4th grade age group and our key verse was Ephesians 2:8-9.  Well, guess what.  Today’s reading was Ephesians 2:4-10.

I have always believed and understood that there was nothing that I could do to save myself. This scripture completely confirmed that.  It’s only by  God’s grace and his mercy that I even had the chance to believe and trust.  Furthermore, it’s only through that faith – believing in that which is unseen, that I am saved.  Nothing Derek did to earn it.  Thank God is permanent and my daily stumbling can’t take it away.  It’s only through Christ, by His shed blood, death, burial and Resurrection that I have a hope in eternal life.  Thus, the title.  It’s Not by Me.  But that isn’t the end of the story.  I have come to understand that faith without works is dead.  It’s useless.  It’s not what was intended.  God gave us a free gift. Our first response should be Thank You.  We need to acknowledge that we did nothing to deserve it, could do nothing to earn it.  It’s free.  But it comes with a purpose.  What is the point of saving us, if we are going to do nothing with it?  God is not into “self”. That is obvious…he sent his most beloved son to die for his enemies.  God doesn’t expect me to be wrapped up in self either.  I have been created for Him, to love Him and to SERVE him.  To get busy.  So, salvation wasn’t by me, or through anything I did, but the freedom to live for him against the power of this world is in me.  The last verse 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  It’s pretty clear.  God has my “work” laid out for me.  He has prepared what I should do, and because of what Christ did, I am equipped and called to do it. To walk by faith and serve Him with this gift of salvation. Thank you Lord for giving me the strength, the instruction and teaching, and the Holy Spirit.  May I always be busy for the Lord.  – Amen.

Further Reading: Ephesians 2:4-10

What am I praying for?

ddSo many times, when I read through the word of God, I try to keep my mind on the the “theme” that is usually indicated at the top of the passage (in my NIV).  Today’s scripture reading was Ephesians 1:15-19.  It was highlighted as Thanksgiving and Prayer.  So, my natural thought was this will be about giving thanks and a prayer about that.  While that is true of this section, I felt something different come out of it.  In this passage, Paul is building up the believers in Ephesus.  He is giving them a pep talk so to speak.  Well, he gave me one too.

What am I praying for?  Often times, I find my prayer life to be focused on making sure I mention everyone and everything on my heart and then just leaving it at that.  I have full faith that God hears my prayers and that He loves me and that He will answer my prayers according to his perfect plan and will.  Check.  Got that.  But this passage opened up my heart to how confident I am in the big picture.  I am speaking to the creator of the universe.  To the one that has no beginning and end.  He is more powerful than anything that has ever been or will ever be.  My study notes mentioned that the atom is the most powerful particle in the universe.  We fear its potential, we have seen in history the possible devastation through the atomic bomb.  Yet, I am speaking and praying to the one that spoke the atom into existence.  Didn’t create…but spoke it into being.  God is powerful.

I should not walk through this life with fear and uncertainty.  I will from time to time, because I am not perfect, but my prayer should be for the boldness and assurance found in the hope of Jesus Christ.  I want to be more like Christ.  I want to follow His perfect example recorded in the gospels.  I want to look more like Christ in my daily walk, everyday.  I want to come to the father in prayer in the same way He did, with total reverence for who He is and in total confidence that He will be faithful to hear my heartfelt prayer and work all things for the good in my life.

The bonus…cherry on top, if you will, in this passage was to see how God views me.  Because I have the hope of Christ sealed in my heart and God’s assurance through the Holy spirit, I can know I am his.  Guess what?  He is looking forward to his inheritance, which is me and all of his children that have put their faith and hope in the finished work of Christ.  I am His inheritance.  Praise God that He loves us so much.

Further reading: Ephesians 1:15-19

Working out Faith

ddDepart from me, I never knew you”

I can’t imagine any more harrowing words will ever be uttered in all the universe.  For that phrase isn’t for the person that knows they have never done anything with faith in Christ.  They completely rejected him in every way while alive.  No surprise there.  I still believe that even a person who has purposefully rejected Christ, when standing before the throne, with full understanding will be in shock and utter despair.

But what about the person that has found that  balance between faith and the world?  You know the “check-off” christian. This is the person that has the head knowledge of Christ.  They have read the Bible…maybe all of it.  They know who Jesus Christ is, what He did, and even why.  They can recite scripture, all in all they appear to be with it.  But when Sunday has passed. When they leave the church building, or when the quietly sit in the service each day without the slightest intention of living for Christ beyond those walls, they are as good as dead..

James 2:14-20 tells us plain and simple that our faith, if not accompanied by works is dead.  It’s useless.  In fact it may not even be real.  Now this may raise some eyebrows and cause someone to say, “Wait a minute, I thought all I had to do to be saved was believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  You are absolutely right.  Paul was very clear when he said “For it is by grace you  have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  But Paul and James are on the same page, and I am pretty sure would agree with each others points.  We are saved by grace.  But if we have truly put our full trust in the word of God and in His plan for our salvation, then our life will reflect that.  That’s where the works come into play.  We will have no choice but to show evidence of what has taken place in our heart.  When you are saved, you are different.  You are changed.  That’s the idea of “born again”.  Will you sin again?  Of course you will.  We are fallible beings.  We will not reach the perfect creation that God intended until we are in His perfect kingdom.  But we will grieve that sin.  We will turn from it and pray for forgiveness and strive every day to overcome it through Christ.  We will be filled with compassion for others, and the desire to live everyday for Christ – telling others about Him.  Head knowledge is not a bad thing.  It’s why we feed our soul with God’s word, to gain knowledge – but the purpose of that knowledge is so that we can LIVE IT OUT.

I have struggled with this in my life.  Maybe more than anything else.  I have allowed the devil to stir up thoughts of eternal insecurity.  Am I really saved, do I really believe?  At times I have doubted that I had anything more than head knowledge.  Why this doubt – habitual sin.  Repeating the same behaviors day in and day out.  How could I keep going to that broken well if I was really saved?  The answer is pretty simple.  I am a sinner and I am weak.  I can always look back at those moments where I was more worldly than not and see that it was during a time when there wasn’t much dedication to reading the word, not much prayer, not much more than being in church when I was expected to be there.  God made it simple.  Believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins, was buried and rose again on the third day, and offers free salvation through that belief.  Then feed the Holy Spirit whom he sent to help guide me through this life. through daily reading and applying His word and constant prayer.  When that is taking place, and when I am purposefully focusing on His word and  His will, I will  have no choice but to have outward evidence through my actions and thoughts that Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior.

God, today I thank you for the free gift of salvation through your perfect sacrifice.  I thank you that you spoke to my heart and that you welcomed me into the family of God on simple faith alone.  I pray that my heart and mind would be constantly on you and my desire would be to feed my soul and grow in your word daily so that I can live out my faith for the purpose you have called me.  – Amen.

A cloud of anger

ddWhy is this happening to me?   W hat did I do to deserve this?  Why won’t you help me God?  Do these sound familiar?  Sure they do. We have all been in a place in our life where we were confused as to why life was being so hard.  I think of how many times I have faced difficulty in my life, impossible decisions, or just things that were not working out, and after whining and moping about it – getting very upset and angry, usually saying things that I shouldn’t say and thinking thoughts that aren’t close to being right, it clicks.  Something simple and not really worth getting upset over.  Or, even better than that – I see the provincial hand of God work in my life to deliver me from the difficult situation.  Then I have a wave of guilt for how I acted and carried on.

This illustration is an eye opener and reinforces the idea that we are set apart and should be fully trusting that God will provide and deliver.  We don’t need to let an attitude of mistrust and selfishness keep us from being living examples.  Thinking through what usually makes me angry and frustrated I find this: why did I get angry in the first place?  What is justified anger?  Was there some kind of injustice being carried out on someone?  Of course not. It is usually a website that won’t work out for me, or getting stressed about how I am going to get out of debt, or something that is all about me.  It is misdirected anger and it pulls me away from where God wants me to be…in a place of full trust in his care for me and my life.  Looking at James 1:19-21 (NIV), we are given very clear instruction on our anger.  My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  Therefore get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

This scripture is packed.  First , a model for how we walk through the circumstances of life.  Are we walking through, beating our chest and drawing the attention to us and our problems, our difficulties?  Slow to speak and slow to get angry.  It’s not about what’s happening to me, but about what God is trying to teach me.  Anger has no good purpose in our lives when it’s selfish anger and only focused on us.  The “I am hurt”, or My opinions are not being heard or cared about anger is pointless.  It takes our focus off of Christ.

Second, we are reminded that our baggage – the filth of sin and corruption clouds over the awesomeness of our salvation.  We have the best secret in the world, hidden in our hearts, forever, with only  one instruction…don’t keep it a secret.  When we are weighted down with sinful filth our life won’t reflect the glory of God.  There is no promise we aren’t going to get dirty.  We are sinful humans, but we are called to daily lay that aside and strive to be more like Christ.  Only then can we humbly listen to God’s teaching.

So today, I commit to try and live all the moments, even the ones that are “difficult” or not going my way with full trust that God has this, He won’t let me down, and my difficulties are opportunities to “be quiet and listen” to the Holy Spirit as he works out my life for His glory.

Continued Reading: James 1:19 – 27