Grace & Peace

iStock_000029031468SmallRunning a Race

“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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1

I went to a really small high school, so you never had to be much of an athlete to make the team. I ran track one year because I was fast. I started quickly and ran out of steam quickly. In our second week of meets, one of the legs for the 1600 meter relay race got sick and the coach told me I was running the leg. Like always, I started fast, this time though I hit a wall and ended very, very slowly, almost walking, batons were passing me right and left. Paul chooses to use the word marathon for the race we run as a Christian. That is, we are running a very long race and perseverance is the key: not starting fast, not looking good, just never stopping.

I now know that the training for a marathon is significantly different from training for 100 meter dash, and running the race is exhausting. To run the spiritual marathon of being a Christian requires a number of practices.

First, we need to recognize that we run this race with the greats of faith history: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Sarah, Rebekkah, Rachel, and Rahab. These examples of faith can strengthen our resolve to move forward.

Second, we must learn to throw off the things that hinder us. There is no sense even trying to run a marathon carrying a fifty-pound bag of cement. There are obvious behaviors and attitudes that must be transformed if we expect to ever get anywhere at all in the race God marked for us.

Third, we must persevere. We sometimes grow impatient with ourselves for not simply becoming what we need to be immediately. We make the mistake of thinking that spiritual transformation unto holiness is like a drive thru when it is far from that. There are some attitudes and behaviors that require tremendous perseverance to change, many rises and falls precede the ultimate victory. What we do know is that God has the best in mind for us and HE will not expect something of us without giving us the resources to make it so.

And finally, we should fix our eyes on Jesus. Becoming Christlike is the ultimate goal for all believers. There are two predominant images of Christ in the New Testament: the lamb that was slain and the Lion of Judah. Jesus on the cross and Jesus on the white horse, Jesus the suffering servant and Jesus the victorious King. When God calls us to become Christlike, which Jesus do we see? The writer to the Hebrews clarifies: “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 He sees both images, both the cross and the throne. And here is the key for us. The cross is first. It always is. For us to live in glory, we must finish this marathon of life. Glory is just across the finish line. Who lives with you?



Grace & Peace

6R7KCXBEEEShadow boxes

Do you remember shadow boxes growing up? Those school projects that were all imagination. I once made a shadow box with characters that could move by using a Popsicle stick and a slot in the bottom of the box. They were fun to make and then fun to present, but they never really lasted very long after the project was over. I don’t have a single one now, only the memory.

The Bible likens our lives to a sort of shadow box. What we experience now can be a whole lot of fun, and we get to run to and fro, but in the end, none of this is really meant to last and one day only the memory will be left. Paul says this life is “a shadow of the things that are to come, the reality is found in Christ.” Colossians 2:17 We all need to have a substance behind our lives, an assurance that the one holding the Popsicle stick will not just ram me into a tree.

I have been reading Isaiah this year and recently realized there is a huge difference between being a sinner and being wicked. It seems God calls the sinner to repentance and reserves wrath for the wicked. So what is the difference? Sinners can and do choose to repent; they ask God to help them change their ways. The wicked seek no help from the Lord, so no quarter is given. They are on their own and so simply accumulate wrath upon wrath. All the wicked work for is but a shadow, not the substance of life. Sinners who repent have hope and our hope is in the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.



Grace & Peace

photo-1459287548155-43ae47657deeVacation

When our kids were growing up, Brenda loved getting ready for vacation. She liked to dream about the weather, where we would stop, what we would do, how much things cost, what meals we would make. She was so excited about preparing that actually going was a bit of a letdown. Both Jesus and Paul encourage us to be prepared for His coming. Paul says, look up, set your heart on things above. Jesus says look to the clouds. Keep your lanterns filled with oil.

I often wonder if I am ready, prepared sufficiently to know, to be acceptable. Will He know my voice? Should I be doing more? Of course the answer is, “ yes, I should be doing more.” If I think I am doing enough, then I probably am lacking. Doing more….more what? Doing more is the constant for all of us, what we do is the variable. We all reach different milestones in life and right now live at different markers. For some, their children are still at home and their life is consumed with doing more for them. Just be wary about doing more of the wrong thing and less of the right. Children need relationship, so more material stuff really will not help them in their relationship with God and probably stalls their spiritual growth. More of you, Decide to create memories with them. Whenever Brenda and I had decisions to make regarding our future, we always chose memories over things and do not regret it at all. Now we get to watch our children make the same choices for their children. Vacations were a huge part of our memory making as a family.

Now Brenda and I are at a different milestone. We spend Friday preparing meals and the house for the week and then just hang around together doing something fun. Is that enough getting ready to be prepared for Jesus? I always think there is more. One thing that has never really changed in my life is my heart for the broken and hungry, and I must say I always feel there is more to do. I like to think that doing for one another is our preparation for Christ’s return.

So are you getting ready? I pray I never get to the point where I feel like I have done enough already. There is always more.



Grace & Peace 4/4/16

E1I2HFY0CNRoad trip

When I was growing up we had a Ford LTD station wagon with a bench in the front, a bench in the middle and a seat facing backwards in the back. Five kids and my mom and dad travelled all over the country and all over Europe in that car. We were camping in Florida when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and in southern Spain when the Olympic athletes were taken hostage in Munich. I can pretty much measure my early childhood by the odometer reading on that car.

No matter where we were going, how old we were, or how many of us were in the car, there was one very frequent question my parents always had to ask, “What are you arguing about?” We could argue about ANYTHING. Who sat in what seat? How far over the imaginary boundary line was your elbow? Who got the last cookie? Whose turn was it to sit by the window? Who won the alphabet game? You cheated. Stop touching me! ANYTHING!

As I read the gospels again, it dawned on me. Jesus had the exact same problem with the disciples on their road trips. He finally asks them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” Mark 8:33 Of course the disciples do not answer him because they are afraid he would not think their argument was as important as they were making it. And they were right. And I would guess that not one of those road trip arguments we had growing up was really necessary. Then why have the argument?

We most likely argued because we were no different from the disciples. Without them even giving him an answer, Jesus responds to the argument. “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35. Many, many times my dad would pull the car over and say, “It does not matter who started it or whose fault it is, it ends now.” Most arguments were about being right, about being dominant over someone or something else. Now that I have a few years of reflection I can say the argument, whatever it was about, was likely not worth it.

So how do you end an argument? You make the other person important, more important than yourself. Of course there are exceptions to this, like ungodly behavior, but Jesus’ response would help us out of most arguments.