The Race

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In an effort to keep the kids focused and get them in bed after a long evening, I told them that the first one to get their pajamas on, brush their teeth and get it bed would get a prize.  My daughter quickly began tackling the challenge. My son however, melted into a puddle on the bathroom floor, began to cry and said, “Mommy, I can’t do it. I can’t do all that. Emma always wins and I always lose.”

My son was so discouraged from just listening to the challenge that he didn’t even try. He was convinced, from past experiences, that he wouldn’t be able to finish before his sister.

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. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

For years I worried and felt guilty about not living or praying the right way – the Christian way. All the rules, the commandments, the guidelines and expectations it felt to overwhelming.  I knew I could never do all those things well enough and consistently enough to please God so He could use me for to His purpose. I felt defeated, inadequate and my walk with Christ suffered because of it.

However, through years of bible study, Christian mentors, prayer and God’s grace, He was finally able to open my eyes to the truth – His Truth! God doesn’t expect perfection from us. He knows we can’t win the race – at least not without Him. He wants us to come to Him messy, confused and uncertain, but with a desire to seek Him and learn His ways. Does that lift a 1,000 pound weight off your shoulders like it does mine? Grace isn’t earned through perfect prayer, following every commandment, going to every church meeting, giving to charity or any other action. Grace is what God has already given us.

Are you trying to earn God’s grace? It can’t be done, my friend. It’s like begging to be released from prison when the door has been open all along and all you had to do was walk through it. God is pleased with you! Be bold in believing that truth so that you can go out and share His truth with others.

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Jealousy

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My daughter recently celebrated a birthday.  This is always a difficult time for her younger brother whose birthday is two months after hers. It is hard to explain to a 4-year old why he his sister is getting lots of gifts and he isn’t getting any. “Because it’s her birthday and not yours.”, simply isn’t good enough. So, the topic of jealousy is often at the top of our conversation this time every year.

As I pondered about how to communicate this feeling and how to handle it with our son, I realized that dealing with jealousy never stops. Even as adults we must work hard to honor God’s law of “loving one another as He loves us”. No one is above the human emotion of jealousy.  Pastors, priests, best friends, close family, Christians, spouses . . . we all fall victim to this destructive feeling.

The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. Acts 5:12-17

In the passage above, from Acts, we see that the high priests and all his associates were so overcome with jealousy of Jesus’ disciples that they threw them in prison. A friend of mine recently shared this quote with me: “People love success, but hate the successful.” Read it again and let it sink in. Can you relate to this? I can.

Whether it is a twinge of jealously about a friend’s recent weight loss, their child’s accomplishments, career advancement, relationship with Christ or new shoes . . . God calls us to confront our feelings with honesty.  I can attest that this isn’t fun or easy, but it has been necessary for me to grow closer to God.  Jealousy, when hidden and unresolved, can lead to personal discontent, the destruction of friendships and puts a wedge in between you and your Heavenly Father. I urge you to repent and put up the shield of faith God has given you (Ephesians 6) and make a decision to deflect the temptation of jealousy. We will always battle the enemy and feelings of jealousy, but with God we can conquer it, release it and move closer to Him.

Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Hebrews 12:14-15 (The Message)

Not Now

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My daughter set up a nail salon in her room one morning. She had everything from business cards to bowls of warm water. When she asked her younger brother if he would come to get his nails done the first time, he firmly responded, “No, I’m a boy.”  The second time she pleaded with him and he said, “Emma, I can’t.  I have to go fight crime.”

I laughed until I thought about all the excuses I have come up with over the years to get out of something God had nudged me to do. How many times have we felt God tugging at our hearts to do something and we respond quickly with  “I can’t do that”?  Then as he continues to pursue us we make up excuses. They seem legitimate. I don’t have time, they might think I am crazy, they won’t listen to me anyway so why bother, it is out of my way, it’s not on my schedule for the day. . . .  We just reason ourselves out of it.

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. Jonah 1:1-3

I am just as guilty of this as anyone else!  When we turn down these opportunities – we are turning down God and the opportunity to share His kingdom, His love, His mercy, His Word with someone who might need it desperately.   God wants to use us to bring others to His Kingdom. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity like that. It is what I live for – what we should live for. The good news is that it isn’t to late. It’s never to late with God. Even if we turn away from Him – He will never turn away from us. Open your heart and mind to the will of God today, let Him pour into your life and He will seep out into all your actions.

Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish. He prayed:

“In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to God. He answered me. From the belly of the grave I cried, ‘Help!’
You heard my cry.You threw me into ocean’s depths, into a watery grave,With ocean waves, ocean breakers crashing over me. I said, ‘I’ve been thrown away, thrown out, out of your sight. I’ll never again lay eyes on your Holy Temple.’Ocean gripped me by the throat. The ancient Abyss grabbed me and held tight. My head was all tangled in seaweed at the bottom of the sea where the mountains take root. I was as far down as a body can go, and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever—
Yet you pulled me up from that grave alive, O God, my God! When my life was slipping away,
I remembered God, And my prayer got through to you, made it all the way to your Holy Temple.
Those who worship hollow gods, god-frauds, walk away from their only true love. But I’m worshiping you, God,  calling out in thanksgiving! And I’ll do what I promised I’d do! Salvation belongs to God!” Jonah 2:1-9

Pain

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I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me. Psalm 69:29

When you experience pain from an external injury wounds are usually quick to heal.  You can see the healing occur as a scab or bruise form.  You can also determine if you are healing correctly and if there is an infection forming we quickly take action to continue healing.  However, with internal and emotional pain we can’t see the scars and infection.  It is easier to leave these wounds unattended or simply ignore them because they aren’t on the surface. Leaving these internal wounds unattended can lead to catastrophic results.

Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable?
Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails? Jeremiah 15:18

Pain can be deceptive. Many times a painful experience we believed to be resolved can rear its ugly head and cause pain years after it occurred. Often we think we have forgiven and moved on, but sometimes we have just pushed it to the back of our minds and hearts.  It may sit dormant for months or even years, but if not resolved it will eventually come back to the surface.  Then it has the power to destroy friendships, marriages and the lives of those around you.  It can lead to depression, divorce, addictions or other sinful habits.

God search our hearts and reveal any past pain we might be harboring in our hearts.  Please give us the insight to find it, the courage to face it and Your power to resolve it.  However difficult, give us the power to put it behind use so that we can experience the joy that comes along with complete healing.

guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:5

Big Enough

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“Is God the biggest person in the world?”, my son asked. “Yes. I would say so.”, I replied. “So, he is small enough to live in our hearts and big enough to hold the whole world?”, he  replied.

“This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, Isaiah 44:24

I could not have said it better.  Oh, how children can make the most difficult seem simple.  Yes, our God is enough.  He is full of enough love, forgiveness and grace to fill our hearts and our lives so that it will flow over into those around us.  The one who created the heavens, the earth and has placed the stars in the sky and knows them by name (Genesis 1:16) loves you and me enough to dwell in us and to hold our sometimes cold, weary, misguided world in His hands.  How I pray He never lets us go.

Don’t be fooled by idols of power, money, healing, or pleasure.  They are powerless (Isaiah 36:2), worthless (Psalm 31:6) and fragile (Isaiah 57:13) and will only bring shallow and temporary joy.

For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations.” Isaiah 51:8

Focus instead on the one and only God, our Father in Heaven who sent His son through a virgin to live and die for us.  He paid the ultimate sacrifice for you and for me.  There should be no one above Him.  Give Him all praise.  You should glorify His name and give thanks for His abundant and undeserved grace.

“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27