...running the course God sets before us, no matter the cost, no matter the task, to the end, for His glory

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Am I "Running" or Running?

After a many year hiatus (never you mind HOW long), I have started "running" again. There was something about realizing that the old adage, "you ain't getting any younger!" was feeling very applicable to me that helped jump start me to strap on my shoes and hit the road.

Well, first I had to go shopping for new and improved running shoes of course, because as any girl can tell you, there is nothing like a new pair of shoes to make something miserable seem more fun!  Also, after I actually spent ridiculous amounts of hard-earned cash on a pair of shoes it sort of drove me to actually run.  The guilt alone is a motivator.

So I started "running".

You might wonder about the running in asterisks.  Why the " " around the word running?


I have too many friends and relations who run- no asterisks required.  They clock their distances in miles and it sometimes takes two digits to reflect how far they ran.  At one time. We are talking 5ks, 10ks, 1/2 marathons, even full marathons.

I even have one friend, one with whom I shared the joys of having a first born together.  We lived in Germany with our Air Force husbands and would get our one-year olds together to play.  She now participates in Ironman competitions.

Me? Not so much. I am not quite there just yet.

Okay, I am nowhere close.

But realizing what their running looks like I could not in good conscience  exactly call what I am doing running. Not without asterisks. I have too much respect for my friends and family and what they can do.  And too much envy.

I, instead, am "running".  I have thought of other words that might more accurately describe what I do: shuffle, walk, drag my carcass, limp, stumble. There are others, but I want this to be a "G" rated blog.

And then there are the noises I make. I will spare you the pain of hearing them described.

So the other day I was "running", walking, shuffling and limping and passed by some vultures (we live in the country) on the side of the road cleaning up the road kill and I began thinking that they were looking at me for an uncomfortably long time.  Like maybe they were thinking it might be worth it to follow me and see if I would drop.

One of my consolations to my self-imposed torture is to listen to praise music on my ipod.  There are some times when I am shuffling and panting along and willing myself to make one step at my slightly faster than walking pace and a song will come on and almost make me forget my pain.  And sometimes I will "lift" my hands (they barely get above my head, so I have to put lift in asterisks too!) and praise God in way that is so heartfelt and deep- maybe because of the pain and effort rather than in spite of it.

And so, as I have struggled to regain anything that would resemble being "athletic" or "in shape" (requires asterisks too!) I began thinking about running verses.  Ones like:
I Corinthians 9:24
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.

Or there is:
Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, 
let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, 
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

I am supposed to be running my spiritual race with endurance.

Even "running" with endurance.

I am supposed to keep going.  To keep believing that "running" is better than not doing anything at all and will in the end produce whatever good the Lord desires.

I mean, if the benefits from faithful, dedicated running are true on a physical plain, how much more on a spiritual one. Right?

But similar to my "running" on my physical streets, I am also often "running" my spiritual race that is set before me and it could also often be better described as shuffling, limping, or dragging my carcass along.

And it may not be pretty.  And the vultures might be observing me with anticipation.  And I might think and wonder if this race is really worth it.

I mean, am I really doing anything worthwhile at all? Does it even matter? What am I accomplishing? Why not just give up? After all life can be hard and people can disappoint and things just might not turn out like I thought they would.  At all.

Why keep "running"?


Because keeping running is exactly what my Lord called me to do. Even if what I do looks more like "running" than running. He didn't ask me to be an Olympic athlete in either the physical realm or in the spiritual realm.

He asked me to be an obedient daughter and servant to the King.

He told me to get out there and run that race.  So even when it feels like all I am doing is "running" I need to keep going.  Not because I can accomplish something but because He. Told. Me. To.

So tomorrow I will strap on my cute new shoes and hit the road again (hopefully not from falling over face first, but in a more figurative sense).  I will "run" past the vultures.  I will shuffle past the barking dogs.  I will limp up the hill.

And I will feebly lift my hands.
And I will praise my King.
And I will obey.
Until He calls me home.

Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; 
I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
I Corinthians 9:26,27

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Whatcha Lookin' At?

Do you ever wonder what people really see when they look at you?

What stands out?

Or maybe the better question is, what do you hope stands out?  What do you hope others will see in you?

Are We Really Going to Talk About Circumcision?
I have been reading through Galatians this week. After reading through the first three chapters, I have to admit, I smugly thought to myself, "Well, maybe I will get more out of the last three chapters."  I have read Galatians many times, and was anxious for the "good" stuff at the end.

But then my patient, loving, and long-suffering Lord cleared His throat at me (I mean, allegorically of course) and I began to wonder if maybe there was something deeper there for me after all.

So what are the first three chapters about?  Circumcision.

Maybe you can understand why that one did not grab my heart.  I mean, well, after all....I am a girl. It is just not something I struggle with as a personal issue.

But God, who wastes nothing, and is always saying more than we can ever understand, was not just addressing circumcision here.  Circumcision was just the example to use to address an issue of the heart.

Paul is fussing at the people in Galatia because they started saying that in order to be saved and to be part of the church you had to be circumcised. And he didn't want them relying on their flesh at all.

Does that mean circumcision is a bad thing?  I hope not, since God is the One who came up with the idea in the first place.  I mean, I doubt Abraham, a 90 year old man, would have ever woken up and said, "Hey, I have a great idea!"  No God thought it up.  And Abraham had to have a lot of faith to believe God and follow through.  Can't you just imagine the looks on all the men's faces as Abe explains what God told him they all needed to do?

But what was the point of circumcision?  It was an outward sign of an inward relationship.  It was visual proof.  It set you apart.  It served a purpose.  It was a good thing.

So why was Paul against it?  It was, after all, God's idea.

I really don't think Paul was against circumcision itself.  He was against it being a benchmark for being a part of the church.
"knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law 
but through faith in Christ Jesus."
Galatians 2:16
The early church was beginning to add more and more things onto the checklist for being a part of the church, circumcision just being one of them.  And we can all be prone to coming up with our "checklist".

But the problem with a checklist is that it can be confusing.  Because it is much easier to fix up the outside to look "right", at least according to the checklist, than worry about the inside.  But it is easy to be fooled that if I or anyone else looks good and proper on the outside, then they (or I) must be fine on the inside too.

And this is where I realized that these passages pertained mightily to me.  Because I have worried often about how I and my family are perceived.  How are we seen?  What do people think?

Who cares?  Me, quite often.  Unfortunately.

Jesus addresses those who worried about the outside instead of the inside with this sobering illustration:

"Woe to you...hypocrites!  
For you are like whitewashed tombs which 
on the outside appear beautiful, 
but inside they are full of dead men's bones 
and all uncleanness.
Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, 
but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."
Matthew 23:27, 28

Jesus just told the ones who were most stringently trying to follow the Law that they were FULL of lawlessness!  Why?  Because the Law wasn't designed to make anyone proud or haughty or unloving.  But people can use it to find a list of "things" they need to do and things they need to not do. And then rest in how they look.

And avoid the relationship and the heart altogether.

Here's the Thing
And that was the problem with circumcision.  It was a thing. A good thing.  But....

The thing had become the focus.
The thing had become the proof. 
The thing had become the god.

So, now the question is, what is my THING?
What do I rest on?  What do I display as proof?  What do others see when they see me?

Which brings me to my favorite Galatians verse:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; 
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, 
who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me."
Galatians 2:20


That is all I want others to see.
Not me.  Not my standards.  Not my clothes.  Not my accomplishments.  Not my failures. Not my works.  Not my marriage.  Not my homeschooling.  Not my home.  Not my church.  Not my children.  

Not MY anything.

All those things can just be a white-washed tombs.  They can very effectively cover deadness inside.


But, if any or all of those things are an overflow of a life lived in the power, love, and grace of my Father, my Savior, my Lord....

then when others look at me they will see Jesus.

So maybe the first few chapters of Galatians had something very powerful for me after all.

What do others see when they see me?
What do they see when the see you? 
What is your thing? What is mine?

May it always and forever be Jesus.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Setting Our Hope in God ~Part Three

Here is the third part of a three part series.  

You can read Part One here and Part Two here.

All three posts are taken from a teaching I had the privilege to share that encouraged the women (and quite frankly me!) to not set our hope in ANYTHING except God.  

And the reason we can have confidence to set our hope in Him is how He has delivered us in the past, how He is delivering us now, and how He will......

Yet Deliver Us
Are you in a trial right now?
Well if not,….and not to be negative here…., look out!
They’re a’comin!

How do I know?  Well, 1 Pet 4:12 says:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.

Do you ever wonder why we have trials?  Why does life have to be so hard?  There are a lot of theological answers to those questions, and it is not something we can delve deeply into here.  But the reality is that in this fallen world we will have trials.

And that fact and those trials can either work to produce bitterness and grief in our lives or they can work to produce something else: faith, hope and joy.

I want to propose to you that our response to our trials in the past and our response to our trials of the present will determine our response to our trials in the future.

Seeing and remembering God’s deliverance gives us faith to WAIT FOR and HOPE FOR God’s deliverance in the now and not fear for our future.

Our portion of Romans 12:12 is: “devoted to prayer.”  We must be intimately connected to God and resting in His hands through continual crying out to Him.

The best example of being devoted to prayer is George Mueller.  Most of you probably know his story.  His life is an amazing testimony to faith. Listen to this quote of his and listen for the word deliverance:

At first our faith will be tried very little in comparison with what it may be afterwards; for God never lays more up on us than He is willing to enable us to bear. Now when the trial of faith comes, we are naturally inclined to distrust God, and to trust rather in ourselves, or in our friends, or maybe our circumstances.

We will rather work a deliverance of our own somehow or other, than simply look to God and wait for His help. But if we do not patiently wait for God's help, if we work a deliverance of our own, then at the next trial of our faith it will be thus again, we shall be again inclined to deliver ourselves...

And thus with every fresh instance of that kind, our faith will decrease.

...On the contrary, were we to stand still, in order to see the salvation of God, to see His hand outstretched on our behalf, trusting in Him alone, then our faith would be increased - and with every trial of our faith, our faith would be increased yet more as we wait on Him to deliver instead of delivering ourselves in our own way...

Would the believer have his faith strengthened, he must give time to God... Who tries our faith in order to prove to us, His children, in the end, how willing He is to help and deliver us - THE MOMENT IT IS GOOD FOR US.

("Answers to Prayer" by George Mueller)

As we look to our future with no idea what our lives, our country, or our world are going to do it can be a scary place.  
Unless we remember what God has done, how God has delivered,  and learn faith from every single time God has worked in our life.

Our joy Scripture for our future deliverance is this:

Psalm 16:11: Thou will make known to me the path of life;
In Thy presence is fullness of joy;
In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.

The secret to joy in the midst of the uncertainty:
        Staying in His presence.  It is trusting Him to make known to us the path we should take.

Listen again to Paul:

II Cor. 7:4-6
I am filled with encouragement; I am overflowing with joy in the midst of all our suffering. For even when we came into Macedonia, our body had no rest at all, but we were troubled in every way – struggles from the outside, fears from within. But God, who encourages the downhearted, encouraged us. 

Once again, it is all about God.  God and God alone is the reason Paul could be encouraged when he is surrounded by suffering.

It somehow strangely encourages me that Paul was ever afraid.  But it must have been a fear that still had hope- hope in a God who had delivered, and was delivering, and would yet deliver.

Here is some last Scripture that I want to share with you.  Listen to these Psalms:

In this Psalm David states about his past and then a therefore about his future.
Psalm 26:1,11-12:
Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity;
And I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.

But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
Redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on a level place;
In the congregations I shall bless the Lord.

Past: have walked in integrity
Present: my foot stands on a level place
Future: I shall walk in my integrity

Psalm 31:19
How great is Thy goodness,
Which Thou has stored up for those who fear Thee,
Which Thou has wrought for those who take refuge in Thee
Before the sons of men!

Past: goodness that has been wrought
Present: great is His goodness
Future: goodness that is stored up!

Finally, listen to all the future tense of these verbs- the wills and the shalls.
Psalm 92:12-15
The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the Lord,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green,
To declare that the Lord is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

As we bring this back around and close this up I want to remind you where we started:  with the people God has placed in our lives to minister to- whether our husbands, our children, our parents, our siblings, our church family, or others God has given you to minister to.

The reason that it is so important for us to understand and to walk in the faith and joy and hope of the deliverance of God is because that is the ground from which we will stand to work in their lives. 
  • ·        If we don’t have joy in the midst of what is going on around us, why should our children ever want to follow Him? 
  • ·        If we don’t believe God will deliver us in our present circumstances at the right time and have hope, then why should our children want to trust in Him? 
  • ·        If we don’t recount to our children and remember in front of them the times God has delivered us before then how will they learn to have hope in Him?

In fact we are commanded to not only hope in Him, but to tell others about that:

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.
Psalm 145:3-4

How will they tell of the mighty acts of God if we don’t remember His works to them?

Psalm 78:5-8
For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should teach them to their children,
That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born,
That they may arise and tell them to their children,
That they should put their confidence in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments,
And not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not prepare its heart,
And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Oh, that we would never forget and never stop being faithful and hopeful and joyful.

Happy Mother’s Day ladies whether you are a mother yet or if you have spiritual children.  I exhort you and myself:
        Let us set our Hope on God.

Because:  He has delivered; He will deliver; and He will yet deliver.
Because:  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Setting Our Hope in God ~Part Three

Here is the third part of a three part series.  

You can read Part One here and 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Setting our Hope in God ~Part Two

Here is the second part in a three part series on WHY God is the only One we can place our Hope in.

There are three reasons we know we can place our hope in God:

  1. What God has already done
  2. What God is doing now
  3. What God will do in the future.

Part One can be found here.
Hope you enjoy!  Let me know what you think.

Let’s review our three reasons we set our hope in God because that determines what we will do:
1.              ~ The times He has already delivered us.
2.              ~ The acts of deliverance He presently working in our lives now.
3.              ~  The promises of His deliverance in the future.

I LOVE this.  I have nothing to do in the past, present, or future as to why I can have hope. I don’t hope in myself or anybody else. It is ALL ABOUT GOD.

So let’s set the stage:
1.  We have a special ministry in people’s lives
2.  Every single one of those people is sinners, so it is going to be hard.
3.  Since we are also a sinner, we can’t rely on ourselves.
4.  We can’t look at our circumstances to determine what to do.
5.  But, we have a God Who is at work yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

We have got to have the right attitude to do this job. 
Ministry is draining. 
Sinners will cause you pain. 
You have a fallen body along with your fallen heart and you are going to get tired. 
And your circumstances will often seem to be in direct opposition to what God has purposed in your heart.

Given those facts there is one more thing we need to establish.  And that is the attitude we will need for this daunting task.  And this attitude is vital for us retaining our hope.

You may be thinking, What!  You just told me I am going to be tired, hurt, sad, and going through difficulties.  And now you think I should have joy!!!!!????

Are you crazy?

Well, maybe I am, but not because I think we are supposed to have joy!  Because I didn’t come up with the fact that we are to have joy- God did.

But don’t take my word on it. Let’s look at what God has to say about the matter.  We are going to “build a case”, so to speak.  As we go over the three "times" that is delivering us we will also look at Scripture about Joy- the joy we are supposed to have right in the middle of whatever is going on.  Let’s start with the first one:


When Paul refers here to being delivered, he is talking about perils and (vs 8) burdens beyond his strength.  Can anyone identify?  Ever been burdened beyond your strength? Let me just go out on a limb here and state categorically, if you have been involved with people, you have been burdened and you have been grieved.

But the more important question is, has God ever delivered you? Can you remember those times?

It is vital that we remember every time God has delivered us in the past.  We can never deal with what is happening in our lives in the present with a proper attitude we don’t.

And then the next question, so what is the attitude we need to have as we remember not only the past deliverances but also the past burdens and hurts?  

Remember?  That’s right, joy!  Right in the middle of the yuck!
How do we have this joy in the middle of the grief?

By remembering what God has already done.  How He has worked beforehand.  How He has previously delivered.  How He has already saved.

Neh 8:10b: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Don’t you love how God doesn’t just tell us to “be strong”?  No.       
He gives us a prescription for strength.
His joy.

Not only do we not have to have our own strength.  We don’t even have to have our own joy.  We have access to His joy and His strength.

God wants to give us His joy, and when we accept that joy we will find 
He then also has given us His strength.

Isaiah 49:5 says, "My God IS my strength."

We must remember times of deliverance in the past in order to not be grieved or over whelmed now. 

And every time we praise Him for what He has already done we get His joy and His strength.

Romans 12:12 gives us a three-fold instruction:

Rom 12:12: rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.

The part that allows us to have joy as we remember how God has delivered is the first one.  Rejoicing in hope.” 

Why can we approach every situation rejoicing?  With joy? With hope?
        By remembering.
By remembering how God has already delivered.

Neh 8:10b: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

So the first step in us setting our hope on God is that we remember what He has already done, and we walk in the strength of His joy.

Will Deliver Us
Once we have settled in our heart and in our mind and in our emotions that God has been faithful in the past and we clearly remember when He has delivered us in the past…..

We can face today’s challenges from a different viewpoint.
Every time it gets dark at night I have hope for the light to come in the morning.  Why?  Because I remember this morning and yesterday morning and the morning before that it got light again.  Even in the middle of the darkest, most moonless night I don’t fear that morning will not come.

The same advantage comes from the “knowing” that God has delivered you before.  And when you are in the midst of dark nights with relationship struggles or growing pains or mothering challenges or financial crisis or (and you can fill in the blank here with whatever your present “school” that the Lord has you in) you can “know in your knower” that God delivers and you can confidently rest your hope in that same God Who has delivered you before.

It is not a test or even a question.  You already have proof.   God will deliver, right on time, just like He always has.

So let’s look at our joy verse for our present needs for deliverance:
Psalm 30:5: Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning.

Hallelujah, just as morning came this morning after last night, joy comes after the weeping. Just like this:

Psalm 90:14: O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness,  that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Want some more proof?
John 16:33: These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Our Romans 12:12 portion for our present troubles is the point of “persevering in tribulation”. 
        Yes, we will have tribulation.
        But God commands us to persevere.

How do we persevere?
        By gritting out teeth?
        By grinning and bearing it?
        By being tough?  By being strong?
        By pulling up our boot straps and trudging on through?

No.  None of those things can we sustain for very long, because they all rely upon us.

No, we persevere with good cheer by setting our hope in God.  Remembering our past deliverance helps us anticipate our coming joy. 

You know how you would feel happy as a child just anticipating your birthday?  Or Christmas?  Half of the fun of Christmas is the looking forward to it!

Think about it.  We don’t have to be in happy present circumstances to feel joy, at least God’s joy.

That does not mean it will all eventually work out like we think it should.  You don’t know if your wrapped presents hold what you think you want under that Christmas tree.  But, just maybe it is something better.  God wrapped them up just for you after all, and He will give them to you in His good time.

So, we can experience joy as we remember what God has already done and anticipate how He is presently in the process of delivering us.  Whether we can perceive it yet or not.

I want to deal with one more thing here before we move on.

Some of us have been walking in a “present trial” for a long time.  We are still waiting for that deliverance and we are getting tired and weary.
Dear sisters I don’t understand it all, but I believe God is never late.  I want to share a quote with you:   
“If God permits in His wisdom what He could have prevented with His power, it is for this purpose: that we would bow our knees and say, “Yes, Lord, Your will be done.”

God is never late, but we have to trust in His timing.  
Otherwise we become bitter and hard and hopeless. 

The Israelites wandered the desert for forty years, but deliverance did come.  It came with and through wars and battles, but it came.  And God was faithful.  All the time.  In the desert.  On the battle field.  In the Promised Land. We can trust Him too.

Okay, so we have had trials in the past and seen God deliver.

And we have hardships in the present and we anticipate that God is already at work to deliver us now.

What else do we need to know?

Tune in to Part Three and find out!!!!
In the mean time, take the time to remember the times God has already delivered you.  Write them down.  Talk about them.  Make them a part of you.  They are some of the reasons WHY you can set your hope in God!