Month: May 2024

Life is a Marathon, not a Sprint- Part 2

MARATHON: a long-distance running race

SPRINT: a short-distance race requiring participants to go at top speed

Marathon racers must build endurance before they can successfully complete their long, arduous journey. They must learn to run at a sustainable pace; because of the distance they need to cover, they must not attempt to run at top pace for the entire race. In fact, short periods of “recovery” jogs and walking to preserve muscles and energy will be necessary; and if Marathon runners intend to win, they must be willing to put in the time and effort to properly equip and prepare themselves before they enter the race.

In a similar fashion, believers must be willing to prepare diligently for, as the Apostle Paul called it, the “race” of life. He did not mean a “sprint”, whereby one would be able to quickly complete the process of sanctification. No, Paul meant a “marathon” throughout which a steady growth in spiritual maturity—Christ-likeness—would be achieved by faith empowered by the Holy Spirit and made possible through God’s grace.

As followers of Christ, we must remember to prepare to enter this race by strengthening our spiritual muscles with: Bible study/meditation, prayer, fellowship, and sound Biblical teaching. This is achieved by listening and submitting to the Holy Spirit concerning all these things—or any other instruction and council He provides along the way. But it is also vital that we remember to renew our strength in the Lord with periods of refreshment, much like marathon participants who intersperse restorative periods of jogging and walking as they endeavor to finish their race (Acts 3:19 & Romans 12:2).

As we complete our race of earthly life, we will be able to declare with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith…” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Life is a Marathon, not a Sprint

SANCTIFICATION: The process of becoming more like Christ by purifying our hearts and minds through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As my husband and I were walking through a lovely local park, I happened to notice ahead of us an unusual figure moving across the road. When we came upon it, the picture became clear: a snail had determined to cross the pavement, leaving the trail of his journey behind him. It was obvious the snail was expending great effort; and despite its inability to see the other side of the road, it was successfully heading to its destination. Nevertheless, the trail of mucus indicated that his journey had its crooks and turns—its distractions and mistakes. The rocky path was neither smooth nor easy!

…and so it seems with our process of sanctification: We may experience a rocky path riddled with setbacks, distractions, and mistakes…

…but God has promised to lead and provide for us throughout our journey, until we reach our destination:

The next post will expound on key ways to successfully navigate the Christian walk…the “marathon” of life’s journey.

A Thought To Ponder

You can’t always make things turn out the way you desire; however, God can always take the way things turned out, and work them for good.

“Good” (Greek, agathos) describes what originates from God and is empowered by Him (by the Holy Spirit) in believers’ lives, through faith.

We can be certain of this: When believers love and trust God, He will cause everything—even mistakes and disasters—to work positively in their lives in order to carry out His good purposes. As a result, all things—good or bad—can be used to administer grace and strength into the lives of His children; and, despite the evil that inevitably comes into their lives, they can experience the love and encouragement of Jesus. In fact, just as Joseph proclaimed in Genesis 50:20, we can also declare: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result...

One Thing I Do Know- Part 2

“Then the Lord formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…” (Genesis 2:7).

It occurred to me while meditating on the passage about the healing of the blind man in John 9 that Jesus made the mud from “the dust of the ground”—the same material from which man was created in the first place (Genesis 2). I speculated (i.e. this conclusion is not indisputable Biblical truth) that perhaps Jesus gave the man (created) brand new eyes. After all, the man had been blind from birth and his eyes were never functional.

According to this verse, all things were created by Jesus and for Jesus. Therefore, could He not choose to create new eyes for the man who had never seen?

Jesus said in John 9:3 that the man had been blind his entire life with the purpose of leading to this moment: “that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Then Jesus stated: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (v. 5). This miracle was putting on display—manifesting—the power of the Creator Lord Jesus before their eyes.

Yes, Jesus demonstrated the light within Him to the world! The very life that God breathed into man (Genesis 2:7) was in Jesus. Thus His words at that moment, “I am the light of the world.”

One Thing I Do Know

Mark 10: 46-52 recounts one of Jesus’ miracles—the time when He healed a blind man named Bartimaeus: Bartimaeus was sitting beside the road upon which Jesus and a great multitude were passing by. He began to shout loudly for Jesus to have mercy on him, until Jesus stopped and had him brought to Him. When asked what he wanted Jesus to do for him, Bartimaeus said he wanted to regain his sight. Without any great fanfare, Jesus simply said, “Go your way, your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:52). Immediately, Bartimaeus regained his sight and began following Jesus.

Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

There is another account recorded in John 9, when Jesus healed a blind man who was sitting by the road. Jesus decided to heal the blind man and said, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (v. 5). Then He spat on the ground, made clay of the spittle, and applied it to the blind man’s eyes; after which, He sent the man to wash in the pool of Siloam. The man returned no longer blind after washing in the pool; but, as one might expect, the Pharisees began relentlessly questioning the man and even his parents, in order to discredit the miracle. They resorted to calling Jesus a sinner, to which the healed man vehemently answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see (v. 25).

I have wondered about the fact that Jesus would employ such a puzzling tactic to heal the blind man. After all, He had healed Bartimaeus and confirmed the miracle with only a few words. Jesus always acted by the Spirit with purpose; why did He elect to use mud in this case?

In tomorrow’s post, I will convey my thoughts—my speculation—about Jesus’ reason(s) for using such a unique means to heal this man who was blind from birth.

“Behold, It Was Very Good”

A few years after we relocated, my husband insisted that we replace the laminate counter tops in our kitchen. Although it was a new home, the counters were already beginning to buckle from water around the sink area; but even more worrisome, they were simply unattractive : / ! It was a real splurge for us to select granite replacements; but then again, granite would never buckle and the counters would last forever.

I absolutely could not believe the difference the beautiful granite made in the appearance of our entire kitchen and adjoining dining room. Then I began to contemplate the origins and qualities of this remarkable material: I found that it is usually mined from deep within the earth; and, that various elements such as mica contribute to each slab’s unique appearance. I thought, “This granite might have never been quarried—it could have easily remained buried deep within the earth, never being seem by the human eye. Why did the Lord make it so attractive and useful if it most likely would never see the light of day?” Immediately Genesis 1:31 came to mind: God had completed the work of his creation; and, “When he saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Everything was very good, even the hidden treasures deep within the earth.

I had wondered why something hidden was so good and lovely; but the answer was clear…God himself had made it, and he is always good; goodness is an immutable attribute of God. In fact, every good and perfect gift is from our Heavenly Father (James 1:17). Indeed, it is impossible for it to be less than good because He is good: Romans 1: 20- “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…”

PRAYER: Dear Creator Father,

Thank you for your amazing creation; your blessings are unending! Your Word says, “Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them” (Psalms 111:2). Help me to always study and consider your great works, so that I may constantly take delight in the wonder and goodness of your creation.

In the wonderful name of Jesus, Amen.

A few other references that attest to the goodness of God: Psalms 34:18; 145:9; 84:11; 23:6; 86:5; & 107:1. Romans 8:28. Nahum 1:7. James 1:17

Anxiety is a Heavy Burden

Whenever I have meditated on this verse, I have imagined casting my problems and trials onto the Lord; thereby, ridding myself of their presence in my life so that I could move on. However, one morning during a time of prayer, I gained a new understanding:

This verse said to cast anxieties—my painful uneasiness of mind about impending misfortune—onto the Lord. It was not necessarily the evil or misfortune that would just disappear; but rather, it was my worry about the misfortune that I could completely cast aside. Because God is concerned about our welfare and helps us (“cares”), we can rest assured that we do not need to worry about anything.

Provision is made for our trials and problems: If we will come to Jesus, He will make our heavy burdens light and bearable. We can even experience supernatural peace and joy while going through them!

(John 14:27; Romans 15:13; Philippians 4:7; John 16:24)

It might be helpful to picture the process of surrendering to God’s care this way:

We can choose to “go it alone”…opting for a single “yoke” by which we will tackle the problem in our own strength. Instead of praying and relying on Christ, we will only add to our struggle by worrying and becoming anxious.

…Yet, there is no need for our anxiety when Christ is our Strength and Guide. Consider the lead ox working under a double yoke: he guides the weaker animal that he is yoked to, while also pulling the greatest weight of the load.

Jesus Himself is infinitely stronger than our greatest strength; in fact, it is in our weakness that His strength is made most complete (2 Corinthians 12:9). Furthermore, when we are yoked to Jesus, He bears the weight of the load to the point that our true burden—our anxiety and worry—is cast off, so that the trials and problems of life no longer weigh us down!

The Pitfall of Legalism- Part 2

Richard Foster recounted the following story about Hans the tailor:

Because of Hans’ reputation, an influential entrepreneur visiting the city ordered a tailor-made suit. But when he came to pick up the suit, the customer found that one sleeve twisted that way and the other twisted this way; one shoulder bulged out and the other caved in. Although the suit was deformed, he pulled and managed to make his body fit into it. As he returned home on the bus, another passenger noticed his odd appearance and asked if Hans the tailor had made the suit. Receiving an affirmative reply, the man remarked,”Amazing!” I knew that Hans was a good tailor, but I had no idea he could make a suit fit so perfectly someone as deformed as you.”

Legalism causes a person to attempt—through external works/law-keeping—to earn through their own efforts the righteousness that only Christ was able to earn for us. It is like trying to fit in a “suit” of perfect law-keeping…we think we appear righteous, but in reality, it is a delusion—a distortion of the genuine righteousness we are clothed in because of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

There are two considerations, or pitfalls, regarding legalism:

1. Are we people-pleasing, trying to conform to others’ expectations? Is there pride in our hearts to appear more righteous than we are? In other words, are we submitting to the pressure to conform rather than receiving the grace and instruction of God?

2. On the other hand, if we think we have managed to hold to a higher standard of behavior than others; we ourselves can begin to expect other people to conform to our personal standard of morality. In this way, we are attempting to make others contort into our expectations.

A verse comes to mind that addresses both scenarios: 2 Corinthains 10:12– “When they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”

If our primary consideration is to meet others’ expectations, we are comparing our behavior to their standards; and therefore are lacking understanding about the righteousness we have in Christ. We do not comprehend that it is by God’s grace that we are guided and empowered to do what is right according to His will (Romans 12:2).

…but also, if we expect others to fit our expectations…if we compare their works to our personal standards and convictions, we are lacking understanding about all that is going on in their lives. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is in the process of convicting them about the very thing we deem important, but they are not yet at a spiritual level to obey. Perhaps they have physical or other limitations we are unaware of. Maybe there are obligations in their lives that must take precedence until another time.

The point is, it is best to assume we are without proper understanding when we expect others to conform to our idea of righteousness. Instead, we can earnestly pray for them to be lead by the Spirit in that area. Moreover, we can resolve to humbly ask for God’s grace to help us to stop comparing; but instead, to submit our will to His timing and sanctification process in the lives of others.

The Pitfall of Legalism

“If moral behavior were simply following rules, we could program a computer to be moral.”

Samuel Ginder

On the surface, this idea of seeking God’s approval via the performance of “good works” sounds noble…aren’t believers supposed to be obedient, and thereby honor the laws of God? The problem, or pitfall (trap; snare) with this notion is that is rests on the person’s own fleshly ability to carry out perfect obedience. We will fail! Because we cannot obey every aspect of the law perfectly, we will stumble and be as guilty as if we had broken every legal requirement.

However, the good news—the Gospel—is that perfect law-keeping does not rest on our shoulders. While we desire to be obedient because we love the Lord and His ways, it is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone, that we are saved and justified before God:

Grace: The limitless kindness and mercy of God that is freely given to undeserving human beings; catalyst for initiating salvation; divine enabling or gifting; divine favor.

If we attempt to earn favor, or add anything to salvation by our own efforts, we are going to find ourselves in a pitfall of endless failure and frustration. However, because of Jesus’ sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection to life on our behalf, we are justified before the Lord; that is, we are declared innocent to sin and fully accepted by God. The burden of earning God’s approval has been lifted from our shoulders!

In the next post we will take a further look at the nature of legalism and how it might be expressed toward others.

Let Go of Time!

As I grow older, time seems to be on my mind…it sometimes presents itself as an obstacle and impediment to my service for the Lord at this season of my life…or at least it seems so. There was a precious moment during a past devotional time when God prompted me inwardly with the words of Psalm 96:1“Sing to the Lord a new song.” As I began to meditate on those words, I started to understand that even in my deepest doubts and troubles, I needed to speak life—to “sing” joyfully the life of God’s Word—in my prayers, and with every opportunity to speak.

To speak life would involve finding scripture that pertained to the situation; and in order to do this effectively, the Holy Spirit would need to reveal to me the true roots of my struggle with time. I knew God’s words are powerful (Hebrews 4:12); and so I began to understand that whenever I would speak them, my words would convey that power—His power—over my situation. As it turned out, time was not the enemy…my focus on my inadequacies and limitations was the true crux of the problem. That is, my focus on physical limitations and the like, impeded my ability to concentrate on God’s goodness and absolute sufficiency to empower/enable me to walk in His will.

Revelation 21:5 reveals that God “makes all things new.” In this verse, He is promising a complete renewal of all things with a new heaven and earth; but also, this characteristic of the Lord can be seen in various aspects of our earthly lives (Ez. 36: 26-27 & 2 Corinthians 5:17). The Father is always in the business of restoration in every season of life; He is constantly doing new things (Isaiah 43:19)! It is the Lord himself who does the “new thing” and He can use any vessel He desires—even the weak vessels– to carry out His plans (1 Corinthians 1:27). When God is in it, time is not an obstacle!

We Can “Do Battle”!

Sometimes I think of spiritual warfare against the darkness of this world as a complicated task…best assigned to those who are powerfully gifted and experienced in such matters. Recently, as I was reading through a new book, I came across an insight by Dr. Michael Lake that profoundly encouraged me in this area:

” In every situation, obedience to the Word of God (especially when it isn’t easy) is an act of spiritual warfare!”

I thought, “Yes! That isn’t complicated…with the Holy Spirit, I can do this battle.” Psalm 18:34 states, “He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze” and Ephesians 6:10 assures me that I can “be strong in the Lord and the strength of HIS (emphasis added) might.”

Jesus asked in Luke 6: 46, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I tell you?” Clearly, obedience is necessary if He is truly to be our Lord and King , the One who enables and helps us. This means we need to choose His kingdom over the kingdom of darkness at every point of battle. Then, as we submit to Him in obedience, we can resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7)!

But, an even greater outcome is that not only are we delivered from the dominion of corruption; but, according to James 1:25, “Whosoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” God always abundantly fills a void with His goodness if we allow it: Not only will the devil flee from the battle; but as we continue in obedience, God will also fill our lives with blessing.