Running to Win

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!”  1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT)

We all have our own race to run.  

We all have our own weaknesses and unique strengths.  We each have differing proclivities toward sin and temptation.  We have individual gifts and talents given to us by God with specific intentions in mind.  

God is seeking to do a new thing in each of us … but He requires our willing consent.  He requires our willing participation. 

Are we running our own race well?

Are we running to win?

I’ve been asking myself and God the same questions, and as I have, I’ve been prompted with this:

  • Am I guarding my areas of weakness?  Yes, I know what many of them are, but am I moving cautiously in those areas, seeking help & support, and inviting God into those areas?  God knows all about my weaknesses too, and He longs to help me in them.  Am I willing to turn to Him and allow Him to do so?
  • Am I working to establish new habits and practices that make me stronger?  Both in order to capitalize on my areas of strength and also in order to gird up my areas of weakness?  New habits require practice and repetition.  God wants to do a new thing in me.  Do I?  Enough to do the work?
  • And when I fall down and make a mistake, am I willing to get up?  Am I willing to look at and learn from it?  Am I willing to examine my thoughts & emotions around the event?  Am I willing to bring them boldly to throne of Christ?  God already knows all about me. My strengths, my weaknesses, my proclivities to sin. And He loves me anyway. That’s why He died for me.  So I can come to Him with all of me, without fear of judgment or shame.

I want to run my race to win.  Even though I get scared sometimes and even though I mess up, I want to run my race to win.  And I cannot do that if I refuse to be a willing participant with God.

I want to run my race to win.  I believe you do too.

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Shining 2

 

You have said, ‘Seek My face’…”  Psalm 27:8a (ESV)

The funny thing is that we tend to seek God’s face only when we are in a casual, relaxed place — when we have lots of time & little pressure bearing down on us. It’s then that we seem to find the space to be with God and know Him just for His own sake.

At least that has been true for me.

But one of the things that I hope I can carry out of my gym time is the discipline to seek God’s face when I’m tired and stressed … or when something challenging is pressing upon me.

There’s a temptation to turn away from God when we are exhausted or stressed. Or, if we do turn to Him, to turn only to seek His help. When under pressure, we tend only to seek God’s hand. Rarely in our exhausted and overwhelmed places do we turn to God just to seek His face. (Or at least that’s the way it has been with me). But the truth is that His face is what I really need in those moments, not His hand.

What I really need when I am exhausted and overwhelmed is to know Who God is and what He is like … and to rest in Him.

So as I seek His face in the gym … while I’m tired and sore, pushing heavy resistance and completing long runs … I am praying that I am also training my heart and my mind to seek His face when I’m tired and overwhelmed in other aspects of my life.

Counting the Cost

“But don’t begin until you count the cost ….”. Luke 14:28a (NLT)

Goals.   Have you ever set a goal for yourself and then backed away from it? Maybe it was about running a race, or maybe it was about starting a new dietary regime, or maybe it was about developing a new habit or quitting an old one. You were excited when you started, but somewhere along the way it got more difficult than you realized it would. You failed to count the cost. You failed to count it accurately. I do it too sometimes.

 

Some goals do not have a very high cost. Others do.  And usually the bigger goals — the higher goals — have a higher cost.

 

But the best things are worth it, aren’t they?

 

As I sit on the eve of one of the highest goals I have ever dreamed — one of the biggest assignments God has ever given me — I am soberly counting the cost.  Extremely grateful to have the chance, but not wanting to arrive at midpoint, realizing that I failed to count the cost accurately.   There are things I have to die to … and things I will have to carry … to do this journey well.  Am I really willing?  Really?  For the long haul?

 

As a follower of Jesus, I look to Him as my example. He had the highest goal of all — to redeem and save mankind.  He also paid the highest price.  And for Him, it was  worth it.

Am I willing?  Yes.

Am I scared?  Yes.

And having counted the cost to the best of my ability, I claim and cling to the truth of Philippians 4:13, that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

And so can you.

 

Unity

“You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.”  Deuteronomy 6:5 (NET)

Wholeness.  Personal wholeness.  Integration of our whole selves.  Complete alignment.  Internal harmony; external radiance.  We all want that, don’t we!?

And God wants it for us, too.

He made us for it.

To radiate His glory.  As image-bearers.

If asked to paraphrase Deuteronomy 6:5, I would say that God is asking us to love Him with everything that we are.  Inside & outside.  Mental, emotional, spiritual, physical — everything.  Or as Sarah Young writes: “I want to be Central in your entire being. “(See June 3, Jesus Calling).  Central in everything.  Every part, every aspect.

Of course, we will never achieve it perfectly on this side of life.  That’s why we need Jesus.  But we can aim for it.  We can strive towards it, knowing that every effort counts.  Knowing that God is cheering us on because He wants it for us too.  And if God is for us, who can be against us!?

To give God my heart.

To give God my mind.

To give God my body.

To give God everything.

Wholeness.  Unity.  Integration — within ourselves and with God.  To love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.  To pursue peace — within and without — today and everyday.

Amen.

Spirit Come

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30 (NIV, NET)

My ministry work is about enfolding the body into our spiritual journeys.  It is about including our physical selves in our spiritual lives.  The body — your body — in an integrated part of your “self” … and God longs for your whole “self” to be devoted to Him.

Yet, broadly speaking, the body is largely excluded from our relationship with God.  Most of us, if we consider our physical selves at all in our spiritual journeys, might give it a secondary … or tertiary … role.

Which makes me think of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is an equal and integrated part of the Godhead. (I know every Christian reader would intellectually agree.)  And yet, if you are like me, the Holy Spirit gets a secondary … or even tertiary … role in my life.

For example:  If God the Father said something to me, I would jump to it. If Jesus suggested something to me, I would run after it. Yet daily … often multiple times a day … the Holy Spirit prompts me about things, and I only occasionally follow through. A 50% response rate, perhaps on a good day.

It seems that I don’t give equal weight to the Holy Spirit who is undoubtably an equal member of the triune God.  I grieve Him all the time.  (Spirit, forgive me.)

Our God is the great three-in-One. And He made us in His image, and we too are three-in-one.

May we learn to give equal weight to the members of the Godhead in our daily life of following God …

And may we learn to embrace and include all of our own “members” in our daily life of following God.

Health

“Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is.”  3 John 2 (NLT)

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t wish for good health — for themselves and for the ones they love.  A body that works well, that functions and moves as it should, that is not plagued by illness and disease.  I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t long for that.

And yet, I have met many people who are not willing to do what is required to be healthy.

Granted, we live in a world that is working against us.  Especially in America, we live with endless obstacles of GMO’s, processed foods, “modern conveniences” that keep us from walking or working or moving, largely sedentary jobs, and much, much more.

But we still have choice.  We still have choices about what we do with our spare time, what we put into our mouths and what we prioritize.  Culture can flood the market with as many unhealthy options as it chooses, but it cannot take away our choice.

Just like God never takes away our choice.  God wants us to love Him and follow His ways, but He does not force us to.  He allows us to choose.  He allows us to choose who and what we serve.  He allows us choice … because He knows that our choices will reveal our true desires.

So it really comes back to us.  Do we truly want to have good health?  Enough to do what is required?

Enough to eat less junk food?

Enough to eat more vegetables?

Enough to move your body every day?

Enough to listen to and attend to the needs of your body?

Enough to listen to Him?  So that He can heal us?  So that He can heal us and bring us to health?

He can, you know.  It’s right there:

      H e a l t h

Do you see it?

Do you want it enough to do what is required?

He is more than able.  It’s your choice.

Integrated

His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?'”  John 9:2 (NET)

I was talking today with a church leader about the implications of a person with a Western worldview reading a text written by ancient Middle Easterners.  The Bible, of course, was written by ancient Middle Easterner’s who write from an ancient Middle Eastern worldview.  Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis read the Bible from a modern Western worldview.  And as I’m sure you know, one’s worldview is not an overt aspect of how we perceive and interpret things. Instead, a worldview is very subtle and covert, but it colors everything we see and interact with.

The distinctions are many, I am sure. But in my studies thus far, I’ve become acutely aware of this:

  • A Western worldview is a very dualistic lens. It sees the inner and the outer/external journey as separate and distinct, almost antagonistic against each other.
  • An Eastern worldview, especially and including an ancient Middle Eastern worldview, understands a person to be very integrated, body mind and spirit as one.

As such, many Westerners are perplexed by passages such as the one in John 9.  What a silly question to one with a Western worldview.  But for one with an Eastern worldview, the question is obvious. Physical sickness can and often does begin with the mind and soul.  Even Western medicine is beginning to admit the inherent connection between inner and outer aspects of self.

Try reading the Gospels with an Eastern worldview in mind. Try looking at church history with the overtones of an Eastern worldview. You will see things differently.

  • Like the laws of the Torah that make a person clean or unclean by what they eat and what they touch.
  • Like the woman who only needed to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe to stop a perpetual bleeding.
  • Like how lepers were cast out of cities to survive on their own, not only because of the physical contagion, but also because if their perceived spiritual depravity.
  • Like how the early church was the one to start the concept of hospitals … because they knew that caring for the body was also caring for the soul in some deeply mysterious, God-breathed way.

May we all learn to embrace our God-breathed integratedness and, in the process, come to know and reflect our Creator more clearly.