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,--Hebrews 12:1

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Daily Message: Stand on the Word, Even When It's Not Popular ~ 2 Timothy 1:7-8

Today's study yields a message that couldn't come at a more appropriate time. It's funny how God's timing is so appropriate, that going through the apostle Paul's letters sequentially, one chapter at a time, and drawing on whatever passage in that daily reading jumps out at me, can apply itself so well to the specific events on a given day.

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled a key provision in the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. They didn't outright overturn the act and say that states must allow same-sex couples to marry, but they did say the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages that occurred under the laws of states where it is legal.

Before I go any farther, let me stop and make clear that I do not hate homosexuals. In fact, the Gospel tells us to love ALL people and I do. But the Bible also tells me I'm supposed to study and learn and teach the Word of God. And numerous places in the New Testament and the Old Testament treat homosexuality. When I read the Bible, it is my interpretation that such a lifestyle is ungodly and not to be condoned.

Remember, I did not say homosexuals should be condemned, persecuted, abused, etc. So, my deeply held religious beliefs demand that I teach the Word of God as I interpret it, and that I encourage others to live according to that interpretation. Therefore, in order to not be hypocritical, I cannot support same-sex marriage.

Now, know also that doesn't mean I'm going to protest courthouses or churches where such marriages occur. I'm not standing on street corners pointing at people and telling them they're going to Hell. That's not my job. But it is my duty, when I vote, or when I'm asked my opinion on the matter, to do and say what I believe the Bible says on the subject. That is simply that it is to be discouraged and is ungodly.

Now I love a good political debate, but I try to stay out of them on this blog. But my position on this matter is based on my interpretation of the Bible. That and the fact that I came across this passage, on this day when the Court's decision came down, leads me to address it here. I'm not going to debate the politics of it, but only state my position and defend the reason for doing so based on the passage below.

And hence, today's message.
" 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God." ~ 2 Timothy 1:7-8

My view and my stand is not popular today. I know that. In fact, it will likely draw a wave of tirades calling me all sorts of not-so-nice names. If so, I'll neither back down nor escalate the disagreement, lest I become a hypocrite.

Paul told Timothy in this passage that the spirit of God gives us the strength to overcome the fear to stand up for what is biblical, even when it's not the popular stance to take. But he also says we're to do so out of love, not hate, and we're to remain disciplined in the faith.

I've written often about Penn Jillette, an atheist comedian, and the video of him describing a Christian man's gift to him of a Bible. He goes on and on complimenting the man for his humility and the kind gesture, but what always stands out to me the most in this monologue is Penn's simple question, How much would you have to hate someone to not tell them about Jesus if you really believe He's the only path to eternal life, and the alternative is an eternity of suffering in Hell?

And that's exactly what Paul is telling us here, that if we really love people and believe that something they're doing is ungodly, we have to let them know. Not in a finger-in-the-face-you're-going-to-Hell kind of way, that's not how, but simply stating our belief and claiming the Bible as the authority for that belief is sufficient. He doesn't tell us to riot, or picket, or any thing except to stand firm and stand up for the Word of God.

It is possible to love someone and disagree with the way they live their lives. I can promise you I know this first hand, and what I'm referring to has absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation. We have to stand up for what God tells us is right, but remain disciplined so that we do so in a way that doesn't invite people to call us un-Christ like.

Verse 8 reminds us why this is so difficult to do, because standing up for God and against the world promises to bring suffering down on our heads. I've had this debate many times, and rarely does it remain civilized, as the other side becomes almost rabid when they fail to change my mind. Standing up will bring down the wrath of many on the other side of this issue, but we are not to be ashamed to testify, regardless what it brings down on us.

For now, in my state and many others, same-sex marriages aren't recognized. The Court did not strike those laws down, only the way the federal government must view those same-sex couples married legally in a state where it is legally available. I fully expect the tide has turned on this issue in our nation, and that sooner rather than later that will change and all states will be forced to grant legal marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

But if it comes to a vote, I must, by my interpretation of the Word of God, vote against it. Otherwise, I'm a hypocrite.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Biblical Approach to My First 50K

Well, I told you the other day I bit the bullet and registered for my first 50K, the Full mOOn 50K, next month. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision, less than a month from race day. Now some might be saying, "Less than a month to train for a 50K?" but it's not really as bad as it sounds. (I don't think it is, anyway.)

If you've been reading here long, you know I'm not one to search for and stick by training plans, that I pretty much develop my own not-too-traditional approach. For the most part, when training for marathons, I run 6 days a week, between 40 - 45 miles each week, with a long run on Saturdays of 10 - 20 miles. While this approach hasn't netted me a Boston qualifying time or put me in competition with the Kenyans to win any races, with the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, it's gotten me through 7 marathons since October 2011.

So I'm pretty confident a similar approach will have me ready for the 31 miles I'll have to cover in a few weeks. What I had to decide on was a strategy for actually running the race, and today, I think I found it. Actually, I think the Good Lord revealed it to me.
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you." ~ Psalm 32:8

I was 3 miles into my 6 mile run today, the turnaround point on the paved trail in Jacksonville, NC where I run when we're here visiting my in-laws. I don't listen to music when I run and I was running solo today, so there wasn't anything to distract me. Although I like running with a group, sometimes it's nice just to have the time to spend with God. And when I'm alone on a run, that's usually what I do.

Today I was praying and when I wasn't praying I was thinking about the upcoming race. And part of the time I was doing both at the same time. But right after I made my turn to head back to the car, the thought popped into my head, "Why not take a Biblical approach to this race?"

Up until then, various ideas had been running through my head for strategies to attack my first 50K. A Galloway run/walk approach, running downhills and flats but walking uphills, running as far as I could and walking the rest, and numerous variations on each of these approaches along with a few others. As I toyed with each, none of them seemed really appealing. But today when this Biblical approach idea took hold, I couldn't shake it.
"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work." ~ Genesis 2:2

" 10For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused..." ~ Exodus 23:10-11

"Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work..." ~ Exodus 23:12

" 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience." ~ Hebrews 4:9-11

All these verses refer to the work to rest ratio of 6:1 that God first established when He created the earth. Israel was ordered to extend the practice to the planting of their crops, plant six years and let the land lie fallow one. They were ordered to work six days and rest one. And in His letter to Hebrews, Paul said we're to follow God's example, working six and resting one day.

What came to me today on the trail, was the idea to incorporate this 6:1 ratio into my first official ultra-marathon. To accomplish this, I'm going to run six miles, then walk one. Four of these intervals will put me at mile 28, with 3 to run (or walk or crawl or whatever it takes to finish) to make it to the finish line. So that's my Biblical strategy to take on my first 31 mile race.

This may not make sense to other ultra-runners, and I have no scientific evidence to back it up, but for me it makes perfect sense based on my marathon experience.

You see, when I have trouble in a marathon it's usually late in the race in warmer weather. This past February, I ran the only marathon I've ever done where I felt good the entire race and at the finish, but it was also the only cool-weather marathon I've ever run. In every other full marathon, the temperature has risen above 700 in the last few miles of the race.

The reason that's significant is because I'm a sweater. I mean, I sweat A LOT! During the summer, you can follow my trail on the pavement because the sweat soaks through my shoes and leaves wet footprints when I run. Ever since junior high school, this has been an issue. During two-a-day football practices, working outside in the summer heat, or any other strenuous outdoor activity, makes me tend to sweat everything out. And I just never seemed to be able to replace what that sweat drained out of my body.

But during a marathon, even when they have water stops every mile, the most I get from those tiny cups is probably 4 - 6 ounces of water or sports drink at each aid station, not nearly what I've sweated out. Because at best what they have to eat is a few crackers or a bit of candy, the only other nutrition I take in during the race is an energy gel every miles. But I think this strategy is going to fix a lot of that.

Because I'll be walking every 7th mile, I'll have the time and ability to consume some real food and significantly more electrolytes and water. In other words, this will give me an opportunity to replenish a lot more of what's being depleted during the race. I'll be carrying my hydration pack, so I'll have plenty of water, but this will also enable me to carry more food.

My plan is to get a pizza the night before and a box of cheese and crackers. Throughout the 6 mile run, I'll be sipping water and will take an energy gel halfway through. Then, during the one-mile walk portion of each interval, I'll have the time and ability to consume two pieces of pizza, a pack of cheese and crackers, and at least 16 ounces of water with electrolytes.

The 17 minutes or so it will take me to walk that mile should give me plenty of time to get all that down and still have a few minutes to go before time to pick up the pace again!

Like I said, there's no scientific basis for this approach, but I'll give it a try on a long run next week. (Can't do it this weekend because I'll be traveling.) I'll head to Lake Sylvia and try three of these intervals on the actual race course to see how it works. That will make for a 21 mile training run and should give me a good indication of how well this will work.

Until then, I'll keep training and keep updating on how it's going.

Always before, Jesus carried me through everything He led me to, and I'm convinced He'll do it again at the Full mOOn 50K next month!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Daily Message: Rich or Poor, All Who Know Jesus are Blessed ~ 1 Timothy 6:3-10

There are a lot of different things going on in the church today, with quite a few evangelists and even some denominations seeming to abandon biblical teaching. In some cases these folks preach a doctrine that can't be found in the Bible, in others doctrine that's in direct contrast to the Word of God.

Now, I'm not going to condemn these folks as that's not my job. God will judge each of us and decide whether we were true believers or members of that group Jesus mentioned when He said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of Heaven." Personally, though, I consider it my responsibility to point out what my study of the Bible reveals to me as false doctrine.

Today in my study of 1 Timothy, this passage stood out to me as an absolute contradiction of the Prosperity Doctrine, preached by more and more evangelists as time goes on. In a nutshell, they teach that the more money you give to God, the more money God will give to you. If you want a more detailed discussion of the Prosperity doctrine, In Defence of the Gospel has a really good post on it.

" 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. ~ 1 Timothy 6:3-10"
~ 1 Timothy 5:24-25

Paul's instruction to Timothy seems to absolutely refute the idea that God will certainly reward us financially, calling those who teach otherwise "conceited" and says the "understand nothing." They "have been robbed of the truth" and "think that godliness is a means to financial gain."

Paul goes on to explain that believers should be content with whatever God blesses us with. If we have only "food and clothing," we're to be content with that. In his letter to the Philippians, recall that Paul found himself in "in need" and with "plenty," but was content regardless the situation in which he found himself.

You can take a few verses out of context from Jesus and Paul, piece them together, and present a defense of this doctrine that sounds plausible to many, and especially pleasing to the ear. But if you look closely and read those verses in context, you'll see that Jesus doesn't promise us he'll supply us with a home in Beverly Hills, or a Lexus to drive, or caviar for every meal. Each and every one of those verses deals explicitly with needs, yet we tend to translate their meaning to our wants.

Psalm 37:4 says to trust God and He will give you the "desires of your heart." But I saw someone post the true meaning of this on Facebook the other day, and it's different than so many interpret it. The fact is, when we truly trust God, the desires of our heart change from what pleases us to what honors Him. When we're truly devoted to loving and serving Jesus Christ, our heart seeks that which will glorify Him instead of that which will exalt us in the eyes of our peers.

Now, all that said, I don't believe that every rich person is unsaved. You can have money and still serve God. Jesus said it's hard for a rich man to go to Heaven, but He didn't say it was impossible. God may choose to bless you with millions, if doing so is His will and will bring Him glory. But, by the same token, every material thing I have could be taken away today if that's God's will and it's the best way to honor Him.

The simple fact is that when we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we've already been given the greatest gift we can ever receive -- salvation and the promise to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. No amount of money, no pricey car, no material thing can ever top that gift. So not one earthly thing really matters once we've accepted that ultimate gift of salvation.

So hang your hat on that promise of salvation and know that whatever else God blesses you with, whether you're awash in riches or with barely enough to subsist, you are BLESSED!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Daily Message: All in God's Time~ 1 Timothy 5:24-25

How many times have you heard it said, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" So many times it seems people we believe are good and decent suffer when people we consider bad, or even horrible, are rewarded for their misdeeds. It's so hard to understand why life on this earth can seem so unfair.

I've even heard a lot of people use this seeming unfairness of life as an excuse not to believe in God. "How could such a loving God allow [insert observed evil here]?" they ask. They can't reconcile our loving God, full of grace and mercy, and a world with so much suffering.

Then there are those who we see as good, hard-working, decent people on whose shoulders burden after burden seem to fall. "They don't deserve that," we hear over and over. Maybe we even ask, "Why?" ourselves. Where is their reward for doing good, for working hard, for trying to do the right thing?
" 24 The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever." ~ 1 Timothy 5:24-25

Some "good deeds are obvious" the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, and some are not. In other words, there are good people out there, doing good and serving others in a capacity where they are not observed. People are working behind the scenes to do good deeds that we never see in a spotlight. We never read a news story praising them for their service. But Paul promises these good deeds will come to light. Galatians 6:9 promises also that we will be rewarded for our good deeds at the "proper time."

Those rewards may come on this earth or they may not come until we ascend to Heaven, but we are promised they will come. If we do receive rewards here on earth, they won't come until it serves God's purpose that we receive them, until the time when our receiving them serves to glorify Him. But the promise remains. The "cannot remain hidden forever."

The same goes for the evil we so often believe is rewarded rather than punished. Some sins "reach the place of judgment" while the sinner still walks the earth. These are the people we see "get what they deserve" in our eyes. But this passage promises that evil will be punished. Those who are never saved, who go through life committing evil act after evil act, and never seem to suffer for it on this earth will one day pay. Their sins will catch up to them.

It's not our place to determine where, when, and how evil is punished or good is rewarded. And often, as human beings we can't understand God's plan or His timing. But we can have peace, even as we walk through this world that seems so unfair. That peace doesn't require understanding, but faith. Come to a place where you can trust God's Word, His promises that He will reward good and punish evil, and the world doesn't have to make sense to us.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Well, I've gone and done it...Full mOOn 50K here I come

That's right. Even though I've said countless times I'll not run anything longer than a marathon, even though I've said over and over nothing over a half marathon from April to October, I pulled the trigger yesterday on next month's Full mOOn 50K. Why? That's a good question.

My last marathon was mid-March and I've been getting a little antsy. This habit is kind of like drugs I guess...in a good-for-you kind of way though, of course. Most druggies don't start with heroin, but something much softer, like marijuana. Then, over time, the drug just doesn't seem to do enough, it just doesn't give the same high it did in the beginning. Before they know it, they've moved from the "soft" drugs to the hard stuff.

That's kind of the way running is too, I guess. I did my first 5K not long after I turned 40, nothing even close to an impressive time, but I was hooked. I started running and training harder, thinking it was to get my time down. But before long, dreams of finishing a 10K began to crowd out thoughts of the 3.1 mile races. After my first 10K, it didn't take much arm-twisting from a friend to convince me to sign up for my first half-marathon.

After that race, I swore I'd never run a full marathon...NEVER! I crossed the finish line feeling like I'd just gone through a season's worth of practice with an NFL team as a practice dummy. Laying on the ground, nursing whatever snacks and drinks they handed me at the finish, I spent more than an hour trying to fight the cramps that constantly seized my legs, watching my muscles spasm and contort into horrible shapes I'd never seen. All the while, I asked myself, "Why do you do this to yourself?" and swore, "NO MARATHONS FOR ME, EVER!"

But it didn't take long for me to log on and sign up for my second half marathon, six months after the first. Things didn't go quite as bad that time, but I still cramped and promised never to run a longer race. At the same time, I knew I was hooked on the 13.1 mile distance, and knew it wouldn't be long before I signed up for another.

That second half was in October 2010. One year later, I'd run my first full marathon, Marine Corps 2011. The death of Amanda is what pushed me over the edge on that one, that and my really great friend, Jesse, who came to help out after we lost her and challenged me to run it with him. Neither of us had ever run a marathon at the time, but both of us had decided we needed to get back in shape, and he saw in me a desperate need for a goal, something to strive for. It took a couple of weeks for me to accept the challenge, and when I did, another step up (that I swore I'd never take) went down.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." ~ Philippians 4:13

At MCM 2011, that first marathon for me, I literally staggered through the finishers' area after crossing the line and receiving the medal. Jesse and I had run the entire distance together, somewhere in the 5:20 something time frame. I was in a daze, feeling worse than I did after that first half. Somehow, I stayed on my feet until we arrived in the family link-up area. But there I crashed. I laid down in the middle of the street and hoped for a quick death. Jesse told me once he had to check to make sure I hadn't died. You can probably imagine that I told myself I'd never run another while laying there waiting for the Grim Reaper.

Every conscious moment I had while my head lay pressed against the asphalt (I never would have though pavement could make such a great pillow!) I swore to myself NEVER, NEVER, NEVER again! Finally, after what seemed an eternity, but was probably not really more than an hour or so, Janice and Courtney found their way to us and I allowed myself to be roused from the most comfortable street I'd ever slept on. From there, it was a sort of stagger/shuffle to a bus or the Metro (I really can't remember which) for the trip back to the hotel.

I don't even recall if I showered before I hit the bed, but I probably did because the sheets didn't seem nasty later that night. But hit the bed I did and slept the soundest sleep I've ever had for the next three hours. It had to be the best sleep ever, because it transformed me from that near-corpse state described above to an insane man who crawled directly out of bed, walked to the computer, logged on and navigated directly to the Little Rock Marathon website. You can probably surmise what happened next...

If you said, "You pulled out the credit card and registered," you'd be correct! Three hours after my first full marathon nearly killed me, carried me to semi-conscious state in which I swore never to run another, I was signed up for the next one, a mere four months in the future.

Never, ever, say never...

Because I did, over and over and over again. Each of my nevers somehow materialized and I couldn't manage to keep the promises to myself. But I swore again, "26.2 miles is enough! I'll never run an ultra."

I should have seen it coming, maybe talked to a therapist or something. I knew I was getting the bug to run a marathon. I mean, it's been three whole months now without one! The next one I had on my schedule is still more than four months away. I should have known going cold-turkey for eight months would never work. A lack of discipline, a lack of will power, a lack of something just wouldn't let me stick with 5Ks and 10Ks and half marathons.

So yesterday, I was overcome with an irresistible urge to race...something longer than 30 minutes, something longer than an hour, something longer...and I fell off the wagon. There were no close by marathons coming up to quench my thirst, but there was a race, only 60 or so miles from home too. Even when I logged into the website, I tried to fight back the urge. I tried to resist. I tried. I tried. I failed...

And now, on July 20th, I'll line up and step off and break the promise I made to myself so many times. I'll cross the starting line at the Full mOOn 50K with 31 miles to go before the finish line. Less than a month from today, I'll compete in my first official ultra-marathon, 50 kilometers, 31 miles, of pounding the dirt and gravel forest service roads in the Ouachita National Forest.

Is this God's will for me, to run a 50K in July? It could be that God had this planned for me all along and that I lacked the faith to go for it. Or, it could be me that wanted to do this and it was His will that I hold back. All I know is the urge to race never ceased, never let up. Now it's time to find out. His will or mine?
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." ~ Hebrews 12:2

Like always, it won't be my strength or my ability or my desire that gets me through this race. It's all up to the Lord, Jesus Christ. If He wants me to cross that finish line, I'll cross it. If He decides the marathon is far enough to accomplish His will and glorify Him, then I won't. The only way I've found to distinguish between God's will and mine is to try.

So next month I'll get to test and approve whether or not this is God's will for me. Whatever happens, whether I finish strong or get carried off, I hope and pray that God is glorified.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Daily Message: It's not just about us ~ 1 Timothy 4:16

I've written before that I spent years as what I call a John 3:16 Christian, one who walked down the aisle, professed belief in Christ, was baptized, then proceeded to go out and live life like I always had. For so many years afterward, people would not have looked at me and identified me as a Christian. I viewed my salvation as exactly that, mine. It was all about me and once I walked down the aisle and got dunked in the water, I had my ticket to Heaven and nothing else mattered. But I was wrong.
"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." ~ 1 Timothy 4:16

Because it does matter how we live, how we walk, once we're saved. I didn't realize it then, because my reading of the Bible started with John 3:16 and ended with John 3:16. I thought that was all I needed, my ticket to Heaven. But I realize now, that verse isn't enough. At least it's not enough the way I interpreted it.

You see, I didn't read more to know that James said belief, as I defined it, the way I understood it, wasn't enough. As he pointed out, even Satan believes, but he's certainly not spending eternity in Heaven. What I didn't understand then was that belief, a true belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Gospel, and God's plan of salvation, is more than just standing before a crowd, saying a few words, and getting wet.

Because if we truly believe all the Bible says that Jesus was and did, it MUST change us! Once we truly accept that God loved us SO MUCH that He sent His Son to suffer and die, to take all the burden of our sins on His shoulders, we have to change. We have to want to reciprocate, to love Him like He loves us, to honor and glorify Him.

Once we truly believe and really place our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, it's not so much about us anymore. We'll want to please Him. We'll want to do what's right because it's right, because it glorifies Him. We won't be perfect. We can't be perfect. If we could, there would have been no need for God to send Jesus. But once we're saved, we'll WANT to be perfect. And that's why I believe now that I wasn't really saved at 13 when I checked all the boxes on the list the Baptist Church said I had to check to become saved.

Now don't misunderstand me. This transformation doesn't take place overnight, and it might not take place without some interruptions that take up some significant time, maybe even years of straying from what's right. But there should be a real desire to change that eats at us all the time when we're not on the right path if we're true believers in all that Jesus is and did for us. Satan's going to work to knock us off the straight and narrow path. He'll work and work and work to lead us astray.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us to always be wary, because Satan is never far away and always seeking opportunities to "devour" us. But it's not just us he's after, it's also all those people watching us, looking up to us, and using us for an example. A good example, or a bad example. An excuse to turn to Christ, or an excuse to turn away.

In the verse above, Paul tells Timothy to persevere in the faith, to always strive to do what he knows is right, even when it's not the easy choice to make, even if it's not popular, or even if it causes some temporary inconvenience. We're to persevere, not just to save our own selves, but our "hearers." Those people watching us, especially those who don't yet know Christ as their Savior, need to see Him in us.

It's not only about us that we make the right choices, that we do what's right even when it's hard. It's also about being a good example, a lantern through which the light of Jesus Christ can shine to lead others to Him. So persevere in the faith. Read, study, learn and grow. Make yourself that lamp through which Jesus Christ can shine!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

What meth will do to you...

I've never understood the draw for people who do meth. I mean, the initial attraction makes absolutely no sense to me. I've seen what it does to people, seen people wreck their whole lives, lose everything. It's like a demon that grabs hold and won't let go. But still, people try it, and the demon claims another victim.

This morning I got on Facebook and saw a link to a post with 45 pictures, before and after pictures of people, real people who fell to the demon. I'm posting only a couple of those pictures here, but you can click here to see the original post and look at all of these victims.

Angelic, 31 years old



Angelic, 3 years later




"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." ~ 1 Peter 5:8

If you're ever tempted to try this awful concoction that devours its victims, think about these pictures, all of them. The change you see in these people is the change others will see in you if you don't stay alert and avoid this tool Satan uses to destroy!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Daily Message: Don't be deceived ~ 1 Timothy 4:1

Like so many times before, the Good Lord led me to scripture applicable in so many ways. Today's message from 1 Timothy hit home in describing things going on today in our culture, in the running community, and even in many churches. It's absolutely amazing how the Word of God, handed down 2000 years ago, can apply itself in virtually every aspect of our lives today.

Yesterday, on the Marathon Maniacs Facebook page, there was a thread that turned pretty heated discussing "banditting" a race. That's the practice of running a race without being entered. People do it for a variety of reasons -- the registration cap for a race was reached and they couldn't get in, they can't afford the registration fee, sometimes they have no plans to run but get caught up in the race euphoria and jump in on the spur of the moment. I'm sure some do it for other reasons too, but it doesn't matter what the excuse, it's considered bad running etiquette.

Most serious runners frown on the practice. It's specifically addressed in the rules of the Marathon Maniac club that running a race as a bandit will not count for your stats toward your star level. Most race directors promise to ban from future races they put on anyone caught running without being registered. Though some view it as harmless, there are legitimate reasons it's against the rules in most races. I won't go into them here, but will be happy to answer anyone's questions about the reasons in the comments or via email.

The thread yesterday ended up an argument between those who respect the sport enough to follow its rules, and those who believe the rules shouldn't matter if they don't feel like following them. And that's where today's message fits, even in a selective community of dedicated runners, we get a few who refuse to play by the rules.
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." ~ 1 Timothy 4:1

Paul warned Timothy that such times would come, even in the church, a time when people would stray from the faith, refusing to do what's right, led astray by those who make up their own rules. We see it in some of today's "churches" that are abandoning Biblical principles in an effort to "change with the times." Some of these churches have decided the Bible doesn't really mean what it says, or that it isn't really the Word of God. This is how they justify decisions to abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits. Even worse, is they are leading others away.

I won't name specific churches here, but encourage all to read the Bible for themselves and decide whether or not the church you attend follows the Bible, the teachings of Christ. Paul warned of false teachers, deceiving spirits, and believers being led away.

Be watchful. Be wary. And don't be deceived.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Daily Message: The Fundamental Truth ~ 1 Timothy 3:16

Today's message is simple, quite simple, yet the fundamental truth. We serve a great and mighty God who paid the ultimate price so that we might all be free. It's the cornerstone of our faith. Without accepting that as fact, nothing else matters and all hope is lost. But once you believe it, once you accept this ultimate truth, that's when you can have real peace and real freedom!

""Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory."" ~ 1 Timothy 3:16

Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, came to earth as a man, lived a perfect life, and died a horrible death. And, in His few years walking through this world, He made an impact that no other man could have. Through His humble life, He taught and led His followers by His example of a sinless life.

He began with 12 men who followed as He taught, and His message spread across the entire world. 2000 years later, He is worshiped and recognized as Savior to millions. How could the son of a carpenter make such a mark on the world in a life that spanned little more than three decades?

The answer is simple, yet so hard for many to accept. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, sent by the Father as a sacrifice for our sin, so that we might all have an opportunity to join Him in Heaven for eternity!

I hope and pray that all who read this have made the decision to follow Him, or will make that decision before it's too late. God bless!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Daily Message: Salvation for ALL who accept it ~ 1 Timothy 2:3-6

I've seen several people posting about predestination lately, stating basically that God chose who would be saved and who wouldn't from the beginning. The way I understand their position, they believe that only a select few, chosen by God from the beginning of time, have the opportunity to accept the salvation offered through God's own sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Though I understand that a few select verses in the New Testament can be quoted to support this position (Romans chapters 8 and 9 specifically), I get a completely different picture when I read them in context. Specifically, these verses speak to me of who will suffer in this life, on this earth, in order that God may be glorified. I don't read these verses and see that some are doomed to Hell by God's choice.

Today my study was centered on 1 Timothy, chapter 2 and the passage that jumped out at me is just one of many I read in the New Testament that support my belief that salvation through Jesus Christ is available to ALL who choose to accept Him as their Lord and Savior.
" 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time." ~ 1 Timothy 2:3-6

I don't believe it can be stated more succinctly, more obviously, that God wants ALL people to receive salvation. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live, suffer, and die so that ALL have the opportunity, through His mercy and grace, to have their names written in the Lamb's book of life.

I believe wholeheartedly, that salvation is ours for the asking, if we confess our sins, acknowledge Jesus is the Son of God, and hand our hearts over to Him. I believe it's clearly stated in this passage and others, and that the verses used to argue that some are denied even the opportunity to receive salvation are taken out of context.

Jesus Christ died for ALL our sins, so that we can ALL receive eternal life through His sacrifice. If you don't have the peace that comes from that precious gift, get it today. Click the link below and follow the steps God laid out to assure yourself a place in Heaven, an eternal life free from pain, suffering, worry, and trouble.

God gave His Son so that we might be free, each and every one of us.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Daily Message: Blessed We Are, No Matter What ~ 1 Timothy 1:14

An old friend called me this afternoon, whom I haven't heard from in a long time. In fact, since I lost all my contacts when my phone was destroyed a few months ago, I didn't have a way to contact him. But we talked for the better part of an hour, catching up and reminiscing. He was in great spirits and that impressed me.

That's because he's really ill, has been for more than two years. In fact, when we first learned he was sick, I doubted he'd make it this long. The last time I talked to him things didn't look good and he was pretty down about everything. Even this time, he was just released from the hospital after going under the knife yet again. Still, he was in great spirits.
"The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." ~ 1 Timothy 1:14

This verse brought to mind something we both agreed on in our conversation...that no matter how bad things get, there's always someone who has things worse. If we're willing to look around, even in the most dire of situations, we'll see someone in a worse predicament. And that's what we need to look for, to look at, and look to, that no matter what, regardless what situation we find ourselves in, there are people around us in a tighter spot.

And that means we are blessed. Even when things don't go our way, even when things all seem to be going wrong, even when things seem like they couldn't get any worse, we are blessed. God's grace is poured out on us ABUNDANTLY. It's a gift that comes with faith in Christ Jesus by His love for us.

So when you find yourself down, discouraged, or distraught, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and smile, because you are a child of the One True King, Jesus Christ!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sometimes, a little rest can work wonders!

Last week was TOUGH! It was so tough, I was dreading the thought of running through the summer. It started with the highest heat/humidity combination of the year on Monday and didn't let up all week.

My Monday and Tuesday runs went well, and I still felt good when I got through them. But things began to fall apart on Wednesday. I managed 5.5 miles, running and walking the last 2, and that was all I had in me. I was hoping things would turn around on Thursday but they didn't, and Friday wasn't much better. By the time it was over, I was glad we were leaving early Saturday morning for the 1000 mile drive to North Carolina, because that meant I didn't have to run!

If you've been reading here a while, you know that's strange for me. I like to run. Really, I LOVE to run. But by the end of last weak, I was so drained it was the last thing I wanted to do. So I decided to take 2 days in a row off. The driving day Saturday and the day after were going to be rest days.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." ~ Matthew 11:28

I took those two days off, and felt like a slug the whole time. I felt like I needed to lace up and hit the road, but visions of those last runs of last week kept popping into my head and helped convince me to rein in. And now I'm glad I did!

Yesterday and today I managed two good 6 mile runs. Nothing spectacular, mind you, but good solid runs nonetheless. And I still feel great! I even felt good enough after the first mile today to pick up the pace and make a 3 mile tempo run before slowing back down for the final two miles.

Sometimes keeping our running shoes in the closet for a day is the hardest thing in the world to do. But sometimes it's the absolute best thing to do too!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Daily Message: Draw strength and protection from Jesus Christ ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Sometimes it seems like trouble's all around us. The old saying, "When it rains, it pours," comes to mind thinking of the hardships endured by our community this week. A mom and dad killed in an accident on Saturday, and a young man killed in a motorcycle accident over the weekend too. So much loss in so short a time, leaving behind so many grieving survivors.

We all find ourselves facing hard times once in a while, some harder than others, but all of us have a share of difficulties we deal with in our lives. But when they come in waves like this, it just seems different, harder to understand.

Some point to tragedies like these and question God. Some use them as excuses to deny the existence of God. "How could a loving God let something like this happen?" they say. But the answers to these questions are right there along with the answers to every question about life, right there in the Word of God.

God is incapable of evil. We're told this in the book of James. In fact, James went further and said God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. It's Satan who perpetrates evil in the world today, but it's Jesus Christ who offers us everything we need to stand up, stand firm, and face down the devil, regardless what evil he throws in our path.
"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one." ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Yes! The Lord is faithful and He does provide strength and protection. That doesn't mean we'll never suffer. In fact, John 16:33 promises us we will suffer as long as we walk this earth. But I don't believe it's God's will we suffer, and I don't believe God inflicts us with that suffering.

Satan is the one who wants us to suffer, and I believe it is he who causes so much grief and creates so much strife here on earth. He's constantly trying to get us to turn from God, or to stop us from ever turning to Christ in the first place. I remember a church sign I passed for several weeks on the way to work that read, "When Christians serve, Satan attacks."

We have to remember that, even in the face of unimaginable trials and tribulation. It's not God striking us, but the evil one. And we also have to remember, always, even when our troubles seem insurmountable, that Jesus Christ is faithful, that He will strengthen us, and that He will protect us!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Wishing everyone the best possible Father's Day today. It's a special day for most dads and kids, but it's tough for some too. Those kids who've lost a father and those fathers who've lost a kid can have it really rough today.

This is my third Father's Day without Amanda and I'm going to be okay today. They don't get easy, but they do get a little easier each year. I know that's not the case for some. I know that everyone is different, and everyone grieves differently, but I can tell you why it's getting easier for me. In fact, it's the same reason I have made it this far, and the same reason I'll be able to keep going until Jesus calls me home.

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." ~ Psalm 34:18

Jesus is the reason.

His promise that I will see Amanda again, and that I will spend eternity with her in a place with no tears, no suffering, no pain, and no more death, is the reason I can keep going. One day, I'll join her in Heaven and wrap my arms around her again. That's what keeps me going.

Just last night I learned that a dear friend, a young man who graduated from Vilonia High School, who works with the youth group at our church, and who one day took Amanda on a date, lost his mother in a car wreck, and may well lose his father from the same accident. Another friend called to give me the news. She also told me what this young man said when he heard the news. "My parents both know the Lord."

Their faith offers him the same promise Amanda's faith offered me, that we will one day see them again. Even in the face of such tragic news, in the immediate aftermath, he was able to lean on that promise to find peace. If you don't have that peace, if you don't know Jesus, the Heavenly Father, you can. You can have that same peace, receive that same promise that gives us strength in impossible circumstances.

The link below gives step by step directions to accept the gift of salvation, eternal life with Jesus and everyone else who knows Him. If you haven't accepted Christ as your Savior, accept His gift and find that peace. If your father doesn't know Jesus, share this message with Him.

I wish all a happy Father's Day and hope you all enjoy the peace that comes from knowing the Heavenly Father.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Friday, June 14, 2013

How long 'til September?

This has been a tough week for running! Heat and humidity descended on us with a vengeance, and running this week has been more something to endure than to enjoy.

I made it through Monday and Tuesday's workouts okay. They were tough but I still felt pretty good after finishing the 5 and 6 mile runs, respectively. Then came Wednesday and things began to turn.

It was speed work day at cross country practice. Now I've already decided not to try and keep up with the kids on speed workouts this year. The 40 pounds and nearly 30 years I have on them slows me down and I have to face that. But I usually do run some with them on speed work days, to encourage and to critique, and just so they'll know I'm out there suffering some too. To compensate for the reduced mileage, I ran 2 easy miles before practice and that proved to be a mistake. Before I had two more miles with the kids, I knew things were going to turn bad. I managed to run/walk a total of 3.5 miles with them, but I was getting overheated and knew better than to keep pushing.

Thursday was just as hot and humid and really tough too. I only managed 4 miles and walked some with struggling kids too. Today it was a little cooler and a little less humid. Still, I only got through 3.5 before I had to take a walk break, then managed to run/walk another 1.5 miles to make a total of only 5 for the day.

It seems tougher than it should be right now, and it's kind of discouraging. It just seems like a 5 mile run ought to be easier than it was today. I've been hydrating, taking salt and potassium supplements, drinking Gatorade and electrolytes. You'd think that would be enough to replenish everything I sweat out from day to day, but it's still just tough to get through every run.
" 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." ~ James 1:2-3

But there's a silver lining behind this string of bad runs. It might not arrive for a few months yet, but come it will. I know from the past, and I've been telling the kids (especially those who are struggling), if we persevere through this awful weather, they'll be shocked how fast and how far they'll run when cooler temps arrive.

It's hard to consider it joy when you're running through the sultry air and under the blistering sun in temps nearing 900, but if we can make it through this trying time, these trials, it will produce perseverance and endurance that we'll enjoy this fall.

It's doubtful we'll have much reprieve until September, so right now we're looking at 3 more months or so of this kind of running. We'll do the best we can and get in all the miles we can. Then, when this summer comes to an end and cool fronts sweep down on us in the fall, we'll reap the benefits of all we suffered this summer.

Until then, I'll continue to lean on Jesus, counting on Him to let me know when I can keep going and when I need to stop.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Daily Message: Trust in God because He is just ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7

Sometimes life seems terribly unfair. Good people seem to suffer and bad people seem to be blessed. It can be downright discouraging at times, and I think a lot of people see things like this and use them as excuses to not believe in a loving, just, and righteous God.

But I believe in the old saying, "What comes around, goes around." That implies that those who do bad things will suffer the consequences of their actions. I've seen it happen in many times, in lots of different situations. Sometimes it happens quickly. Sometimes it takes years for people to pay for the wrongs they commit.

But our job as Christians is to do what we know is right, in all situations to make every effort to do God's will. To our friends and our enemies, our family and people we only meet in passing, we're to treat them right and well.
" 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels." ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7

We have to trust God to exact justice, in any and all situations. Not long after Amanda's killer went to prison, I received a call from my sister telling me he was being moved to a drug rehab facility that puts most inmates there into work release programs. I couldn't understand why he wasn't serving hard time for killing my daughter.

I chose not to interfere, not to become involved, because I knew our justice system gives little credence to desires and opinions of victims once the perpetrator is in prison. I had to trust God to provide justice because I could drive myself crazy trying to fight the system.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I heard he got himself in trouble and was transferred back to a regular prison. God did deliver, and saw to it that Amanda's killer will pay for his crime. And I know also, that when Jesus Christ returns, I will be reunited with my beautiful daughter too. I'll get relief from the suffering of losing her then.

Our God is a just God, and if we make every effort to do His will, we can take comfort in knowing that He will comfort us and punish those who deserve it. So trust in God and know that He will prevail and He will make all things right in His time.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Daily Message: Step into the light and be happy ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:7-9

I can remember when I was younger thinking that following Christ would mean a life deprived of fun, following a list of rules that would make life boring and dull. That's why I spent so many years chasing worldly visions of fun and pursuing passions with no eternal value.

I used to think I couldn't have fun, couldn't enjoy life, unless I was indulging in those earthly pleasures. I had no idea that the absolute easiest way to enjoy life is to hand it over to Jesus Christ. It hasn't kept hardships at bay, but even in the face of the most difficult trials, I've learned that I can love life without all those distractions that kept me from seeking Jesus for so long.

" 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:7-9

For all those years, I was the one Paul spoke of here, the one who was asleep, seeking pleasure and satisfaction from the world. The things I thought were fun then, were things to be ashamed of now, things you had to hide from reputable persons, or like the old saying goes, not things you'd go home and mention to your mother.

But now things are different. I don't need those old distractions to enjoy life anymore, and the things I do for fun and pleasure aren't things I have to hide from anyone. Serving God is fun and enjoyable, more satisfying than any of those other habits I hoped would make me happy.

So if you find yourself discouraged, distracted, and dismayed pursuing the passions of the world, it's time you turned to Jesus Christ. In Him lies true freedom, and a life filled with joy. So strap on faith in and love of Jesus as your armor, and the hope of salvation as a helmet, and learn what life can be, what it was meant to be.

Turn to Jesus and set yourself free!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Daily Message: Hope for the hopeless ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

There's not much, if anything, that can result in a sense of absolute hopelessness like losing someone close to us, someone we love. When we got the news that Amanda had been killed, we were devastated, and I reached that point...hopeless.

I was fortunate though, fortunate that I reached for the Bible and not a bottle, or something stronger. I began reading, not to learn why my daughter was killed, but to learn how I could go on, how I could restore the hope I needed to continue living. One thing I'd always heard was that we would see our Christian loved ones again in Heaven, but I'd never actually read it in the Bible. I knew I had to read it for myself. I had to see it in black and white. I had to read it with my own eyes.

It took a while, but I did find God's promise in the Bible, the promise that we will be reunited with our Christian loved ones when we get to Heaven.
" 13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words." ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

There it is. This passage is that promise. When Christ returns, He will bring them with Him. I will see my beautiful daughter again, and all my Christian family and friends too, in Heaven and for eternity.

I found plenty of other verses that helped me continue, but this was the most pointed that struck directly to my situation. Other verses offer hope in other situations that work to bring us down too, so many I can't address them in this single post.

But today I pray that all who read this post will see there is no need to give up when life's troubles deprive you of hope. Go to the source of hope in times of trouble, the Bible, the Word of God. God, through His Word, will bring you the hope you need to go on, but you have to seek it.

So when you begin to feel hopeless, reach for the Truth that sets you free from the bondage of this world's trials.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Daily Message: Live as a witness ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

For years I claimed to be a Christian, but didn't make any effort to emulate Christ in my daily life. At 13 years of age, I walked down the aisle at church, told the preacher what he wanted to hear, was baptized and thought, "Whew! Got my ticket to Heaven." Then I proceeded to live and act like anything but a Christian. In fact, most would have never used my name and the word Christian in the same sentence. I won't go into details here, but suffice it to say that I lived this way for 20 years or so before I realized there was more to being saved than saying a few words and getting dunked in water. I was at a particularly tough time in life and couldn't seem to understand why. I tried to do right by others, worked hard, and tried to be an overall good person, but nothing seemed to be going my way. That was when I realized I'd never really given myself over to God.

That was about 10 years ago, and it's taken me that long to get from where I was to where I am. The transformation from the then me to the now me wasn't instantaneous, and I know I still have a long way to go. I hope and pray I keep growing as a Christian for the rest of my life. Not one of us is perfect, nor will we ever be, so there is plenty of room for me to improve.

But one thing I've learned is that we should strive every day to be sure that others see Christ's light shine through us.
" 9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

We are called to love all people, even those who don't reciprocate. We're also called to work hard, to be productive, and to be independent so that others will respect us and not resent us. And finally in this passage, Paul tells us to "lead a quiet life." We're not to stand on mountains, pound our chest, and draw attention to ourselves.

If we strive to live this life we're called to, as a lantern through which Christ's light shines, we'll draw attention to Him. That should be our goal, to be a living witness of the hope, peace, and love that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Summer's Back!

"You do leave wet footprints," said one of my running friends this morning as we trudged up the big hill on our normal Tuesday morning route.

It's that time of year again, when folks following me could almost paddle a canoe in the river of sweat that streams from my body. Once the nightly low temperature fails to fall below 700 and the humidity hovers near 90%, I shed sweat by the gallon. That's how it was today, and that means summer's back.

It's the time of year when heat cramps are the norm after long runs and walk breaks are incorporated into most all runs. It's when the pace slows and it's still a struggle to keep going and get in the miles. It's the season when I drink almost nothing but water and Gatorade, all day long, gallons of the stuff, and still sweat more than I consume.

It's summer, and it's tough running. But still we keep going.
" 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope." ~ Romans 5:3-4

But they say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and I'm not dead yet. And one thing I know, every year when I've continued to run through the heat and humidity of the summer, I'm surprised how far and how fast and how easily I can run when the temps drop in the fall.

So the suffering we endure this summer, in this wretched weather from now until August, will yield results if we keep going, if we persevere. We'll be stronger and faster, and better able to keep going, not just on the road, but in every aspect of life.

So stay safe but run strong my friends, and know that the hot and humid misery we suffer through in these months is temporary and will yield to the sweet, cool, crisp air of fall. Perseverance, character and hope, that's what you're building as you suffer through the summer.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Daily Message: Draw strength from the fruit of your labor ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:7-9

All of us fall on hard times. Christians, agnostics, atheists, and those of other faiths, all encounter trouble and have their share of woes to get through. For years, I thought if I lived right, did enough good, or tried really hard to find and follow the will of God, that my life would become easier, that my path through life would become easier.

I was wrong.

A church I drive past every day on the way to work once read, "When Christians serve, Satan attacks." I believe that. Jesus basically told us the exact same thing in John 16:33, when He said, will ALL have trouble in this life. In other Bible verses, we're told to expect to be persecuted for serving the Lord. The word of God is literally filled with promises that we won't find life on this earth to be easy, regardless how hard we work to serve or how hard we try to be righteous.

That doesn't mean our service to the Lord is pointless. In fact, today's passage reminds us we can draw strength from the fruits of our labor, even during our own darkest hours.
" 7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?" ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:7-9

Paul's previous work with the Thessalonians had delivered results. Their faith was obvious and they were actively striving to live lives pleasing to God. Their faith and their strength in the Lord were fruits of the labor of Paul and his helpers.

When Paul was suffering, distressed, and persecuted, the news of his impact on the Thessalonians encouraged him. Rather than wallow in self pity, rather than resenting God for not making his life easy, rather than quitting his ministry when things got tough, Paul looked to the Thessalonians and saw the result of God working through him. He realized that God was accomplishing great things through his service.

Paul could look to these followers of Christ who originally heard the message from him, and see that God's light was shining through him. The message of Jesus Christ was being carried around the world through him and through those reached through him.

And when most would have expected him to faint, to falter, to fail, his strength was renewed and he endured the suffering, the persecution, and continued to serve.

We should all work to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. All of us will find ourselves struggling at times. And when we think we can't go on, we'll be able to look back and see all that God accomplished through us. From that, we'll find the strength to endure, to go on.

So work hard at God's will. Share the Gospel and help lead others to Christ. Let Jesus work through you so He will be glorified and you will draw strength in troubled times.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A surprisingly pleasant summer long run

Summer running in Arkansas isn't always pleasant. When the humidity's approaching 100% and the low temps at night don't fall below 700 very often, the weather serves to sap your strength and endurance. I usually make it through my daily 6 mile runs without completely depleting myself, but longer runs will do me in almost every single time in the Arkansas summer.

So Saturday was a pleasant surprise! I knew when I did my 6 mile run on Friday that a long run was in order the next morning. That's because on Friday, the humidity was down and the temperature was in the mid 60s when I began. The entire run felt great so I started planning Saturday's 13 mile run.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." ~ James 1:17

For the month of June, Saturday's weather was most certainly a good and perfect gift to us runners, and I am extremely grateful to God for it. Though running in the heat and humidity certainly has its benefits (namely that when fall comes running twice as many miles seems easy comparatively), pleasant conditions and feeling good on a run is a nice break from the normal summer running experience.

We didn't push ourselves too hard and finished the 13 miles in 2 hours and 22 minutes. While that time might disappoint me if I was racing a half marathon, I was pleased with the effort in June, when I rarely run more than 10 miles on a long run day. That time included walk breaks, water stops, and bathroom breaks as well. So, for a June long run in Arkansas, this was a great day!

Thank you Jesus for Saturday's good and perfect gift of beautiful weather, a great run, and the great folks who accompanied me on the road!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Daily Message: Let the Word of God work in you ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:13

I hear so many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, who try to explain away parts of the Bible they disagree with by claiming it's a "book written by man." The problem with this, of course, is that when you take the verses you don't agree with and say they mean nothing, and I take the verses that aren't palatable to me and claim they don't apply, and others do the same, before long there's just not much left and the Bible loses all its authority as the Word of God.

When Amanda was killed, one of the first things I did was pick up the Bible and start reading. I reached for it and read it, looking for answers. I wasn't looking for the Bible to tell me why she was killed, but how to keep living in the wake of losing my precious daughter. I didn't turn to the works of the Greek philosophers, or the enlightenment authors, or the contemporary inspirational authors, because I knew the words of individual men and women would do me no good at a time like that.

I needed answers from the ultimate authority...from God Himself. And that's why I turned to the Bible.
"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe." ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:13

So many times before I'd read, or tried to read, the Bible and found myself struggling to continue because I just couldn't seem to understand what I read. Most of those times, I wasn't reading looking for answers. Several times when I was younger, at points in my life when things just weren't working out like I thought they should, I picked up the Bible and read, thinking that God might reward me and straighten out the things I couldn't get to work the way I wanted. I picked up the Bible more because I thought it would please God and He would subsequently do things I wanted done in return.

And all those times, I never really got much out of reading the Bible. Looking back now, I believe it's because I wasn't looking at it as a guidebook, but more as a work on a reading list to be checked off. In short, I wasn't treating it like the true, unadulterated word of God, to be studied, learned, and lived.

Things changed when Amanda was killed. It amazed me how much I understood and how relevant verses seemed to leap from the pages when I read. After losing her, I NEEDED the Bible to be a guidebook, a how-to manual to tell me how to keep going and survive my tragic loss. For the first time, I wasn't picking up the Bible to persuade God to do things my way. I picked it up looking for God to SHOW me the way.

Jesus Christ saved me from despair. He lifted me up from the darkest pit, placed me on solid ground, and showed me the direction I needed to go. I firmly believe that finally giving the Bible the respect it deserves, opening myself up to see it as the actual Word of God, and to treat it as such, was a necessary step for me to finally hand my life over to Christ, 100% hand it over and let Him have it to use as He sees fit.

Therefore, I urge all of you to not fall prey to the modern day assumption that only parts of the Bible are true, or apply in today's society. There is a peace that passes all understanding, the promise of eternity with no suffering, no pain, and no tears, and more contained in the pages from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation. The Bible--love it, learn it, live it and all that can be yours.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Let's Get Back on the Fundraising Track!

I got busy this spring with school and sort of let things slide here for a while. While I took up the Insanity program and the school year wound down, I got away from running, away from posting here, and away from raising money. Yep. Away from raising money.

A big part of our mission here is to raise money for children's charities. Specifically, we raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch. This year, we set a goal to raise $2500 for each of these charities. We're almost halfway through the year, and we're nowhere near halfway to that goal.

So far this year, we've raised $1,052.98 for St. Jude, $800 for Arkansas Children's Hospital, and $825 for Soaring Wings. So we've still got a long way to go to reach our goal.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." ~ Galatians 6:9

You can help us get closer.

We're going to keep running, racing for all the reasons set forth in our mission statement: to raise money for these charities, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, to raise awareness of the dangers of teen substance abuse, and to honor the memory of our beautiful Amanda.

We'll keep running and donating our part to these charities, but we can't reach our goal without your help. So please, donate what you can to one or more of the three charities listed above. You can click the links in this post, or in the sidebar of this website. If you can give $100, $50, $25, or even $10, please do.

We've reached or exceeded the goals we set for these charities the past two years, and we hope to do likewise this year. But we need your help. So please give what you can today. And remember, we don't take a dime of your money. In fact, it never passes through our hands!

Thanks in advance and God Bless you too!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Daily Message: What we all should strive for...1 Thessalonians 1:8-10

For most of my life, Christian is not a word that would have come to the minds of most if they were describing me. I did a lot of things I'm not proud of, and a lot of things that likely did more to lead others away from Christ than to Him. These days, I try to be different. I know I'll never be perfect, but I hope the old me is buried for good.

In Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, he praised them for their faith and the way they lived it out. These believers so lived their faith that all the world recognized them as true believers. Their trust in Jesus Christ was obvious to everyone who came in contact, and so obvious, it was spoken about to everyone else.
" 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10

This is what we should all strive for, and I say that knowing I have not reached this level yet. The old me does rear its ugly head from time to time, and there are times when people observing me might not see evidence of my faith. But the Thessalonians set the bar, the bar that should be my goal and the goal of each and every one of us who place our faith in Jesus Christ.

I don't know if I'll ever reach the level of living out my faith that the Thessalonians did, but I know I have to try.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Daily Message: Pray, Pray, Pray...No Matter What Pray ~ Colossians 4:2

There are times we just want to give up, times when things seem so bad they threaten to break our spirit. Tragedy falls on every head, some more difficult to bear than others. Most of us, at some point in our lives have felt this way, that there just seems no point to life itself. There are just times that it seems not worth the trouble to keep fighting.

We certainly felt that way when Amanda was killed. I know I felt like I'd failed at the most important job ever assigned to me...to protect my child. I wasn't there to protect her when she needed protection the most. I'd done everything I knew how to do to protect her, and still she died. It felt like there was no point in trying any more.

Because I didn't know what else to do, I prayed. I prayed for guidance. I prayed for strength. I prayed for some sense of purpose that could overcome the extreme guilt and hopelessness I felt. And God answered.
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." ~ Colossians 4:2

I've heard it said that we never realize God is all we need until we find ourselves where He is all we have. Well, it may not take that for everyone to realize it, but it did me.

It wasn't that I didn't have anyone else when Amanda died. I had friends and family who did all they could to make the unbearable something we could survive. But no matter what they did to help, the overwhelming sense of hopelessness remained. The wound was one that could not be healed, and only an omnipotent, omnipresent God could help me survive it.

My prayers were answered and Jesus Christ gave me the strength to survive, a mission that gave me reasons to keep going, and the guidance to accomplish that mission. At the same time, He showed me that much remained in my life to be thankful for. And I realized that Satan is always looking to use such crises to take me down, something to always be wary of.

So devote yourselves to prayer, in good times and bad. Know that the devil roams the earth looking for any opportunity to destroy us and turn us from God. And always, regardless of the circumstances, remember you have much to be thankful for. No matter what hardships fall upon your head, we always know that Jesus Christ died so that we might enjoy eternal life.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.