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, July 24, 2013

Daily Message: It's Not Easy, but It's So Worth It ~ Hebrews 8:12

The mercy and grace God blesses us with is sometimes unbelievable. Not long ago, while talking to a friend struggling with faith, I was told that he just couldn't believe God's salvation could come so "easy." I quickly informed him there was nothing "easy" about it.

I told him it's not "easy" to truly believe the perfect and sinless Son of God was born of a virgin, lived a life without sin, was crucified by men, died and was buried, then rose again from the grave and ascended to Heaven to pave the way for us to follow. There's an old saying that fits well here. "If it was easy, everyone would be doing it." But think about all the people who refuse to believe.

With about as much digging as it takes to find a grain of sand in the Sahara, one can read libraries full of vitriolic rhetoric dedicated to destroying all things Christian. These folks aren't just unbelievers, they're activists working constantly to prevent others from believing, and to turn weak believers away from Christ. It's more difficult to find a stray cat in an alley than it is to locate a Christ-hater in today's society.

Others, like my friend, aren't activists, but find themselves doubting God could look past all the "bad" things they've done and permit them to enter the pearly gates of Heaven. In their minds, the price seems way too low to repay the wrongs they've committed. And that's what makes it really difficult to truly and completely believe the Gospel.
"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." ~ Hebrews 8:12

But God's Word promises us forgiveness and states He will completely forget our sins, just like they never happened. All He requires of us is true faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, who lived, taught, and died so that we might all have an opportunity to live. One thing He doesn't promise us though, is that it will be "easy."

There are several reasons I say that being a Christian isn't "easy." The first is that true and complete faith is more than just walking down the aisle at church, mouthing the right words to the preacher, and getting dunked in the water. True and complete faith isn't present when, before the water from the baptistry dries from our skin, we're out the church doors and returning to the same sinful lifestyle as before. This doesn't mean we'll never sin again when we're truly saved. We certainly will, due to our sinful human nature. But once one truly and completely accepts Jesus Christ as Savior, once you truly believe the Gospel story, and once you truly realize the sacrifice He made for you and for me, you WILL want to change. You WILL want to serve him. And you WILL NOT want to return to your prior sinful lifestyle!

Reaching that point is not easy, not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it's really quite difficult. It's hard because it means turning away from what we're accustomed to. It means avoiding things we considered fun. It means losing friends from that prior life who don't want to accompany us on our ride through life with Christ. It means trials, tribulations, and persecution. All these hardships are promised to us in the New Testament. No, reaching that point is not "easy," but the reward is great, and it is real.

That reward is an eternity spent with Jesus Himself, in a place with no tears, no death, no pain, and no suffering. That's what comes with the forgiveness and the forgetting of our sins before we believed, eternity in Heaven with our Savior. It's not easy, but it's so, so worth it.

If you haven't already, take another look at the promises of Jesus Christ, and think about the promises in today's scripture too. Forgiveness, forgetfulness, and acceptance, of you and of me, and eternity with Jesus in Heaven. It's not easy. It's hard. But once you take the plunge and truly and completely believe, you'll never regret it.

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, July 23, 2013

D.N.F. at the Full mOOn 50K...

My first DNF ever, but I'm okay with that. If I had to describe the race in one word, I'd have to choose to call it brutal. The heat, humidity, and especially the HILLS proved more than I could handle for 31 miles. So, at mile 23.25, just after 2 AM, I told the volunteers at the aid station that I was done.

For those non-runners reading here, DNF in runnerspeak means "did not finish." Although my friend Arland's definition seems a better fit, considering the way I was feeling before I threw in towel. He defined the acronym as "did nothing fatal." It certainly felt something like a near death experience as I dragged myself up that last hill before I decided to call it a night.

Before I go any further, let me be perfectly clear in saying that my failure to finish had nothing to do with the way the race was run. The race director, the volunteers, the aid stations, the food, the other participants, and everything else were all fantastic! It was a really well run event, and this recap is not meant to discourage anyone from giving it a go. With that said, I'll tell the tale of how my night went.


The race wasn't going to start until 8 PM on Saturday. So I tried staying up late Friday night with hopes of sleeping in on Saturday. I should have known better, because sleeping late has never been something I could accomplish, regardless what time my head hit the pillow. So I was up around 7:30. I did have a pretty lazy day, trying to conserve all the energy I could for the long night ahead.

There was an option to start an hour early, and I weighed the pros and cons of starting with the 7 o'clock crowd. My goal was to finish in 7 hours, but I really had no way of knowing how realistic that was. This was going to be my first attempt at the 50K distance, and would have been the farthest I've ever run, if I'd have completed it.

I arrived at the race headquarters not long after 6 PM to pick up my race packet, still tossing around the idea of starting at 7. Finally, as the early starters gathered at the line, I made the decision to wait until 8. The catalyst for my choice was the temperature. It was plenty hot still. I'd worked up a good sweat just walking back and forth to the car. An hour wouldn't make a lot of difference, but with the mercury pegged over 900 I decided any drop would be a help.

1st Leg -- Miles 0 to 8

By far, the best part of my race. I was still feeling really good throughout this part.

The first 50 yards or so was uphill headed out of the Girl Scout camp that served as the race headquarters. Then we were blessed with a mile or so downhill. But the gravity-assist we had in that first mile, we'd pay for many times over throughout the night. After that, things started getting tougher.

That first blessed downhill mile was immediately followed by an ascent nearly 4 miles long, climbing almost 700 feet. My original strategy for the race was to run 6-1, run-walk routine, running 6 minutes and walking 1, then repeating as long as I could. But before the start, my friend Arland told me I'd better rethink that and be ready to adjust. He warned me of this long uphill and advised me to walk at least most of it. I did walk a lot of it, and the 6-1 run-walk idea was no longer a thought.

The long walk up those early miles did give me several chances to share Amanda's story. The sky was already growing darker when a couple passing us asked me about the sign pinned to my hydration pack. It took several minutes to tell the story of her death and the role teen substance abuse played in the taking of her life. The woman was taken aback when I told her a drunk 19-year-old became angry with my daughter, pulled out a gun, and shot her down at a party. She told me her and the man she was with both had teenage boys and they would tell them what happened. Once they passed, another woman I was passing asked. She had caught bits of the previous conversation, so I was again able to share. Still on that long climb, I was passing a young man who asked about the sign. He was an Eagle Scout and running the 25K. He listened intently as I described what happened the night we lost Amanda and promised to tell others.

Since this is really what I run for, I could have stopped right then and called the night a success. It was getting too dark to see by this time and it wasn't likely anyone else would notice the sign pinned to my back as I went on. We weren't yet 5 miles in and I was still feeling great, like I could go forever. It might have been a little euphoria resulting from so many chances to share our story, but it sure felt good.

Once we topped that climb, we were blessed with a much shorter (about a mile) downhill trot. The next mile would be a seldom broken climb of about 150 feet, then a half mile descent of about the same height. The 25K turnaround and the first fully stocked aid station was a mile ahead, a really tough mile ahead. That mile we had to go to the aid station involved a more than 300 foot climb too. Once again, a lot of walking, but I managed to keep moving, and still felt good as I pulled off my pack to reload with ice and water.

Throughout these first 8 miles, I'd been able to hang with my friend Belinda. But a struggle getting my hydration pouch resealed held me up and it took me several minutes longer than her to get out of the aid station. I told her to go on and I'd try to catch up to her on the downhills. (Keep reading and you'll see how that panned out.) I finally managed to gear back up and headed out toward the 50K turnaround, more than 7 miles away.

2nd Leg -- Miles 9 to ~15.5

Remember I told Belinda I'd catch her on the downhills? Well, the first half mile out of the aid station was downhill, but I didn't catch her there. Then began a 1.5 mile ascent of about 300 feet. What followed over the next 5 miles was as bad a beating as I could remember on any run. It was a formidable series of ups and downs, some a little longer than others, but all crazily steep, and all involving about 300 feet of elevation change. There was A LOT more walking on this stretch than I'd planned and I never did catch up to Belinda. In fact, quite a bit of the time I spent on this stretch I couldn't see any other runners and it seemed almost as if I was alone on the course.

The last mile of this stretch was another of those 300 foot climbs that terminated at the turnaround. By now, weary was a good word to describe how I was feeling. I walked pretty much that entire mile and the clock was ticking. The cutoff to make the turnaround was midnight and I often wondered if I was going to make it. Honestly, there were several times when I hoped I wouldn't. A part of me hoped I'd drag in just after 12 and they'd tell me I couldn't go on, that I'd have to stop and catch a ride in. But that wasn't to be.

I made it to the turnaround with my Garmin showing I'd been on the road for 3 hours and 42 minutes, beating the cutoff by 18 minutes. It seemed like the vast majority of the race had been uphill to this point, so a little hope began to sprout in my mind. Maybe, just maybe, going back would be easier since all that uphill on the way would turn to downhill. So again I restocked on ice and water, took a hot dog from the table of treats they offered and headed back, full of hope and foolishly optimistic.

3rd Leg -- Miles 16 to 23.25

That optimism lasted until the bottom of the mile long descent leaving the aid station. That's when I had to face the reality there had been about as much downhill as there had uphill on that 2nd leg of the race. Only this time, the uphills that had been downhills seemed far worse than the ones on the way out. Starting up that first hill on the way back, I resolved to walk EVERY incline and do my best at running the downhills.

My walking pace became slower at each new ascent. Early in the race we were averaging a 14 - 15 minute pace walking up the hills. At this point, my walking pace was approaching 25 minute miles. The cutoff for the next aid station was 2 AM, 6 hours into the race, and I came to the conclusion that missing that cutoff was a very real possibility. Still, I pushed on. Well...maybe pushing is a little stronger verb than fits the bill here. Let's just say I kept moving forward, slowly, very slowly.

I was even slowing my pace on the downhills now. The first signs of leg cramps were rearing their ugly heads. Each time I'd start to trot at the beginning of a decline, the little twinge that I've come to recognize as the early warning signs of oncoming cramps would appear. The doubt that I would finish this race was becoming more and more prominent among the thoughts swimming through my head.

Now, remember that downhill coming out of the first aid station I told you about earlier? That half mile descent that was so welcome before? This time, it was the last half mile I had to cover before the aid station. Only this time is was a half mile ASCENT of 200 feet. I have no idea what my pace was walking up it, but I would imagine I could normally walk faster going against the current in a fast moving river. It was slow! As I dragged myself up, all I could think was, "I don't think I can climb another hill like this."

I wasn't praying I would miss the cutoff to reach the aid station, but oh was I hoping it would be after 2 AM when I arrived. I was hoping to get pulled off the course as I barely made my way up this hill, this curse that seemed a blessing hours earlier. But, alas, when I finally reached the top and rounded the curve to come in sight of the aid station, my watch showed I'd been on the road for exactly 6 hours, 2 AM on the dot. I was still hoping they'd tell me I had to stop. But instead, the cheerful volunteers did all they could to encourage me, helping me refill with ice and water, and offering me everything they had to help me through the last 8 miles.

Now I had a decision to make. Should I stay, or should I go?

The End

It must have been the enthusiasm of the volunteers that made me honestly entertain the idea of going on. I staggered to the ice chest as they scooped ice in my pouch. Then it was on to the water cooler where they topped off my tank. But as I struggled once again to seal the water bladder, the thought of the next hill came to mind. It brought back the very recent memory of climbing that hill to reach this point and all the doubt came rushing back. So, as soon as they wished me good luck with the rest of the race, I told these awesome volunteers that I was through.

My decision was made. I was taking my first ever DNF.
"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." ~ Proverbs 11:2

I always hoped this day would never come, that somehow my name would never show in official race results with those three letters, D.N.F., beside it. There was a time when I would have been angry, angry with myself for not being tough enough, not being strong enough, not being good enough. But I was at peace from the moment I decided not to go on.

Now I realize, that anger that would have overtaken me was a result of my own selfish pride, pride spawned by a human need to achieve something in a quest for glory. Anger would have been a sign of disgrace. But instead, Jesus Christ used this brutal course to humble me, to show me that He can accomplish His will through me even if I don't cross the finish line. And I honestly believe that's why I was at peace with the decision to stop, because I was humbled. Pushing on would have been foolish, so I thank the Lord for the humility and wisdom He blessed me with early that Sunday morning when I sat down at mile 23.25 to wait for the sag wagon.

I can honestly say I gave it my all. I did my best. Though I didn't cross the finish line, I'm happy with my effort. And I Did Nothing Fatal, so I'll live to run again.

So thank you Jesus for giving me the good sense to get out when I did, and for the opportunity to make this attempt. And thanks to race director Susy Phillips and all those who did such a great job putting on this event. I'm glad I was there, and glad I attempted it, even if I didn't make it to the finish line.

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, July 19, 2013

We Serve an Amazing God!

It's been said the Lord works in mysterious ways and that He's working on our behalf even when we don't realize it. Today, God proved this to be true when I was offered a position as an adjunct instructor, teaching Probability and Statistics at Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

I took a Probability and Statistics course at Lyon College in my undergraduate work, and a Statistics course in my graduate work at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, but I've never taught the course. The course isn't offered at the high school where I teach, and there are no plans to offer it in the future (though it could come to pass someday.) It just so happens though, that I attended an Advanced Placement workshop this summer on teaching the AP Statistics course, and that workshop is going to prove invaluable as I enter the world of part-time teaching at the college level.
"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." ~ Proverbs 16:9

When I told the instructor and the other attendees at the workshop I didn't teach the course and that it wasn't offered at our school, most were slightly confused why I would spend four days during the summer learning how to teach it. I had my reasons, mainly because I had attended the AP Calculus workshop last year, and the AP training workshops have always been the best professional development I've seen. The state of Arkansas requires public school teachers to get 60 hours of PD every year, and taking this course knocked out 30 of those in one week. Plus, I figured I'd certainly take something away from the workshop that I could apply in one of the courses I do teach. Still, I had no idea an opportunity to teach the subject would arise in the near future.

We had a great instructor at the workshop and I learned a lot, and freshened up on quite a bit more. It was four days of activities to use teaching Stat and really focusing on understanding the concepts taught in the course. Like I expected, we were shown some cool software and websites that I figured I could use in my high school classes too. So I got out of it what I wanted when I signed up, but the Lord had bigger plans for me all along.

I mentioned at one point in the workshop that I'd been looking for adjunct opportunities all summer, and had no luck. It just so happened one of the other teachers in attendance was a Pulaski Tech adjunct and he informed me they had just opened up several adjunct positions and were in great need. So I applied.

I figured I would be teaching College Algebra or remedial math courses, and had no problem at all with that. But when the email came from the math chair, I was informed the only class they had open in the evenings that fit my schedule was a Probability and Statistics class.

Coincidence? I think not.

It's happened in the past, but this was just one more instance in my life when God showed me He is in total control. He has plans for me that I am unable to anticipate. And He puts opportunities in my path to prepare me for those plans, even when I don't realize it.

I've heard it said that God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called. So step out in faith when you feel called to do something. Even if you can't see how it will immediately benefit you, seize every opportunity God offers to improve yourself. God has a plan that we often can't see. Our responsibility is to answer the call and trust Him to give us what we need to accomplish it.

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, July 17, 2013

Daily Message: It's All or None ~ Hebrews 4:12

Yesterday, I saw someone post that she disagreed with parts of the Bible on one of the social media outlets. In explaining her beliefs, she described a God who doesn't judge, who loves everyone, and who will condemn no one to Hell. Others quickly joined in to deny parts of the Bible mean what they say, because of translation errors or cultural differences.

I didn't comment, because the discussion made it obvious their minds were closed on the subject. Specifically, people who disagree were told to sever social media ties with this poster. So, I held my tongue (or fingers in this case). I often remain connected via social media with people whom I disagree with, or whose lifestyle appears less than wholesome, in the hopes that I can sway them with what I post. Sometimes I don't know if that's the best thing to do, but it's what I feel led to do. Then today, in my sequential study of Paul's letters, I came upon the focal verse of this message that seems to speak directly to the issue at hand.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that "all scripture is God-breathed," meaning the words came straight from the mouth of God himself. In Proverbs 30, we're told that "every word of God is flawless." So the decision to pick and choose parts of the Bible we like, or agree with, and discard the parts we don't want to respect, is to deny these verses, to deny the Bible is actually God's Word. And if we're able to pick and choose which parts we want to accept, who's to say which of us chooses right?

The simple fact is, God left us His Word, the Holy Bible, as an instruction manual for dealing with life on this earth.
"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." ~ Hebrews 4:12

If we believe the scriptures, if we believe God left us His Word so that we can know and follow His will, it's an all or nothing deal. To cut part of it out because we disagree is, at best, willful disobedience. At worst, it is the denial of God's authority over us. We simply cannot obey God and disregard the teachings in the Bible that we find disagreeable.

The very desire to edit God's Holy Word is evidence of its applicability to life today. Our sinful nature gives life to a lust for earthly pleasures. Our culture today flees from pointing out anti-Biblical behavior, not out of love for our fellow man, but in the hope that others will do likewise and refuse to point to our own sin. It's a very selfish nature, one that seeks the pleasures of this earth, that convinces us to ignore the parts of the Bible we don't like.

But God gave us His instruction manual, every word, every page, every paragraph. For thousands of years, His Word has survived. The Holy Bible remains the best selling book of all time, published around the world. Nations that based their societal values on Biblical teaching have thrived since the Roman Empire, and those same nations have floundered when their culture left the proverbial narrow way.

I thank God that He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins, so that we need not pay the price we deserve for our sins and our failures. But I believe we must acknowledge our sins and repent in order to receive the gift of salvation. God does love each and every one of us, and He wants us all to come to Him. But He gave us the choice to accept His gift, and it's up to us. I've written many times that I first thought being saved meant I could behave any way I wanted, without consequence. It took me a long time to realize that truly believing in Jesus Christ and accepting Him as our Savior will change you.

Being saved isn't an excuse to sin, and certainly not an excuse to deny God's authority to define sin. It's motivation to not sin, and it's conviction when we do sin. It creates in us a desire to please God, not a spirit of defiance like a teenage child. We will fail. We will sin...All of us. We're not good enough to avoid every temptation. That's why Jesus Christ came to save us. We could never be good enough to deserve to get to Heaven. But when you study the Bible with an open heart and an open mind, it will provide all the instructions for living out this life on Earth.

We won't always like the instructions we're given. In fact, sometimes following those instructions will bring persecutors to your doorstep. We'll all, at times, wish God would have set things up a little differently. But we'll NEVER have the authority to challenge right and wrong as He defines it. He is the Almighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, Creator of All Things, and He has absolute power and an absolute right to write the rules on how we're supposed to live...all of them.

To deny the Truth is to deny the authority of God. I'm not judging anyone's salvation. Only two know if any one person is saved, the person himself and the Lord God. But I'm led to study and to tell others what I learn. And God's Word tells me that we can't pick an choose to follow only the parts of the Bible we agree with. It's an all or none thing. If you believe the Bible is the Word of God, you believe it all. If you don't, then you deny the Truth of every word, every paragraph, every page, every chapter, and every book.

It's all or none.

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, July 16, 2013

Not So Fond of the Taper...

Only 4 days until the Full mOOn 50K, and that means I'm slacking off (otherwise known as tapering) to preserve my fuel stores and legs for the 31 miles from the start line to the finish line. Honestly, I'm not real crazy about this thing called a Taper.

It means a break in routine, my routine. Since I usually get up and out early in the morning, I still get up pretty early, even when I'm not running. That means I've got to find something to do to fill the time. Watching the news just tends to aggravate me, and sitting down to work at the computer just isn't as easy and I can't seem to be as productive when I missed my morning run. So those early hours tend to be kind of a waste on these no-run days of the taper.

Then there's the physical difference. It's something about getting up early, hitting the road, and getting the body moving. Working up a good sweat on a 6 mile morning run has become the perfect way to start my day, and I usually feel much better physically throughout the day. I tend to have less energy and feel worse through the days when I don't run.

This is why it's kind of hard to stick to the taper, even in the week before a long race.
"The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice." ~ Proverbs 12:15

But a lot of much more experienced people know better than I do. So, even though I know I'd feel better today if I'd have headed out for a run, I also know I'd be paying the price on Saturday, long before the finish line. That's why, even though I'm not really enjoying this thing called a taper, I'm going to stick with it and save up for Saturday.

Conventional wisdom says the taper is the way to go, so I'll try to be wise and listen to that advice. It's only for a few days anyway, then I can ramp the miles back up. :)

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, July 14, 2013

Caring for Katie Softball Tournament Recap

Yesterday was a long, but great, day in Vilonia, Arkansas! I left the house at 6:30 in the morning and arrived home just before 10 last night. Long day, yes, but every minute of it a blast and all for a great cause.

It was a softball tournament, the Caring for Katie tournament to be exact, at the Vilonia City Park, organized by a couple of former students from Vilonia High School. Thirteen teams signed up for the double elimination tournament, and tons of stuff were donated for raffle prizes too. People from the community stepped up and donated all the items sold for concessions as well. All this generosity meant that every dime taken in yesterday was able to go directly to the beneficiary of the tournament.

Katie with the winning team.

Katie is a 20-year-old graduate of Vilonia High School who was recently diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Almost immediately, she was a patient at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital where she began treatment. For the past several weeks, she's been making trips back and forth to Memphis for the care she requires, and this routine looks to last for many more months at least.

Katie with runner up team.

At VHS, Katie played softball, so it should come as no surprise the organizers were former teammates of hers. When they heard of Katie's diagnosis, the primary organizer immediately began searching for a way to help. She came up with the idea of a tournament and found a suitable date, just a month or so away. Once the event was scheduled, another former teammate stepped up and took control of the raffle. Everything just took off from there. In just about a month, this event went from the conception of the idea to fruition to completion. It was a feat that few could pull off, but these 20-year-old young ladies got it done!

And, oh, what a turnout!

I don't know how many passed through the gates of the park yesterday, but it was a lot. There was a team made up of VHS teachers and their kids, a team made up of Vilonia Junior High faculty and spouses, several teams of former graduates of VHS that went from last year to several years back, and at least two teams from out of town. For most of the day, the park was filled with spectators too. Volunteers handled concessions, the raffle, game officials, and scorekeepers. There were literally hundreds who attended and contributed to make this day a smashing success.

When all was said and done and the final out put an end to the championship game, more than $8,200 had been raised through entry fees, the raffle, concessions, and donations. No supplies had to be paid out of that. Nobody asked for or took any pay for helping out. So every single cent of those thousands of dollars went to Katie and her family to help offset the expenses they will certainly incur as she battles the disease.
"Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." ~ 1 John 3:18

This event was just another example of our community coming together to care for one of its own. Over the seven years I've worked here, I've witnessed the closeness, love, and compassion of the folks here time and time again. As much as I wish there was never a need for events like this, to witness them and take part in them are as inspirational as anything can be. I really can't imagine working anywhere else.

I am so blessed, and proud, to be a part of this small, caring community.

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, July 11, 2013

8 Days to the Full mOOn 50K and the Blessing that Began a Curse

Well, the heat is on! I mean it's hot as all get out these days. And it's only 8 days until my first 50K, the Full mOOn. At 8 pm next Saturday, we'll be taking off for a 31 mile jaunt through the Ouachita Mountains in western Arkansas. And did I say already that it's hot?

Last week we had a little cool snap with lows in the low 60s and I was sure hoping another would swing through on the 20th. As of now though, the forecast isn't looking too promising for that. If the 10 day forecast holds true, it will be a typical July day in Arkansas. And that means it's going to be HOT!

If you've read here long, you'll already know I'm not too crazy about running in the heat. I generally keep running through the summer only because I don't want to have to start marathon training from scratch when things cool down. You probably already know that I'd sworn off hot weather long races until just a couple of weeks ago, when I signed up for this race.

While a 22-mile long run last Saturday left me feeling pretty good about where I'm at, things have been kind of touch-and-go before and after that run. Two weeks before that, a 13 mile run in North Carolina left me in agony with heat cramps and severe dehydration. On Monday of this week, a little 7 mile run had me feeling the onset of the same affliction by the time I finished. Any farther, and I'd have been toast.

Looking back, Monday's difficulties were probably more a result of lingering effects from being sick all weekend. Some sort of stomach ailment kept me down all day on Saturday, and feeling not much better than just enough to get up and move around on Sunday. It was still with me on Monday, but I thought it was subsiding. However, today ended up really being the first day I really have felt completely recovered. Until today, every run was a struggle as I fought this bug, or whatever it was.

The whole while I was struggling, I was really aggravated, thinking I sure hope this thing is over with by next week. I really wanted it over with, like, yesterday, but I just kept waking with it still there. Turns out though, it might just have been a blessing in disguise.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Most of you already know that I pretty much never run in the afternoon. I much prefer running in the morning, before the sun comes up if at all possible. But this upcoming race starts at 8 pm, and it's still going to be hot at 8 pm. So I really NEED to run in the afternoon some before next Saturday, if for nothing else to get ready for the heat.

Well, the night before last, I was up and down the whole night with my upset stomach. I didn't get much sleep at all. When the alarm went off at 4 AM, the last thing I wanted to do was run. So I didn't.

But yesterday afternoon, when I got off at 4:45 PM, a few clouds had rolled into Hot Springs, AR and it threatened rain. So I decided to lace up and take to the streets, in the heat of the day. According to GarminConnect, it was 840 when I started my 6 mile run yesterday, and still I made it through. I decided to make the rest of my runs this week and next in the evenings to help get ready for the race.

Today's 6 miles went okay too. It was hot, even hotter than yesterday. The temperature when I hit the road this afternoon was 950. But again, I made it.

Both days I adapted the "Biblical approach" to my first 50K that I wrote of a few weeks ago, and I think I'm going to use this adaptation in the race. These past two afternoons, I've been running 6 minutes, then walking one, all the way through my runs, and it's been working well. Both times, I carried a small bottle of water that I didn't quite finish in the 6 miles, but more importantly, I didn't feel horrible after either run!

That's right. Six miles in 80+ degrees yesterday and in 90+ degrees today didn't feel all that bad! Now both runs were slow, much slower than anything rating bragging rights. But at the end, I didn't feel weak. I didn't feel dehydrated, and my legs still felt good. So this adapted approach may be just what I need to make it through a hot weather long race. We're going to see, but no matter what, it's certainly helped me feel better while getting in my daily miles.

And one thing's for sure, I'd still be running in the mornings, not getting adapted to the late-in-the-day running to prepare for the race. The switch to running in the afternoon was a direct result of being sidelined the morning after a rough night, rough at the hands of the aforementioned ailment.

So here I am, 8 days before the Full mOOn 50K, blessed by what certainly seemed like a curse until now.

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: Let the Word Lead ~ Philemon 1:6

I don't have any seminar training. In fact, I have no official training on the Bible at all. I took an Old Testament class in college, but that was approaching it more as literature than a study in theology. So everything I write or tell people about the Bible is what I've gleaned through listening to preachers and reading for myself.

That said, I should point out that at times I interpret verses or passages differently than what I hear from some preachers, or read in a book of Sunday School lessons. And sometimes, I think two people can have two differing (not conflicting) opinions on something written in the Bible and still both be correct.

By that, I do not mean the Bible is ambiguous, not in the least. Without a doubt, I believe it is the inspired Word of God. God didn't contradict Himself when He handed down the words to be penned. But I do believe His words were chose carefully, so carefully that the exact same words can offer guidance and advice in two completely different situations for two distinct readers of the Word.

I want to point out again, that I do not believe two people can have contradicting opinions on the meaning of a verse or passage, and both be correct. But I am convinced that you and I can sometimes read the exact same thing in the Bible and get two different things from it.

My interpretation of the scripture I read is based on my specific circumstances -- what I've been through, what I'm going through, and where I'm at, right now, at this moment in my walk with Jesus Christ. It never ceases to amaze me how often I can be struggling with something, or even know someone else struggling with something, and in my daily Bible study, encounter a verse or passage that treats exactly what it is on my mind. And that's the awesome power of God's Word, that He uses it to speak directly to us, as individuals, if we open ourselves to His counsel.
"I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ." ~ Philemon 1:6

All that said, it is possible to misinterpret what we read in the Bible. I know I did this for years with certain scriptures. I think this happens most often when we seek to use the Word of God to justify our own sense of right and wrong. Instead, we should always approach our Bible study willing to have our hearts changed. God didn't send us His Word to bolster our egos by proving our ideas and opinions right. He sent it so that we can have a road map to make our ideas and opinions conform to His sense of what's right.

And that's why my prayer today is that I don't lead anyone astray with what I write here, or with my use of the Bible in counseling others. I hope and pray that all those who encounter my writings and my preaching deepen their understanding of God's awesome power, His awesome love for each and every one of us, and His awesome Word that offers an answer to every dilemma we as humans can face.

I pray for wisdom when I seek to interpret and teach the Bible. I pray that I don't fall into the trap of misusing the Bible to justify my own beliefs anymore, but that I allow it to tell me what to believe. And I pray that i never lead anyone astray. Instead, I hope and pray that God will use me as a lantern through which His light shines, leading others through the darkness to His Son, 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.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Daily Message: Good Works? Not "Why" We Are Saved, But "Because" We Are Saved ~ Titus 3:14

I've heard it my whole life, "You can't be good enough to earn salvation," or some variation of that. And it's true. In Ephesians, chapter 2, Paul tells us we can't do enough good things to earn our way to Heaven. And just before that, he states we are saved by grace through faith.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people take this to mean we, as Christians, don't have to do good works. I thought this way for years, and even took it to the next level, interpreting it that it didn't really matter what I did, good or bad, because I was saved and had my ticket to Heaven. Something tells me, I wasn't the only one confused.
"Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives." ~ Titus 3:14

In this verse, Paul is telling us we do have to do "what is good," not to be saved, but because we ARE saved! James tells us also that "faith without works is dead." Neither is telling us our good works save us, but that when we are saved, when we truly believe that Jesus Christ gave it all so that we have a chance at eternal life, when we honestly and earnestly accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we are compelled to do good works.

Not so that we get to Heaven, but because we get to go to Heaven!

So devote yourself to doing what is good, because Jesus paid 2000 years ago, on a cross atop a hill called Calvary, the price for each and every one of our sins. He paid so we don't have to. He paid so we can join Him for eternity in Heaven. He paid. He paid. He paid.

So let's devote ourselves to doing good and let Him use us, to make our lives productive for the Kingdom.

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, July 7, 2013

Oh, How I Love My Hokas!

If you don't know what Hokas are, you're probably not alone. It's a brand of running shoe that, when most people first see it, they think, "There's no way I'd wear that!" They're not pretty. They look big and bulky and goofy as all get out. Then, if someone does make it past the less-than-appealing look of the shoe, the $170 price tag is normally enough to quell any hint of desire to try them out.

But, oh what you'll be missing if you don't bite the bullet and get a pair of these. I just retired my first pair of the Hoka One One, Evo Stinson model and I absolutely love it! In fact, unless they drastically change the shoe sometime in the future, I doubt I'll ever run in any other brand.

I was convinced to try out this odd looking shoe by a friend who runs a lot of marathons and ultras. It wasn't long after the shoe I'd been running in was discontinued and replaced with a newer version. Once that shoe was no longer available, I couldn't seem to find a suitable replacement. Granted, I only tried a couple of pairs, but sampling running shoes gets really expensive really quickly. On a group run one Saturday, I noticed my friend wearing a very different looking shoe and asked about them. He told me they were like, "running on marshmallows."

My problem with the shoes I'd tried before was there just wasn't enough padding. Even on my 6 mile daily runs, my feet felt like they were being battered by the time I finished. The balls of my feet hurt. My heels hurt. Pretty much both my entire feet throbbed in pain, even after short runs in the new shoes. It was like there was nothing between the soles of my feet and the road. It was while I ran in those two experimental pair of replacement shoes that I ended up with a major knee injury too, one that I had no other explanation for other than the shoes I was wearing. I was to the point that I had to try something drastic, and took the plunge and spent the money on my first pair of Hokas.

On my first run in the Evo Stinson's I could tell they were different. In my notes on that run I wrote, "Awesome run in new shoes, Hokas. Lower legs feel much better." Later that week after a 15 mile run on hills I noted, "Loving these Hokas!" My friend's description of the how it felt to run in these shoes was accurate. It really did feel like I was running on marshmallows. And it wasn't just my feet that felt better.

As long as I'd been back at running, I was always sore after a run of any distance. I remember one day, my principal asked me, "What's wrong with you? You're limping." I told him, "I'm old. I'm fat, and I run. I'm going to limp. It was like that every day. After a good run, my legs were sore. My knees were sore. My ankles were sore, and I hobbled around such that it made people think I was injured or crippled. The funny thing was, I thought it was normal. And it was normal for me, in the shoes I was wearing at the time. But it was different in the Hokas.

It was one of the first things I noticed, that my legs weren't sore after runs. Not even after long, hard runs were they sore. It was such a different experience, I could hardly believe it. I thought I was doomed forever to feel pain and soreness after I ran. But these shoes took that away. I was running as hard as ever and I was no longer hurting. It was amazing!

Some of you might be thinking, "Yeah. But they still cost a fortune." Okay. They are pretty expensive as running shoes go. But these fantastic shoes even overcome that obstacle too! You see, I was only getting between 400-440 miles out of a pair of shoes before, at best. I was told by my friend that Hokas were supposed to last a lot longer. I was leery of that assumption, mainly because I weigh in at 225 pounds. My friend, and most runners, are more in the 150-170 range. I was convinced that my heavier body would break down any shoe faster than my lighter weight running colleagues. I made my first run in the Hokas on January 22, and made my last run in them on July 4. During that time, I never ran in another pair of shoes, neither another brand nor another pair of Hokas. In that span, I logged 723 miles on that single pair of Hokas.

The shoes I wore before, the ones that didn't injure me, listed for $145. At best, like I said before, I could get 440 miles out of those shoes. That translates to an average cost of $0.33 per mile for shoes. With the 723 miles the $170 Hokas gave me, my cost per mile for shoes is $0.24. So, even though the upfront cost for the shoe is significantly greater, the additional mileage yielded by the Hokas actually saved me about 25% of the cost per mile for shoes.

If you've read here long, you know I'm not a scientific runner. I don't get into the engineering of a shoe, or understand the intricacies of the foot. So I can't do a shoe review that's spiced with scientific jargon. I have heard people discussing Hokas and talking about heel-to-toe drop, or midfoot strike vs. heel strike, but I really don't know much about all that. All I know is I want a shoe that can give me comfort and value, the best combination of those two things I can find. My first pair of Hoka Evo Stinsons seems to be that shoe.

I can't promise the same results for you. I have read comments on Facebook by people who claim Hokas just didn't work for them. I'm not paid to write this post. I don't represent anyone associated with the company who makes the shoes or anyone who sells them. I write this solely based on my experience with the shoe and only as an informative post for other runners who want an honest opinion about the Hoka Evo Stinson. I do suggest though, if you're having trouble finding a running shoe that you can get a lot of miles out of and that doesn't let you run without pain in your joints and legs, try a pair of Hokas.

So, if you see me on the road, on the trails, or at a race, and you glance down at my feet, you'll see them dressed in a pair of Hokas. I LOVE these shoes!

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, July 5, 2013

Daily Message: Live for God and Let It Show~ Titus 1:15-16

For years and years I thought of salvation as a free ticket to Heaven. I was 13 when I first walked down the aisle at church, professed my faith in Jesus Christ, and was baptized. I look back on it now and don't really think I was saved at that point. There are a couple of reasons I think this.

First, because I made the trip from the pew to the alter because it was expected, because I was told I should, and because others expected it of me. I didn't make that walk because I felt convicted, and I didn't make it because I thought it was what I needed to do. At the time, my decision to go forward was solely to please others. I think this is what led to the second reason I doubt that I was actually saved at that point.

The other reason I don't believe that first walk saved me is because it didn't change me. Oh, I felt changed a little for a week or so, but there was no real change in my heart, and there certainly was no real and lasting change in my behavior. I went to church on Sunday and Wednesday (because I was made to, not because I chose to) and lived like a heathen the rest of the time.

It was 20 years later when I realized this, when I really became convicted that I had it all wrong. And that's when, all alone in the cab of a farm truck on a dirt country road, I really prayed Jesus and asked Him to save me.
" 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good." ~ Titus 1:15-16

For all those years, even while I thought I was saved, I was corrupted and didn't really believe. Now I always believed Jesus was real, and even that He really was the Son of God, but I never really let myself believe He was my Savior, and that He died to save me and everyone else, not until that day on that old dirt road. I realize that now because that's the day I really started trying to change, to change and live a life that He wanted me to live.

I don't think I really understood what it meant to truly believe in Christ as a kid and young adult. What I knew of the Bible was John 3:16, and in my mind, I thought He was real so I was saved. But I didn't realize truly believing that God sent His only Son to live and die so that we could be saved, that must change us! It's impossible to understand the awesome mercy and grace that God provides so that we have a chance to spend eternity with Him, and not be changed!

Actions do matter! The way we live as Christians does matter! I was taught that our actions don't save us. We can't do enough good works to get into Heaven. That's all true. It's stated numerous times in the New Testament. This is what I took to mean my actions didn't matter once I walked down that aisle and was baptized. But then James said, "Faith without works is dead." He meant that, once you really know Jesus, you're going to want to do good works. You're going to try to do good.

Jesus said, "by their fruits you will know them," talking about those who believe in and follow Him. You see, it's not our works that save us, but our salvation that absolutely must change us in such a way as to produce good works. Once you've been saved, "all things are pure." In other words, everything you do should be done in such a way as to glorify God and lead others to Jesus Christ. For all those years I thought I was saved but was still "corrupted," nothing was "pure" to me. That's why I looked upon everything, not as something that could be used to glorify God, but as something that either could or couldn't provide me with some sort of earthly pleasure. By my actions, I denied God. I was detestable, disobedient, and unfit, as evidenced by my actions.

Now, that's not to say that everyone you see who commits a sin is unsaved. And it's not to say that once you're saved you'll never sin. I am not saying that at all. We are all sinners and there would have been no need for Jesus to die on the cross if we weren't. That and the fact that Satan prowls the earth looking to tempt us and turn us away from God make certain that, at times, we will all make a wrong choice and disappoint Christ. But this verse and this message relate to those who live in sin.

This passage is talking about people like I was, who claim to know God but continue to deny Him by their actions, day in and day out. It's a lifestyle of sin that gives it away, a lifestyle that leads others away, or turns others away from Jesus Christ.

I realize now that a life lived loving and trusting God must be evidenced by that life being lived for God. It doesn't mean we won't fail Him from time to time, or even often. But we should ask ourselves, when others see us, do they see the hand of Jesus Christ guiding us? If the answer to that question is no, then we need to make a change.

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, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day Americans!

Happy Birthday to these United States of America!

It was 237 years ago when men risked everything and declared independence from England. In that short span, we became the greatest, most powerful country on the face of the earth. This country has been the envy of many for the nearly two and half centuries that have passed since that day. And today, we celebrate the birth of the USA, the land of the free and the home of the brave.
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." ~ Galatians 5:1

I've tread upon at least 13 different countries in the world, some of the most "civilized," and some of the least "civilized." Nowhere have I visited that interrupted my desire to return and live in these United States. I believe God himself blessed our nation because it was founded on Christian principles and those principles were followed by the majority for so long.

To all those who serve now or ever served in our armed forces, I am grateful. You are the "brave" mentioned earlier that made and keep this country free. Without you, there would be no independence and therefore, no Independence Day. To all of you I say, "Thank you!" Thank you for standing tall and defending this land that I love. May God bless and keep you as you celebrate this day.

I know not what the future holds for this great nation, but I hope and pray that we always define ourselves as "One nation, under God."

Happy 4th of July everyone! Enjoy the day, but please remember that God and the American servicemen make this day possible.

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, July 3, 2013

Daily Message: Don't Be Discouraged, Your Reward is in Heaven ~ 2 Timothy 4:18

Today's message is really pretty simple, but it's unfortunately one that is often mistaught and misunderstood. Unfortunately, that misunderstanding becomes the reason many Christians lose hope, lose their faith, and stray from God.

Too many people (I was one for years) believe that Christianity is a path to an easy life of material wealth and earthly pleasures. The idea that we can have enough faith that God rewards us with possessions and pleasure in exchange is easy to believe if one takes a few verses from the Bible out of context. It's sad that quite a few evangelists today believe and preach this message, because it's just not true.

God promises us a reward for our faith, but it's a heavenly reward and has really nothing to do with what we experience in this life. To think otherwise is to doubt the faith of the apostle Paul, Steven, Peter, John, and many other faithful believers. It's really presumptuous to believe that we can have enough faith to avoid troubles and worries while we walk the earth. Because, if that's so, then our faith would have to be stronger than all those mentioned above. Who would dare believe that his own faith is greater than the apostle Paul's was?

Certainly not I.
"The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." ~ 2 Timothy 4:18

But still, we are promised a reward. We have to understand though, that reward is eternal life in Heaven. Nothing less. Nothing more. In Matthew, chapter 5, verses 11 and 12, Jesus said himself that our "reward is in Heaven" and that we are "blessed" when we are persecuted for our faith. Blessed when persecuted?

That's right, because every day, every step, everything that we go through in this life is to be used to bring honor and glory to Jesus Christ. Every trial, every temptation, every persecution is an opportunity to be a witness of the redeeming power of faith through Jesus Christ. It's easy to maintain faith when things go our way, when times are good, and nothing bad happens. But what does that do for the person who is suffering?

So often though, we see people leave church and turn to drugs or the bottle or something worse when facing troubled times. Some blame God and ask, "What good is my faith if it doesn't protect me from this?" Questions like this come when we misunderstand this simple fact...

Our reward for our faith is not of this earth. We will be rewarded with eternal life in Heaven with Jesus Christ and all our friends and family who died in Christ before us. Everything that happens to us, good or bad, here on earth is an opportunity to serve Christ and demonstrate that faith.

We will be rescued from every evil attack if we stand strong on our faith. Others are watching, and our reactions to tough times will either lead them toward Christ or away. Paul promises that our sufferings here on earth won't even compare to the "glory that will be revealed" in us once we see Heaven. And we are promised the Lord "will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom."

So keep the faith and know that, even in tough times, the Lord is with you and your faith will yield its reward, just not necessarily while we're here.

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.

First Half of 2013 RWA Update

We're halfway through 2013 and I figure it's time to let the world know how well we're on track to accomplish our mission for the year. Recall our four part mission to run endurance races to 1) raise awareness of the dangers of teen substance abuse, 2) spread the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ, 3) raise money for the charities we support, and 4) to remember our beautiful daughter, Amanda Marie Allison, who was tragically shot and killed at a party on January 15, 2011.

The running's going well, in spite of a nearly two-month spell where I took up the Insanity workout program and cut way back on my weekly miles. I actually ran less in those two months than I have since we started Running with Amanda. But for the year, it's good news on the running front.

As of June 30th, the halfway mark of the calendar year, I'd logged 812 running miles, including two marathons, two half marathons, and numerous races of shorter distances. I achieved PRs in the marathon, half marathon, 15K, 10K, and 8K distances. Without a doubt, the Good Lord has blessed me in my running this year, and all without injury.

As always, it's only by His grace that I can log the miles, run the races, and stay healthy. Not my strength, but His.
"My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth." ~ Psalm 121:2

I still wear my sign pinned to the back of my shirt at all my races, the laminated sign with pictures of victims of teen substance abuse and their stories. This year I haven't had as many comments on it, but have had some and had the opportunity to tell Amanda's story a few times on the road. But the most significant impact we've had in this department so far this year was in our church youth group. Our youth pastor wanted to do a series of sermons on the issues our teens face on a daily basis. Janice and I both had opportunities to get up in front of the kids and give pretty intense talks on the issue.

I actually got two chances at the kids. The first time I was scheduled to speak to them, bad storms passed through our area and lots of kids stayed home. On a normal night we have about 100 kids in the service, but that night there were only 30. But I got up and preached to them like they were 1000. I'm convinced that Satan was working that night to keep kids from hearing the message, but we got it through anyway. And the great thing was that I knew at least one kid was there that needed to hear that message. Two weeks later, our youth pastor stopped me and told me that kid had come to him before the service and told him he was 10 days sober. As far as I know, He still is.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." ~ Romans 8:28

The next week, I couldn't be at the youth service, but Janice went. That night, they split the kids up by gender and she talked to the girls, telling them Amanda's story. I wasn't there, but from everything I heard, it was an extremely effective lesson. Other girls came forward with horror stories that they'd heard of, witnessed, or even endured, and the tears flowed like a river. Those girls really heard our message on teen substance abuse.

The following week, I was asked to give my talk again. Evidently lots of parents had heard about it and wanted their kids to hear it too, their kids who weren't there on that stormy night. So I got up and laid it all out there again, not scripted, but just working from an outline poured out my heart. After that, a kid came up and thanked me, and it turns out it was a kid a young lady had recently asked me to pray for and look for an opportunity to talk to.

Yes, God most definitely uses us to accomplish His will, even using the evils Satan visits upon us to achieve good.
"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." ~ Hebrews 13:16

Our work on the fundraising front is somewhat behind. We set goals this year to raise $2500 each for the three charities we support. Quite honestly, we've got a long way to go for all three. So far, we've raised $825 for Soaring Wings Ranch, $800 for Arkansas Children's Hospital, and $1,052.98 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

I've been praying about ways to improve our fundraising efforts and I think the Good Lord has blessed me with an idea. Tomorrow I'll dedicate a post solely to it, but I'll give a little hint here. A contest. A contest where each dollar donated during the month of July to one of the three charities through our fundraising pages constitutes one entry in a raffle. I'll reveal the possible prizes tomorrow, but winners will have a choice of two or three possible prizes. Look for details tomorrow, but hopefully, this will work so well we'll do a contest like this every month and generate a lot more donations for our charity.

All of these things we've mentioned, we do in honor of Amanda. Our daughter was shot and killed by a drunken, stoned 19-year-old at a party. She wouldn't sleep with him and he became angry, went into his bedroom and came out with a gun. He then fired the shot that took Amanda's life. I am convinced that if he and the others there would have been sober that night, Amanda would still be alive today.

Amanda is no longer with us, but we never want her to be forgotten. And that's why Running with Amanda does all the aforementioned in her name. So that her life wasn't wasted, and her death wasn't in vain.

You can help us spread the word, tell Amanda's story, and accomplish our mission. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and encourage your friends to do likewise. Also, please help us accomplish our fundraising goals by donating to one of the charities we support through our fundraising pages.

Thanks in advance. May God bless and keep you.

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, July 2, 2013

Daily Message: Preach on! ~ 2 Timothy 4:2-5

A few days ago, I wrote about standing on the Word of God, even when it's not the popular thing to do. Today, one of the things that's not real popular is to preach the Word. Oh, people are okay with preachers doing their long as they keep it inside the church doors and from the pulpit. But the world isn't too happy when preachers step out onto the street and start telling people what the Bible says.

As far as the rest of us, the world thinks we need to keep our beliefs to ourselves...all the time. The world doesn't want to hear us preaching. It doesn't want to hear that accepted behavior is ungodly. It condemns us as haters and bigots and accuses us of judging others if we tell them their actions are contrary to what the Bible teaches. And even when we encourage others to find and follow God's will, we are castigated and despised.

But God's doesn't change, and His Word doesn't change. Jesus said the only way to get to Heaven is through Him. We are promised that eternal life in Heaven awaits if we acknowledge Him and accept Him. He ordered us to love our fellow man, even when that love is not reciprocated. And in the Great Commission, we were told to go out and share the Gospel with the world.

I spent a lot of my 44 years on this earth thinking I could just witness to people through example. I thought, if I lived right, others would see and attribute that to my belief in Christ. Though I still don't think a lot of souls are won by beating people over the head with the Bible, I now realize I was wrong. To be an effective witness for Jesus Christ, we must tell others who Jesus was, what He did, and how coming to know Him will get us to Heaven.

" 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." ~ 2 Timothy 4:2-5

Paul explained this to Timothy when he told him to preach the Word, in season and out of season. That means we have to be ready to tell people about Jesus at any given moment, in any given situation. Opportunities arise to share the Gospel in places where we would fully expect them, but also in places and at times when we would least expect them. In church, at work, at home, or any place in between, a chance to tell someone about Jesus could appear anywhere. We have to be ready. And when that time comes, we're to "preach the Word."

If we don't tell people about Jesus, others will. But they'll tell them their version. In numerous places in the Bible we're told to beware of false teachers. Here, Paul tells Timothy people are going to listen to someone's teaching, and there will come a time when people are more inclined to listen to what they want to hear than what they need to hear. People want their lusts and desires to be approved of, and if teachers exist who will offer them approval, they will flock to these teachers who will tell them what they "want to hear." You don't have to look far to find these false teachers today. Evangelists preaching the Prosperity Doctrine and its variations are raking in untold sums of cash because they're telling people what they want to hear. Whole denominations are corrupting the Bible by accepting those practicing unacceptable behaviors as pastors and leaders in the church, and they're filling their pews because they're preaching what the world wants to hear instead of what God gave us in His word. The people are "turning aside to myths" and ignoring the truth.

So how will they hear the truth, if nobody stands up and preaches it? If the only people who preach the Bible are preachers in the pulpits, there will be nobody to reach the multitude who are being misled. They're not going to go to those churches and listen to the truth when they can walk in the church doors down the street and hear exactly what they want to hear! If we don't preach the word, they won't hear the Truth!

But it's not an easy thing to do, to stand for Truth when the world demands lies. To stand up and defend the Word of God in our society today does not make one popular. In fact, it often brings ire of the multitude to bear. Stand up and preach the word and some will avoid you altogether. Others will call you a hater or a bigot. You might be disciplined, or even fired, at work. Not long ago, even military chaplains are being intimidated to preach the Word by a country which claims to be "one nation, under God" and prints the words, "In God we trust." on all its currency.

But that's why Paul told Timothy to keep his head up in "all situations," and to "endure hardship." Paul was beaten, imprisoned, and threatened with death as he traveled the known world to spread the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. He knew the troubles that preaching the Word brings, but still he pressed on. And he ordered Timothy to do the same. And we're to do the same!

Every man, woman, and child who believes in Jesus Christ, who places their faith in Him, has a ministry ordained by God. Only a handful of those will actually work as a full-time minister preaching from the pulpit. But every one of them, every one of us, will be appointed a ministry by God that involves telling others about salvation through Jesus Christ.

So preach on my brothers and sisters! When it's popular and when it's not, preach on! When your sermon brings pats on the back and cheers from the crowd, or when you're spit on and cursed, preach on! If we don't tell the truth, many will never hear the truth. So "discharge all the duties of your ministry" and preach on!

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.