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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015...Hello 2016

This is it. The last day of 2015. This morning I ran 5.76 miles to finish the year with 2015.01 logged running miles. Put simply, I was blessed by God with a fantastic running year.

I set a goal last New Year's Day to run 10 marathons this year. On December 19th, I finished my tenth for the year at the Jacob Wells 3 Bridges Marathon in Little Rock. A couple of fellow Marathon Maniacs, Ryan Westin and Ed Childress, ran with me and paced me to a PR of 4:17:16. I was fortunate to run several shorter races too, hitting a PR of 14:20 last March in the 2 Mile at the Chase Race and a PR of 48:39 in the 10K at the Capitol City Classic 10K.

Not every running experience was rosy though. I ran the Soaring Wings Inaugural Marathon as a pacer. The weather turned unseasonably warm and humid that day, and I failed miserably in my attempt to finish in 5 hours. Pacing the RussVegas Half Marathon didn't work out too well either, even though I crossed the finish line right at my goal pace. Misplaced mile markers on the course convinced me I had to drastically pick up the pace the last five miles, causing me to leave behind several runners who were counting on me to get them across at 2:10.

But the tough times just make the good runs seem even sweeter, and I am certainly grateful for all the experiences of 2015. Every race, and every mile gave me chances to share Amanda's story and the source or my strength, Jesus Christ. Sometimes there were opportunities to directly address others and sometimes indirectly, but I definitely felt God's presence all through the running year.

So the question arises, what's in store for 2016?

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. ~ James 4:13-14

Well...I've learned not to say what I'll do, but without goals, it's too easy to drift and stray. So I'm going to set some goals, but they'll be quite different from those of the past couple of years.

This year, my goal is to NOT run 2016 miles, and not run so many marathons. That might sound crazy to those who've followed me the past couple of years, but you read right. I'm not planning to run as much this year. That doesn't mean I won't be running. But this year, I'm going to try to run fewer, but faster, miles.

I want to try to run fewer marathons, but more shorter races. I'm also hoping to hit PRs in every distance I race. Not necessarily PR every race, though that would be nice, but to strive for at least one PR at every distance I race this year.

Many might also have noticed that I've let this blog pretty much go for more than a year now. I hope to remedy that too, and post regularly. So you can look forward to more race reports, and more short sermons on my daily Bible reading too.

So, as I close out 2015 and start a new chapter, titled 2016, I want to wish everyone who reads this a very happy and blessed New Year. I hope to see you at the races, and to hear from you here and via our social media pages.

May God bless and keep each of you this year! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

All Idols Aren't Made of Wood, Metal, or Stone

Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? ~ Ezekiel 14:3

Reading this made me think, we often consider idols made of wood and stone, but we seldom think of the idols we set up in our hearts. The idols God speaks of here are any and all things we consider more important than, or that we put before God.

Idols can be money, drugs, drink, sex, even family...ANYTHING we place more importance on than we do God.

As difficult as it is in this materialistic, selfish culture we've created, it is our duty to put God first in everything we do. He should be more important to us, pleasing Him should be more important to us than ANYTHING!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the Lord. ~ Ezekiel 13:14

This passage refers to the false teachings of false prophets. God promised those who were misleading the children of Israel they would be severely punished. How many churches, some with thousands of congregants, are teaching anti-Biblical doctrine today? How many preachers are perverting, or outright contradicting, the word of God? How many are being misled, and therefore disappointing the One True God?

Would God not punish these contemporary false prophets like He did those of Israel?

Folks, get out your Bibles. Make sure the preacher you're following, the church you're attending, is following the Sovereign Lord. God didn't change. God doesn't change. God is the same as He was when Ezekiel prophesied the destruction of Israel's false prophets.

The only way to know if your preacher is teaching the Bible is to get it out, read it, and study it!

Heed the Warnings! Pray for Revival in America

But I the Lord will speak what I will, and it shall be fulfilled without delay. For in your days, you rebellious people, I will fulfill whatever I say, declares the Sovereign Lord. ~ Ezekiel 12:25

God's word tells us what we can expect when we refuse to honor Him. We see that His wrath was poured out on the Israelites over and over again.

Here, God recognized that Israelis disregarded the prophesies against them, because the prophecies they heard had not come to pass yet. Much like a misbehaving child, threatened with punishment by a parent over and over again, but yet to suffer the promised consequences. The child comes to think the promise of punishment is just an empty threat.

But that loving parent repeatedly warns, not because he has no plans to follow through, but because he wants to give the misbehaving child every opportunity to change and do what's right. Eventually though, if the child continues to refuse to heed the warnings, the punishment comes, swift and sure.

Israel was like that child, and God that loving parent. Looking at our American society today, we seem to have become THAT misbehaving child, and God has warned us and warned us and warned us. But we refuse to believe He will follow through.

Just remember, He did follow through with Israel, and I am convinced He will follow through with us. He is giving us opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to repent and turn back to Him.

Now is the chance. God is giving us the opportunity, just like He did Israel, to turn from our wicked ways and return to His perfect path. Now is the time. Otherwise, judgment will come, consequences will follow.

So let's get down on our knees and pray for revival in America, a return to the One True God, who has blessed us with so much.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Every Knee Shall Bow...Eventually

And you will know that I am the Lord, for you have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed to the standards of the nations around you. ~ Ezekiel 11:12

God removed His hand of protection from Israel when they refused to repent after turning from Him. And here God promises, in the suffering that follows, that Israel will "know that I am the Lord."

How often did God warn them? How many chances did they have to turn back to Him and avoid His wrath? Plenty. They were warned and given numerous chances to recognize the error of their ways.

God wanted them to turn back! He didn't want to punish them. But they refused. Much like we are doing in the US today.

God has warned us as our nation declines in strength and standing, as more and more of our people slip into a state of poverty, as violence increases.

But our people have hardened their hearts and refuse to recognize the warnings. We refuse to turn back to the God who blessed us for more than two centuries when our hearts and heads were focused on Him. But God also promised to bring Israel back once they had learned their lesson and turned back to honor and worship Him.

And so it should begin with those who believe. It's easy to get swept up in the ways of this world, our ungodly culture's wicked ways. It's hard to stand for right while the majority proclaim and celebrate wrong.

But we must stand up and stand firm in the face of adversity and persecution. We must proclaim the truth when our society proclaims the lie. How will he who has ears hear if nobody speaks the truth? How will he who has eyes see if all believers are slinking in the shadows?

It's better to stand alone for right, than in a crowd for wrong.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Choose Christ this Christmas!

then  the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. ~ Ezekiel 10:8

Merry Christmas everyone!

As long as we walk this earth, our lives are one long string of choices, followed by the consequences of those choices. In general, good choices lead to good consequences, and poor choices lead to bad consequences. In the verse above, the people of Israel had consistently made bad choices, and the Lord departed from the temple, removing his protective hand and leaving them to the mercy of their enemies.

I have been blessed and fortunate to have made mostly good choices in my adult life. (Lots of poor choices in my younger days. And some pretty bad consequences followed.) And I am blessed to see good consequences that came from those choices. I'm blessed with a great wife, a good job, and financial stability. And while those things lead to a level of comfort in life, none of them can, alone or together, were enough to give me the peace I now enjoy.

While I may have bad days where I get down, when things don't go my way, I can honestly say that I now have a peace that surpasses understanding, a peace that turns the darkest hour bright with light, peace that calms the seas, and quiets the torrents that rage from time to time. And that peace, that ability to weather any storm, pass through any valley, find light in the darkest of places, that peace is the result of the absolute best choice I ever made.

That choice was to hand my life over to Jesus Christ, to make the One whose birth we celebrate this Christmas day the Lord of my life. That choice was available to me my whole life, but as I sought peace and happiness through the things of this world, peace and happiness eluded me, even though I made good choices, and reaped the rewards of those good choices, earthly rewards. But those earthly rewards were never enough, and they did not bring the peace and happiness I sought.

Only Jesus Christ could do that. Only the Son of God could fill the void. I don't make as much money as I once did. I'm not as close to some people as I'd like to be. But regardless how great or not great things are from an earthly perspective, I now have a peace that stems from the hope and confidence in eternity in Heaven, a place with no tears, pain, or suffering. The worries of this world slip away once the awesome realization hits that eternity in Heaven with Jesus awaits!

Life is a constant series of choices. Every one of those choices have consequences. But only one of those choices has eternal consequences. That's your choice to accept Jesus Christ, or not accept Him, to believe He is the Son of God, or to not believe. Your good or bad choices regarding earthly things will lead to good or bad consequences in this life, which is only temporary for all of us. But your choice on Jesus Christ is a choice between Heaven or Hell, eternal joy and peace or eternal suffering and torment.

So, as you gather around your tree and open gifts, I pray that you have made or will make the most important choice of your life, the choice to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life.

Merry Christmas everyone! I thank God for the gift of His Son, for whom this holiday is named. He's the reason this is a national holiday, and He's the reason we can truly find peace in this life.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Remember the Reason for the Season!

and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” ~ Ezekiel 9:4

In Ezekiel's vision, God had each person who sought him marked to be spared from His wrath. Today is Christmas Eve. Tomorrow, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whom God sent to live, teach, suffer, and die, so that we, ALL of us, can have an opportunity to spend eternity in Heaven.

So, as you celebrate today, think of the priceless gift given us by God, His only Son, so that we might be spared the wrath of God.

I hope and pray you all have the merriest Christmas. But more than that, I hope and pray you all remember to thank the One for whom this holiday is named.

Jesus IS the reason for the season!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Praying for a Turn Back to God

He said to me, “Do you see this, son of man? You will see things that are even more detestable than this.” ~ Ezekiel 8:15

Speaking to Ezekiel, God was showing the prophet the "detestable" acts of the rebellious children of Israel. Over and over again, with each detestable act He revealed, God told Ezekiel he would see acts even more detestable.

Today, in our culture, whenever someone points to the Bible and names detestable acts that have become quite common today, that person is quickly denounced as a judgmental bigot by non-believers. That's not surprising, since those doing the denouncing don't believe.

But another thing I hear and read often in response, by believers, is something along the lines of, "God is love," insinuating that God would never punish us, not even for becoming a culture that embraces those detestable acts. I've also heard believers claim that many acts, called detestable in His word, aren't offensive to God because the believer committing the act gets enjoyment or fulfillment from it. The idea that God wants us to be happy, and this makes me happy, so it must be okay with God permeates our culture today.

And this is how we justify committing, accepting, and embracing things God called detestable, even as we claim to believe.

But remember, God is the same today as He has always been. He does not change. What is good today was good when Moses led the people of Israel into the wilderness. What was detestable then is detestable now. We don't get to define something as good or bad, right or wrong, when God defined it millenia ago!

God severely punished Israel for its rebellion because the people refused to turn back to God. We need a revival. We need a movement of repentance. We need to read, study, and embrace the word of God, not just the idea of God.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Prayers This Year

In five days, we'll celebrate Christmas. This holiday is set aside to celebrate the birth of Christ, God Himself who came to earth in human form to live, teach, and die, so that we might have eternal life. Less than a month from now will be the 5th anniversary of Amanda's murder. This will be our 5th Christmas without her.

I've seen lots of people posting some version of something asking people to remember that not everyone is happy at Christmas, and I've had lots of people these past several Christmases offering to pray for me. And while those prayers are appreciated, and have been appreciated the past 5 Christmases. I'd ask you to pray a different prayer this year if Amanda comes to mind.

Though there will always be a hole in our hearts that Amanda once filled, though our lives forever changed that fateful night five years ago, though damage was done that can never be repaired, we have learned to get by and get through even these most celebratory days.

I can honestly say the only reason we have reached that point, where we can get by and get through, is the hope in the promise of the very One for whom this holiday is named. Salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ, that promise is only available because God humbled Himself to come to earth and live alongside man and then die a humble and humiliating death, taking upon himself the punishment for the sins of all who believe in Him. We will make it through this Christmas because of what Jesus did for us.

But not everyone has that hope, because not everyone believes. Instead of eternity in Heaven, many will perish and spend eternity burning in Hell because they refused to believe in the One who came to save them. Some who have lost children, and others who will lose children will, refuse to believe because of their loss here on earth.

As our society drifts farther and farther from celebrating the true Reason for the season, choosing instead to celebrate with decorations and presents while forgetting the very One for whom the holiday is named, I'd ask you to pray for these people. Not just those who've lost children and have no hope, not just for those who will lose children and refuse to place their faith in Christ who can give them hope, but for ALL who don't believe.

So, when you pray this Christmas season, don't worry about us. We're going to be okay. We know Amanda is safe in Heaven and we will one day be reunited. Instead, pray for all those who refuse to believe and refuse to accept the gift of salvation, the greatest gift any of us could ever hope to receive. Pray that something they see, someone they know, or just anything they see or hear this Christmas season, will open their eyes to see the Light and open their ears to hear the Truth and soften their hearts to accept the Way to an eternity in Heaven.

Jacob Wells 3 Bridges Marathon

Sorry I haven't been writing much for so long. A second job and taking on more responsibilities at my first job have taken me away and stretched me thin. But next year, I'm giving up the second job, so I hope to have more time to write. But for now, let's get on to my latest marathon.

It was near-perfect weather for running a marathon, and I was blessed to get a new PR, finishing in 4:17:16 on the beautiful flat course alongside the Arkansas River. The weather and the course weren't the only blessings God gave me that allowed me to reach that PR today. He also sent two other Marathon Maniacs my way, Ryan Westin and Ed Childress, who ran with me the entire distance and pushed me to my fastest marathon ever!

These guys were great. We started off at a pace to finish in four hours, but I told them at the start I might not be able to hold it the whole way. Ryan, who paced me to my previous PR last February at Mississippi River Marathon, told me if I couldn't hold the four hour pace, he'd run me to a PR. I'd never met Ed before yesterday, but he, in true Maniac fashion,  joined us at the start and said he was there for the duration.

The first ten miles went great, but I was feeling the faster-than-I-am-accustomed-to pace. We crossed the timing mat at the half after 1:58, on pace to meet the four hour goal, but with little room to err. Not long after that, the effects of pushing the pace must have been showing. They suggested we pull back for a bit. But I told them I wanted to maintain that pace until at least mile 15. By the time we reached the 14 mile mark though, I was easier to persuade. So we backed it down, and that was definitely the right decision.

Just past mile 17 was the long climb up the Big Dam Bridge, one of the bridges for which the race is named, and we decided to walk the uphill portion. That proved another wise decision, because the last eight miles were really flat and I still only beat my previous PR by a little more than two minutes. It's pretty much certain that if we hadn't backed down when we did, I'd have faded even more in those final miles, and that would have cost me the PR.

Many thanks to Jesus Christ for getting me to and getting me through this marathon, and many thanks to Ryan and Ed for sacrificing what could have been much faster times for themselves to help me get a new PR!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

So long Rascal...

Today, I had to have my 15-year-old dog, Rascal, put to sleep. Years ago, more than 4 and a half years ago to be exact, I would have probably shed a few tears. But not today. for a couple of reasons.

First, he's no longer suffering, and I know that. He had a good, long life for a dog who was left at the end of our driveway as a ?? weeks old pup 15 years ago. We lived on a farm then, and the girls were only 6 and 7 years old. Every night, we'd carry him into their bedrooms so he could "tell them goodnight." He was an inside dog from the start, but roamed outside with the rest of our pack as often as he wanted. As he grew, he became lean and fast. He'd run with me every time I went. I'd run 5 miles, but I bet he went 10, circling me and dashing into the woods and through yards and back and forth across the street. He chased every kind of wild critter that exists in north central Arkansas, and chickens too, the loose ones every time they came to pick ours up. After we sold the farm and moved to town, he chased the squirrels from our yard and once got skunked! Every night, because he'd been a farm dog, I'd let him out late to roam a little like he did in his early years. Yeah. He had a good life.

But the second reason I shed no tears today is because I've learned that regardless how good a dog is, losing it can in no way compare to losing our daughter, Amanda Marie​ Allison. I used to refer to my dogs as people, even went so far as to say I'd kill someone who intentionally harmed them. But after losing my daughter, I realized that no dog, not mine or anyone else's is worth trading for a human life. I used to say I liked dogs more than I liked people, and I really believed that. But after losing a daughter, I now know that's not the case. Now, I'd never want anyone to lose a son or daughter over a dog.

Oh how I wish I was still so naive to be able to shed tears over the loss of this good dog. Oh how I wish I didn't know loss that hurt so much worse. I am grateful there are many who can't understand, who don't know what I know. I hope and pray that they never understand. I hope and pray that they never know. I hope and pray that for the rest of their lives they can continue to think like I used to think about a dog.

I love my dogs, every single one of them. I used to think our dogs would be with us in Heaven. Now that I've really studied the Bible, I no longer believe that. Nothing I've read in scriptures leads me to believe that is true. Rascal was a good dog for the 15 years we shared with him here on earth, but he was just a dog.

Tonight, I'm grateful that we have the hope, the promise that we'll be reunited with our loved ones in Heaven. I'm grateful to know that I'll see Amanda again in Heaven, and spend eternity with her there, If I didn't know Christ, or if she didn't know Christ, I wouldn't have that hope. For Jesus' promise is to those who believe in Him, who trust in Him, and who repent of their sin. So tonight, I'm thankful for that promise, and for knowing that losing Amanda was temporary, that when it's my time to leave this life, I'll be reunited with her forever!

So today I lost a good dog, who was a good friend for 15 years. But that loss reminds me of the promise that gives me reason to live, to fight to survive every storm that passes through my life. That promise is salvation through Jesus Christ. If you're reading this and you don't have that hope, that blessed assurance that when you pass from this life to eternity, you'll be with Jesus in Heaven forevermore, ask me, ask a pastor, read your Bible, even Google it to learn how the peace that passes understanding can be yours.

Jesus wants you to have that peace. He died on the cross so that you can have that assurance. Don't let another day pass without accepting His gift of eternal life.

Monday, August 3, 2015

An Anchor in the Storms of Life

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. ~ Hebrews 6:19a
The hope written of here is the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ!

It is an "anchor for the soul, firm and secure." Regardless what storms life throws your way, hold to that hope and trust in Jesus to deliver what He promised! When you're tossed to and fro on waves that seem sure to drag you under, hold to that hope and trust in Jesus! On the darkest night, when it seems the entire universe is closed in around you so tight that you can't see past the end of your nose, and you know that evil and danger lurk in that darkness, hold fast to that hope and trust in Jesus!

In this life, we'll suffer through many sorms. Our faith will be tested. We will be frightened. But Jesus' promise cannot be broken by any tempest we'll face in this world. His promise will hold until the very end and beyond.

If you don't have that hope, if you don't know Jesus Christ as your Savior, contact a pastor or a Christian you know and trust. Talk to someone about how you too can have that anchor that will remain firm and secure through any and all storms.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

You can run, but you can't hide!

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. ~ Hebrews 4:13
Remember how Adam and Eve tried to hide from God in the garden of evil? Remember how they covered their nakedness so God wouldn't see their unclothed bodies? But God did see them. It mattered not that they were hidden and clothed, because God sees EVERYTHING!

Jesus sees us in the light. He sees us in the dark. He sees us when we do good, and...He sees us when we do wrong! Think about that...the Son of God, who gave His very life on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, who loved us so much that He was willing to endure unimaginable suffering so that we can have a chance at eternal life in Heaven, Jesus Christ sees everything we do, hears every word we utter, and knows every thought we think.

The perfect Son of God gave everything so that we can live, and He sees every imperfect thing about usl But He still loves us! He still loves us so much that He is willing to forgive us if we'll only repent and place our faith and trust in Him!

The next time you think an evil thought, remember that Jesus knows everything that goes through your mind. The next time you say that wicked word, remember that Jesus hears even the slightest whisper that escapes your lips. The next time you find yourself in the act of committing sin, remember that Jesus Christ sees everything you do!

And when you remember all that, remember also that no matter what you've thought, what you've said, or what you've done, Jesus Christ still loves you and still wants you. He's waiting for you to reach up to Him. He's waiting to pull you out of the deepest pit and into His saving grace.

We will all give account for the wrong we've done, but if you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, His blood paid the price for your sin.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Trust God! Not Man! Not Yourself!

So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. ~ Hebrews 3:19

Many times I've been told by people that God would never condemn anyone to Hell, because "that's not my God." It seems today that lots of folks have decided they can make up their own definition of God -- who He is and what He expects. I guess you could say we all have our own picture of God though. But the difference is, where does your picture come from?

So many today have nothing more to base their picture of God on than their own feelings, desires, and idea of what's "fair." God to them is whatever any individual wants Him to be. I guess, under their ideology, my God could be a goat or a pig or snake, whatever I decided He is. These opinions come from no Bible, no divine source at all. They come directly from the feelings of each individual.

But God handed down everything we need to know about Him in the Holy Bible. He gave us the very instruction book to get us through this life and to eternal life. And it's amazingly simple! Just believe! Because if you just believe, He WILL change you! You WILL become a new creation! You WILL live differently!

We don't get to decide WHO God is. He told us who He is! He told us what He expects of us too! What it takes to become an heir to His kingdom! It's ALL there, in THE Book! How else can anyone explain how the Holy Bible came to be the best-selling book of all times? How else can it be explained that countries, nations, kingdoms that based their laws on Biblical principles became the most powerful, most prosperous, most envied in the entire world?

That is...until they turned away. Because all those countries, nations, and kingdoms that became great while following God's instruction manual also became weak, powerless, and largely insignificant when they drifted away from Biblical truth.

Is it any wonder our own country is falling from grace? As more and more of our people abandon the Godly path for the ungodly? Is it any wonder that our nation is tearing apart at the seams, with violence and strife filling streets once peaceful and serene?

And what we see taking place today, with all the sadness and suffering, will be nothing compared to the wailing and gnashing of teeth that will be endured FOR ETERNITY by the hellbound who refuse to accept the gift of salvation! Ladies and gentlemen! For God's sake and for your own, don't trust what the world and our diseased culture tells you for the truth! Open the pages of the Bible and see for yourself! Read for yourself! Take God's Word for it, not man's, not mine, not even your own!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Resisting Temptation

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. ~ Hebrews 2:18
The "He" mentioned here is of course Jesus Christ. He became a man to live among men, teach men, be tempted like man, and die a man's death. But, because He is also the Son of God, He lived a perfect, sinless, life. Then, also because He is the Son of God, He conquered death when He rose from the grave and ascended to Heaven. All of this -- His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection -- God brought it all to pass as a sacrifice for US, so that WE have a way to attain eternal life!

Now, if Jesus could accomplish all that, there is no limit to what He can accomplish, including helping me and you. Because, unlike Christ, we don't live perfect, sinless lives. We're born imperfect sinners, every single one of us. I've heard it said many times, you don't have to teach a child to be bad. They're going to hit other kids. They're going to bite others. They're going to pull each other's hair. You tell a little kid not to do something, and I mean a little bitty toddler, and they're going to try their best to do exactly that! You don't have to teach them to be bad. Because it's our nature to sin from the day we are born.

Even after we've been taught right and wrong, the temptation to sin is there. You've heard "rules are made to be broken." How many people do you know who never stole anything. Even stealing a piece of candy is a sin. We're ALL tempted, and even if we know right from wrong, we ALL fall to temptation at times. Because of that, we ALL need help to resist that temptation.

We are called to live Holy lives. We are called to imitate Jesus. Yes, the perfect, sinless, Son of God is who we are supposed to model our own lives after.But we can't do it on our own. Satan is there to lure us from it. The devil is the one who tempts us, prowling like a lion, seeking to devour us. And it's hard! It's hard to resist temptation. It's hard to make the right choices and live the Holy life we're called to live.

But, if we lean on the One who did lead a perfect, sinless life, if we cry out to Jesus and ask Him to help us, He will help. He will help us face down temptation. All we have to do is ask. He will help us turn away from sin when we do fall to temptation. All we have to do is ask.

Jesus Christ is waiting, wanting to help every single one of us face down temptation. Every single one of us! He didn't die to save just me. He didn't die to save just the pastor of your church. He didn't die to save just one nation. He didn't die to save just one race. He died to save us ALL!

So whether you find yourself being tempted for the first time, or whether you're so deep in sin it feels like you're in over your head. Cry out to Jesus! He's ready and waiting to keep you from falling in, or to reach in and pull you out. He's ready and waiting right now!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Results of the Decline in Christianity in America Today

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. ~ John 8:32
Folks will call the shooter in Louisiana a Christian because he wasn't Muslim. I don't know if he was or wasn't a Christian. But what I do know is that our government, our media, and a very large proportion of our citizenry has spent more than five decades doing everything it can to strip away the vestiges of Christianity in our culture.

This article from Pew Research shows the change in our population over seven short years, from 2007 to 2014, of those who identify themselves as Christians. In 2007, 78.4% identified as Christians. In 2014, that number was down to 70.6%. In a country with 315 million citizens, that means we'd have almost 25 million more Christians today if that proportion had not dropped.

Now consider something that may be immeasurable -- the decline in Christian values among even those who proclaim to be Christians. Whole denominations that once based their doctrine on the Holy Bible have now proclaimed that God's Word is no longer God's Word. Some non-denominational churches that identify as Christians also follow this path. Many of these churches go so far as to claim Jesus is not the Son of God! I myself have had discussions with Christians who flatly deny what is stated clearly as truth in the Bible.

Now, it doesn't take any imagination at all to realize that once the Holy Bible is removed as the authority to live as a Christian, then the definition of Christianity becomes to each individual whatever that individual wants it to become. This is the reality we live in today.

It's not traditions we're disagreeing on here. I'm not talking about whether or not we should take the Lord's supper once a week, once a year, or even at all. I'm not talking about sprinkling or immersion baptism. I'm talking about the twisting of the definition of Christianity so much that millions among that 70% who call themselves Christians don't even believe Jesus is the only path to salvation!

I'm not going to judge anyone's salvation on an individual basis. I'm not going to say that you or him or her or it is of is not a Christian. But if you define Christianity the way I do -- that a Christian believes Jesus is who He said He is, did what the Bible says He did, and meant what He said in the Gospel, and that because you believe all that, you acknowledge yourself as a sinner in need of salvation, and you place your trust and faith in Him for that salvation -- then you'll understand that MILLIONS of those 70% who identify as Christians do not meet that definition.

I don't know what percent of our population actually follows Jesus' teaching, actually believes and works to live a Christian life. But I do know that it's far less than 70%. And I know it's much, much less than it was when the targeted effort to strip our culture of its Christian identity began more than 50 years ago.

In no way do I believe that every non-Christian is a horrible, violent person who will go around wantonly taking human lives. But I do recognize the inverse relationship between the proportion of Bible-believing Christians and the absolute disregard for human life in our culture.

Evil has always existed. But as we allow our culture to slip farther and farther from the teachings of the Bible, from the very teachings that brought us from a pious but ragtag collection of colonists to the greatest country in the world, evil is gaining ground. Evil is taking over.

The crazy thing is, as Christianity in and its influence on American culture shrinks, the very ones who intentionally plot and scheme to eradicate it are quick to label every evil thing as its product. When, in reality, evil is stepping in and filling the vacuum they have created.

I pray to God that we will soon see another Great Awakening in this country. Not for my sake, but for my children and grandchildren, for all the kids coming up today. I pray that hardened hearts will soften, that heretics and false teachers will repent and bend the knee and choose to honor God. I pray that our children will recognize that as a Christian nation, as a nation that recognized the Holy Bible as God's Word and Jesus Christ as His Son sent as a sacrifice for our sins, as a nation that sought to honor God, we were a people who could let our kids roam and romp and play without the fear that every strange vehicle contained a child molesting pervert.

We could leave the windows open and the door unlocked without fearing the registered sex offender down the street would slip in and abscond with our kids. We could go to the movies without a thought that some nutcase idiot was there to take the lives of people he didn't even know!

This political movement that has for more than 50 years worked incessantly to remove Christianity from our culture has made tremendous headway. They sought to "free" us from the morality that Jesus Christ taught. Well, they have "freed" many. And now, many of those are roaming the streets and killing indiscriminately.

They haven't killed Christianity in these United States. But they've convinced a lot of people to choose another path. And now, when their efforts result in increased violence, they try to lay the blame on Christianity -- the very belief system that kept such violence at bay before they had their way.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Angels vs Angels? Does is really matter?

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? ~ Hebrews 1:14

Of all the times I've read the book of Hebrews, this verse never stood out to me before. A while back, I had a student come to me demanding that I back him in an argument with one of his peers. The argument was whether or not we become angels when we go to Heaven. I'll get back to what I told him when I close this post.

First, let me make clear that I often refer to Amanda as an angel. In my dealings with other bereaved parents, the vast majority do. That said, I understand that Amanda and all the others who have passed and gone to Heaven are not "angels" like Gabriel and Michael and the others in the Bible.

This verse from Hebrews clearly states that angels are servants of all who will inherit salvation. In my reading of the scriptures, I believe these are special beings that were never human. But somewhere along the line, we humans struggled to find an adequate word to describe our loved ones in heaven.

On earth, when we refer to a human as an angel, we are saying they are pretty much perfect. (Now I know that nobody is perfect, but you all know what I'm saying here.) The same way we tend to call people who are doing bad things devils or demons, knowing full well they are not actually agents of Satan.

So, when our loved ones go to Heaven and we say, "Heaven gained another angel," or we refer to our "angel" in Heaven, it's not necessarily that we believe they have transformed into an angel like those mentioned above. But I do believe, that once we ascend to Heaven to spend eternity with Jesus, we are perfect. Indeed, Hebrews 10:14 tells us that Jesus' sacrifice made us perfect forever.

But I also realize there are people, many people, who don't understand the difference between the angels of the Bible and our loved ones in Heaven. Which brings me back to how responded to my argumentative student.

His argument was heated and he was adamant that his peer had to change views and agree with him. But my response was, does it matter? Is what this kid believes about whether we become angels or not going to gain or deny him/her entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven? When he said no, it's not going to affect the salvation of the kid he was arguing with, I asked why he was so worried about it.

To me, this is one of those things that will be revealed in study as we get closer and closer in our relationship with Jesus. And, if it's not something that's going to keep someone from Heaven or get them to Heaven, it's certainly not something worth having a heated, hostile argument over.

I honestly cannot tell you what it's going to be like when we get to Heaven. The best I can tell you is what I've read in God's Word. It's a place with no tears, pain, or sorrow. If you want a physical description of Heaven, read Revelation 21 and 22. Aside from that, I won't attempt to tell you how it's going to be in Heaven. There are many who will and who have, but their descriptions are as many as their number.

What will eternity in Heaven be like? That's a mystery that will be revealed to me when it's my time to go. But it's not worth arguing about while I'm here.

While I'm here, my goal should be to allow Jesus to use me to bring as many as possible to experience His saving grace so that they too can be "angels," or whatever you want to call them, with us in Heaven. So let's preach repentance and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ -- Son of God, crucified as a sacrifice for our sin, resurrected and awaiting us when our time on earth is finished.

Time to Come Back

Well, after a year-long break from blogging, I'm back. While some probably wish I'd stayed in blogging retirement, hopefully at least a few will be glad to have me back at the keyboard.

I won't be posting as frequently as before. (Part of the reason for my sabbatical was that time spent at the keyboard was consuming time I needed to spend doing other things.) But I will be back campaigning to stop teen substance abuse, sharing the Word of God and messages that He gives me, and my experiences as a runner.

Please feel free to engage. I'm grateful when you share or comment on anything I post here.

Stay sober. Study God's Word. And keep running the race set before you.