Friday, February 26, 2010

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Run to Win

For the past two weeks I've been sleep deprived. I'm an Olympics addict--winter and summer. I love the competition and the athletes are an inspiration. Since I grew up in a family of Olympic fans, I've been this way most of my life.

I'm impressed by the talent, dedication and courage of the athletes. It takes a rare person to stick to a lifetime commitment that may or may not pay off in the end. The athletes have my absolute respect.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 speaks to this. It says, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlesslly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No. I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

I can never be an Olympic athlete, but I can be a dedicated servant of God. To do that I must train hard. Unlike the medals awarded at the Olympics, which do not last, the crown I fight for will last forever.

Paul makes it clear that this is no small task. We are to run in such a way as to win. Just like an Olympic athlete it requires discipline and training. Sacrifice is required. God has laid out a plan for us--Prayer, Bible study and worship are our tools. Too many hours in front of the televicion, computer or even in a book (which I love) can rob us of priceless time with our Lord.

God has given us so much for our enjoyment and it is his desire that we take part in this wonderful world he's created. It is a gift. Spend time loving others, enjoy a good book or a movie, or a morning sunrise. But don't neglect time to train for the eternal race where glory waits for us. Go for the gold.

Grace and peacet to you from God.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Quiet Moments With God -- Hidden in the Crevice of a Rock

Recently during a Bible study Exodus 33:19-23 came up for discussion. Most likely we've all heard or read about this encounter Moses had with God. This time, while reading through the verses, God revealed something new to me, something He knew I needed to see. When I contemplate what happened between these two I'm so deeply touched that tears of thankfulness and love overtake me.

When Moses met with God he asked to see his glory. God's response reveals the Lord's tenderness and offers a picture of our God we rarely see. Scripture says, "The Lord replied, 'I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.' The Lord continued, 'Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will removed my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.'"

As I contemplate God's tenderness toward Moses I am bathed in the warmth of true love. I can envision God gently setting Moses in the crevice of a rock and then with a father's compassion He covers Moses with his hand, making certain he is safe. Moses sees God only from behind as He passes by, and yet he is transformed.

This encounter gives us a glimpse of what is to come. Our Heavenly Father cares for us with a love we cannot comprehend. One day we will see Him face to face and we will fully experience His radiance. He loves us with the same intensity that He felt for Moses. He is with us every moment, placing his hand of protection upon us. His love will never diminish.

We're always and forever His.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Just Do It

"Just do it," is an idiom we're all familiar with. When Nike coined the phrase it meant go all out, live life, but they implied that we couldn't do that without wearing a pair of Nikes.

Over the years it's been used in a number of ways with countless meanings. I was reminded of this while in church Sunday when my pastor shared a quote from Harry Blamires who said, "Do we have a bowed head or a turned back?" You might wonder what this has to do with a Nike slogan. The context of the quote was that we have only two responses to authoritative spiritual counsel -- either do it or don't do it. That's pretty straight forward.

When we consider our spiritual walk are we more likely to bow to Christ or to turn our back? Think about the last time you knew God was asking something of you; what was your response? I've said no to the Lord many times. Often I'm not aware that that's what I'm doing. My decision to say no may be disguised as simple practicality. Or convincing myself the time's not right. There are a lot of things we tell ourselves to reassure us that we're not turnnig our backs. I do it. You do it.

What if we decided to always bow, always say yes to Christ no matter the consequences or circumstances? Our lives and the world would be transformed. We would be open vessels filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. We would posssess the peace that comes with knowing we are in God's perfect will. What better place can there be?

We are imperfect creatures. We will not always get "it" right. But if we decide to say yes more often the results may be stunning.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Quiet Moments With God -- God Whispers

This is a topic I've talked about before, but last weekend God gave me a powerful image of what it looks like to persevere. Our school district hosted a wrestling tournament. I spent the day in a school gym, watching boys battle for points and the ultimate pin.

I don't like wresting, never have. It's always seemed brutal. However since my grandson has taken up the sport I've grown to appreciate the strength and tenacity of wrestlers. I must admit I spend a good deal of time barely watching and praying while boys have their faces ground into mats, arms contorted so badly it seems they'll be torn out of sockets and their necks twisted in the most frightening positions.

Today while doing my best to keep my eyes on the matches the Lord whispered to me, "Watch and learn, see what I see." And then I saw something I'd been missing--tenacity, courage, strength and the refusal to give up. Many of the wrestlers, including my grandson, fight on even when all seems lost. They refuse to surrender.

My grandson didn't "win" all of his matches that day, but even when he "lost" he was a winner because he didn't give up. When matched against a boy three years his senior who clearly outweighed him, he kept fighting. I was impressed. While I watched I heard again that quiet voice of God whisper to me, "Don't give up."

God speaks and we need to listen. We face challenges and tasks that seem too difficult. We may even believe they're impossible to achieve. How will we know unless we fight on? Only then can we realize victory. It's in the battle that we gain strength, faith and knowledge that prepares us for the next contest.

Life holds a variety of rewards, but we'll only experience them if we're willing to take on challenges and fight for them. Many of the obstacles I encounter I've met before. They seem to be forever rising up to confront me. I've wanted to give up, thinking it can't be done. However, it will be easier now, for God has planted an image in my mind of a little boy in a wrestling hold that seems impossible to break free from. Yet, he makes a surprising move and not only breaks free, but wins the match.

All things are possible with God. We can do it. Fight on!

Grace and peace to you from God.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Seize Opportunities

This week while reading in the book of Esther I was struck by something I hadn't noticed before. When reading the story of this remarkable woman I've been impressed by her courage, her faith, and her obedience, admirable traits we should all strive to live out. However on this read through I noticed another quality in Esther--she seized opportunities.

When King Xerxes decreed that all Jews be killed Mordecai said to Esther, the queen but also a Jew, "Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?" Esther's response? "If I must die, I must die."

Esther could have saved herself by keeping her lineage a secret. Instead she took hold of an opportunity to save her people. But she didn't jump into a plan carelessly. First she called others to join her in prayer and fasting, then trusting God she stepped forward, hoping to save her people. Knowing it might cost her life, she told the king the truth and requested he change his decree. The result--a nation was saved.

The opportunities presented to us most likely do not require that we put our lives on the line, but our decisions and actions have the power to change lives. Like Esther, we need to be aware of God's open doors. We need to be people who pray and when we're presented with a chance to make a change we need to seize it. God will provide opportunities.

Years ago when I first decided to write I had no idea that my hobby would become a career and a ministry. God had a plan and he flung open the doors. I walked through them. I'm not especially brave, but I could see that the opportunities presented to me were clearly God's doing. I didn't dare ignore him.

Don't turn your back on the open doors in your life. There are blessings and surprises on the other side. Step through and discover your destiny.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Live Sacrificially

Living sacrificially is a hard thing to get our hearts and minds around. I don't necessarily like it, particularly when the sacrifice of someone else means a sacrifice for me. After all, I wasn't called to that sacrifice . . . was I?

I recently received a video from my sister giving us a short tour of her new home. She and her husband gave up their comfortable home(only one mile from mine), family, friends, and their church to live in a remote area of Alaska where they serve God. They love their new life, but the sacrifice is real and sometimes painful for them as well as for the people they left behind who love them.

In the beginning I was mad. I love my sis and I loved having her close by. I knew God had other plans for her and that I was out of line. I was convicted again and again about my selfishness. I needed to embrace God's plans and let go of my own. I'm happy to say, God has managed to change my heart and though I still miss my sister I'm thrilled with what God is doing through her and her husband.

Serving God always requires sacrifice. Recently in a Bible study discussion we talked about the apostle Paul and his sacrifice. He served God with unwavering dedication. Even while imprisoned he held onto his calling and proclaimed the true faith to unbelievers. And he penned letters of instruction and encouragement to the churches and their leaders. In First Timothy he charged Timothy to fight the good fight and to hold tightly to the gospel of grace.

Paul's life is a good example for us. We've all been called, in one way or another, to serve. Service requires sacrifice--of our time, finances, maybe even our home. We have no excuses. There is always something we can do. When we put aside self God reveals His will and His way.

There is a saying often referred to in Weight Watchers--"Nothing tastes as good as thin feels." Getting to the place called "thin" takes sacrifice, but it's a good place to be.

I urge you dear friends, don't fight against God, fight with Him. Stand up to evil. Share the gospel. Encourage others. Love one another. Sacrifice may feel painful for a time but glorifying God through our lives brings true joy and satisfaction.

Grace and peace to you from God.