Stamina: Strategically increasing our stamina gives us the strength to finish well

Stamina is an urgent need if we are going to finish the race that the Lord has set before us. Therefore, we must increase our stamina.Running man.jpg

To illustrate what I mean by increasing stamina, let me use my friend as an example. My friend runs long distances and has a trainer. When she began training for her first marathon, her trainer explained to her that she would have to increase her stamina by 10% every week – and no more. Her trainer strategically increased her body’s muscular ability to handle longer distances by making gradual and consistent demands on her stamina. He gradually increased the distance that she would run and then the pace that she would run each new distance. His goal was to prevent her body from collapsing and becoming injured. Injury caused by overzealous training would backfire and take her out of the race completely. But by the same token, not pushing her level of stamina consistently enough would cause her to be underdeveloped when faced with the pressure of race day.

The same is true for us in the things of the spirit. We must consistently and strategically increase our stamina in the things of God. But let me say this: increasing stamina is never fun and it requires focus and self-discipline. It requires vision for the goal that we wish to attain. Do you wish to be closer to the Lord? Do you wish to hear His voice more clearly? Do you wish to shed unwanted habits or sin? Then increasing your stamina in prayer, in worship, and in directing your thoughts toward God will be key. Coming into His presence regularly and increasing the amount of time that you can focus your thoughts, your worship and your praise upon Him is critical for increasing our spiritual stamina.

Continue reading

Speak, Lord. I’m listening.

Headphones.jpg

John 10: 4-5: And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.

Over the 16 years that my husband and I have been married, I would estimate that we have spoken millions of words to each other.  Some have been informational, some have been directional, some have been purposed to probe the heart, and some have been revelatory.  But every word, for better or worse, has been part of  the picture of our marriage.  Some of the nitpicking and critical words I wish I could take back.  Other words, like words of encouragement and praise, I am trying to say more often. But each and every word has been a brush stroke on the canvas of the marriage we now have.

This is true for every relationship.  Our words are powerful and have the ability to create or tear down, offer peace or instill fear, give hope and direction or confuse and distract.

The power of words originated with God.  God created everything seen and unseen with words.  He could have used thoughts or He could have used His hands.  But He chose to speak everything into being.

And God still speaks.  He hasn’t changed over time, as many falsely teach.  He upholds the words He has already spoken and He speaks new fresh things to his children.  He tells us in John 10:4-5 that his sheep hear his voice and the voice of another they will not listen to or follow.

Continue reading

Words in Red: John 6:61 – When God offends you

Words in Red are excerpts from my journal as I have been taking the words of Jesus and letting them speak directly to my own heart.

Sitting on the tracks

John 6:61  “Does this offend you?”

Lord Jesus, I honestly have to admit that there have been many times that I have been offended by You.  When I was a young, immature Christian everything about You seemed so neat and tidy.  Before long, I started creating a nice doctrine where You answer every prayer the way I pray it, and behave according to my interpretation of how God should behave.

Fortunately and unfortunately, You are not containable in a theological box of my creation.  The only way You could mature me and bring me to a deeper understanding of Who You are was to smash the box.

 
I remember one time when You didn’t answer my prayers regarding something really big.  When the opposite of what I prayed for happened, I thought I wouldn’t make it. I thought John and I would be ruined – and I was offended by You.

Continue reading

“Free”: The word that gives access

 

Free PassI love free stuff.  In fact, “free” is a four letter word that gives me great joy! I especially love free stuff when it’s great quality and something that I have been wanting for some time.  I remember once when I needed a chandelier for our dining room.  We didn’t have the money to purchase one but I had seen a chandelier at a local store that I loved.  One day, my mother-in-law, not knowing anything about the chandelier I had been eyeing, gave me a gift certificate to that very store! You better believe that I bolted over to the store, purchased the chandelier and had my husband up on a ladder installing it that night! And the best part about that blessing is that every time I look at that chandelier, I am reminded that God provided the exact thing that I was hoping for which made the waiting so worthwhile!

What about you? Do have any stories about stumbling upon or being given something that you wanted for a while?

Here’s another angle to “free” stuff that I was pondering the other day.  A few weeks ago, my husband and I rented a beach house for our vacation.  We rent the same house during the same week of July every year.  We let our grown children, extended family and friends know well in advance that they are welcome to come up and enjoy the beach house.  We only ask that they let us know in advance when they plan to come so we can prepare food and make sure that beds are made.

Continue reading

“You are Mine”: my vision of heaven

Haleakala-Sunrise

When I was running this morning, a soft rain started to hit my face.  I was in the last mile when the song by Matt Redman, 10,000 Reasons, came on my Pandora station.

All of a sudden with my eyes wide open, I had a vision of heaven.  When the audience joins Matt in singing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul! Worship His holy name!  Sing like never before, O my soul! I worship Your holy name!”, I saw a vision of every tribe and tongue singing worship to the Lamb.  I saw crowds around the Sea of Glass with voices rising in unison.  I was so moved by this ultimate unity of worship to the One Who is Exalted that I started to tear up as I ran.

And then something amazing happened.  I saw the crowd part in front of me and Jesus walked right up to me.  He stood before me and I didn’t know what to do.  I was so humbled and felt so unworthy that He would even notice me among the throng.   “Why are You standing here looking at me?”, I thought.

And then I heard Him say to my heart, “You are Mine.”

Then ensued a quiet conversation where I wrestled with that statement.  “But Lord, why do You single me out in this moment?  Surely you know how far from holiness my thoughts and actions so often are.  You know how much of my life I spend in selfish pursuits, acting as if my own small kingdom will bring me satisfaction and joy. I wish I had more good deeds and righteous activity to offer you.”

Again, I heard, “You are Mine.”

As I ran with this vision in front of me, I was crying, blessed, humbled and undone all at the same time.  The whole Gospel narrative of a perfect, holy Lamb who chose each one of us and knows us by name and loves us with such great compassion, all flooded my mind. The words, ‘You are Mine’ began to expand in meaning in my heart as if they were being blown up like a balloon.  It became so clear in that face-to-face moment that all of my sin, all of my weakness, all of my mistakes and failures are not and will never be more powerful than His redeeming love.  I am His workmanship and He is not ashamed of me.

He is not ashamed of you.  He says to you, my friend, “You are Mine.”

If you have received that free work of redemption through the shed blood of the Lamb, then nothing and no one will separate you from His care.  You have His attention.  You are not one spot in a throng of millions.  You are a soul that he knows with the intimacy of the both the Creator and the Bridegroom.  And we will spend all of eternity exploring the depths of a love and intimacy that cannot be worn out, used up or depleted.

If you have never received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you can do so today.  Jesus is alive and His mercy is mind-blowingly awesome.  The Bible says, All who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (Romans 10:13)

Praise the Lord!! How great is our God! All glory and honor to the Lamb!

Extravagant devotion: Drinking in and pouring out

Sunset through windows.jpg

In John Chapter 12, there is a story about how six days before Passover, Jesus went to the home of his three friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, for a meal.  This story perfectly depicts the roles that these three siblings have adopted with Jesus.  They each have a certain relationship with Jesus and their relationship is flavored by their unique personalities and approach to the Master.

John relates that Martha was serving and Lazarus was reclining with Jesus. These were usual roles for men and women in those days.  And they were usual roles for both Martha and Lazarus. Earlier in the book of John, we saw Martha racing around serving food to a houseful of people, frustrated with her sister who was seemingly not helping her enough. And we saw that Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus by the way Jesus wept before he raised him from the dead.

So Martha is serving and Lazarus is chatting, but Mary is doing something different. She is doing something that no one has ever seen before.  Mary takes a pint of pure nard – an expensive perfume worth a year’s wages – and poures it on Jesus’ feet and then wipes his feet with her hair.

Immediately, Judas Iscariot, whom we know betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, speaks up in protest that the perfume was wasted on Jesus.  He says that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.  This was a man whose hand was always in the till so that’s why he would have wanted to see the perfume sold.

But back to Mary – why did she do such a thing? What prompted her to take expensive perfume and offer it to Jesus along with the humble act of washing his feet with her hair? I think she did it because she had developed a habit – a lifestyle really – of worship and devotion.  The only way that she could offer such an extravagant gift is because she had an extravagant love for the Lord.  This was a love she had cultivated.  It didn’t come overnight.  She put herself in the position of allowing herself to be overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus so that she could be an extravagant worshiper.

Continue reading

Words in Red: John 6:35 – Spread too thin and not enough time

Words in Red are excerpts from my journal as I have been taking the words of Jesus and letting them speak directly to my own heart.

Too Busy 3 Web.png

John 6:35: “I am the Bread of Life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry; and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

I once heard someone say that we’re all as full of God as we want to be.  Jesus, You are the Bread of Life – the food my soul craves – and I can partake of your nourishing, life-giving Presence any time I want.  You are the pure water that refreshes my parched soul that dries out so quickly in the pressure and activity of this life.

Lord, You have made a way for all to enter into Your rest – that rest which is elusive to us any other way but through You.  Every other attempt to nourish and hydrate our souls is a cheap substitute that doesn’t bring true life.

Continue reading