Keep Running His Race

Hebrews 12 1 (1)

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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1‭-‬3 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/heb.12.1-3.NIV

Yesterday evening I was out for a run.  It was my second run of the day as I did a 3 mile run in the morning.  I was feeling pretty good early in the run so I made a decision to run for 10 miles. I have only ran that far one other time in my life, it was 10 years ago when I ran a half marathon.  I knew this was a big undertaking so I settled into a manageable pace and went for it.  This scripture immediately came to mind, as well as my grandmother.   Sadly, she is in hospice care and very close to the end of her life.  She is surrounded by family, but not her whole family.  We are 800 miles away, and as I was running it gave me the time to reflect on her life, and draw strength from it.
She is someone I would put in that cloud of great witnesses.  She has lived her life in a way that I know God is proud of.  She has faithfully served Him and his people since she was able. And it makes me want to do better.  During my run, I stumbled between 3 and 4 miles. I fell to the sidewalk like a ton of bricks.  At first I laughed because I thought it must have been funny to the passer by’s in cars.  Then I assessed the damage, a few scrapes and a really scuffed up corner on my phone. I decided to push on, but was considering calling it quits and heading home at that point.   But that scripture says to throw off everything that hinders us, and the sin (sidewalk) that so easily entangles us.  Yes my leg hurt, yes my hand hurt, but I wasn’t giving up.  I had made a commitment to go 10 miles. Fast forward to about 8 miles in, and I notice my left hamstring is feeling a little weird with every step. I slow my pace but it gets worse, at 8.5 it starts cramping up. I stop, stretch, walk a bit, then start again. Yet it only lets me go a few steps before it gives up.  My body has had enough, but I still have a mile to go.  I ended up walking that last mile, but I finished the 10.
In many ways I see a correlation between that 10 mile journey and the faith journey we take throughout life.  There are going to be setbacks, there are going to be times we stumble, or get hurt, and want to quit. There are going to be times we can’t or don’t move as fast as we planned.  But the important thing is to remember our commitment, to draw on the strength of others, to eliminate the things holding us back.
The race is already laid out before us, first set out by Jesus, then followed by so many others.  Let’s make sure to include ourselves in that faith list shall we?
Jerry Briggs
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Keep Running Your Race

Gal 5 7

Galatians 5:7-10 New International Version (NIV)

7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.

Have you ever been having a good day, only to have something or someone happen, and totally change the day?  It’s easy to get beat down by life some days.  And it’s even easier to point the finger at other people or difficult circumstances when we let the things going on around us effect our relationships negatively.  I totally understand that sometimes life is difficult, and sometimes it’s unfair, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about when we’re really finding our stride in our Christian walk, and then we let something knock us off the path.  That’s why I love the section of scripture in Galatians 5.  It leaves us with no excuses.

This section reminds us that we are responsible for our own faith. It isn’t our pastor’s, our parents’, or our friends’ responsibility. Those can all be great people that God uses to challenge us to grow, but we must be careful to follow God and the teachings of Jesus, not people. Notice too that even a little yeast works its way through the whole batch of dough.  Letting just a little thing bother us without dealing with it could have huge implications on our actions.  We also see that whoever is throwing us into confusion, has to pay a penalty.  We must therefore also pay attention to how we are influencing people.  Take a good look into your life and ask yourself, Am I letting someone throw me off my daily walk?  Am I throwing someone else off of theirs?  If the answer is yes, we have some changes to make.

-Jerry Briggs

Winning Respect

1 Thess 4 11

I Thessalonians 4:9-12

9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

I find these verses to be quite fascinating. Paul was writing to believers who were living in the first century in the Roman Empire. Their lives as disciples of Jesus were to stand out from the lives of those outside of the community of Jesus. They needed to live lives that earned the respect of those outside of the Church. Paul’s instruction on how they were to do this is what I find so interesting: lead a quiet life, mind your own business, work with your hands, do not be dependent on others. In that society, Paul believed that non-believers would be more open to hearing the message of Jesus Christ if his followers lived lives worthy of respect, focused, hard working, quiet. There’s nothing flashy or exciting about this counsel, simply to live a steady and hard working life.

As disciples of Jesus today it’s becoming increasingly more challenging to win the respect of people outside of the Church. Perhaps we need to go back to Paul’s simple and undramatic counsel and live out that lifestyle.

-Jeff Fletcher

Bee a Good Worker Bee!

James 1 12

An individual honey bee cannot live on its own much like a true Christian cannot live without the body of Christ to sustain it.  A honey bee colony is referred to as a “super organism.” While each individual honey bee is itself an organism, together as a hive of thousands of bees they become something much more extraordinary!  Every bee has a job to do that changes as they get older. They start by staying in the hive doing jobs like undertaker, food storage, cleaning, nurse and taking care of the queen. Then as they grow they take a test flight outside the safety of the hive.  Then one day they are ready for foraging for food. Foraging is a dangerous yet necessary part of the super organism’s function. Without this foraging the bees would have no nectar to feed upon and no pollen for protein.

Luke 13:6-9 NIV  – Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.  So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.  If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

It is essential as a Christian to bear good fruit and to be a good tree that will not be removed from the earth – to be like a good worker bee who helps to feed the hive and sustain the Super organism that is the body of Christ.  When bees leave the hive they leave security; they do not have a protector in heaven just the cruel world crouching at the entrance of the hive.  Some of the trials bees face when they leave the hive are birds, dragonflies, cars, flying up to two miles away and navigating back to the correct hive.  Regardless of what they face bees will move forward even to the point of death against overwhelming odds. As Christians we need to work to put fertilizer around our roots so that we can grow to the point of bearing fruit.  Like bees who take test flights Christians need to be willing to do things that are not in their comfort zone.

James 1:12 NIV Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Sometimes our venture away from the security of Church camps or the fellowship with our brothers and sisters does not go well.  Stepping out of our comfort zone can leave us feeling anxious or scared. If the bees retreated and refused to persevere through all the dangers they face the hive would have no choice but to begin eating their honey that is stored up.  If there is still no nectar coming in they begin to cannibalize the young pupae who require food. Let’s hope our churches never get to that point! If there is still no nectar coming in and they have gone through their stores they will either abscond or starve.  As Christians we cannot simply hangout in our comfortable zone.  Eventually it’s time to feel uncomfortable and to face trials. It builds our endurance when we face trials and overcome them, allowing us to move past a test flight and become a forager and bear good fruit.    

When bees find a good foraging location they do a dance to point others in the right direction.  To spread the good news they wiggle and wag and somehow that translates to a distance and a direction.  I cannot communicate to you where the fruit is that you need to forage for the Lord through a dance like honey bees but I can encourage you to step out of your comfort zone.  Take a flight away for your warm, safe hive and you will begin to produce more fruit. It could be increasing something you are doing now, doing something you haven’t done before, working on the fundamentals, doing good works, or it could be you try and fail and have to redirect your energy.  You have a wonderful Protector in heaven who loves you. It’s time to show him the same love he shows us.

-Elleigh Dylewski

Waiting – Patiently

psalm 37 7a

Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”

Waiting, especially for a response to prayer, is always hard. How often have you asked God for guidance, only to be met with silence?  It is hard to be patient when others around you are succeeding. How do you respond to the times the answer to prayer is “Wait”? God will always help those who call on Him, sometimes He is waiting for us to be obedient.

Often when we are unsure of the direction God has for us, we seek help from other Christian friends.

Reflect on a time an answer to prayer was “Wait.” How did you respond? Do you have a trusted friend or mentor to help you be patient as you wait for God’s direction? Take some time to pray for them. Work on being patient as you wait on the Lord.

-Susan Johnson

 

Introductions

rebecca 3

I love meeting people especially at Christ-centered events. I have never been afraid of hearing, “so tell me about yourself.” So imagine my amazement when a family member said they dreaded activities where you get-to-know each other. In a circle of strangers, they draw a blank when they are asked to tell one thing about themselves. Of course, my response is totally different. “Only one thing?” I want to hear about everyone and let them learn about me.  I love to meet new people and learn about their lives. I genuinely enjoy the company of others and feel energized from spending time with others.  Some might say that I am extremely extraverted.  Of course, we have all experienced some awkwardness or tension when we are meeting someone new. We want to put our best foot forward so we make a good impression.

I love the way that some of the New Testament Writers introduce themselves. The book of 2 Peter begins with this, “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.”  Paul begins his letter to Timothy in this way. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” (1 Timothy 1:1) They know who they are and they are all about being God’s children and Christ’s servants.

As Christians, my hope and prayer is that we are as solid in our identity in Christ.  We have been adopted into God’s family, we have become heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Roman 8:17), we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), we are God’s handiwork (Ephesians 2:10) and we are loved. These are just a few aspects of our new identity-who we are when we accept Christ.

Sometimes we begin to focus on one aspect of our lives and define ourselves in this way. In our minds we let that one area define us. You know we begin to think of ourselves as a student, a jock, a gamer, a hipster, an arty intellectual, a hard worker, a prep, a dancer…sure we may have something that is unique and special about us, but most important we are the children of God. We are followers of Christ. Just like the New Testament writers, lets make it obvious that we are servants of Christ Jesus our hope.

-Rebecca Dauksas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 YEARS!

 

rebecca2

I think I was in my Elementary school cafeteria when I first read the phrase “You Are What You Eat”. Of course, the posters placed in the cafeteria wanted us to realize that it is important to eat nutritious food in order to be healthy and fit.  At the time I probably had tater tots and homemade pizza on my tray. Not sure what I thought about being a Tater Tot.

As we grow up, we understand that what we eat is vital for disease prevention, growth and good health. Because we know this, we try to determine what our every day eating habits should be. In the same way, we need to be discerning about what we feed our minds.

We are constantly taking in what is around us and as Christians, it is important to put only the best into our hearts and minds. In Philippians 4:8 we are told what should occupy our thoughts. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” So we need to be intentional about what we are thinking and how we are spending our time. This week I saw that the average American spends 7 years and 8 months of their lives watching TV and 5 years and 4 months on social media (Mediakix). What might seem like an innocent time-killer could actually use 16 years of our lives. So how would the Apostle Paul instruct us to occupy our time? In Colossians 3, we are told, “12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

So there we have it. Everything we say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father. Let’s truly rely on God when we pray to “give us today our daily bread” because hopefully we are becoming that daily bread.  We Are What We Eat.

-Rebecca Dauksas