Run the Race

1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2; NKJV)

Our sister in Christ who I mentioned last week as nearing death went on to be with Jesus on Saturday.  Many of us were remembering her as we gathered on Sunday and one story dealt with her running the race…quite literally…she would train and run a 5K each year for the past few years.  Of course, that training and running also was how she lived with Jesus.

The above verse came to mind and I invite you to think about your race today.  Each of our races are different as our lives are different.  That said, the What, How, and Why of it is the same…Jesus.  Our faith in Jesus is the “what race” of our life and dictates what we do in our life.  Our determination to glorify Jesus is the “how we race” and the zealous way we try to live for Him.  Our hope of life everlasting and spiritual security now is the “why we race” because we know Jesus is worth it.  We can look at our life and how we are running it and simply evaluate it through the lens of Jesus.  In doing so, we will see the areas that require more training in God’s word and practice in applying it.  That training and practice will provide more endurance for our race and we will better make the run from earth to Heaven.

In the story about our sister, one of the points was that when she ran that 5K, people took notice as what she was doing was an accomplishment for a woman of her age.  People took notice of her running, they stood up, and they cheered as she ran buy.  Strangers did that.  People who didn’t know her and didn’t know what it took to get where she was…they recognized the achievement she was realizing.  If we run our race spiritually with Jesus, folks are going to notice…even those who don’t know you or Jesus.  We pray that as they take notice they might ask “how did you get here” and in that an opportunity for the gospel is presented and the hope for a soul to be saved.  All because you trained and ran the race of Jesus.  Run on!

Paul was with them

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
(2 Timothy 2:2)

Timothy was charged by Paul through the Holy Spirit to think of the next several generations of Christians, specifically those who would be teaching and leading in the churches. It is not enough merely to think of what is going on in our time and who is leading us now, we must look to train and nurture the next leaders.

But at a practical level, how is this done? For today, we will simply consider the point that Paul was “with” these future leaders constantly. Pay attention to words like “with” in the book of Acts and Paul’s letters. He’s pretty much always with someone, isn’t he?

Paul wanted to have him (Timothy) go on with him…
(Acts 16:3)

Be diligent to come to me quickly…. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.
(2 Timothy 4:9-12)

This really isn’t that complicated, but in order to influence people you have to be around them! In order for our young men and women to learn how to teach and lead they have to be around those constantly who are doing those very things. Just at the church building on Sunday and Wednesday isn’t enough.

Also of note here from 2 Timothy 2:2 is that Timothy was to be an initiator of this teaching. Don’t get in the trap of waiting for everyone to come to you to learn about the stuff of leadership. We can tell ourselves things like, “Well, if someone has a question or wants to learn something, I’m happy to show them.” You may be waiting a long time for that to happen.

How about this?

  • Plan a visit to one of the widows or shut-ins of the congregation, and take someone with you on that visit.
  • The next time you visit someone who has not been attending services, take someone with you.
  • When you have a study with someone who is not a Christian, take someone with you so they can see what you do.
  • Initiate a work day at the church building, and bring some of the young people who may not normally be involved in such things and have them help in the work.

It’s a start, but again, the key is to be with others. If you find that a lot of your mornings / evenings are wrapped up with watching TV and doing projects around the house, you might want to re-evaluate things. How about taking just one of those nights and spend it mentoring the next generation?

He Makes the Mute Speak

For our meditation today, let’s consider the following passages. Think about what God can do to your tongue and your mouth. If He made the mute to speak, and considering what God did through Moses, Jeremiah and Paul, what can He do for you and through you?

God can prepare your mouth and teach your tongue to be a mouthpiece for Him. Don’t focus on your ignorance, His word will give you knowledge and wisdom will come from His throne.  God can and will send His people to teach you and equip you. Please don’t regard your lack of eloquence, think of what God did through people like Paul. Don’t take a minute to think about your “youth” or “inexperience” – consider what God did through a number of “inexperienced youths” in Scripture. The point in all of this is that glory goes to the power of God, not to how well we speak or how amazingly persuasive we are! It’s not about how witty we are or how good we are on our feet to stand toe -to-toe in a debate, it’s about God’s wisdom working in us and through us to reach out and teach truth to those seeking for it. It’s about God, not about us.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
(Mark 7:31-37)

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
(Exodus 4:10-12)

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”
(2 Corinthians 10:10)

Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
(2 Corinthians 11:6)

Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
(Jeremiah 1:6-10)

Lessons from Dog Training Classes

Anna and I have been taking our new puppy to dog training the past month and a half. It has been a very new experience for both of us. Neither of us were really involved in the dog training world before. We have had dogs, but we never went to dog training classes. Our eyes have been opened to a whole new world.

But we have also enjoyed this time as a couple. We have grown through it. Not only was it fun to just go out and be together, but it was very helpful for our relationship to get into this as a couple.

I used to hear people advise that if you wanted to get to know a girl and see if the two of you were able to work together, then try and go canoeing. I’ve heard others say that if you really want to test a marriage, then wallpaper a room together. But I see the point in all of this, including these dog training classes, as giving us opportunities to learn better communication, and chances to work together for a common objective.

For example, at this dog training center, I saw a couple that clearly had marital issues, and the dog training revealed it for everyone to see. The dog wasn’t the problem, the owners were. Another person was getting very frustrated with her dog in another area, and the trainer said “Hey, the puppy’s not in trouble, the mom (owner) is!” The trainer was working on the owner’s attitude, not the dog’s. It can be nerve-wracking to try new things with your dog while everyone including the trainer is watching. And if your dog is going berserk with all the new dogs and smells, then it can be particularly stressful as you want to try to focus on training. Add that stress to two people trying to work together, and it can show some areas we need to work on ourselves in our marriage!

I guess what I’m saying in all of this ramble is to take opportunities (if you are not already doing it) to get involved in something fun and challenging together as a couple. It will be great to spend time together, for example we took this opportunity to get a coffee on the way there and french fries on the way back! Okay, junkie I know, but it was a fun date night for us. We plan on continuing classes at that dog training center, and I’m looking forward to spending this time with Anna. It is helping me as a husband to think differently. Train the human (me) first, then the dog.