Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Lion's Roar

Early in the morning, on the first day of the week . . .  (Matt. 28:1)

'The Lion's roar' opened the tomb and raised Jesus from the dead.  (Matt. 28:2-6)

With only a word from His mouth He spread out the heavens.
    With only a word He separated the waters from the waters
                                                 and caused the earth to form dry land and creatures to live upon it.
With only a word, He flung stars in space and called them each by name.
    With only a word He caused the seas to swarm with life. (Gen. 1)

Since He did all that with only the word of His mouth, could His word not raise the dead as well?  Surely this is not too hard for Him!

But man was formed differently, not with His word, but as clay in His hands. (Gen. 2:7, 21,22) And last, but not least, He created woman from the man.  God breathed into them the breath of life, His Spirit life.  Could He not breathe life back into His own Son?

My God is fiersome and terrible.  He is awesome in power and might.  I know that a God like this will destroy my enemies, even squash them like a bug.  Some say God is not to be feared.  But it is a paradox.  While I do not fear my God in relationship with Him, yet like a child, I can proudly say, "My Daddy's bigger than yours and He can beat the tar out of yours!"  In this sense, yes, I do fear God, and gladly so, because I know I am under His protection.

This same power that created the world, also raised Jesus from the dead.  Not only that, but He did it just as He said He would.  Exactly.  (Matt. 28:6)  Now that is an accomplishment!  Do you realize how many prophecies were made about Jesus regarding His death and resurrection, hundreds of years before He was even born?  At least forty.  Even if someone tried to make them all happen, they could not.  Yet He fulfilled every prophecy, even to exact specifications.

Did you know that after He was raised from the dead He was seen by over 500 witnesses at once?  (1 Cor. 15:6)  Let's see, if I remember right, I think it takes two witnesses to verify an account accurately.  Furthermore, his followers went to the death claiming Jesus had risen from the dead.  Who would die for a lie? 

Jesus was sealed in a tomb with the lions, those demons who viciously sought his destruction.

Like Daniel, the tomb was covered with a heavy stone and sealed with the king's own seal.  (Matt. 27:66; Dan. 6:17)  In the morning King Darius hurried to the lion's den and asked that crucial question, "Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?"  (Dan. 6:20)  Able?  Was He able?  Surely you jest, Darius!  Daniel answers with, "My God shut the mouths of the lions.  They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in His sight."  (Dan. 6:22)

Most assuredly, though killed like the worst of criminals, Jesus was found innocent in God's sight.  And to those of us who trust in Him as our Savior, His shed blood stamps us with innocence as well.  The Lion of the Tribe of Judah has triumphed and His roar surpasses them all, a deafening, thunderous roar, causing the demons to cower in fear and scurry away like dogs with their tails between their legs.  Satan has been defeated.

This is my God.  There is none like Him! 

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Now that's some solid rock to stand on!

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; 
              that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 
                                                                               that he was buried, 
                           that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
                                                             and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time..."
I Cor. 15:3-8

Friday, March 29, 2013

Lions Roar

The man-eating lions of Tsavo were the nightmare of 1898.  Natives believed the lions to be demon possessed as it was not typical for them to hunt in daylight nor to seek men as their prey. Colonel Patterson eventually shot and killed these lions but not without the loss of 140 people. 

On this Good Friday, I'm reminded of a lamb among lions.  A lamb does not have a chance against a hungry lion who rips its prey to pieces and then devours it.  Some 1,980 years ago, Jesus, the Lamb of God, was thrown to the lions, His body mangled, torn, and hung on a cross.  (John 1:29)  But it was more than just His body.  His dignity was humiliated, His power willingly restrained, and His love stretched beyond imagination.

When Pilate claimed the innocence of Jesus, a mighty roar rose from the crowd and with one voice they shouted, "Crucify Him ..."  (Luke 23:18) Again Pilate demanded they come up with a crime, anything against Him, and they could not.  The mob simply shouted louder and louder . . . unrelenting lions hungry for prey.

Satan thought he had won.  But this same Lamb of God is also the 'Lion of the Tribe of Judah', (Rev. 5:5) and the grave could not hold Him.  He came as a lamb but now reigns as King of all Kings.  He will soon return as a mighty lion to take what rightfully belongs to Him, and to judge the earth.  But in the meantime, we wage war against the copycat, Satan.  He "roams about the earth as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour."  (1 Pet. 5:8)

I remember well the one time I saw a lion in the wild.  My family was tucked away in the mountains at a remote cabin when we saw a deer tearing across the field at break neck speed.  Behind it was a streak of brown which could scarcely be identified except for that long tail and the tracks we found in its wake.  My four children were building forts in those same woods just the day prior.  That lion could easily devour any of them if it so desired.  Likewise, Satan is powerful and not one to be trifled with, yet "greater is He who is in me than He who is in the world." (1 John 4:4) 

When Daniel was thrown to the lions den, the angel of the LORD closed their mouths. (Dan. 6:22)  It's a familiar children's story, but have you ever thought about its significance?  Because Jesus was willing to be devoured by the lions, I don't have to be.  When those lions roar into my thoughts, accusing me of my sin, their mouths are shut.  God closes their mouths because "in Christ, there is now no condemnation."  (Rom. 8:1) 

Yet, for those who reject Jesus and refuse to admit their need of Him, the lions will devour and their place will be endless hell.  Though we might be nice people, nice does not earn us God's heaven.  Except for Jesus, we all fall short of the mark . . . and lions are no respecter of nice.  (Rom. 3:23)

But those who put their faith and trust in Jesus are declared righteous in God's sight, "for the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)  We are sons and daughters with whom God is well pleased because we have the favor of grace.  It covers us like a canopy, protecting from the wrath of God and from the terror of the copycat Satan as well.  We need not fear.  What a sweet place!  God yearns for relationship with us . . . this is why He died . . . and this is why the Friday before Easter, the day Jesus died on a cross, is called 'good'.

He's calling your name.  Will you have Him? 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

To See

Has your heart ever weighed heavy, so heavy that you yearned to tell someone?  At last you spilled your soul out to a friend, but then she brushed it off as, well, trivial?   Instead, she rushed to talk about her agenda, her children, or her interests?  

Jesus pulled his friends aside and said, "Hey guys, I have something important to say.  Listen carefully, because what's about to happen will bewilder and disappoint you.  I'm going to tell you the future because I don't want it to take you by surprise." (Luke 18:31-33, my paraphrase)  Wow, I'd think if someone were to say that to me I'd pay attention.  But the Scriptures tell us that "His words were hidden from them and they failed to grasp what He was talking about."  (Luke 18:34)  

Jesus poured out His heart, telling His disciples so many details of his upcoming death and resurrection.  He would be handed over to the Romans, suffer mockery and be treated shamefully, even spit on.  He would be flogged with a whip and killed.  But . . . on the third day He would rise again.  How could they have missed it?

They could not see.

I don't want to miss seeing Jesus in all His fullness.  Last Easter He wowed me with His presence in real life pictures that could not be seen except by pain.   My sister-in-law was the catalyst and though we all miss her dearly, she enabled me to see.  It was an Easter "Like None Other".

Luke's gospel tells us that after Jesus spoke to His disciples regarding their lack of sight, that a blind beggar hears Jesus passing by with the crowd.  (Luke 18:35-42)  It is peculiar to me that the blind man cries out not for sight, but for mercy.  The crowd tries to shush him, but he is persistent and shouts even louder.

Finally Jesus acknowledges him and knowing this man's immediate pressing need, asks him directly what he wants.  Jesus could have healed him right there on the spot, but He doesn't.  And while healing is indeed merciful, Jesus waits until the blind man simply cries,  "I want to see!"  (Luke 18:41)

How badly do I want to see?  Is this my one desire?   Do I want only mercy, but not sight? 

As Jesus approached Jerusalem riding on a donkey, He wept.  Because though the people were shouting, "Hosanna," they did not recognize Him as their Messiah, or at least not in the way that Jesus came to fulfill. They could not see because they held expectations of their own.   

Do my expectations hinder me from seeing God?  It's so easy to get bogged down with things of this earth that I lose perspective.  For when "my eye is good, my whole body is filled with light, but when my eye is bad, my whole body is full of darkness."  (Matt. 6:22)  God's perspective is like a lamp that provides light for my entire life. 

After last Easter, how could I settle for normal?  Not that the death of my sister-in-law was anything I would ever wish on anyone, but I just want to see Jesus.  My Dad recently came to visit.  The last time I saw him was at her funeral.  What a difference a year makes!  Yet, I do not seek only an experience, but God Himself. 

Like that blind man, Jesus asks each one of us, "What do you want me to do for you?"  I wrote my answer to that question in my prayer journal the other morning.  My pen flew over the pages with gusto, all I want God to do for me. . . through me, and in me.  I used to think it was wrong to have such ambitions.   But now I know He has placed desires in my heart for a reason.  God often works His will through our hearts desire.  It's okay to dream a little.  God will show us in His time where to take those dreams.  He will show us if those desires are from Him or from our own ambition.

My sister-in-law has been a year in heaven.  I cannot imagine the thrill of walking so near God's presence, but though I am still on the earth,  I too have known the presence of Jesus through the Word and prayer.  How precious is His Word and so full of life.  I long to see God's glory, to have eyes opened to all His mighty wonders, even right in front of me.  I know He is working, but there are times I fail to see.  I don't want to miss it.  Ever. 

What do I want Jesus to do for me?  I want to see. 


Friday, March 22, 2013


Have you ever wondered, why would God create flowers in alpine obscurity where no man has walked?  Why bloom when no one is there to appreciate the beauty?  What's the point?   They flourish amid extreme conditions, use up all their strength, and then, in a moment, fall to the ground.

In my shadowy valley of depression I've been encouraged by the alpine flower, where a whole world of praise stretches above the places where I live and move.  While I dwell in the valleys, the ongoing glory of the highlands continues, day after day.  My heart longs for heaven as I've felt like an "alien and stranger on the earth." (1 Pet. 2:11)  My true home beckons and things that used to matter, no longer tug so hard.   Like that alpine flower, I desire to bloom with all that is within me for only one audience--Jesus.  I love His whisperings through the Word which have been so very precious and personal that I cannot share them all here.

My heart is so full I don't know how to express it.  God has encouraged me and revived my purpose.  I was confused about why I was still here, but now I know.  It's become very clear to me.  I don't care what others expect of me, at least for the moment.  I simply desire to follow my calling.  You see, I had lost sight of how unique and intentional God has made me.  What a difference it makes on my outlook and motivation.   And I hope you also know that God has made you on purpose and for a reason.

"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God, speak tenderly to Jerusalem.  Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned."  (Isa. 40:1-2)   My sin, it's taken care of . . . paid for.  I don't need to shrink back in fear, but rather can draw so very near.   I was resisting grace, refusing to believe it was really there for me.  But in the last two weeks, God has wowed me with His tender touch through His Word and the lives of His people. 

You may not have realized it, but in your own quiet ways, so many of you have encouraged me.  Let me tell you how.

An unexpected wedding invitation, thank you.  I feel so honored to have received it.
      Searching me out at a bridal shower and sitting next to me, thank you.  I felt wanted.
           Positive comments regarding my husband's sermon, thank you.

The messages that have spoken so clearly to my heart through God's servants, my pastors.  I don't think I will ever forget the woman of Luke 13:10-13 bent over with burden nor the comfort of Isaiah 40.   Thank you.

The choosing of a song for Easter and entrusting me to share it with others, thank you.
       It lifts my spirit every time I practice.  Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!
A visit by one of the most influential men in my life--my Dad.  Wow, what a treasure God has given me.  The spiritual discussions of the last few days have challenged me and given so much perspective on my life in Christ.  Thank you.

Emails from a precious woman, telling it to me straight, what I need to hear.  Thank you.
     A game of Clue and the broad smile and laughter of my son.  Thank you.
          The testimony of a 3rd grade boy, though few words, it held great impact.  Thank you.  
              The initiative of a daughter to practice without being asked.  Thank you.
                   The provision of a trumpet at just the right time.  Thank you.
                        A long awaited visit come to fruition.  Thank you.
                            Those who've taken interest in my life, asking sincerely how I am.  Thank you.
                               The friendship and pursuit of a daughter far away.  Thank you.
                                   Some fun competition in volleyball, like I haven't known for years.  Thank you.
                                      A friend so willing and able to edit at a moment's notice.  Thank you.  

A forgotten note from a daughter, written weeks ago, but which fell out of my Bible and gave me a second blessing, "Dear Mom, please do not get discouraged, even though.....and even if.....I think God would be pleased that you tried."  And then she wrote the whole thing backwards so I could read it in the mirror.  Thank you.

The TCAP testing which gave time to write another chapter in one week.  The words flowed and I knew it was God's Spirit alive and well within me.  Thank you.
A woman with a servant's heart.  You care so much about what concerns me that you sacrifice yourself for my passion.  Thank you.

Another woman willing to pray with me on a regular basis.  I love getting to know you.  Thank you. 

And finally, a husband with endless understanding and support, who sacrificed precious garage time to build a project of my own.  Thank you.

Through all of you, (and there are more that I didn't mention), I've become convinced that I'm not alone.   I need you, yes, but perhaps I have something to contribute to your life as well.

I know why that flower blooms.  It is to give God the praise due His name.  I suppose that those little seeds lying dormant in the ground cannot wait to burst out and twirl in the wind, singing their heart out to the Lord.  And I think God looks at them and smiles.

It's a great big world, but if a sparrow catches His eye, then surely these intricate flowers which He Himself clothes, do not go unnoticed.  But "the grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD.  And so it is with people."  (Isa. 40:7)  Our lives are only a vapor, here today but gone tomorrow.  Yet they matter.  I had begun to think that God didn't care, that I was forgotten by Him, and lost in obscurity.   These lies crept into my thoughts because of the death of a dream.  How could God "lead me out of Egypt only to die in the wilderness?"  (Num. 21:5)  I felt more like a dandelion, an utter failure at life, a weed in the lives of others. 

Yet, even from the mud caked stream, a dandelion can shout its praise to its Creator, and He deems it beautiful.  But the dream, what of the dream?  Was I mistaken?  The hope which began during its conception began to wear away with doubts.  Years of pursuit had brought me to this place in the wilderness.  The obstacles seemed impassable . . . pounding . . . pressing down on me.

Dreams can seem so near our reach, yet be so far away.  At the same time, they tease, laugh, and lure us on like a playful stream.  Though cold and dangerous, they invite, continuing to tug on our hearts, calling us to the heights.  I want to jump in and conquer on my time table.  And like God's people in the desert, I complained because I "grew impatient with the long journey."  (Num. 21:4)

Yet, the dream is not dead.  It just might not look the same as I had envisioned.  God has spoken clearly through His Word to show me that where dreams are lost in shadows and failure says I can't go on, God makes a way.  There is a path across, for "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the LORD.  And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine."  (Isa. 55:8)  They are so much better.  I need only take the next step and believe.  That is all. 

Though I cannot see it now for the undergrowth, there is victory on the other side of this trial.  But more than the triumph, I seek the presence of God.  This is why I long for heaven.  Yet, because I am still here, I know God has purpose for me yet to fulfill.  And that gives me great comfort.  And so I cry with Isaiah, "how can I say that the Lord does not see my troubles or that He has ignored my plight?"  For if "God sits above the circle of the earth and spreads out the heavens like a curtain", will He not "feed His flock like a shepherd and carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart?"  (Isa. 40:27, 22, 11)

"The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary,
No one can measure the depths of His understanding.
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless...

...those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles..."

(Isa. 40:28-31)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Words of Life

Ink and paper, phonetic sounds and syllables, all come together to make words on a page. Yet, why are the words of the Bible considered unique, life giving . . . even alive? 

While in high school, my daughter was assigned the reading of Genesis, Job, Isaiah, and Psalms by her public school literature teacher.   Likewise, my son, while in college, has run into professors who are open to discussing Bible verses in class as it applies to their topic.  Yet, these secular teachers lack a crucial element  in their interpretation of the Scriptures--the Spirit of God.  This is where the Bible differs so drastically from other works.

I am fascinated with how I can be so familiar with a section of the Bible for my entire life, knowing it forwards and backwards, when suddenly, one day I see something brand new.  I know it is the Spirit of God that causes the words to 'leap off the page' and into my heart.  That was the case for me just a few days ago as I read the account of Jesus at twelve years of age. 

The parents of Jesus were among the caravans traveling home from the Passover, when they noticed Jesus missing.  (Luke 2:41-52)  As I serve the Lord in what I believe he has led me to do, I can easily fall into a rut.  I wonder, how long does it take for me to realize that Jesus is no longer in "my" programs?   So often, we forge ahead with our agenda, completely unaware that we have left Jesus out.  

Oh, it would not appear that He is missing.  Other people would not know it by first glance. We even use His name and speak all the right words, but the whole reason for why we are there has been lost.  Are we sensitive to the needs of the people we serve, or only driving ahead with our planned material?  Can we be flexible with our structure to match the needs?  Joseph and Mary assumed Jesus was among their group of travelers somewhere.  How often do I make assumptions that God is present, when in actuality, He isn't.  His work becomes lost in the crowd of my business. 

Just as the Scriptures are empty without the Spirit of God to reveal them to us, so our programs are futile unless the Spirit of God is actively working through us and in the lives of those we serve.   Structure is a wonderful thing, but when I rely on it too heavily I miss opportunities God might have ready in that moment.  
Joseph and Mary had to turn and go back to Jerusalem to look for Jesus.  When at last they found Him, He declared that He must be about His Father's business.  So too, we must always seek the heart of God in what He has called us to do.  I must be sensitive to His voice and seek to remain within "my Father's business", lest I only run a program. (Luke 2:49)  I must truly love the people I am serving rather than simply adore my smooth ironed out system. 

This is one reason I seek to pray in earnest, because I'm constantly aware that I have a need for His presence and that nothing I can do will produce life giving Spirit.  All I can give is the shell.  The life comes from God Himself.  Prayer is the most important factor in ministry, but the easiest to neglect.  When I ignore prayer I miss the presence of God and His heart for what I'm doing.   I become an agent who has lost her purpose.  May it never be so.

Yet, this Spirit that lives in us is the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead.  We're talkin' some serious power here!  But more than the power I desire His very presence, for unless God goes before me, I may as well not go up from here.  This one thing I need, to be "quickened with life by His Spirit in the inner man." (Rom. 8:11)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Running Strong, Part 2

We hear it all the time, "Don't judge me."  Yet, those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus for the salvation from their sin, are to keep one another accountable.  Why?  Because we are now a part of the family of God and that's what families do.  They love unconditionally, but they also keep their brother and sister in check on the right path. . . because they care about them.

In my last post I spoke of how we each need to be about what God has directed us to do, yet in our passion for that one thing, cannot make assumptions on others.   While true, there is another side to the coin.  As followers of Jesus Christ we are to judge one another.  (Gal. 6:1,2  John 7:24)  And in fact, we have a responsibility to speak truth to our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially if we have a relationship with them. 

The reason is bound up in the purpose for which Christ died, for "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness..."  (1 Pet. 2:24)  We are redeemed for the purpose of living in holiness, because He has "called us from darkness to light."  (1 Pet. 2:9)  If we make choices to live contrary to God's clear commands of Scripture, then it is right and good for other believers in Christ to rebuke us. 

Yet, the judgement is for the purpose of restoration, not to demean or to chase away.  Matt. 18:15 states that "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over."  That is a big "if".  It takes great humility to listen and so it is often not the rebuke that causes us to be defensive, but rather our own pride seeking its own way.  If we respond correctly to rebuke, then we are restored. 

By contrast, those who do not know Jesus as their Savior cannot be expected to live by our rules because they are not part of the family of God.  We cannot make the same type of judgements on them.  Furthermore, they do not have the power of the Holy Spirit living within them to follow God's laws such as we have.   But we, as followers of Christ, have no excuse for disobedience.  Most of the time it is not that we cannot obey God, but that we won't.  Herein lies the battle.

We need each other.  So often I isolate myself from others in self-sufficiency and pride thinking I can make it on my own, but inevitably I say the wrong things or live the wrong way.   I need the fellowship of believers to keep my heart on track.

I'm reminded of the Shepherd's staff which has a long reach, snatching me from the distant places I've gotten myself into, and drawing me back to the place I belong, near the heart of God.  How easily I veer off the path of righteousness.  I think I'm doing fairly well and the next minute I've crashed.  We need the encouragement of one another, but also the gentle nudges from other believers in Christ who keep us on the right path.

We are on the same team and to fight each other is to weaken ourselves and our effectiveness.  Those "who are spiritual should restore...gently."  (Gal. 6:1)  In our instruction, it is so easy to slip into only speaking our minds in defense of ourselves.  That verse in Galatians goes on to say that we must "watch ourselves, or you also may be tempted."  Exhortation is delicate ground to be handled only by those experienced in Christ.

That man on the track of whom I spoke of in my last post may not have known the Lord, but I think he may have been sent of God to rebuke me for my gluttony of the past weekend.  And I resisted and so got defensive over it, a sure sign that I am guilty.  And this morning as I ran, there were others out there, even someone I knew.  And because of that person, I was motivated to run just a little faster and to work a little harder than I usually do.  This reveals to me that though we do not all run the same course, we do spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Lastly, we are to "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ."  (Gal. 6:2) If I'm off doing my own thing and never concerned about that for which I cannot fulfill, then I lack compassion and understanding.  Besides the fact that God commands we "care for the orphan and widow in their distress." (James 1:27)  I cannot ignore God's commands and yet I must determine what that looks like for my own life personally and what place God would have me fill.

I do desire to "love life and see good days."  Yet, to have a good day I must "keep my tongue from evil and my lips from deceitful speech.  I must turn from evil and do peace and pursue it." (1 Pet. 3:10-11)  Each day is a new day, a clean slate that we write our lives on.  I'm praying this day will not be one of regret, but of victory. 


Monday, March 4, 2013

Running Strong, Part 1

I find the stillness of the morning ideal for hearing the voice of the Lord most clearly.   For that reason I like to get up before anyone else, and in the quiet, commune with Him. Then I walk my daughter to school and from there I often run a few miles around the track.

This has been my schedule off and on for years.  Usually there is scarcely a soul around at these hours.  But this morning, there was a man walking around the track.  I said hello to him as I passed and went on my merry way.  I finished before he did and began my stretching on the bench.  As he passed by he stopped to talk to me.  He obviously felt passionate about what he had to tell me--that people are deceived into thinking all they need do is exercise.  He wanted to inform me that it has to be both diet and exercise.  We chit chatted for a bit, I thanked him, and we went our separate ways.  I know diet is equally important as exercise.  The knowing is not the problem, it's the doing.

But I don't mean this post to be about diet or exercise, but rather in what we say to one another.  

This man did not realize he was on my turf, so familiar to me that it seems like my own backyard.  I had been there for weeks and then he shows up one day, sees me, and feels he needs to instruct me.  Yet, he didn't know me from Adam.  He didn't know that I've been struggling with some deep depression over the last while and that I struggle with emotional eating.  (not that I have any excuse).  Likewise, he didn't know that I do make an effort to control my eating, even though I have days where I fall plunging into defeat.

Why do I mention all of this?  Because I find it an excellent illustration of what we do to one another.  Our lives intertwine at a moment in time and as we pass one another, we are eager to give our advice and rebukes on how life should be lived.  We make assumptions without knowing where the other person is coming from or where they are going.   I'm often guilty of this crime, but I'm seeking to change that.  A twist on the passage from Matt. 6:34 which says in effect, "each day holds enough worry, so why add more to it by worrying about tomorrow," could be, "my life holds enough problems, so why try to fix the problems of another?" 

At the same time, we do need to listen to rebuke and the instruction of others, because no matter how inappropriate or off timing the criticism may be, there is always a measure of truth that we can heed. Yet, how much better to have earned the right to instruct by first establishing a relationship with that person.  We have a much higher chance of our words then being well received. 

That said, when others pose the questions towards me of which they are passionate about, such as, "What are you doing about the starving children in Haiti," or, "What are you doing to stop abortion", or, "Why aren't you adopting children?" my heart is hurt.  First of all, it implies I am doing nothing even though I might be doing something.  It simply may not be seen by them or be done in their way.  Secondly, they have not sought to know me personally and see what does fill my days, or how my resources are spent, or what I believe about the issues.

By the same token, I could turn around and ask them questions about which I am passionate about.  "What are you doing about getting the gospel to the ends of the earth?"  What are you doing about the children who have not been aborted, whom we do have with us, and who live in our own communities, to disciple them in truth?  What are you doing to be involved in your local church and using your gifts to bless the hearts of others?  Are you surrendered to the authority of a local body of believers?"

Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us we are to run with endurance the race God has set before us.  Each must follow the specific path God had called us to run and it may not be the same path He calls another to run.   The man at the track was walking, I was running, doing laps on stairs, and situps on the bench, but I'm sure we sought to achieve the same goals, to get our bodies in shape.  Yet we each held a different calling or passion.

One reason we are commanded to be part of a local body of believers is because we can't do it all.  We need each other, so that together, we can carry out the mandates of Scripture.  My passion will likely not be the same as yours and that's okay.  Each must run the race God has called them to.

We are to strip off the weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  One of my greatest sins that trips me up is the words I say, and the false guilt I feel by the words of others.  We do need to be obedient to the Scriptures, but that might come easier if we simply focused on Christ and on what needs changing in our own lives rather than on what the other guy is doing or not doing. 

How do we run strong?  By "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith."  (Heb. 12:2 NLT)