Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ambitious Living - January 15, 2017

James 3:16 - For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

When I started barefoot running, my reasons were two-fold. One, I definitely wanted to run pain free. My knees had been giving me fits for months and barefoot running seemed to force proper technique which alleviated the lateral shock to my legs and knees. Two, I wanted to be noticed and applauded for doing something that very few were trying and most wouldn't do. To most sensible folks, the second reason smacks of arrogance and pride. I attempted to masquerade my selfish ambition of wanting accolades for what I was doing with the reasoning "... it was for my health". The truth? I was steeped in selfish ambition which the Lord out of His abundant mercy allowed. God knew, that like anything else of this world, that I would eventually grow tired of it, experiencing its emptiness. In His infinite wisdom, He had other things in mind for my barefoot running. He inevitably wooed me into a place of submission and humility to eventually turn the attention that I was receiving over to Him, in order that He might use it for His glory.

Today, I pray that my heart is more and more His. To assume that I am free from self-promotion would be ludicrous and self-deceiving. As I walk in the ways of the Lord and allow Him to shape His ministry around me, I see the importance -- no, the imperativeness of letting Him be Lord and allowing Him to strip me of all selfish ambition. This is actually going beyond mere submission to Jesus and all He is -- for even an enemy can bow down to his victor and give feigned obedience. Beyond submission, the Lord requires identification and substitution -- the fact of what Christ has done on the cross for mankind, how he gave His life so that I might live through His death, burial, and resurrection. If I am not living a substituted life, identifying with all He has done on my behalf, then I am living a life of self. For truly my only hope is Christ living in me. As Paul so eloquently and profoundly stated in Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

The horror of living selfishly ambitious is that I put the Lord up for open shame every time I choose to self-promote. As He lives within me and I am not living through His ambitions, He is subjected to this body of selfishness and sin. It is like I make a mockery of the Risen Lord who gave me the power over the body of flesh to walk in newness of life. According to James in the opening scripture, EVERY evil practice exists where envy and selfish ambition reside. One could easily say the so-called Seven Deadly Sins would be as eggs incubating in these nests of hell called envy and selfish ambition. I will go beyond that and state that any and all sin, EVERY evil practice as James states, are ovum gestating in the womb of selfish ambition. Can you imagine every evil practice? This suggests that every disgusting, revolting, sinful practice that you can even imagine is rooted in envy and selfish ambition. For truly, were these not the characteristics of Satan's sin against God? Did it not first start with envy of God's power and then inevitably to selfish ambition where he was cast from heaven? Even today, the Holy Spirit speaks through His scripture telling me that anyone who wishes or desires to be the Lord's must understand and live a life of submission. Otherwise, the opposite is a hellish devotion to self that reeks of spiritual death and self-sufficiency.

What is my desire today? Is it to only satisfy my own ambitions? If so, James through the Holy Spirit states that these desires will lead only to a more "practiced" life of evil. However, the Lord Jesus lays before me this day another choice -- Life -- His Life. It is there for the asking. It is there for the taking. This should be my main ambition in life!

Lord, take my life, my dreams, my goals,
And make my ambition, yours for souls!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Personal Revival - Psalm 119 - January 8, 2017


I love reading the Psalms. They are truly eloquent, heartfelt demonstrations of souls crying out to God. Part of my daily bible reading is the Psalms. I have always thought that Psalm 119 was one of the most beautiful and poignant examples of a heart crying out to the Lord. I have read this Psalm probably hundreds of times, but verses 33-40 jumped off the page to me on this occasion. I occurred to me that I was reading a wonderful blueprint for personal revival. And of course, personal revival once achieved can become collective revival as more and more souls cry out for the same things for their own churches and communities. Here are some of my thoughts about this passage and how a proper understanding can lead a soul to a revived relationship with the Lord Jesus:

Psalm 119:33-40

Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, And I shall observe it to the end.
This passage doesn't say "teach me Your statutes" but teach me the "way of Your statutes". It is a much different thing to be tutored to understand every dot and tittle of God's law, but it is quite another to be instructed in the way of His statutes. Once a person understands the "way" of God's thinking, then the law does not need to come down one by one, but there is a deep understanding of His nature and how He would respond to every situation through the law written on a person's heart. Jesus proclaimed in John 5:19 that He could only do those things which He saw His Father in heaven doing. Once we are led in the "way" of His statutes then we will better understand the nature of the One leading us.

Give me understanding, that I may observe Your lawAnd keep it with all my heart.
Understanding comes in levels. As a child, I understood that I must stop and look both ways when I crossed the street because my mother told me to and I respected her enough to obey her command. As I got older, it became clear that in order to preserve life and limb, that this was a good practice. I may not totally understand God's laws and why I must obey, but it will become clearer and clearer the more I grow in Him and learn to trust that His laws are good.

Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,For I delight in it.
Psalm 36:9 states "... In Your light, we see light". Any trail runner can tell you that a good headlamp or handheld flashlight is essential when night running. As those of us who are believers head down life's dark paths, it is good and comforting to know that our Father lights our path so that we turn not to the right or to the left. I don't need the entire area illuminated, for when there is too much around me to "see" (the lust of the eyes) then it is easy to get my sight off the path in front of me. Thank you Lord Jesus for illumining just where I need to go in the next few steps and that I don't need to know where I am going days and weeks down the proverbial path. You make me walk (or run!) in the path of your commandments by illumining my way!

Incline my heart to Your testimonies, And not to dishonest gain.
Webster defines "incline" as "meaning to influence one to have or take an attitude toward something". It is quite easy in our world to give way to relativity and compromise allowing our "gains" to be something other than honest. I believe this verse is talking much more about character than money, although money and how we deal with it is a fruit of our character. What I believe the Lord is saying here through the psalmist is that first I must have a strong inclination toward the testimonies of God. The testimonies of God are all around us. Psalm 19:1 states that "The heavens are telling of the glory of God". This is a testimony of God that he controls nature, the seasons, the stars, the planets, and so on. Testimonies of God regarding marital faithfulness say that it is wrong to commit adultery. Even primitive cultures understand this truth because it has been written on their hearts. So, my desire should be that God would strongly influence my heart toward His testimonies so that I would not gain dishonestly. Dishonest gain is the catalyst for the deeds of the flesh -- anything that comes from selfish ambition (James 3:16) rather than Godly direction. This is will only strengthen the "portfolio of the flesh" and not the Heavenly Kingdom.

Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,And revive me in Your ways.
David stated in Psalm 101:3 that he "... will set no unworthy thing before his eyes". That is a tall order, no doubt. Especially, in this sin-soaked world we live in today. Turning my eyes from vanity is a constant endeavor and something I will never conquer to the point of "graduation". There are things at every turn that would seek us to behold, and through the beholding, to become defiled to the point where we have sacrificed our fellowship with the Lord. The more often that I turn my eyes from the things of this world that would seek to pollute my inner man, the more opportunity the Lord Jesus has to come and to revive His wonderful presence within me. Paul stated in Philippians 4:8 "... whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." The most amazing thing happens when we overcome evil with good. Jesus rejoices with us and revives us!

Establish Your word to Your servant, As that which produces reverence for You.
It is easy to speed read the bible which allows about as much retention as the effort to understand what's been read. When I look at this scripture, I think about concrete workers and how they make sidewalks and driveways. All the prep work has to be done first -- digging the footings, laying the rebar, and setting the forms. Once the concrete is poured, can the forms be readily taken up and discarded? Not until the concrete has set and cured! That is the way I look at the Word of God and how He wishes to establish it in our hearts. Too often we want God to pour in the blessings of His word without US doing the needed prep work, laboriously preparing for his "spiritual concrete". Once we have laid the ground work, then the Lord God can pour His Word into us. This is the type of revelation that will set firm and sure and cause Godly reverence for our Lord.

Turn away my reproach which I dread, For Your ordinances are good.
Through all the above prayers and actions, our reproach and the sin our old nature is evident and glaring. We have come to understand the law of the Lord, have walked in His commandments, inclined our hearts toward Godly ambition and through all this revelation have become uncomfortably aware of our bodies of sin that God so zealously wants to bury once and for all. At this point, we can truly cry out as Paul did in Romans 7:24: "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?" And in the next verse he gives the glorious answer to his rhetoric question: "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" The turning away of reproach that the psalmist prays for is so much more doable once we have realized that we need a Savior who can truly turn our reproach over with a proverbial shovel and bury it totally, completely!

Behold, I long for Your precepts; Revive me through Your righteousness.
If we have been thorough regarding the previous prayers and actions, and God has broken through and accomplished a true change of mind and heart then we will be in LOVE with his precepts or commandments. We will know at this point that He only wants good for us and to establish us as sons and daughters of the Most High. Then, the miraculous happens! God takes us and sanctifies us for HIS pleasure and HIS work. For truly when one is revived in God's righteousness, one has been identified with the Righteous Servant who came to lay down His life for the entire world. We will truly be revived to do similar works of love as we lay down our lives for those around us.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Beginnings - January 1, 2017

Psalm 118:24 - This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Many make new year's resolutions, while most hold little hope they will keep them. The problem with resolutions of this kind is they are inflicted with self-will which horribly handicap a favorable outcome. Oftentimes, they are things folks believe they SHOULD do ... like eating less, exercising, quitting smoking, and so on. However, these desires are more likely born out of a sense of guilt rather than from a genuine epiphany to change for the better. Change that is born out of perceived necessity often results in resentment. For instance, our doctor may tell us to lose a few pounds in order to live a better quality of life. While we may agree with our physician on this point, it is easier said than done. That late evening snack or that piece of pie after a meal seem to entice us as never before once we know what we SHOULD do. We may begin to resent those who don't need restraint in this area of their life and we might look with envy on their ability to take in calories indiscriminately. Unless we are stalwart in our resolve, it is easy to cave in to compromise and to justify why we are not as deserving as the next person to indulge in a "little" excess.

Dictionary.com defines resolve as "coming to a definite or earnest decision about a particular outcome". While this sounds good regarding a desired effect, the catalyst or the power behind this decision is critical concerning its conclusion. While one may set their mind in resolution to complete a task, the heart is what will more often carry it out (or not). For believers in Christ, this inner resolve comes most effectively through the working of the Holy Spirit. For it is God who is at work in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). As our mind, emotion, and our will (e.g. our soul) gets in line with God, then our new found resolutions collide with our old habits. Our sin nature cannot tolerate these new resolves so it must either surrender to God or usurp God's authority. (This struggle is depicted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:14-25.) No matter how "definite" or "earnest" we might be regarding our desire to rule over our old habits, they simply will not die easily. However, if we will take the high ground and defend our position with the word of truth and a song of praise, then we will indeed win the day.

Our lead verse clearly establishes a premise for creating a new beginning daily that will enable us to stay strong in HIS resolve. First of all, the psalmist declares the sovereignty of God over time. He states that "this is the day which the Lord has made". If He made this day, He has surely made all previous days and any yet to come. This simple declaration of God's ownership of time means that God is in control of whatever happens in our lives today, if we will but allow Him that right. By acknowledging the Holy Spirit within, we are declaring the Almighty as the Lord of our lives and therefore the Lord over all my "old ways" as well as my present and future resolves. All must be placed in His care. We must simply surrender the outcome to Him. If we fail or win in our day to day battle with sin then we humbly place both our failures and our successes in His hands and rejoice in Him. If we have experienced the victory today, then we should rejoice! If we have struggled and fallen short, then we must still rejoice in the victory yet to come for He will not forsake us. If we continue to give ourselves to Him in humility, He will bring us to that "large place" where there is freedom and fellowship with our Lord (Psalm 118:5).

Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand (Psalm 149:6). Once we recognize that the day is the Lord's, our only obligation is to praise Him while we weld the sword of the Spirit (or the word of truth [Ephesians 6:17]). If we praise the Lord in the resolve that is born in His heart, and humbly use His word to contradict the guilt and lies of the evil one, then we will know the victory no matter how long it may seem to take. While some will give up after a few short weeks regarding their new year resolutions, God's people should never faint regarding the timeline of deliverance from the old life. If we are in Christ, we are new creatures ... period! (II Corinthians 5:17) It is our heritage as believers to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us in His manner. We are being changed into His likeness if we are humbly submitting ourselves daily to His loving hand. As we give ourselves to His resolve, then we needn't worry about the outcome. He is the One who owns the day, the year, and our lifetime ahead. We must simply trust Him to complete the work He has so illustriously begun in all who call Him Lord.

Heavenly Father, thank You that You own the day! Thank You that You are our Lord and that You live in us to will and to work for Your good pleasure. Allow us to live, and move, and have our being in Your resolve in this coming year. Give us the grace to experience Your love in both our failings and our victories. For with You, there will only be success if we faint not. Give us Your strength as we rejoice in You this day. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Christmas Star - December 25, 2016

Matthew 2:2 - Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.

The heavens have long held a fascination for humankind. For millennia, man has looked to the skies for both direction and hope. King David wisely stated in Psalm 19:1-2: The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. Arguably, the greatest manifestation the world has ever seen of the manifestation of the glory of God in the heavenlies is the Christmas star that appeared over the eastern skies at the time of Jesus' birth. By this glorious light, the Magi from modern day Iraq traveled to a non-descript city south of Jerusalem named Bethlehem. Through this beacon shining in the night, the wise men were able to ascertain the birth of a mighty king in Israel. Very possibly these holy men from the once mighty Persian Empire understood through the writings of Daniel more than 500 years earlier, that a future ruler who would ultimately save His people would be born at this very time in Judea (see Daniel 9:24-27). They understood the signs of the times and they took heed, traveling hundreds of miles to confirm that truly a ruler had been born in Israel that would be the Eternal King.

Throughout scripture, God uses stars as metaphors for his heavenly beings. Job refers to the morning stars singing together, and all the sons of God shouting for joy (Job 38:7). The psalmist tells us that God numbers and gives name to all the stars, implying that His angelic host is finite yet even so an assembly of myriads (Psalm 147:4). And Isaiah states that not all the "stars" in the heavenlies are good (Isaiah 14:13). As the prophet speaks about Satan's prideful rise and self-assertion toward God, John the Revelator tells us how a third of the wicked "stars" or rather the devil's mutinous collaborators fell to earth at the fateful time when the angels rebelled (Revelation 12:4). The greatest Star of them all is first prophesied (centuries before Daniel) to appear by a Mesopotamian prophet named Balaam. (This fellow is a good example of someone that started out right and ended up seriously wrong!) In the book of Numbers, Balaam is hired by the king of Moab to curse the nation of Israel, but instead he pronounces a blessing over the Hebrews. During his prophetic utterance, Balaam speaks about a Star that will arise in Israel and will reign forever: I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth (Numbers 24:17). The prophet was declaring a dichotomous fulfillment to his prophecy. First of all, he stated that this part of his prophetic word was not for the present but was for a later date. Undoubtedly, this was the revealing of the star that would herald the Morning Star (II Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16) to be born in Bethlehem several millennia from his utterance. Secondly, it was a prophecy speaking of the return of Christ to be revealed at His second coming as He takes captive the nations of Moab (present day Jordan) and others that have raised their hand against His beloved Israel (see Jeremiah 25). Balaam's prophecy, as well as others, only confirm the inevitable in God's plan of redemption for both Israel and the Gentile nations.

Jesus tells us that in the same way as he departed the earth in the same way He will return (Acts 1:11). Even so, in the same way as he came the first time, so also will the heavens herald His return. Jesus both foretold and warned us of the great and terrible day of the Lord in the book of Matthew:
But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. - Matthew 24:29-30
This will truly be a day of great rejoicing for those who have believed, but a day of terrible reckoning for those who have despised His appearing. Just as the Son of Man appeared under the twinkling herald of a great light in the sky, so His coming will be in the twinkling of the eye and it will be a great light that will consume the darkness. The Morning Star will have arisen to create a new day where only He shall reign and no wickedness will stand before Him. For even as His coming was heralded two millennia past, so the sky will once again proclaim His glory as He sweeps the stars from the sky and He alone will remain to shine bright.

Throughout time, the heavens have been the place for man to turn his gaze to learn of God's glory. David knew this, Daniel also, and most assuredly the Magi. Now, it is our turn. Will we allow the Christmas Star to captivate our hearts until the Morning Star rises first within our spirits, and ultimately on a new earth in the age to come? It has always been and will continue to be our choice. Like the wise men, we must seek Him, traversing whatever distance is necessary to find Him. For only as we allow the Christmas Star to abide within, will we then know the Morning Star who desires to reveal His life to us all. Come, Lord Jesus, and reveal the very Star of David as we celebrate the birth of Christ in us all!

O Holy God, thank you for the Christmas Star that lives within all who call You Lord. Allow the bright and Morning Star to increase His brilliance in all of our lives until He returns in splendor. We thank You and praise You for Your wonderful gift to the world! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Vertical Direction - December 18, 2016


Philippians 3:14 - I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Many years ago when I started writing this blog, my barefoot logo took on a different appearance. Instead of the flat, capital T in BAREFOOTRUNNER.ORG, the T grew in vertical direction to be a t. (Actually, it had to become a lowercase t first which is really appropriate since it had to be a humble font before it could be exalted vertically!) This was an outward manifestation of what was going on with my barefoot running at the time. Previously, I believe that there was still so much of me in my barefoot running, that just like the horizontally-centric T in my logo, I was just reaching out to others yelling out at the top of my proverbial lungs, "Look at me! Aren't I cool?". This was a waste of both my time and theirs. I had failed in the most important aspect of connecting with people and that is not taking our encounters and making them spiritual relationships that have some eternal value. I had overlooked moving in a vertical direction to the Lord Jesus.

Before there can be an upward call, there has to be an awareness of a call and a sense of upward direction. Otherwise, we will be satisfied with our earthly relationships and not try to find a deeper significance in our dealings with humankind. Some folks find great satisfaction in just "loving on people". This is fantastic and true for as the lyricist wrote "What the world needs now, is love sweet love". However, if love toward my neighbor is devoid of love for God and thereby not channeled through Him, then it is meaningless in the grand scheme of life. When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment He said "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul". Jesus went on to state that the second greatest commandment was equally important -- "... And you must love your neighbor as yourself". Of the four billion plus persons in our world, millions upon millions are desiring to fulfill what I call the "Good Commission". The Great Commission, as many of us know is Jesus Christ's admonition to go into the whole world preaching the Gospel and making disciples. The "Good Commission" overlooks God totally. It is a humanistic endeavor that is atheistic in intent and just desires that we would all come together, love one another and just get along. Kind of like a gathering of humankind sitting around a global campfire singing "Kum-Bay-Ya" but totally dismissive of the words "My Lord" in the song. It is so easy to accept the "good" rather than the "great". Souls are pouring into hell every day because Satan has duped them into believing that just their "good" works will save them, rather than humbling themselves to the "great and perfect" blood of Jesus. Only He will transform us to reach out with HIS love to those around us.

Love is a wonderful thing. However, love that has not been fashioned first in a vertical fashion with our Lord Jesus Christ will ultimately fail as we reach out horizontally to our neighbor. As with the analogy of my "T", it is so easy to think that if we are reaching out to others that we are being a good person. Hell would love for us to continue to believe this. Even with my self-adulation in barefoot running, it wouldn't have mattered how much money or good I did for the homeless and those crippled if it was not the love of Jesus reaching down and through me to others. What matters first and foremost is to know that this life is so much more than just about ourselves. As long as we are pressing on toward that upward call, we will not shun the Father's love and how He wishes to reach back down through us to change the world around us. This is not grandiosity or "pie in the sky" thinking, but it is a knowing and believing that the very thing that Jesus Christ started in his church, He will fulfill it. Let's all be available and press on toward love that matters, so we can live for others.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Backed Into A Corner? - December 11, 2016


Psalm 31:7-8 - I will rejoice and be glad in Your loving-kindness, Because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul, And You have not given me over into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a large place.

It is good to have options, especially as a runner and knowing where to place your foot with each stride. Even more so is this fundamental with barefoot running. Tight running along narrow trails can be difficult and somewhat limiting to the next foot strike. However, it feels liberating when the path is wide, or even better yet when there is not even necessarily a path but just a broad expanse to run. On occasion, I will run through pasture land barefoot when the grass is just coming up in the springtime. The visibility is great and there is no need to feel constricted on where to run.

As I stated, it is good to have options. No one likes to feel that they are backed into a corner with no where to turn. When David wrote the aforementioned psalm, he was obviously thinking from a battle strategy point of view. How much better to be able to see all his options as the enemy closed in on him while standing his ground in the "large place"? Many an army commander can testify to the terror of being pinned down in a forested scenario where the enemy is dug in and picking off his soldiers one by one. There is really only two options in a situation such as this: Either wait and hope help comes or try to flank your enemy and draw them into open combat. David's writings imply that he had been in similar situations. He stated that God did not allow him to be hemmed in, but He set his feet in a large place. With more options to move about freely, David could and did rout his enemy as the Lord strengthened him.

Is this not true for our own lives? How often do we feel hemmed in by the struggles and strives of daily living? It it's not the bills then one of the kids is sick or there are lay-off fears at work or any number of things that would seek to back us into that proverbial corner. The Lord Jesus Christ stated "Take no thought for what you will eat or drink or for what you will wear, but seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given to you". What a glorious promise! Without a doubt, there are going to be times when all of us feel out-flanked by the enemy of our souls and we will feel like there is no way out. As David believed, we must know that God will never abandon us if we keep trusting. Even when our faith is frail and non-existent He stated through Paul in the first book of Timothy that "If we are faithless, He remains faithful". The Lord Jesus knows we are but dust and that we will return to dust. Therefore, He is patient with our failings and our unbelief. The most important thing is to keep growing in faith and listening to His continual testimonies to our souls, how He continues to deliver us.

David wrote a vast majority in retrospect. Retrospect, or "our history" as I like to call it is the most valuable thing we have to build faith. In Psalm 103:1 David writes "Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name, And forget none of His benefits toward you". The word "remember" is used 167 times in the bible (New International Version). Sounds to me like the Lord wants us to be mindful of many things that are relevant to how we live and believe. These things, if taken to heart will not allow us to be hemmed in by the enemy, our unbelieving thoughts, or by the nay-sayers around us.

My prayer for all of us is a simple one: Remember the Lord. In all our ways acknowledge Him and He will make our paths straight. Better yet, He will set us in a large place where we will have room for mobility away from the negative, debilitating thinking of the World and Satan that would seek to paralyze us with fear. Move forth in faith! He has large, spacious places for us all to dwell in!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, December 4, 2016

When Endurance is Not Enough! - December 4, 2016


Hebrews 12:1-2 - Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Long distance running is not something to be taken lightly. There should be a lot of preparation. Physically, there should (of course) be the training miles, but then there must be the mental preparation that gives a runner confidence to complete the distance. I have seen so many "bonk" before they get to the finish line mainly because they had not adequately prepared for the distance. For a runner, mental ability can be as important as physical training and ability. If you first lose the will to run in the mind, then you will lose the will to run where the shoe (or in my case the sole) hits the road.

So often I hear Hebrews 12:1-2 quoted in regard to running and endurance sports. It is a wonderful couple of verses that give us a mental image of a runner persevering with all intention of crossing the finish line. Of course, this is a metaphor for the race that Christians must run to compete for the heavenly prize of the upward call of Christ Jesus. As with runners that have prepared themselves only physically for the challenge of the long distance run, I see so many Christians who have not taken the time to complete the more important part of the verse that precedes "running with endurance".

Many "believers" line up at the proverbial start line of their Christian faith not understanding the course laid out before them. They don't understand that merely confessing Christ as their Savior and giving up this or that for Him is sufficient to "run" through life and be happy, joyous, and free. They may experience these feelings for a while, but when the race begins to be arduous they will falter in their faith. Jesus Christ does not expect us to run the race in our own strength or power, and He knows that we will never have the endurance to finish as we should without addressing EVERYTHING that is opposed to his Spirit and Life. "Encumbrances" as defined by Webster are things that are burdensome or a hindrance. Daily, we have opportunity to please the Lord with lives of obedience or by living selfishly ambitious for our own goals. The truly sanctified believer knows the momentary pain of "laying aside" something that they might love, yet is a hindrance to their walk with the Lord. I say momentary, because once a point of obedience is acknowledged and then "walked in", then the Christian is truly happier and more fulfilled by making that decision. Obedience, or the lack of, will be the one huge determiner whether or not we have the strength and power to run with endurance the race before us. Some may put on a show that they are running life's race in His power, but in time it will show differently when they lose the love and commitment for their Lord and others.

In marathoning, I like to carry a few gel packs with me for needed energy bursts. These are small collapsible aluminum packs of carbohydrate concoctions made with fruit or syrups. They give a runner that needed kick to keep going when the going gets tough. Christ provides us "spiritual gel packs" during our life race that are filled with the ingredients to keep on keeping on. Things such as hope, faith, and love that are jam-packed in His containers of wisdom that we know when to draw on at the most critical moments of our own race. However, I used the operative word "provide". He will only give us these needed stores through our obedience to His word and how he wants each and every one of us to walk our individual Christian lives. It is remarkable what may or may not work for a runner. Just because God has told me to do a certain thing in my walk with Him, does not mean that He will tell another the same thing. We are uniquely individual to our Lord, so therefore He deals with us as individuals for the more concentrated areas of obedience. This is the secret of individual sanctification. One will never reach their own by modeling after another's life.

The race is before all of us who believe. For those of you who are doubters and unbelievers, I encourage you to line up with us and start your own endurance race with the Lord. For those who would seek a shallow relationship with their God and then try to complete the race set before them, they will not be able to finish strong in the Lord because the Word says they will be encumbered and hindered along the course. Life will be full of compromises that would seek to distract us from the race set before us. No manner or amount of human endurance will allow us to finish the course as Jesus would desire. Endurance, in and of itself will always leave us coming up short of the finish line. We will by all means need to understand that Jesus is our Coach and He is the One that will provide the energy and fortitude along the way. May we all find His hope, His faith, His love along the way that will propel us to complete the wonderful course before us. Without Him as our Provider, we will truly fail, but with Him we can only win the race set before us.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick