Running the Race of Faith

Hebrews 12:1-2

New Living Translation:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now, he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Good News Translation:

As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

There are many takeaways from this passage from Hebrews:

1. We are not alone in our struggle to stay faithful to God. The large crowd of witnesses are the people who came before us. We can think of them as up in the heavens, cheering us on in our “race.” They crossed the finish line a long time ago, but they haven’t forgotten about the rest of us. And we shouldn’t forget about them!

2. The “weights” that hold us back are difficult to let go. But we can pray for the strength to leave them behind. Once they are gone from our lives, we’ll finish our race stronger and lighter. The burden of these sins, these addictions, these people in our lives who don’t fit in with our faith have to be let go.

3. There’s no giving up. We might become discouraged at times because our circumstances get too hard, because life is unfair and because we might become persecuted or “unfriended” due to our beliefs. Jesus didn’t give up. We can’t expect to be as strong as our Savior, but we can think of the way he died for us as a reminder that as tough as we think our lives are, they can’t compare to the live and death of Jesus. We aren’t expected to be Saviors, but we can live our life as close to Christ-like as we can.

Fit In Your Faith Today: What weights are holding you back from finishing your race of faith?  Think of ways you can lighten your load, running towards the finish line with faith-filled endurance for Christ fueling you every step of the way.

Falling Short while Looking Up

Romans 3:23-24

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 

Today’s verses really hit the nail on the head as far as sin goes: We all fall short. We all sin. You can categorize some sins into “Big” and “Little” sins but in the end, we all fall short of His standard. Even Paul recognized this in his letter to the Roman.

It’s somewhat of a relief to read this though, because we probably put a lot of pressure on ourselves to live up to certain expectations; maybe from our spouses or parents or co-workers and friends. We might fall short in those relationships, too. But it’s comforting to know that God understands that as humans, we are not perfect and will have moments of walking away from God. In those moments of sin, we aren’t living up to His expectations.

But there’s Good News: He declares that we are righteous. When God forgives our sins, our record is wiped clean. As the Deacon at my parish told me just yesterday, “God can read our hearts.”  When we stray, and we confess that we have strayed, God welcomes us back. He can read our hearts that we are sorry.

So while you may feel you are falling short, remember to look up. Look up to Him, confess, be forgiven, and walk the path of righteousness that God has set for you.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Where are you falling short, not just in God’s eyes, but in other parts of your life? We are not perfect but we can strive to be better Christians by looking up to God, before we fall down and sin again. Confess and be forgiven, then get up again.

 

Will You Pray for Me?

James 5:16

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

“I’ll pray for you.”

Do you think this or say this often to your friends or family members who are in need of help? And if you do, do you mean it?

It’s good practice to pray for people and for things that don’t directly benefit you. Often, it’s those that are near and dear to us who need prayer, too. Sure, it’s easy to assume that they’ll just pray for themselves but wouldn’t it be nice to know that you are earnestly praying for them as well?

Not only is prayer the best way to communicate with God but confession as this passage from James reminds us is also a huge part of our faith. Discussing our faults, our problems and our troubles with a spiritual adviser, priest, minister or even a friend can help us become closer to God and become better Christians overall. By discussing and praying and confessing, we build that relationship with God that we need, even though we might not think this to be true sometimes.

Too many times we might think, “I’ll solve this problem on my own,” or “I can do this myself, I don’t need anyone’s help.”

Think of prayer and confession as the telephone line linked directly to God. He is the first one you should call upon when you need help, not the last resort.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Who will you pray for today that needs help? Even if they didn’t come out and directly as you to pray for them, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you are praying for someone else other than yourself?

 

The Lord Has Told You…Will You Listen?

Micah 6:8

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:

to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Good News Translation:

No, the Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this:

to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.

From the New Life Study Bible: People have tried all ways to please God, but God has made his wishes clear; He wants his people to do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly with him. In your efforts to please God, examine these areas on a regular basis. Are you fair in your dealings with people? Do you show mercy to those who wrong you? Are you learning humility?

Fit In Your Faith Today: Take one aspect of today’s passage that you need the most help with and work it into your day: Stand up for what is right, or correct a mistake you made in your past. Exhibit mercy to someone whom you have looked down upon or have held a grudge against for too long. Perform an act of kindness anonymously in order to learn humility.

Knock, Knock.

Revelations 3:20

Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me.

From the New Life Study Bible: The Laodicean church was complacent and rich. They felt self-satisfied, but they didn’t have Christ’s presence among them. Christ knocked at the door of their hearts, but they were so busy enjoying worldly pleasures that they didn’t notice that he was trying to enter. The pleasures of this world- money, security, material possessions- can be dangerous, because their temporary satisfaction makes us indifferent to God’s offer of lasting satisfaction. If you find yourself feeling indifferent to church, to God, or to the Bible, you have begun to shut Got out of your life. Leave the door of your heart constantly open to God, and you won’t need to worry about hearing his knock. Letting him in is your only hope for lasting fulfillment.

Jesus knocks at the door of our heart because he wants to save us and have fellowship with us. He is patient and persistent in trying to get through to us – not breaking and entering, but knocking. He allows us to decide whether or not to open our life to him. Do you intentionally keep his life-changing presence and power on the other side of the door?

Fit in Your Faith Today: If you find yourself feeling indifferent, not caring either way about Church or God in your life or anyone else’s, you are not leaving yourself open to God at all. Being casual or indifferent about your faith is almost worse than having no faith at all. God promises us in this passage that He’s knocking and He wants us to listen, as the first word boldly states. Are we listening? Do we hear Him knocking and will we open up that door? If you hesitate, ask yourself what is holding you back?

Trust in God’s Faithfulness

Lamentations 3:22-23

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

If we can read this passage every morning, how wonderful our outlook will be!

To know and to understand that the love of the Lord is never-ending, to know that His mercy is ongoing, that is faithfulness is great and his mercies begin afresh each day! That’s quite the boost of confidence in our Lord. We NEED to read this and believe this everyday, don’t we?

Looking at the context of this passage through the New Life Study Bible, we are uplifted even more: Jeremiah saw one ray of hope in all the sin and sorrow surrounding him. God willingly responds with help when we ask.

How many people believe that? How many people understand that? Maybe there’s an area of your life that you think is destined to become a permanent sin in your life. Maybe it’s an addiction. Maybe it’s an abusive relationship. Maybe it’s just a poor attitude about something or someone. You can ask God to take away this burden. To help you get out of a situation. To help you steer toward a path of mercy and “steadfast love.”

Fit In Your Faith Today: Start your morning off with this passage from Lamentations. Ask yourself if you believe in God’s faithfulness and forgiveness. Understand that every day is a new opportunity for you to grow in your faith and love of the Lord.

 

Making a Path Through the Wilderness

Isaiah 43:18-19

“But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Good News Translation

But the Lord says, “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already – you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.”

These scripture verses give us hope. We are told to forget the past and all that has already taken place. That’s old news. He is already working toward a new plan for us!

Do you rehash and constantly replay past events in your mind? Things that may have hurt you or caused you sadness or anger? We tend to do this when we’ve had an argument or disagreement with someone:

“I can’t believe the way that Bob embarrassed me at the meeting! I’m never going to let him live that down.”

“Mary didn’t me to invite me to her daughters birthday party last week. And she had such a lame excuse when I asked her about it! I’m so hurt by this. Why do friends act this way?”

“I don’t like the way Suzanne looked at me when I saw her at the PTA meeting. What’s her problem? I’ll remember this the next time she asks a favor from me.”

We can’t hold a grudge forever, we have to move on. If someone hurts us, they should apologize. But what if we never get that apology? We have to figure out a way to move on and move past the hurt and the pain. It’s time to get on a new plan that God has set for us.

Appreciate the last sentence: “I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.”

You can visualize the struggles, the arguments and the pain as the wilderness. You’re making your way through it now with no end in sight. But you can relax as the Lord says that He will provide us with streams of water, relief is in sight! He tells us He has already started to help us, we just have to have faith He will lead us out of this “wilderness,” this dark time in our life.

Fit In You Faith Today: If you’re dwelling on the past, living in the past, and can’t seem to find your way out of the past, pray for the strength to move forward. If someone never apologized for hurting you, forgive them anyways. Even if you don’t tell them out loud that you forgive them, forgive them in your mind. You can then find your way out of the “wilderness” to the “streams of water” that God has waiting for you.

 

 

Your Body is a Temple

1 Corinthians 10:31

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

This scripture passage is my screensaver on my iPad and laptop. Why? I found it one day while searching for some sort of guidance while dieting and trying to stick to my meal plan.

I refer to it when I’m feeling like having a huge binge or having some food that I know will not be healthy for me. So I would read this sentence over and over until it sunk in. I also remembered other passages that remind us that our bodies are our temples and you shouldn’t trash the temple (by eating junk food).

But you can also reflect on this passage a little differently and think that whatever task you do, as mundane as it may be, do it for the glory of God. Does the food you eat and the drinks you consume glorify God? Do they honor your body and your health?

Fit In Your Faith Today: Do your actions throughout the day glorify God, or do they dishonor God and yourself? Are you giving in to tempting foods and drink that you know don’t do honor to God or to your body? Treat your body and your mind as a holy temple. Visualize yourself as this temple the next time you are tempted to engage in behavior or habits that don’t glorify God.

Pray for Wisdom

Proverbs 8: 9-12

My words are plain to anyone with understanding, clear to those with knowledge.

Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold.

For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it.

I, Wisdom, live together with good judgement. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment.

Wisdom should affect every aspect of our lives, from beginning to end. We should always strive to increase our wisdom, always willing to learn something new about our faith, about relationships, about life. Under God’s direction and guidance, we can attain all kinds of wisdom and knowledge.

As for the value of wisdom, Proverbs teaches us it’s far valuable than gold or silver and jewels. Our goal should never be to increase our wealth. If we keep our eye on the prize of wisdom, we’ll be far happier with the results.

Money and fame and material possessions have temporary effects. They will only give us satisfaction that lasts a short while. It’s far better to have a wealth of knowledge, than a wealth of money.

Fit in Your Faith Today: What can you learn about God today? What is He trying to teach you and how can you share this new found wisdom with others?