The Race

Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to ride a couple days of Ragbrai, so how could I say no?  I have truly enjoyed riding bikes since before I was 5 years old.  I remember riding around the country as a kid and the first time I rode to a friend’s house 4 miles away, thinking it was quite a feat.  Even now the prospect of riding 50-100 miles a day is more challenging than it is exciting, but what if we never tested the limits of what we can do?  Ragbrai is more an act of endurance than it is a race, but you may get a boost of energy when you pass others, or see someone fly by you, or see a sign for pie at the next town.  Though this is not my first Ragbrai rodeo, for me, whether a day or a whole week, the experience is more about stepping away from the comfort of my normal routine, seeing new parts of this wonderful state, and getting to know some people better.  Mission accomplished every time, despite bumps in the road. 

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  I Corinthians 9:24-27

When you are on a bike ride, or a car trip, or any type of journey, you have to expect the unexpected.  You get flat tires, storms, detours, sickness, injuries, and just about anything else you can imagine.  If something unexpected sidelines you for a moment, you adjust, recalculate your route, and push forward.  You may get discouraged for a moment when things don’t go your way, but you figure out what is next and keep on going.  If you always let little things keep you from any progress or make you turn around, you may end up a cold, timid soul that never ventures out of the safety zone.  The same way in life, if you don’t expect a few bumps or potholes along the road, you are only fooling yourself.  Comfort is overrated.  Have a plan of action for when things go wrong, or know who to turn to for help when you need it.  Have you ever felt joy from being able to help someone in distress?  Who made you that way?

I have seen something else under the sun:

The race is not to the swift
    or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
    or wealth to the brilliant
    or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:

As fish are caught in a cruel net,
    or birds are taken in a snare,
so people are trapped by evil times
    that fall unexpectedly upon them. Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

When we look at our brief little lives, we eventually realize we all have the same finish line…death.  But what happens after this race is over?  As we run, we can take a look around us and think, ‘Wow! They have it made because (insert lame reason here)’ or we could say the opposite of ourselves or others…’That poor soul’.  We only catch glimpses of what others are dealing with, and it is usually more than meets the eye.  Who knows everything you have dealt with throughout your life?  Oh right, Him, but does He really care?  Is there anyone else who knows you better and still wants the best for you, or for you to finish the race with your head up and still looking forward?  Spend time with your real life coach and listen to His advice on how to run the race and finish well in this life.  Don’t do it for your own glory, but for His, and you will be glad you did. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

Running along with you,

Clark

A Double Edged Stick of Dynamite

Alfred Nobel was a rare genius. Despite only attending school 18 months during his life-time he held over 350 different patents, the most famous of which was dynamite. While we think of dynamite as an element of war and violence, Nobel set about creating it for one reason: safety. The leading explosive of the day, nitroglycerin, was notoriously unpredictable. It caused a serious explosion at Nobel’s own factory that killed five people, including his own brother. In creating dynamite Nobel was creating a tool that would have substantial explosive power for the mining industry, as well as prevent future deaths like his brother’s. Indeed, dynamite would come to play a key role in many industries up to the present day, but it’s use in war and terrorism tends to receive all the focus. In fact, an errounosly published obituary referring to Nobel as the “merchant of death” for the creating dynamite led Nobel to leave the vast majority of his fortune to promoting peace through the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Dynamite, and the various other useful explosives developed from it, can be extremely positive. Without it many important mining projects, road projects, and development projects could have never safely happened. Unfortanely, dynamite can also be used for nefarious purposes as well. It is obsiouly a double edged sword that has to be used with wisdom and care. Believe it or not, being a Chrisitan is quite similar to this. We have the potential to do so many good things: lead people to Christ, improve the lives of the poor, love the downtrodden, equip future leaders, grow the faith of others, and so much more.

There is so much positive that can come out of our Chrisitan life. But, if we are not careful, we can also do harm. We can be overly judgemental, hypocritical, self-centered instead of others centered, focused on our wants rather than other’s needs, and more. There is an old DC Talk song that opens with the proptheic line: “the biggest single cause of atheism today is Christians.” Honestly, from my experiences, I’d say that pretty accurate. I’ve talked to so many people who are open to God, but because of how they have been treated by Christians they have no desire to get close to God or His church. Look at Paul’s teaching in James 4:11-12:

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

It is not our role to judge or condemn, but to make others better. We’ve been given a powerful responsibility as followers of Christ, one even more powerful than dynamite. May we always use it to improve others and not to inflict harm. 

 

The Ugly

Ephesians 4:29New International Version (NIV)

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

I have found in my own life that when I curse, swear, or use any unwholesome talk; I am struggling with a heart condition. It is the ugliness that I have allowed inside me to come out.

It is usually created by frustration, anger, or from my own selfish pride. The sad point about it and when I vent it, I lose my credibility as a Christian.

True, we all do not walk around with our halos straight, but it does create wrong impressions to those around us when we are trying to be men of God. Nowhere do you find Jesus using curse words. He did call religious men like Pharisees and Sadducees vipers and snakes.

Jesus says in Luke 6:45, ‘A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.’ What you say flows from what is in your heart. 

The ugly in our heart, men, spills not only out of us, but also on the people we are around. Do not let tough moments give way to wrong actions. When we fail in those moments, get back up. Thankfully we serve a God who is faithful and just, who is a forgiver of our sins, and purifies us from all unrighteousness at is says in 1 John 1:9, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

Vital Ministries News

New Teaching Series on KBOE 104.9 FM, 8:30-9:00 am on Sundays

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The first week of the teaching was about the good in our lives. This Sunday we will look into what is the bad that I we walk in each day. And finally next Sunday, we will look at the ugly things in our lives that we need to confess before the Lord. Do not miss out on this teaching for the next two weeks. Tune into KBOE 104.9 FM each Sunday morning from 8:30-9:00.

 

Resolute?

I Peter 5:8:11 (NKJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 

In Peter’s first epistle, he’s addressing the christians throughout Asia Minor.  It is generally accepted that he was writing this at the beginning of Nero’s persecutions of christians.  His primary goal is one of comfort, hope and encouragement.  He’s asking that they hold fast in the faith, despite the imminent persecution.  At this point, we see a mature Peter who has incorporated the persecution, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus into his own personal understanding of suffering.  In doing so, he expects and perhaps looks forward to the opportunity to suffer for the glory of Christ and His Kingdom.  He knows, fully assured of Christ’s promise, that eternal glory awaits once the suffering is concluded.

There are many brothers and sisters around the world, this very moment, suffering physical, mental and emotional torment because of their unrelenting devotion to Jesus’ gospel promise.  They are suffering, just as Peter knew he and those he addressed would.  Yet, they count it joy, because they are assured of the glory that awaits.

This is overwhelmingly convicting to me.  Here in America, we don’t suffer like that, at least not yet.  There are some egregious instances, where persons’ religious liberties have been trampled and had serious impact on their lives.  I do not intend to minimize their struggle, just contrast them with the life and death struggles of others abroad.  Their expression of faith, if discovered, can and is resulting in torture and death.  Yet, they choose to stand resolute and firmly adhere to the very thing that Peter is imparting.  

Here in America, I see and am guilty of a half hearted expression of faith.  I, and see others, pick our moments, moments that conveniently fit into our day, to express our faith and love for Jesus.  We have an opportunity to do so at will, yet we don’t.  We can pray when and where we choose, yet how often do we?  We can freely read and share God’s word, yet we hold back.  The American church, far too often, shrugs its shoulders when it should be flexing its muscle.  How can we, who enjoy such incredible freedom, be bored and apathetic, when the times we live in demand action?  Christ guarantees us that the end times will see an insipid attitude toward life.  The persecution is coming, My Friends.  If we’re not fully living out an expression of faith now, when we are free to do so, how will we possibly stand during the type of persecution Peter refers to and Jesus assures us of?  

There are so many battles to be fought, big, small, day in and day out.  There are loads we must all embrace and desire to lift.  There is a world of billions in need of shepherding, slaves to be freed.  Are you resolute?  Does what others see and hear from you suggest to them that you are?  The answer must be yes, and… if it’s not, what are you waiting for?  Have a blessed weekend! 

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace

 

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