Swords and Mercies

The experiences of being a cop at 24 years of age did not take long to form a growing chip on my shoulder towards the people that received a ride to jail in my backseat. I could feel the coldness growing around my heart and the pride elevating me to think how much better I was than those whom I was dealing with. Here I was taking people twice my age to jail and I had already been a more productive member of society than they. How my pride stunk before a holy God.

Since that time God has done a joyful and glorious work in opening the eyes of my heart towards the wonder of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The only reason my heart did not continue to harden was because I realized that my biggest problem was the same problem that people I was dealing with at work had: sin. We both have a sin problem.

There is a tension in this for a street cop though. How can I have a humble heart and a kindness towards people that I may have to point a gun at? How do I remain tough and tender at the same time?

The amazing thing about the Bible is that it is full of paradoxes. Truths that seem to be counter towards each other but once understood through the help of the Holy Spirit bring freedom and joy. In one sense I can be tough towards people because Romans 13 warns that the government does not bear the sword in vain. The government is an extension of God’s vengeance, dealing out punishment to whom punishment is due. I love that picture as a cop and I embrace iy whole-heartedly. Yes, I am the sword and I must not be afraid to use it. I will use it if I have to and I will have the full pleasure of God behind me as I wield it correctly.

In another sense, the same God has commanded me to love my neighbor, and my neighbor may not be the one across my street that has his life put together neatly. Jesus told a story to a self-righteous lawyer in Luke 10 which explained that our neighbors may be those we despise the most. In the story a Jew provides aid to a beat up Samaritan that had been robbed. The Jews and Samaritans had a long standing hatred for each other that cut across race, religion, and culture. This Jew showed mercy to someone who was hard to love. This kind of mercy comes from a man that loves God with all of his heart, soul, and mind (Luke 10:27). This love is nothing less than a gift from God.

I can point a gun at someone justifiably and put handcuffs on them and pray for their soul while I am taking them to jail. This is perfectly in line with what the Bible teaches and it is a glorious paradox that helps me work in a profession of constant tension. Thank God for the gospel.


A Cop and a Dad: My thoughts on Ferguson

The Ferguson news headlines have subsided for now. The Ferguson hashtag has quited down. The conversations on cable news and talk radio have decreased. They will flare back up in a few weeks when the grand jury releases their decision on whether Officer Darren Wilson should be charged with homicide or whether the shooting of Michael Brown was justified.

During this lull it seems like a good time for me to write and process my thoughts from this incident. Since this story broke open on August 10th, my 32nd birthday, I felt like my feet have been planted in two worlds with a gap that is widening. I am a cop and I am a husband/ father pursuing a trans-ethnic family. We are adopting a child from Haiti. I thought about writing this post in the ensuing days after the Ferguson riots but I wanted to give it some time to percolate. Was what I was thinking then be the same a month from now?

I read a lot of news articles and blog posts as the events in Ferguson unfolded. This story hit several different angles that are hot button issues in United States law enforcement today. Issues like race, use of deadly force, technology (i.e., body cameras), community policing, and the militarization of police were all found within the strains of this one story.

While many of my thoughts could be fleshed out, I only want to share one that I think is the most important. Before doing that, these articles have been the most helpful (and aggravating)  in helping me think through this issue:

1. The Citizen, the Centurion, and the Sword by Joshua Waulk. The debate over Ferguson has been framed in two ways depending on your camp: an emotional story line and a factual defense of what took place. Both have their place. This blog post provides a helpful, factual summary of the why and how of cops using deadly force. Action is quicker than reaction. The twenty-one foot rule. Graham v. Connor. This is the vocabulary of cops. To clearly understand and evaluate officer involved shootings an understanding of these facts are needed. Waulk is a former cop and a current pastor and has been involved in a gun battle personally. This is a must read.

2. America in Black and White: Why do so many of respond to Ferguson so differently? by Justin Taylor. This article is helpful for two reasons. First, Taylor boils down the debate over the death of Michael Brown to four positions. To gain any traction in a debate a person needs to fully understand the other side of the argument. There has been far too little of that with Ferguson and Taylor’s blog is a reminder for us to think hard, not think lightly. He also quotes an excerpt from John Piper’s book Bloodlines that is critical for all Christians to understand when as we think about race.

3. Power, Police, and Another Shooting by John Piper. Next to Jesus and the writers of Scripture, John Piper has been the most influential person on my life that I have never met. I am deeply grateful for Christian Hedonism which radically changed the way I viewed what it means to be a Christian. Having said that, this blog post made me want to pull non-existent hair out of my bald head. In the post he links a video that shows an officer involved shooting in St. Louis and concludes, “This video constitutes a powerful call for serious reassessments of how our police are trained and empowered to use their guns.” After reading Joshua Waulk’s blog post, this statement can be easily dismantled as a naive assessment at best. Still, I’m thankful for the tone in which Piper wrote the article which was a humble approach and an acknowledged thankfulness for restraint cops show.

4. Coming (Back) to America: My One Fear by Thabiti Anyabwile. This was another frustrating, but necessary blog post for me to read. It was frustrating because the way in which he writes this imply several things about law enforcement that I don’t know if Anyabwile believes or not. Where this was helpful for me, was the way in which it caused me to try and begin to understand the different perspective and life experiences that a gospel-centered Christian brings to this issue.

5. The Gospel in Black and White: A Missiological Perspective on Ferguson by Bob Bixby. “The black culture values the black community. They value the black collective. It was through community that blacks prevailed through the Civil Rights Movement Era. They feel much more dependent on community than we whites do…Whites on the other hand, simply do not see themselves as a collective.”

Bixby spends several paragraphs explaining this more and it is important for people like me to think and feel this reality more deeply. As a white person, and a majority race, I can’t identify with a black person who feels the weight and emotion of what happened in Ferguson even when he personally is not connected with it. No factual explanation of the incident will erase that emotion.

There is another dynamic here that I see as a cop. There is a divide between whites and blacks when situations like this occur. There is even a greater divide when it comes to the law enforcement community because while I don’t think of myself as a collective regarding my race, I do think of myself as a collective when it comes to my vocation as a peace officer.

Just as black people feel a strong sense of community given their history and minority status, law enforcement officers feel a strong sense of community; especially as the animosity towards us has increased recently. When a cop is killed anywhere in this nation I get an email from the Officer Down Memorial Page.  When a cop is killed in the line of duty in my home state, thousands of officers who never knew him will come to the funeral. We wear mourning bands until his body is placed in the ground. We share in the experiences of tragic circumstances that the public doesn’t see. There is a feeling of shared community that develops around the badge.

When these two communities collide, problems erupt. I see a problem with cops having no desire to understand the sense of community blacks have with each other and vice versa. Cops need to understand the painful history of the black community and the black community needs to understand law enforcement tactics and methodology.

Paul talks in I Corinthians 13 about what love, an attribute more important than faith and hope, looks like. “It is patient and kind. It doesn’t envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” We need more of this, but this will not happen apart from hearts being changed by the gospel. There may not be common ground we will find on this issue, in this life, but there can be a common love that navigates these troubled waters with kindness.

We have an example set before us. Jesus did not see us in our sin and leave us as we were. He didnt stay on the perimeter. He stepped off his throne in heaven and stepped into the messiness of sinful human beings and into our story. He took on flesh, became international, and felt our pain. He took our pain. He made himself as nothing and took the form of a servant and became obedient to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). This is the humble example we as Christians are called to follow and it is the only way we can ever hope to truly understand the life stories we each bring to the table. Let us count others more significant than ourselves. Let us not look to our own interests but to the interests of others. This is where find full joy. This is the example Jesus left for us.

 


He Is Going To Kill Her!

There are some calls that come across the radio which immediately make a cops neck hairs stand on end. This was one of the those. A caller was shrieking into her phone, letting our dispatcher know, in hysteria, that “He is going to kill her!” That was the extent of the information I had as I hit the accelerator and began heading towards the address. My nearest partner was 20 miles away.

My headlights shined down the block as I made the final turn before reaching the address. I flipped my headlights off, threw my squad into park and got out. As I began walking towards the house a female ran out the front door. I recognized the screaming. It was the same sound I could hear in the background as our dispatcher was talking to her one the phone. She ran towards me saying, no screaming, that he was going to kill her or had killed her. Questions swirled in my mind but the broken windows on the house were clear indicators that this lady wasn’t just crazy.

I told her to sit on the curb, next to my squad, and wait until I got back. As I began walking towards the house, my hand took a firm grip on the polymer of my Glock 22. I held it at a low ready while my index finger flicked on the tac light, mounted to the rail just underneath the barrel. The light illuminated the front of the house where I could see large chunks of glass laying on the sidewalk. Before I could walk up the steps to front door; it began to open.

Very slowly, very coolly, a man walked out. He had his hands up, was absent of a shirt, and looked as if several cats had made him their personal scratching post. I secured him in handcuffs and began asking him where his wife was. He told me she was inside but would not tell me anything else. The manner in which he was spoke was cold and distant and didn’t match the tenor of someone usually involved in a scrap. At that point I had very little doubt in my mind he had just done something horrible.

After doing a quick pat down, I walked him to my squad. The Shrieker was still sitting on the curb in a mess of tears and smeared make-up. She began screaming at him, asking him what he had done to her friend. After securing him in my car I started walking back to the house.

As I walked over the broken glass and up the stairs my tac light shown into the house. The hallway was strewn with broken bits of wood that hinted at one unified point in time they were a door. Now they looked more like wooden confetti. The house was dark and silent and wreaked of cheep beer, stale cigarette smoke, and marijuana. My tac light bounced off walls and floors and ceiling as I began clearing each room.

I attempted to pull my imagination back from what I would find and focus on keeping myself in the moment of being safe and processing what I was seeing. After the main floor was clear, I began moving down towards the basement. The rambler style house had stairs near the garage that led downward. As I walked down the stairs and came around the corner I saw that the basement was unfinished. Some walls were up, while others were only studs.

As I moved across the concrete floor slowly and quietly I could see what appeared to be a closed off, small room. It looked like a sauna room. As I opened the door and moved into the small room, my eyes revealed to me what I had been looking for. If you have been in a sauna room before you know that most have two tiers of benches; one low and another high, directly above it. There on the top bench, in the corner of the room, was a woman curled up into the fetal position; crying quietly.

There have been few moments as satisfying as that one, as I assured her that I was there to help her and that she was safe. The job transferred from tactics to talk though as I realized that I had my work cut out for me. She did not want to tell me what happened. She did not want him arrested. As my heart rate slowed down the real work had begun- building the case against a guy that needed to go to jail.


Tyler and Anna

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

Tyler and Anna, this verse has been a meaningful one for you in your relationship. You have rightly seen each other as a gift from God and that gift has led you to the this day. You are about to enter a covenant relationship that is like no other on earth. It is a relationship that God intends to only be severed by death. On this day, August 15th, 2014 you two will become one flesh and this verse has much to say about how you should view this day and the rest of your lives together.

James tells us that God is the source of everything. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” It was this way from the very beginning of creation. At one point there was no earth or sun or moon or galaxies or animals or sea creatures or human beings. God formed and crafted this earth through spoken words. Out of nothing came everything. When God spoke planets began spinning into their assigned orbit, vast oceans met dry land and formed shorelines, sunrises and sunsets began a constant rhythm that have not failed to this day. Birds began flying, bugs began crawling, lions began roaring, dolphins began swimming and Adam began breathing. God was the source of this all.

We see that God has given us an entire world that he called good. He made it for us to enjoy. He made Adam and Eve to enjoy each other. There is not one single thing you have received in this life that has not been from your heavenly Father. Each of us sitting in these pews or standing at this altar will not breathe a single breath unless God grants it to us. He speaks and new life is born. He speaks and old life is stopped. He speaks and storms are silenced or spun into existence. Let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God who is the source of everything. To him alone belongs glory.

Not only is God the source of everything but he is the giver of everything. God did not speak this world into existence, wind it up like a mechanical watch, and walk away from it all. He gives good gifts and perfect gifts to us. He is like a generous father who loves to shower his children with presents on Christmas morning.

Some of these gifts we are keenly aware of, like a spouse, or a job we enjoy, or good health, or forgiveness through the cross for our sinful hearts. Many of these gifts we are unaware of and don’t even think about. Did you wake up this morning and breathe without pain? That was a gift from God. Did you drive to this church tonight without getting into a car crash? That was a gift from God. Did you enjoy a bottle of water this afternoon or some food to satisfy your hungry stomach? That was a gift from God. What a wonderful and loving God we have who gives us good and perfect gifts!

James also wants us to know that God uses these gifts as a way in which to show the personal relationship he has with his children. He gives us exactly what we need, when we need it. The gospel of Jesus Christ saves enemies of God, brings them into the family of God, and gives them access to God’s grace and mercy and love.

God does not only give us good and perfect gifts that are material and tangible but he gives us so much more.Tyler and Anna, you were at some point in your life under God’s wrath because of your sinfulness. Your sin separated you from a God that is more awesome and beautiful than you could ever imagine. Through Christ living the life you could never live, dying the death you should have died, and conquering the power of sin, death and Satan, he has brought you into a personal relationship with God. This reality rests squarely on the Jesus Christ; your cornerstone.

“Christ alone; cornerstone. Weak made strong; in the Savior’s love. Through the storm, He is Lord. Lord of all.”

Finally, we see that God is unchangeable. “With whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” We live in a constant state of change. Things that seem so lasting and permanent can be snuffed out or taken away in a heartbeat. A home with all earthly goods and possessions can turn into ashes on one bitterly cold evening in December. Life is but a vapor. We are here one day and gone the next.

Yet, God does not change. His attributes and promises are never changing and will never change. The same God that spoke this world into existence is the same God ruling over this marriage ceremony right now. If God is unchanging that means his promises are unchanging. If his promises are unchanging nothing in this life can separate us from his love! “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:36-39).”

What do these four truths have to do with marriage then? Everything. Matthew Henry describes God this way: “What the sun is in nature, God is in grace, providence, and glory; yes and infinitely more.” Just as the sun is the source by which we see, experience and enjoy life, so God is the source by which our lives are completely dependent. We are in desperate need of his sovereignty, grace and glory whether we realize it or not.

If God is the source of everything and the giver of everything, he will be the source of your marriage and the sustainer of your marriage. You both are entering this covenant as a man and a woman in need of God’s grace and mercy.

Tyler and Anna, you will have times where you will be exhausted with life. You will have times when the trials are deep and the road is dangerous. You will have times where you will experience circumstances that never entered into your realm of thinking. You will have times of disagreement and frustration. God has storehouses of gifts in the form of his help and grace and love waiting to be poured out on you for those very instances. Cry out to God in these times together and you will find a depth of God’s comfort and strength that you will have never known in times of plenty and comfort. And when times are good and plentiful, be thankful that every good gift and every perfect gift is from the Father of lights.

God is a personal God and displays this through the gifts he gives. Tyler and Anna, he has given each of you unique roles within marriage for you to fulfill. He has not given them to you as a burden or as a mere duty to obey, but as a good gift to be enjoyed when you act your part the way God designed.

Tyler, God created Adam first and he gave him a mission. He was to tend to the garden and name the animals. Adam was the pinnacle of God’s creation, made in his own image. You were created to orient yourself to God and his work. Yet this was not enough for Adam. He needed a companion. Anna, God created Eve to orient herself to Adam as he orients himself towards God and his mission. Eve was made to provide friendship and support to Adam.

These are your God given roles designed to bring joy and delight in one another and in God. God is the Author of a story you are about to embark on and you two are actors in this drama. Will you play your part well to the glory of the One who made you?

Tyler, your role is to love your wife as “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).” Jesus’ relationship with the church cost him his life in order that they would be made lovely in the sight of God; holy and blameless.

Just as Jesus is the head of the church so you are the inescapable leader of your marriage. You will lead either through action or inaction, but you will lead. The kind of leadership and headship you are called to display is not one of dominance but one of being a servant. If an aroma of Christ is to be present in your home for all to see it will begin with you loving Anna as Christ loved the church. Your job is to show a world around you what Christ’s love for his church looks like by the way you love Anna. It’s the role of a lifetime! So treat her well, cherish her through sacrificial love, feed her spiritually, and protect her. Lay down your life for her.

Anna, your role is to submit to Tyler’s servant leadership. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22).” One of the primary ways you submit to Tyler’s leadership is through showing him respect. Honor him and submit to his leadership. Praise him when he leads well and encourage him when he doesn’t. Use your tongue to build him up and not tear him down through nagging or arguing.

Tyler and Anna, when you act out your roles in a God-honoring way you are writing a story. You are small parts in a bigger story that is being unfolded in God’s drama of redemption. It is a story that began with God’s creation of a perfect place where Adam and Eve lived in perfect relationship with God. When they stepped outside of their roles, sinned against God, and chose their own script, sin entered the world and corrupted everything. They were expelled from the garden and from that perfect relationship they had with God.

Then, Jesus Christ, the God-Man, stepped onto the stage. Where Adam failed Jesus succeeded. He resisted the temptation of Satan and won for himself his bride through the brutal, bloody and torturous death of a cross. He stood on the neck of Satan and offers life everlasting to those who would repent of their sin and put their trust squarely on the perfect work of Jesus Christ. He purchased us free passage into a promise land where one day we will all sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is the gospel, Tyler and Anna.

You need the gospel. Not to just save you from your sins. You need the gospel for every day of your married life. There are going to be times that you will fail in living out your roles as husband and wife, just as Adam and Eve did. Tyler, you will fail to lead. Anna you will fail to submit. What will you do when this happens? Look to the cross.

Milton Vincent writes, “The gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life.” The gospel is for every facet of your marriage. You are acceptable to God not based on your performance of your roles but based on the perfect work of Jesus Christ. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).” This is a good gift. Indeed it is a perfect gift. It is the greatest gift Jesus, the groom, could have given his bride, the church.

“This is the story of the Son of God Hanging on a cross for me But it ends with a bride and groom And a wedding by a glassy sea Oh, death, where is your sting? ‘Cause I’ll be there singing Holy, holy, holy is the Lord”

The best is yet to come.


A Fortress Build on Blood

 

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:9-10

One of the reasons we have Fighter Verses at Grace Church each week is so that we would use a promise from God’s Word to fight the fight of faith. We need constant reminders from the mouth of God that tell us who he is and what he does for us. Without them we will forget. Just as a professional fighter will practice moves over and over again so we must remind ourselves over and over again.

The Lord is a stronghold in times of oppression and in times of trouble. We all experience these times in our lives. A stronghold is a good place to be when the bullets start flying and the bombs start exploding. It provides a place of protection. It gives you the upper hand.

The way in which we seek God as our stronghold is through putting our trust in him, knowing him, and seeking him. We do not obtain protection in God’s stronghold by our own merit. The impenetrable fortress of God’s stronghold was built on the blood of Jesus Christ.

He opened the way to the Father where before we could have never come. We can take refuge because Christ paid our ransom. Your acceptance before God is not based on your performance but based on your position. This is the gospel. Let’s come before him and confess our sins.

“We sing of all You’ve done for us. Won for us. Paid for us.”

 


What Running A Marathon Taught Me

C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  Because God is the Creator of everything in the universe, therefore everything that I can observe relates directly to God. Training and running a marathon has caused me to think about how it relates to God. Here are my thoughts that have developed over 407 miles of running in 61 hours while burning 60,778 calories.

1. Christianity begins with an invitation. My friend and pastor asked me if I was interested in training for a marathon with him. I had no interest and no desire to run a marathon. He showed me a training plan which laid out a four month regimen of running to prepare for it. At first I thought it was ridiculous. Stupid. Yet over the course of two weeks the idea I once thought as ludicrous became more appealing.

For anyone who truly is a Christian, life in Christ began with an invitation. It could have been an invitation from a human being or words on a page, but it was an invitation that communicated what the gospel was. God created a rescue plan through Jesus Christ so that we could be forgiven of sins, justified before God, and given his Spirit. The plan is to be received by grace through faith. For Christians, the plan was rejected for weeks, months or years. Yet at some point what was once stupid seen as stupid is now seen as gloriously appealing.

2. The Christian life is one of study and learning and doing. My first training run was on the morning of March 3 and the temperature outside was -10 zero. I knew little about how to run long distances or how my body would react to running those distances. By working through the training plan, reading articles about marathon training and asking questions from others who had run marathons I began learning how to pace myself, where to shop for running shoes, how to properly fuel my body, and what to expect on race day.

Paul commands Christians in I Timothy 2:15 to study to show ourselves approved unto God. James commands Christians in James 1:22 to not only be a hearer of the Word but a doer also. Christians are meant to study God’s Word, learn from it, and delight in it. They are also meant to do something with that knowledge. They are to go out and share it and obey it and live by it. Thinking and doing are not separate entities but a package deal according to God’s design.

3. The Christian life is not a lone ranger endeavor but a community effort. I had a lot of help from all different sources that played a factor into completing a marathon. My wife would always welcome me home from my long runs with a smile, a protein shake and a cheerful “How did your run go?” Dave, an experienced runner, would answer questions that I had or give advice on how to work through problems. Several of my long runs were done with him. On race day my family came up to Duluth to cheer me on throughout the course. People I didn’t know would see my name on my bib and cheer me on by name.

Trying to live the Christian life without being a part of a local church is like trying to run a race by yourself. We shouldn’t forsake the regular gathering together of saints to exhort one another on in love for God and a pursuit of holiness (Hebrews 10:25). Left to our own attempts and thinking we will falter, fail or walk away from the faith. God has created the local church to be a way in which he shows his children grace.

4. The Christian life has ups and downs. It require discipline. There were days when I had good runs, average runs, and downright awful runs. Sometimes I would finish my runs and feel great physically while other times I simply wanted to climb into a coffin and turn the lights out. Cold, heat, snow and rain were factors. Good preparation or lack thereof were factors. Yet each run required discipline to not give up but to get back out there and run the next day or run the next mile or even take the next step.

Paul uses the metaphor of running in I Corinthians 9 to describe the Christian life. He said he didn’t run aimlessly but but disciplined his body to keep it under control. In Hebrews 12:1 he calls Christians to run with endurance the race that is set before us. This means that we will have days where sin beats us up and we will have days when we kick in the teeth of sin. In all of it, by the grace God provides, we are meant to keep running the race until we give up that last breath, die, and than see Jesus face to face. As Lecrae said, “Run boy, run boy, run boy, run!” 

5. God’s glory is shouting at us in his creation. Each day we sit at the front porch with a full view of God’s glory shouting at us through a bull horn. It is his creation. It is easy to overlook and become bored with it because it is in front of us everyday. I was able to spend hours running on snow covered roads and ice coated streets which eventually and slowly gave way to pot-hole filled streets and dry, paved trails. I was able to feel the icy grip of subzero temperatures and the sweat pouring off my head on hot, humid, sticky days. I felt my heart pump life giving blood through my body and had my thirst quenched by cold water and Gatorade. I saw wildlife and wild animals and took my kids on some of the runs with me in the stroller or on their bikes. All these things were a gift from God and were shouting to me how glorious he is.

6. Run your race. When the race began I knew I would have to hold myself to the pace I had trained at. Starting out to quick would come back to collect a price tag later in the race and my times in the last few miles would be significantly longer. Starting out too quickly was tempting as many people passed me. I wanted to keep up with them but I kept telling myself, “Run your pace, Kyle. Don’t speed up.” As the race progressed and single digit miles turned into double digit teen miles I began passing people that were slowing down or walking.

Paul tells us in Hebrews 12:1 to run the race that is set before us with endurance. The Christian life is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Christians can be in danger of rusting out because they are sedentary; not actively seeking to become more like Jesus. They can also burn out though- trying to do too much; trying to run too fast. We need God’s wisdom to help us find the right pace in our Christian discipleship so that we run with endurance and do not burn out too soon.

7. Finish the race. The first 20 miles of my marathon were downright pleasant. I didn’t have any pain and I locked myself in on a comfortable pace. After mile 20 I ran up Lemon Drop Hill and it all changed. I hit a mental and physical wall and the last six miles became progressively worse. Each step became more painful and I could feel my pace getting slower. My mind began focusing on the pain of it all and my eyes continued to drop down to my feet as I put one foot in front of the other. As I ran around the last bend of the race and could see the finish line it was a most pleasant sight! The feeling of completing the race was an amazing feeling.

One day I will stand before my Father who will, by his grace, say “Well done, Kyle. Well done.” The marathon reminded me to keep my mindset focused on that day. When life gets difficult, pain increases, sin gets the best of me, or I feel like forsaking the faith, focusing on the joy of finishing my life well is a fantastic motivator. It is what Paul said when he got to the end of his life and he could feel the sentence of death resting upon him. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (II Timothy 4:7).” 

That’s what I want to say at the end of my life. The reward will be incorruptible, the glory unsurpassable and joy unbelievable. Fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith. All 26.2.

 


How running taught me the beauty of Psalm 139:14

Psalm 139:13-14

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

Consider the intricacies and complexities of your body. The eyeball is able to adjust to bright light or darkness and change focus without you having to make any manual adjustments. The skin, when cut or poked, clots the blood and heals on its own in most cases. The heart pumps life giving blood to all areas of the body, every second of every day, for decades without a thought given to it. Indeed we are fearfully and wonderfully made. As the psalmist says in this chapter, we should stand in awe of God’s handiwork in knitting us together in our mother’s womb.

At my best times I obey this verse. Generally I forget it. And at times I intentionally disobey it in the form of complaining.

Right now I am in the final weeks of training for Grandma’s Marathon. Each week I have several shorter runs and then on Friday or Saturday I have a longer run. My long run this week didn’t go the way I had wanted it to. My lap times were slower than I had wanted, I had trouble staying hydrated, my phone fell out of arm band and hit the concrete, and on top of that it rained.

I ended the run a couple miles early, walked into the house and was greeted by my wife who asked me how my run went. I replied that it went terrible and listed to her the reasons why in a self-pitying tone. She asked me what was good about my run and I wanted to sarcastically reply that the best part was that it was over.

In my self-pity I remembered this Fighter Verse. My body is a self-evident testimony to the wonderful work of God and here I was complaining! I had failed to be thankful for the beauty of God’s creation that I can run in each week. I had chosen to stop being amazed by the fact that I can even get out on the pavement and train for a marathon! My soul had not known the works of God in that moment.

So I repented before God and apologized to my wife for being snippy towards her. This morning I can come before God and worship, forgiven of my sin. We are acceptable to God this morning not because of our performance but because of the performance by Christ at calvary. The Christian life is a life of repentance.

How did you do this week in knowing the wonderful works of God? Look to Jesus’ work alone for your acceptability before God. Let’s come to him in a spirit of humility, awe, and thankfulness through prayer.


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