Running the Race

run the raceSeveral years ago, I ran a 10K race. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I almost quit after five miles, but thanks to a friend running beside me, I finished the race. Jenny wouldn’t let me quit, and she spurred me on step by step that last mile. Painful? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

The Christian life is a race, and there are times we want to quit running and sit on the sidelines. So how do we finish the race and run it well when we’re tempted to quit?

The author of Hebrews talks about running the race in 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 key to running the race well: lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

If I want to run the race well, I need to be aware of those things that have the potential of hindering me on the race. Some of the encumbrances I need to lay aside are:

1. Fear – Fear of change, fear of the future, fear of failure, fear of inadequacy, fear of rejection, fear of what others will think.

Fear can be my greatest friend if I let God use it to draw me into a deeper dependence on Him as I trust Him in that fear. But it can be my greatest enemy if I let it paralyze me and keep me from stepping out and moving forward in the race.

I almost let my fear of inadequacy, fear of failure, and fear of the unknown keep me from taking this job as the Women’s Ministry director in Memphis. I was comfortable with my life in Dallas. Why would I leave comfort and move to a new city, a new job, new friends, a new church? What if I disappointed the church? What if I couldn’t do the job? What if they don’t like me?

Those fears ran through my mind over and over, but I’m so glad I didn’t let those fears entangle me and hold me back from following God’s leading.

2. Busyness

Life seems to get busier and busier every day. I find myself running from one thing to the next without much time for slowing down and resting. Busyness can get me off the course God laid out for me. Sometimes I have trouble saying no, and I get distracted and take a detour. Busyness can lead to burnout, and if I burn out, I won’t be able to run the race as God intended. I have to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and follow His course for me, not the side courses that tempt to distract me or the courses others want me to run.

3. Discouragement 

Discouragement is a master trick of Satan to tempt us to quit running the race. He would love to get us so discouraged that we  give up and sit on the sidelines.

I get discouraged when others criticize me or when things don’t go as I had hoped. I get discouraged when I fail at something  or I’ve sinned. My tendency is to beat myself up. Discouragement holds me back from running the race because I feel there’s no reason to keep running.

If we want to run the race well, we have to be aware of those potential things that will entangle us. Lay them aside, confess them, and ask God to give the strength to run the race He’s designed for us. IMG_2070 (002)

Just as I needed my friend Jenny to help me finish the 10K race, we need each other to spur one another on to the finish line. Let’s run the race God has set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

What are some other encumbrances that would hinder us in running the race well?

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You’re a Mess!

20160303_074956“What’s wrong with you??? You’re a mess!”

Those words came out of my mouth in frustration this past Tuesday morning. No, I wasn’t speaking to a child or to myself. I was talking to my sweet cat Hobson. In the midst of trying to have some quiet time with the Lord that morning, Hobson was a definite distraction.

He was chewing the cord on the lamp. I unplugged the lamp.

He tried to put his paw into the electric socket. I put a book on top of the socket in the floor to keep him from electrocuting himself.

He pushed the book aside and proceeded to stick his paw in the socket again. I put a heavier book on top, and finally he gave up and tried chewing the cord again. I wrapped the cord up.

Now, maybe I’ll get some quiet time, or so I thought.

He decided to move to the side table by my chair and began pushing everything off the table onto the floor. I finally stopped, looked at him, and said, “HOBSON! What is wrong with you??? You are a MESS!”

And then it hit me: I’m a mess, too. And God watches me make a mess, and He tries to protect me and redirect me, for my good. I’m sure there must be times He looks at me and says, “Crickett, what’s wrong with you? You’re a mess!” And yet, He loves me unconditionally.

To be honest, we’re all a mess without Jesus. And God sent His Son to die for us and to clean up our messes. I can’t really do anything to change Hobson except scold him or put him in “time-out.” But God can change us and clean up our messes through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

I am so thankful that He is working on me and in me daily.

As Paul said in Romans 7:24-25: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

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Lies, Lies, and More Lies

Are you believing any lies this week? Lies that the world is trying to convince you as truth, or lies that Satan is desperately attempting to get you to believe?

When I was on staff with Cru years ago, Ney Bailey wrote a book called Faith is Not a Feeling. I still apply truths from that book some 30 years later. She taught us to identify what we’re feeling, but then write out the truth from God’s Word. For instance, “God, I feel _____________, but Your Word says _____________.” It requires walking by faith to be able to move forward believing God’s Word over our feelings. The enemy wants us to believe our feelings over what God’s Word is telling us.

For instance, there are days I feel …

God, You don’t love me. If You did, why didn’t you answer my prayer the way I wanted? Why did You let this happen? Why won’t You give me relief in this difficult situation? Why don’t You heal me?

God, I can’t do what You’re asking me to do. I’m not adequate or qualified. You’ve got the wrong person. I’m going to fail.

God, You can’t forgive me for this. What I’ve done is unforgivable.

God, I feel like a failure. You can never use me.

You get the idea. Our feelings shout at us and sometimes drown out God’s truth. What are your feeling today? What does God Word say about it? Take some time to write out what you’re feeling, and then list Scriptures that remind you of what God’s truth is. Here are some examples:

God, I feel all alone, but Your Word says, “I will never leave You or forsake You.” (Hebrews 13:5)

God, I don’t feel like You love me. But Your Word says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

God, I can’t do this. But Your Word says, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

God’s Word is true. We can count on it. I’d love to hear what verses God has used in your life to help push away the lies of Satan and the world.

 

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Discipleship 101

abc-928383_1280Why do we not see more discipleship taking place around us?

One of the reasons I hear most often is that people don’t know how to disciple others or what to do with them. Where do I begin? Do I take her through a curriculum? If so, what would I teach her? Do we just hang out and talk?

I like to start at the same place with everyone I disciple – laying the foundation for spiritual growth, going through the basics of the Christian life with them. This is very important for a new believer, but it’s also important for someone who has never been grounded in her faith.

When Bonnie discipled me at LSU, she started with laying a foundation. Although I was not a new believer (I had accepted Christ when I was nine years old), no one had ever taken me through the basics of the Christian life. I had never been grounded in my faith, and as a result, I drifted away from the Lord in college. Bonnie gave me a foundation for my faith by taking me through the basics.

But I also start here with mature believers because I don’t want to take for granted that they know these important things, and I want to make sure they know how to clearly take someone else through this material. (I actually had an 80-year-old believer tell me no one had ever taken her through these foundational principles and she wish she had gone through this years ago.) I do it a little differently with a mature believer, but I still begin with the basics.

The goal in this level of discipleship is to ground them in their faith. With this level, it’s important to take them through Scripture, give them something to work through each week to help them become familiar with where passages are in the Bible. I developed a nine-week study, Building Your Spiritual Toolbox: Laying the Foundation, that others can use to help ground someone in her faith. Building Your Spiritual Toolbox

In laying the foundation we look at:

  • How to be sure of your salvation
  • How to be sure you are forgiven
  • How to draw from the power of the Holy Spirit
  • How to grow in the Christian life
  • How to spend time alone with God
  • How to study the Bible
  • How to develop your SHAPE
  • How to share your faith

I may take several weeks to cover just one of these areas, or, if I’m taking a mature believer through this, I may cover these areas quickly. I adapt the material and the speed I move through it to the person I’m discipling.

I’d love to hear from you with any questions or comments about laying the foundation for Christian growth.

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I Love You, Jesus

A Guest Post by Katy Kauffman: Katy is a friend of mine who shares a love for writing Bible studies and pointing others to Jesus.

good-friday-crosses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love You, Jesus.

You wrapped Yourself in human flesh, fragile and weak.
The Mighty God became a man, the Creator became as the created.

You were patient with the passage of time.
You grew up, learned, and read the Scriptures.
You taught the temple teachers.

You never chose sin, not once.
You followed God, obeyed Your parents, and loved others.
You defeated Satan’s temptations by the Word of God.

I love You, Jesus.

You had compassion on the multitudes.
You taught, healed, cast out demons, forgave sins, and healed hearts.
You still do today.

You accepted the cup of God’s will. Your friend betrayed You.
The disciples abandoned You. But You stayed faithful.
You carried the cross and walked the streets to Calvary.

Nails pierced Your skin, the crowd mocked You, the sky grew dark.
God placed all of our sin on You, all the sin of all people of all time.
You bore it willingly.

I love You, Jesus.

Your soul experienced separation from God. The Father’s heart must have ached.
The angels watched as You suffered.
Oh, if we could have stopped it, but we caused it.

You forgave those who crucified You.
You found another “son” to take care of Your mother.
You granted a dying thief forgiveness and paradise.
You cried, “It is finished!”

They pierced Your side.
They took Your body off the cross and put it in a borrowed tomb.
Sorrow consumed the faithful followers.

I love You, Jesus.

Three days sorrow lingered. The disciples hid in fear.
Mary Magdalene bravely visited the tomb. The stone had been taken away. The tomb was empty!

Five hundred saw You alive. You commissioned the disciples.
You promised the Holy Spirit would come.
You ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father as the risen King.

You still walk this earth, as the body of Christ lives, loves, and serves.
You still do miracles and heal the wounded heart.
Eternal life is a free gift because You paid for it with Your life.

I love You, Jesus.

You are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The Suffering Servant, the Substitute Lamb.
The Great I AM, the Risen Savior.
You are my best friend, and You live in my heart.

I love You, Jesus. I love You.

Headshot_Katy KauffmanKaty Kauffman is a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies, a ministry which seeks to connect people to God through His Word. She has taught the Bible to women and teens, and has two published Bible studies for women, 2 Timothy: Winning the Victory and Faith, Courage, and Victory. Her heart’s desire is for people to know and love God, understand the richness of His Word, and fulfill His plan for their lives. Katy is also an editor and the designer of Refresh Bible Study Magazine. You can connect with her at her blog, Life with God, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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Social Media: A Blessing or Curse?

social media 2Is social media helping us or hurting us today?

I admit that I enjoy social media. I am on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. But I don’t know how to tweet, and I don’t use Pinterest (I know – some of you are in shock!). I just recently got on Facebook after years of saying I never would. But I wanted to stay in touch with friends and family and reconnect with friends all over the world. Facebook has allowed me to do so.

There are definitely benefits to social media (and I’ll refer mainly to Facebook in this post, for simplification). Some of the benefits are:

  • Keeping up with friends from years past on Campus Crusade staff; disciples, disciplers, coworkers
  • Keeping up with friends and ministry partners all around the world
  • Keeping up with what’s going on in my home town
  • Seeing pictures of kids and grandkids of friends and family

But, there are also negatives to social media if we aren’t careful. For instance:

  • It can monopolize our time and hinder us from getting important things done.
  • We can become consumed with how many “likes” or “shares” we get from our status, and those things begin to give us a false sense of worth (or worthlessness).
  • We can portray ourselves on Facebook in ways that aren’t true to who we are or how we’re really doing.
  • It can give us a false sense of community and keep us from building real community – face to face. I heard recently about a woman who committed suicide because she was so lonely. She had over 2000 Facebook friends.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Facebook. I’m not writing this to condemn Facebook or any other social media tool. I see the benefits. But I also see the dangers that can come from allowing it to get out of control.Some questions to ask ourselves to help keep things in perspective:

  • How much time do I spend on social media in a day, and does it take away time from doing something that is more of a priority?
  • Is it hindering my productivity?
  • Why do I spend time on social media? What am I wanting to get out of it?
  • Is it helping me connect with friends and family or hindering me from building face-to-face relationships?
  • Do I spend more time communicating through social media than I do talking with people face to face? Is it helping me develop real authentic relationships, or hindering me?

I don’t plan to quit Facebook or Instagram any time soon. But I need to keep evaluating my motives and the time I spend on it.

What are some helpful parameters you’ve set for yourself concerning social media?

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No Regrets

I just returned from a trip to Israel. What an incredible time of studying and walking through the land where our Savior walked. God taught me much during the days in Israel, and I’m still processing everything.

Climbing MasadaOne morning we went to Masada, and several in our group wanted to hike to the top. I went back and forth – should I attempt it or not? Finally, I decided to go for it. About 15 minutes into the hour-long hike, I decided I wasn’t going to make it. The climb was steep, the sun was beating down on us, and I knew that the path was only going to get harder and steeper. Not wanting to hold up the group, I decided to turn around and head back down. I joined the rest of our group and took the gondola to the top.

Some may say, you failed. But I look at it differently. I tried. I stepped out in that direction, and the Lord redirected me. If I hadn’t tried, I would have always looked back at that day and wondered what if. Would I have made it if I tried? Would I have missed the experience of getting to the top? Because I stepped out and tried (even though I didn’t make it to the top), I have no regrets. I would have had regrets had I not tried.

One member of the hiking group got sick on the way up and it took longer for her to get to the top, but she made it. Sometimes, God wants us to keep going, even though the path is hard. Other times, He just wants us to step out and try, and then He redirects us because it’s not the best path for us.

We cheered on those who made it to the top as they ascended – exhausted, but fulfilled. The group cheered me on as I returned to the base, exhausted but fulfilled in a different way.

How often do we choose to not even step out to try something because of fear of failure? How often do we convince ourselves it’s too hard, or I’ll never be able to do it? So we don’t even try. And we’ll never know what would had happened if we had just tried.

Is there a path God wants you to take that you’re hesitant to step out in because you’re afraid you’ll fail? Don’t let fear hold you back from trying.

I’m glad I tried hiking Masada. No, I didn’t make it to the top. But I have no regrets because I tried.

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Lessons from an Opossum

opossumsSeveral weeks ago, I opened my shutters one morning and was shocked to discover an uninvited family camping in my backyard. I was intrigued by this small mother who was carrying all of her new babies on her back. This family was a family of opossums.

I guess I never realized the method that the momma opossum uses to carry her babies, but it was mesmerizing to watch her. I felt compassion for her and wanted to help her, but wasn’t sure what I could do or if my actions would cause fear and anxiety (for both of us). So I decided to just watch them from inside.

As I watched her carry her five little ones alongside my fence from one end of my yard to the other and back, I thought of some spiritual lessons from this.

1. Just as the little ones had to cling to the back of their mother for safety, so we have to cling to our Father for safety and security. If we let go, we put ourselves in precarious situations.

2. She moved at just the right speed for them. She knew how fast she could move without them falling off. God knows how much we can take and how fast He can move us through situations without completely overwhelming us.

3. They were probably too young and weak to walk on their own, so she carried them. When we’re too weak and frail to move forward on our own strength, God carries us.

4. I have a feeling if I had approached this momma with her babies, she might have attacked me, with the intent to protect her little ones. In the same way, God is a protective Father who wants to keep us from danger and the evil one. He puts a shield around us and protects us.

5. If one of the babies fell off her back, I’m pretty sure she would have stopped and picked up the baby and put her safely back in her spot. The momma wouldn’t have abandoned her or left her. God doesn’t abandon us when we “fall off” and move away from His protection and guidance. He is always trying to pull us back into His care and safety.

I haven’t seen the momma opossum and her babies since, but that picture has stayed in my mind – a good picture of my Father taking care of me.

In what ways have you seen your loving Father take care of you this week?

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Feeling A Little Stressed

To do listDo you ever feel overwhelmed by all the things being added to your to-do list? Do you lie awake at night wondering how you’re going to find the time to get everything done?

I feel that way this week. Deadlines are looming over me at work, things at home need to be addressed and taken care of, preparations for an upcoming trip are waiting to be done, lectures need to be written, my refrigerator is empty and seriously needs to be replenished, and the cats need some love (actually they get their loving even when I’m stressed). The list goes on and on.

How is it possible to get everything done? How do we walk through those busy seasons of life without losing sleep (and our sanity)? When I’m having days and weeks like this and feeling anxious and stressed by deadlines and increasingly longer to-do lists, I have to go to Scripture to get God’s perspective on my busy life.

These are some passages that God has used to bring things back into perspective for me this week:

  • Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me …”
  • 1 Chronicles 16:11: “Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually.”
  • Isaiah 40:29: “He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.”
  • Matthew 6:34: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself …”
  • 2 Thessalonians 5:24: “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”
  • 1 Peter 5:7: “… casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Perhaps you’re feeling stressed this week, pulled in many directions, unsure of how you’re going to get everything done. God knows. He cares. Give that to-do list to Him. Ask Him to show you what can be taken off or done by someone else. Then trust Him to accomplish those things He has given you to do.
What passages have encouraged you during busy, stressful seasons of life?

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Dreading Valentine’s Day?

valentines dayValentine’s Day is coming up, and many look forward to this day each year. But for others, Valentine’s Day is a tough day. You may be single and feeling lonely, or you may be divorced or widowed and feeling the sting of being alone. Or you may be married, but feeling unloved in your marriage. As an older single, I have to admit that I don’t always look forward to Valentine’s Day, but my perspective makes a big difference.

Instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I want to focus on what God has given me. I may not be married, and I won’t receive roses and a nice dinner or a marriage proposal on Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t make me any less loved and cherished.

I am thankful, first and foremost, that God loves me dearly and promises to take care of me. He will never turn a cold shoulder to me. He will never abandon me and turn His affection to someone else, leaving me behind. He loves me unconditionally. I don’t have to worry about losing His love, even on my worst days. He will meet every need I have – not every want, but every need. He takes me by the hand and guides me step by step through life, protecting me from those things that are not His best for me.

I’m also thankful for those precious friends God has placed in my life – friends who love me and have my back, friends I know I can call on anytime I’m in need, friends I can cry and laugh with. I am loved. And I don’t want to forget that by focusing on my singleness instead of what He’s given me.

I plan to have a special “date with the Lord” this Valentine’s Day, and I can’t wait. God’s words in Zephaniah 3:17 are a great reminder of how much He loves and cherishes me: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

If you’re dreading this Valentine’s Day, let these words from Zephaniah encourage you. You are loved.

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