Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ask the witnesses, dummy!

I re-read Hebrews 12:1 in a different version this morning and got hammered:

Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won't let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us.

I was asking the question "what is it that is slowing me down?" when it hit me "Ask the witnesses dummy!" The scripture says that there is a "large crowd of witnesses all around us!" The witnesses include those who have already finished their race, but there are also a lot of witnesses who are running alongside us right now. They haven't finished their races yet, but they witness my life. I'm pretty sure that if I ask them they will be able to point out some of the things that are slowing me down in the race of faith. All I have to do is ask.

I could ask Dennis, Steve, Pastor Jorge, Pastor Ruel, Kevin, and Ione. They will tell me what is slowing me down. I might not like their answers, but they will speak the truth in love. The truth is "we don't see ourselves very objectively". We lie to ourselves all the time. We need friends who will speak truth into our lives. If you want to run well, find some mature Christians, some witnesses to speak truth into your life on a regular basis. You will be a witness for them as they are witnesses for you. They won't be looking for faults, they will also tell you where you are running well, and they will encourage you.

Here's the big question: Are you serious? Do you really want to know? Ouch!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Losing Weight

Hebrews 12: 1
we must get rid of every weight 
              and the sin that clings so closely, 
    and run with endurance the race set out for us, 
When I was young my parents sent us for swimming lessons every summer. We would go down to the Kennewick public pool and, for an hour, we would learn to swim. The lessons usually lasted for 2 weeks every summer, but mom and dad sometimes allowed my to take back to back lessons. I quickly progressed and by age 15 I had my life-saving certificate. In life-saving class one of the things we learned is that if you fall into the water you need to get your clothes OFF. Water soaked clothes will sap your energy and drag you under. Like Houdini bound tightly in a straight-jacket, we had to learn how to quickly disrobe once in the water. It was life or death.
   Likewise, the runners in a Marathon wear only the barest minimum of clothes and the lightest running shoes imaginable. They get rid of every weight. My question then is simple "What is weighing me down?" "What is weighing you down?" Things that weigh us down are not necessarily sin (though they can be). The author of Hebrews mentions weight and then later "sin that clings closely to us". What keeps me from running well? Here are a few things on my list:
  • too busy to read and meditate on the Bible
  • entertainment: online or on TV
  • facebook 
  • email, most of it unimportant
  • phone messages (the notification tone sounds urgent, but the message is inane like "lol" or "omg". I lose my focus for that? 
  • worry
What's on your list? 

The strategy for dealing with things that weigh us down is "get rid of them". Lay them aside. Put them down. Leave them behind. STOP! What suggestions do you have? What are you going to "get rid of" so that you can run well? How will you do that? 

Friday, February 21, 2014

I think someone is watching me

Many of the helpers who work for Hong Kong families spend their days worrying about whether someone is watching them. You see, many Hong Kong families have web cams installed so that working parents can check in on their children and check up on their helpers. 

Does having a webcam in the home help you do a better job? I recently read an article about webcams describing one that had 2 way audio. The article said that if a parent saw their child misbehaving they could address it immediately "Johny, stop hitting your sister and do your homework!" Many of us imagine God to be this way, always watching us so he can ZAP us if we do something wrong. 

Hebrews 12:1 in the Contemporary English Version says "Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us!"

Are we being watched? Maybe. The scripture calls them "witnesses". A witness is someone who sees or experiences something. They may be witnessing to us about the grace of God they have experienced OR they may be witnessing how God's grace plays out in our lives OR both. Who are these witnesses? The last 2 verses of chapter 11 identify them:

39All of them pleased God because of their faith! But still they died without being given what had been promised. 40This was because God had something better in store for us. And he did not want them to reach the goal of their faith without us.

They are the believers, the faithful who have gone before us. They are runners who have finished their race and they are waiting for you and me to finish ours. Last weekend was the Hong Kong Marathon. The runners who finished first were greeted with prizes and lots of media attention. Those who finished last were greeted by a few friends and the clean up crews picking up the garbage left by the spectators. That is not how it works in the race of faith. In the race of faith, nobody gets their prize until everyone has finished. In the race of faith, the other runners are not competing against you, but with you. We are like a cross country team, and the whole team has to cross the line before the prizes are given out. So they wait, and perhaps they watch, but if they watch - it is not with condemnation, but concern. They want us to run well. They want us to win. When we stumble their groans are the groans of the home team's fans. When we successfully jump a hurdle, their cheers are the cheers of teammates. They care about us, and want us to win. 

Their watching is the watching of a big brother or sister who has experienced what we are facing and want us to do well, to do better than they did. God's watching is the watching of a parent as their child takes their first steps, rides their first bike, graduates from university. It is the watching of love, of hope, of faith. 

Are we being watched? Yes, but those watching love us and want us to run well. How has your race been so far? My race has had some awful falls and stumbles, but I'm still running, and they are still waiting, hoping and cheering for me.