Friday, April 18, 2014


I've been discouraged for years, hanging on like an unpopular Survivor contestant at an immunity challenge, knowing that if I don't win, I'm going to be voted off the island. My endurance has not been a hopeful endurance but more of a resigned, what else can I do - kind of endurance. It is the endurance of a soldier hunkered down in a foxhole while machine gun bullets fill the air overhead, the kind of endurance one has while waiting for the doctor to stage the cancer that you know is there.

Today I reread Hebrews 12:1-2 for the 359th time (I'm not really counting), and I saw something I didn't see before - a 4 letter word. Do you see it?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Heb 12:1,2

let us also lay aside

My first reaction was "oh no, did I miss something? Is there something more I need to do? Isn't laying aside weight and the closely clinging sin enough? What else Lord?" As I read and reread the passage it dawned on me that the "also" was not referring to actions I need to take but to people I needed to emulate. "Also" refers to the phrase before not to what comes after (though it does that too, you need a noun & a verb, right?). What I am trying to say so poorly is the great cloud of witnesses laid aside weights, put away sin, and ran with endurance the race before them. Not all of them ran that well (David and Samson are in the list of heroes, and they lived soap opera lives for a time) but they finished and made it into the hall of faith. They finished and I can ALSO finish.

"Also" means I can ALSO do this. I can ALSO finish my race well. I can ALSO be cited as someone to look up and emulate. (That is really hard for me to believe right now, and writing it down is an act of faith.) And if I can, then you can ALSO do this.

"Also" gives me hope. I don't want to run the rest of race feeling disqualified and discouraged. Jesus, because of the "joy" set before him, endured the cross. "Consider him" we are told. I want to run like the heroes of Heb 11. I want to run like Jesus. I can't run perfect like Jesus. I've already fallen way behind the pack. But just finishing is not enough anymore. I want to finish with joy. I want to believe that there is an incredible, fantastic, awesome reward at the end of the race for everyone who finishes, including me. No more waiting to be voted off the island. It's not going to happen. There is joy awaiting and I'm going to run to it.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

You are surrounded. Surrender.

In Heb 12:2 Jesus is described as the "founder and perfecter of our faith". Sounds a bit like "beginning and the end", "alpha and omega", "start and finish", "first and the last". It reminds me of the description of God in Ps. 139 where the songwriter says "Where can I run from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol (place of the dead), you are there! If I take the wings of the morning (travel at light speed?) and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me."

In our church we sometimes sing a Matt Redman song that goes
"Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me"

Matt Redman - You Never Let GO Lyrics | MetroLyrics "

If Jesus is the founder and perfecter of my faith, then what do I need to do? He said "It is finished" so what is left for me to do? How do I work out my own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) knowing that God is working in me both to will and do his good pleasure (Philippines 2:13)?

Lord, I am surrounded. You hem me in. I try to run this way and you block my path. I dodge another direction and suddenly you appear like a phantom in front of me. I can't get away. You are determined that I should experience your love and grace, that love and grace that you have prepared and perfected. What is left for me to do? Surrender. Walk with you. Relax and enjoy your presence. Focus on Jesus.  Learn from Jesus.

Lord, Some of the people I know have been deeply hurt by others. They have a hard time trusting anyone. They have a hard time trusting you. Afterall, you're in charge of the Universe, right? They don't understand how you allowed them to be abused, lose their parent, their job, their health, their child. The suffering they have experienced has hardened and softened them. They are tender inside with unhealed hurts, and they have hard shells on the outside to avoid re-injuring an old wound. Would you help them? Please continue to pursue them, hedge them in, help them to finally experience the love of the one who, for their sake, endured the cross, even though he hated the shame of it, because he was focused on the joy of having them as part of his family. Lord, when we've been injured we resist even the touch of the doctor who knows how to heal us. Overcome our resistance and help us experience your healing touch.

HEB12.2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.