In the Boston Marathon, there is a legendary obstacle called Heartbreak Hill. Starting at mile thirteen of the Boston race course, there are many hills, climaxing at mile nineteen with Heartbreak Hill. It’s the longest, steepest hill in the race. What makes this hill even worse is that world-class runners “hit the wall” around mile eighteen or nineteen. That is, their bodies have depleted the glycogen stored in the muscles. That glycogen has been replaced with lactic acid.
The muscles are screaming for oxygen. And when you hit the wall, you just feel like you’re going to die. Heartbreak Hill tests runners to the very core of their determination and their strength.
We face many Heartbreak Hills in our life. Unfortunately, life’s race is not run on a level grade. We have problems at times big problems.
A daughter becomes pregnant out of wedlock. A loved one dies unexpectantly, and it seems like our faith is not enough to overcome the pain and the loss. We lose our job and suffer long-term unemployment. The pain of a divorce, a broken relationship. A financial catastrophe strike. We experience an emotional and spiritual breakdown.
There are people who right now is in the middle of a Heartbreak Hill experience. You are facing the most severe test of your life. This time is testing your faith and trust in the Lord to the very core of our being. And you are trying your best just to hang on for dear life.
I wish I were able to give you all the answers for every heartbreak you face. But I can’t even solve my heartbreak moments. I don’t have all the answers, no one except God has all the answers. God does not show us precisely what is going on or why, but he calls us, rather, to trust him. Even though everything is around us may be confusing and senseless in your perspective, he calls you to trust him.
James 1:12 says to those at Heartbreak Hill, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
God says don’t focus on the Hill but look to the Hills where your strength comes from reminds the psalmist. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of our faith.” He is the one who will get you through your times of trials.
It was Monday night, August 3, at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. At the track and field stadium, the gun sounded for the 400-meter semifinals. About 100 meters into the race, Britain’s Derek Redmond crumpled to the track with a torn right hamstring.
Medical attendants rushed out to assist him, but as they approached Redmond, he waved them all aside, struggled to his feet, and crawled and hopped in a desperate effort to finish the race.
Four years earlier, he had also qualified for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. Ninety seconds before his head, he had to pull out of the Olympics because of Achilles tendon problems. Following that injury, he had five surgeries. Somehow he had qualified again for this 1992 Olympics, and he’d just suffered a career-ending injury.
But he said to himself, “I’m not quitting. I’m going to finish this race.” He worked his way, hopping, crawling at times down the lane.
A big guy wearing a T-shirt, tennis shoes, and a Nike cap that said Just Do It across the front barreled out of the stands, hurled aside a security guard, ran to Derek Redmond’s side, and embraced him. He was Jim Redmond, Derek’s father.
Jim was one of these sports dads who changes his whole life for the sake of his athlete child. He changed jobs. He moved to find the best training for his son.
Now, arm around his son’s waist, Derek’s arm around his dad’s thick shoulders and neck, they continue down the track.
Mom and sister were watching this race back home on television. His sister, who was pregnant, went into false labor. Mom is weeping. There, at the stadium, the crowd is standing, cheering. Derek and his daddy work their way around the track until, finally, arm in arm, they cross the finish line.
If that’s the way, an earthly father responds to his son who is determined to finish the race no matter what the price, how much more does God, our heavenly Father, run to the side of his son or daughter who says, “I’m finishing. I don’t care how much it hurts. I don’t care how challenging the course is I’m finishing.”
God says as much in Isaiah 46:3-4: “Listen to me. You whom I have upheld since you were conceived and have carried since your birth, even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he. I am he who will sustain you. I have made you, and I will carry you.”
That’s God talking. As he carries you, as you wrap your arm around him, God whispers in your ear: “Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15).
And he embraces you, squeezes you a little tighter, and he whispers again, saying, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” He whispers again, as he does in Psalms, “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
My prayer for you is that one day, as the Apostle Paul, you will be able to say those words, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” Know follow disciple God is with you. Christ has redeemed you. And the Holy Spirit enlightens you. Amen
This is a guest blog I wrote for All Things Mom Sydney’s Blog.
Every November 1st we stop and give thanks to God for all the Saints (Christians who have died in the faith) who have gone before us. For all those special people that He put in our lives; mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, and friends. All those people that were witnesses to us. We are here to honor them for their walk with God and to thank God for sending us such a great cloud of witnesses. The sermon theme for today is “Blessed are they.” We are not here to glorify their accomplishments or lift them up because these saints were particularly kind and good people. We give thanks to God for them because they have run the good race, they have fought the good fight, they ran the race with perseverance, and now they have won the prize. No more struggle with the flesh, no more pain and tears for these people, they are in our Fathers house, they are at peace. So “Blessed are they” because they have obtained eternal life. They have crossed over from death to life. Their struggle is over, and they won a crown of righteousness, and we thank God for them.
Today we will look at one of the most famous sermons ever written, the Sermon on the Mount. We will look at the opening section of this sermon, a section called the Beatitudes. Have you ever wondered what the term, “Blessed” means? This morning it is my hope that you will leave this morning with a deeper understanding and appreciation for this section of Scripture.
The first thing we discover about the Beatitudes is that it is in direct contradiction to everything the world lifts up and values. The first line of the sermon says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” I always thought the God want us to be strong in our faith. I was always under the impression that “poor in spirit” meant weak in faith. So, what we have here is an apparent contradiction to what we have always thought. Something seems amiss here, but we will come back to this.
Let’s move down to the third verse, “Blessed are the meek.” I don’t know about you but where I come from the meek were not blessed. The word meek is an adjective and describes a person who is willing to go along with whatever other people want to do, like a meek classmate who won’t speak up, even when he or she is treated unfairly. A meek person can also be humble, but these words aren’t quite synonyms.
When I was in school and growing up in some not nice neighborhoods, It was the meek people who got picked on, pushed around, pulled down, and picked at. There was nothing fun about being considered meek. That poor soul wouldn’t even get sympathy from their parents. When I was growing up, if I got beat up by someone and didn’t fight back I would probably get another beating when I got home. And quoting this verse would not have stopped the beating. You have to be strong to survive in this world, don’t you? So, what are we missing in this text? Was Jesus simply out of touch with reality? Obvious this text must be wrong, please? Name me one successful meek and lowly person. You can’t think of one, can you? We are taught from the time we can sit up straight that, “Only the strong survive.” All good leaders are strong and decisive, right? I have heard neither candidate in this election or any others before say, “Vote for me I am meek and humble.” That might be a welcome shift. If you look at this text from man’s perspectives, all of these 11 verses are a contradiction. In today’s world, these are not the keys to success, “poor in spirit,” “mournful,” “meek,” “merciful,” and “pure in heart.” Let’s be honest these are not qualities we strive for in the world. But that is from humanities’ perspective. We need to look at these from God’s perspective.
To us as humans these things make absolutely no sense, but let’s reexamine them again for God’s perspective.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This verse is communicating that the Christian who realizes he needs a Savior is blessed. “Poor in spirit” does not indicate that your faith is poor or lacking depth. “Poor in spirit” is the condition that yours and my spirit is in.
There was this patient who went into the doctor’s office and sat down and said, “Okay, Doc here I am cured me.” The doctor looked at him and said, “What is the problem?” And the patient said, “How should I know you’re the doctor.” And the doctor said, “How can I help you if you won’t let me help you and believe me, you do need help!”
We, like this patient, need help. The human soul is “poor in spirit” because we are sinners. Sin separates us from God. Paul helps destroy any illusions we have that somehow we are excluded from that claim in Romans 3, “…as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.’” Romans 3:10-11. Armed with this grim understanding, we realize that we need help. Being poor in spirit is just the opposite of being spiritually proud and self-sufficient. As Christians, we are well aware of the spiritual truth that we can’t save ourselves. We are spiritually unable to stand before a just and holy God. Thus, Christ comes to the rescue. Christ stood in the gap for us. He took the full weight of our sins upon Himself. And Jesus gave His life as a ransom for the world.
Now, what about the meek? To be meek does not mean that we are weak and tired looking or a push over. Meek has nothing to do with human contact with others. In our text for today, Christ uses the term meek to refer to the way we come before God – in humility. It is man’s attitude toward God, not our strength or lack thereof in the world. We, as fallen humanity, approach the Almighty and All-powerful God with only one appropriate posture, prostrate before him. We enter into God’s presence with humble obedience. We have no room to brag or boast before this God. He is all-powerful; he is all knowing, omnipresent, omniscient, holy, and perfect. We are weak, lowly, mistake prone, easily distracted, mean, hurtful, selfish, self-seeking and imperfect. We are stained with sin and have nothing to be proud about. So, the only way we can approach this God is humble. But this is not a bad thing. Our text tells us that “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. There is a big reward for being humble. There is a heavenly reward for understanding your place in the cosmos.
With all these passages, there is a reward for walking in the way God our Father has laid out for us. Let’s look at some of them.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst
for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted
because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
God shows us that the cost of following Him is great, but great also is the reward. When you put your hand in the master’s hand, he will not disappoint you. Blessed are we who follow in His footsteps.
Finally let’s look at what it means when our texts say, “Blessed.” The word “blessed” is not describing a certain condition nor is it a description of a present state, but it is a judgment. What this means is that the Beatitudes are not a place we are trying to get to. We cannot become “poor in spirit” or “pure of heart” these are conditions that God has given to us. Jesus describes our spiritual condition as Christians. The good news is that you don’t have to work at it to get to this point. You are declared those things by the one who created you. God has declared us to be “poor in Spirit,” “meek,” “hungering for righteousness,” but more important than our condition; God has also declared us to be blessed. While we are, all those things listed. Therefore, we are blessed. Or to put it in another way. Happy are the poor in spirit. Happy and Blessed are we because we will inherit eternal life. We are sons and daughters of God because we have faith in Jesus Christ and we live our lives in the shadow of God’s grace.
So back to our theme, “Blessed are they” that have gone on before us. Those that walked with God by faith, for they inherited eternal life. But also blessed are we, because Christ has paid the price for our sins and we too shall one day be reunited with him. “Blessed is he that walks by faith in Christ Jesus for he shall inherit the earth, he shall be filled, he shall be shown mercy, he shall see God, he shall be called sons of God, his is the kingdom of heaven.” Blessed are we that fight the good fight here on earth, blessed are we that run the race with perseverance, blessed are we stand firm in the faith for great is our reward in heaven. Today remember the theme, “Blessed are we.”
This weekend in my tribe many congregations we will celebrate All Saints Day on Sunday. One this day Christian celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day stems from a belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the “Church triumphant”), and the living (the “Church Militant”). To make this Meet and Greet a little unique. Share with us someone who has departed that left and impact on your life as a tribute to the witness there were to you and maybe others.
Rules of Engagement:
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This is one the best post I have read on the Protestant Reformation. It is written by a dear friend Rev. Kevin Wilson. I was going to do something for the Reformation but this was too good not to share.
Meet and greet are opportunities for you to give people a chance to know more about you. It also gives you the opportunity to promote your blog. To make this more fun. Tell us what country you are posting from, what is your favorite meal growing up and one surprising thing about you people would not suspect. The other rules of engagement are listed below. Remember to copy this link on either your blog or social media outlet. I hope you get new people to see your heart and passion for blogging.
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The best way to increase readership is to engage with other bloggers! Comment on their posts. Invest time in what others are doing. It will help you grow as a blogger, writer and it is a heck of a lot of fun. This blogging community can be one the most rewarding social opportunities around. You will find that most people are encouraging. So get some conversations going, you never know what connection can be made!
Everything in heaven and earth is subject to God’s will.
Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. Acts 4:24
Are We Really In Control?
Let me be honest I like to be in control. It is the desire of my heart to live my life with the with the grand delusion that I am can determine the outcome of events. Give all the options before me ignoring the reality that I am not is control has worked. Allow me to live the fantasy that life will turn out just the way it is supposed to. That works fine until fantasy smacks head first into the wall of reality. When that horrible day happens my world gets turned inside out, then I am faced with this jarring question, “Who is really in charge?”
God has a Plan-Trust in Him!
It doesn’t take long to learn the painful lesson that life is bigger than we are. Try as we might control the things that happen around us, we soon discover it isn’t possible. That’s when we need to learn to be reminded that God is in charge. Wouldn’t life be much simpler and less complicated if we started there? It is such a bumpier ride to get there through trials and failures. Just come to the realization that GOD IS GOD, and we are not. He is in control of the daily operation of our lives. Everything in all creation is subject to his will. Stop and ponder that for a moment. When we do, we realize that this truth is freeing. It takes the pressure off of us. Humanity is not in control. We mere mortals can let go of the worry. Since worry cannot change the end products nor the outcomes, let go of it all. God has this.
Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart, a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”
The verse from Proverbs should provide us with comfort. Our plans fail. Our dreams do not always work out. So how do we handle that failure? Look to the one, God, who determines our steps. Here is an illustration.
One who resided in the White House for four years with the family of Mr. Lincoln says that the great president once came into the room with slow and cumbersome step and sad countenances and threw himself upon a sofa, shading his eyes with his hands, a complete picture of dejection. Mrs. Lincoln observed his troubled look and asked,
“Where have you been, Father?”
“To the war department,” he answered.
“Yes, plenty of news, but no good news. It is dark, dark everywhere.”
He then reached forth one of his long arms and took a small Bible from a stand near the head of the sofa, opened its pages, and was soon absorbed in reading them.
Fifteen minutes passed, and on glancing at the sofa his wife observed that the face of the president was more cheerful. His dejected expression was gone, and his countenance was lighted up with new resolution and hope. Wondering at the marked change, and desiring to know what book of the Bible had comforted Mr. Lincoln, she walked gently around the sofa and saw that he was reading that divine comforter, Job.—Prairie Overcomer
What lesson does the Book of Job teach us? God reigns! Nothing happens outside of God divine plan. He will bring good into our lives even when everything is out of control! That is a great reminder in this election season. Honestly, there are days I am afraid to turn the radio and television on. I walk away just feeling dirty from all this. At those moments when it seems like all is lost, the reminder that God has plans for us gives me comfort. He said this through the prophet Jeremiah.
+ Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
+ Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
God is always there reminding us that He has plans for us. He teaches us through each situation to trust Him. He uses these trials to fully prepared and mature us as His people. Never lose sight of the fact that God is the one who is in charge.
 Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (pp. 1647–1648). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Je 29:11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
I was born in 1965 in the deep south right at the epicenter of the civil rights movement. At the tender age of four my uncle and I developed a call and response routine. He would, “What do you want? And I would reply, “I want my freedom, now!” Cute for a four-year-old, but potentially deadly for a twenty-four-year-old in the racially charged South.
I never felt I limited by the color of my skin. I grew up in the church. I hoped the church was the answer to all the racial tensions in the world. God moved me at a very early age to be a pastor. God has a sense of humor. He called me to be a preacher in a church body that is one of the least diverse church organizations in America. Still, I had hope that the color of my skin would not matter. That hope would face a stiff challenge.
During my four-plus years at the seminary, those cracks would develop. At first, I ignored comments, which should have opened my eyes to the enormous tasks that would lie ahead. They just seemed odd at the time. I was determined this was my path, so I ignored them.
One comment kept playing in my head. “Your career in this church body will be limited by your marriage.” I should put that statement in context. God blessed me with a beautiful wife. She is my greatest cheerleader. But we come from very different origins. Her ancestors are of German-Prussian descent. My ancestors came from mother, Africa. This inappropriate comment should have angered me. Instead, it motivated me. I am wired a little differently. Everything inside me was stirred up. If you want to discourage me, that had the opposite effect. You just gave me a deeper resolve to prove you wrong. You tried to dissuade you instead, inspired me. I love stepping up the challenge of doing something that no one has ever done it before. Stand back and see what God does through me.
The road was not easy by any means. There were moments I seriously considered quitting. Was this worth all the pain. There was not financial reward only debt and a call that most likely would qualify us for government subsidy. My desire was upon completion of my Seminary training was to serve college students. They have a real hunger and thirst for seeking the Divine. Unfortunately, due to my denomination’s lack of pastoral diversity, I was sent to an African American Church in Detroit. Culture shock for a small town southern boy. I spent the next thirteen years in smallish, dying, urban, mostly African American congregations, with one simple mission: revive the dead and deal with rejection very people I was called to serve. My wife would never be accepted in that community, so we were strangers in a foreign land.
This blog post is not about slamming the church or my church body. It is meant to open the eyes of the church. Are we doing ministry in multi-ethnic settings in a way that is pleasing to God? Should the church reflect heaven? How can the local church accomplish this? Are we who God called us to be?
We have heard the statistics, but here are some more from LifeWay’s Ed Stetzer:
“Everybody wants diversity,” said Stetzer. “But many don’t want to be around people who are different.”
LifeWay Research surveyed 1,000 Americans about race. They found only about a third (34 percent) of Americans have regularly attended a house of worship where they were a minority. Among those who had attended a church as a minority, one in five said their ethnicity hindered their involvement.
Of those who have not been a minority in the church, nearly a quarter (22 percent) say being a minority in a congregation would make them feel uncomfortable. Many Americans believe churches should be more diverse. Half (50 percent) agree with the statement, “Churches in American are too segregated.” Four in 10 (44 percent) disagree.
A major hindrance to diversity is human nature.
To summarize all the data, the biggest impediment to a multi-cultural church that reflects what heaven will be when God calls us all home to be united again with him is US! We like to hang out with and be around people who look like US! If we truly are a new creation, then our outward appearance is also new. You are no longer white, or black, Latino, or Asian. We have the presence of Christ. Read what the Apostle Paul says,“…put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. 11 In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people.” 12 Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Derwin Gray, of Transformation Church, a multi-cultural church in Indian Land, SC said this, “We shouldn’t wait long for racial diversity – we should long for the proclamation of Jesus, which creates ethnic diversity,” he said. “The apostle Paul didn’t start one church for Jews and one church for Gentiles in the New Testament. The Gospel brought people together.”
Ed Stetzer of LifeWay reminds us “The Bible talks a lot about men and women from every tongue, tribe, and nation being in heaven, so it might be good to get accustomed to that heavenly expression here and now,”
Hopefully, I have given you food for thought. I honestly believe the church can reflect heaven on earth, probably because someone told me it cannot be done. Regardless of why I believe it, the key to that dream becoming a reality begins with the people of God, seeing themselves as citizens of heaven not a group of individuals from different earthly tribes.
Finally, for those who wondered how my career in the church as gone so far, I am currently serving as a Mission Executive for one of the largest districts in my church body, not to brag but to prove God has bigger plans than our minds can conceive.
Other posts in this series:
It’s the Meet and Greet weekend at The Light Breaks Through!!
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Judge Horace Gray of Boston, who would later go on to serve as a Justice on the Supreme Court, once said to a man who escaped conviction on a technicality: “I know that you are guilty and you know it, and I wish you to remember that one day you will stand before a better and wiser Judge and that there you will be dealt with according to justice and not according to law.”
Man’s justice is always subject to errors, but God’s justice is perfect. No sin escapes His gaze, and though punishment is sometimes delayed as God grants room to repent, it is certain. No one escapes God’s justice on a technicality.
Israel ran face first into this reality. It must have crossed their mind that they had escaped God’s judgment. But they did not know judgment was just delayed. God would use a foreign nation to execute his judgment.
Jerusalem Has Fallen! Not the headline on the front page of the New York Times image today. It was 587 B.C. After a long siege, and a valiant effort and almost superhuman resolve, Jerusalem is destroyed. King Nebuchadnezzar lays waste to a once glorious city. It was not just any city that has fallen. It was the city of David. The temple was destroyed, the place where the Ancient of Days took up residence. The Chosen people of the Most High God have scattered. Many of the key leaders including the king are taken into captivity. This series is based on a little-known book, Lamentations. It is not one that is read in church often. It seems too dark and grim to highlight in the church. We come to church to be encouraged, not depressed. No one wants to come and be reminded of those awful times.
Lamentations was written to reflect what happened to the children of Israel. It is tied closely to the writings of the prophet Jeremiah, who warned the people of impending judgment. His cries were ignored. “Not us,” the people said, “…we are God’s chosen ones.” Think of Lamentations as a historical account after a crushing defeat. It is a continuation of the groundwork laid out by Jeremiah. It is a stark reminder to all of us of the consequences of our sins when there is a lack of true repentance.
Repentance is much more than saying, “I am sorry.” Repentance means not just to be sorry but to change the path and direction of your life. Sorry is easy, change, of course, is where the difficulty comes into place.
This Lenten series is written for churches looking for a fresh approach to help people walk from Ash Wednesday to the empty tomb celebration of Easter. This series is designed to take disciples on a reflective journey during the 40-days of Lent with a time to stop and observe what effects sin has on the fabric of our lives and the world around us. The series begins with the topic for Ash Wednesday of “A Lament for Unfaithfulness” So sit back and join me on this Lenten Journey. Every Thursday a new sermon prompt will appear in this series. Next week: Lam 1:14 A Lament for Unfaithfulness.
Valuing quiet and solitude in academe.
...random musings from a random guy...
Book reviews and lessons
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!" -John. 14:12-14
Debra Pedrow: Christian Author and Blogger
Find Your Number
Because we are never alone
Annette Leeann Flores
Ideas of Light that Penetrate the Ideas of Darkness (To read this blog in context, readers should start at the earliest date of a series)
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