Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...Hebrews 12:1
It seems not too long ago, I was constantly running kids or my elderly parents to their appointments. Trips to the dentist, orthodontist, physical therapist, orthopedic specialist, and dermatologist kept me constantly moving.
My children are now adults and my parents have since passed away. Yet, here I am with the same amount of appointments.
Funny thing is, now all the appointments are for me.
Lately, I have noticed the "maturing" process more and more. Sometimes, it bothers me. The books I've read about how exercise can help slow down the aging process have convinced me to learn the sometimes-joyful discipline of exercise, especially over the past four years.
While I was doing my thing in the lap pool the other day, I noticed a younger, very fit woman in the next lane.
Now, I rarely try to pace myself with other swimmers, but that day, I decided to go for it. I can assure you that, whatever semblance of a race I pretended we were in, I came in second place. The harder I tried the further behind I fell.
Feeling a little distraught, about to give up, and just plain old, well old in general, I suddenly heard a still small voice. "Run your own race, the race marked out for you."
Was this a Holy Spirit-inspired moment? I think so. As I splashed down the lane, I began to heed the advice. I began to zero in on my own technique and took my eyes off my unaware competitor.
Funny thing is, the more I focused on my own race, the more satisfied I became with my efforts. And, the more I improved.
In that exercise session, I did my personal best in time and, more importantly, in distance, all while losing track of the young athlete in the next lane over.
There are times and seasons in our lives when we are called to hone in and build our endurance as we run our own race. It is so easy to get caught up in comparing our own giftedness, resources, and ministries with those around us, which can either result in us feeling really good or really bad—neither of which translate to joy or are of much use in the lifelong journey of endurance.
Believe me, this "maturing" woman has been there and knows.
Is today the day you lay aside the things that hold you back and push forward in faith?
No matter your age, as long as you are alive, you are called to run with perseverance the race marked out for you.
What are you waiting for? Get moving!
By Betty McDowell, LSW, LAS, Director of Ministry Services
"Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace."Nehemiah 2:17
Nehemiah is an amazing book that depicts the pathway to personal restoration. The story opens with Israel having rebuilt their Temple in Jerusalem, yet living within the ruins of the rest of the city for over 100 years.
The broken down walls and burned gates around the temple represented a structure without any external defense against oppression. We may identify with a restored Temple (rebirth), but also acknowledge our vulnerabilities, some of those broken places in our soul that have been around for a long time.
The Lord wants to "secure our borders" so that we can carry His presence and walk in the Spirit unhindered!
The Lord is the Glory and Lifter of our heads. He does not want us to live in a place of disgrace, rather He desires to bring us into a place of restoration. Nehemiah was chosen by God to do just that for Israel.
Interestingly, Nehemiah's name means, "Comforted by Yahweh". The Lord knows how painful the restoration process can be, so He provides comfort through His Spirit to assist us in our journey to wholeness.
When Nehemiah first heard of the condition of Jerusalem, we are told that he sat down, wept, fasted and prayed for days. His grief is a picture of the Spirit's concern and tender mercies over the broken places in our lives.
His prayer begins with worship. When we view the Lord as greater than anything that stands like a mountain before us, we will gain security in His ability to deliver us. Not by might or by power, but by His Spirit! (Zechariah 4:6)
Nehemiah faced intense opposition from the moment he began the restoration process until the last stone was in place, and we can expect the same; but here is what he declared to the enemy from the very start; "The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it." (Nehemiah 2:20)
Nehemiah declares success to the rebuilding process and puts a stake in the ground for future dealings with his opponents. He uses legal terminology to inform the enemy that he had no share, claim, or historic right or remembrance in Jerusalem. Satan, the accuser is legalistic, so Nehemiah let the enemy know that he knew his rights to claim full restoration!
Be encouraged if circumstances have brought to light a breech in your wall. Redemption includes not only rebirth, but the restoration of our souls (our full identity as God intended).
Whenever we take a step in the direction of our promised land, opposition will arise and attempt to turn our attention to the hopelessness of the situation. That is when we must see what God sees, and say what God says about us.
The God of all hope intends to see us fully restored!
by Debra Neybert, Training Specialist
by Debra Neybert, Training Specialist
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11
This scripture is a beautiful expression of the nurturing heart of God. The Lord gathers us in His arms, He carries us close to His heart, and He gently leads us.
When God created us, He gave us amazing revelation into His nature. He first made man in His image, and then caused the man to fall into a deep sleep and took one of the man’s ribs to make woman. (Genesis 2:21-22).
Both male and female were created in God’s image and likeness; Eve’s female identity contained attributes that reflected the female/mothering image of God. We often emphasize the heart of the Father, but do not always perceive the Lord as one who expresses Himself through the nurturing heart of a woman.
We all need the love of a mother and a father. But in a fallen world, that need is not always satisfied. The scripture above is a precious word picture of the tender and gentle love the Lord wants us to experience in intimacy with Him. It is a healing love that brings us to life in our inner most being!
Jesus used a nurturing image of Himself when He compared His deep concern for His people with that of a mother hen for her chicks. He said, in reference to Jerusalem: “How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks together…” Luke 13:34
The Lord celebrates and cherishes women. He carefully crafts each one to reveal His mothering heart, a heart that fills all the voids, that nourishes, satisfies, delights in, comforts, and provides peace.
In this season may you experience His arms around you, carrying you close to His heart.
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.-Matthew 27:50-51
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the veil, that is, his body.-Hebrews 10:19-20
Up until the time of Jesus, entry into the Most Holy Place was reserved for the high priest—and that only once a year. Now, suddenly, what was done from all eternity manifested in this miraculous event… as Jesus’ body was torn in death, the veil was torn from top to bottom.
God Himself tore the veil in such a way that it could never be put back in place; never again can anything (guilt, condemnation, unworthiness, addictions, sickness, poverty, etc.) separate us from His presence, from His love, from being able to boldly enter the Throne Room of Grace. Notice, it is a Throne Room of Grace!
Everything that would keep us from an intimate and fulfilling relationship with the Lord was dealt with at the Cross. We have access to Him all the time, no matter what!
Hebrews 9 tells us that Jesus entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. Now we enter the same way, through His precious blood, for it made a way for us.
Oh the precious Blood of Jesus; it washes, it cleanses, it justifies, it sanctifies, it purifies, it heals, it delivers, and it redeems us… out of the hand of the enemy. It made a way when there seemed to be no way!
As we have celebrated Passover and the Resurrection of our Lord, may we be so aware of the price that was paid for our redemption; let us walk in, and enjoy the freedom Jesus purchased for us. He became a curse that we might obtain the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
He was bound as a prisoner, so we could walk in liberty, free from every chain!
Jesus is our Passover Lamb! There was a great exchange at the cross; Jesus bound to a cross, not only became sin for you and me, He died as you and me. His body—the veil that was torn—made a way into the Holy of Holies so that we may know Him in all of His splendor and Glory!
Rejoice, for He is risen.
Debra Neybert, Training Specialist
It's a resource intended for kids, with fun pictures and summarized versions of some of the main events throughout God's story of redemption in the Old and New Testaments. Anabelle, my daughter, always asks to turn back and see the pictures of the characters (both men and women—she hasn't quite grasped the idea of a tunic yet) in their "princess dresses."
But the more we read through God's story with Anabelle, the more I'm convinced that she's not the primary beneficiary night by night... not by a long shot.
That's because The Jesus Storybook Bible is a kids' Bible that hits the nail on the head more than some commentaries I've stumbled upon. The book's subtitle, "Every story whispers his name," tips the reader off that its author, Sally Lloyd-Jones, intends to teach little ones (and their parents!) how every episode throughout Scripture points directly, unmistakably to Jesus.
This is exactly what the resurrected Christ explains to the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 when, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27).
And so, as we read through Anabelle's Bible night after night, I'm moved and refreshed by what Lloyd-Jones calls God's "Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love" for his people.
There's a more succinct way to sum up this special love God has for his people. It's God's covenant love. Or, as the Psalms refer to over and over, his "steadfast love."
This is the love God promises to his people—who he promises to love simply because he loves them (Deuteronomy 7:8)—it's the love that reconciles sinners to himself, meeting us where we are in our sin and brokenness and making us his friends. It's the love that then painstakingly crafts us into the image of the Son he loves.
This is the love that assures us we have a Father who is invincible, and means to do good to us--regardless of the cost--in all circumstances:
What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all good things? (Romans 8:31-32).
As this text points out, the Always and Forever love of God is the kind of love that's guaranteed with blood. The moment our first parents rebelled against God and their nakedness was exposed, the shedding of blood became necessary to clothe them and make them acceptable to the holy God against whom they sinned.
This theme is developed again and again throughout the biblical plotline. Noah offers a sacrifice following the flood. Abraham is spared from offering his son on the mountain (sound like a foreshadowing?) when God provides a ram. The lamb is slaughtered in every Hebrew house in order that the Destroyer would pass over the firstborn. And finally, the sacrificial system is established with the giving of the Law, offering an on-going reminder that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Hebrews 9:22).
What's with all the blood? What did that all mean? And what's it got to do with love?
In a word, this is all about the Word. The Word of God taken on flesh and dwelling among men. Not only that, but taking on the form of a servant—a suffering servant who lived the life we should have lived, bore the wrath of a holy God in our place, conquered death, and disarmed Satan by his vicarious death for sinners and victorious resurrection.
In other words, "God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8).
Or, as Paul rehearses this gospel to his beloved friends in Ephesus, "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved..." (Ephesians 2:4-5).
This means that the love of God for us is entirely secure. Our position in his grace never changes. It can't be undone:
Who shall bring any charge against Gods elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was rasied--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separated us fro the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us... (Romans 8:33-37).
What costly love! What expensive and resolute mercy! It's the kind that never stops, never gives up, always lasts forever. It's the kind of love that multiplies and motivates our love for others and each other. It's the kind that sustains us on our worst day, humbles us on our best day, and gives us the strength to love those our Father brings along our way, no matter how bent on self-destruction and misery they may seem to us.
This is the kind of love Who has never given up--and will never give up--on me.
And it's the kind I'll never get tired of reveling in at my daughter's bedside.
by Jay Hobbs, Communications Assistant
The main character in the true story was a man named Honi, who lived during the first century B.C., and boldly prayed a prayer that brought an end to a long-standing drought, renewing hope for the Jewish people.
This well-told story encourages readers to dream big and pray persistently.
Here’s a line from the book to whet your appetite:
Drawing prayer circles around our dreams isn’t just a mechanism whereby we accomplish great things for God. It’s a mechanism whereby God accomplishes great things in us.
I found this book both delightful and inspirational, and I’m confident you will too!
Book review by Betty McDowell, Director of Ministry Services
From Take Heart | Volume 2, Issue 11
As the season of Advent unfolds and the focus on the birth of our Savior sharpens, the reality of this Scripture, like a diamond held up to the light, reveals multiple facets.
Behold. Be aware. Observe. Consider. This is the first step for us. We must open our eyes to see what is already at hand. The busyness of our schedule, the volume o f our workload, the needs of the ministry all can conspire to crowd our vision and actually shrink our awareness of anything but the urgent. It may take a moment to step away from the inbox, set aside the volunteer schedule, wait to review the financials, and simply focus on what the Holy Spirit is doing.
The Kingdom of God is all that He is and all that He controls. Think about that for a moment. Where is He not King? To what places does His reign not extend? Perhaps there are regions of our hearts and issues that have yet to be yielded to His Lordship, but He is certainly present even there, just as He is present in our ministry and among His people.
Indeed, the Kingdom “is in your midst,” right where you are. Truly, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of your staff meeting and each shift of volunteers. The King is with you during your event planning and while you stare at the blank page that awaits your monthly appeal letter. The Holy Spirit is present when you see the red numbers on the financials. He knows your pain and your tears.
The kingdom of God is even there with you in a board meeting (whether or not every board member has read the reports in advance!). He often speaks through this group that is assembled for the care and concern of the work that He has inspired. Whether you’re the executive director, board chair, treasurer, counselor, or administrative assistant, He, and His kingdom, is in your midst.
By Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat Vice-President, Ministry Services
From Take Heart | Vol. 2, Issue 6
The water cooler is long gone. Paper plates, plastic-ware, coffee and creamer are strictly by contribution only. Even the birthday cakes for Heartbeat staff have been reduced to a simple card and a group sing. (Seriously, picture a dozen people standing near your desk belting out the familiar tune!) Expenses for office supplies have been cut dramatically. Many such ideas came from staff brain-storming sessions during some very lean months.
Cost-cutting measures for Heartbeat turned really serious beginning with the summer of 2008. The pregnancy help movement felt the economic downturn earlier than most non-profits. As you well know, cost cutting is hard to do when you’re a non-profit and already operating on somewhat of a shoestring. We took even more stringent measures. We trimmed budgeted expenses, reduced benefits, and the whole staff even took two sacrificial, week-long furloughs.
While cutting expenses dramatically, we also put the word out that we needed help. The first and (fortunately) only emergency plea for funds went out to donors and affiliates alike. In addition, special, one-on-one asks to major donors helped us close the gap between income and outflow. As we began to understand the extent of the crisis we took an additional step...
Two years of fasting and praying. . . Boy are we hungry!
Yep, you read that right. Fasting for two years! Well okay, it wasn’t every single day for two years. Actually, it wasn’t even every week. But one day each month since July of 2008, the Heartbeat staff has set aside a day of fasting with specific times throughout that day to gather in prayer for the needs of Heartbeat. Okay, that’s not nearly as impressive sounding as fasting for two years, but still that’s how long we’ve been practicing the discipline as a staff. (Fasting is optional, but almost everyone fasts on our special day. Even board members, intercessors and other close friends join us.)
Prayer is hardly foreign to us at Heartbeat. We gather each and every day around 9:15 a.m. to pray for our affiliates, staff needs, upcoming events, faithful and generous donors, our partners and the mission and pregnancy help movement. So, if you’re calling our office between 9:15 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., you might not reach us directly because we’ve gathered to pray. It’s not mandatory but everyone’s usually there if they can be.
Setting a specific time to fast and pray clearly has been vital in getting us through some tough times. Focusing on God in the midst of our crisis and working diligently to do what we could saw us through a very difficult time. In the waning hours of 2008, we watched the Lord work a miracle where the year-end giving closed the year’s expense gap! In gratitude, we rejoiced! We partied! And then we went to work implementing our newer, leaner budget for 2009.
I’m glad to report that in 2009 we finished in the black. In 2010, things are challenging but not at crisis level. God is faithful. And we’ve continued to fast and pray one day each month. And yes, we’re hungry. Hungry for God as He leads and provides for the mission and vision that He’s firmly planted in our hearts.
Prayer helped us in many ways cope with the crisis we experienced. Prayer served to calm our fears and to put our trust in the best source – God. Prayer helped us unite as a staff even as we faced significant threats to our work and vocation. Prayer helped us not to get “mean” even as we were getting lean.
So take heart in your situation. Set aside time to pray. Consider a time of fasting. Always remember to look upward as well as inward in any time of crisis.
Back to Take Heart | Vol. 2, Issue 6
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
But that doesn't mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. The text for this is,
Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ (Ephesians 4:4-13 The Message).
It is awe inspiring to think about how this scripture points out how much we have in common and how we are so much better together. We are not to be a threat to each other. But what a threat we can be to the Father of Lies when we are united in heart and purpose!
Each of us has but one Master who has given us many gifts and callings. What a blessing and an honor to grant each other the freedom to be who God made us to be, to develop our talents in ministry, and to recognize the calling on each other’s lives.
Today you have a choice. You can look around and feel threatened or insecure about your position or future in ministry or you can bless and acknowledge those around you who have the same heart, who serve the same God, who are part of the same body, who desire, like you, to be fully alive in Christ. We are better together because this is God’s idea and He desires unity for us and with us.
by Kirk Walden
Recently I noticed a photo of toy soldiers in my files from a Disney trip last year. It’s not often that I get inspiration from toy soldiers, but it hit me that in the Christian life there are True Christian Soldiers, and there are Toy Soldiers.
Right now, many in our ministry are discouraged and tired. I have an email in my inbox right now from another who wonders if it is time to give up. I understand.
But there is good news for True Soldiers like you. For one, if you are involved in this ministry you are no Toy Soldier. You know the Toy Soldiers. We pray for them, those who come to church dressed perfectly, always smiling brightly and never flustered.
Toy Soldiers march in at the right time and as soon as the clock hits the right mark, they march out again. No scuffs on those shoes and not a mark anywhere else. Toy Soldiering is a great life, or so it appears.
After all, if you never involve yourself in combat there are no scars, no pain.
True Soldiering involves battles. Our uniform gets dirty. We get marks on our bodies and our emotions are worn thin. We wake up not knowing what is around the next corner, wondering whether the next battle will bring victory or a devastating defeat.
While we know that ultimately the war is won, we don’t know what it is going to take to get to that victory. And, we don’t know whether we are going to suffer in the process.
Toy Soldiering is dress-up, and we see it too often. To be honest, we feel sorry for the Toy Soldiers. To the Toy Soldier we want to cry out, “Join us in the battle. Hearts are at stake. Lives are on the line! Be a part of a glorious victory!”
But to the Toy Soldier, the risk of a wound is too much of a bother—even with lives hanging in the balance.
Yet while we hurt for the Toy Soldiers, True Soldiers start each day on a valiant mission to advance a calling of reconciliation and the calling of life—a mission launched, carried out, and carried on by none other than Jesus Christ.
Sure, we’re going to get dirty. And we can count on battle scars along the way. We know that. It’s no secret to any one of us.
Some will desert. Others will criticize. Still others—the Toy Soldiers—will look at us with a condescending smile and say, “That sounds like nice work.” They have no idea, yet we know better than to explain.So instead of explaining, instead of responding to criticism, instead of running after the deserters, we soldier on.
Dear soldiers, as Paul told Timothy in II Tim. 2:4, let’s not entangle ourselves with the affairs of everyday life. There is no time for that.
Without pride in ourselves or malice toward others, let’s band together as True Soldiers, ready to fight the good fight each and every day—for God’s glory.
Perhaps I don’t know you personally, but if you are in this ministry I know your heart, which is that of a True Soldier.
From this writer, “thank you.” I appreciate your service. Let others say what they want. I for one am proud to stand with you. It is . . . An honor.
Kirk Walden is the author of The Life Trends Connection (TLC), proven development ideas and concrete action steps. TLC, now powered by Heartbeat International. TLC is yet another valuable benefit for Heartbeat affiliates.
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