Running Uphill . . . to the Finish Line

My son-in-law and I have basically owned the Tweetsie Trail this summer for our morning run.  The beautiful scenery, friendly bikers, walkers and runners, beautiful wildlife, the nostalgia, pristine quiet, and the desire to stay healthy and prepare for periodic races calls us out three to four times a week.  Our routine is to run from Johnson City to Elizabethton at different distances as my training is currently maxed out for 10Ks while Andrew is preparing for a half-marathon.  Recently, I said, “Let’s change our routine and run from Elizabethton to Johnson City.  Well, I was greeted with a startling fact . . . the trail is predominately an uphill grade.

Our last run really took it out of me, and I was a bit defeated because running is such a challenge to me.  Upon sharing my thoughts via texting with Andrew, he said, “The second you feel defeated, you fail.  Sounds like the Christian life.”  He is right.

Running is such a mind game.  Correct thinking is so crucial.  In most instances, you can run farther than your mind tells you.  There you are, your legs are burning a bit, your lungs grasping for air, and your mind saying, “Just go ahead and quit.  You know it’s too hard to finish. You just don’t have it.”  That’s when you have to think the truth, remind yourself about things you have learned from running, and take another drink as well as another step.  You really don’t want to listen to yourself.

The Christian life is often uphill as well.  Every day presents you with battles that begin with putting your feet on the floor first thing in the morning.   Once that happens, you are “off to the races.”  How needful it is to think biblically from the first thought of the morning.  So often when we start the Tweetsie Trail, one of us will say, “What a beautiful day to run.  Praise the Lord!”  Starting your day thinking the Word and then throughout the day reminding yourself of the Word will help you climb the next hill.  It is so important that we do not listen to ourselves but rather preach the Word to ourselves.

I for one will tell you that one of the best parts of running is the finish.  There is such an exhilarated rush when you are done.  So here’s some truths to begin your day that will get you to the finish line… even if its uphill.

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.  (Lamentations 3:21-26)

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).

Map My Run

 

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Tweetsie Trail (Great place to run)

Map My Run is a handy app on my phone that logs all my workouts.  It records my distance, duration time, average pace, split-pace times, calories burned and elevation gain.  These details are very important as I reach out for my goals in preparation for the next race or just to keep in shape.

Map My Run reminds me of a very functional tool for your daily spiritual growth—a journal.  Just as the Map My Run app helps me track my physical fitness, I believe a hand written journal or one online is a good means to help you in your daily relationship with Christ; to run the race of the Christian life as we set our affection on things above and not on things of the earth (Colossians 3:2) to stay spiritually fit.  So consider the following questions:

  • How do you track your growth in Christ?
  • As you read the Word each day, where do you record what God said to you?
  • When you attend church, how do you document what God is up to in your life during the service whether in singing, prayer, small group Sunday School or the preaching?
  • What has the Lord been teaching you in the school of trials and temptation?
  • How have you seen God answer prayer today?
  • What spiritual goals have you attained by the grace of God?
  • What sins have your overcome?
  • What victories have been won by faith and God’s grace?

We are prone to soon forget the blessings of God, the impact of His Word, and the lessons He brings, but not so if we record them in a journal and then scan over them each week.  Our Shepherd is leading us today (Psalm 23).  Let’s track His steps and His lessons in our lives.  The Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon.  Let’s run well in His Word, burning off the calories of sin, the flesh and the world, and keep a good pace through all the elevations of life as we run for the prize.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Your Personal Circuit Board

IES Building

Recently I had a brief tour of a factory in our area that is a “full-service electronics manufacturing service provider, serving a diverse group of customers in various electronics end-markets including: commercial, military, medical, RF, flexible circuits, and backplanes.” As I entered the front of the building, I noticed that the exterior grounds were sharp and well-kept with a homey feel of white rockers lined across the front porch. The offices were neat and attractive and the factory floor negated the “five-second rule” of dropped food (otherwise translated, “You could eat off the floor.”).   My first impression was, “This is a quality place to work.”

Hand Solder

 

But what really caught my attention was the careful, meticulous work that keeps this company afloat. There before me as the factory door opened were rows of workers, many of them peering through a microscope soldering very tiny, intricate pieces to a circuit board.  As we walked over to get a closer look at an employee’s work station, he did not even look up or move to see who was around him.  He was transfixed on his work lest he lose his place.  These “hand soldiers,” as they are called, “average over fifteen years of experience in a wide variety of circuit board configurations.”

IES Capabilities

As I looked at this employee’s circuit board as well as another circuit configuration nearby, I realized that these small boards with minuscule pieces  keep commercial and military vehicles running in maximum measure. For instance, when our military troops are using Humvees in a conflict, these boards that cannot be seen are extremely vital to those vehicles’ operation in the most crucial times.

You, too, have a circuit board that needs daily meticulous work because it controls all you do.  It is your spiritual heart.  Unlike the boards made at this factory and shipped away, your heart is there to stay, but it needs careful attention.  Your “circuit board” needs to come under the microscope of God’s Word.  If not, one little drop of offense, corrupt speech, misunderstanding, assumption, deception, distraction, or hurt can short-circuit your heart and cause you to malfunction as a believer.

Therefore, let’s make application of this:

  • What does the microscope of God’s Word reveal about you?
  • Do you as a follower of Christ come under the microscope of God’s Word every day?
  • Do you take time to let the Word meticulously look into the “circuit board” of your heart?
  • Do you sit at Jesus’ feet with His Word in front of you without distraction?

You may look good on the outside, but the most important issue is what’s happening on the inside of the factory that matters.  Since . . .

  • we are in a daily battle with the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17), the world (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15-17), and Satan (1 Peter 5:8-9)
  • we are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. ’This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself, (Matthew 22:37-39)
  • the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
  • where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21),

just to name a few, doesn’t it make sense  to make sure you pay close attention to your circuit board, the heart?

My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:21-23)

Lessons From a Hernia: Day 4

This past weekend we had something weather wise that is not often seen in East Tennessee.  The Lord saw fit to cover the beautiful fall foliage and the ground with a pristine blanket of white.   The colors stood out and the ground was quieted.  Two seasons came together in one.  Our lives are made up of seasons, too.  Sometimes it’s a season of joy and sorrow all mixed together in one.  Today, I am sharing the last lesson of this weekly series of what the Lord has been doing in my life through hernia surgery, through this season of my life.

Lesson #4:  Seasons of pain prepare us for the days ahead.

As I look back over my life, and I have more earthly years in my “rearview mirror” than I do out the front window, I am able to point out painful, growth markers.  These are times that God chose to send pain into my life to set me aside to teach me about Himself and me.  Some of those markers were . . .

  • The stillbirth of our daughter, Ashley Marie
  • Hernia surgery on the right side
  • Cancer and subsequent death of my parents
  • A detached retina in my left eye requiring surgery
  • Hernia surgery on the left side

I could mention other trials because life is full of them, but the aforementioned are definite times in my life when God did some deep plowing in my heart.  These were seasons of pain . . .

  • to teach me some wonderful truths from His Word
  • to correct some things in my life
  • to show me something of Himself
  • to set a course of action in my personal life, home and/or ministry
  • to turn my longings from earth to Heaven

None of us like pain, but I can truthfully say that God has used it to do some blessed things in my life.  Psalm 119:71 says, It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I may learn thy statues.  I have written in my Bible beside that verse, “2-16-03 Preached this passage as a result of what God taught me through Dad’s death.”  Even as I type this, the pain of my hernia is biting me.  Life is hard, but God is good.  “Thank You, Lord, for this pain.  Looking forward to how You are going to work in the days ahead.”

Lessons From a Hernia: Day 2

As noted in yesterday’s blog post, Lesson #1, I have recently undergone hernia surgery.  As I told my surgeon yesterday during my post-op visit, “Doc, I really don’t like to be around you when you start cuttin’ up!”  There have been times in my past that got in trouble for that!  Well, as the Lord would have it, this time was for my good.  These are the times when God does some work of heart and draws us to Himself for personal discipleship (Matthew 11:28-30).

Lesson #2 – He must increase; I must decrease.

The past year in ministry has been the most demanding that I’ve gone through in years.  When ministry takes the turns that it has, my automatic reaction is to work harder; to increase.  All I want to say today is, the hardest work of increase should come on our knees.  There, Christ is increased, and I am decreased.  That’s way it’s supposed to work (John 3:30).  “Thank You, Lord, for leading me beside the still waters of that passage on the day after surgery.  Sure is hard to do my work of increase while medicated and grounded.”  And . . . Christ’s ministry just kept right on going.

Huffin’ and Puffin’

Okay, I know I am going today “where angels fear to tread,” but I do so with a right heart and one that desires to help.  We were called upon to help at the last second yesterday with the teen trip to Dollywood Amusement Park.  Denise and I love Dollywood, but we certainly were not planning on spending our day at the park with all the other demands upon us.  Nevertheless, we are certainly glad we went.  These teens were so appreciative and are a barrel of fun to be with in such a venue.

What’s my point?  Well, it’s all the people I saw today struggling to get around the park (and I realize that many have legitimate health issues).  They huffed, sweat, hobbled, shuffled, gasped for air, struggled to take a step, or rode around the park in a motorized scooter.  Now, please, I fully understand, and am certainly grateful for all who truly need those carts.  My aim in this post is to sound an alarm to folks who are much younger than we are—-to do what is necessary to be healthy!!  So, so many people who passed me yesterday could not enjoy the day, even ride the rides due to poor health. May I make a few suggestions from a loving, encouraging heart?

  1. Exercise at least 30 minutes-a-day.  If you can’t run or do a regimen of cardio-exercises, you need to walk at least once-a-day.
  2. Watch what you eat!  Oh the junk food at DW, and it’s good, too!  Everywhere you turn though, you see people gorging themselves on unhealthy, fattening foods.  I know its taste is so alluring, but is it really good for your body? Is it really worth it over the long haul?
  3. Do not think you are past the point of no return, and have even said, “What’s the use?”  You got to where you are bit-by-bit.  That’s the same way you can lose that weight or build yourself back up—a little at a time.
  4. No one can make you exercise and lose weight.  This is a personal decision, but you  do need the help of others to spur you on!  You must decide that your lack of taking care of your body is a violation of the stewardship mentioned in 2 Cor. 6:19-20, and you want others to encourage you and hold you accountable.  (Romans 14:5-8)
  5. Be consistent.  It is so easy to start strong but not finish.
  6. Split meals with your spouse or children when you dine out.
  7. Speaking of children, please  do not let them start out young being overweight and eating junk food.  Please teach them what to eat and when.
  8. Also, I am not suggesting that you turn your food intake to simply tofu, humus, and toothpicks!  Enjoy ice  cream, cheesecake, biscuits and gravy, etc.  Just watch your portion size.  Remember, the first bite of anything you eat, that you enjoy, is always the best.
  9. You will rejoice, feel stronger, and be more useful for what really matters, the eternal things of Christ.
  10. If you are a pastor reading this, we especially need to take off the pounds or keep them off because of our testimony.  How can you teach your people to be more disciplined in their lives when you are not, especially in the area of what you eat?  How my heart grieves for men who a make a joke about being overweight and eating like there was no tomorrow.
  11. If you are not healthy, then do so, not only for the Lord, but for your spouse.  I’ll speak to the men on this matter.  You want your wife to look good, yet you don’t take care of yourself.  What is wrong with this picture?  What does it say to your wife?

Now, again, I know that some folk have medical conditions that cannot be cured.  No matter, do what you can to be as healthy as possible.  Don’t give up!  To those who can’t say “No” to the temptations of food and laziness, I am begging you to take some inventory on your knees before the Lord.  I’ve been where many of you are today.  I love to eat; I love food; and I loved to “bat clean-up” with the leftovers on my wife and daughters’ plates.  Today, by the grace of God and making right, hard choices, 70 pounds are in my rear-view mirror.  I’d love to see you walk up an incline and not be winded  or bend over to work in your flower garden and not be worn out or be able to hike one of our many beautiful trails in this area or take the stairs instead of the elevator and be strong in the Lord!  No more huffin’ and puffin’ unless you just finished your first 5K! 🙂

So, what’s your plan?  Will you get started today?  Here’s a helpful article, Working Out.