Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Marathon!

So maybe this was one of those things you do once, realize you've made a bad decision, and never do it again. But maybe, just maybe there was a strange seed planted within me to rise to the challenge again.

Way back in May of this year me and my friend Mark, who happens to be my best at the moment, got some crazy idea to run the Kansas City Marathon. For the past 3 years I've run a 10 mile race each summer, and a few 10k's here and there. But entering into this summer I finally felt like there was a desire to reach for something that would really challenge my physical frame to the max. So, I guess that meant a Marathon. Something I had toyed with the idea of doing, but never really seriously considered. As the summer progressed and the miles of training kept increasing running became more natural. It was odd how at the beginning of the summer a 8 mile run was kind of a big deal, and by September a 7 mile run was a regular workout for me. Through the journey of training I could my body slowly making a transition of becoming used to the long endurance runs I was taking weekly. Through all of the miles though there was a simultaneous training taking place. The training of my spirit, mind, and soul. To tell the honest truth I've never actually enjoyed running. Still don't actually. Playing soccer my whole life growing up it's always been a form of discipline, sooo, now we're going to do it for fun? But what actually sucked me in to continue growing to do more and more miles was the fact that while running I would spend the most time alone with the Lord other than any other time during me day. When I was running, it was just me and Him. It was a spiritual journey of getting to know the one that formed my body, and fashioned me in a way so that I could run. My absolute favorite run throughout all of my trainings was a 8 mile run in a park. Me and Mark started that run together, the clouds were kind of closing in, and there was a light drizzle as we started. Right as we were getting to our turn around spot for the out and back the heavens opened up and it began to pour on us. As we made our turn to start back 4 miles me and Mark separated in our pace, so I was by myself for the last 4 miles. On the trail that day running through the woods with rain pouring so thick you could barely see, thunder and lightning flashing around me, I had one of the most powerful encounters of knowing the Lord as my protector. Though the storm was raging all around me, my heart was secure in the one that knew my frame. "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever." Psalm 73:26 The marathon training was one of the most intense spiritual refining things I have ever done in my life. It challenged my faith with every run I took. I thought it was slightly funny that Mark's bib number was "666" I guess out of 11,000 runners, someone has to take the number, might as well be someone who can handle it! The week of the marathon it seemed like everything was working against me. In the midst of trying to hydrate all week and be on top of stretching and getting my body ready, I had probably one of the busiest weeks yet this semester! As well wrestling with finances at the time, I wasn't able to buy groceries and get the nutrition I was needing leading up to the race. But once again, the Lord showed Himself faithful and provided for my every need! It was as if the Lord gave me one last training seminar I hadn't quite planned on. "Will you trust me Isaac to provide for ALL your needs?" Finally race day arrived, and so we made our way downtown Kansas City Saturday morning at 6:30am with 11,000 other runners! We were packed into the city street like a can of sardines! People lined up in the street shoulder to shoulder for about 3 city blocks! Truly it was the most fun race I have ever been apart of! Me and Mark decided at the beginning of the race that we wanted to run the whole thing together. We felt good up until about mile 21, and then my left hamstring cramped. So we stopped and stretched it out real quick, started running again, it cramped again. Stretched it, kept running, then my right hamstring went out. So, pretty much the last 5 miles ended up being the hardest 5 miles I've ever done! The last half mile coming up on the final stretch me and Mark gave it everything we had left to not let anymore grandma's pass us in the slow lane. As we made the turn onto Grand Blvd to run the last .2 miles, we see the thousands of people lining the street, but just as we turn the corner Amazing Grace starts being played on the bagpipes blasting through the streets of Kansas City! It was such a strong testimony to my heart, we weren't late in finishing the race, we were right on time. God is never late in His provision, HE'S ALWAYS RIGHT ON TIME! With that last boost we cruised our way towards the finish line. The marathon pace. I truly believe the Lord was working in me the stamina to get a picture of what it looks like to run the spiritual race with that marathon pace! He's teaching me to run with endurance. As long as you keep running, as long as you finish. You win. If you don't quite, if you don't surrender to the challenges within the race, you win. Even if you're crawling. You're winning! Don't let the meat wagon carry you off, another victim caught in self anguish and frustration. Keep running. Keep fighting.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Love Perfected in Us.

Lately I've been studying the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, seems like the more I see the commands that Jesus gives the more I realize the depths of requirement that the gospel demands. Jesus gives the constitution of the kingdom of heaven in the Sermon on the Mount. He gives the values on which the kingdom is built. These are the guidelines by which we are actually required to live if we say that we love Him. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome." 1 John 5:3 Truly if we are professing that we love Him, then we would follow the commands of His Word. Love demands a response, not a response out of duty, but truly out of a heart that desires to love well. It's so easy to serve those you love.

It's important to know that even as we do our best to follow His commands that we will fail. For the rest of our life we will come short in at least one of the commands. But even in our failings He thoroughly enjoy us! He's not disappointed when we fall short in the process of walking out His commands. The very fact that we are engaging our heart to reach for obedience is a testimony of our love to Him. Pursuing righteousness is not a normal response of the heart. Being poor in spirit is not a natural characteristic that any human is born with. So as we step forward to do our best to walk out His commands, know that just the fact that we are reaching moves His heart!

This has been the picture that has been likened to in my head the last week as I've been thinking about this. A husband that loves His wife should buy his wife flowers. But not out of motivation of duty or obligation. If the husband came home from a long day of work one day and gave his wife a big bouquet of flowers and told her that on the way home from work he felt like he needed to be a good husband and buy her flowers, she might be a little upset and feel like the husband was trying to "buy" her love. Not only that, but that the sole motivation of his buying the flowers came from a heart of obligation and not out of his genuine love for his wife.

But lets say this husband is deeply in love with wife, and on the way home from work his heart is moved as he thinks about his wife, and how much he loves her. He decides out of a demonstration of his love for his wife he wants to stop and pick some wild flowers for her. As he gets out of the car and walks out into the field, he sinks a full 6 inches into deep mud. Now his feet and pants are dirty and caked with mud. Determined to get his wife a beautiful arrangement of flowers he continues to get the flowers he needs. After picking enough flowers to make a bouquet he turns to walk back to his car, but as he turns slips and falls flat on his face in the mud crushing the flowers underneath himself. Finally getting home he walks in the house all muddy and dirty, holding in his hand a pathetic looking wild-flower bouquet. But he looks at his wife and says, "I got you some flowers because I love you." Grinning ear to ear with dirt gritted in his teeth. His wife looks at him and loves him in return despite his fairly beat up self and poor bouquet. What a weak offering, but so sincere. She fully loves her husband and loves that fact that he was thinking of her through the whole process of "trying" to get flowers for her. She sees his love, even though he feel short in walking out the offering part perfectly, the very fact that he was making an effort out of a heart that loves, is so beautiful in her sight.

If we try to walk out the commands of Jesus from a heart that feels obligation of the Christian faith to follow some guidelines, what makes us any different than the man that wanted to buy the flowers for his wife because he had a duty to fulfill? What makes us any different then the pharisees? Jesus spoke forth the commands out of a heart that loved us completely, loved us so much that He desired to give us a picture of what it looks like to love Him in return. Before we had His commands we didn't even know what it looked like to love Him! When we see the commands of Jesus, when we connect with the fact of wanting to walk out His commands because we truly do love Him. Then the feeling of obligation begins to fade away. We walk in obedience from a heart that longs to love Him well. That even in the journey of trying to walk out His commands and falling, like the husband, deep into the mud, He sees the reach of our heart to love Him, and He calls our weak offering real love.

His commands are in no way burdensome when we realize that walking out His commands is loving Him. "but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him, whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." 1 John 2:5-6