Disqualified!

Today I continue my series of running devotions for My TEA CUPP for Athletes & Runners Book & Journal. I pray these will be a blessing to you and you will be encouraged to PRESS ON! Hope you are inspired as you exercise your faith!

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27 (NKJV)


I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was my first big indoor track meet of my junior year of high school.  It was the first time I had qualified to run the Drake Indoor meet in Des Moines, Iowa.  I was so excited to run the race, though running distance runs on an indoor track can be tedious as you go around and around multiple times.  

It must have been a two mile race, because that was the longest distance for girls at the time.  The track was half the size of the outdoor track, making it 220 yards, or 200 meters.  Instead or running 8 times around the outdoor track, we would be running 16 times around the indoor track to make two miles (doesn’t sound so far if you’ve run the 5K or 10K on a track!).  

To make things easier on the judges, the race officials decided that if anyone was lapped, they would be knocked out of the race, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to monitor how many laps people had left to go.  With only a 200 meter track, that meant many girls could be lapped before the winner finished her two miles.  

The lead runner was so fast, it didn’t take her long to be 200 meters ahead of the pack. I was one of those girls who was lapped and disqualified from the race.  In tears I left the track, so sad to be out of the race I truly wanted to finish.  I was heartbroken, watching the other girls finish the race. The girl who lapped me was a star senior runner from Cedar Falls, Iowa, who only a few years later would become my friend and college teammate, pointing me to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Besides being lapped, there are many other ways an athlete may become disqualified… too many false starts, taking drugs, yelling at the line judges, etc.  But while in athletics we can try again the next year to follow all the rules of competition, in our spiritual lives we never want to be disqualified.  

If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. Psalm 94:18 (NKVJ)

What could disqualify us from receiving our crowns in heaven?  Not believing in Jesus (John 3:18).  Not allowing the Holy Spirit to do its perfect work in us (Mark 3:9, Luke 12:10).  Falling into temptation and lust and pride without repenting, when God has called us to serve Him (1 Peter 1:16).  Oh dear athlete, let us live our Christian lives even more carefully than we do as runners, that we may never be disqualified.

And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Romans 8:10 (NKJV)

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 (NKJV)

The Runner’s TEA CUPP: Have you been knocked out of the race?  Dear athlete, let Jesus pick you up!  He is coming again to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42) Turn to Him for help while there is still time.  Confess your sins, let Him wash you clean and put you back on your feet.  Memorize 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Start running for Him again.

 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV)

Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects;
Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.  Job 5:17 (NKJV)

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:11-12 (NKJV)

Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:7 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. 

Side-lined

Today I continue my series of running devotions for My TEA CUPP for Athletes & Runners Book & Journal. I pray these will be a blessing to you and you will be encouraged to PRESS ON! Hope you are inspired as you exercise your faith!

You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? Galatians 5:7 (NKJV)

It happens to every athlete at one time or another, an injury side-lines us. But at the time, it seems like it will last forever.

I remember my first major injury was spring of my senior year of high school. I had developed a stress fracture in my shin from running indoor track and could not compete for the outdoor season. Instead of working out with my teammates every afternoon, I was in the swimming pool “running” in the deep end. I thought it was the end of the world, thinking it was my last season, not knowing I would compete in college. But God healed me and allowed me to walk on as a college cross country runner, and there I met Jesus.

Over the years there have many other times of being side-lined, from mononucleosis, to miscarriages, to gallbladder surgery…and currently back and leg pain. But Jesus carries us through it all. And as Job said so aptly to his wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10) Shall we not accept the victory of completing a marathon, as well as the injuries?

What can we do during this time of injury? Pray! Rest! Seek the Lord! Heal! Trust in Him! Encourage others! Look upward to Jesus and outward to others, rather than inward to our own troubles.

And what about our spiritual lives? Do we ever get side-lined in our faith? Satan the side-liner is always trying to discourage us and get us to take our eyes off Jesus. The enemy tells us we’re no good. The enemy tells us to give up. The enemy tells us he has something better. But he doesn’t. God has made us good and loves us (John 16:27, Romans 8:1). God calls us to run with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1-2). God has the very best, a mansion for us in heaven (John 14). Oh friend, keep trusting Jesus, keep pressing on, keep holding all God’s promises.

In life we may become side-lined temporarily, as God rebukes and chastens us for falling short of His glory.  But He only does this because He loves us and wants to help us be more like Him and better able to serve Him.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Revelation 3:19 (NKJV)

So dear friends, do not be discouraged if you are side-lined.  We serve a merciful God.  Allow Jesus to use this time to bring you closer to Him and His throne of grace.  I wrote a verse based on Romans 8:37-39 for you..

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither losing nor winning, nor shinsplints nor stress fractures nor pulled hamstrings, nor false starts nor dropped batons, nor sickness nor health, nor fans nor foes, nor 100m nor 10K, nor high jump bar nor long jump pit, nor any other athletic event or distress, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

The Runner’s TEA CUPP: Have you been side-lined, either in your running or in your Christian walk? Dear friend, don’t be discouraged. Get your rest, do your physical therapy, pray, repent, seek the Lord and He will get you back on track!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (NKJV)

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV)

Let not the foot of pride come against me,
And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.
Psalm 36:11

He does not delight in the strength of the horse;
He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man.
The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him,
In those who hope in His mercy. Psalm 147:10-11 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. 

Training for the Competition

Today I continue my series of running devotions for My TEA CUPP for Athletes & Runners Book & Journal. I pray these will be a blessing to you and you will be encouraged to PRESS ON! Hope you are inspired as you exercise your faith!

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)

Training. Strict Training. Those are tough words. Tough athletes know what this means: Getting up early each morning to do a workout, even before the sun comes up. Eating healthy meals and avoiding sweets. Skipping late night events so we have a good night’s sleep and are ready to do it all again the next day. Over and over again. Persevering. Never giving up. It’s not the race that’s the hard part, it’s the training.

That’s how an athlete trains, but what about a Christian? How do we train to be Christians? The verse above from 1 Corinthians 9:25 tells us we do the same thing. We go into strict training to receive a crown that will last forever in heaven.

What does this Christian training look like? Much the same as an athlete…Strict training.

Getting up early each morning to seek the Lord, spending time in God’s Word, reading our Bibles and praying even before the sun comes up. Then when it’s light we can go out to exercise.

I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.
Psalm 119:47 (NKJV)

Living a healthy lifestyle, giving thanks to God for the food He provides.

be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience. Titus 2:2 (NKJV)

Skipping activities that don’t glorify the Lord in favor of ones that do…time with family, worshiping our Lord, serving others.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

Getting a good night’s sleep so we can do it all again the next day…

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8 (NKJV)

And asking others to pray for us...

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NKJV)

The Runner’s TEA CUPP: How are you doing in your athletic training? How are you doing in your Christian training? Pick one area to work on this week and keep pressing on each day to glorify Jesus, the Son of God. You can do it, dear friend! He is helping you!

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NKJV)

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.
Proverbs 18:10 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011

Sports in the Bible

And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 2 Timothy 2:5 (NKJV)

This summer was to be the summer of the 2020 Olympics. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the Olympics were rescheduled for 2021. I imagine some athletes were grateful for another year to practice or to heal from an injury, while others had prepared for a peak performance this August.

Sports give us an outlet to funnel our energy, a way to keep our bodies healthy for serving Jesus, and a venue to live out our faith. Our sad country has been without sports this spring because of the pandemic. Yet now it is plagued again by riots and racism, perhaps in part from being quarantined for months. Let’s bring back sports as a positive place for competition and good health, allowing people to root for their teams, rather than people groups. Let us cheer on all Races as they run the races!

In honor of the Olympics that might have been, and in preparation for next year’s competitions, I offer a round of athletic devotions this summer. This kicks off My TEA CUPP for Athletes & Runners Book & Journal, coming next year to a bookstore near you! It is amazing to see how many sports are mentioned in the Bible…

Running

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

Swimming

And He will spread out His hands in their midst
As a swimmer reaches out to swim,
And He will bring down their pride
Together with the trickery of their hands.
Isaiah 25:11 (NKJV)

Wrestling

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)

Play Ball!

He will surely turn violently and toss you like a ball
Into a large country…
Isaiah 22:18 (NKJV)

Boxing

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  1 Corinthians 9:26 (NKJV)

Fighting

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV)

Archery

Then I will shoot three arrows to the side, as though I shot at a target. 1 Samuel 20:20 (NKJV)

Walking

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5:2 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP: Dear Ladies, we don’t have to be Olympic athletes. But even the Proverbs 31 woman was called to strengthen her arms. After your quiet time each morning, why not make a point to get outside and exercise, taking a Bible verse with you to memorize as you go. It will cheer you up to be out under the big blue sky talking to our Lord.

She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms.
Proverbs 31:17 (NKJV)

For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 1 Timothy 4:8 (NKJV)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Isaiah 40:29 (NKJV)

Extra Note: To you dear ones who have been praying for my granddaughter…we have another miracle! This past weekend, Kennedy started walking again, after not walking since her chemo began in February! This grandma can’t stop crying tears of joy and thanksgiving. We are walking and leaping and praising God! (Acts 3:8)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Beach Prayer

Therefore glorify the Lord in the dawning light,
The name of the Lord God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea. Isaiah 24:15 (NKJV)

I’m hooked on beach running.  Sadly, I live in the land-locked (yet beautiful) state of Montana where the nearest ocean is a two-day drive.  If I had grown up near the beach, there might have been no moving me to higher ground. 

There is just something about the rhythmical crash of waves on the shore, the dodging of the tide as it ascends the beach, the warm sun shining down upon my face, and the joy of miles of sand upon which to run.

A few months ago, I experienced all this as we visited our son in California.  Each morning I slipped out of our tent before sunrise to have my quiet time on a bench overlooking the Pacific, praying Isaiah 24:15 (above).

Then donning my running shoes, I jogged down to the beach where I ran in the newly-washed sand on the shore, making fresh footprints with each step.  When I reached the turn-around point and came back, I witnessed a marvel,  most of my footprints had already been washed away!  This reminded me of Jesus washing away our sins.  Each footprint of doubts and worries and anger and wrong words is washed into the depths of the sea, gone forever!

…You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19 (NKJV)

And if you are concerned about those sins just floating around, waiting to be washed up onto another beach, find hope in Revelations 21:1 where we learn the entire sea disappears! First, our sins are drowned in the ocean and then the ocean is no more! That’s how complete is our forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Revelation 21:1 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP:  As you head into a new year, cast your sins of the old year at the feet of Jesus.  Confess your failings to Him in prayer, asking Jesus to wash you clean. Claim Jesus’ promise to throw your sins into the depths of the sea.  Ask Him to help you every step of the way this new year.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9 (NKJV)

As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 (NKJV)

Sing to the Lord a new song,
And His praise from the ends of the earth,
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
You coastlands and you inhabitants of them! Isaiah 42:10 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

 

Shining in the Darkness

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)

As the days grew shorter in the latter part of summer, I had a more difficult time squeezing in my running workouts before breakfast on the long-run days.  One Sunday my workout said to run 24 miles, as I was training for my first marathon.  In order to get in such a long run and still make it to the second church service, I needed to leave at 5 a.m. Setting my alarm for 3 a.m. I got up to have my TEA time with Jesus.  But by 5 a.m. it was still dark out, so I took a flashlight and put bear bells on my ponytail.  The big flashlight was a little cumbersome as I made my way down the highway in the last hour before dawn, but I was thankful for the light, pushing aside the darkness, pointing out any stumbling blocks, and shining into the distance to alert possible travelers. 

And I started to think, “Hmm…this would make a good devotion,” as I often do when I’m running and praying.  My flashlight was lighting the highway just as God’s Word lights the path we should take.  We have to get into His Word and read our Bibles every day so we can have this light.  Jesus is the light who came into the world and now His Spirit lives inside us. 

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12

Now as the autumn days grow even shorter, I have the same trouble I had in August, trying to squeeze in just a short run before breakfast.  It is still dark at 7:30 a.m. So once again, I pull out my flashlight and shine it into the darkness.  But soon I will have to give up the outside runs to darkness and snow, visiting the gym where I hope I can shine for Jesus, too. 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)

Another day I was having my quiet time and God showed me this verse…

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined. Isaiah 9:2 (NKJV)

The funny thing was that when I was reading this verse, our power was out and I had only a little flashlight to illuminate my Bible.  I think of how one single candle and many mirrors could light up a room.  Help me be that candle or mirror and reflect your light to a world in darkness.  Thank you for shining Your light into my darkness.  Keep shining Jesus!  Keep me shining!

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. Colossians 1:13 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP: Dear TEA friend, use your quiet time this morning to recharge your batteries.  Read your Bible. Let God’s Word kindle that spark in your heart, shining out through your eyes and smile and hands and actions to a world that so desperately needs the light of Jesus.

The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130 (NKJV)

For You will light my lamp;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. Psalm 18:28 (NKJV)

If you enjoyed today’s devotion, you might also like A Runner’s TEA CUPP and My Light TEA, Or today’s devotion from Our Daily Bread which I just noticed is on the same theme with another powerful story.

 Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Philippians 2:14-16 (NKJV)

The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Rivers of Living Water

 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38 (NKJV)

My feet pounded the paved highway as the gentle May rain misted down upon my face.  Determined to get my run in for the day regardless of the weather, I plodded along, thankful for little traffic.  But every once in awhile a vehicle would zoom past, forcing me into the drenched tall grass at the shoulder.  Instantly my new running shoes were soaked; with each step I could feel the squeeze of extreme moisture in my socks.  My feet were overflowing with water.

This entire rainy day metaphor made me smile for I had just read John 7 where Jesus promises us that out of our hearts will flow rivers of living water if we believe in Him.  Every time I sit down to write My TEA CUPP Prayers, I pray that God’s Spirit will overflow from my pen and computer to my community and world.  And here is a promise right from Jesus that He will make it happen!  Instead of water squishing out the soles of my shoes, Living Water will be bursting forth from my soul because of God’s Holy Spirit.

Today’s TEA CUPP: This promise is for YOU, my TEA CUPP friend!  If you believe in Jesus, out of your heart will flow rivers of living water.  Wherever you go, you will spread the love of Jesus and be a blessing, on the road running, at the races, in the gym, while worshiping at church…out of your heart will flow rivers of living water!

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”  John 4:10 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.