A Dead Heat

 

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 many who are first will be last, and the last first. Matthew 19:30 (NKJV)

Have you heard of a dead heat?  In the sports world, it’s when two or more athletes cross the finish line at exactly the same time, making determining the winner a challenging task. 

There have been many famous dead heats over the years, from high school sports to the Olympics Games.  Just Google “Dead Heat finishes in track and field”  and you will find a proliferation of examples.   One cool finish I found was of the 100 m final race at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.  If you’d like to watch it, check this out…A Dead Heat.

But why do I bring this up today?  Because recently I was reading Jesus’ Parable of the Laborers in Matthew 20. Jesus told the story of a landowner who goes out early one morning to hire workers for his field.  They agree on a wage for the day and get to work.  At 9 a.m. the landowner goes out to hire more workers for the day for the same wages.  At noon and 3 p.m. he again hires workers for the same wages.  And at 5 p.m. he hires the last group.  When evening comes, all the workers come for their pay and receive exactly the same wage, one denarius. 

Of course, the workers who began early in the day grumble about this. Author John MacArthur in his study Bible explains this amazing story, how the landowner choose to be generous, just as God is compassionate and merciful on His people.  In response to verse 20:16 “So the last will be first, and the first last…” MacArthur explains, “In other words, everyone finishes in a dead heat.”  As Christians, we will all finish in a dead heat when we get to heaven, the thief on the cross, Rev. Billy Graham, the baby born yesterday and you! 

The crowds (angels) in the stadium will cheer and glorify God as crowns are awarded to every finisher.  And if it’s anything like the one time I ran a marathon, we will collapse into the arms of Jesus in thanksgiving. 

 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. 1 Peter 5:4 (NKJV)

The Runner’s TEA CUPP:  Read the Parable of the Laborers in Matthew 20:1-16.  Celebrate that we will all cross the finish line together in a dead heat.  Who can you tell about Jesus today, so they can join you in crossing the finish line?

Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8 (NKJV)

Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.  Revelation 3:11 (NKJV)

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!  Job 19:25-27 (NKJV)

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

 

Passing the Baton

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!

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 2:16 (NKJV)

Perhaps the most crucial point in a relay race is the passing of the baton.  Athletes practice for weeks, carefully timing the perfect hand-off.  Coaches hold their eyes on the baton, willing it to stay in the hands of the runners.  Parents watch from the bleachers, holding their collective breaths until the baton is securely in the hand of the next runner.  Then the crowd erupts in cheers for the runner until the next passing of the baton.  A relay race can be both nerve-wracking and beautiful, depending upon the success of the baton passers.

Dear running friend, you’ve been given a baton to pass, too.  You have this faith in Jesus which has been growing every day as you’ve read your Bible.  The Holy Spirit has taught you so many truths about God.  And now He is calling You to share your faith with others.  We are called to pass the baton of faith in Christ Jesus to our friends, and strangers, and the next generation.  

We will not hide them from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.  Psalm 78:4 (NKJV)

Just as Ananias passed the baton to Paul (Acts 9) who passed it to Timothy (1 Timothy) and all the churches of the New Testament, just as Peter passed the baton to 3000 people at Pentecost (Acts 2), just as my friends Dawn, Paulette, and others pointed me to Jesus so I could pass Him on to my children and to you…Jesus is calling you to do the same.  He says, “teach them to your children and your grandchildren,” (Deut. 4:9) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 29:19) and “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

I imagine the angels are watching from their heavenly bleachers, cheering us on as we carry our batons.  We practice for weeks at Bible study, praying for the right words to say.  The angels keep their eyes on the baton as we pass it to our friends and family.  Sometimes we fumble it and the angels sigh. But we are given another chance and they let out a cheer when we succeed, for there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7).  

Today’s TEA CUPP:  Ask the Lord to lay someone upon your heart, someone with whom you can share Jesus, passing your baton of faith.  Go, dear runner, you can do it!  The Lord is with you!

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)

Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  Psalm 34:11 (NKJV)

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

More than a Running Buddy

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 have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:15 (NKJV)

It’s great to have a Running Buddy. As I plod along the highway at the break of dawn, one foot after another, sometimes on pavement, sometimes on the gravel or grassy shoulder, I am not alone. If you drive by me, I may smile and wave a hand if I’m paying attention, yet often I’m lost in thought, lost in prayer with my Best Friend.

We were up together long before the sunrise, as we shared a CUPP of TEA and several Bible verses together. He spoke through His Word and I tried really hard to listen. I shared what I heard back to Him and poured out my heart for loved ones. Then we both looked at the clock and realized it was time to strap on the running shoes and continue our talk outside.

My run began much like my prayer time with singing a song in my head of THANKSGIVING to my Best Friend. Then I sang another song of praising and EXALTING, because HE is such an awesome Friend. But now as my feet hit the road, I think about how wonderful my Friend is, I realize how far I fall short, how I mess up and sin. So, I sing a song for ADMITTING my sins to Him and He forgives me and washes me clean.

Continuing down the highway, I sing songs about my CALLING, and UNDERSTANDING my story, and claiming His PROMISES. Finally, I finish my PETITIONS with The Lord’s Prayer, the best prayer of all. I’m so thankful for our Lord Jesus. He is way more than a Running Buddy, He is the Savior of my soul, my Redeemer, the One who paid my debt on the cross, my Comforter, my Guide, my Life.

Long ago two camp friends went for a walk together. They told us how an onlooker saw three people walking along the road, yet it was just the two of them. They knew the third person was Jesus, because they were praying at the time. Perhaps when I am running, you will see my Running Buddy with me, but that’s okay if you don’t, for I know He is always there.

…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age… Matthew 28:20 (NKJV)

The Runner’s TEA CUPP: Won’t you bring a Friend with you on your run today? Invite Jesus to be your Running Buddy for life. Let your morning Bible time flow right into your morning exercises as you continue your prayers on the run.

Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.
Psalm 25:4-5 (NKJV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

P.S. Here are some of my favorite running songs…

T: Give Thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever… (Tomlin)

E: O God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You… (Strasser)

A: Amazing Grace/My chains are gone, I’ve been set free… (Newton & Tomlin)

C: Make me a servant, humble and meek… (Willard)

U: I believe in God the Father… (Travis Ryan)

P: He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it… (Steve Green)

P: I will cast all my cares upon you… (Willard)

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.