Proverbs 4:23 “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.”
You are near and dear to God. He loves you more than you can imagine, and He wants the very best for you. And one more thing: God wants you to guard your heart. Every day, you are faced with choices; more choices than you can count. You can do the right thing or not. You can be prudent or not. You can be kind, and generous, and obedient to God or not.
Friends, today the world will offer you countless opportunities to let down your guard. So be watchful and obedient. Guard your heart by giving it to your Heavenly Father; it is safe with Him.
Have you ever come to that place when everything in your life seems to be going wrong? I am talking about the times when it is just one thing after another. Have you ever just looked up to heaven and said, “Will this ever stop?” Well, I have. There are times when we need to cry out to God. We also need to rest in the assurance, given to us in His Word, that he will hear and deliver us.
“ When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17 (ESV)
Dear God, In the times when I cry out to you for help; let me be assured that you not only hear me but that you listen and care for me.
“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering,” (Hebrews 2:10 NIV).
The glory of a craftsman is his ability to use the ordinary to create the extraordinary. Whether building a racing machine, a hot rod, sculpting a statue, designing a skyscraper, or writing a story that catches your attention, when it hits the bull’s eye, it’s something to behold.
In another sense of the word, the glory of an athlete is his or her ability to use their skills to seize the moment and turn it into home run, a touchdown, a goal, a great shot, or cross the finish line first. Glory refers to that which exceeds or excels.
In suggesting we imitate Christ, Thomas a’ Kempis offered this prayer, “O everlasting Light, surpassing all created luminaries, flash forth thy lightening from above, piercing all the most inward parts of my heart. Make clean, make glad, make bright, and make alive my spirit, with all powers thereof, that I may cleave unto thee in ecstasies of joy.”
Residing in every human heart are dreams of glory. The realities of life and our body limitations tend to squelch many of those dreams.
Our society desperately needs to “rev up” to a spirit of excellence, but unfortunately, many are content with mediocrity. Most people are tempted to settle for less than their finest effort. Merely has become the enemy of best. Christ has called us to glory. Christ appeals to us to allow His excellence to shine through us until everything that is unworthy of His presence is crowded out.
“Nature would be scarcely worth a puff of the empty wind if it were not that all nature is but a temple, of which God is the brightness and glory.” (Henry Ward Beecher)
Every one of us has a life map. Have you looked at yours lately? Do you see yourself growing in your racing program? Are you growing in your relationships? Are you growing in wisdom that demonstrates you are a mature human being that loves life and all it has to offer? Do you see yourself growing in your ability to discern what road you must take to get you where you need to be in the future?
As humans, we must assess our progress from time to time to make sure we are on the proper course of life. You may ask, what is my proper course in life? Where should I be at this time in my life? I can’t answer that question for you…if you want to know what’s true…you may need something new…it’s not a boat painted blue…going toe-to-toe with a kangaroo…or a stylish new hairdo…simply join the Lord’s crew.
Racing may put some people on the map as far as motorsports is concerned, and it may leave a noble legacy for a few high profile individuals, but the great majority of the drivers will go unnoticed by the world.
Publications like the “Drag Boat Review” map out the racing for us during a single season, and at times, it digs back into history and spells out some of the great moments in the sport that we all love. Therefore, racing in itself is a map that motor heads follow in order to get their fill of the spectacular events that take place across the USA.
On a typical road map, you can trace out where the next race will be, and that particular event truly does have an effect on untold thousands of people, but racing is only a small part of our existence—while trying to find our way to eternity.
Thankfully, there are motorsports ministries all around the nation that are trying to help racers map out the other aspect of life—the spiritual side—while in the midst of living out their passion for competition and their need for speed. If you have a need for speed, your map is much different from my map.
Meanwhile, as life goes on, there is a book [a map of sorts] about experience, expression, education and exaltation; the Bible. It spells out the practical experience of what others went through for our edification. Practical expression of how others lived their lives as examples. Practical education of what others gained in wisdom for our own personal existence. Practical exaltation is a prerequisite in our race to take pleasure in eternity.
In the Old Testament, there were experiences in the lives of many believers who pioneered the way for future believers, i.e. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Jonah, and the prophets. The book of Job (the oldest known book of the Bible) for example altruistically portrayed the death of self—such as self-goodness, self-wisdom, and self-religion.
The poetry of the book of Psalms expresses the value of new life with God [in Christ], with all of life’s ups, downs, hopes, fears, and triumphs. “The Psalms are a book for the heart in the heart of the Book.” (Sidlow Baxter)
The incredible wisdom found in the book of Proverbs gives practical education [wisdom] for living from childhood, to adolescence, to man or womanhood, in marriage, and right up until your time on earth has come to the end [or edge] of the map.
Other books, such as Ecclesiastes is based on the way we should look philosophically at our existence in our experiences, expressions, and education. And the book Song of Songs depicts the wonderful intimacy between a man and a woman [men definitely need this map].
Mankind’s spiritual progress is the proper way of dealing with self. The expressions of our new life in Christ are our disciplines for living, such as the separation between the wholehearted Christian and the worldly citizen. Lastly, our journey is coming to the end of life’s road through personal commitment and communion with God.
Exaltation [adoration] comes in many forms to man, such as world champion, record holder, star power, big contracts, prestige, and even being worshipped by others.
Racing magazines don’t teach about life, as they simply show how life is in the world of motorsports, and how it looks and appeals in the eyes of racers and fans. I remember before I got saved, racing periodicals was what I perceived as the best reading material, period.
The Bible is an unconventional map: Its sole purpose is to guide you on the course of salvation. “It’s a geographical guide to a man’s heart with obstacles and entrances clearly marked.” (Katherine Harmon)
The moment you first believed was like opening a new map for the first time. The map was large, covering many areas. The map was intricate, showing many places of interest. The map was full of information, offering many destinations along the way, but only one true road to eternal life.
A map of the world offers many irreligious destinations and dangerous stops “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly,” (Romans 5:6).
Okay. Where has drag racing taken you? Where have your relationships taken you? Where has parenthood taken you? Where has your job taken you? Where has athletics taken you? Better yet, where has God taken you?
The Lord can allow you to enjoy a tree…to see the flight of a bee…gaze at the moon and stars and say gee…playing a game with a little white ball sitting on a tee…driving a drag boat and saying weeee…meeting a good friend named Lee…having a good laugh and belting out a simple tee hee…knowing there’s no I in team because it’s about we…learning life really isn’t about me…and eventually understand that Christ paid the eternal fee.
Right now, in your life map, you may be young, middle aged, or elderly, or on your way there…maybe without a care…after you have laid your life bare…even if you haven’t felt you got a fair share…or not sure what to wear…or knew it wasn’t the apple in the tree but that first couple as a pair…but your life still has time to spare.
So my friends, if you want your life map to lead you and others to the place where you can find peace and contentment in life: Don’t let racing, working, or living get you down because there is hope for everyone. Simply allow your personal map to guide you to the place where your eternal destination was headed for in the first place.
The poet William Arthur Ward said, “I will do more than belong—I will participate. I will do more than care—I will help. I will do more than believe—I will practice. I will do more than be fair—I will be kind. I will do more than forgive—I will forget. I will do more than dream—I will work. I will do more than teach—I will inspire. I will do more than learn—I will enrich. I will do more than give—I will serve. I will do more than live—I will grow. I will do more than suffer—I will triumph.” As humans, we must do whatever it takes to find our place on the map of life!
The book of Genesis is a garden pregnant with buried seeds: The beginning of the world, creation of man, introduction of sin, and the grace of salvation. The same light shines from all the pages, but the degree of light increases as the revelation progresses.
God’s map transports you into a “world of unruliness,” but “grace” fully points you in the direction of God’s love. God’s map transports you into a “realm of worldly confusion,” but gently steers you on the road to righteousness. God’s map transports you into a “state” of peace with heavenly estates. God’s map transports you to a “residence” offering an openhearted floor plan. God’s map transports you to a “place” of rest when the world keeps going by faster and faster. God’s map saves you from the treachery of the devil, and grants your greatest wish—eternal life.
“How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of your word,” (Psalm 119:9 The Message). Young or old, God’s map will lead you where to go. From the very beginning of time, God has warned mankind: If we choose rebellion, we are choosing distance rather than intimacy, death rather than life. It’s not time to sing rap…or be a sap…take a nap…or sit on someone’s lap…it’s time to take a good look at God’s map…because Christ stands in the gap.
Suffering and Beauty
Suffering – pain that is caused by injury, illness, loss, physical, mental or emotional pain.
Beauty – the quality in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind and spirit.
So I ask, in the midst of suffering is there beauty? How can there be, for suffering and beauty are on opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s not possible. Or is it?
The suffering: May I share mine and my family’s story…it is a very long one, hence I will dispense with the details. Our 18 months in a raging sea……
My 90 year old mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, was placed into a nursing home.
My sister, who suffers from schizophrenia, lived with my mother and now has nowhere to live. The home we grew up in was in a reverse mortgage and it had to be sold.
It sold in less than a week and closing in 1 month. We had 1 month to sort, pack-up, clean and move 50 years worth of belongings out.
I had 1 month to find a place for my sister to live.
During this time our sump pump died at our house and the basement flooded in the middle of night.
Had to sort and clean our basement.
In the midst of all this our 29 year old son was in a car accident, hitting a tree and totaled our brand new Camaro.
He worked for us driving a semi truck we purchased the year before. He loses his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). We have no driver but payments to make on the truck.
A few weeks later my husband, Steve, had a heart attack and triple by-pass surgery.
Our daughter, Jess, a wife and mother of our toddler grandson, is a juvenile diabetic. She develops retinopathy in both eyes and begins to undergo laser surgeries on her eyes. One eye does not respond and she risks losing her vision.
Her body rejects the insulin pump and she has to go back to multiple injections daily.
In August, Jess began having breathing difficulties. She was treated unsuccessfully for bronchitis & asthma. Then she was tested for allergies which came back negative.
Our 39 year old niece passed away after many years of battling MS.
Steve’s brother is diagnosed with MS.
The New Year begins.
Mom is declining rapidly. They give her 1 month to live; hospice is called in.
I awake one morning with hearing loss in one ear. I’m diagnosed with Menier’s Disease. My hearing may or may not return.
My eldest sister’s birthday is on February 27. February 28 Mom goes home to be with her Lord and Savior.
Funeral planning begins with the funeral on March 7.
Our son’s birthday is March 11. I take husband, Steve, to ER at 3 am for extreme stomach pain. He’s admitted.
March 13 Steve has gallbladder surgery. I go home at 11 pm bringing bouquet of flowers Steve received. It has a lily in it. Our cat eats part of it, then we’re off to the animal ER. Lilies are toxic to cats which causes renal failure. Our cat is hospitalized.
Steve is still in the hospital when my sister is brought to another hospital’s ER for crushing chest pains. She’s admitted for testing.
My cousin’s 29 year old daughter is called Home after years of battling a cancerous brain tumor.
April 25 bank calls to inform me my debit card has been breached.
May 7 we have a small bonfire. We burn some of the bags of junk from Mom’s house. An aerosol can explodes like a missile and hits my “bad” knee. I can’t walk. ER yet again.
Jess receives news; she has cancer cells on her cervix.
May 24 Jess finally gets results on her breathing test. She has a tumor in her bronchi blocking her right lung 100%.
June 5 our house A/C breaks down.
June 6 my eldest sister has foot surgery.
June 9 Jess has surgery on her cervix.
June 18 she has bronchoscopy with biopsy.
June 19 my sister is having serious digestive problems and has medical testing.
June 27 I get call from Jess, the tumor is cancer.
July is filled with multiple doctor and oncologist appointments, as well as scans to see if the cancer has spread.
Aug 1 Jess has surgery to remove the tumor. They may have to remove part or all of her lung.
Aug 8 Jess has a rare complication, damaged lymph gland during surgery. All her fats, proteins and electrolytes are pouring out of the chest tubes. They have to reopen her chest, find damaged gland and suture it.
Aug 13 she comes home.
Aug 15 she has another rare complication. Her temp is 93 degrees; she’s pale white and extremely weak. Her body is in shock with pericardial effusion.
She has emergency surgery to cut a hole in the pericardial sac and drain the fluid from around her heart.
During these past months, we are having difficulties finding a good driver for our semi. Aug 30 our son gets his CDL back and starts driving the semi again.
Sept 13 he gets pulled over and ticketed. He loses his CDL again.
Sept 9 and 23 Jess has bronchoscopes to check healing. There is too much mucus built up. She is having difficulty breathing again. They send her to Loyola to a specialist.
Oct 2 I have my mammogram. They find multiple suspicious areas and immediately do an ultrasound.
Oct 6 my eldest sister has her 2nd foot surgery.
Oct 22 Jess has laser surgery at Loyola. Her bronchi has healed forming a tight stricture with only a pinhole size opening she is breathing through. They put a stint in to hold it open. Stint is blocking upper right lung lobe. She is at risk of developing pneumonia or having the stint move out of place.
Oct 25 she is not feeling well, coughing fits and difficulty breathing. She goes back to the ER.
Oct 27 my sister goes to ER for pain and blood in urine.
Nov 5 our son is thrown off a quad while going 50 mph. He’s taken by ambulance to the ER. His back is injured badly with fractures to 3 vertebrae and a fractured nose.
11/12 my sister has an ultrasound to rule out bladder cancer.
11/17 my knee is still painful from trauma injury in May. I go in for a MRI.
This brings us up to the present time.
I warned you it was long! Yes, our family has suffered much heartache, pain and extreme difficulties in a very few short months. My friends and co-workers are afraid to inquire how my family is doing. They cannot bear to hear about one more painful struggle. It brings their hopes down. Yet, I, by God’s great love, mercy and grace can see beyond the sufferings and I see great beauty! I see God’s beauty, His protection, His goodness and His faithfulness to our family. Have I had moments of great despair, doubt and weeping? Moments when I cried out to God and asked Him when would the suffering stop? Yes! I am weak. I am human. But, God has tenderly held me close. He has wiped my tears with His blessings, with His love. HE has given me strength to stand firmly grounded, trusting Him. I’ve had so much to learn spiritually, so much growth, the GOOD stuff that only comes through our being in a storm tossed sea.
I can share with my friends and co-workers that it is ONLY because of my Abba Daddy when they express (with wonder because they don’t understand) that they admire and appreciate my joy and positive outlook. They can get a glimpse of God’s beauty. That in itself is a huge blessing! Is there beauty in suffering? An astounding YES! Yes, there is! Christ is our ultimate example!
God gave me a promise, an answer to my prayers for my children and grandchildren to be mighty in His Kingdom. It may sound odd, but I see all this as His plan unfolding for His promise. When we consider the “what-ifs” that could have happened, how things could have turned a different direction, it is so clearly evident God’s loving, mighty hands have been upon my children, upon us. It is painfully difficult as their mother to see them struggle through this all, but I see a beautiful and wondrous future by God’s amazing grace, mercy, love, and faithfulness. I know this deep within my heart. And, my! Oh, what He is doing within me! I’m amazed I am not a huge puddle of whimpering muck. Rather, I am growing by bounds in faith! This faith that God has and continues to give me is His gift. I am so incredibly humbled, and overwhelmingly thankful! I will continue to praise Him with shouts of joy! For He is always and forever good!
“And provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:3
God provided a wonderful nursing home and caring staff for my mother. (God’s provision)
The house sold quickly even in the poor market. Medicare ran out and the house sale provided a way for mom to stay in nursing home. (God’s provision)
God jogged my memory that a woman from my parent’s church offered to have my sister live with her if the time ever came. I was in prayer when it happened. (Holy Spirit)
Our son was not injured at all when he hit the tree. The front and rear of the car was crushed, the frame detached, but the driver door was perfectly untouched. (No explanation but God’s protection.)
My husband’s heart attack was very mild and thus his heart had minimal damage. (God’s protection)
With Steve out of work and healing, we didn’t have to worry about how to make the Camaro payments. (God’s provision)
Insurance gave us more than what was left on the Camaro loan, so we had money to use for living expenses while Steve was healing. (God’s provision and care)
Jess has vision in both eyes. (God’s healing)
We were with mom, singing songs of worship and praise. As I sang the words “Fly to Jesus and live” she took her last earthly breath as a tear ran down her cheek. God spoke to my heart and I immediately knew it was a tear of joy as she saw her Savior’s face! She did not leave us on my sister’s birthday. (God’s overwhelming love, compassion, mercy and comfort)
My hearing returned (God’s healing)
Everything went smoothly with final financial dealings. (God’s guiding and providing)
Steve’s gallbladder surgery went smoothly and healed quickly. (God’s protection and healing)
Cat is still fat and healthy (God’s compassion and healing)
My sister did not have a heart attack, but was leading up to one. She did not need surgery. (God’s protection)
My cousin’s daughter loved the Lord so deeply and completely. When asked by her husband and her mom that if she could be healed from this cancer would she want to be, she replied, “No, my heart is already Home in Heaven.” (God’s pursuing love and great grace)
I received a letter from my cousin in which she shared some intimately personal but encouraging moments she had with her daughter before she went Home and about herself after she lost her daughter. These strengthened me beyond words. Little did I know I would soon be traveling down a similar path with my daughter. (God’s tender mercies, unending love and peace)
No one used my breached credit card. (God’s protection)
The aerosol can hit my “bad” knee so I still have a “good” one. It didn’t hit anyone in the face, head or neck. (God’s protection)
They removed all the cervical cancer cells. (God’s guiding hand and healing)
My sister’s 2 surgeries on her foot went well. She had minimal pain and rapid healing. (God’s healing touch)
Other sister’s medical tests came back negative for cancer or anything serious. (God’s healing)
The cancer in Jess’s bronchi is non aggressive. The treatment is removal without radiation or chemo. (God’s mercy & compassion)
They did not need to remove any of her lung. (God’s mercy)
Doctors found the leaking lymph gland quickly and successfully sutured. (God’s guiding)
We celebrated our grandson’s 2nd birthday in Jess’s hospital room. (God’s goodness)
Jess almost died, but God’s hand was upon her and they successfully drained the fluid from around her heart. (God’s mercy & protection)
The suspicious areas in my breasts are not cancer. (God’s protection)
Jess had no pneumonia and stint was in place. She just had lung inflammation and was treated with antibiotics. (God’s protection)
Our son’s vertebrae fractures do not and will not affect his spinal cord. ER doctor was amazed he had no internal injuries or paralysis. (God’s protection)
My MRI came back negative. My knee is normal, so no surgery as of yet. I have had a cortisone shot and therapy. (God’s protection)
This devotional is long, too! So much beauty! God’s beauty! I pray that you can see His beauty in your life, no matter what you may be going through. Can you see it?
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.
Here we see courage on display in the life of Peter and John. These two leaders were thrown in jail for preaching and performing a miracle. When their captors asked about their ministry, Peter boldly asserted that the name of Jesus, not their own talent, had healed the man. He also explained that salvation comes through no other name. What accounted for his boldness? Not his education, but his experience with Jesus.
The season is coming to an end, no not the racing season, but the football season. Next to motorsports, professional football is my favorite sport to spectate. This year the Super Bowl will be held in Phoenix AZ, the city where Kurt Warner finished out his career. Kurt has the greatest rags-to-riches story in the NFL and is considered the best un-drafted player of all time.
He went from stocking shelves at a grocery store to winning the NFL’s MVP award and leading the St. Louis Rams to their first Super Bowl victory in 1999. Two years later Kurt brought them back to the big show for Super Bowl 36 only to suffer a devastating loss to the Patriots from a game-winning field goal as time expired. That following year Kurt and the team became completely unraveled because all they focused on was that loss.
Kurt is eventually let go from the Rams and sent to the Giants and then onto the Arizona Cardinals where he played his last five seasons before retiring. The later part of his carrier is spent fighting injuries and coming on and off the bench. During the 2007 season he relieved the injured 1st string QB Matt Liner and took the Cardinals to the playoffs. The next year he regained the starting position and led the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
The Cinderella storybook season began to look like it came from Hollywood, unfortunately the end to the story did not read, as a screenwriter would have written. The Cardinals lose the Super Bowl when the Steelers are able to put together a last minute game winning drive; defeating the Cardinals as the whole state of Arizona watched in disbelief. The loosing blow delivered a huge heart-break ending to a storybook season and career.
Following the game, Kurt tells Coach Woods and his teammates to focus on everything they accomplished that season and not to focus on the negative like he experienced when he lost the Super Bowl with the Rams. Kurt wasn’t defeated and he would not let his teammates hang their heads in defeat either.
Philippians 4:8-9 MSG Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard, what you saw and what you realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
So when it comes to your performance on the race track last year; a winning season or disappointing season it is in the past. 2015 is time for a fresh start! Just like Kurt Warner said; focus on everything you accomplished and build on that, don’t let last year’s disappointments defeat you.
When it comes to your performance and relationship with Christ; do you feel like you are winning or losing? Just like Paul said focus on the positive and practice what you have learned to be true.
It’s not enough to keep no list of wrongs. We have to cultivate a list of blessings; “Think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.”
Put them into practice & just do it.
Steve G Hanson
Luke 4:1 (NIV)
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert.”
Luke 4:14 (NIV)
“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.”
Jesus came to teach us how to live and act in the fullness of the Spirit.
1) Full of the Spirit
Being filled to capacity, totally engrossed, abundantly supplied, and complete should be our hearts desire. The yearning to be completely filled to capacity, as the Spirit guides us in thoughts, wisdom, and godly decisions. The liberty of living in the Spirit enables us to bring forth God’s will.
2) Led by the Spirit
The honest guidance, holy influence, fully controlled, and the grant of passage, by the commands of a Spirit induced life is a way that delights God and leads the believer down the right path in life.
3) Power of the Spirit
The ability to do or act, with the strength, energy, and authority of God’s commands, the Spirit qualifies us to exercise our calling upon His ability and authority. He empowers us to have boldness to speak as we are led.
Let’s pray that we will all be full of the Spirit today, and that we will all be led by the Spirit, and that we will all go to our homes, jobs, and schools in His power. Amen.
John 13:3 –
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God….
Jesus knew who He was, and He was secure enough to get down on the floor and wash His disciples feet. He didn’t have to prove anything. In fact, He had nothing to prove, nothing to lose, and nothing to hide. The insecure are into titles. The secure are into towels. Jesus’ security enabled Him to both stoop and stretch.
Proverbs 13:15 Good judgment wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.
This is so true! If you think about being “unfaithful”…what generally happens? Let’s see, well, if you are unfaithful to your job – you lose it, if you are an unfaithful student – you fail, if you are an unfaithful spouse – you lose a soul mate, if you are unfaithful to paying your bills – you become homeless. Unfaithfulness leads to destruction. Listen, being unfaithful is not the way to be, being unfaithful is not who God intended YOU to be. Friends, unfaithfulness is ceasing to allow God to work in your life, and soon your unfaithfulness will turn to unbelief. It is time to show good judgment and receive God’s favor in your life. It has to be a way of life…a life filled with hope, opportunity, and eternity….not a life of destruction.