Rules Matter! Run to Win the Prize

Rules matter, guiding every area of life. Competitors must run according to the rules in order to win a prize. In far too many competitions, someone becomes exposed for breaking the rules in an attempt to reach the top of the podium. Why is twisting and bending any or all regulations so common — not just in athletics but in every aspect of life? Whether in sports, politics, business, or even ministry, people willingly risk disqualification or loss of reputation to attain perceived goals.

“Isn’t it obvious that all runners on the racetrack keep on running to win, but only one receives the victor’s prize? Yet each one of you must run the race to be victorious. A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor’s crown that will last forever. For that reason, I don’t run just for exercise or box like one throwing aimless punches, but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under my control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won’t be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Here, Paul lays out strategic guidelines for success for virtually any area of life. Rules matter!

Know Your Lane

Whether in baseball, motor sports, swimming or track events, each participant runs within an assigned position or designated lane. Lanes ensure safety for the competitors and fairness in the competition.

What lane has God called you to run in? Is it within business or finance? Maybe your lane focuses on caring for and loving your family or community well. Is it shepherding a church? Or perhaps teaching or writing? Are you running in your designated lane?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28

God calls each one of us according to His perfect purpose and design for us. He equips and empowers us to fulfill specific roles. When we know and intentionally run in the lane God has called us to, our lives become exciting and fulfilled.

Whether you a professional dragster or an elementary school sprinter, knowing your lane determines your starting position and the course ahead! If you are unsure which position God has called you to run, ask Him for clarity and allow Him to show you.

Rules matter. The most important rule is staying within the lane God provides.

“Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.”
2 Timothy 2:5

Discipline and Self-Control

We will all start the race at some point, but too few will complete it. Perhaps, a lack of self-discipline or self-control hinders us from staying the course. Whatever the goal or purpose, these qualities will help successfully carry us from start to finish.

A good start doesn’t guarantee a great finish! Sacrifice marks the road to victory. Just as rules matter, so does character.

“. . . we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3

Though not a contest, entering God’s “race” comes with a physicaly, emotionaly, and often financial cost. However as we run our race, we experience many benefits. God brings out the best in us, deepening our character.

Titus lists qualifying characteristics of those who lead the pack:

“Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”
Titus 1:8

These attributes form the personal character needed for a great finish to any race we begin.

Oh, my fellow runners, let’s not slow our pace or deviate from our course. May we remain faithful to run with perseverance, character, and hope.

Champion Others

The race we run resembles a relay or a marathon more than a solo sprint. Others run with and beside us. Still more will follow in our footsteps.

As we devote ourselves to run our race, may we champion others — encouraging, training, and developing those co-laboring with us.

We have opportunity daily to choose whether to wear the mantle of encourager or that of a critic. May any encouragement be sincere and all critqueing be given with humility, inspiring listeners to press beyond their expectations.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Matthew 7:1-2

May we refuse to look over our shoulders, judging others for running in a different manner than we would. Criticism inevitably causes us to lose personal momentum, veer off track, or even break godly guidelines of good stewardship of gifts and resources. Rules matter!

What strategies for success can we pass on? How can we help someone else meet and surpass their goals? What tools, resources, or influence can we share?

May we humbly and willingly both receive and pass on the baton of encouragement, creating a synergy of wins.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

God rewards those who diligently seek Him.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:12-14

Through the days, weeks, and years of training, a competitor strains toward the goal, the highest prize possible— the top mark, the highest rank.

Every earthly award will eventually break or lose its luster. In a few short weeks or years, it will fade into insignificance.

As Christians, we run or compete, not for human recognition, but to finish the course God has set before us. Everything will pale in comparison to hearing the King of Glory say,

” . . . Well done, good and faithful servant! . . .”
Matthew 25:23

Let us not become distracted. Rules matter! Staying the course matters! Character matters! Passing the baton and keeping focus matters, too. But maintaining sight of eternity guides us along a straight and purposeful path “heavenward.”

Run Well

Maybe you feel like you have tripped up too badly to continue. Today, I encourage you to restart and refocus. No matter how tragic your fall, with God’s help, restart. Move back into your lane and step-by-step aim for the finish line.

None of us know how much time we have left to run. Today, God offers us a fresh start and a new opportunity to gain ground. He is the God of second chances.

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity . . . “
Ephesians 5:15-16

You can do it! God is on your side, while forerunners in heaven and on earth cheer you on!

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A Correction Line: Correction and Discipline

God offers a correction line to bring both correction and discipline into our lives, realigning us to His intentions for us, while progressively bringing us to perfection.

Yesterday, I left home early for an appointment, allowing ample time to drop a package off for a friend who lived in the country. I thought I remembered the approximate distance and appropriate landmarks for each necessary turn. Perhaps my energetic off-tune singing and enthusiastic enjoyment of the open landscape influenced my obvious lack of concentration. Nonetheless, I soon entered unfamiliar territory. When I crossed the correction line, I knew I had missed the turning point and was heading further and further away from my intended destination.

You might ask, “What is a correction line?”

Simply put, a correction line marks the places where a north-south grid road jogs to correct for the northward convergence of meridians. In other words, they indicate minor corrections in direction to ensure a traveller always heads due north or south. If our world formed a perfect cube, rather than a sphere, such corrections would be unnecessary.

Correction LIne

I hope you see the parallel to where I’m leading with this blog. I want my life directed to the true spiritual north, focused and heading toward the heart and purposes of God. Often, however, I sway off course (sometimes slightly, sometimes severely) and need realignment. Thankfully, God offers just that. Unfortunately, it usually comes through His correction line called discipline.

A Sign of Love

May there be no misunderstanding; I never purposely seek His correction. Nonetheless, God’s discipline clearly demonstrates His love for me and all those who He identifies as His children.

“My child, don’t reject the LORD’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.”
Proverbs 3:11,12

I often find it difficult to accept His discipline. It absolutely upsets me to realize how far from His ways I so easily wander. Afterward, I usually understand more clearly.

Of all the ways God reveals His love, I discover it most profound through the path of correction. I realize the graciousness of His love as I experience His discipline offered without shame or harshness. He corrects with a gentle invitation to adjust my course and realign myself with His heart and ways.

Road through Fog

Without God’s correction, I would continue aimlessly down a path dangerous to me and others. His correction line alerts me to my internal blind spots, resetting my course.

Rewards of Correction

God’s Word reveals the benefits of correction. First, it brings holiness, causing one to become more like the Heavenly Father. Second, it produces peacefulness in our lives — a peacefulness both internal and external, both with God and others.

“For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”
Hebrews 12:10-11

Some of the hardest lessons I’ve learned came through the painful road of discipline. Yet, beyond a doubt, lessons learned well and solidified in my life. God intends our ears to be willingly open to His continuous instruction, avoiding the more difficult path of later, more public, correction by others.

Country Road

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
2 Timothy 3:16

The Greek word for correct used in Timothy also means “to set right again or to make straight — specifically to correct moral posture.”1 The Holy Spirit desires to activate His Word within us. He longs to be the Driver at the steering wheel constantly correcting the vehicle of our life down the highway of progressive growth and development — imperceptibly shifting and compensating to avoid our drifting toward the hazardous ditches of complacency and arrogance.

God Invites

The gentle whisper of God leading me through and around several correction lines continues to fill this current transitional season. For a few weeks, we were “homeless.” Shacked up in a hotel with every rhythm, normalcy, and busyness of life silently stripped away, I found myself uncomfortably face to face with nothing but God. Not visibly, but remarkably tangible. Prayer, Bible study, listening and waiting in His Presence occupied the majority of my days.

Repeatedly, He revealed hidden areas of off-centered thinking, misplaced motivation, hard-hearted attitudes, and self-centered agendas. He pointed out each ugly deformity with stunning clarity, but without condemnation. He simply invited me to see as He sees.

Though God can and will allow painful infliction and punishment to realign His loved ones, He chooses first to draw us with loving-awareness of our errors. Only when we refuse to listen will He then come with greater and greater force. He offers the choice to either listen and respond to His correction or to persist along a dangerous path.

Most people, including me, would consider my spiritual life stable and healthy. God leads us beyond comfortable stability to genuine and pure — to the more!

The church in Ephesus perhaps held the noted position of being one of the strongest New Testament churches. Yet, Paul wrote,

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
Ephesians 1:17-19

Bends in Road

Supernaturally, God reveals hidden motivations. He leads through His correction line with wisdom, revelation, and enlightenment to His better way. Through discipline, the “eyes of my heart” open, leaving me amazed how I could miss something so obviously off-course in my life.

Embrace Correction

I struggle to fully rest in God’s Presence, receiving both encouragement and correction. But oh, my friend, what benefits result! May we each embrace whatever God reveals and offers to us.

“But consider the joy of those corrected by God! Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin.”
Job 5:17

As I encounter correction lines along the grid roads surrounding our city, I automatically reduce my speed, proceeding with confidence knowing I am heading in the right direction. Correction lines give me the assurance I’m traveling due north and release the freedom to enjoy the journey. This holds true of both my country drives and spiritual walk.

Each correction presents an opportunity to either welcome or reject His discipline. Joy accompanies the knowledge that God has better things ahead for those who yield to His leading.

Open Road

Whenever I allow God’s correction, I find Him nearer than I thought, more loving than I imagined, more gentle than I perceived, more holy, inviting, merciful, awesome, wondrous, and amazing than I hoped. Will you follow me through the open country of God’s gracious discipline, rejoicing in His great love and goodness through correction?

(1. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament: p. 613)

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Invincible Warriors With Supernatural Weapons – No More Excuses

Do you know that we are invincible warriors with supernatural weapons — strategic members of a great and mighty army? So what holds us back? There is no reason for excuses. What keeps us from marching in unison — powerful, and focused?

Common elements necessary for military success and the advancing of God’s kingdom include discipline, humility and ownership. They are supernatural weapons.

The bible often uses two Greek words together: “egnokamen” and “pepisteukemen”. They mean “to know (understand, recognize, are conscious of by observation and experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on). When our knowledge, experience, and faith unite a powerful synergy erupts.

We must recognize and gain knowledge of our weapons, using them through faith, to become invincible warriors.

Valleys

There are two valleys in the bible that warriors avoid.

“Multitudes, multitudes
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision.”
Joel 3:14

Warrior weapons

Procrastination dominates the Valley of Decision, “I can’t because ______.” “There is no one to help me.” “What if I fail?” “I don’t know how.” Excuses defeat an army’s opportunity of success before they even enter the battle.

Valley dwellers are a peculiar breed. I should know, I am one! Valley dwellers don’t like risk. They prefer security and safety. Lingering too long, however, and this valley turns into another dreaded location.

“The hand of the LORD was on me,
and he brought me out
by the Spirit of the LORD
and set me in the middle of a valley;
it was full of bones.
He led me back and forth among them,
and I saw a great many bones
on the floor of the valley,
bones that were very dry.”
Ezekiel 37:1-2

The common denominator appears to be “many” and “multitudes”. Multitudes of fossilized dead — undecided, disconnected, lifeless, “very dry”.

Prophecy

How long had these bones, picked clean by vultures, lay disassembled on the valley floor? What life once formed their existence?

“So faith comes from hearing,
and hearing through the Word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

God tells Ezekiel to Prophesy to these bones and say to them,Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!…'” (Ezek. 37:4) The Word of God fused knowing and believing, experience and faith.

Invincible warriors with supernatural weapons

Prophecy speaks God’s present word. Alignment with the conversation of heaven makes anything possible — then and now. Ezekiel obeyed.

“So I prophesied as he commanded me,
and breath entered them;
they came to life and stood up on their feet
— a vast army.”
Ezekiel 37:10

Only God resurrects “dry bones” into a vast army of invincible warriors. No longer full of excuses, paralyzed by fear, or dead, an army rises from the valley floor — the lowest place.

You may become slightly confused looking at me: once solid muscles sag; a small frame fluffed with excess weight; femininity wrinkled and faded. Not your image of invincible warrior? But look again!

Knowing and believing,
experience and faith,
working deep in co-existing momentum
creating internal change.

Valley dwelling becomes increasingly uncomfortable and no longer optional. I’ve been in training! Secret service training!

Disciplined

The first essential discipline of invincible warriors is the study of God’s Word.

“For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes
of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12

Paul tells Timothy, “the Holy Scriptures…make you wise…is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2Tim.3:15-16) A necessity to prepare and equip every soldier for the task ahead!

Archer ready for battle

The second and equally important discipline is prayer. Jesus patterned the need to pray: early in the morning, at the end of a busy day, even all night long.

“But Jesus often withdrew
to lonely places and prayed.”
Luke 5:16

The third, taking thoughts captive, becomes possible after the first two disciplines.

“For though we live in the world,
we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with
are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power
to demolish strongholds.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-4

Every battle is first won in our minds. The wise never battle without the supernatural weapon of discipline.

Humility of Invincible Warriors

Do you ever feel you’ve joined the enemy ranks? I have! Pride forfeits the use of our most powerful weapon — humility. It also puts us in direct opposition to God.

“…God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
James 4:6

Humility

Every biblical leader who chose to humbly submit to God experienced remarkable military exploits. They lead armies victoriously into battle against overwhelming odds:

  • Abraham’s 318 defeated the armies of Babylon
  • Judge Deborah and Barak went against the Canaanites with a vast army and 900 iron chariots
  • Gideon with 300 defeated the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern people, “thick as locust. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.” (Judges 7:12)
  • Elisha blinded, trapped, and fed the entire Syrian army, before sending them home.

Often when Israel clothed herself in humility before God, He threw the enemy into such disarray she only had to gather the plunder. Invincible warriors submit to their Commander.

“In order for the Church
to accomplish her last-day mandate…
we need the grace and anointing of God.
Because God gives grace to the humble,
we must learn to take every opportunity
we get to humble ourselves.”
Rick Joyner

Taking Ownership

God’s highest ranking warriors are disguised changing diapers, sweeping streets, driving trucks, mowing grass, and working fields. Common people with the supernatural weapon of humility. Quietly doing whatever God asks — unnoticed, unpraised, unrecognized — powerful instruments in the Kingdom of God. Invincible warriors own responsibility!

A common denominator among God’s history makers is the willingness to take ownership of themselves and their “world”. When cultural perspectives shift and become warped, they stand and say, “Not here! Not on my watch!”

Ownership - It's up to you!

A Philistine giant, Goliath, taunted Israel day after day, until the whole army was “dismayed and terrified”. (1 Samuel 17:11) A young shepherd boy came along! David took ownership of the situation. He didn’t blame the army for being frightened. He didn’t talk the fowl-mouthed enemy down peacefully. David stepped forward.

That difference impacted everyone who witnessed the supernatural work of God through one young, invincible warrior. David raised up 30 more fearless leaders and a vast army who delivered Israel from her enemies..

“Don’t let anyone look down on you
because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech,
in conduct, in love, in faith, and impurity.”
1 Timothy 4:12

As one experienced in battle, Paul commanded young Timothy, “Don’t make excuses! Do what you are called to do! Own your leadership!” Paul’s last words to Timothy describe a true warrior,

“I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
and I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7

No More Excuses

Blaming, finger pointing and giving excuses abound in Christian circles. Changing that error starts with me!

When I am willing to adopt the disciplines of a warrior, humbly serving wherever God calls, and taking ownership of my sphere of influence, I become one of His “invincible warriors”.

Joshua clearly put the decision to the Israelites,

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you,
then choose for yourselves this day
whom you will serve…
But as for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:14-15

May the combination of knowing and believing, experience and faith, lead us out of the Valley of Decision and past the Valley of Dry Bones, raising us up to become a mighty army. The supernatural weapons we carry are the practical tools of discipline, humility and taking ownership in battle as we serve God.

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