Running, the Christian Walk

The analogy the New Testament uses comparing running to the Christian walk has become more poignant to me recently as I have reignited my love for running in the last year or so. As I wrote about in my most recent post, I am all fired up about running these days.

By the grace of God alone, I am also all fired up about using all I have for His glory. Thus, the fondness for the analogies. First, let’s look at a few of them.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” – Hebrews 12:1

“Do you know know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win … Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
– 1 Corinthians 9:24,26

Considering the comparisons drawn, here are a few takeaways.

Both take discipline

When starting out running, or living the Christian life as a new convert to Christ, it can seem overwhelming. How do I become a proficient runner? How do I grow in my relationship with God through Christ?

The answer boils largely down to discipline. Someone who is serious about either pursuit will get after it with regularity, perhaps even every day. Just as the runner pounds the pavement each day, the Christian prays and pours over the Scriptures daily to get to know the God of the Bible, who has revealed Himself to us in its pages. What seems as a great gap in physical ability or knowledge is slowly, systematically chiseled away by persistence and discipline.

Endurance is built over time

Just as the new runner will probably not be able to run a 10k race the first week, the new Christian will by no means immediately have the answers to all their questions, or have a solid grasp of the coherent story of human redemption woven throughout the pages of the Bible. These things take time. An inordinate amount of time. A lifetime, in fact.

There is always another fitness goal to reach. There is always another question to answer, another passage to scour, another sin to forsake.

As the runner and the Christian continue to plod away toward their respective missions, things begin to change for the better. What once was maybe only two minutes of running before stopping to walk becomes three, then five, then 10, then 45. What once was a mystery about the ways of God becomes a fascination, then a foundation of knowledge as truth after truth is revealed in Scripture and through prayer and fellowship with other Christians. The progress each one makes with consistency is truly remarkable. Which brings me to my next point. 🙂

Progress is established with endurance

In the trenches, sometimes progress goes unnoticed. We want to give up because we don’t see the results of our faithful plodding. Then, miraculously, one day we find that we’ve reached our first fitness goal or that we are getting awfully close, and we think about how far we’ve come.

One day, we may be having a conversation with a friend and a passage of Scripture pops into mind with which we can encourage our friend. Or we find ourselves reacting to a frustrating situation in a way that is far different than how we used to; in a way that shows God’s handiwork in our life.

It is those situations that show us that we do not labor in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Our discipline creates endurance, our endurance produces progress.

Conclusion & Encouragement

If you find yourself in either or both of these challenges, be encouraged. You’re getting better all the time, whether or not you realize it.

To the runner, I recommend you keep a log of all your workouts: distance, time, how you felt, etc. Seeing your stats over time gives a realistic and encouraging look at how far you’ve come, especially on those days when you are questioning your progress.

To the Christian, similar advice applies. Keep a journal of your spiritual progress. When you learn something new in your time with God, write it down. When you’re struggling with a certain sin, write it down. (Also, confess it to God and ask for His help in overcoming it, of course.) When a truth from God hits you in a fresh way, write it down. This journal, just like the runner’s log, will provide immense encouragement as you look back on all the ways God has been working in your life.

Don’t give up. Keep running the race. Keep plodding along. With an eye on the great things already accomplished, know that it just keeps getting better.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 3:14

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Posted in Advice, Bible / Christian Living, Health, Opinion, Running, Self-Improvement | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

On (Almost) Reaching a Long-Held Running Goal

I’m the type of person that prefers tidy endings. I like it when a story wraps up neatly at the end. I use that same preference quite often in the stories I choose to tell: I don’t like to share them until they have a neat little bow wrapped around them, with all the details in place.

This post, then, is a departure from the norm for me. It’s about a story that is still in process.

To bring you up to the current point as briefly as possible, I’ve been running off and on since high school. I started because I figured it was the quickest way to shed a few pounds, and I was right. Once I started, I realized I enjoyed the challenge of it, and I adored the hard-to-quantify feeling of “being in shape.” So I kept at it. (The need to run increased dramatically as I found the “freshman 15” in college, that just didn’t want to go away.)

Fast forward many years, and multiple seasons of running regularly, then not, then back at it, etc. The ebb and flow of my fitness seemed to naturally coincide with not only the busyness of life but how that busyness managed to impact the priority I placed on exercise.

After a couple years of highly inconsistent exercise, I decided it was time to step it back up at the beginning of 2017. I set my sights on the lofty goal of a running pace I had achieved after months of practice in my late 20s when my pant size was smaller and lung capacity larger.

Fast forward to now

Since that time, I’ve been reasonably faithful in pounding the pavement multiple times per week, save for exceptions like being out of town, and the occasional day (or week) when I let the laziness or doubt and fear in my head keep me on the sidelines.

Just this morning, I completed an eight-week interval training program (it only took me 16 weeks! ;)) that excruciatingly takes the user through guided running and sprinting workouts. I’ve used it in the past to shave some time off my pace and opted to employ it again to attempt to blast through the pace plateau in which I had found myself. What follows is the motivation to write this post.

Just a few weeks ago, I did a three-mile run where I came within 14 seconds of achieving the overall pace goal I’ve been working towards for the last year and a half! I was unbelievably amped! Then the next run I did, despite my best efforts, I logged times like I was doing at the beginning of the year. Buzzkill.

Even though I realize after months of logging my times that they fluctuate wildly, I still allowed myself to be discouraged by an average run on the heels of a record run. The head games took over, and I didn’t run for almost two weeks. (Granted, I was doing other exercises, but I was avoiding running because I was spooked.)

Today, I finished the last run in the interval program and was reminded afresh that I need to keep pounding the pavement with gusto if I want to achieve my goal. It is truly remarkable how going for even one run can help push through the emotions that fight to keep me from getting after it.

Conclusion

I’ve been working towards this comeback story long enough to know that the moments of record-breaking victory are infrequent, and they come hard-earned on the back of countless average days, where I choose to show up and do the work that lays the foundation. The mountaintop is breathtaking on its own merits but made even more so by the dramatic contrast of the valley below, and the grueling climb it takes to get there.

If like me, you’re in the middle of hustling for a goal (fitness or otherwise), I hope you’ll be encouraged by this. Don’t let the average days be the end of the story. Push through the sweaty, unremarkable portions of the journey and get ready to celebrate the sweet view from the top. Each step gets you closer. I’ll keep taking steps if you will.

Posted in Advice, Opinion, priorities, Running | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Happy 4th of July, I Guess (A Brief Account of My Waning Patriotism)

A month before Independence Day, store shelves, as usual, began to don red, white and blue USA flag-printed everything: kitchenware for BBQs, patriotic shirts, garden flags, you name it. Seeing these types of items used to get me amped for the upcoming Fourth of July and all its festivities.

I hesitate to report that I felt an indifference this year when I saw all those items rolled out. My Independence Day attitude has become steadily less enthusiastic as the years have marched on, which I noted in a similar post four years ago.

It is not that I don’t love my country. I do. It’s not that I am ungrateful for the blessing of living here. I very much appreciate it. It’s just that … the state of America is much different now than it was in the height of my fevered patriotism of yesteryear. As the United States continually transforms into a nation I recognize less and less, it becomes more and more difficult to get excited about celebrating it.

Debbie Downer posts aren’t typically my thing, but I wanted to get this off my chest, in the event anyone out there can relate.

I won’t go into detail about the many things I find disheartening about the direction our country is headed. That would be too long, contentious and depressing. And I doubt anyone would read it.

To briefly summarize, the theme “God Bless America,” in all its forms (song(s), saying, bumper sticker, etc.) rings painfully hollow. It seems disingenuous at best, and scandalous at worst, to proclaim “God Bless America!” when America has all but abandoned God. It seems more like we are living in the reality of Romans chapter one than the rosy sentimentality of a Lee Greenwood song (which I used to listen to every July 4th and get teary-eyed, I’ll sheepishly admit).

So, What To Do?

Never one to stay in a negative mindset, I’ll end on a more upbeat note. The American Experiment was in its time a radical, unique one that has created unforeseen flourishing, freedom, and prosperity for millions of people over the years. I am profoundly pleased to have been born and raised here and have lived in freedom my whole life.

Even as I see this great nation head towards the types of government that have been tried and failed countless times elsewhere, I still count myself fortunate to have been alive to witness and enjoy all that freedom holds.

I’m eternally grateful for an everlasting hope that transcends government, politics and all the triumphs and troubles of this life.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

Posted in Holidays, Opinion, Political Musings | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Facebook Messenger’s Read Receipt Feature

If you use Facebook Messenger, you’re likely familiar with the “handy” little feature that shows the sender of a message when the recipient has read it.

On a web browser, it just says, “Read Thursday 1:23pm,” etc. On Facebook Messenger mobile, it shows the recipient’s profile picture when they have read it. My conclusion about this feature is …

It is creepy.

I don’t think I am alone in that sentiment.

This feature has at least two ways to make people feel anxious or uncomfortable.

First, if you send someone a message, you see they read it, then they don’t respond immediately, or even soon. If you’re feeling or are naturally insecure, this feature may amp up that sensation. “What the hey! How come they haven’t written back yet?!”

On a side note, I find that to be one of the major cons of the digital & social media age – a new unwritten expectation of being available constantly.

Second, the other side of the equation is more of a burden in my opinion. I DON’T THINK IT’S ANY OF YOUR BUSINESS TO KNOW WHEN I READ YOUR MESSAGE. For one, it breeds the insecurity I mentioned above. I always thought read receipts on regular email were invasive, too. Perhaps that is why they were never widely adopted.

Why I Could Do Without Them

I resist the notion of read receipts because I find them to be an invasion of privacy, as well as an invitation for the message sending party to expect an instant response. Perhaps that is a faulty perception on my part, but that is how it seems.

Many of us lead busy lives and try to fit social media in amongst the cracks and transition periods in our schedules. (As an aside, it is easy to spend way too much time on social media without meaning to, as I wrote about earlier.)

Let’s say I read your message in the downtime right before an appointment. You see that, but then the remainder of my waking hours that day are already accounted for, and I don’t plan to get back on social media.

Or, let’s say your message includes a solicitation or a question that I need to think about, research, or check with other people, who also have busy schedules, before getting back to you. I may not have time to do that research in the next 24 hours, but I know you know that I’ve seen your message. Ah, the dilemma.

My desire to be a reliable friend, family member, and colleague compels me to respond to messages as soon as I can — sometimes even pushing aside things I had planned to take the time to reply — and sometimes because I feel an unspoken pressure to do so.

Wrap Up

That captures the heart of why I so dislike read receipts. I’d prefer to reply to messages with a thorough, thought out response, on my terms and timeline. Not just because someone sees that I’ve read it and expects an instant response.

All that to say, I wish there was a way to turn off read receipts on Facebook Messenger (particularly on mobile). In looking into this, I did see some helpful articles on the topic; one that contains some workarounds, and another that has an idea for how to turn it off on a regular web browser.

Anyone else out there think read receipts are creepy? Comments always welcome.

 

Posted in Opinion, Social | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Why I Love the Bible (and Keep Loving it More All the Time)

As a Christian who is committed to growing in my relationship with God through Christ, I’ve been reading the Bible for many years. While I haven’t always been as consistent as I would prefer, I always come back to it after an absence, whether a day or a few months.

In an earlier post about sanctification, I expressed my amazement about how God works in our lives as we follow Him. One such way is giving us a greater love for Him and His word, the Holy Bible. I liken it to drinking water. If you haven’t been drinking enough water, you may not even know that you’re dehydrated. But once you start guzzling, it is remarkable how quickly your insides thank you, and then how a natural thirst is born. This thirst can only be satisfied by drinking more water.

Such is reading the Bible to a Christian, is what I have found. I’ve gone for weeks at a time in the past without cracking open the word. Other times I have hurredly rushed through a few passages, out of a sense of obligation, to “get it done.” I had only a vague sense of how thirsty I was. 

A Love That Has Unfolded Over Time

I am so grateful to report that, through that process of sanctification I mentioned above, God has graciously prompted me to become more and more faithful in reading His word every day. As I have done so, its treasures have become more and more evident, and my thirst has become stronger.

Matthew 13:44 comes to mind:

” The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Or the following parable in vs. 45-46:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Taking the term “kingdom of heaven” to encompass all that God has for His children both in the present life and the one to come, it makes perfect sense that becoming a student of His words given to us in the Bible fit naturally in the seeking of the kingdom as described.

If I were to attempt to fully explain how God’s word has shaped me, and how it continues to get better all the time, this post would be unbearably long. And I might still be sitting at my keyboard as a skeleton, unable to finish before my time on earth is up. So in the interest of relative brevity, here are:

Three Points About Why the Bible Rocks My World

  1. As the living and active word (Hebrews 4:12), what I learn is always dynamic.
    No matter how many times I read a passage, it is fresh and new when I read it again. Because of its active quality, it speaks its wisdom consistently regardless of the frame of mind I’m in, or my circumstances. I may glean certain facts and applications while reading, then when I return to that same section much later, what I learn may be entirely different.
  2. There is more to it than I’ll ever be able to know in full in this life.
    The more I read it, the more I realize I don’t know. The layers are unending, it seems. There is so much interconnection, so many fulfilled and yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecies, I can think of no better term for it than mind-blowing. With each layer I peel back, it gives me greater anticipation of digging to find the next layer.
  3. It is self-authenticating.
    It not only claims to be divine but shows itself to be divine by the way it works in our lives, hence, this post. For a quick explanation on self-authenticating Scripture, check out this three-minute video.

In conclusion, of late I’ve found myself growing more and more delighted by God and His word, by His grace. This delight, while it has been present off-and-on over the years, has become more intense and more intentional as I have been faithful to follow him (also by His grace). If you struggle with reading God’s word, be encouraged. He will show up in its pages as you read through them.

Comments or questions? Bring them on!

 

Posted in priorities, Reliability of the Bible, Theology | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts from Ligonier Ministries’ Defending the Faith Conference

Over the weekend, my husband Mike and I were privileged to attend Ligonier Ministries‘ west coast “Defending the Faith” apologetics conference in Redmond, WA. It was the first conference of that type we had ever attended. Mike often listens to audio from Christian conferences after they occur; a habit I have picked up as well.

I thought it appropriate to attempt to put down a few thoughts about what I learned. I often find that writing is how I process things. Without taking the time to write, it is just a series of jumbled information that I cannot fully articulate.

Granted, I should admit upfront that culling two packed full days of lectures into one brief blog post is not possible. I have eight full pages of notes. Even the most dedicated reader probably wouldn’t want to power through the unabridged version of my notes. So I will attempt to make a few brief points.

To start, I will cite the most common biblical call to apologetics (defending our faith), found in 1 Peter 3:15:

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

The command for Christ-followers is stated plainly. If you didn’t read the verse above, do yourself a favor and read it. If you did read it, read it again.

“Sanctify” is the only potentially unclear word in that verse. Put differently, sanctify could mean, set apart, honor, or revere. Read one of those words into it if that helps.

As Christians, we are expected to live out this verse just like the rest of the commands in Scripture that apply to the new covenant. So as a means of breaking this down as the heart of apologetics, I’ll use the standard analytical tool of identifying the five Ws. Or in this case, four Ws and one H. When, who, what, how, and why.

The Case for Apologetics

When: At what time should we defend the faith? Always. Not just when you are fresh from a retreat or time in the word when your faith is resilient and strong. Not just when you feel like it. Always.

Ouch. I’m guilty of failing the always test. What does it take to always be ready? For one, it takes knowing what you believe. For another, it means studying the word, day in and day out, being “diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Who: To whom should we defend the faith? Everyone. “Everyone who asks you to give an account…” That means people who ask sincerely, as well as people that ask with sneering, sarcasm, and disbelief. Even those who are in a position to do us harm (loss of job, friends, etc.) if they don’t like our answer.

What: Hope. The idea of the gospel as hope is simple, yet profoundly powerful. As those who have escaped the wrath of God through the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23), our hope is unquenchable. We should be able to succinctly, confidently explain it to others who are curious.

How: With gentleness and respect. Most of us may be able to point to a time or two when we’ve seen the gospel shared with harshness or disrespect. Maybe we’ve even been guilty of being the ones doing the verbal (or written, or online) bludgeoning. Thankfully, the Lord is merciful to forgive us (1 John 1:9) when we fail and misrepresent Him. But we need to do better. That is where the constant reading of the word comes in and helps shape our character, as we learn more about God through His word.

Why: This is a big one. Why does all this matter? Well, as we covered above, God commands it. He commands it because the gospel itself is at stake.

Just as Jesus’ disciples, after being eyewitnesses of His resurrection, received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and went on to spread the hope of the gospel throughout the known world, we too, as benefactors of His amazing grace, and the continuance of God’s redemptive work in the world, are obligated to share the hope we have that has so transformed our lives.

Conclusion

Obviously, there is much more that could be and had been said about the topic of defending the faith. I only summarized one session of many from the conference here.  This lays a groundwork for the method and motive of the wonderful work which God has entrusted us through Jesus Christ.

It is my prayer that this will encourage you to examine where you stand and honestly evaluate if you are being faithful to honor God in this way. I pray the Lord would increase my opportunities and yours, to share of the glorious hope we have in Him.

Thank you for reading! I always welcome comments and questions.

 

Posted in apologetics, priorities, Theology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook Addiction: A Pushback Experiment

I will be the first to admit that I spend too much time on Facebook. It sucks me in, and I find myself spending more time browsing it than I ever intended. Often many times throughout the day. I haven’t accessed any stats to see how much time I spend on the beloved social media site, but I suspect I would be mortified if I saw them.

This problem has been on my mind for quite some time, but I didn’t know what to do about it. If you’ve found yourself dealing with a similar struggle, you’re far from alone. Read on for some things I tried, with varying success, and a few conclusions I came to on the issue.

A couple caveats:

I justify some of my social media consumption time in the fact that a decent percentage (estimated 40%) of my time is spent reading articles that I clicked through from sources & people I follow.

It has been cited that Facebook actively engineers their site to increase time users spend there. Though that is a common tactic for any site, or any media outlet for that matter, it is something to keep in mind. They prey on our often unconscious willingness to expand our browsing time far beyond what is necessary or useful.

A few things I tried that didn’t work out:

* I looked into apps that track social media usage but didn’t find anything satisfactory that I was willing to pay for.

* I tried setting a timer for myself at which point I would peel myself away, but that is only as good as my self-discipline at that moment.

The experiment that helped the most

I found that I was using the Facebook app on my phone for 80-90% of my browsing. As I do increasingly more day-to-day activities on mobile apps, I find many days that go by when I don’t even turn on my personal laptop in the evening after work.

The result is that, with my phone on or near my person 95% of my waking hours, I was “jumping on Facebook real quick” dozens of times per day. The “real quick” part is where things got murky.

I was frustrated at how much time I perceived being wasted, so I took a drastic step: I deleted the app from my phone. Without access to the time drain at my fingertips around the clock, I was able to log in just on my laptop, and I only did so for brief periods in the evening.

Helping matters was the fact that shortly after I deleted the app, we went on a mini-vacation to the coast with my in-laws, where the focus is on family time anyway, and the temptation to mindlessly browse diminished.

Full disclosure: this was a temporary experiment that I have since concluded. What happened, and what I learned, follows.

Here was a big surprise: I didn’t miss Facebook as much as I anticipated I would.

I can’t explain the psychology behind it, but I know that my brain had somehow trained me to constantly flip open various social media apps throughout the day; during lulls between activities, when I was taking a break at work, before I got in the shower, and so on… Being aware of my nervous tendency to check Facebook, I was surprised that when it was no longer an option, it didn’t bother me … much.

Discarding my most used app made me even more painfully aware how often I had been using it. At those times when I would typically open it, I suddenly had unscheduled time with which I could do other things. During that time, I started:

* taking a few moments to pause and reflect on all manner of things
* saying spontaneous prayers
* getting a jump on chores — you’d be surprised what you can get done in 5-10 focused minutes!

Those things alone provided a noticeable increase in peace and order in my life, which proved more valuable than learning who had checked in at which restaurant during that time. (Not knocking restaurant check-ins. I do it too; it’s just a handy punching bag as an example. :))

I was thrilled with this new found free time, and began to feel a little self-righteous about it (just being honest). I even discovered that when I did log in for a short while in the evenings, it didn’t seem that I had missed out on much over my constant checking. That may also be a tad self-righteous.

The end result

In giving it more thought, and talking it over with my husband, I chose to re-evaluate my priorities and reasons for checking Facebook in the first place. Here is what I concluded:

* It does have a tendency to take up too much time, especially if I am not mindful
* A good portion of what I see on there is of questionable value – HOWEVER:
* I take pleasure in staying in touch with a great many people that I don’t get a chance to talk to or see regularly
* Keeping up with the happenings of those I care about is of inherent value (I know it means a lot to me when someone I haven’t seen for a while mentions something in conversation that I posted on Facebook)
* I desire to not only be a present, observant friend but to also provide content that may be of interest or value to others

The final analysis is that even considering its drawbacks, it is worthwhile to be on and engaging with what people post on Facebook. My time without the app on my phone was about two weeks. I enjoyed the found time, but most of all, I enjoyed pushing back on my “addiction,” and realizing that I had the power to overcome it.

I have since reinstalled the app, but going cold turkey helped me to moderate my idle time spent browsing. I’m not suggesting I’ll never get sucked back in, but so far I am exercising a bit more self-control and trying to be more purposeful about how long I spend, and how I engage with others while using it.

 

Posted in Blogging, Opinion, priorities, Social | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Question for fellow bloggers: Best word count range for engagement?

Hey there fellow bloggers! I hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

A question for you. In your experience, what length of post has the most engagement for you?

In today’s information-overload culture, with ever-shortening attention spans, it seems prudent to keep posts as short as possible. But to cover a topic with any depth requires a minimum of 1000 words or more, at least that is what I have found.

Do you get more engagement with short posts? Do your longer posts get less or any? Curious to know specific stats, as well as general informed opinions about the matter.

It is not possible to make all posts brief, but I could certainly redouble my efforts at brevity if it is recommended to do so.

Looking forward to getting your feedback!

Cheers,

Summer

Posted in Blogging | 3 Comments

Pros vs. Cons of Christianity

I’ve been a Christian since I was seven years old, and I can see undeniably how that has changed me and shaped me as I’ve grown, both physically and spiritually. I’ve thought a lot over the years about the many ways in which Christianity both enriches life and makes it more challenging.

As such, I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to write a list of pros and cons of being a Christian. So, here goes!

Pros:

1. Assurance of salvation and eternal destination

This is probably the most common, yet significant reason. Everyone is plagued with the question, “What happens after I die?” The Bible lays out the answer plainly. There is either eternal reward with God in heaven, or eternal punishment with Satan, in hell, for all who reject God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

For as much as Satan hates us (1 Peter 5:8), he does seem to embody the phrase “Misery loves company,” because he has used and continues to use countless deceptions, excuses and false, manmade religions to trick people away from the simple message of salvation.

… if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.'”
– Romans 10:9-11

For the Christian, knowing that our future is secure through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the best feeling in the world.

2. A life that is astoundingly wonderful in the here and now

“Life is hard, then you die.” This realistic, depressing phrase illuminates the grim truth for those who are unsure of their eternal destination. Yet, as stated above, the reality is very different for the Christian. Getting the soul secured is just the beginning. Then comes the lifelong adventure of living out the Christian life.

Any seasoned, authentic Christian will tell you that it is a difficult life; not for the faint of heart. The real work begins once you accept Christ. But with that work comes help from the very presence of God through the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). It also includes benefits that continually unfold as you walk with God. Such as:

  • Peace
    God promises to give His children peace in the midst of a turbulent life. Those who trust in that promise receive peace that cannot be explained or duplicated apart from a right relationship with God.

    “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

    “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
    – John 14:27 (The words of Jesus, as denoted in red)

  • Joy
    Apart from Christ, it makes no sense to have joy even in the thick of life’s struggles and heartbreaks. But as a defining characteristic of the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22), it flows naturally. Christ Himself promised it also:

    “These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” – John 15:11

  • Wisdom
    Living life as God designed brings clarity to things (Psalm 111:10) that can’t be gained elsewhere. Furthermore, God gives it as His kids ask for it.

    “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – James 1:5

  • Freedom from sin
    The power of God at work in the Christian does innumerable miraculous things, not the least of which is giving him or her the power to say no to sinful behavior (Romans 6), which, before conversion was impossible, as we are all born in sin and slaves to sin by birth (Romans 3:23).
  • Friendship with God
    It is no small matter that the Creator of the universe and all it contains extends mercy and grace to those who call on Him through Jesus Christ. No less significant is His offer of friendship extended to the same. (John 15:15)
    To complete the trifecta of amazing potential intimacy with the Almighty, He welcomes us into His presence (Hebrews 4:16) and invites us to share our burdens that He may take care of them (1 Peter 5:6-7). Simply astounding.
  • Royalty
    While we won’t see the full of expression of this in this life, the reality is amazing to ponder. God, our heavenly Father, is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). And we, His kids, have been adopted into His family. That makes us heirs to the kingdom (Romans 8:15-17). Royalty. Mind. Blown. As they say…

3. A worldview that makes all the pieces fit

In addition to the benefits listed above, following after the God of the Bible just makes sense. An honest, thorough examination of the Bible reveals its historical & archaeological authenticity, right diagnosis of the human condition, clear instructions on how to live as well as the consequences of wrong living, and shows us who God is, what He has done, and how all of human history was written by Him long before it came into being.

The worldview that flows from the Bible provides answers where others only uncover more questions that cannot be satisfactorily answered.

4. Our playbook was written by God Himself

The Bible has been under attack since not long after the resurrected Christ ascended back into heaven. Skeptics and non-believers consistently ridicule and undermine it, and make many claims against its status of the Word of God. Many, many books have been written on the subject. As such, there is no way to summarize such a big topic in one blog post. I will briefly touch on a few points.

  • It claims to be the Word of God. All throughout its pages, it boldly declares that it is God-breathed. God inspired men through the Holy Spirit, to write what He wanted to communicate. If it were so easy to prove that it is a scam, as some people claim, the Christian church would have long evaporated. Yet we see the opposite is the case. The church is continually growing, especially outside the Western Hemisphere.
  • It contains a cohesive message. Despite being written by dozens of different authors, encompassing multiple types of literature, over thousands of years, the whole of its words present a message that flows logically and tells the story from the Creation of the universe to its future destruction cohesively. The only way to explain that is its supernatural origin.
  • It passes scholarly tests in flying colors. In recent years I’ve begun studying the authenticity of the Bible. One thing I’ve learned is that to determine the authenticity of an ancient text, scholars rely on the number manuscripts that can be found containing its material. The more manuscripts exist, the more likely the work is authentic. As it turns out, the Bible has more manuscripts than any other ancient work. Many, many more times than any other ancient work. It easily meets scholarly standards for authenticity.

These points don’t begin to scratch the surface on what could be said about the Bible as the Word of God. This is just a starter, to hopefully pique your interest in the subject.

Now that we’ve looked at four significant pros to living the Christian life let’s look at a few cons.

Cons

1. Haters gonna hate

Just as the Bible has been ridiculed for centuries, so have its adherents. Christians have received hate and persecution since the first century A.D. Jesus predicted that, however, and warned His disciples and future followers.

“You will be hated by all because of My name.” – Luke 21:17

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” – John 15:18-19

While this fact is inconvenient, we know to expect it. We also know that the outcome is worth it:

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
– Matthew 5:11-12

2. A life of self-denial and sacrifice is the expectation

The Christian life, for all the pros listed above, is anything but easy. The point of it is to fold our lives into God’s mission to redeem humanity while bringing glory to God and living a life of service to Him, as Christ modeled for us in His time on earth. This necessarily means dying to ourselves.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. – Mark 8:34-35

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14

“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” – John 13:15

As we identify with the life of Christ, we follow His example in living lives devoted to God and to others. Everything we do, we seek God and His ways first, putting aside our own selfish desires in favor of that which is of eternal value. This is a process God works in us throughout our whole lives as we follow Christ (Philippians 1:6, 2:13).

Conclusion

I realize this post very quickly blasts through several hotly contested issues. Issues over which hundreds of books have been written through the years. You’ve likely gathered that my aim in writing this post is to give an overview, not to give a thorough analysis of any particular topic.

I also realize that there are multitudes of people (many of whom I know) who would vehemently disagree with some or all of the contents of this post. I don’t doubt that, nor do I shy away from it. I am always pleased to get comments from those who disagree with me.

This is a partial list, based on my experience walking with God through Jesus Christ, and reading His words in the Holy Bible. If you’re curious about Christianity, I can tell you with sincerity that what God says about Himself and His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ is true. I would also love to answer any questions raised here.

It is my prayer that you would trust the God of the Bible. Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day.

Posted in apologetics, Bible / Christian Living, Theology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Most Delicious Kale You’ll Ever Eat

First of all, I’ll admit that is an outrageous title. (I’m only a little bit sorry about that.)

Why is it outrageous? Of the several reasons that come to mind, the first is that kale is not delicious. If someone tells me, “I love kale!” they will not only get the sideways eye from me, I will also instantly know that I can’t trust them.

Why? Because no one actually likes kale. It’s the food equivalent of saying you enjoy getting root canals. In its natural state, it embodies tough, hard to chew, untasty disappointment.

Since it is so healthy, we just keep finding ways to squeeze it down. The good news is, I discovered a way to make it that elevates it to the status of dessert. Not joking. Read the following, try it, and prepare to dish up seconds. Food & recipe posts are far from a focus for me, but I felt this needed to be shared.

I’ve got to give some credit to my cousin and chef extraordinaire, Jake. This idea began as a creation he brought to a family dinner. I just added to it for extra flare.

Put quite simply, this recipe involves adding bacon, garlic, and onion and sauteeing all of it in bacon grease. Here are the specifics.

Serving for 2:

  • 4-5 kale leaves, stripped and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped (fresh garlic adds more flavor than the pre-minced jarred stuff)
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1/2 red onion

Directions:

  1. Cook bacon to taste in frying pan
    Bacon! I love bacon

2. Chop other ingredients while bacon cooks

3. Remove bacon to paper towels; leave grease in the pan

4. Add chopped garlic to skillet; allow to cook for about a minute

Garlic. Fresh garlic adds delicious flavor to just about any dish.

5. Add chopped onion and stir; cook until onion and garlic mixture becomes deliciously fragrant

Garlic and onions

6. Add chopped kale to pan, stir well to coat leaves with bacon grease. Cook until kale is heated through and begins to shrink (2-3 minutes).

Kale

7. Remove from heat into a serving dish

8. Consume immediately while vowing to never eat raw kale again

The finished product.

Here is the finished product, served with grilled short ribs (the Mr. handled those)

That’s it!

Often when I make sauteed veggies as a side dish, there are a few left over. In this case, my husband and I cleaned out the bowl and wished there was more. It is that good.

For a bacon-free alternative (I hear there are people out there who don’t eat it – strange!), try subbing the bacon grease for olive oil. I haven’t tried it that way, but I imagine it would still be reasonably good.

If you try this dish, let me know what you think of it. If you have other suggestions on how to make kale tasty, drop a comment!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Food, Ideas & Recipes, Nutrition, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment