failure

4 Days to 60

Now that 2016 is in the rearview mirror, I look forward to my next milestone, turning 60 in just 4 days from now.

I had originally intended on starting this countdown a little earlier, but like many aspirations, they often get brushed aside, ignored or forgotten about. This time at least, my excuse carries a little more water as my swollen face from my recent surgery doesn’t look good no matter what angle I try in the mirror.

The mass was in my left parotid salivary gland, which from what I have read typically takes 2 to 3 hours to remove in surgery. My surgery defied those numbers, taking 6 hours to complete because the depth of the tumor, nestled up to the carotid artery. While there has been pain and difficult sleeping, particularly that I habitually sleep on my left side, I am doing quite well and will be visiting the doctor this morning for my post surgery visit and lab results on the mass. Once he clears me, it is back to work.

Well enough of surgery and tumors.

What really matters is what lies ahead, for you and for me and the time we have available.

If we were able to launch out far into space, we could get a better grasp just how small our little world is in this great big universe. And perhaps that would help us to better understand what a tiny speck in time are lives are. But our lives, however long they might be are filled with things that matter and things which do not. So many distractions pull us away from who we really are and what we are really doing here that often we never get any real traction and have grown so accustomed to failure that it has become just another part of who we are.

Begin in the race is more than simply getting out of the gate.

While there is breath in us, no one is beyond the grace of God. No matter how many times you have stumbled and fallen in your race, the grace of God is there.

The calamity of our race is filled with attention drawing noise—rolling amongst the highs and lows of raucous calamity and painful din with lots of pleasantries thrown in just to keep us off-balance and our heart rate anxiously elevated. Flashing lights and barrages of color join the barrage upon our senses and without the use of divine side blinders and the steady, reassuring hand of our Savior we would have no chance to make it down the track.

Our Lord, has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness upholds us in his hand even when fall. We are not thrown in the garbage heap. We are not utterly cast down, for his mercies are new and fresh everyday. Great is his faithfulness to us, even in the midst of our unfaithfulness to him.

But the enemy will do everything within his deceptive means to keep us down when we stumble. As we find ourselves face first in the muck and mud of life, the enemy comes alongside. He presses his boot hard to our necks and whispers in our ears that it is over—tells us that we will never get up. He tells us that no God could love a wretched person like us—that God has abandoned us in our failures. He tells us to take our eyes off the finish line and turn them instead to the world around us. He tells us to take our place with the billions of others endeavoring after fallen, earthly achievements, for this is all there is.

Eat, drink and be merry is the tune of his song.

But God has put a new song in our mouths, giving all praise and honor to Him. He picks us up in his loving arms, holding us tenderly as he reminds us of his never ending love and his unquenchable grace.

So let’s put our eyes back on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith and run the race which is set before us.

On Your Mark…Get Set Part 4

1280x720 Chopping Cutting Board (BW with Colored Food)

I have to admit that I like to eat.

I also like to cook which is a good thing since cooking is kind of a prerequisite to eating. I also have to admit that there are very few things that I don’t like to eat which does my waistline no favors. As a matter of fact, I can probably count those things I don’t care for on one hand and one of them has only been added to the list in the last two or three years.

Soups are a staple for me, warm and inviting and relatively easy to prepare. One of the favorites in our house is butternut squash soup which my wife and I could nearly eat everyday. Being the adventurous soul, I began to investigate various root vegetables beyond the tried and true staples of everyday life. I found myself holding one of those strange and untested vegetables in my hand one day thinking these ought to be good.

Grabbing a bag, I slipped inside three or four healthy looking parsnips inside and couldn’t wait to get home and try them out.

Now I know there are very nice and well-adjusted people out there who absolutely love parsnips.

I am not one of them.

I want to be, I really do. And I attempted twice to make them edible, both times using them as ingredients in a hearty vegetable soup.

MISTAKE!

In both instances, my wonderful soup lost the vibrancy and marvelous blend of assorted vegetables and seasoning. Gone were the earthy flavors and onion and garlic, celery and carrots.  Gone was every tasteful distinctiveness which defined what I was hoping for in the soup.

All that was left was a pot of various vegetables, broth and seasoning which all tasted like parsnips. The identity of parsnips was so strong that I could have easily left out all the other vegetables and not even realized it.

The world is becoming stranger everyday as the pot boils and the identities of so many become lost to the pungency of geographic, scientific, societal and political parsnips.

1280x720 Identity Foil Man (Identity Identity Identity Identity)

The world and the dark enemy behind it takes great joy in stripping away the distinctiveness of who and what you are. If ever one could point to a great conspiracy, it is here, for Satan has been at this from the beginning. Do you remember? Do you even know?

Our first mother Eve was approached by the deceiver whose silver tongue tempted her in a way which took issue with her identity and distinctiveness as a human being, created by God for his purpose and his glory. Playing upon her emotions, he introduced doubts as to what God said and her role as a member of the human race by offering her the tantalizing idea that she could be exalted and changed. He cleverly drove a wedge by telling her that God was holding something back, but that he the serpent had the answer and was willing to give it to her. He claimed that he had the key to the secret knowledge which would unlock the hidden truth within her—that she could be as God.

All she had to do was disobey what God said.

After all, she was being held back by God. He hid the truth from her, keeping her caged in ignorance and forcing her to live in innocence and purity. Her mind became clouded and new feelings crept in, feelings strange and unfamiliar, stirring an increasing hunger—a craving to change—a desire to break free. Flushed with this newfound idea, planted in her as an itch which just had to be scratched she made her decision. Eve decided to listen—not to God who kept her down and locked her away in her frail human cage—but to the twisted lies of a creature who promised her liberation and who has been in the business of deceiving human beings ever since.

But mind you, he doesn’t come to you in the form of a serpent telling you to go ahead and pluck the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

And yet—though his methods are cleverly veiled behind what may appear as progressively acceptable behavior, it is the same lie repeated  ad nauseam. These lies convey the same core message but do so wearing different clothes and speaking different languages. They are hidden in the corporate office and they are hidden within families and relationships. They are hidden in the boardroom, the bedroom, your house and the White House. There is no wall high enough nor ocean-wide enough to keep them in check. Science and industry, education, media—religion—nothing has escaped his insidious touch and his remarkable influence.

His lies are everywhere, initiated by him then propagated and nurtured like a communicable disease by those who have fallen under his sway. How much effort and how successful has he been in convincing the world that we are nothing special—that we haven’t been created by God in him image, but have instead evolved right along side every other life-form on this planet? He wants you to believe that you are no more distinctive than any other mammal on the earth, only more evolved with our intellect, reasoning and language capabilities.

Satan will use whatever means he has at his disposal to dissolve your distinctiveness as a marvelous and splendid creation of God. He will use education and rationalization much in the same way that he did with Eve, promising knowledge and with that knowledge the key to a marvelous and wonderful future. He plays upon the intellect, stroking the cords of pride with the offering of knowledge attainable and success achievable. He plucks the strings of pleasure with one hand while instigating the chaos of crisis with the other.

His ploy is to isolate you from the truth, then fill your life, your thoughts, your memories and your dreams with his own propaganda. He works very hard to mold and shape you into his own image and likeness, all the while convincing you that what he offers is truth and what God offers is a lie.

Have you seen his efforts at blending the world? Have you watched the geopolitical landscape as borders are being erased, languages put aside, monuments torn down and history rewritten? Have you witnessed the collapse of long-held institutions under the crushing pressures of ever evolving social mores and political correctness? Single sex clubs are being run out-of-town with pitchforks and clubs at a rate only surpassed by churches dropping the Word of God as the final authority in all matters related to the spiritual lives. The losers of contests are rewarded while those who excel are often vilified. Students demand the abolishment of grading standards and mid-terms while they huddle in their trigger-free zones. Wealth accumulation and business acumen are eyed with disdain, while the sociopolitical activists exalt thugs and criminals while attacking law and order.

White people claim to identify as black people. Tall men identify as short Chinese women. Marriage is rapidly becoming whatever anybody wants it to be, and you better brush up on your new vocabulary for pronouns are going to be a big in thing since the world seems to have forgotten the differences in the sexes and the roles of genders.

Satan has been able to redefine marriage and even what distinguishes people in terms of sex and gender.

Even our bathrooms have fallen in the war.

What has long been called the culture wars could be best summed up this way: the progressive removal of all distinctiveness, whether it be wealth, education, language, borders, marriage, sex, gender and even species. And if you cannot grasp that last item think about over the top protections afforded certain animals, ethicists which believe that human-animal sexual relations should be accepted and even the advancing genetic world where barriers between humans and animals are falling by the wayside.

Hmm? It almost sounds like things the Bible has been warning about for centuries are really starting the manifest themselves.

But not everyone is wildly caught up in these things, and yet they too often suffer with a loss of distinctiveness and identity confusion. How much self-hatred is there out there? How many people struggle and unexplained anger, bitterness, depression and hopelessness. How many are lost in this world, unloved and perhaps if they were honest not even understanding what true love is? How many of us view ourselves in terms of our failures? How many of us are better at forgiving others than we are ourselves?

How many of us live in constant pain in our souls, unable to find our way out, and in an attempt to dull the sharpness of the pain, medicate ourselves by drugs, alcohol, gluttony, pornography or a number of other methods?

There are so many ways that Satan attacks.

There are so many ways that we can be knocked down and defeated.

It is at the place where we have been hurt so many times and knocked down over and over and over again that we often give up. I’ve heard it, and you have heard it too. Maybe you have even succumbed to it, accepting the lie as truth believing that if you do, you will find the peace and the rest that you long for. It makes no difference how that is manifested in your life. If you yield to an identity that is different from what God says, you have taken the bait.

Identity confusions can take hold and entrench themselves in your life and for the believer in Christ they will seriously impede your race if not taking you out of the race altogether. But whether you are a believer or not, identity problems can really wreak havoc on your life.

And by the way, if your identity is not what God says it should be, you are a victim to Satan’s devices.

But you don’t have to remain a victim, but instead can find your life turned into victory. It doesn’t matter where you are, who you think you are or what you have done, there is a confident hope available for you. If you are a chunk of carrot or a piece of celery that tastes like parsnips the pot doesn’t have to be dumped. God can sort through the mess and restore you as you were meant to be—as he created you.

Next time, let’s put aside what Satan and the world has to say on this matter and see what God has to say.

Rollin Miller

 

Identity Crisis Bar (700x64)

…line upon line; here a little, and there a little…

 

 

On Your Mark…Get Set Part 3

1280x720 Black Faceless Man in Black (Identity

 

Who am I?

That’s an important question considering how my identity can either be a benefit or detriment to my life.

Proper identity is vital in our lives as it affects how we think about ourselves and others and significantly impacts the choices we make. While I will be primarily talking about my identity crisis in life, I hope that you will find yourself taking a closer look in your own lives. To varying degrees, wrong identities have impacted people around the world and down through the centuries. I would be surprised if it hasn’t in some way impacted you.

A series of crises became the impetus for change in my life as is often the case with people. I had grown increasingly tired and frustrated with the way I saw myself and the struggles—the constant struggles and failings which over the years had latched hold of me and morphed into my already distorted identity. While I did experience bright spots along the way, the overall arc of my life was marked by failure and the frustration which followed. I saw little satisfaction and virtually no rest—only agitation and intensifying anxiety. I knew that I was in trouble and only the Lord could fix me.

The trail up to that point was pretty messed up and I just couldn’t see my way out of it. Born and raised in a Christian home, my father was a pastor and I accepted Christ at a pretty young age. If you asked me to pin down the date or at describe the moment I can’t. As long as I can remember I have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as my savior. But when I left home, I left Christ on the bookshelf along with my Bible and for the next several years I had little to nothing to do with God, apart from extreme moments of stress or depression, where a few verses came bubbling up from memories long past.

It wasn’t until I was about 40 that things began to unravel to the point where I knew that I had to get back to God. Picking up the phone, I called my dad and asked if he could come to Vegas and spend some time with us. He asked me if he needed to pack his truck with tools as he was accustomed—to put in some cabinets, pour a slab or lay some tile. I told him that I didn’t want him to come to work on projects, but to come as a pastor. The only tool he packed was his Bible.

That was nearly twenty years ago.

Since that visit, my life has been in pursuit of Christ amidst struggles—painful and difficult struggles. I embraced the things of God with a deep and insatiable hunger for him, though I was not at all prepared for the reflection I would see when God held the mirror in my face. My calloused flesh gripped tightly, dragging me deeper into the collapse of ruin which was made all the more possible by deeply rooted strongholds. Planted early in life, they remained for the most part hidden away—eggs buried in the drought-cracked soil. My life had all the signs of lifeless soil where it appeared that nothing could possibly grow.

But then, after years of drought, baking in the hot sun, dark clouds inexplicably gathered, pushing the sun out of view and released a torrent of rain not seen in decades. When the flash-floods subsided and the standing water receded into the parched soil, life emerged—strange creatures pushed through the shell of their eggs and crawled on to the hard surface, moving from one shallow puddle to another. I looked at them with a bewildered look, realizing that I wasn’t looking at some patch of desert but my life.

But how could this be? How could someone, a born again child of God have such dreadfulness inside of him? I tried to look away from the mirror but everywhere I turned, my sin was ever before me. No amount of confession or prayer seemed to provide sufficient consolation to my troubled soul and I began to question everything about who I was and even what I was. My wretched revelation put me at odds with my God for how could God really love me when I hated and detested myself so much? How could God really forgive me when I could not even forgive myself?

The grace of God.

It rolled off my tongue.

I thought I knew what it was. I thought I had grasped it, at least to whatever extent a human being apart from eternity could.

I knew that I had been forgiven and approved by God. I knew that I was a new creation—blameless, perfected and yet I continued to be pulled back into the anger, the emptiness and the anxiety of the darkness. I collapsed under the weight of my burden, a spiritual and mental mess. The relentless attacks began seeding doubts as to my salvation and at times my sanity. But by God’s grace it could not take away the eternal hope I have in Christ.

Upon the altar I crawl, with a broken heart and a yearning to be transformed and set free, grasping the light of God’s mercy with trembling hands and thankful for the periods of spiritual respite. But the darkness returned as it always did, and I knew that failure was not far behind. How clever the enemy is to capitalize on my circumstance, to reinforce my bewilderment and dismay. He loves to twist the truth of our identities. He has done so from the beginning when he tempted our first parents with a new and diabolical identity—you shall be as gods.

I understood with grim reality the words of Paul when he asked the question:

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Romans 7:24 NASB

How I longed to breathe the fresh air of freedom, resting in my Lord to deliver me from the darkness which had overtaken me. I knew that such a life was possible, for I believed what the Bible said. Yet I frequently found myself on the outside looking in wondering why I could not put off the deeds of the flesh with any consistency. Year after year passed by as I listened, I studied and I prayed with glimmers of light piercing the cloud, only to find myself back in the mud yet again.

One thing that rang consistently in my life was this:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. Romans 7:18 ESV

And that very flesh, though crucified with Christ still had a stranglehold on me.

I was bound and chained in darkness and I cried out to him again and again and again.

1280x720 Christian Dark Concrete Wall (Psalm 107)

And then, by the grace of God, He heard me.


If you grew up in the days I did, many of the things we played with seem out-of-place with today’s generation of XBox and Playstation fans.  Those were the days of board games, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets and marbles. My sister, being 6 years older than I had little patience for a kid brother like me, and we spent much of our times chasing each other through the yard and the house when we weren’t arguing and fighting. But when things settled down or the weather wasn’t cooperating, we often found ourselves involved with a game of Jacks or Pick-up Sticks on the porch or kitchen floor.

I am not certain which characteristic would be most important in a game like Pick-up Sticks, but I think that besides having a steady hand, patience would be right up there. That’s probably the reason I didn’t win very often. Better for me to be back in my room, building something new with my Erector Set or outlining airplanes on a pad of paper.

The Lord is sovereign and it is He who chooses the game and establishes the rules for our lives. His game as it is unfolding in my life appears to be a lot closer to Pick-up Sticks than Erector Sets.

Each piece or step which he orders in my life (Psalm 37:23) has to be accomplished in the proper divine sequence which only God knows and with the care only He can provide. While the work God is doing may at times seem slow and tedious, rest assured and be confident of this very thing, that God which has started a good work in each and every one of us will continue steadfastly in that work until we see our Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

Oh and by the way, God’s hand never shakes as He moves the pieces.

I hope you come back for the next post as we begin to go through some of the strongholds (weights) which ensnared me and were hidden until the Lord began to pick through the rubble of my life and show it to me piece by piece.

Rollin Miller

 

Identity Crisis Bar (700x64)

…line upon line; here a little, and there a little…

On Your Mark…Get Set Part 2

1280x720 Track Getting Ready to Run (The Race - Nexus Script)

He reigned as king for 31 years.

It’s hard to imagine that he began his reign when he was only eight years old. He was a special young man…a special boy.

But it wasn’t just his young age that set him apart, for wisdom followed closely with the steps of his life and most importantly he loved God and honored him. The bible tells us that he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his great-great-great…grandfather, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.

His name was Josiah.

The bible tells us that both his father and grandfather followed not after the true God as did Josiah. Manasseh, his grandfather was particularly wicked, doing that which was evil in God’s eyes, building up the high places of pagan worship which Josiah’s grandfather Hezekiah had destroyed. Manasseh built altars to Baal and established groves, used for the worship of the stars, moon and sun, even building such altars within the house of the Lord God. The bible also tells us that Manasseh offered human sacrifices to Baal, offering a son to be burned in the fire while he utilized evil enchantments and engaged with familiar spirits and wizards, kindling God’s anger against the practices of his people.

After 18 years of ruling, we are told that Hilkiah the high priest of God found a scroll—a book of the law in the temple, giving it to a scribe by the name of Shaphan who brought it before the king and read the words therein. And when Josiah heard it, we witness a man who loved and served the Lord, for the words cut him deeply—his hands tearing his clothes as God’s penetrated his heart. Calling his men to him, he told them that God was angry, for their fathers had not listened to the Word of God and had not done that which was right in the eyes of God. Josiah then sent them on a mission to inquire of the Lord, which they did by seeking out Huldah the prophetess.

When they found the prophetess, they gathered around and I would imagine, listened with astonishment to the pronouncement of God’s anger kindled against their people. For they had turned away from the true God, and embraced with unbridled enthusiasm false pagan gods of stone and wood. But despite their idolatry, not everything was doom and gloom, for they also heard words of grace and mercy associated with a man—their king, Josiah.  Josiah, who with a tender heart towards God, savaged his clothes and wept when he realized the depth of the nation’s sins against the holy God.

Every anguishing word by the young king was heard by the LORD who held back his hand, bestowing mercy upon Josiah and his people.

With the reading of the scroll and the utterances of a prophet, that which was hidden was brought to light. What was once unknown was made known. And with the glaring truth in his hands, Josiah responded, and he did so quickly. His response was direct and thorough, but it was not rash or hasty. God had spoken, and the manner of Josiah’s actions was completely one-sided—God’s side.

His actions came without townhall meetings. There were no discussions among the elders or the rest of the people. There was no sweeping the matter under the rug, no reevaluation of God’s word through a distorted prism of the day’s social normalcy. There was no compromise. Instead, Josiah gathered he people together and read to them the words of the scroll which they had found and while everyone listened in hushed silence, Josiah made a covenant to God and the people entered into the covenant with him—a covenant of obedience to God’s word. Once the covenant was made, the king took action.

Throughout the land altars to false gods were razed and the groves were burned. Every carved and molten image was destroyed and the great altars of Baal, Ashtoreth, Chemosh and Milcom were broken apart. The priests of these high places were slaughtered on the very altars they worshiped, their bones burned along with the remains of the priests who went before them. And then Josiah turned his attention to the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, ordering a purging of every vessel and utensil used in idolatrous worship. They were taken and burned in the fields of Kidron and their ashes removed and taken to Bethel.

Can you imagine that things had gotten so bad in Judah that the worship of the sun and moon, the hosts of heaven and even Baal was happening in the temple of God?

These wicked practices were known to occur, tolerated my many and encouraged by others. Such evil practices had been in place for a very long time. What at first was resisted, soon was tolerated. What became tolerated was later accepted. What was righteous, good and acceptable to God was shoved away, put out of discussions and eventually thought, as nearly every vestige of God’s truth was done away with. That which was wrong became right. That which was unacceptable became acceptable. That which was evil, became good—in the sight of men.

But then—a scroll was found and the truth was read. The hidden thing was revealed. Hearts were stricken at the words of the living God. Conviction overwhelmed the king and the people and they acted.

But what does any of this have to do with you and with me?

Well let us begin by saying as a redeemed child of God, your very body is a temple of God.

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself. 1 Corinthians 6:19 NLT

With all of the demands that people make about their rights and privileges to set their own course and make their own decisions, it is easy to get caught up in all the dialogue and forget that we who are born again are not our own—we were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). For someone living a compromised life in this world, it is easy to slip away and lose sight of who and what we are in Christ.

In the opening pages of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians church he asks them a pointed question:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 NET

Do you not know this? Are you ignorant of this fact? Have you not known or have you forgotten who you are and your identity?

Has this truth become hidden to you?

And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 2 Corinthians 6:16 NLT

In up coming posts, we will be talking a lot about identity. But for now, let me just say that your identity—how you see and understand yourself drastically affects your life and threatens or empowers any opportunity for you to run the race that God desires of you. An improper identity establishes inhibiting weights which are more like ship anchors, buried deeply in our hearts and minds.

Too often, people are unaware of the weights in their lives. Many were established so long ago they have long since passed into the fog of forgetfulness. Other things were not your fault but have nonetheless established deep-rooted strongholds. Links and layers of deception have been planted over the years, whether by outright rebellion or by the insidious preying actions upon you as a victim. Idolatrous mindsets have displaced God in multitudes of places. Every compromise which has displaced God, replacing him with your own desires and decisions—in other words, you are sitting in place of God on the throne of your life, calling the shots—establishes a high place of idolatry—a stronghold. And it is upon those strongholds that future thoughts are now being filtered, perpetuating the problem and strengthening the anchors of deception in their lives.

People will never be free from these weights—these idolatrous strongholds unless the hidden is first made known. But then, after the light is brought into the darkest of places shining its glaring beam on the problems, each of us must act as Josiah acted. Altar after altar must be destroyed, the bones and groves burned, and a thorough purging of the temple—your own temple of the living God, must occur!

The bible speaks of a great delusion which will come upon the earth in the last days. It speaks of the final church of the age existing in ignorance of their spiritual bankruptcy and neediness. That which should be known to them is hidden. But their strongholds—their weights are keeping them from running the race.

I hope that you will come back as we begin to walk through the temple, looking behind every curtain and every door.

Rollin Miller

On Your Mark…Get Set

1280x720 Track Getting Ready to Run (The Race - Nexus Script)

I was 52 years old I believe when I started running. Well I think you could call it that, though for most people, particularly people who run, any resemblance to what I did and true running was purely coincidental. It was nothing I ever pursued as a boy or a younger man. The majority of my running memories are from my days in the Marine Corps beginning with boot camp where it seemed that we ran all the time (except when we were marching). While the fog of time has reduced a lot of my memory clarity, I do remember with certainty that I didn’t like it very much and the longest run I ever made was done in platoon formation when we ran across the island of Okinawa at one of its narrows spots. This distance I believe was about 11 miles.

What prompted me to begin running in my fifties was a desire for change. I didn’t like who I had physically become. So with grit and determination, I stepped out into an unfamiliar world ran as best I knew how, accumulating hours and miles along the way until in August 2010, I ran in the Valley of Fire Half-Marathon. The road to getting there was about 1600 miles or so long and a loss of more than 100 pounds. I was regularly running distances of 10 miles and my long run was just under 19 miles.

I was pleased with my accomplishments and knew that I was going places. Ha! I felt that I had graduated from my earliest running days which were more aligned with John “The Penguin” Bingham, the author of “The Courage to Start.” A great book by the way, not just about running but about life in general. I highly recommend it. But those days were behind me and I was looking out into the future, knowing that I would never be a fast runner but tantalized with the notion of running greater and greater distances.

Then I was laid off.

After 15 years in my current job, I was looking for another and that search forced me to leave Las Vegas, finding work in Oregon where the trees grow tall and the rain falls sideways. While I tried to adapt my running to narrow and very busy two-lane highways and the continual rainfall an injury sidelined me. Discouragement soon followed and I eventually stopped. For five years we lived in Oregon, and though I attempted to kick-start my program a few times, I never was able to get it going again.

Now I’m back in Las Vegas, unemployed again but trusting the Lord, looking for a job and thinking about running.

I am not only thinking about lacing up shoes and hitting the asphalt, I’m thinking of another run and might I say a much more important run.

…and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

The writer of Hebrews uses a foot race to describe the Christian’s life on earth. From the moment of our new birth until we are with God in glory we are in a race. Even if you are not someone who steps outside your home, running down the road while braving the weather and dodging traffic, we all have a sense of what a spiritual run should be like. We can at least imagine moving towards the finish line, placing one foot in front of another at a pace beyond a normal walk. It’s a race after all and because it is a race we expect progress, right?

And yet for some of us, progress seems evasive and discouragement can quickly take hold. We go through our checklist—running shorts and a good shirt that will wick away the perspiration. Then of course there are the shoes. You have to have good running shoes and socks. They kind of go together. Yep, checklist done. We’ve got the equipment we need. In fact, we even brought a music player and ear plugs just to help pass the time. With a deep breath we take off—left foot, right foot, left foot, right—wait! I’m not getting any place. What’s going on?

…let us lay aside every weight… Hebrews 12:1

John Hunter, a former missionary with The Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers who now with our Lord was frequently asked by Christians, “Is this all there is?” Their eyes confirmed the deep and earnest desire of their hearts. “I know that I am saved and going to heaven, but in a real and experiential way, what can God do for me now?” Those types of questions were extremely practical as John recognized. Perhaps it is the type of question you have asked yourself.

So let us get down to the practicals of the matter. You and I are here—saved, and thank God for that. Now I have my suspicions, though I cannot speak definitely in your behalf, but I bet, if you are like me, our lives have at times resembled more of a battlefield littered with the dead and wounded that a marching parade celebrating victory. Day in and day out struggles and failures intertwine with just a bit of victory thrown in every now and then just to make things interesting. If we were to continue on such a cyclical path it is possible that failure could become a major player in our identity. But I must apologize for I am really jumping ahead. We will talk more about identification in another posting.

We long to feel the wind in our face against the backdrop of blue skies and a cheering crowd as with great strides we push ourselves down the racetrack to the finish line. How we long to sprint in victory. How we long to finish well. But too often, those dreams are dashed against the rocks of a different reality of a Christian’s life. The finish line is just ahead but the ravages of the struggle are really taking their toll as we limp toward the checkered flag, bleeding, bandaged and broken. Lives filled with anger, depression, worry and anxiety are not lives which bear the flag of victory for a believer in Christ. These behaviors and many others can grip us tightly with no sense that they will ever let us go. Addictive behavior of any kind is a cruel taskmaster which feeds the craving with scraps from the table, reminding you of your weaknesses and your failures again and again and again.

This is not the life God intends for any of us to live.

This is not the race God desires for any of us to try to run.

So let’s take this opportunity to talk about these weights in the bible.

…let us lay aside every weight… Hebrews 12:1

Running can be difficult and taxing on the body as it is. But can you imagine trying to run miles with let’s say 20, 30 or 50 pounds strapped to your ankles and another 100 on your back? With those burdens I doubt I could make it 5 yards let alone 5 miles. Yet many of us are attempting to run our Christian lives carrying burdens such as these. In fact, some of us have been carrying them so long we have actually come to believe that this is what God intends for us and is the normal Christian life.

You cannot see the weights simply by looking down at your ankles or staring in a mirror. You won’t see anything other than the face and body of someone whom God dearly loves. Nevertheless, the burdens are there for we are told to lay them aside or to put them off. It is the same language that the apostle Paul uses several times with regard to putting off the old man or the flesh in other areas of the text. Cast it down!

That’s all well and good.

The problem is that I don’t see anything to cast down. Do you?

How are we supposed to put something off if we don’t know what it is?

Often we see only the outcroppings—the offspring of these mysterious and hidden weights as they sinfully manifest themselves repeatedly in our lives. We see what’s immediately in front of us and seize upon it in prayer, in confession and in our personal bible studies looking for an answer to our quick tempers or to our addictions. We pounce upon them with every conceivable tool we have in our disposal and yet, after the storm clears welcoming another bright and glorious day, something happens and we find ourselves immediately back in the muck and mire of our failings. God, what can you do for me now?

To emphasize the truth of hidden issues which can bring about defeat, we turn to the book of Joshua chapter 7 where we find Joshua and the army of Israel preparing to face the city of Ai after a spectacular victory over Jericho at the hand of God. There is great confidence in the Israelites…let not all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai…for they are but few. The recommendation came to Joshua that there was no need to send the entire army and people of Israel against Ai, for their forces and their people were few in number. In other words, the people of Ai wouldn’t put up to much of a fight.

And why wouldn’t Israel be confident? Look at what God did at Jericho and God did promise that wherever Joshua planted his feet, it would be given to him (Joshua 1:3).

And yet…

The two campaigns, the first since Israel crossed the Jordan river couldn’t be more striking in their contrasts—the miraculous victory of Jericho and the resounding defeat at Ai.

How quickly they fell.

How quickly we fall.

What happened?

Joshua and the elders had no idea.

Sound familiar?

It was a hidden thing—in the midst of 2 million people, under the cover of a tent and layers of blankets belonging to one man. It was hidden to everyone but Achan and his family, oh yes, and of course, God. Nothing is hidden from the Lord God. Nothing!

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. Hebrews 4:13 NLT

Joshua was beside himself after their defeat at Ai, fully expecting another great victory.

And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. Joshua 7:6

They were upset and confused—wouldn’t you be?

Haven’t you been?

After a time, our gracious Lord spoke to Joshua and explained to him that there was devoted or accursed things within their midst. Things which had been set aside by God for himself had been taken from Jericho. Until they had been found and removed, the Israelites would continue to face defeat. God told them that you would not be able to stand before their enemies.

There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you. Joshua 7:13 ESV

It is interesting to read that God told Joshua that there were things in their midst which needed to be found and removed but he did not declare exactly what it was or where it would be found. Instead Joshua was led by the Lord on a detective hunt through the tribes, families and households until the culprit was finally identified. The Lord could have immediately named the man, but instead chose to guide Joshua through the process of discovery. It is important that we realize that he works in exactly the same way with you and I. Trusting him and relying on him, he will guide us into all truth, even into the dark recesses of our hearts—the hidden part.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Psalm 51:6

In the next posting we will take a closer look at these troublesome hidden things in our lives from the perspective of an Old Testament king.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you come back.

Rollin Miller