Published Blogger Friend

Hey all-if you have a You Version account please check out my blogger friend, Randolph Koch’s very first published devotional. It’s titled 9 Keys to Walking In Christ. Below is a taste of what this 9 day devotional is all about:

“How do you walk in Christ? Like eating right and regular exercise, you have to be disciplined in exercising your faith to grow in your walk with Him. God’s word outlines many practical principles that will help you successfully walk in Christ. The aim of this devotional is to guide you through nine of the keys to help strengthen your walk.”

Please comment below if you read this study and be sure to pass it along to your family friends who also have You Version. I’ve already started the plan and can not wait to read day 1.

This publishing is a true testimony to what perseverance and faithfully serving God looks like-especially when faced with multiple closed doors. Seeing my friend’s dream come true is inspirational to keep chasing after my own dreams and trusting God to bring them into fruition in His time and in His way.

I can only imagine how proud your wife and family are but as a fellow blogger I too am very proud of you Randy! Congrats and God bless. Keep using your gift to serve Abba and I know He will continue to bless you with the wisdom that is behind your writings!

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Freedom Isn’t Free

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from Heaven and forgive their sins and restore their land.”                                                          2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT

Today is my nation’s 242nd birthday.  People all over this country will be coming together to celebrate and pay tribute to the good ole’ U.S. of A.  Star-spangled clothing will be worn; red, white and blue decorations adorned.  People will host cookouts and barbeques.  Lakes will be flooded with boats, floats and beach goers.  Parades will march.  Attendees will applaud Veterans.  ‘God Bless the USA’ and other patriotic melodies will be performed.  When the sun goes down, fireworks will explode as the grand finale of the nation’s greatest display of American pride.  For most, today will be a day filled with fun, family, friends and many, many festivities.

A true Independence Day celebration reminds us of the sacrifices that were made for this country to have the freedoms we stand on today.  The Revolutionary War was the start to gaining our freedoms.  In googling statistics, according to World Book Encyclopedia, found at www.answers.com, 25,700 Americans were killed during this war.  Traditional US History classes teach that this war came about to separate us from the tyranny of Britain’s then monarchy. Our US constitution was written to give and protect freedoms to its citizens. Since we became a nation we have engaged in numerous wars and military conflicts to ensure this country and its residences are protected and that freedom will forever reign.

One entity that is honored on Independence Day is our US military.  We remember the fallen and we honor the living, those who have served and are serving.  In fact, most Americans, when encountering a member of the US Military, will thank him or her for their service to our country because we recognize that military personnel sacrifice a lot during their time of active duty.  They’re training alone teaches them how to be sacrificial and how to survive in the most dangerous and cruelest of situations.  They are moved periodically to different states and most serve overseas on at least one if not multiple deployments.  They sacrifice time with their families, their jobs, their health and even their lives to protect this nation and to especially protect this nation’s freedoms.  One thing we Americans value is our freedom.

God also values freedom.  Galatians 5:13a tells us “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters…”  We read David’s confident statement in Psalm 119:45 when he declares that he will walk in freedom for he had devoted himself to God’s commandments.  Again in 2 Corinthians 3:17, we are reminded that wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  As a Christian, we are called to walk in freedom.  But what does that mean and how do we do that?

First we need to look at what freedom looks like to God.  Freedom in Christ means freedom from guilt, shame, despair, bitterness, etc.  It most assuredly means, freedom from fear and from death.  If you’re an unbeliever reading this, you may question that last statement or possibly even mock it because people die every day.  The death mentioned above is not a physical death, its freedom from spiritual death.  This means after we experience physical death we are promised eternal life with Christ.  (1 John 5:11) Just like a US military member pays a price to protect our nation’s freedoms, as a Christian, our freedom was paid when Christ died at Calvary and then resurrected three days later.  Freedom is not free.

So if freedom isn’t free, then walking in freedom will also cost us.  If my country’s freedom and Christian freedom were both paid by the sacrificing of lives, it only makes sense that in order to walk in spiritual freedom, we are called to sacrifice our lives as well.  PLEASE NOTE!  This is metaphorically speaking.  This post is not leading to a call to drink some magic red poisoned Kool-Aid that would actually kill us.  The life sacrificing I’m referring to is the sacrificing of lifestyles, life habits and negative thoughts that do not honor Christ and inevitably separate us from the freedom He has promised us.

Anything that is dishonoring to Christ separates us from His freedom.  That can come in the form of deliberate sin such as a battle with lust, purposefully holding grudges, becoming best friends with pride, refusing to obey when God gives us a direct order.  That can also come in a subtler form like battling with an addiction or holding on to wounds that Christ wants to heal and release us from.  Whatever stronghold we allow in our lives becomes our way of life and keeps us captured in a spiritual roller coaster that simples goes round and round in circles but never seems to end.  No matter what human effort you make, if you’re not willing to sacrifice the stronghold or repent of the sin, you will not know or be able to walk in Christ’s freedom.  You will also grow weary and face conditions like depression, anxiety or physical health conditions that develop when we are wait down by burdens we are not meant to carry.

Can you relate to struggling with deliberate sin, battling with some sort of addiction or just feeling bogged down by all life has thrown at you?  Do you long to feel free from past wounds?  Do you want to guard your heart, as the Lord directs, without putting up walls that inevitably push others away?  Are you willing to make the sacrifices required to know Christ’s freedom?

If you want to know and walk in Christ’s freedom, you (and I) must be willing to place all that weighs us down, at the foot of the cross.  We have to humble ourselves before our King and confess the sins we commit, confess the hurts we hold on to and confess the addictions we wrestle with.  We have to seek Christ’s forgiveness, choose to forgive our offenders and also, choose to forgive ourselves.  This also means sacrificing ungodly habits such as gossiping, complaining, procrastinating, cussing, overeating or whatever else we may turn to in the place of Christ to “cope” with what burdens us.

This sacrifice is not a one-time event consisting of one prayer or even one fast.  This is a daily sacrifice that involves refocusing our thoughts, asking Christ to renew our minds, softening our hearts to obey His word and practicing the art of discipline to refrain from turning to back to dishonorable behaviors.  This sacrifice also entails understanding that making these kind of sacrifices, changing our coping skills, letting go of the past and forgiving those who have trespassed against us is a process.  It’s a process that doesn’t come naturally and takes much discipline to master.  It’s a process that has to be practiced every day and it’s a process that will include backsliding and failing.  But it’s also a process that through commitment, God’s strength, His grace and your perseverance, brings victory and true freedom.

Zach Williams is a Christian artist who performs a popular song called, “Chain Breaker.”  The lyrics to the first verse and chorus are this:

“If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles

If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies

If you’re trying to fill the same old holes inside

There’s a better life

There’s a better life

“If you’ve got pain,

He’s a pain taker

If you feel lost

He’s a way maker

If you need freedom or saving

He’s a prison-shaking Savior

If you’ve got chains

He’s a chain breaker..”

As I am personally walking through this process of letting go of my strongholds in order to gain Christ’s freedoms, I recorded myself performing this song praising God even before the chains I have bound myself to are broken.  Jesus is the chain breaker of all that holds us back from the life He promised us.  When you’re willing to sacrifice what He’s calling you to let go of, when you’re willing to endure the painstaking process of confession, forgiveness and healing, then you are ready to chase after Christian freedom and walk in it, freely.  Freedom isn’t free.  But our Jesus paid the debt when He gave His life on a tree.

What Fruit is Your Tree Producing?

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

For the past few months I have been obsessively craving oranges. I can eat six of them or more in a day sometimes. Definitely can eat several over the span of a week. But I’m a bit weird with how I eat them. I can’t peel just one and then eat it. I have to peel several at a time and store them in a dish so they’re readily available whenever my belly craves them. If I don’t peel them all at once, they tend to sit, rot and get wasted.

Tasting the juicy sweetness of a ripe orange and throwing away one that’s mushy and covered in a fuzzy green substance reminds me of God’s calling on all of us to be fruit bearers. In Galatians (Chapter 5 verse 22 and 23) we read about the fruits of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, perseverance and self-control. These are all characteristics God requires of us to display in our day to day lives. Reading the list sounds easy and I am confident there are many times practicing all of these have come natural to all of us. But what about the times when it doesn’t? Let’s look at some scenarios.

When a person cuts us off on the road it’s human nature to react in a harsh manner (not practice gentleness.) when someone wounds us deeply or continues to disappoint us, it’s human nature to stop loving them, maybe even feel hatred toward them. When we’re grief stricken if feels impossible to experience joy. Addictions make it incredibly challenging to practice self-control. When life feels out of control it’s easy to worry and be anxious instead of choosing to be at peace fully trusting Abba. If you’re a parent dealing with a toddler meltdown or a disrespectful know-it-all teenager it’s super easy to lose patience. On days when we’re just feeling grumpy it’s easier to lash out at others rather than practice goodness and kindness.

Then there’s the concept of being known by our fruit. If we are a person bearing good fruit we should be identified as such. But what about those who constantly bear bad fruit? What about the people who cross our paths who appear to be mean-spirited, toxic, hard-hearted or down right evil? What about those people who seem so hard hearted that no amount of prayer covering seems ever possible that they will ever change?

First and foremost if you’re a Christian who’s known for bearing bad fruit (maybe you hold grudges, is unwelcoming, always arguing, gossips, harbors hatred toward others, loses your temper easily, over spends/over eats or even over works) it’s time to take a long hard look in the mirror, confess these attitudes and behaviors and ask God to cut off the branches that aren’t bearing good fruit. Until you refuse to repent, you will be a tree that produces bad fruit and bears a false witness as to what being Christ like is all about. If you repent, God promises to prune you in a way that will make your tree overflowing with His fruit once again (John 15:2.)

Dealing with nonbelievers who bear bad fruit is a bit more challenging. None of us hold the power in our human strength to change a human heart, including our own. Part of bearing good fruit is being a seed planter for those who bear bad fruit. If you have any knowledge of botany (which mine is very limited) you know that some plants actually populate from having their seeds spread elsewhere. This happens in both plants and weeds which means Christians can plant both good and bad seeds in the lives of those whom we cross paths with. If we want to be good fruit bearers, we have to be good seed planters also (read Mark 4 regarding Jesus’ parable on seed planting.)

How do we do that? We practice the fruits of the Spirit at all times. Think about being a comedian performing on stage for the first time. Your audience boos you and throws rotten tomatoes at you. This is the epitome of being exposed to bad fruit bearers and toxic people. It’s also human nature to want to defend ourselves and to pick up those rotted tomatoes and throw them back. Instead, God calls us to give them good fruit. Sticking with this analogy let’s say when someone throws rotten tomatoes at you, you pull out fresh ripe ones and ask them to join you for a salad. If someone steals from your apple tree, bake them a pie with what’s left. By doing so, you will be planting seeds of the Spirit that God can use to grow your enemies into good fruit bearers also.

This is definitely easier said than done. Trust me-I struggle daily with practicing any of this. I tend to live out my feelings instead of practicing self-control. I lose my temper and throw gentleness, kindness and goodness right out the window replacing them with anger, harsh words and unforgiveness. I wallow in my sorrows and give the enemy my joy. When I try problem solving in my own human wisdom, I get engulfed in worry and anxiety which suffocates any ounce of His peace within me. There are days I make a conscious effort to choose His fruit instead though. Just like choosing healthy food gives your body more energy, choosing His fruit gives my spirit a supernatural energy boost that produces more fruit within me. The more we pour out into others, the more He pours back into us. To keep using a scientific analogy, this would be a spiritual osmosis!

Whether you’re in a season of seed planting or fruit bearing remember three things-one, just like growing a garden or planting trees takes a length of time before the plant is fully matured and fruit is produced, so it may take years before you see changes in those you are discipling to, including even your own children. That’s where consistency, perseverance and the power of prayer play their biggest roles. Just because you can’t see anything growing, doesn’t mean there aren’t roots forming beneath the surface. So don’t give up.

Second, you may not be the person God uses to fully change their hearts. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:6 that he planted the seed but Apollo watered it and only God actually made it grow. This verse reminds us that some hearts may take more than one person to soften and that no matter who God uses, He ultimately gets the glory. It’s His power alone that truly changes hearts. We are just His tools.

Lastly, and this part is a sad reality, some hearts will never change. Choosing the fruits of the Spirit is a choice. There are people who choose to be hard hearted and no effort will ever change them. (Matthew 21:19) I believe God will show you when it’s time to walk away from such a person and surrender them fully to the Lord. We can still pray for a miracle in them but walking away means protecting ourselves emotionally and avoiding getting spiritually burned out. You may not agree with this last concept but just remember Judas was a prime example of such a heart. He walked right beside Jesus and betrayed him. Jesus never pursued Judas after the betrayal because He knew there was no changing him.

Jesus forgave Judas and He calls us to forgive our enemies also-even if they refuse to change. Forgiveness is definitely a seed that when planted can produce amazing fruit in ourselves and in those we choose to forgive. Jesus modeled this as He was hanging on a cross enduring excruciating pain, pushing himself up just to take a breath, and said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” So what seeds are you planting? What fruit are you producing? What is your spiritual tree bearing? Strive to plant seeds that inevitably produce trees that bear His fruit.

A Little Faith

“Then he asked [her], “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:40‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This past weekend I was updating my playlist on Spotify. When you look up a particular artist the site will make suggestions of other artists in that same genre. I was downloading some 1990’s pop music and came across Mandy Moore. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m a Mandy Moore fan so I downloaded a couple of her songs. One in particular was a rendition of “Have A Little Faith in Me.” I didn’t give it much thought then but later that afternoon when the song started playing God spoke deeply into me and the tears just flowed.

Are you familiar with the song? Read these two stanzas and I’m confident some if not most of you will be moved by them:

“When the road gets dark

And you can no longer see

Just let my love throw a spark

And have a little faith in me

And when the tears you cry

Are all you can believe

Just give these loving arms a try

And have a little faith in me…”

I immediately thought of my children and my heart’s desire for them. I long to be their constant and their comfort in this life. They are teenagers and faced with so many temptations and distractions from what God made them to be. I have to admit we aren’t diligent in attending church every week and our family prayers usually only occur during meal times and bed time. Family devotionals are non existent because of busyness and my being too tired to battle with them over a five minute reading. We do have talks about God but sadly they’re foundation is more sandy than on solid rock. I take full responsibility for failing in building a stronger spiritual foundation for them and my heart worries about their future far too often.

The first thing that ran through my mind when I heard this song was how deeply I long for my children to trust me. As their mom and the person responsible for molding them, I long for them to see that I have 20+ years of experience ahead of them and I only wish to use my wisdom to protect and guide them. As I was dwelling on these thoughts I felt the Lord tell that’s exactly how He feels about me and all of His children. He longs for us to trust in Him and to rely on His eternal wisdom to guide and protect us also.

God then reminded me of a text conversation I had with my daughter the week prior. It was past both our bedtimes and she texted me because she was afraid. She had watched a video on an end of the world prediction (stating the world is suppose to end April 18th) and it was so realistic to her that she was in a panic. I tried explaining the biblical version of the end of the world in an effort to bring her some peace of mind but it was ineffective. I felt myself getting frustrated because I was tired (I did mention it was past bedtime, right?) and being a believer in the Bible’s version of End times, I knew this prediction was utter nonsense. So of course I thought it was ridiculous to be panicked over nonsense.

I finally told her she had a choice to make. She could choose to believe her mom or to believe that video. She never answered that choice but after a few more texts she ended up falling asleep. I however was too on edge at that point to go back to sleep so I ended up watching an hour of a movie.

God used my own words to speak to me. He pointed out I (and you) can choose to trust God or we can choose to trust in our circumstances. When we have a little faith in Him (even faith the size of a mustard seed), we can move mountains (Matt 17:20.) When we choose to trust in our circumstances we build our foundation on sand which means our security and stability is ever changing, completely unstable and can be washed away with every ebb and wave life splashes upon us.

Did I mention that my daughter has admitted to not believing in God? Did I also mention that my son is struggling with his own rebellion that is not becoming of how he is being raised? My heart breaks for my children. My heart is desperate for them to be free of strongholds and walking in a close personal relationship with Jesus. My heart is filled with angst and guilt for the lack of effort I’ve made in developing them spiritually.

Yet God is faithful. He reminded of His work with Abraham and Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael, Jacob and Joseph, Moses and his mother, Hannah and Samuel, and of course Mary and Jesus. Each story is one of a parent or parents crying out to Abba over their child and God being faithful to protect them and bring salvation upon every one of them. He is calling me (and you) to trust that He will keep His promises over our children as well. Just as He did for those in the Bible, He will protect and bring salvation to my children and yours in His time and always in His way.

Take note-faith without actions is dead (James 2:17). So we need to plant seeds of salvation over our prodigal children. We need to cover them with prayer day and night. We need to call out the enemy and his henchmen binding up the enemy’s lies. We need to profess the blood of Jesus over ourselves and our children. And we need to NEVER stop believing in God’s ability to turn their hearts back to Him.

Just now God reminded me of St. Augustine. This was a man raised by a God fearing mother (St. Monica) and a pagan father. Although Augustine was raised in a church, when he reached a certain again his father sent him away to a place that exposed him to many worldly cultures. Monica’s heart was in total anguish. At one point, Augustine denounced God and even created his own religion. It was only when he had been stricken with a near fatal illness that he turned his heart and belief back to God and became an evangelist of his time. Just another example of a prodigal son whose prayer warrior momma refused to give up and whose faith moved mountains that brought about salvation.

Are you a prayer warrior momma bear like me? Are you an armor bearing dad who’s in the trenches willing to engage in spiritual warfare for your child’s eternity? Then fight with the faith of Gideon and pray with the persistence of this woman in Luke 18:

“There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’

Victory for our kids is certain by the power of Jesus Christ and the strength of our persistent prayers! Can I get an AMEN?!

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I Will Not Be Moved!

“As for me…I said, “I shall never be moved.’”

Psalm 30:6 AMP

One of my favorite warfare songs is I Will Not Be Moved, by Natalie Grant.  This song epitomizes my life just in the first lyric, “I have been a wayward child, I have acted out.”  Anyone who knows the story of David knows this lyric is quite fitting for him also.   In Psalms 21-30 we see a lot of praise and lot of David claiming innocence, but in chapter 25 verse 11 David confesses this, “For Your Name’s Sake, O Lord, pardon my wickedness and guilt, for they are great.”  Later in another chapter David will speak of his integrity and character noting that he does not sit with deceitful men but here we see him admitting he too has faults.  Don’t we all?  I think it’s David’s awareness of his faults that allowed him to offer grace to his enemies (and by grace I mean he chose not to kill Saul when he had the chance but instead trusted God to deal with Saul accordingly for the one who pursued David’s life with a jealous vengeance.)

The second verse to Natalie Grant’s song is, “Bitterness has plagued my heart, many times before. My life has been like broken glass and I have kept the score. Of all my shattered dreams and though it seems, that I was far too gone.  My brokenness helped me to see, it’s grace I’m standing on.”  We see bitterness in David in Psalm 22.  David begins with, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?  O God, I call out by day, but You do not answer.  And by night, but I find no rest nor quiet.”  Psalm 21 is full of praise and worship to God but Psalm 22 throws the reader deep into a pit of bitterness.  Why?  Because even David, the man after God’s own heart, the man God anointed personally to be king, wrestled with bitterness.  It’s human nature.  The enemy’s best darts are bitterness, despair, and hopelessness.  If he can hit us with any of those darts he knows he can get a stronger foothold to drag us right down into anger, fear, depression, resentment and the biggest faith killer-doubt.  The best way to combat those darts-do like David did and turn that despair in to praise.  Toward the end of chapter 22, David writes (in verse 26), “The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; those who [diligently] seek Him and require Him [as their greatest need] will praise the Lord…”  That is the perfect example of the last line in verse 2 of Natalie Grant’s song-“My brokenness helped me to see, it’s grace I’m standing on.”  Psalm 22 starts out showing David’s brokenness.  But it ends with David praising God.  And in Psalm 26:12 David declares; “My foot stands on a level place, in the congregations I will bless the Lord.”  David stood on the Rock, claimed God as his Redeemer and never took his eyes off his Savior.  That’s a true example of being immovable.

The reprise of this Natalie Grant song goes like this, “And the chaos in my life, has been the badge I’ve worn. And though I have been torn, I will not be moved.”  David wore a badge of chaos for most of his life.  It’s evident when Saul became jealous of him and pursued his life.  He literally hid in a cave for safety.  It’s evident when he became king and fought many battles against many nations.  It’s evident when he had an affair with Bathsheba and tried to cover up her pregnancy by having her husband Uriah killed.  It’s evident by the many wives he had and the dysfunction that took place between his children.  David lived a chaotic life.  But one thing remained throughout it all and it’s most evident in Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my Light and My Salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the refuge and fortress of my life-whom shall I dread?”  We see evidence again in Psalm 27:13 when David writes, “I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  The one thing David did amidst all the chaos in his life was stand on God’s promises and trust in God for deliverance.

God calls us to do the same.  The scriptures are not written just for those who lived during that time.  In fact, these Psalms were written while David was in the midst of his storms.  He didn’t have the gospel to turn to for wisdom, solace or as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.  David only had his faith to rely on and God’s wisdom speaking directly to him.  His ability to hear God’s voice (along with God’s use of prophets in David’s era) and to choose to trust in God is what made David a conqueror over all his enemies.  God gives us the same ability.  In today’s age of the internet, media, cell phones and busyness it’s a greater challenge for us to hear God but He still speaks to us daily and like David tells us in Psalm 27:14, God wants us to, “Wait for and confidently expect the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.”

That’s easier said than done when you’re in the throws of a hurricane, right?  If that’s happening to you right now, I want to encourage you to try this (and I’m going to put it into practice too.) Meditate on Psalm 23 reminding yourself that God is our shepherd, we have nothing to want.  He leads us beside still waters, He restores us and refreshes.  Even when we walk in times of darkness and evil, we do not have to fear for He is with us.  He is our Shepherd, thus, His rod and staff bring us comfort.  Goodness and mercy are with us and we will dwell in God’s house someday.  Once you’re done with Psalm 23, meditate on this passage also from Psalm 30 verses 11 and 12; “You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.”  While you’re meditating on these passages, remember this.  David didn’t thank God after God delivered him.  David thanked God while he was in the eye of the storm, while he was hiding in a cave, while he was grieving the death of a child and while he was battling some pretty severe enemies.  David didn’t wait for God to answer, he knew God would answer and that was cause enough for him to praise Abba.  Please take the time to read Psalm 21-30 and see for yourself just how David again used praise and worship to stand on God’s promises and increase his faith.

He Never Promised Us a Rose Garden

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to kill and a time to heal…A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 NLT

Can I be bold with you?  Sometimes life just sucks.  For those of you offended by that word, please forgive me but honestly in some situations there’s really no better non-cuss word to use.  Seriously think about it-throughout history there has been generations of people who endured much suffering and I am certain there are people right now in your family or neighborhood who seem to repeatedly get dealt an unlucky hand in the poker game we call life.  Sometimes-we are that person who’s parade is ever being rained on and no matter how hard we fight, crawl, climb, scrape and cry-out for help it seems we’re continuously being knocked down and will forever remain in a pit of bad-luck and despair.

I’ve had my share of “bad luck”-my life has been a whirlwind of high hopes and deep disappointments. I’ve experience sudden deaths of loved ones including my step-dad when I was just 7-years-old.  In my 20’s I lost the one man who was a constant in my life, my grandfather, to lung cancer.  Add to that the betrayal of friends, a few abusive relationships, growing up around violent alcoholics and at times feeling abandoned by own biological father, you could say my life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. There have been years I felt like I was just moving in circles and other years I felt I was running on a hamster wheel striving to rise above all the junk but really just going nowhere and wearing myself out in the process.

To make matters worse, I’ve seen people I care deeply about have their whole lives turned upside by major tragedies-sometimes it’s a sickness, sometimes it’s a family member (or themselves) battling an addiction, other times it’s a break-up or divorce, sometimes it’s the sudden loss of a loved one or the untimely death of a family member or a friend due to a lengthy illness.  Then I turn on the news or read online and tragedy is splattered everywhere.  Just last week I watched a video of a shell-shocked boy, only 8-years-old being pulled away from rubble and left alone in an ambulance while rescue workers searched for other survivors and casualties.  The clip showed him completely  gray in color covered in ash, with no emotion on his face.  He rubbed his eye, barely blinking, touched his bloodied head and looked at his hand.  The sight of blood on his hand didn’t even excite or upset him.

I cannot tell you how many times I have cried over the tragedy of others.  My heart breaks over my own disappointments and losses but when I see others hurting or going through a trial that just doesn’t make sense I cry for them, I get angry at God for them and there are times I simply ask God, “Why?”  Other times I cry out, “God this is so unfair!”  And I cover them in prayer whenever they come to mind.  When I see others hurting I also tend to want to hug them until their hurt goes away.  I want to make them feel better and make them whole again.  I forget that I am not God and He alone is the One True Healer.  Only God can turn broken hearts into whole ones again.  His word not only says so, He shows how He does it through Job and Ruth.

Ruth was a young widow in a foreign country. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, was engulfed with grief after losing not only her husband but also her two sons.  The only family she had left was her two daughters-in-law.  In that culture it was normal for a sibling to marry his brother’s widow.  Alas, for Ruth and her sister-in-law this was not an option as both siblings were deceased.  Naomi felt her daughters-in-law would be better off returning to their home country for a chance to find new husbands and bare children.  Neither wanted to leave her at first, but after a little urging Ruth’s sister-in-law left Naomi and returned to her home land.  Ruth however clung to Naomi.  One of my favorite verses in the Bible is when Ruth says to Naomi, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” (Ruth 1:16 NLT) And Ruth’s persistence pays off because Naomi finally permits Ruth to stay with her.  That decision ends up being the turning point in changing both Naomi and Ruth’s circumstance from despair to redemption.  Ruth lost her husband. Naomi lost her son.  But God placed them in the hands of a kinsman redeemer who became Ruth’s husband and in a way an honorary son to Naomi.  In the ends, Naomi’s friends (or moreover perhaps the town gossips) praise God by saying, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!” (Ruth 4:14-15 NLT)

The other example of God moving a pit dweller into a land walker is good ole’ Job.  In Job 1, he is introduced as a man who fear God and stayed away from evil.  He was also a man who was very wealthy, married and had several children.  Life you could say for Job was “smooth-sailing.”  Along comes satan who mocks Job’s faith by implying Job was only a follower of Christ because God had given him such an easy life.  God’s response?  He allowed the belly-crawler that satan is to attack Job and test his faith.  First Job lost his livelihood.  He had no time to absorb this kind of a hit before he was informed ALL of his children were killed at once.  If that wasn’t enough, God even allowed satan to attack Job’s health and he ended up covered in painful boils. Job didn’t just fall into a pit, he was thrown in by the arrogant punk coward forked tongue fallen angel Lucifer.  AND GOD ALLOWED IT!!!!  For me that is the most shocking part of Job’s story. God allowed a faithful follower of his to hit rock bottom simply to prove that nothing would shake Job’s faith to the point that he would turn against God.

Even though Job grieved, tore his clothing and covered himself in ash-he was credited for not sinning against God during this horribly tragic time.  In the end God restored to Job all that he had lost, two fold.  He doubled Job’s fortune and restored to him the exact number of children Job had lost.  JOb was even cured from his boils. (Job 42)

These are just two examples of restoration and redemption.  God’s word is filled with so many more.  In this life-God still restores and redeem.  If you are going through a difficult time, learning to live life without the person you loved most in it or feeling like you are forever stuck in a pit or just going in circles please be encouraged that God is with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you and just like Psalms 40 reminds us, He will pull us from the mud and the mire.  In fact, I’d like to end this post with Psalm 40.  I pray it encourages anyone who reads it and empowers you to walk tall knowing God is for you, not against you.  If you surrender your wounds to the Father He will make you whole again. Be open to love.  God tends to show His love for us through the love of others.  He’s also been known to use the love of others to mend our brokenness.  Ruth and Job’s hearts were crushed but God not only pieced them back together He enlarged their hearts to love again. After all, they’re hearts had to have grown twice in size at least to love those they had lost and have room to love the ones they had gained also.

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,

and he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,

out of the mud and the mire.

He set my feet on solid ground

and steadied me as I walked along.

He has given me a new song to sing,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see what he has done and be amazed.

They will put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:1-3 NLT)

One final thought before I close-God doesn’t just promise to bind up broken hearts-Psalm 30 tells us He promises to turn our mourning into joyful dancing, and to clothe us with joy (verse 11.)  Grief is part of the process when one experiences loss.  But it’s a process, not a way of life. Eventually to move past grief we have to release the wound and allow God to mend it so that we will no longer have the desire to mourn but instead be filled with joy and gladness once again.

My August Son

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalms 139: 13-14 NIV

When I was fifteen-years-old and completely frustrated with my two-year-old brother who would not stop walking across my board game, I looked up at the ceiling and yelled, “IF YOU’RE A SMART GOD, YOU WON’T LET ME HAVE CHILDREN!”  As a little girl I loved playing house and had many baby dolls but as a teenager, I never liked babysitting, never had patience with small children.  That impatience readily increased with having three younger brothers who are 14, 16 and 20 years younger than me.

That all changed in my twenties.  First, God moved me into children’s ministry and I fell in love with a fantastic little toddler named, Andrew.  He and I spent many evenings in the church nursery watching Muppets while his mom attended whatever class was being offered at the time.  That little guy could turn any bad day into a happy one in just a few short moments of silly interactions.  In 2001, I quit working at that church and moved out of state.  Unfortunately, I have no idea how my toddler buddy has grown up.

When I was twenty-five, during a routine exam, my doctor discovered some health problems that only surgery would fix.  The day after my surgery I learned I only had a 50% chance of ever having children. It was at that moment I recalled that exasperated prayer of a selfish 15-year-old girl and I prayed that God didn’t take me seriously then and would gift me with children.  Two years later, He gifted me with a beautiful daughter.  Twenty-one months after she was born, I gave birth to her baby brother.  After that I had two more surgeries that reduced my chance of pregnancy down to 0%.

Every year on my children’s birthdays I tell them the story of how they were born.  As unique as their personalities are to this day, so were my pregnancies and subsequently, their births.  My son’s was the hardest pregnancy, easiest birth.  After complications I suffered birthing my daughter, my only option to birth my son was a scheduled cesarean section. Although it was petrifying to be fully awake during such a major surgery, having no labor pains and delivering a child in a matter of minutes was a tremendous blessing compared to the 13 hours of labor including an hour and a half of pushing to deliver my daughter.  His pregnancy was tough-his birth was easy-but life with him has been an adventurous challenge ever since.

My son was colicky at birth.   He cried so much that there were days I didn’t even want to come home from work because I knew he was just going to cry and I couldn’t console him.  Honestly, I would cry too.  I felt guilty and helpless all at the same time.  He had stomach issues that led to multiple types of formula changes, food allergy testing at the appropriate age, and even an upper GI.  He also bounced between ear and sinus infections for several years. He was on so much antibiotic I worried he would become immune to its effects.  If that wasn’t enough he ended up with asthma, severe allergies and hernia surgery by the age of 6.  He endured allergy shots for seven years and spent many school days in the office using a nebulizer during croup season. We became frequent flyers to our pediatrician, allergist and the children’s hospital that was two hours away.  If his health wasn’t a big enough challenge for him and me, he was also diagnosed with ADHD when he was 5.

ADHD has its own challenges.  One of those was determining to medicate or not.  We tried both.  The first meds he was on he acted like a drug addict coming off a high when the med was wearing off.  The second med made him completely indifferent to anything-as if he had no emotions at all.   He was pulled off meds and for five years we tried behavior management and naturopathic methods.  By fifth grade he was struggling academically, behaviorally and emotionally.  With a resistant heart (I am a very anti-pill popping parent) he was put back on an ADHD medication.  I praise God this one is working with minimal side effects.

As he enters his final year of childhood and prepares for the teen years, I’ve reflected on how much he’s grown over the past 12 years.  In spite of his health hardships and behavioral struggles, my son is one of the toughest and gentlest young men I have the pleasure of knowing.  No matter the setback we would experience, he was taught to treat it as his norm and to persevere in spite of it.  He has a natural athletic ability hitting pitched baseballs and bumping volleyballs at the age of 3.  He is a man’s man kind of boy and loves everything that has to do with being a guy.  He even demands to have man soap for showering.  He has however been banned from Axe body spray after excessive usage caused major eye burning, choking and a literal evacuation from the house. My favorite thing about him is that his tender heart still loves to snuggle with his momma even though he’s embarrassed if I kiss him in public.

Raising him has changed me.  Having a child with ADHD requires patience that I was simply not born with.  With God’s grace though I can actually find humor in seeing his pants hanging from my ceiling fan and  finding his socks hanging from magnets on the refrigerator when he was supposed to be getting ready for school.  On days when he is super high energy, God equips me with added measures of patience as well as creativity to help him burn off his energy in a positive way.  Most importantly, raising him has taught me I am not in control-God truly is.  I never planned to have my children so close in age, but God did.  I never planned to have a son who would have multiple health and behavior issues or to be raising my children as a single parent.  But God did.  And with each setback, health scare, meltdown, impulsive outburst and hyperactive day, God’s been with us helping us through each one.  He has a huge purpose for my son and I know every hardship we’ve endured is making him into the man God made him to be.  I pray every day my son will continue to seek God and learn what his purpose is in order to effectively live it out.

Recently I stumbled up a poem I had written years before my children were born.  It was actually written during a time when I was on the fence of wanting children.  It was entitled, Unconditional Love.  These are the words from that poem:

“Although you are not born yet,

The love I feel for you has always existed.

Even though you haven’t been created yet,

I’ve always felt you growing inside of me, inside of my heart.

You’ve always been a part of my life.

When I was a child you were the baby doll I dressed up and played house                                      with.

Now that I am a woman, you are a mystery that will someday be my reality.

You are my child, my son, my daughter…”

Fourteen years ago, that mystery mentioned in my poem became a reality with the birth of my daughter.  Twelve years ago, that reality doubled with the birth of my August son.

NO FEAR!

 

“As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.”

1Samuel 17:48 NLT

The other night I had a spiritual warfare dream.  In this dream, I had just moved into an older, two-story home with a large porch on the front.  I found myself in the living room area immersed in fear of an evil presence.  I tried crying out and rebuking the devil to cast out the evil but I had no voice.  I felt helpless and paralyzed.  I prayed for Christ to rebuke the enemy for me and to restore my voice.  Suddenly I became bold and angry.  Amidst a terror inside of me that was almost debilitating, I ran upstairs and started kicking in doors hollering at the enemy to show his face, daring him to come at me.  I ran into dark unfamiliar rooms not knowing what would be on the other side of the door, terrified but determined to face my enemy.  I was fed up with being afraid and I was chasing after this evil presence.  There was a room at the end of the hallway with a light on.   I never made it to that room.  When I noticed the light on I called the enemy out again and told him to show himself.  He came out of the lighted room cowering. When he appeared, he was nothing but a wiry, thin, pale faced thug-a thief who ran with his tail between his legs when I started ranting and thrashing at him to GET OUT!

Although I woke up exhausted, I had no doubt what my dream was telling me.  I have lived in fear most of my life.  Fear caused me to not try out for the softball team my freshman year of high school.  Fear kept me from studying in France for 5 weeks when I was a college student.  Fear kept me from pursuing my dream of being a professional singer/actor.  Fear also kept me in an abusive relationship.  It even still keeps me from visiting my dentist regularly.  God used this dream to show me what I needed to do with fear.  Face it. Run after it and kick it out of my soul.  Fear has no place in ruling my life or yours.

I have read repeatedly that the Bible says “Do not fear” 365 times.  Although I haven’t googled the validity of that statement, I’ve read enough of in Deuteronomy, Joshua and Isaiah alone to believe it’s true.  In His word, God repeatedly tells us to NOT FEAR, to not be afraid and to be still.  Each time He says it, He also adds, “for I Am with you…”  The Great I Am is with us all the time, everywhere we go.  Focusing on that alone should be enough to make us fearless.  But for most, for me at least, it’s not.  I needed God to show me how to not fear.

He not only showed me in my dream, He confirmed it this week through the story of David and Goliath.  You don’t have to be a Christian to be familiar with the story of a shepherd boy who took on a 9 foot (2.74 meters) giant and killed him with a slingshot and 1 stone. Some probably think it’s simply a fictional Sunday school story.  But the true believer knows it is truth because God’s word tells us so.

1 Samuel chapter 17 tells us David was Jesse’s youngest son.  While his older brothers were at war, David went back and forth between the soldiers’ camp and the sheepfold to help his father keep watch on his older brothers and the family sheep.  One specific day, Jesse, sent him to the camp with food for his brothers.  When David arrived, the Israelites and Philistines were in the midst of war. David ran out to meet his brothers.  This is the first time he sees Goliath taunting and terrorizing the Israelite army.  Men older and “braver” than David were frozen in fear because of one enemy who towered over them and taunted them.  To this point, anyone who had attempted to take on Goliath was murdered.  In human thinking, their fear was completely valid.

David was a man after God’s own heart before he became King of Judah.  What was David’s response to Goliath’s threats?  “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?(vs 26b)”  David had no fear of Goliath because David knew his God was bigger, stronger and mightier.  He couldn’t understand why the Israelites were so afraid of this giant. David recognized who Goliath really was-He wasn’t an enemy of the Israelites, Goliath was an enemy of God.  David knew no enemy of God’s ever wins-that confidence, made him fearless.

Even though David trusted God to defeat Goliath, he still received backlash from even his own family members regarding facing the giant.  David’s older brother, Eliab, was angry with David for talking to the other soldiers and asked him, ““What are you doing around here anyway? “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle! (vs 28)” Eliab’s faith wasn’t as big as David’s and he didn’t see David as the man God created him to be.  Eliab only saw David as his annoying little brother who was just an action-junkie going to get in the way and get himself killed.

I love David’s response to his older brother.  “What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question! (vs 29)” Then he walked over and asked other soldiers the same question.  He didn’t bat an eye to his brother’s naysaying.  I imagine David was already hearing God calling him to face this giant and he was determined to obey God.  Nothing anyone said was going to deter David from his God ordained destiny or make him falter in his faith.

At this point, King Saul hears about David’s question and calls for him.  When David meets King Saul, the young shepherd boy boldly and confidently tells the king, “Don’t worry about this Philistine…I’ll go fight him! (vs 32)” To which Saul replied, ““Don’t be ridiculous! …There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth. (vs 33)”  And here’s what verses 34-37 tells us David’s reply was, “But David persisted. ‘I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,’ he said. ‘When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death.  I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!’”  The best part of that whole passage is the first sentence, but David persisted.   In spite of his own family not believing in him, in spite of the law of the land at that time having no faith in him, David persisted because he trusted God to defeat the enemy.  His persistent faith is what prompted Saul to finally say, ““All right, go ahead…And may the Lord be with you! (vs 37b)”

Even though Saul consented to David’s request, Saul still didn’t see David as the warrior God made him to be. Saul tried to dress David up in protective armor that actual held David back. If he had worn the man-made armor, David would have readily been defeated because it was too heavy, weighed him down, and not what David was used to. So David refused the armor and prepared for battle-how? He used what he knew, his staff and his slingshot.  His ammunition was 5 stones.  He ran toward his enemy, fearlessly and was practically a laughing stock to his family, the army he was fighting for and especially his enemy.  David looked square at his enemy and said, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us! (vs 45-47.) He loaded his slingshot, took aim and nailed Goliath square in the forehead, then cut off his head.  Did you catch that-David, a small shepherd boy killed a 9 foot giant by knocking him down with a slingshot and cutting off his head!  Why was David victorious?  Because he knew it was the Lord’s battle and he TRUSTED God to deliver the enemy to him.

When we lay our fear down, face the giants in His way and trust His might through us, He moves in a mighty way and makes us victorious too.  David had no battle plan. He was simply a natural born warrior and he used what he knew trusting God to do the rest.

As I write this, I’m listening to a sermon by Todd White, entitled, No Longer a Slave to Fear.  In this sermon Todd says, “[We] are not victims of circumstance-[we] are victorious.  We are sons and daughters of the King.  Let us not be bound by [the enemy’s] lies.  Don’t let your hope be deferred.  If it’s deferred, it’s because your hope isn’t set on what God says you are.  It’s impossible to have your hope deferred by circumstance when your hope is set on Jesus.”  The Israelites lived as victims.  David lived as the victor through Christ.  The Israelites lived without hope.  David’s hope was set on His God.  He knew, deep in his heart, that he was a mighty warrior made by God and that no enemy would be victorious in destroying his God-ordained destiny.  Because he was not a slave to fear, God’s destiny for him came to fruition over and over again.  David only knew defeat when he sinned against God or handled life by his own might.  But even then, when David repented, God raised him up again and made him victorious over all his enemies.

We all have a God-ordained destiny.  The only thing that can keep us from achieving that destiny is paralyzing fear.  We have a choice to be like David who ran after his enemy or be like the Israelites who doubted God and fought battles in their own human strength.   We can live to know who God made us to be, or we can live with a hope deferred and sick hearts (Proverbs 13:12.)  We should definitely pray and know God’s destiny for ourselves but once we know, we have to go.  As Todd White says, “we’re not going to pray about where to go, we’re just going to go.  Why?  Cuz’ ‘go’ is two-thirds of God (G-O-D.)”  If God is telling you to go-then go, fearlessly, and let God guide you along the way.

To blindly go, we will need faith like David and like Abraham.  When God told Abraham to go in Genesis 12, He didn’t spell out the plan step by step or detail by detail.  God only said, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. (vs 1)”  God said GO then He promised to SHOW.  Too often we miss out on what God is calling us to do because we’re waiting for God to show before we go.  We need to take that leap of faith and go first.  Then trust God to show us the way.  We need to trust that God is moving mightily defeating every enemy that attempts to block us from His destiny for us.  But remember, He calls us to first GO.   He calls us to run after our enemy and trust Him to bring the victory His way, and in His time. Let us stop floundering like a wave tossed to and fro and let us go after what He has already laid on our hearts to achieve for His purpose and glory.

#Origin

“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”                                                         Philippians 3:14 NLT

I watched my first rugby match this morning.  I follow a couple of rugby pages on Instagram and my newsfeed was blowing up with pics of this crazy game called “Origin”.  I had no idea what “Origin” was or what the craze was all about.  But I quickly learned.  Actually, I still don’t know why they call it Origin but I learned what the craze of rugby was all about.

Prior to watching this game, my understanding of rugby consisted of it being a form of football where they wore no pads and dressed like soccer players.  I knew the rules were a tad different but never studied it enough to fully understand the similarities or differences.  Watching the match was a real eye opener that rugby is clearly in a league of its own.

Football and rugby both have an offense and defense. The offense moves the ball to the end zone/goal line, the defense does everything in their power to stop that from happening.  Where American football has four downs (or four attempts to move the ball toward the end zone) Australian rugby offense can move the ball through 5 tackles before the ball is turned over to their opponent.   But there’s a greater difference-In football, after each down, a new play is discuss and set up, a new strategy is planned before the ball is hiked and another attempt is made toward the end zone.  What I watched in rugby, the team runs together in a horizontal line lobbing the ball to each other trying to bust past the defensive line.  When they’re tackled, they get up, kick the ball slightly behind them to a team mate and the running/lobbing madness begins again.

Another difference is passing.  There’s passing in rugby but it’s nothing like football.  In American football, a quarterback can throw a spiral that’ll clear the defense to a receiver who can outrun the enemy.  A quarterback with a strong throwing arm combined with a fast receiver makes for one tough high-scoring offense.  I’m still trying to figure out how passing works in rugby, but I didn’t see any throws over the defense’s heads or someone running down field to catch and score.

Watching the offense move the ball to score a try (or touchdown) and the defense repeatedly tackle them was like watching a spiritual warfare battlefield.  As Christians, we are the offense.  Each day we are called to press on toward the goals we have in this life, accomplishing our God-given dreams.  The enemy is the defense.  He and his evil henchmen do everything in their power to tackle every move we make preventing us from reaching God’s goals for our life.  If we’re tough like an Australian rugby player, we get right back up and keep moving only to again meet opposition and maybe get knocked down again.  A vicious cycle until we wear out because let’s face it, the enemy doesn’t get tired.

As exhilarating and slightly confusing as rugby is to me (confusing only because I’m still learning it), there’s a few differences in American football I really like.  First,  there’s a quarterback who sets the stage, directs the plays and tends to determine how the ball is going to move down the field into the end zone. In life, we have a quarterback too.  Psalm 37:23 reminds us that “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT)  God has already set the stage for us. If we listen, He directs the plays (our steps) and His word determines how we (the ball) navigate through this life achieving His goals.

Second, the offense’s response to a defensive tackle is to pause, reset, and set up a new strategy before moving the ball again.  In life, when the enemy attacks us, there are times we should “cease striving and know that He is God….” (Psalm 46:10 NASB) There are times in life where the enemy has knocked us on our backsides so hard all we can do is pause, seek our Heavenly Quarterback for direction and allow Him to set up our next move.  It may look like the same move we tried before, or He may have a different “play” for us.   Whatever the plan, if we listen to His leading, we will victoriously find ourselves successfully in the end zone with the enemy licking his wounds in defeat.

One last thing-in American football there’s a term called “false start” where the offense crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is in play.  In life, we can experience false starts too if we try to move ourselves before the Lord tells us to move or better yet before He has even given us direction or set up the play.  The books of Deuteronomy and Jeremiah along with many Proverbs warn us of what happens when we walk outside of God’s direction.

Whether you play Australian rugby or American football, the prize is ultimately a trophy and bragging rights.  In life, the prize we press on to achieve is accomplishing God’s will for our lives, changing this world and giving Him all the glory.  Doing anything that glorifies God is a prize worth fighting for no matter how many tackles the enemy makes on us.  With God as our Quarterback, in the end, we will score the ultimately try/touchdown!!!