2009-10 Verse and Message
 

I did not plan on sending this out until I got the official job offer but something inside told me not to delay.

Message #24-

  Psalm 56:3- When I am afraid, I will have confidence in and put my trust and reliance in You (Amp)

 Romans 8:28- And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them

Job 42:2- 2 "I know that you can do all things;
       no plan of yours can be thwarted

           

I have made reference to letting go of the past several times in my devotionals.  Still, I cannot help but wonder where my life would be today if I never had adrenal fatigue.  Of course, I do not know the answer and can only speculate about “what might have been”.  What is certain is that things would be very much different today.  There is no doubt that it has made me a better person on the inside but outside of that would I ever actually end up better off as a result of it?  I am just beginning to see that the answer just might be “yes” after all.

            My friend Susan (www.susiemc.wordpress.com) wrote in part on her blog :” If we fully trust in Him, then we can be confident of the WAY He is directing us, we can trust that He is TRUTH, and He not only sees the big picture, but He has His BEST design in mind for our lives.She also quoted a friend that said that faith is trusting in advance what only makes sense in reverse.  How could an energy crash and a full year of unemployment followed by being stuck in a dead end job possibly be the “best design” for my life?  I’ll do my best to be brief but yes it is starting to make sense (in reverse).  I applied for several bank jobs and financial analyst positions near the end of my time at Clemson and saw nothing work out.  Given the current financial crisis, it is now clear that those jobs would not be a very attractive option.  I still had my BS in Accounting in which I could fall back.  Those of you who know me well can tell on any given day simply by looking at me whether I am feeling well, sick or somewhere in between. In a job interview, the candidate is under a microscope and it was not difficult for hiring managers to see that something was wrong.   I’m sure that I lost a few good chances of employment with CPA firms simply because I looked bad physically and appeared depressed as well.  What did I miss by being rejected?  I missed a job in which I was not particularly interested and exactly what I went for my MBA to avoid.  For a quarter of the year, I would have been working 12 hour days plus additional time spent at work on Saturday or even Sunday.  Even if one’s adrenal glands are strong, that type of work for an extended period of time is bad for anybody’s health. 

            If not for the illness, I probably never would have moved to Alabama and although my current job/outside environment is not God’s best for me, working for the State may turn out to be the one path toward the ideal situation at this time.  I recently interviewed for a more challenging position in which I am actually using my degree but is still relatively low stress and requires no overtime.  The hiring manager at the Birmingham taxpayer center approved me as a new hire but the current hiring freeze presents more obstacles than normal.  There is no timeline for my start date or even a guarantee that it will go through but God is bigger than all of the circumstances working against me.  Waiting for me in Birmingham are a great group of Christian friends, many of whom share my interest in running and are comparable to me in terms of ability. 

            To my readers in Montgomery :  I have been blessed to know every one of you and can specifically remember points in which you have lifted my spirits.  If nothing else, I will keep in touch through this ministry.  A few of my readers have suggested that I should be a consultant in the field of natural health.  If that is a door that God opens in the future, I will take it.  I know first-hand how it feels physically and emotionally to experience the symptoms of this disease and be told that your lab tests are normal.  I know the strain that can be put on families and friends of people struggling with this disease.  I can not only sympathize but say “I’ve been there and there is a way out.”  No amount of schooling can ever teach anything like that. 

            In the past, people have made empty promises to help me find a job but I must remember that they are not my source.  God is our source.  When you turn on the computer and go to Yahoo, you see that almost every day, some company is announcing job cuts.  At one point, my current job was no longer secure and I faced the prospect of job hunting with no relevant experience again in a recession. I know that it is easy to slip into fear but I challenge you to meditate on the Word that reminds us 365 times to be not afraid but full of faith.  I admit that I could be handling this job situation better than I am.  Negative thoughts are what plague me quite often.  I once quoted Murphy’s Law but was immediately corrected by: “God’s Law- when it does go wrong, He can make it right.”  If you are one of the unlucky ones that lost your job in this economy, as difficult as it sounds, stay strong and trust in the Lord.  Have faith that in due time, something better will come through.  God is sovereign and if it is His will that you find your dream job in 2009, even a full blown economic depression cannot thwart His plan.  Sometimes, seemingly impossible circumstances are when God is about to do something awesome and His glory is revealed.  When that happens, there is no shortage of praise to God but can we maintain an attitude of faith and praise Him during those seemingly impossible circumstances?

Message #25- Don’t let the enemy steal your joy

John 10:10- The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Romans 8:37- Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors [a]and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us (Amp)

            I recently had a toothache and needed a root canal.  When I told somebody about it, the reaction was as if it was a tragedy.  While I appreciated the sympathy, I did respond that this really was not that big of a deal.  Yes, the left side of my mouth was sore for a few days before and immediately after I saw the dentist but that’s better than my entire body.  It had no impact on the chemicals regulating my mood and energy level.  In fact, my recent half marathon was run when I had a toothache.  A couple of weeks later, I went down with a bacterial infection.  That one did sap my energy but had little impact on my mood and I did not let it get me down.  In other words, it would take a lot more than that to steal my joy.  Instead, it allowed me to be thankful that I had access to professionals who were able to fix the problems, antibiotics to knock out the infection and Ibuprofen to reduce the pain.  I may not have the exact details but I recall a while back, Joel Osteen categorized issues into “5 minute problems, 5 day problems and 5 month problems.”  A 5 minute problem would be getting stuck in a minor traffic jam or long line.  A 5 day problem would be a root canal, the flu or an exam week/projects due. An example of a 5 month problem would be a serious injury or surgery in which a full recovery is a near-certainty.  I would never downplay or make light of a 5 month problem but even that situation as described above will not be an issue in the next half of the year.  Too many times, even strong Christians lose their cool over these 5 day or even 5 minute problems that will be gone by the end of the day or end of the week.  I did handle the root canal and bacterial infection well but I am not completely blameless on this issue.  Do you ever wake up feeling good and praise God then when you can’t immediately find your car keys and get stuck in traffic, it sets the tone for the morning?   In addition to the root canal, my chronic fatigue symptoms flared up again in the days before the big race because of a mineral deficiency that arose as a result of my history of sluggish adrenals.  When that does happen, it’s okay for me to feel depressed because the chemical imbalances are not my fault. However, it is not okay for me to feel discouraged and walk around defeated.  Over the past year and a half, 90 % of the time, I recognize the cause of the flare up early and can fix it by taking a pill or not taking one thus returning me to my normal energetic self by the end of the week or even sooner.  Instead of feeling discouraged, I should take the opportunity to be thankful that I am so well in tune with my body that I can minimize the duration and severity of the pain during the setback.  I must recognize it as a 5 day problem or sometimes even a 1-2 day problem and must never succumb to fear of another full-blown relapse.  As most of you know, I not only produced on race day, I smashed my personal record with a time of 1:36:16 (7:21/mile) and set my sights on greater achievements in the near-future.

            I could go on and on about everything that the enemy seeks to steal, kill or destroy but the one thing that I feel is the most dangerous is the stealing our joy.  As followers of Christ, we must spread His light to a world that is in large part, lost.  Yet, the enemy is a liar and uses all of these setbacks or inconveniences in an effort to dull our enthusiasm for the Gospel.  Don’t let him do it.  The energy crash of 2005 and both rounds of job hunting do not fall into the category of a 5 day or even a 5 month problem.  I will not sugar coat it.  It was and is extremely difficult especially for someone as young and active as I am. However, even that does not give me an excuse to walk around defeated.  To my new readers, I believe that there is a way out of any form of chronic fatigue and depression due to chemical imbalances and by His stripes we are healed. My achievements with this physical body have been greater than anyone thought possible, myself included.  Regardless of whether you have chemical imbalances or some other thorn that is unrelated, Jesus did not go to the cross and conquer death to see believers walk around discouraged and defeated.  By His Love, we claim a victory that is more precious than anything we can possibly imagine.  When a leader of an army goes to war, emerges victorious and reaps the reward, he is a conqueror and that’s exactly what we are. The only difference is that the real battle has already been fought and won on our behalf. The enemy has already been defeated and no amount of suffering and affliction can separate us from Christ’s love.

 Message#26-

Ephesians 6:11- Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.

James 4:7- Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Hebrews 10:35-36- So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! 36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

   As I write this message, my heart is extremely heavy.  The following messages were posted on Cure Zone, an online discussion forum for various health problems:

 

“I can't even go into a grocery store without suffering for a whole day afterwards with severe exhaustion and brain fog and depression. I seriously cannot live like this any more. I'm almost 21 years old now, and this has been going on since I was 17.  Every day is a battle. Every day is another day of loneliness. Every day I am unable to do anything that requires energy. I cannot work out. I cannot hang out with people. I cannot play tennis. I cannot dance. I cannot be silly and hyper.”

This one is even more heart breaking:

   “I have developed a severe, suicidal depression, can't sleep at all (sleeping pills are useless.) I really have no hope at all. “

                In both of these cases, the enemy has pushed them so far that in their warped point of view, they actually believe that they would be better off dead.  Referring to that as a tragedy would be a serious understatement.  For the record, I can relate to the first post because there were some days in which it was a struggle to get out of bed and go to the store but that only described me at my absolute worst and those periods did not last nearly as long as posted above.  As for the second post, I never felt anything close to depth of pain that would drive one to consider suicide.

                The first emotion that I feel after reading something like this is compassion, of course.  You need not be a Christian to feel empathy toward someone who has appeared to have given up hope but what we as believers know is that we have an Intercessor who not only cares but also experienced the pain of this world to a degree that most of us cannot even comprehend on the cross.   In another instance, the Word says that Jesus wept when he saw that Lazarus had been buried in a tomb (John 11:35).  That is the shortest verse in the Bible but it is also one of the most profound.   Here, Jesus knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead but when He saw the pain and anguish among people who loved him, Jesus was still overwhelmed with sadness.  That should tell you something about how He feels when you are facing the physical and emotional pain in a trial.

                The second emotion that I feel is helplessness.  I posted the URL for my website on the forum and later sent private messages to those who posted the above items.  I have yet to receive a reply from either of those two individuals and do not know what else I can do.  I wish that there was a magic pill that I could recommend for everybody that is a “cure all” for any pain no matter what the nature of the chemical imbalances.  I cannot do that.  Even the best doctors in the field need a comprehensive diagnostic test to determine what will help, what will hurt and what will be ineffective.  What I can do is expose common problems in mainstream medicine, which offer an explanation as to why standard tests are often inconclusive and why common treatments are ineffective.  I can also help link others to professionals who are qualified to make decisions regarding how to target and ultimately correct the imbalances.  Perhaps, it is #2 on my Mission Statement that is the key.  Suffering patients must truly believe that their condition can improve or else they are unlikely to seek new treatments and if they have resigned themselves to a miserable life, they may be less receptive to the message of hope in Christ.

                If those two people had the same diagnostic tests as I, the degree of imbalances would make me appear perfectly healthy by comparison even back in 2006.  You may hear from various sources that you cannot even come close to your former energy level and to simply accept chronic fatigue and depression for life.  A common response to my site is: “I don’t believe it.”  Words can’t describe how sad that makes me feel.  Since I have posted links to my training log and race results, you would have to be blind to doubt that my recovery was real and I certainly would not know so much about the disease and treatments if I had not been through it.  Others have beaten this disease through other means so if the hair test protocol does not work for you, hope is not lost by any means.   My recovery has been improbable but nothing is impossible with God (Matt 19:26)

                In order to defend oneself against the enemy’s attacks, I have found that it is vital to meditate on the Word.  I cannot promise you that this action alone will have any impact on your symptoms but it will cause the enemy to flee from you. After you put on the full armor of God, when you hear that you will have to live out your life with crippling depression and fatigue due to chemical imbalances, you will recognize it as a lie from the depths of hell and deflect the attack. Yes, I heard that garbage too and the source was a so called mental health expert. Even in my darkest days, I knew deep inside that God had something better for me and He has something better for you too (Jer 29:11).  When my physical body told me that I was over the hill at the age of 20 and had debilitating fatigue at the age of 25, it looked bleak on the surface but a major reason why I am doing as well as I am is that I did not listen to what anyone else said and did not give up on the truth that I knew deep inside.  Again, my heart breaks for those two individuals mentioned above.  I do not know their names but God knows all about Cure Zone and for whom I am praying.  My rock bottom period in my mid 20s was quite deep and everything imaginable was going wrong so I know firsthand to never throw away trust in the Lord and yes this applies to those who are hurting worse than I ever was as well.  I admit that in early-mid 2006, part of me wanted to throw in the towel but I think that I am living proof that perseverance pays off.  

                Again, I cannot recommend a “cure all” for broken physical bodies because similar symptoms may have very different causes and thus require different treatments.  That said, even the lab has been surprised by how well my numbers have come into balance so God is active in my healing.  I can recommend one solution for a broken spirit and the solution is Jesus.  You may be overwhelmed by anguish over failures in your personal life or have been through some type of tragedy.  There are too many causes of a broken spirit to list here but in this case, there is a “cure all” and that is following Jesus Christ as your Lord.  I have probably tried over 100 different pills, some of which were quite potent, at various times over the years.  Some made me feel better while some were ineffective or even caused my symptoms to worsen but Jesus offers a different type of powerful healing that is deeper and more meaningful than the strongest pills that I have taken.  I may have felt that I cannot get through a day without certain pills but Jesus is whom I truly cannot live without. 

Here's a YouTube video emphasizing the point of never giving up:

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HNHbucBXrA&feature=related  

  Message#27-
Matthew 25:40- The King will reply 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
James 2:17- In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
John 13:34- A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Disclaimer:  I do not intend this site to be used as a platform to brag about my good deeds for I am a lowly sinner who would be lost without Christ.  Normally, I would keep something like this secret but since it fits so well with what was on my heart to share, I feel led by the Spirit to do so.
    Debilitating fatigue and depression can be a vicious cycle in which you are seemingly put into a “catch 22” situation in which there is no way out.  I know first hand that it is extremely difficult to find employment that will allow you to pay the bills if you are visibly sick or depressed even if your job skills are top notch.  I was rejected 16 times before getting an offer.  My least favorite question was as follows: You graduated a full year ago.  What have you been doing since? Why don’t you have a job?  I tried to be as non-specific as possible without being dishonest but I’m sure that employers could tell that there was something wrong with me and doubted my ability to do the job.  They were right.  At my worst, I don’t think that I could have even handled part time work.  If not for my parents’ financial support, I may not have been able to afford my diagnostic test or the initial phase of treatment that was required.  Now, suppose that you cannot afford treatment because you don’t have a job and you cannot get a job because you are disabled. I recently received an e-mail from a man named Wayne in that predicament except for two key differences.  His description of his symptoms indicates that his condition may be worse than mine.  He is deeply in debt and thus cannot afford expensive treatments or find someone willing to help financially.  I could not allow myself to sit on the sidelines and see his condition deteriorate while I had the means to do something about it (Matt 25:37).  I was moved with compassion and authorized my doctor to send me the bill at least for diagnostic tests.  Wayne’s response was that if I do help him get better, he doesn’t know how he can repay me but he will never forget it and I would have a friend for life.
    What is the point of all of this?  I see it as the very essence of Christianity.  Jesus went to the cross and paid the debt for my sins.  It is a debt that I can never repay no matter what I do.  If measured in terms of money, even the wealth of the entire world would not make a dent.  How does the world respond to this ultimate act of love?  The natural human reaction should pale in comparison  to Wayne’s attitude, one of everlasting gratitude and friendship forever but tragically, many people in the world choose toe reject this friendship with God.   Foolish transgressions are what put us in debt to God.  Sadly, many people in this economy are burdened with debt, some of whom made foolish financial decisions.  In the midst of the fear of America's national debt, remember that God is the source that will supply all of your needs. 

  Now, I would like to draw a parallel with financial debt and salvation.  I recall seeing something similar to this on a leaflet a few years ago. Suppose that you had a $500 bill due and were unable to pay it.  Then someone that you do not know stepped in and paid your debt with no conditions of repayment.  Of course, you would be grateful.  Now, suppose that your debt is $50,000 or more and it was also forgiven.  In this case, your level of gratitude would be even greater.  What Jesus did to forgive our debts is priceless.  It is my hope and prayer that this message will somehow reach people that have heard the Gospel but do not know Jesus that they may gain a new perspective of the degree of His love.
    Again, I seek no praise for a good deed.  If you want to praise somebody for my giving, praise Jesus.  Ten years ago, I was just as self-centered as any high school senior and it was Jesus that changed my heart.  I know some of my subscribers better than others but I have no doubt that all of you are devoted followers of Christ.  I would like to pose the following challenge to all of my readers, especially those who came to know the Lord later in life: 1.Examine how your worldview has changed as a result of your faith.  2. Consider your obedience to God and how you live your life as opposed to how you would if you were not a Christian and above all else 3. How much difference has it made in the way that you treat other people?  Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us.  Such unconditional love is precious because it is so rare in the world today.  Too often, I have fallen woefully short of that standard. My prayers are for anyone who has accepted Christ but considered those three questions and honestly answered “not very much.”  Jesus can bring about the change in your heart that makes your young faith come alive with loving action.  Quite often, it is not an overnight transformation but a slow process.  God is faithful and will not give up on you nor should we give up on one another.

Message #28- new beginnings

Acts 17:26-  From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.

1 Thessalonians 5:18- give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Luke 5:37- And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.

The weekend of May 8th-10th was a great one for me.  I set a new marathon PR with a time of 3:43:22 and arrived home to find a letter that was not a rejection in my mailbox.  In Message #24, I wrote of a new job that was still not certain to go through but felt moved by the Spirit to write it anyway.  After a 6 month saga in which my status alternated from no/yes/probably/maybe more times than I care to count, I was informed that I am moving to Birmingham, Alabama.  It has been 4 years since my graduation from business school and as of now, I am satisfied with where I am in life.  I will try to be brief about how I got to this point.  Running has been a big part of who I am for more than half of my life and only now do I feel that I am truly using it for the kingdom of God but it amazes me how He has used it to chart my path. In the Fall of 1999, my journey took me to Wheeling Jesuit University, a small Division 2 school in West Virginia.  If WJU had not recruited me so heavily for track and had not awarded me a significant academic scholarship, I probably would have chosen another university.  As most of you know, I was an abject failure as a college athlete but 2 important developments would spring from this disappointment.  First, I knew that such a sudden drop off in performance at 20-21 years old was not normal no matter what anyone else said so I began researching thyroid disease.  I learned much of what I have written in the Flaws of Traditional Medicine about 7-8 years ago in college.  Second, when seeking a deeper relationship with the Lord, I met an older student who led an underground Bible study on campus and read the Word cover to cover for the first time in 2002.  Because most big name MBA programs require work experience and I had little interest in working for a CPA firm, my options for graduate school were limited.  Clemson was an easy choice because of its strong academic reputation and location.  Although I held my own in the classroom, my overall academic experience was a disappointment and the aftermath was infinitely more painful.  Perhaps I would have done better at VA Tech or Auburn but I still believe that God wanted me at Clemson. It would be 2 years of significant spiritual growth and close friendships with a campus ministry known as the Navigators.  It was there that I first began writing commentaries on the Bible and studying it at a deeper level.  Only after that point could I begin applying it to my health situation in late 2006.  A full year after graduation, I lived in GreenvilleSC and saw my job search going nowhere and I remained undiagnosed despite having been to a “top doc” in mainstream medicine.  Signs were clear that I should move to a new city and my parents supported my decision.  I felt drawn to Birmingham for quite some time and chose to settle there because of the low unemployment rate, the prospect of getting a diagnosis in mainstream medicine (I was not yet sold on the hair test protocol) and the fact that the running club offered opportunities to make connections and was a fit for all ability levels (I could do very little running at the time). 

Now, how did everything work out?  If I had done a saliva test instead of a blood test in mainstream medicine, it likely would have revealed moderate adrenal fatigue and the only mainstream treatment is cortical steroids.  I now know that this could have been disastrous for someone with my body chemistry so I needed to stay in SC just long enough to give the hair test protocol a try and I think my race results show that it has been the best solution.  However, if I did not declare my intention to move to AL regardless of my job status, I do not think that I would have been hired as a State employee because it is so difficult to move from government to the private sector especially if you are looking to relocate.  Lastly, it is unlikely that I would have gotten my new job if I was not already a State employee.   Budget cuts forced a hiring freeze but I was an exception because the additional cost of my employment elsewhere would be minimal.  Now, it is clear that everything fits together (Romans 8:28).

            I do not necessarily feel that it is a good thing overall for so many people to leave their childhood hometowns but if you have a heart after God and seek to discern His will, you will not make a mistake when it comes to a life altering decision such as college or where to live.   I had simply hoped to use my time in Montgomery to get back on my feet as far as my health then get a better job in Birmingham within the next 12 months.  It turned out that I would be there for almost 3 years and for a time, my frustrations mounted.  Finding friends proved to be difficult in a city in which most people marry young. To put it mildly, my job situation was less than desirable also.  I once thought this period was nothing more than a holding pattern and a waste of my time.  Nothing can be farther from the truth.  The feedback that I have received indicates that my messages have gotten better over the past year so indeed this has been a fertile environment for my growth in Christ.  Some of my most encouraging subscribers are co-workers that I met in the midst of this work environment and I have added 10 of my friends from Montgomery to my distribution list.  These friendships would not have developed into long-term contacts if I had gotten to Birmingham when I had hoped in 2007. Please do not look upon any stage of your life as a waste. Even if there were times in which you made some bad choices, it is not a waste but an opportunity to see how much you have grown and to encourage others not to fall into the same traps. Yes, I had my share of heartache in WV, SC and AL but met lifelong friends and people who were instrumental in my growth as a Christian in each of these states.  It would take too long to single out everyone but you know who you are and I will always appreciate you even if we are not currently in close contact.  

    The part about giving thanks in all circumstances, including chronic fatigue and unemployment, is still difficult for me to accept but I cannot argue with the Word of God.  I have high hopes that this new job will be the ideal situation for me at the present time, maybe even for the rest of my career.  As I have demonstrated, I probably would not be where I am today if all of the events that I wrote of did not take place.  Some of you may be in circumstances that you do not understand and I sure did not understand mine.  I do now.  God has the best designs in mind for our lives.  We don't see it but that's what faith is all about (Hebrews 11:1).  Every time I get a new subscriber or thank you note, I know that I have not suffered in vain.  Will I ever make a living in the field of natural health?  That's in God's hands and I'll let Him take care of it if it is the best design for me down the road.

   The Word is full of examples of new beginnings but none is more significant than the Resurrection.  Now, imagine if the apostles had preached the Gospel in a pre-Resurrection mindset with a focus on sin offerings, circumcision and "clean and unclean food."  Where would Christianity be today?  This is an extreme example but in some instances, under new circumstances, it becomes even more important to change wrong attitudes and actions.  When some of you were young in your faith, perhaps you held on to certain sins even after you became a Christian but at some point, it became more important than ever to leave it behind.  As for me, I don't want to hold on to my frustrations any longer in this better environment. My prayer request is that the Lord will continue to speak to me and allow me to carry on this ministry under new circumstances as my health problems continue to fade from relevance.  In Jesus' name. Amen.


Message #29- value to God vs. the world

Jeremiah 1:5-Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
       before you were born I set you apart;
       I appointed you as a prophet to the nations

Romans 12:4-5-4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

   I hate job interviews.  There, I said it.  I could rant for 2 whole pages but this is not the forum to do so.  The good news is that I should not have to go through the process for a very long time.  I did have an interview for another position just before the offer and performed poorly.  One question that really tripped me was when I was asked to describe my greatest accomplishment at my current job.  After some hesitation and stumbling, I gave a one line answer and was immediately asked if there was anything more that I could add.  In my previous job, with very few exceptions, the only accomplishments possible are avoidance of keying errors.  Even if most of your reports are error free, it is not very impressive when you are being considered for a postion with more challenges and responsibilities.  In the NFL, the holder of field goals is a job is usually held by the back up or third string quarterback who is deemed to be either too inexperienced or lacking in talent to perform in a role that requires greater skill.  Even if he handles every single snap, it won't impress scouts who are looking for a starting quaterback for next season.

    When I was in high school in the late '90s, I brought home almost all A's on every report card and was a Varsity athlete for 3 years.  I got my share of recognition for my accomplishments but was never satisfied unless I was #1 at everything in which I set my mind.  Yes, I believe strongly in giving your best effort to honor God but back then, it was all about me and how I could look good compared to my peers.  Needless to say, I was unhappy quite often when I did not live up to my own unrealistic expectations.  In the eyes of employers, I have accomplished very little in the 4 years since graduating from Clemson's MBA program in 2005.

  Now let's add God's perspective to this situation.  Although I was raised in church and considered myself a Christian, I really did not have much of a relationship with the Lord until college and it showed in my outlook on life.  If the dean of admissions had asked me to talk about my greatest accomplishments in high school, I would have given a very strong answer to that question and could have talked for several minutes.  Now, suppose someone had asked me about the greatest thing that I had done in my service to the Lord during that time of "high achievement," my answer would have been far more hesitant and much weaker that the one that I gave in that job interview.  My focus is now on how I can best glorify God but I think I can safely say that in His eyes, I have done more that I can be proud of in the past 2 1/2 years than at any other time in my life.

   You may be told by the world that you are too inexperienced or worse, lack the talent to ever perform important duties in the workplace but that is not how God sees you.  In His eyes, all of you have superstar potential and posess a wide variety of spiritual gifts.  Mine seems to be encouragement (unknown to me until recently) but others may be gifted in teaching/preaching or the music ministry.  Maybe some of you are young in the faith and are unsure of what value you may have to the Lord, I encourage you to keep following the Lord with all your heart because you too have superstar potential and your gifts will be revealed and may eventually multiply (Matthew 25:16) while others who waste their gifts may see them taken away.   All members of the body of Christ, with their spiritual gifts working together to glorify God, can produce tremendous achievements for the Kingdom.   All of you were also created for a purpose in this life and whatever that may be, whether large or small from the world's perspective, do not ever think of it as insignificant.  As I wrote in my last message, there may be periods of time in which you feel that circumstances may be preventing you from realizing that purpose.  Again, please do not consider it a waste because quite often, it is God's design.

  Relating back to the earlier sports analogy, all NFL quarterbacks, including Hall of Famers, make poor decisions on the field from time to time.  If you look at the stat sheets, many of these Hall of Famers had entire seasons in which their performance was sub-par and some were even benched at times during their careers.  I will admit that in my walk with God, I have had a couple of sub-par years and come to think of it, when it comes to reaching God's standards, we all fall short all the time (Romans 3:23).  If a player does not perform up to standard in the games, he often sees his role reduced, is put on the bench or even released from the terms of the contract because his team does not feel that it is worthwhile to keep him around.  This is 180 degrees apart from how God sees you.  Despite all of our mistakes, God will never revoke the new covenant of salvation through faith in Jesus.  We will never be "benched" or told that we cannot perform a vital role for the Kingdom because of our record of sinfulness. I want all of my readers to get a revelation today that yes, you can become the "superstar" that God has called you to be.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Message #30- fellowship with God


 

James 4:8- Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

Matthew 11:30- 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

May of 2009 was a very good month for me but it was also quite hectic.  The move required 3 consecutive weekend trips from Birmingham to Montgomery (round trip of about 160 miles), scheduling a moving company on short notice for items that I could not carry alone, many hours of cleaning and tying up other loose ends.  The first of these 3 trips was the week after my marathon in North Dakota.  The typical weekend day included rising at dawn to run followed by a 75 minute drive.  Much of the rest of the day was spent removing my unwanted items, carrying heavy boxes (my physical strength is still not up to par) and traveling across town to take care of other unfinished business in Montgomery.  By mid-afternoon on each of those Saturdays, I became exhausted and my body basically said “Enough” and crashed out.  Fortunately, I did feel better after napping for a couple of hours.

I did make it to church each of these 3 weeks but outside of that, I had little fellowship with God as my mind was elsewhere during the moving process.  Then, during the next week, I read several chapters of the Old Testament and followed it up with about an hour of solid quiet/prayer time.  At the end of it, I really got the sense that the Lord was communicating clearly to me and saying just how much He enjoyed our time together.  My closest friends are spread out across the country and it is unfortunate that we do not get to see each as often as I would like.  In today’s mobile society, we see that is the case quite often.  You may feel that you have taken those friendships for granted to a large extent when you lived in the same city but really see it as a treat when you do get together now or even receive a call.  With God, it is always a treat to hear from one of His children and it may well be an even greater treat the more often you talk with Him through prayer or reading the Word.  I do not know where all of you are in your walk with the Lord but I have been asked what has made the greatest difference in my attitude/worldview and the answer is reading the Bible.  In 2002, at a time in which I rarely, if ever read the Word, I opened up Genesis 1 and read straight through to the end of Revelation over a period of about 8 months.  For those of you that have never done that before, I highly recommend that you do so.  If you are dedicated to regular reading, you will know the Word perhaps better than I and may feel led to share it with others.  If you think that you lack what it takes to do something like that, think again because I have been there too.  The Word is full of examples of God using seemingly ordinary people to do amazing things and it would take too long to list them.  There is no reason why you cannot do something great yourself.  Consider your shortcomings from the world’s perspective and ask yourself if there is any obstacle that God cannot overcome.

  Once, I allowed myself to be impressed with my knowledge of the location of various races across the country and paces per mile for many marathon times.  I soon felt as if the Lord was gently reminding me, “If only you knew the Word that well.”  If you want the Lord to do something amazing through you, get to know Him intimately.  The move was just one example in which I allowed worldly cares or annoying errands get the best of me.  Sometimes, when tasks take longer than expected and my Type A personality takes over, my attitude can suffer and I think to myself: “It’s been a busy day.  I just can’t afford to spend much time with the Lord.”  Actually, I cannot afford not to do so.  Several years ago, when I was involved with the Navigators at Clemson, one particular message about giving God “prime time” really hit home.  The speaker was a phD candidate who regularly stayed up until 1 AM studying.  He reported that whenever he read the Word for 15 minutes before bed time, his day was not very productive.  When he devoted more time in the middle of the day, he was amazed by how his increase in productivity.  Some people may see following Christ as a burden or a cost but nothing can be further from the truth.  I have considered where I would be if I was not a Christian through this long and painful ordeal of battling chemical imbalances.  The answer is that I probably would have tried illicit drugs and been addicted immediately because of my low dopamine level.  The true burden is being a slave to sin and if you draw close to God and let Him change your heart, those sinful desires, whatever they may be will fade away.

Here's a You Tube video that illustrates fellowship with God.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7onMcIvCvOE&feature=related

Message # 31 (Jehovah Rapha- God our healer)

Mark 8:23-25:

He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?" He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around." Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Matthew 26:67:

67Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him

Exodus 15:25-26

Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. …for I am the LORD, who heals you."

My heart has been a bit heavy recently as I have had contact with several people suffering from chronic fatigue.  In every case, the patient has experienced much of what I have been through.  Some of my contacts have not progressed as quickly as they had hoped and others have shown some improvement but have hit a plateau and remain far below their former energy levels.  I am pleased to report that in my latest 5K race, I came within 14 seconds of my best ever with a time of 19:27 (6:14/mile). At last, I am within reach of my PR at a distance in which I competed in high school.  However, keep in mind that it has taken 3 years of treatment and lots of ups, downs and plateaus to reach this point.  My last medical report revealed room for much improvement and I expect ups and downs until I get to balance.

            I serve a big God who can do whatever He wants to do and however He wants to do it.  Among Jesus’ recorded miracles, He healed people by laying His hands on them, simply speaking the word and yes, spitting on a face.  The latter really doesn’t make much sense to us.  Why would Jesus spit on somebody’s face when he could have just as easily healed him without doing so?  In my view, this passage in Mark’s gospel contains several important lessons including trust, patience and completion of a work.  The blind man most likely had heard wonderful stories about Jesus and the first thing this man does is spit on his face, hardly a friendly gesture.  At first, the man could see but his vision was badly blurred and it was not until Jesus touched him a second time that everything became clear.  What stands out to me is that Jesus began a good work and saw it through to completion (Phil 1:6).  Throughout most of 2007, I was doing a lot better than the previous year and was able to function at my job but if you knew me well during that time, it would not surprise you to learn that I was battling health problems.  If you have been praying for a miracle recovery and are frustrated by hitting a plateau, I have been right there with you and all I can say is that God’s healing does not stop at the halfway point. Consider the paralytics.  They surely did not need a cane to walk after Jesus was finished healing them.  It may have multiple “touches” but in the end, the blind man could see with 20/20 vision.  The same principles apply to your career and your relationships.  Perhaps an important relationship has improved from its lowest point but it is still not where it needs to be.  God will see it through to the end.  In many circumstances, God’s way of doing things makes no sense to us at the time but His ways are infinitely higher (Is. 55:9).  I can bet that being spit on made no sense to the blind man but Jesus’ unconventional way of healing him certainly worked out well.

   Is there any connection between Jesus healing a blind man by spitting on his eyes and Jesus being spit on himself on the way to the cross?  I'll leave that to theologians.  I will say that first, it underscores the fact that Jesus went through many of the same painful emotions that we do.  He too felt abandoned by the Father on the cross (Matt 27:46).  Second, seeing Jesus tortured, beaten and crucified certainly made no sense to His disciples.  However, after the Resurrection, their "eyes were opened" and the healing that we receive from our sins is infinitely more meaningful than healing from sickness.

   In the Old Testament, the Israelites had been exhausted and dehydrated from the day's journey and had seemingly reached a point in which they could not go on.  They came to a lake only to find that the water was too bitter to drink.  It appeared that they were done for until a "piece of wood "was used to make it sweet.  A commentary stated that this was the first appearance of Jehovah Rapha- God our Healer.  That being the case, I am betting that there is indeed a connection between this "piece of wood" and the cross.  You may be reading this and reflecting on your own life and whether  you are a subscriber,or an anonymous reader, you may recall a time in which you, like the Israealites, felt like you could not go on any further but then found Jesus, who took on the bitterness in your heart and made it sweet. To those readers who do not know Jesus, He can do the same for you.  Whoever drink the water of Jesus will never thirst and become a spring welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).

Message #32-stepping out in faith 
(God took this message in a different direction than my original intent)

Galatians 6:4-5 (Message)- Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Ephesians 2:10- For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

   I don’t deny it.  I have a competitive streak.  For the most part, it is either internal or healthy competition with, not against my training partners.  However, I admit that there have been times when I have crossed the line to being envious of other people’s gifts and have felt that there were certain things that for various reasons, I simply could not do.  That is a very poor quality as a Christian.

            A major theme of the movie Facing the Giants, which is one of my favorites, is to honor God by doing your best and leaving the results up to Him.  In an impassioned speech to his players, the coach says that if we win, we praise Him and if we lose, we praise Him.  In a sub-plot, the kicker struggles with self-doubt at various times during the movie and once bemoans the fact that God made him “so small and weak” and questions it.  His father replies that it is to show how mighty He is.  I can certainly relate.  First, I have never been known for my physical strength even before the energy crash.  Before I truly knew the Lord, I based my entire self-worth on my performance in the classroom and on the track and was competitive to the point of it being unhealthy. Self doubt and feelings of being second-rate or inferior plagued my thought life continuously.  I cannot begin to say just how wrong it was to have that type of attitude.  When it comes to spiritual gifts and the Kingdom of God, sure some of us are stronger in certain areas than others but we must never sell ourselves short.  I seem to be gifted when it comes to encouragement and writing is primary tool used to get the Lord’s message out.  I may not be as strong in other areas but does that mean that I cannot be used in those areas to further the Gospel?  Absolutely not!  For example, I am not the greatest public speaker and although I am friendlier when symptom free, my personality is still a little on the introverted side.  I am certainly not called to be a preacher but that certainly does not mean that I cannot participate in Outreaches or share the Gospel with others.  I have shared my testimony in the form of a speech on a few occasions when I felt that the Lord had led me to do so.  It was never something that I felt comfortable doing but my message was always very well received.  I have found that when you take a step out in faith and go “outside your comfort zone,” it is then that your blessings will multiply.

            In a previous message, I stated that all of you have superstar potential regardless of your past record of sinfulness.  I stand by that assertion but neglected to mention an admonition and I now state it as clearly as I can.  Don’t waste it!  Consider what happened to the man who buried his one talent (Matt 25:25).  I have been familiar with that parable for a long time but the fact that the servant offered the excuse that he was afraid only recently hit me on a deeper level.  Because he remained in his comfort zone, he did not earn any interest on his talent and ended up losing it to the man with the ten.  The Bible is full of example of people that had been called by the Lord to do great things but in almost all cases, they expressed deep reservations at first.  The one that stands out the most to me is Moses.  He too was “slow of speech” and felt “second rate” and “inferior” and seemingly lacking in any type of leadership quality.  Now compare Moses’ actions early in the Book of Exodus with Deuteronomy and consider the wonderful transformation.  I want to challenge all of my readers that if you feel that the Lord is leading you to do something that you may find uncomfortable, the Word says 365 time "do not be afraid." Step out in faith and do it without hesitation.  Then, He will take you places that you never dreamed possible. 

Message #33- a few words on prayer

James 5:16-16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

1 Thess. 5:17-Pray without ceasing

-Psalm 37:4- Delight yourself in the LORD
       and he will give you the desires of your heart

   

 Like most people in their early teens, I tried to convince my parents to allow me to do certain things that were against their wishes.  Whether I got my way or not, I now realize that doing those things was not in my best interest.  Now that I am older and wiser, I seek their advice whenever I face an important decision and we rarely disagree about the best course of action.  I recently heard a parallel on Christian radio that went something to this effect:  Prayer is not an exercise in which you try to convince your Heavenly Father to do something that He does not want to do.  Rather, it is a direct line of communication with God that should result in your desires being lined up with His.

            It is unfortunate that passages such as “ask and he shall receive” have been misinterpreted to the warped idea that God is some type of Genie or Santa Claus that will grant any wish that is asked of him and people feel that they have somehow been let down when it does not happen.  In the movie Bruce Almighty, God answered “yes” to every prayer and those of you that have seen the movie know that it did not turn out so well.  True, God did tell King Solomon that He would grant any wish but I would wager that He knew his heart and knew that his answer would be wisdom.  As I wrote in Message #17, there may be situations in which you are free to penetrate doors that have been closed by God.  It could be a job and/or move to a new city that is not the right fit for you despite a higher salary or an unhealthy relationship that is not in your best interest.  You may “get your own way” and God turns a “permanently locked door” into a “closed door that can be pried open.”  If you do “force open” one of those closed doors, be prepared to face the consequences.

Now, with all of that said, when used appropriately, prayer is both extremely effective and an under-utilized means of fellowship with God.  Anyone who does not pray without ceasing does not fully utilize this tremendous opportunity for fellowship with the Lord.  I recall hearing on the radio some type of scientific study that concluded that God truly does answer prayer.  If you believe the Bible, you know that the study was completely unnecessary as there are numerous examples in the Word of answered prayers.  There are also examples of instances in which God answered only after prayers were offered for others.  Job was restored after he prayed for his friends (Job 42:10).  From my perspective, I feel especially close to God after this action.  When you do so, I encourage you to not only lift them up regarding needs that you are aware of but also lift up everyone in their sphere of influence that will have an impact on their lives.  I have found that in some cases, the Holy Spirit may reveal to you needs of that person that they had not mentioned.  

God not only has our best interests at heart, he is also omniscient and is thus never wrong about what is best for you, yes even when it looks ugly on the surface.  Anyone that has read my entire website knows that I have studied relentlessly when it comes to chemical imbalances but I’ve had combinations that my doctor has not seen before and had to get on my knees and cry out in hopes that the cause and solution to my symptoms will be revealed.  In the Gospels, Jesus is always perfectly willing to heal people in need but often, it is only after they humble themselves to ask for it.   In Message #11, I compared our dependence on God to that of a newborn on a mother’s milk.  When I humble myself to that degree, God has yet to let me down.  

You may be reading this and given thought to your prayer life.  Ask yourself, when you pray to God, what is your motive?  Are you seeking personal glory or are you looking to glorify Him?  How is your attitude?  Are you truly seeking to discern His will or do you seek to have your wishes granted?  Do you have a rebellious mindset commonly found among adolescents or do you humble yourself like a little child?

Final disclaimer: This message is in no way intended as an attack or stereotype of teenagers.  85% of people that make decisions for Christ do so before turning 20.  Teenagers are the ones that need our prayers the most.  

 

Message #34- Anxiety, resignation and the Bible

1 Peter 5:7- Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you

Matthew 6:34-Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself

Mark 4:18-19- Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful

  

 I have written extensively about my fatigue and depression but not so much about anxiety, which had been nearly as debilitating.  The Bible is very clear on this subject.  There is absolutely no reason for it.  Yet, there were times in which I had panic attacks for no apparent reason and had to lie down for an hour or two.  I found out later that the cause was a severe deficiency in the neurotransmitter GABA.  The panic attacks were in direct opposition to what the Bible says and something in which I had little to no control.  To me, this proves that it is not God's plan for you to live with symptoms of chemical imbalances. I have said this many times but some of my readers may need to hear this again.  Despite my anger issues during my rock bottom period, my salvation was secure but Jesus did not go to the cross and conquer sin and death for us to have unyielding misery in this life.  That's right, if your chemical imbalances are severe, unyielding misery is the only outcome until you receive healing.  Of course, support networks are important but certain imbalances will cause you to feel depressed even if circumstances are good.  I still maintain that no matter how bad you feel, there is something out there that will help and my prayer is that all of you will be healed regardless of whether you take my path or not.

    Three years prior to the energy crash, I went through a stressful time after my former doctor took me off the thyroid medication too quickly.  I experienced fatigue, depression and worse, brain fog during an important semester.  I needed a good score on the GMAT (grad school entrance) and at least prevent my GPA from falling too far or else I would be rejected by most good schools and if my symptoms were not relieved, I would be a failure at that level.  I had good reasons to be worried but I did have faith.  The end of Matthew 6 was some of my favorite reading.  When the pressure was on, God allowed me to pull myself together.  I finished the semester with a 3.55 GPA and scored 50 points higher than necessary on the GMAT to get into Clemson and I got the reprieve from my symptoms that I needed to get my MBA.  The Word tells us to number our days aright (Psalm 90:12), to be anxious for nothing and to never throw away our confident trust in the Lord no matter what happens (Heb 10:35).  Just how much of our valuable days are wasted on needless worry, time that could be better invested in the Word or at prayer?  Yes, count me as guilty on this count as well. In my view, there is an attitude as a Christian that is worse than chronic anxiety and that is resignation to failure and I believe that worry could lead you down the road toward resignation if your fears are occasionally realized.  Recently, one of my friends, who is not a Christian, told me that realistically, I "will probably have these medical issues all my life."  I FLAT OUT REFUSE TO BELIEVE THAT NO MATTER WHAT!  Based on recent events, that sentiment is by no means blindly optimistic.  Every day this month has been virtually free of symptoms.  At one point, I was taking upwards of 10 pills to manage my condition.  Today, I am down to 4 and set a new personal record in the 10K with a time of 41:43 (6:43 for 6.2 miles)  

   My friend Megan, who was recently healed from adrenal dysfunction, posted on Facebook something to this effect:  I don't like when people say "it is what it is,"  because it diminishes all hope and hope is what drives us as a nation.  Well said.  I could have said that I hate this chronic fatigue, depression and anxiety but it is what it is. Indeed, I have had contact with people who are on the verge of giving up and that breaks my heart.  You may have an issue in your life or that of someone that you love, be it a medical problem or something unrelated that you rightly feel has not been right for a long time.  True, some of us need serenity to accept what we cannot change but I would wager that we can change is more than we realize and we must seize those opportunities.  I exhort you to delight in the Lord and have faith that it will be set right in due time and I pray that you will never succumb to needless worry, fear or resignation to failure. 

Message #35- A singles perspective of the Holiday season

Luke 2:11- Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord.

Isaiah 40:31(Amp)-But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.

Psalm 139:8- If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
       if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there

John 3:16- For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life

  This is a time of year when we hear songs such as "Joy to the World" and "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" but I know that for many of you, this time of year is anything but joyful.  I admit that some negative thoughts crept into my mind as well.  Those of you that have struggled with chemical imbalances know the strain that it can put on important relationships. I've had several subscribers confide in me that they are either facing those issues now or have in the recent past.  In many cases, there is a lot of ignorance about the nature of these conditions and people simply do not understand that you cannot choose to be happy in spite of it even if external circumstances are favorable.  Even those closest to me did not understand that point until recently.  For this reason, I made the decision to put off any serious dating until I at least had it well controlled.  It was the right decision given the entire scope of my situation but for others, it may not be so.  For anyone reading this that may be dealing with relationship issues as a result of imbalances, I want you to know that I curse any negative assumptions that arise from ignorance.  I pray for supernatural healing and until then, in the name of Jesus, I speak a spirit of understanding as well as unconditional love and loyalty into that relationship.  As of now, I have my condition  very well controlled (praise God).  Still, as many of you realize, being single this time of year can be difficult emotionally.  I do get along well with my extended family but without that special someone, I feel alone.  I know that some of you have been hurt in the past and this time of year could bring those feeling to the surface.  I may not be able to relate to how you feel but I can say that thiat attitude is all wrong. 

Whether you have been hurt or have been lonely for a long time, what I can say is Jesus is the one person that you truly cannot live without and regardless of your relationship status, no Christian is alone and it is wrong to consider yourself as such.  The only time that you should truly feel alone is if you are running away from Him. My road to recovery has not been easy and those of you that have taken the path that I have know that it is not a quick fix but my growth as a Christian over the past 3.5 years has been well worth it.  I'll be 30 next year and am in better shape than I was at 20. I have confidence that I will not age normally and my youth will continue to be renewed.  I took more than 3 years to get to where I am today but it has been well worth the wait.  In the same manner, I have every confidence that the Godly woman of my dreams will be there at God's appointed time and it will be well worth the wait.  I wish I had something more profound than Jesus is the reason for the season but it is the truth.  Just consider the depth of love that Jesus has to take on human form and pay for our transgressions. Now, consider how He must feel when negative emotions spring up at the time of His "special day"  You may celebrate your best friend's birthday in a manner that he or she will enjoy a great deal.  For Jesus' birthday, it is good to go to church, give gifts and spend time with family but I ask you the following question:  If you were to meet Jesus face to face and could spend a day with Him, how would you celebrate that day?  That's how we should celebrate Christmas.

Here's a special video from YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U2G8wsbXBo

Message #36- A Christian perspective of goal setting

Phil 3:14- I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Heb 12:1-  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us
Matt 6:33- But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

    I do not recall ever being as upbeat heading into a new year as I am right now.  Considering the fact that 2009 was one of my best years, I have every reason to be excited.  I am happy with my new job and new location in Birmingham, AL. The last 2+ months have been almost symptom free and I expect that my medical report will confirm that my imbalances may not be completely gone but have certainly improved significantly.
  The first day of 2010 gave me yet another reason to be hopeful.  During marathon training, I like to run the full 26.2 mile distance one time to boost my confidence and feel better prepared.  Despite putting forth less than race effort, I ran an unofficial personal record of 3 hrs. 35 mins.  It left me more confident that my ultimate running goal of qualifying for the Boston marathon (I need a 3:10:59) could be within reach by the end of the year.  What an achievement that would be after that I've been through!.  In addition, I want this ministry to reach more people so I can spread the message of hope and encouragement to those who may be on the verge of giving up.  Sounds pretty admirable, right?
   Well, I felt like this weekend, the Lord gently reminded me that my priorities were a bit out of whack.  First of all, God did not put me or anyone else here to look good in the eyes of the world.  The greatest things that we can do as Christians are to love the Lord with all of our might and love our neighbors as ourselves.  If there is anything that hinders us in those objectives, let us throw it aside. If my training schedule prevents me from being a better friend to others or reduces my times of prayer and fellowship, I would be advised to cut back or face possible consequences.   If this is the year that I get all my numbers in balance, achieve the running goals in which I have worked so hard and get the respect and admiration of everyone who hears about my story yet miss out on those two objectives, then I have accomplished little in the eyes of the Lord.  I have resolved that if I make it, I praise Him.  If I fall a bit short and have to try again next year, I praise Him.  If it becomes clear that I will never make it to Boston and God doesn't want me to train at that high level, I praise Him. 
   I realize that some of you may have personal ambitions such as other fitness goals, career goals, etc and I do not mean to discourage you as I believe that you honor God by doing your best in every area of life. I cannot promise that you will attain the goal but I can promise that God has the best in mind for you no matter what the outcome.  If you have a lofty goal for 2010, I will be there cheering for you and encouraging you every step of the way but I want you to consider how well it lines up with the Word of God, Ask for wisdom and pray for discernment of His perfect will for your life.  Seek Him first and your desires will come into alignment with the will of God (Psalm 37:4). Remember that any Earthly treasures are but rags when compared to the treasure of Heaven.

Message 37

Luke 23:34 -Jesus said "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
Matthew 6:15- For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Ephesians 4:32- Be kind and compassionate, forgiving one another just as in Christ, God  forgave you.
Matthew 18:21-22 -Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a] who sins against me? Seven times?” 22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
   Every human being that has walked the Earth has experienced some degree of hurt in this life.  I have chosen these 4 verses out of many on the subject of forgiveness that clearly show the importance of what the Word has to say in this area. Not every example of hurt involves a wrong.  I intend to add a Christian perspective to a few situations.
  If you are a parent of a child who really wants to do something but if love him/her you have to say no in certain cases even though doing so will cause hurt.  Our Heavenly Father may say "no" to us even though it hurts.  I had a fun racing season planned but it was derailed by injury.  When something like this happens, all we can do is trust that God has the best plan in mind and we do not understand it.
   I have been hurt unintentionally in recent years due in large part to ignorance and insensitivity about my medical issues. I am hardly alone. Many people hurt one another without even realizing it.  As for a Christian perspective, there may be things in which you once took pleasure but since you have matured in faith, they now seem repulsive. You may not be conscious of sin that is offensive to God but you are still guilty. Consider that when people hurt you by acting out of ignorance.  I do want to challenge you to do more to reach out to others.  Even a simple: "I'm here for you if you want to talk" means so much.
   As for deliberate hurt, a couple of people have confided in me that they were victims of abuse or lost loved ones to violence  I have not experienced an emotional trauma on that scale. That said, I certainly experienced my share of deliberate rejection, mostly in my childhood.  However, if Jesus can forgive the men who nailed him to the cross during the act itself, surely I can forgive anyone who beat me up or said horrible things.  Jesus continues to forgive me even though He knows that my future will not be without sin.  Numerous studies have shown that holding a grudge or bitterness is bad for your health both emotionally and physically.  My doctor has said an unresolved trauma can indeed lead to severe chemical imbalances down the road. I recently had a revelation about "know not what they do."  Someone who may have hurt you badly and deliberately but if they knew the depth of pain and long-term effect it would cause you, their attitude might change.  Sure, those who beat and tortured Jesus on the way to Golgotha knew full well that their actions were hurting Him but at that time, they did not know what we do today as Christians. I realize that in some situations mentioned above, forgiveness is next to impossible. I do not intend to minimize the seriousness of an offense or downplay the pain that comes as a result of it nor do I suggest that a relationship can go on as if nothing happened.   In some circumstances, you may correctly discern that the risk of being hurt again is too great.  What I am referring to is continued bitterness in your heart long after the offense took place.  This closing is among the most important things that I have written. As difficult as it is, any bitterness must be released to God.  I serve a God that is a Healer of physical and emotional disease.  People may intend to harm you but God can and does turn it around for good (Gen 50:20) and this good can be greater than you can imagine but it will not happen if you continue to hold on to bitterness.

Message #38- prayer walks

Isaiah 60:18- 18 No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.

Proverbs 11:11- Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted.

Isaiah 62:12- They will be called the Holy people, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.


   I just looked up the word “pray” on Bible Gateway.  The result was 365 matches, one for every day of the year, in both the New King James Version and the New International Version.  That should tell you something about its importance and its power.  On the morning of Feb. 20, I participated in a prayer walk sponsored by Prayer Force United through downtown Birmingham.  My friend Susie described it like this in her blog www.susiemc.wordpress.com

Saturday's prayer platform began supernaturally as one of the most beautiful days of the year. It was what I like to refer to as a "slice of heaven kind of day."
  When a group of people seek His face in unity, He can't help but show up. There was a holy heaviness that was indescribable. There was a strength...an energy that made me desire to climb to the highest point possible to touch Him. The cool thing however, I didn't have to go there....He came to me.

Along the route, we made stops at the Fire Department, the Courthouse, the County Board of Education and even the county jail to pray specifically for those institutions.  The prayer leader cursed any racism that still exists as well as any bad feelings over hurtful events that took place in the past and lifted up the city’s police, firemen, educators and judges.  Amen on all of that.  I would also like to add a prayer for the citizens that they may gain a new appreciation of those services.  I also ask the Lord to break down any and all barriers in our community for we are one united people in Christ (1 Cor 12:13). In the Kingdom of Heaven, there will be no distinctions based on cultural identity, social class, age, or "common interests."

     I have lived in the Birmingham suburbs for 9 months now and like it very much.  Unfortunately, as is the case in any major city, there are areas of poverty, drugs and high crime.  One such area is the Woodlawn community, which is located only about 5 miles from Mountain Brook and its million dollar homes.  Scripture tells us that Jesus spent much of his public ministry reaching out to the marginalized and outcasts of His society by befriending tax collectors and prostitutes.  With that in mind, I can bet that if Jesus came to the Birmingham area, most of His time would be spent in areas like Woodlawn, not Mountain Brook.  Every summer, Church of the Highlands follows that example by leading a massive outreach project in the Woodlawn area which includes a prayer walk similar to the one downtown. The results have been significant as the city has seen a large decrease in crime over the past couple of years.  It is my prayer that Birmingham will become the nation's safest city and a beacon of God's light to rest of the country and the world. My prayers are not exclusively for Birmingham.  The next time I go out of town, I ought to take some time to lift up the residents of that city (Lord willing, I'll be in Atlanta this month for a half marathon).  I lift up our entire nation as well as our elected officials who can impact our lives.  Lord, give them the discernment to make wise decisions in governing.

   You do not need a large group to be an effective intercessor.  A prayer walk through your neighborhood or even your apartment complex can be a powerful experience.  When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, God will reveal to needs of people that you may not know.  I encourage you to get a few friends together and do a prayer walk through your neighborhood or even merely your home street.  If every neighborhood had prayer walks on a regular basis, just imagine the impact.

 

Message #39-Compassion

Galatians 6:9- 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Isaiah 58:10- and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
       and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
       then your light will rise in the darkness,
       and your night will become like the noonday

Colossians 3:12- Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

     When we are hurting, we may feel abandoned by God and slip into wrong thoughts and actions which can lead to self-condemnation. Now, consider the example of Jesus, our Intercessor who can relate to our pains because He experienced many of them. Yes, even He felt abandoned by the Father when nailed to the cross so please don’t beat yourself up if you feel the same emotions.  However, it is equally important not to isolate yourself, take frustration out on others or allow bitterness to enter your heart.  How about ministering to others who are facing the same trial instead?  On many occasions, the Word says that Jesus was filled with compassion when those who were suffering asked to be healed.  Even on the cross, He offered words of comfort and reassurance to the repentant thief.

I know how it feels to wake up hurting all over with barely enough energy to get up and go to the grocery store. With every additional day that I feel any degree of symptoms, I become more and more compassionate to others who are facing the same trial.  Many people have told me that the second most frustrating aspect of chemical imbalances is dealing with people who do not understand.  I know how that feels as well.  I lost track of the number of times that I was told that there was “nothing physically wrong” and a psychiatrist told me flat out that I was nothing more than a hypochondriac. 

            I do not buy the whole “prosperity gospel” package nor do I believe that we all get what we deserve in this life but I do feel that there is a payoff to being compassionate.  Two years ago, a man named Noel contacted me and reported symptoms of severe adrenal fatigue.  Indeed, some of his numbers were twice as bad as mine ever were.  I was moved with compassion and told him that he could call me anytime.  That same offer is open to all of my subscribers who may need to talk to someone who understands their pain.  Through it all, I was inspired by Noel’s “never say die” attitude and desire to reach out to other athletes with chronic fatigue.  Little did I know that he would be the one to tell me about prolotherapy, which cured my Achilles tendinosis and may have prevented a degenerative hip/groin condition. As for me, I have a pretty good job and my long distance running is better than I ever thought possible.  Despite my own success, I feel that the real payoff to compassion is to see the impact that it has on other people as well as those with whom they interact.  My ministry would not exist if not for other people’s compassion when I was at rock bottom.  If you are involved in any type of good work, you may become weary when it does not immediately produce the desired result. I get frustrated by some of the naysayers who will not believe that these treatments really work no matter how much I have improved or how fast I can run but I pledge to press on with this site.  Teachers and students may pour their energy into helping troubled children or victims of bullying but it seems unappreciated.  Maybe years later, that student will do something great and look back and consider you to be one of the people who inspired him or her.  Trust me, when you defend someone who has been bullied, they really do appreciate it but are often too shy or embarrassed to let you know how they feel. You may go on a Mission trip or outreach project and share the gospel but the good news seems to fall on deaf ears but if one sinner believes and repents without your knowledge, there will be rejoicing in Heaven and the Lord will tell you "well done my good and faithful servant".

Message #40- connective tissues and fellowship

John 14:6- Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me

Isaiah 53:5-  He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed
Ephesians 4:16- 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

 

  In February and March of this year, I traveled to Nashville to receive prolotherapy treatments for acute pain in the Achilles tendon and lingering soreness from an old hip/groin injury that did not heal properly due to my imbalances.  Upon examination, the doctor determined that the pain was due to damaged connective tissues and found numerous trigger points that very sensitive to moderate pressure.  To illustrate the damage, consider frayed wire or the attached picture of a rope that is nearly split in two.  I received several injections of a special solution directly into the sensitive areas. The pain from this procedure was roughly on the scale of a root canal at the dentist.  Despite the fact that I groaned and winced, the doctor showed no hesitation because he knew the short-term discomfort would be well worth it in the end.  Because of my relatively low level of pain prior to the treatment, I was healed after 2 visits but severe cases require more extensive care.

   Now, I want my readers to consider “connective tissue” in a different way.  Because of our sin, the connective tissues that bound us together with God the Father were not just badly damaged but severed completely.  In a previous message, I compared our separation from God to a ravine that is impossible to clear with our own effort but the cross is the bridge that we take to reach the other side.  In a similar sense, you could say that human efforts to save ourselves could be analogous to applying an Elmer’s Glue stick to a thick rope that has been cut in two.  While it is necessary to endure pain to heal the body’s connective tissue damage, to say that the process by which our connection to God was restored was extremely painful would be a major understatement.  I saw the Passion of the Christ in 2004 with a friend from Clemson and we agreed that there was nothing that we could say afterwards.  Years later, I am still at a loss for words.  Relating back to the scope of prolotherapy treatment, depending on the severity of the case, less extensive “treatments” such as animal sacrifices or other “sin offerings” in the old covenant did not work out for the best. I am of the belief that we inherited original sin at birth.  Jesus shed His blood and died for the young child who throws a fit after not getting his/her own way as well as for the adult who believed and repented after years of living in sin.  As much as I believe that by His stripes we are healed from our diseases, it is FAR too small of a thing in which to place your hope in an eternal perspective.

            Pain from my hip/groin injury had spread to my lower abdomen. Tight hamstrings can cause pain in your knees. There are numerous other examples of pain in various parts of the body caused by weakness in a seemingly unrelated area. Those of you who have suffered from adrenal disease know that you are more likely to struggle with depression, brain fog, thyroid disease and blood sugar issues.  It is all inter-related.  In the same way, Christians who may struggle with a weakness in one area can see it “spill over” to many other parts of your life.  Because of this, it is vital for individual Christians to “connect” themselves with a strong support network of other members of the body of Christ.  Encouragement, teaching and correction are three key spiritual areas are of utmost importance in fellowship. You may be stronger in certain areas than others but if you connect yourself with people in a manner that will expose you to a wide variety of spiritual gifts, it will inspire you to grow as well.  I still struggle with low self-esteem from time to time so it is important that I am fed a steady diet of encouragement.  However, if I miss out of fellowship with people gifted in teaching, my ministry will suffer.  Also, as important as it is to have people as “cheerleaders” for me, I am most grateful when a person corrects me when I do wrong that I may avoid it in the future.  In conclusion, as much as I am amazed by what my physical body is able to do when healthy; the impact on the Kingdom is infinitely more profound when you are connected to the Father through the Son and are connected with other members of the Body. 

 

Message #41- Spiritual warfare and Protection

Prior to my last half marathon in Nashville, my prayer was that I would best glorify God regardless of the outcome even if it meant that I do not perform as well as I would have liked.  That’s a real sign of spiritual maturity even if I say so myself.  I felt like I was in great shape a week prior to race day yet I endured one of the worst races of my life.  However, I feel like God really taught me some important points so I hope this message will be worth it.

Ephesians 6:11- Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes

John 3:16- For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 5:8- 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

            Nearly 4 years after the diagnosis, I still must make adjustments to my formula periodically to prevent a relapse.  Fortunately, my bad days occur less frequently nowadays and when they do, the symptoms are less severe.  I have competed in 16 road races over the past 2 years with amazingly good luck regarding my condition on race day.  No matter how much I had been struggling in the week leading up to the race, I felt strong when it mattered most and performed well almost every time.  Last month, I hit a rough patch starting just 2 days prior to the race and eventually realized that I needed to be taking a supplement for low serotonin.  Without it, I was both unprotected and unprepared for the rigors of 13.1 miles of running on the hilly streets of Nashville but still finished safely. Later that evening, I was watching a documentary on the History channel about ancient warriors armed with swords powerful enough to cut through some very thick objects.  Yet, when these weapons struck a shield or body armor, they barely made a dent.  It was determined that the Spartans were the greatest of the ancient warriors because of their defenses including a large protective shield.

            In this life, we face a powerful adversary who hates us.  The question of Satan’s attacks is not a matter of if but when.  Depending on your relationship with the Lord, your armor and shield may be large and nearly impenetrable or small and weak with numerous holes.  What can you do to improve your defenses?  I see 4 key things: get to church, pray, read the Bible and have fellowship with other Christians.  As my readers know, I was hit with vicious attacks on multiple fronts in 2005. While my frustrations mounted, I was not doing those 4 key things on a regular basis if at all.  Thus, I was left wide open and defenseless against the enemy’s ruthless tactics.  The attacks continued after I rededicated myself to the Lord in July 2006 but I have been much better able to block the blows. Even Christians who feel as if they do almost everything right can still be vulnerable.  Sometimes the deadly weapon may strike the armor but the force of the blow is so strong that it knocks the warrior to the ground.  How we respond when this occurs is of utmost importance in our Christian walk.  Like most people, I find that I more vulnerable to temptation when frustrated over certain unmet needs.  When that happens, many people feel ashamed to go to God in prayer until a certain period of time passes because of feelings of unworthiness.  Well, I am of the belief that we are more sinful than we realize even in our so called “good” periods and therefore we are never worthy.  So go to God in prayer anyway.  As Toby Mac says, “Get back up.  You’re going to shine again.  You may be knocked down but not out forever.”  I assure you that the Holy Spirit is there to lend a hand when you are down but it’s up to you to take it.

            Nobody’s defense is completely impenetrable for we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of the God.  This condition leaves the enemy with a prime opportunity to strike a killing blow by hitting us in an unprotected area.  In the Old Testament, Israel lost battles and suffered severe casualties when they were without God’s protection.  Since we are all sinners and the wages for sin is death, we have all been hit in an unprotected area but the good news is that Jesus took those killing blows for us on Calvary.  Like I said in a previous message, we are conquerors through His precious blood and the battle has already been fought and won on our behalf.  To illustrate just how lopsided our victory is, consider a football game that pitted the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints against an average middle school team.  No contest!

 
Message #42- Approval

1 Sam 16:7- ... The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart

-Luke 9:26- If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels 

-Matthew 28:19- Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

-Luke 17:3- So watch yourselves.
      "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him
 
 

 A message about approval of the world versus God could ruffle a few feathers but the Lord placed this message on my heart several months ago and I feel that I should not delay this one any longer.  My tone is different from the usual good news and encouragement.  I expect that this one will be best suited for young people so if you know any teenagers who need to hear this, feel free to forward it.

 

 I have struggled with this one to a degree since high school cross-country.  When you are the top runner on your team, everybody else looks up to you and even athletes from rival schools will seek your friendship.  If you are number 3 or 4, that’s not the case and you may find yourself looking to earn the respect of more talented athletes.  Now, 12 years later, I have been working hard to beat my high school personal records at the shorter distances.  Thus far, I have come frustratingly close in the 5K (less than 5 seconds/mile) and subsequent efforts have been slightly slower.  What will happen if/when I beat that time?  Yes, I will get more respect from the running community.   I will get more visitors to my blog and maybe some people will be more inspired by my testimony but from an eternal perspective, will it matter one bit if my best time was 18:59 or 19:13?  Maybe some of you have other lofty goals in which you will gain more recognition if your achieve them.  I’m not suggesting for a second that you should give up because it is not important but I do ask you to step back and consider just how important it will be in the Kingdom of Heaven .  How about focusing on something that is truly of utmost importance?  How about helping win souls for Christ?

            I really don’t have any fear about sharing my testimony with other believers even if I don’t know them well and I have stepped out of my comfort zone to speak about it on a few occasions.  However, I confess that in the past I have downplayed my faith when in the company of non-believers because of my fear of rejection.  I’ve repented of this and urge anyone else to do the same.  True, most of my messages have been about the “good news” but I am trying to reach a target audience, some of whom have had chronic health issues for many years and are on the verge of giving up hope.  They need milk, not solid food that represents harder teaching. 

   A recent survey showed a disturbingly high percentage of Americans believe that what’s right and wrong depends primarily on one’s culture and background.  Even if you do believe in moral absolutes, the relativism in America is bound to have an impact.  My small group leader told a story about someone who said “Yes, I love Jesus but I am not real open about my faith because I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ people.”  Just take a look above and see just how contrary that attitude is to the Word.  I suppose that “those people” are evangelists who tell non-believers to stop living a sinful lifestyle or they will go to hell.  In my view, that is the wrong approach.  I tend to focus on God’s grace and the relationship with Jesus with those who need milk.  If the new believer is sincere, it will not be long until the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sinful lifestyle.  Even those who did not become believers have said that they appreciate me “reaching out.”  If you think your personality is not suited for this sort of thing, think again.  One of the quietest girls that I knew at Clemson was also the most fearless when it came to sharing the Gospel.  If you are afraid of the response that you’ll get, look up Voice of the Martyrs and read about the persecution that Middle Eastern Christians face.  That will put it into perspective.  The worst that I’ve experienced is some weird looks and a few sarcastic remarks.  Big deal! 

www.persecution.com

When it comes to those who have been in the church for years and are caught in a pattern of sinful behavior, I feel that the approach should be different than it is when reaching out to a non-believer.  My view is that the person in question should never be exposed to public shame nor should the friendship be cut off immediately.  Love them and pray for them but it is even more important that they be told gently but in no uncertain terms that their actions are wrong/contrary to the Word. That's exactly how I would want to be treated.  Also, be quick to forgive and accept them if they repent.  Now, the more difficult question is what to do with those who harden their hearts and refuse to repent.  In the early church, there was a situation in which members had relations with their step parents, refused to repent and preached that they are covered by the blood.  The apostle Paul responded by suggesting that immoral brothers be expelled and any relationship ended until they repent. In my view, this action should only be taken in extreme circumstances and even then, continue to pray.  You can still love them but great care must be taken to prevent enabling or allowing them to drag others or yourself down.  You are rejecting the actions/attitidue, not the person.  Yes, they may be hurt by the correction and it could strain the friendship. However, consider the possibility of this person making serious mistakes that alter the course of his/her life and knowing that you could have helped prevent them from going further down that road.  I welcome any comments on this subject.
 
Message #43- Influence on the world
Proverbs 16:23-24- A wise man's heart guides his mouth,

       and his lips promote instruction. ]  24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones


James 3:9-11- With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt[a] water flow from the same spring?

 

-Acts 9:17- Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

            In my last few messages, I have written about the importance of sharing the Gospel with the world.  Now, I would like to suggest some principles that may lead to greater success in that area.  To me, much of it can start with one’s attitude and seemingly insignificant interactions in your daily life.  Every person in which we come in contact can have an impact on our lives.  How about a smile on the street from a stranger?  Does that really mean anything?  You bet it does.  Who knows what that person may be going through on that day?  Any individual who represents a business is rightfully expected to provide friendly and courteous service.  However, it seems that there is no such expectation from the public.  Try telling a busy waitress that you appreciate her service or a cashier that you hope that they’re having a good day.  Just a few kind words can blossom into a genuine friendship.  I was greeted with a big smile and hug the last two times I visited one of my regular lunch spots.  This could present an opportunity to begin to share my faith and I hope that it will really resonate with her.  It is unfortunate that being friendly to others could be taken the wrong way or flat out unappreciated.  Do not ever let it discourage you just because some people may not reciprocate your kindness.  Before the cross, Jesus knew full well that some people would completely reject Him and let’s be honest.  Does anyone really love Jesus as much as He loves us?  I don’t think so.

            I know some people that really stand out as ones who radiate so much Godly love and even in a crowd, they stand out as people with special qualities.  On the other hand, I know Christians, some of whom appear to be sincere in the faith, who simply do not have pleasant dispositions.  I don’t like to judge such people because I don’t know what they are going through.  I am never in a good mood when my chemistry is far out of balance.  However, if a person who constantly walks around with a sour attitude and frequently talks badly about others then turns around and talks about God’s grace and love, I don’t see how it can have much of an impact.

            I may not have a large number of subscribers but through this ministry, God has placed me in a special position in which I can influence the growth of other Christians.  In doing so, the attitude that is on display on this website must spill over to the rest of my life.  I become understandably frustrated when symptoms flare up and have posted messages on my running blog such as “Angry Again.” No, I will not hide my emotions but I will be more careful with my words lest I post anything that reflects poorly on me as a Christian.  I have an online running friend who seems to be a very kind and compassionate person but does not believe in God.  If I’m negative more often than not, I don’t see much chance of reaching her.  I stand by my assertion that your past record of sin does not disqualify you from ministry but once you are put in that position, you are accountable and often held to higher standards. I would hate to see somebody who reads my devotionals and comes to admire my faith then becomes disappointed after getting to know me better.

    If you interview any great Christian leader, without exception, they will point to maybe 2 or 3 people who really inspired them and without those influences, they would never have been the man or woman of God that they are today.  It is also interesting that their influences are not necessarily these “famous preachers” or even a pastor of a church so that goes to show that indeed anyone can be a profound influence on someone who grows into an amazing man or woman of faith.  One Biblical example is that of Ananias.  We do know that he was a follower of Christ but little else is known since he is only mentioned in one chapter of the Bible.  We can only speculate about his life and faith but what we do know is that he had a profound impact on the man who wrote the majority of the New Testament.

 

Message #44-Justification and sanctification-

This is another one that could ruffle some feathers.  This type of message may be written more often as my medical issues continue to fade.

-John 3:3- In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.[

James 2:24- You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

-Matthew 5:6- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
      for they will be filled

-Matthew 7:20- Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

 

  Imagine asking random people on the street: If you were to die today, are you 100% sure that you would go to Heaven?  My guess is that the most common answer would be something to this effect:  I’d like to think so but to be honest I’m not sure if I am good enough to make it.  Well, I can guarantee that you are not good enough to make it.  Nobody is. We can all point to many things in life that we regret doing as well as opportunities for good that we let slip away.  There is no amount of good work that can offset this guilt.  Imagine knowing that you are guilty of a certain crime, telling the judge about all your charity work and using that as a basis for a request that the penalty be removed.  I don’t think you will be successful. When I share the Gospel, I never run into any barriers when it comes to acknowledgement of a sinful nature, which separates us from God.  I cannot even live up to my own standards of what is right and wrong so how can I possibly stand before God and His standards, which are as high as the heavens are from the earth?  Next, the discussion typically shifts to Jesus, the Bridge to Life, forgiveness, grace, love and a personal relationship.  (I’ve prayed for clear wording, sound theology and no misinterpretations in this next section). 

  Now, consider those that answered “yes, 100% sure” to the question posed above.  I would be curious as to how they would answer when asked how they know that they are saved.  I feel that too often, we see people who are just as worldly as non-believers and continually break God’s commandments yet point to the fact that many years ago; they filled out a card, prayed a prayer or participated in a church ceremony so therefore, their salvation is assured.  In my view, that is a very dangerous misconception that has become all too common in the Christian community.  I feel those who preach the Word, know the truth and yet live a double life with a heart far from Christ could face harsh judgment (Matt 7:23).  True, I have talked with people that actually floundered shortly after “making the decision for Christ” but claim that even during an especially sinful period, Jesus was still working in their lives through it all and their hearts were always sincere.  Years later, the process of sanctification became evident and they are strong men and women of faith. Sanctification is defined by the website Bibleknowledge.com as:

  • The state of growing in divine grace
  • To set apart for holy purposes
  • The process of being made holy resulting in a changed lifestyle for the believer

    Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for preaching the Word to win souls for Christ but I feel that in some churches, justification is emphasized so much that sanctification is put on the back burner especially when many of its members have been saved for years. 85 % of Christians make that decision before turning 20 so that means that in the vast majority of cases, the sanctification process continues for 60 years and it is what you do after being saved that can have the greatest impact on the world

So, what is the mark of a born again Christian whose faith is evidenced by loving action? I can think of 3 characteristics just off the top of my head:

  1. Strong desire for righteousness and repentance from sin

Sinful actions that you once enjoyed and are widely regarded as pleasant by most of the world should become repugnant.  God hates all sin and you should grow into a person who loves what God loves and hates what He hates.  Of course, we will all still mess up from time to time but you will be quickly led to repentance with no condemnation.  When I turn away from something contrary to the Word, without fail, God will show me another area of my life that needs improvement.  We may always have a sinful nature but the sin in our lives will become much less prominent as we mature in the faith.

  1. Altered worldview with Christ-centered focus

Yes, things of this world such as work, family and in my case, running goals may still be important to us but our top priority should be serving God and seeking to spread His love through your gifts as well as interactions with others. I want to encourage all of you to become more involved in your church for all of you are gifted in some way and can have an impact on the Kingdom.

  1. Very sensitive to the needs of others

As a teenager, I cared little about anyone else or anything else for that matter aside from school and running.  Now, when I see somebody on the street that looks to be hurting, I am affected and am often visibly saddened when a friend reveals bad news. There is no way that I would have devoted so much time with this site in an effort to help people with chemical imbalances if I was not following Christ.  This is in no way intended as a boast for I am a lowly sinner.  Jesus is to be praised for changing my heart and He can change yours as well.


Message #45- healing process

Hebrews 10:36- You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised

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

Luke 7:7- That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed


I hope this message doesn’t come across as too self-centered but God has done an amazing thing in my life over the last couple of months. It is my prayer that you will be inspired by this testimony especially if you have a need that has gone unmet for a long time.   I serve a big God who can do whatever He wants to do however He wants to do it (Job 42:2) and He chooses to act in a manner in which His glory will best be revealed and that through you, people will see the magnitude of His goodness.  I will try to be as concise as I can in describing the healing process.  Here it comes.

 Five years ago, I was spending most of my days lying on the couch at my parents’ house mostly because I didn’t have the energy to do much else all while being told that there was “nothing physically wrong.”  When I received the diagnosis in the summer of ’06, my first emotion was vindication but in truth, I had a long and hard road ahead.  By the middle of ‘07, things had improved quite a bit.  I had finished my first half marathon (barely) and was holding down a steady job but I was not out of the woods yet.  I was taking upwards of 10 different pills every day and the optimal zone that separated the “wired/tired” feeling from abnormal stiffness and fatigue was as narrow as a balance beam.  In many cases, if I took any more or less than the optimal dosage for even one day, I would feel lousy again. Added to that was the fact that the optimal zone did not stay constant.  Naturally, there were some rough periods during that time.  Dating opportunities slipped away and I struggled at times with my job.  Why am I such a strong advocate for alternative medicine?  I tried it the mainstream way and I didn’t have any good days.  Most cases do require a lot of pills early on but extreme sensitivity is rare.  A common question that I get from people in the early stage of treatment is:  “Is it going to be like this for the rest of my life?”  My response is usually something to this effect:  “Man, I know it’s hard sometimes but I’ve got to have faith that it won’t be like this for much longer.”  In the end, my persistence paid off.  In 2008, my adrenaline level normalized allowing me to stop taking 3 pills.  The next year, mineral deficiencies were resolved and I was down to 4 different pills by the end of the year.  This summer, my last remaining and most frustrating neurotransmitter issue was resolved.  Then just 2 weeks later, I successfully weaned off OTC Lithium for hyperthyroidism, allowing me to be free from dependence on pills for the first time since 1998.  Quite often, I can tell whether or not a person is a believer simply by their reaction to my story.  A person of faith will say: “Man, you’ve got a powerful testimony,” almost as if they envy me for what God has done in my life.  A non-believer will say: “I’m so sorry that you had to go through all that.  It must have been so awful especially in your 20s.”  I admit that there are still feelings that some of my best years were stolen from me and I do not dispute that it was an awful experience but my Bible tells me not to dwell on the past for God is doing a new thing (Is 43:18).  My Bible says that God has a plan for me to prosper, not to be harmed (Jer 29:11).  My Bible says that though the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, Jesus came that I may have life more abundantly (John 10:10).  My Bible says that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).  I’ve said too many times that if you are living with certain significant chemical imbalances that are either untreated or improperly treated, long-term happiness is not possible.  I will always steadfastly defend my belief that this is not God’s plan for anybody’s life for we are more than conquerors through His precious blood. Perhaps after 4 years of treatment, my body finally reached a state of equilibrium on its own but even if that’s true, I still believe that God did it. I did have to take the pills but God did the healing.  The healing took place quite unexpectedly as it seemed that I had actually regressed a bit in the first half of 2010 and I cannot think of anything that I did differently regarding diet and supplements that I had not tried before. 

We see in the Gospels that Jesus healed people by different means such as laying hands upon the sick, having His cloak touched, speaking the word and even spitting on a blind man’s face.  Sometimes the healing was instantaneous and although I believe everyone was healed at the instant Jesus acted, sometimes it was a process in which the manifestation took place later.  Sure, I could have been healed instantly before 2006 but if so this website and its information on chemical imbalances would not exist at all.  I would not have moved to Alabama , may not have a stable job now and would not have met my friend Susie who inspired me to start writing these devotionals. Several people have suggested that I publish my knowledge in a book and include devotionals which apply to various events in life. Whether or not I get a book deal, it is obvious that God chose to act in a manner that His glory would best be revealed.  Now, I know that some of you have had unmet needs for several years and perhaps nothing has changed for quite a while or things may have even taken a slight turn for the worse recently.  Please do not lose heart and have faith that you will see the healing hand of God just around the corner and your story will have a better ending that you ever thought possible.

Here's a video of a song that spoke so clearly to me:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZDQzR8LK-c

Message #46- Complacency and grumbling

Exodus 17:3-The people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?"

 

Deuteronomy 8:11-12,14- But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.

 

Revelation 2:5- Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place.

 

At the age of 30, I really feel that I have made it.  I’ve got a pretty good job and some real good friends.  The city of Birmingham, Alabama is a perfect fit for me and for the first time in almost 12 years, I am healthy and no longer dependent on pills.  The very fact that I am even alive is a cause for celebration.  Some of the treatments that I received in mainstream medicine were actually called “malpractice” by other physicians.  I am aware of two people from my hometown that did not make it through their 20s.  Both struggled with clinical depression and turned to illegal drugs for relief.  If I had tried that poison even once, I would have been hopelessly addicted.

 Now that I am healed, I praise God but at some point, I can see myself saying “Okay, now what? Where do I go from here?”  Of course, there is still that one major missing piece in my life and the enemy has really stepped up the attack on that front in recent months.  Still, I have resolved NOT to grumble or complain about not having a girlfriend and am depending on people to call me out if I do.  Even more importantly, now that the Lord has delivered on what I wanted most for so many years, I must never become complacent.  This will NOT be the apex of my spiritual journey.   After the Lord delivered Israel from slavery and oppression in Egypt, it was not long until the grumbling began.  They even went as far as to say that they were better off in slavery.

Tragically, we see many examples of celebrities that were raised in Christian homes that literally sell their souls for fame and fortune.  Today, they have all sorts of legal problems and emotional distress.  I could rant for a whole page about how America is obsessed with people who are extremely talented in one area and are otherwise moronic but that’s another subject.  Chances are these people did not turn into scum bags overnight.  It’s a slow fade in which people may not even realize what is happening because they are so swept up by the fame. 

  I do not have any illusions of gaining fame by writing a number one best seller but I could see myself becoming well known and respected locally in the Christian community.  My accountability will never be higher and I can expect the enemy’s attacks will become more devious so I must always remain on guard against the slow fade.  Here’s an example of what happens far too often:

A man is devout Christian who does all the right things (church, Bible, prayer, fellowship, etc.).  He has a good and comfortable life but is slowly becoming just a little arrogant.  His time in prayer and Bible reading diminish over time.  One Sunday morning, he wakes up and does not feel like going to church.  No big deal, right?  Soon, it begins to occur with increasing regularity.  Later, he starts dating an unbeliever and trades in his Christian values for Hollywood values.  Sadly, I have seen this very thing happen more than once.  Happiness may come for a season but in the end, it cost them dearly.  Now, as for the related subject of stagnation, many of you have been saved for upwards of ten years.  Most likely, you have grown strong and wise in the faith.  Sanctification has taken place and you are showing the signs of a born again Christian but odds are, the enthusiasm that you had in your first year as a believer has waned a bit.  Above all, do not let your guard down for the slow fade could begin as simple stagnation that develops into regression.  As for me, I feel that overall I am a stronger Christian than before the energy crash in 2005 that led me to rock bottom but I confess that in the area of Bible reading and note taking, I am not as strong as when I was with the Navigators at Clemson.  Here’s an outline to prevent stagnation and the slow fade:

1. Stay humble- when you feel invincible or simply too comfortable, you are setting yourself up for a fall. You are a child of God and as dependent of Him as a newborn is on his/her mother.

2. Accountability partners- surround yourself in fellowship with good influences that are willing to call you out if you start heading down the wrong path.  A true friend would rather risk offending you than see you pay dearly for living in opposition to God’s will.

3. Change your routine- instead of simply reading a few random chapters of Scripture in the evening; try a detailed study of a New Testament letter or a book from one of your favorite Christian authors.

4. Seek new opportunities to serve- I genuinely enjoy writing these messages and when you serve God in areas most suitable for you, it will not even feel like work at all.

   Quick note on the future of this ministry:

-As long as the Lord lays these messages on my heart, I will keep writing.

-Now that I am healed, there will be less talk about chemical imbalances and my messages will be less self-centered.

-I have about 50 subscribers, which are mostly close friends from Clemson, Montgomery and Birmingham plus a few others who found my site randomly.  I’d like to grow my ministry and expand it to those that I don’t know as well.

-The good news and encouragement will still come out but the focus could shift more towards teaching and Christian living.
 
Message #47- Holiness of God
Acknowledgment: Thanks to my small group leaders Kevin and Jenny Swindall for the inspiration of this one
Ezekiel- 1:27-28- I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.

Matthew 17:2,5- There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!

Exodus 20:7- You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name

God.  When you hear His name spoken or see it on a page, what does it mean to you?  Does it evoke overwhelming feelings of reverence and awe not to mention a depth of love that my words cannot even begin to express or is it just another empty 3 letter word?  For most Americans, I'm afraid that the true answer is closer to the latter option largely because He has been devalued so much in our culture.  The above Scripture verses are just 2 of the times in which our Heavenly Father revealed Himself in His glory.  Take a minute or two to meditate on those Scriptures then picture yourself alone with God in all His glory and consider how you would react.  One person in my group stated that she would feel so ashamed at herself because of her sinful nature.  Indeed she does have a point.  After all, the prophet Isaiah said "Woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5) and our righteousness is but rags in the eyes of the Lord (Isaiah 64:6).  However, it is my view that because the Son paid the penalty that we deserve, the "woe is me" reaction is no longer appropriate. How would I react?  I'd probably fall prostrate and worship with every ounce of energy.  Our sins may be beyond disgusting and filthy but we are made beautiful when we are covered by the precious blood of Jesus
  Now, on to the rant, which is the increasing misuse of the Lord's holy name in America.  If you politely say that you would appreciate it if they would stop doing it, you can expect a sarcastic and condescending reply.  The word "vain" has been defined as "lacking in worth" or "empty" so when the Lord's name is misused, it is devaluing the Supreme Being to the worth of an empty box that will be thrown in the trash. To me, that is more offensive than the f-word because it shamelessly breaks one of the 10 Commandments.  It seems that these days, we cannot sit through a movie produced by Hollywood without hearing our Lord's holy name being used as a curse word several times.  I want to single out the movie Sea Biscuit.  Even though it was a good story, my opinion of the film was really soured by the constant cursing.  My friend Payton went as far to suggest that any such movie be boycotted altogether.  I initially thought that to be extreme until he brought up the fact that I would not stand to see a film that cursed my family name and attached profanity to it so why should I stand for the same disrespect of my Heavenly Father?  That's the end of the rant. In closing,  I want to ask y'all to once again consider God in all His glory and holiness with the knowledge that since you know His Son as your Savior, you will hear the Heavenly Father say to you: "Well done my good and faithful servant" and just imagine how that will make you feel when you get to Heaven.
Here's a video to emphasize the awe factor:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ya12I036lg

Message #48- Priorities

Exodus 20:3- You shall have no other gods before me.

Matthew 13:44- The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Luke 14:26- If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple

God comes first. Family/friends are next then everything else must take a back seat.  Too many people know where their priorities belong yet do not act according.  I’m just as guilty as the next person on this count.  When I trained at 60 miles/wk, I devoted about 8 hours to training plus additional time online blogging on the subject.  If I was to count the time I spent with the Lord, it did not always add up as it should.  Over the next few weeks, we will see people paint their faces in support of their favorite team and become animated after every big play on the field.  I really do not see anything wrong with that but it sure would be nice if they displayed the same passion and enthusiasm for the Lord as their “love” for their football team.

  During the summer, while driving through Colorado , I was listening to a Christian radio program about family relationships that took an unexpected turn.  We all know that football and other hobbies can become a sort of god for some people but can your family become your god?  The guest on the show answered in the affirmative and suggested that if that is the case, you could never recover from a tragic event (May God forbid that from happening to anyone!). I agreed with his assessment because there are many verses in the Gospels that support the point of view that it is wrong to put family before God.  I find it somewhat difficult to relate to people whose conversations frequently center on their children and significant other simply because I am not yet at that stage of life.  What I am writing could be very unpopular so please do not get me wrong.  I think that it is wonderful that people love their families so much even to the point that they share details that many people would consider to be insignificant.  However, it sure would be nice if they were as interested in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they are about talking about their families.  Jesus can break down any social barrier including age differences and lack of common interests.  To put things into perspective, God knows the number of hairs of your head so there is no detail about you the God finds insignificant.  The magnitude of His love for you dwarfs that of anyone on this Earth.  I challenge you to get to know God on a deeper level and if you ask people that have truly put God first; I guarantee that you will find few if any that will tell you that it was not worth it.  What sticks out in Matt 13:44 is that the man joyfully gave up everything.

   Okay, suggesting that you should “hate” your family is one of the most controversial and misinterpreted verses in all of Scripture.  It also seems to be contradictory as well since the Lord clearly says that no disciple can hate his brother or else he has no fellowship with the Lord.  Surely, no Christians can promote malice towards their family members so why would Jesus choose that word?  I thought that perhaps the Greek word might simply mean “love less”  or "indifference" but no, the word miseo literally means “hate.” Most commentaries suggest that softening the word hate is the proper interpretation. I have addressed that but would like to present a different point of view.  I’m no theologian but it is my interpretation that Jesus did not use the word “hate” in reference to people but rather an attitude that may exist among family that can hold Christians back from true discipleship.  If any of my readers grew up in an environment that was hostile toward Christianity and you experienced friction as a result of your decision, I would like to hear from you.  Fortunately, in America , the practice of shunning family members is relatively rare.  However, if you travel to the Middle East where apostasy from Islam can be punishable by death, you will find that Christian converts may be faced with the choice of the security of a good relationship with their Muslim families or possible martyrdom and the high probability of having no earthly means by which to support themselves in isolation.  In that case, it is completely appropriate to hate those attitudes and practices.  I am sure that there are some Middle Eastern people that choose not to acknowledge their belief in Jesus because of such fears.  I really cannot say that I fault them but the Word is very clear on that subject.  If you disown Jesus here on Earth, he will disown you before the Father in Heaven.  Now, consider those whose love for the Lord is so great that they are willing to risk martyrdom and willing to give up all of their possessions and if need be, even their relationships with family.  If you were to ask them if it was worth it, I’ll bet that the answer would be an enthusiastic “yes!”  Those people are my heroes.  More information on this subject can be found on the website:

 www.persecution.com

My last challenge is to imagine a yardstick with the first 1/16 of an inch shaded red.  The 1/16 of 1 inch represents your time in this world while the rest represents eternity.  Are you living with an eternal perspective in this life?


Warning: This Voice of the Martyrs video is graphic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oySB4uw4n18&feature=related