Mile Two

go extra mileA recent MYER customer service experience blew me away when my question about a size 10 white blouse turned into conversation about  where I was planning to wear said blouse. After sussing out my style, the trendy young associate gave me ideas for other outfit combos, escorted me to the dressing room and even found some heels in the shoe department to try on with her suggestions. She made shopping fun and certainly went “the extra mile!”

When I envisage “going the extra mile,” I hear my CrossFit coach, Carl, encouraging me to get in an extra set if I want “gains!” I think of excellence in standards, generosity of spirit, an “over-and-above” attitude.

 

The opposite sentiment asks “do we have to” and, “what are the minimum standards?”

Extrinsic motivation for fear of retribution.

Jesus, in Matthew, instructs us this way: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Jesus referenced an ancient Persian custom of using couriers to deliver letters or important news, one with which his audience would have been familiar. The King’s personal courier held absolute power to enlist whatever help he needed to fulfil the task at hand. For example, he might not only ask to use your horse to deliver his message, but he could also demand you come with him; and, if you refused, you could be punished, even put to death! That would certainly motivate you to get moving!

All of us do things because we HAVE to; however, Jesus was speaking about attitude.

He was saying, “Don’t merely do what’s asked of you because you know if you don’t, you’ll be punished.” Sure, do what’s asked of you. Please.

And then, do a little bit more.

Go above and beyond in your effort with no expectation of a reward. It’s a “Wow, I can’t believe we GET to…” attitude driven by personal satisfaction, intrinsic motivation. Anticipation of fulfilment despite any tangible payoffs.

In the second mile, the one that isn’t required, fatigue sets in. You might start questioning why you’re there in the first place. You look back at what you’ve already done and if you’re not careful, martyrdom sets in:

POOR ME!

WHY ME?

DOES ANYONE EVEN NOTICE ME????

You look at other people and how little THEY’RE doing and you tell yourself how amazing YOU are in comparison and it’s enough to stop you short.

It’s HARD… this whole staying-the-course, second mile thing.

So, how do you fulfil the expectation Jesus has for you, going not just one mile, but two? Ratcheting up a level with joyful willingness? Expectancy?

Well, you don’t quit. When the pressure builds and odds seem like they are stacked against you, dig deep. Find your true strength, what you’re really made of. Don’t hold back. Cry out to heaven and ask for help. Push through the pain and remember that nothing good ever comes without a fight.

If the going is getting tough in your job, your marriage, your church, (your workouts), don’t retreat. Don’t entertain giving up. Don’t let a bad attitude, doubt, offence, or fear cause you to throw in the towel.

Your best days are ahead and if you’re struggling to stick with it, you put one foot in front of the other and press into the strength that only comes from seeking God.

He will sustain you. After all, he has all the answers. He laid out a path before you and his plans are worth fighting for. But, you’ll only find out if you keep going.

“Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Philippians 3:13-14 MSG).

 

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2015 Fasting Devotion, Day TWENTY-ONE

As our Lift Church corporate fasting draws to a close for 2015, I leave you with the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy:

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:12-19)

Dear Lord, thank you for speaking to me and answering my prayers over the course of the last several weeks. I ask that you help me to continue the good fight of faith and that you give me strength to withstand whatever trials may come my way. I put all my hope in you and commit to walking with you everyday. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Push Baby Push

colour explosion

If you’ve ever given birth, you know what “transition labour” is all about: that excruciating moment where you begin to second-guess your plans for a drug-free delivery. You self-doubt; and if you’re me, you begin to shake and cry a little, your begging eyes looking at your spouse for any sign of comfort that “this too shall pass.” You were SO ON TOP OF IT for the last 5 hours but now it seems like all your best efforts to breathe, relax and work with your body have gone out the window.

However… not long after this no-turning-back moment of insanity, the wrangling is over and your valuable prize is delivered – all slimy and perfect. The pain COMPLETELY ceases and there you are, sweaty, exhausted, and reveling in the most amazing moment of your life – the agony but a small twinge now!  Everything you worked for and more lies bundled up in your arms.

We could all use personal analogies to make my point today. My recent marathon or moving across the world to plant Lift Church would suffice. You battled an illness or a job loss. Your season of little children testing your insanity meter 24/7 while feeling sleep deprived and overwhelmed seemed like it would never end. And what did you do?

You

Kept

Going.

No matter what you’re facing, there are days when you hit a wall. Pain prevails over the promise. “Something’s got to give” and you might internally combust. Finances, health, teenagers, in-laws, husbands, commitments, jobs… they all have their say, but somehow your own voice seems silenced. You literally think you can’t stretch another centimeter or else you’re going to snap. The laundry piles up, the toilets need cleaning AGAIN, homework isn’t done, and your husband is no longer your lover but a co-labourer and fellow cab driver.

NOW is NOT the time to throw in the towel! Keep forging ahead! Get up another day and take the step that’s before you. Remind yourself of God’s word and His hand in your life. Don’t say things like, “I can’t handle this” or “If one more bad thing happens, I’m going to lose it!” Don’t quit your commitments and for the love of God, please DO NOT rant on social media!

PUSH baby PUSH!

Fight for something bigger than yourself. Don’t let your circumstances win. Those will come and go, but you?

YOU’RE HERE TO STAY.

When you feel backed in a corner, come out brawling. Maybe someone told you that you were weak. He LIED. You’re very strong. You’re quite capable. Try pushing through the pain and just see what’s on the other side. It’s VICTORY, not DEFEAT. The only way you’re defeated is if you quit.

None of my mommy friends explained the gory agony I would face postpartum. (Stitches and calluses on places you don’t normally talk about publicly to mention a few.) The cost/benefit analysis made it all worth the risk I presume.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 MSG)

 

Don’t Stop Now

I love to run on the nearby Fernleigh Track.  It follows an old railway line and winds me through gorgeous bushland where I can hear Bell Birds and see wildlife like cute bunnies hopping across my path.  I recently ran a little further than usual and as I turned back towards home, I noticed a sign I had never seen before:

Here's the sign on my run!

Since I was a good 5km from home, this “all-caps-command” felt like an order, dictating to my tired legs what they yearned to hear.  I have a policy that I don’t STOP and walk when I’m running.  Otherwise, it feels too hard to start back up again.

Running is one thing, but what about genuine trials in life that press us down so hard, we cave under the pressure?  Our marriage feels too far in the ditch to bring back in alignment.  We STOP putting ourselves out there for relationships because we have been hurt one too many times and trusting feels too hard.  We feel helpless when it comes to our finances or our jobs so we terminate early.

Personally, this journey of church planting has felt lonelier and more stressful than anything I have ever done; at times, everything in me has wanted to fly back to Texas and give up.  The weight of expectation for what it means to be a pastor’s wife feels confusing and daunting most days. And, when our vision doesn’t come to pass quickly, it’s easy to doubt God’s word and wish I could turn back.

We all face trials that cause us pain and moments when we feel like we can’t suck in enough air to go another mile.  There are times our heart beats out of our chest with anxiety and fear and we think our bodies might explode.

Rather than letting an outside voice slow us down, why don’t we let our inner voice speed us past this wreckage that seeks to halt our progress?

Last I checked, as Christians, are actually “more than conquerors” and it’s for “freedom that Christ has set us free.”  We aren’t victims of circumstance nor are we underdogs or fools.

We have been given a “shield of victory” and we are supposed to be bold because of the hope we have in Christ. We shouldn’t be overrun by negative thinking or hopelessness.  Instead, when those thoughts come, we should remind ourselves not to “burn out or quit in hard times; instead, pray all the harder.”

I’m believing for that last bit of leg strength to keep running.  I’m believing for the breath of God to fill our lungs so we are strong and courageous.  I’m expecting God to strengthen our spiritual and mental muscles so they can take us farther than we thought we had strength to go.  That our minds would focus on the long-term marathon, not just the next km.

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.  So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it” (Phil 3:12-16).