“Running on the Rio”

The 2016 Summer Olympic games opened in the host city of Rio de Janiero this week. I was filled with anticipation to watch the opening games. It was spectacular. The fantastic showing of Brazilians proudly displaying their culture, music, and city was truly a sight to see. I was impressed with the artistic impression of it all. I feel drawn to Rio.

What impressed me the most was the realization of the contrast to what was displayed in the ceremonial opening of the Olympic games. There is a dichotomy that exists in their culture.  Extreme poverty is the reality of the city. Yet, it is the reality in most of our cities, and countries all over the world. It is a part of us. It is with all of us. We are not devoid of this. The world continues.

While watching the opening ceremony I noticed that the next to the last team that walked in was the Olympic Refugee Team. Wow. These are people that have overcome immense odds against living and training in their sport. Their stories are of the impossible and yet they made it! They are in Rio! Their dreams of competing at the Olympic level has arrived. Some say, it doesn’t matter how it happens as long as you arrive. I wonder if that is correct. I think the process of getting there, the in-between, is the part that matters most. After all, one cannot arrive without the in-between. So from this perspective, it matters.

To arrive after such odds has much to do with perseverance. Endurance builds upon each sacrifice and act of determination and strong will. While I believe all Olympic athletes have this in common I also believe there are some that have to try harder to be where they  are. There are a lot of countries with a lack of facilities and sponsors but seem to punch out the best athletes. Take for example in the  1970’s when the country of Romania proudly displayed Olga and Nadia. They hardly came from a place of privilege or state of the art facilities, but I have no doubt their training had to be harder and longer.

My favorite part of the summer Olympics are the track and field events. I remember as a teenager I would spend my late night summers watching the track and field events in my bedroom while the rest of my family was asleep. I remember track star Evelyn Ashford in 1984,  and then came Gale Devers, and the late Florence Griffith-Joyner (“Flo-Jo”). This Olympics my eyes will be on Allyson Felix, who  overcame a devastating injury and has arrived!

I think it is obvious that running is my favorite Olympic sport. There is something about running I believe demonstrates what it means to persevere. You can’t fake running. Whether as a sprinter, middle-distancer, or marathoner, running takes time and patience. You have to be good at waiting to be a good runner. I have become a better runner in time.  With age has come endurance, strength of mind, and the will to persevere.

My running has spanned 25 plus years. During this time lots of life has happened. I have run thousands of miles and I think it is safe to say that I have averaged 26,000 miles to date, and a whole lot of shoes.

My current shoes are in dire need of replacing. They are three years old which is much too old in the world of running. The foam is coming out from inside, and the soles are wearing through. However, what I think most about when I look at my shoes are all the memories my shoes have collected throughout these last three years. My shoes reflect where my thoughts have gone and where my heart has been. They remained with me during good times and bad times. Each time my shoes have been faithful to carry me through.

So it is when I think of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He carries us through the good and the bad. With Him we can run with endurance and persevere. “He is the wind in my hair and the lift beneath my feet.” Because of Him I am on the run: running on the road, running on the track, running on the ground, and running on the Rio.

In closing and with commemoration of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, join me so together we are “Running on the Rio.”

In His service,

Apollolina

 

Copyright 2016 The Word in Motion

 

 

 

 

“Keep it High”- A Conclusion

“Paul and Silas: The release” 

 Acts 16: 22 – 39

              Many years ago when I became a born-again Christian I began to pray for the salvation of my parents. It was an endless request to God as I looked for many ways to witness Christ as Son of God. Over time it occurred to me that the best way to evangelize was not so much by words, but by my actions. I made the choice to live out my salvation witness to my parents. However, during those ensuing years there were many times I did not think salvation was possible and I felt as though I had missed opportunities along the way to share Christ. It seemed that the next 26 years were more for me than for them. In this sense, I grew spiritually and began to understand what it meant to be a servant of God and to serve my parents out of Christ’s love rather than to be consumed with the where and the when of evangelistic success. I took the long-term view and discarded the short-term range. I chose to keep it high and focus on their hopeful salvation whether it came at the end of their lives or mine. Thus, I began to see God’s hand more powerfully than ever. I wasn’t responsible for my parent’s response to Christ. The moment I gave up the notion that their salvation rested on my shoulders I became a better servant of God to do His will and His work no matter what it required of me or the outcome. As such, I felt released. The iron bars fell. His strength in me was the transcendence of His Spirit at work in the midst of life’s circumstances.

The imprisonment of Paul and Silas was a backdrop, the scene, of the inspired Word of God. The iron bars and shackles were but merely accessories that adorned the men of God that graced the prison that night. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household” (verse 31). From the scriptures it appeared that the jailer took Paul and Silas away from prison deep into the night and brought them to his household. Not only was the jailer and his household saved but they were also baptized. There was much celebration that night! It is amazing how God transforms people and situations where in this case there was a reconciliation between them. The gospel message not only transforms but reconciles and brings peace. It is a beautiful example of how God’s people extend care for one another.

When daylight came word was sent to the jailer that the chief magistrates wanted Paul and Silas to be released.  The jailer reported these words back to Paul. They were free to go. However, it was not going to be that easy for the chief magistrates. At this point Paul decided to inform them that he and Silas were Roman citizens. In verse 37 Paul says, “They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison, and now are they sending us away secretly?” Though they were publicly beaten with rods they were not going to be released privately. Paul confronts their deeds and insists they follow though.  In the beginning, Paul made a very strategic decision. He had the gospel in mind. Knowing this, to have cried “I’m a Roman citizen” would have shown a lack of trust in God as well as divided loyalties. That is, does he trust in his citizenship or in God?  What impact would this have made to his Christ-witness?  More likely, confusion may have erupted and have done the gospel message a disservice. Paul assessed the situation from the beginning. He was a Jewish man with Roman citizenship. However, he was foremost a bond-servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It takes a tremendous amount of wisdom to have done what Paul did. The situation would present itself again and the chief magistrates would be confronted with their actions by the same measure it was brought about. It was important that Paul’s innocence be a matter of public record as he and Silas were never publicly charged. For Paul to have taken the release privately, after a public beating, would mean the situation would have been unresolved in the minds of the eye-witnesses. In a sense, Paul and Silas would have been dubbed “Christian fugitives” of sort. To Paul, everything hinged on the reputation of the gospel.  He kept the end in mind. He kept it high.

The chief magistrates were afraid when they heard that Paul and Silas were Romans and they kept begging them to leave the city. Alas, the release. Paul and Silas’s path to prison was not any less than out of it. Nothing can imprison the Spirit of the Lord.

To keep it high means to have God in view. Despite your circumstances and the situation you may be in, you must have the future in front of you all the time. Paul and Silas did. I am convinced that had Paul and Silas lost their view of Christ and chose the short-term range the outcome may have been very different and would have lost the purpose God had for them, and all New Testament believers since then and now.

I am filled with wonder the positive outcome I experience every time I make a decision by keeping it high. You will not go wrong when your current decisions are based on the future view of Christ. They will serve you well.

During the years I prayed for my parent’s salvation I chose to live out my witness instead. I kept it high and learned to be a servant of God. I realized that their decision to choose Christ ultimately had nothing to do with me. Twenty six years later I led my mother to Christ. It was during this time I learned to serve her and show God’s love for her. When she died it meant everything to know that she was in heaven. Shortly thereafter, I learned of my father’s commitment to God. They are both in the presence of our Lord and Savior.

To know that God not only had a plan for my parent’s salvation He had a plan during that time to mold me into His servant. Despite where we are in life’s journey God will use our situations and circumstances to bring about His purpose for us, and those around us as well.  The benefits of Christ have far reaching effects that extend beyond His chosen instruments.  No matter the time, the place, or the season you are in, have the gospel in mind, His reputation in sight, all so that you keep in Him. And when you do, you keep it high.

Copyright 2013 by The Word in Motion

“Keep it High” – Part II

 

Paul and Silas: The imprisonment” 

Acts 16: 22 – 39

            Have you even been doing God’s work only to find yourself in a hard and difficult situation? In my eight year reign attending seminary I found myself in some of the most challenging of life’s experiences. I often asked myself, “Really?” Many times I questioned my purpose, my place, and my heart. I pondered “Am I really where you want me, God?” However, each time I witnessed an unmistakable trace of God which catapulted me deeper, further, higher. I grew relentless in my pursuit of Him and it drove me blazingly on my journey toward the glorious Son of God.

            In the Book of Acts chapter 16, verse 22 the scene opens where Paul and Silas had caused an uproar in the city and the chief magistrates ordered that they both be beaten with rods. After they had been beaten with many blows they were thrown into prison.

            Paul was in the thick of his purpose with God. He was on God’s missionary journey, persecution and all. The trials and tribulations were part of it. Not because it seemed to slip in but because it was written and ordained by the Father. It had to be. The Lord said “for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9: 16). Sometimes reminders of our sinful past give us strength to endure the hardship that comes our way. We can never pay for our sins. How on earth can we determine such a price? Left up to us we would selfishly estimate far too low. Left up to others it would be far too high.  Only by grace can our sins be atoned for. They were paid for by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Our payment remitted in full by His death and resurrection. Therefore, it is best that we be reminded of the crucifixion that Christ bore for the sins of all humanity, past, present, and future. As it puts all things in perspective.  

            The jailer received the charge to keep Paul and Silas securely so he threw them into an inner prison and fastened their feet with stock. “But about midnight…” Some time has passed since they were in prison. Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God while the other prisoners were listening.  This reminds me of a scene in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” when a new inmate Andy Dufresne (played by actor Timothy Robbins) on assignment while serving time played over the prison intercom the song “Sull’aria” (from the opera “Le Nozze di Figaro”) sung by two sopranos. When the prisoners of Shawshank heard this beautiful aria they stopped what they were doing, stood still, looked high up toward the speakers and listened with awe and wonderment. It was audacious. Oh, how the prayers and hymns of Paul and Silas caught the attention of the prisoners that evening. It appears no one was sleeping that night. No doubt the other prisoners had heard of the apostle Paul. What company! A man of God among the vilest offenders that day. Singing praises to the Lord during difficult circumstances indicates the heart of His chosen ones. They were confident in their Lord without knowing the outcome. Their lives were not yet over. There was much work needed to be done and God’s journey continued.

            Verse 26 says, “…and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” The timing of this event was no coincidence. Though the praise itself did not cause the earthquake it is clear that it was a result of God’s hand.

            The jailer, having been asleep, arose and noticed that the prison doors opened and decided to draw his sword in an attempt to take his own life supposing that all the prisoners had escaped. However, Paul intervened. He chose not to escape but rather tried to bring calm to the situation and announced to the jailer “for we are all here” (verse 28). Can you imagine what the jailer was thinking? The prisoners were on his watch, especially the controversial apostle Paul. His whole life was riding on their imprisonment.  To find that the doors were wide open must have derailed him to such an extent he had no hope, and no good excuse to the magistrates.   He was in the grip of fear. However, God uses every moment, emotion, and situation to bring about His plan. In verse 30, the jailer trembling, fell down before Paul and Silas and said, “What must I do to be saved?”

            I’ve heard people talk how a life threatening circumstance, near death experience, and the hopelessness of fear brought them to their knees before the Almighty God. Our Father knows what it will take to gain our attention and will use circumstances and natural disasters to do it.

            When you are a true follower of Christ you will more likely stand out in the crowd. As such, you cannot follow the crowd. You know whom it is that you follow and it is not man. Followers of Christ will constantly go against the grain and cannot be controlled. It is a difficult path to follow the Lord.  You will constantly be tested of your allegiance. While those in the crowd may profess to be Christian the result of their outward actions will prove not to be any different from unbelievers. Few will choose to give up themselves and give of themselves to follow God.  The weakness to please man is much too great.

            To follow Christ means you may not attain reward, riches, or promotion. The apostle Paul was a true follower of Christ. His allegiance to God was known not only by his verbal proclamations, but by the actions he demonstrated in his life. Even more, the actions of God that led him.

 The Word in Motion: An Interactive

It’s one thing to surrender to man, but have you surrendered to God?

What does it mean to serve God?

Is your Christianity a long-term view or a short-term range?

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The Next Devotional

A Conclusion

“Keep it High”

“Paul and Silas: The release”

 Acts 16: 22 – 39

Copyright 2013 by The Word in Motion

“Keep it High” – an Introduction

Paul and Silas: Acts 16: 22 – 29      

              The best you can experience on earth cannot touch Heaven. When you do for God it never looks nor feels like you are doing anything for yourself. But you are. Rewards may not be realized on earth but they will come at the end of your journey when you are finally in the presence of our Savior.  It is incomprehensible.

            Many times when I engage my friends in conversations I say “I will keep it high.” At first, I got confused looks and questions such as, “What do you mean by that?” However, after several years of my saying this my friends know what I mean.

            When you are a servant of Christ you do not live unto yourself. You learn to live taking the back seat, back row, and back burner in most aspects of your life. It is a mark of being a distant second to the one who takes first place, God. The closer you are to the Father the further away you will be, that is, to your very self. In so doing, the higher things become to you.

            So as a servant of God I do not live for myself. I live lesser to me.  Each time I try to extend my hand something in my mind tells me “you better pull it back.” Then I let it go. I have learned to let a lot go. In this sense, I am letting go of myself, my plans, my thoughts, and my hand. As such, I can never go before myself. Mostly I cannot even stand up for myself. Life’s spiritual lessons run deep that I recognize apart from the Father I can do nothing. It has become easier to take it on the chin, turn the other cheek, give up my seat, wait a little longer, relinquish my turn, and to step down. All at the cost to remain blameless, but not for myself, but for God so that He can do what He does without my getting in the way. The lesser I am the greater He becomes. Simply, smoothly, purely.

            I have learned to hold the end in mind, His reputation in sight, all so that I can keep in Him, and when I do, I keep it high.

 The Word in Motion: An Interactive

What does it mean to you to “keep it high?”

Have you ever taken a step down so that someone else can take a step up?

Do you live for yourself instead of for God?

What things are first place in your life?

How will you relinquish yourself this week?

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The next devotional:

“Keep it High”

“Paul and Silas: The imprisonment”

 Acts 16: 22 – 39

Copyright 2016 by The Word in Motion

“The best things in life take time”

We live in a fast paced world. We want everything now and quickly. We rush and try to help things along in life. It seems to me that not much comes along naturally these days. There is a rush to grow up and grow out, to excel, advance, attain, and progress so much that it doesn’t seem to be a true progression of the natural state of the way things ought to be.

So is it any wonder when things fail? People are rushed to positions of authority, responsibility and influence prior to the maturation process. Character has yet to be fully tested and developed. Experience has yet to dig its deep terrain. Tears have dried before they hit the ground proving of it’s lack of heaviness and toil as succumbed to the aftermath of the storms of life.

The southern magnolia is a beautiful symbol of nature’s blooms that are predominately in the south of the United States. A magnolia tree can grow as tall as 80 to 120 feet and wide as 40 feet. The beautiful white southern bloom usually matures after 10 years of growth. However, when it does, it blooms a large flower boasting of a beautiful fragrance like no other. I’ve been told that the magnolia tree is strong enough to withstand a hurricane. I think we can learn from the southern magnolia. Beauty, strength, and character takes time. When the time has come to inaugurate its bountiful floral regalia not even a powerful storm can wither it away.

So it is when it comes to life. The best things in life take time. 

In His service,

Apollolina

Copyright 2016 by The Word in Motion