By Beth Calhoun
Have you ever hesitantly tried a new activity and ended up loving it and it became a part of your life? I tried something several years ago and now I look forward to this event every October. I have joyfully ridden my bicycle across the state of Florida twelve (12) times with about 70 other riders and a small support crew. This ride is with a Christian cycling group called C2C C2Cbikeride.com. We load our bikes into a semi truck in Tampa and drive to Daytona Beach. Upon arrival, the bikes are quickly unloaded and the truck drives away. We are left standing in the parking lot with two wheels to travel 200 miles from Daytona Beach to Tarpon Springs.
A few years ago, a man with an impressive reputation participated in the ride. He was a star football player, 2-time Super Bowl Champion (once as a player, once as a coach), 2-time ESPY Award winner, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, received the Buccaneers Ring of Honor Award, authored several books and regularly appeared on TV. Truly a celebrity. Coach Tony Dungy and his beautiful wife, Lauren, were on that ride!! We were all starstruck!!
The first year that Coach Dungy rode, we were all standing in the parking lot near Daytona Beach and the truck drove away. I looked at Coach and thought, “WOW, we are all on the same playing field. His impressive credentials will not help him ride 200 miles. The only thing that matters is how he prepared. Sure hope he’s ready!” Did he train? Did he practice riding in the hills? Does he know how to appropriately shift gears? Does he have what it takes to get to the finish line? At that moment, it did NOT matter that he had 2 Super Bowl rings. The only thing that mattered was if he was prepared.
Those thoughts reminded me that there will come a day, in each of our lives, when the truck pulls away. When that day comes, we will be left standing there - all by ourselves. In Scripture, we read, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, NIV). On the day when the truck pulls away, we will face judgment and the only thing that matters is if we are prepared.
How do we prepare? Scripture states, “that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV). We prepare by admitting that we are a sinner. (I don't know about you, but when I look at myself, I know that I am a sinner!) Thankfully, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV). We also read that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). However, “…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NIV). Have we admitted? Recognized consequences of our sin? Confessed? Believed?
If you are prepared, thank the Lord for His amazing gifts! If you are unsure if you are prepared, please take time to consider His words and what you are “doing” with Jesus Christ, the One who loved us so much that He willingly laid down His life for you. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (NIV).
Remember, our credentials will not open the door to heaven, only Jesus Christ can and we have to be prepared. No one can ride for us, no one will stand in our shoes. When you reach the finish line , will you hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, NIV)? If you are unsure, please let His Word prepare you for your eternal ride because none of us knows when the truck will pull away.
(By the way, the Dungy's are an amazing couple. They each confess Jesus as Lord and strive to serve Him and others to the best of their abilities. And, yes, they both were well prepared for the ride and not only did they finish strong but they have come back and ridden again and again!)
By Julie Fuller
I just don’t understand why my boys do the crazy things they do. Alex was around 8 years old; we were getting ready for Wednesday night church. I was standing in the living room when he came strolling around the corner missing his eyebrows! Now, Alex has dark brown hair and the sudden disappearance of his eyebrows was so shocking all I could do was repeat, (in a high pitched screeching voice) “What happened to your eyebrows?” I probably said it 20 times before it hit me that his older brother must have had something to do with it because he pulled this stunt several years before. The only difference is he has light colored hair so the lack of eyebrows didn’t look quite so ridiculous.
I was certain Logan had something to do with his brother’s new Frankenstein forehead because this is not a common practice. You don’t see many boys walking around without eyebrows. The next phrase I repeated (well, mostly yelled as I walked across the house) “Logan what did you do?” Logan came out of his room bewildered because he didn’t know what was going on. I said, “Logan, you did this to your brother!” Logan took one look at him and began to laugh, which did not sit well with me. Then he kept repeating, “I didn’t do it.” I asked Alex, “Did Logan shave off your eyebrows?” he said “no”. I falsely accused Logan of this crime before I had gathered any evidence or checked the facts. This was not one of my finest mom moments…apologies ensued.
For some of us (including myself), there is something deep inside that struggles with the need to be well thought of. A false accusation or an untruth believed about us gets ahold of our mind and runs us into the ground. Now, most people have a desire to clear up a misunderstanding or speak up if they are falsely accused.
But the thing I am talking about is rooted in sin, (sin that Jesus continually called the Pharisees out on) it’s an all-consuming fixation on setting the record straight or making sure our reputation is flawless or that others think good things about us. We are caught in a futile pursuit for the approval of man. It’s futile because we will never be able to sustain it because it is fickle; it is based on the latest performance and outcome. Even those closest to us will unjustly disapprove of us or believe untruths about us at times. Seeking human approval will never give us the security and acceptance we desire.
So how do we escape this destructive thinking? By remembering what the Lord says about us, because of Christ, His love and sacrifice we are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
And because of this, we are:
Blessed, holy, blameless, loved, adopted into God’s family,
forgiven and redeemed
We will never be rejected, forsaken or forgotten
Psalms 94:14, and Isaiah 53:3
The Creator of the universe delights and sings over us
We are treasured and engraved on the palm of His hand
There is nothing that can separate us from His love
These are the things that must fill our minds when we are tempted to place more value on what others think of us than what the Lord says about us. This is what it looks like to “take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). In this obedience resides the joy and true acceptance our hearts long for. It can only be found in the unearned, undeserved acceptance of our loving Heavenly Father.
By Kim White
Most of us have experienced a time when our children were afraid and wanted us to check under their bed or in their closet to make sure that nothing was looming under or with in that would harm them. As we entered their fear of the unknown, they stayed far from the door in case trouble appeared. They awaited our reaction, looking for the love in our eyes, the smile of encouragement, and a walk of confidence.
What is it that you need to walk "into" today? Is there a conversation you feel led to address with your husband but you fear his response? Are you doubting yourself as a mom and unable to face this day with confidence? Are you frustrated by a behavior that your child continues to exhibit and you can’t muster the mental strength to deal with it? Is there someone to whom you need to speak truth in love but are concerned they won’t hear your heart? It might be that you need to address an overwhelming financial issue that youare avoiding. Or, are you nervous about an upcoming appointment?
The good news today is that the Lord will go before you!! He goes before us in His love, power, wisdom and peace, (just to name a few!)
Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
Whatever your day holds, God is holding it!!! He is going before you into it. He is with you and will not leave you alone.
However, He does command that we be not afraid or discouraged. You may ask, “But, how do I do that?”Just like children walking into the unknown, they ask their parents for help. We must ask our Heavenly Father for help. As a believer, we talk to our Father in prayer with faith, trusting He will take care of us.
Do you need encouragement and strength to let go of your fears? May the power of the Word found in Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) minister to you now. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Lord, You know what we are walking into today. We thank You that You will lead us (Ex. 13:21a) and make the rough places smooth (Is. 45:2 NAS) as we keep our hope and confidence in You alone.
In the summer of 2002, my co-worker registered for a sprint triathlon in Tarpon Springs, Florida. This event involved a .5 mile swim, 12 mile bike and 3.1 mile run, ALL IN ONE DAY! This event came at a very difficult time in my life where there were a lot of changes and attempting one more new activity was unsettling. However, I felt as though I should participate and began training.
On race day, I packed my goggles, running shoes, bicycle, helmet and other essential race accessories. After singing the National Anthem, I started swimming freestyle with at least a hundred other women. Within the first 5 yards, I was kicked in the head. A few strokes later, I got kicked in the chest. I thought I was going to drown. The swim was grueling and when I made it back to land, I wanted to kiss the sand.
I was delirious after the swim and couldn’t find my bike. A friend who came for support, directed me to my bike where I strapped on my helmet and got on my fat-tire bike. There was a strong headwind pushing me backward rather than propelling me forward. When the challenging bike segment was completed, I removed my helmet and began running on extremely wobbly legs. I believed that this was one HUGE mistake and I felt like a failure and was questioning every area of my life.
During the run, I heard spectators yelling, “Go, 14901, you can do it! You’re gonna make it!” I realized that they were yelling to me! They didn't know my name, but they were calling me by the race number that was pinned to my t-shirt.
As I was questioning whether I would make it to the finish line, I felt the Lord speaking encouragement to me through His word: “I see you: They don’t know your name, Beth, but I do. I formed you while you were in your mother’s womb; I know the number of hairs on your head. I love you and am singing over you. I have a good plan for you!”** The Lord was my running partner!
In the midst of physical and emotional exhaustion, in the midst of complaining, being dirty, sweaty and stinky, I no longer felt invisible, discouraged or defeated. God saw me and knew all that I was facing in life. He reminded me of His amazing love and I was able to sprint across that finish line!
Wherever you are, whatever you are facing, God’s love for you is perfect, unconditional and complete. We can either fix our eyes on our limitations and our circumstances OR we can fix our eyes on the Author and Perfector of our faith. When we focus on Him, He will get the glory and honor and when we cross that final finish line, He will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Let His Word be encouraging during challenging times:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me
together in my mother’s womb.
And even the hairs on your head are all numbered.
The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to proper you and not to harm your, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
By Julie Fuller
I love how the Lord can even use my dog to teach me great truth. I have a two-year-old Weimaraner who has captured my heart. An evening bike ride is one of our favorite things to do (well I ride he runs). Several months ago we were on one of our rides, as we passed by a house I noticed a lady standing in her front yard holding onto her dog. We got about a half a block away when her dog came flying out of nowhere and attacked Tahoe.
Now Tahoe is a lover not a fighter and as he was trying to get away from Cujo (not sure, but that might be his real name) his leash wrapped around the front of my bike and down I went. The lady finally caught her dog and dragged him back to her house. I checked Tahoe and myself for blood, picked up my bike continued on our way.
I went from scared to fuming in about two seconds flat and for two blocks I had this dialog going on in my head, “I can’t believe that lady just let her dog go, she saw us riding by, she knows her dog is vicious and she just let him go, people like that should not have dogs...” I would have continued my rant if I hadn’t looked down to see Tahoe trotting along with a big smile on his face (oh yes he smiles). He had already forgiven the attack and was enjoying his run.
That is when I heard the Lord’s whisper to my heart “that is how quickly I want you to forgive.” 1 Corinthians 13 tells us “love keeps no record of wrong.” But let’s face it forgiveness is not always easy; like when your husbands says something that cuts, or you just can’t seem to please a critical parent, or a friend lets you down, the list goes on and on. If we are not careful these things can build up and make our hearts hard and bitter. Others have been hurt in deep, dark ways, that that are difficult to speak about and seem impossible to forgive.
In Matthew 18 Peter asked Jesus “how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” Essentially Jesus said unforgiveness is not an option and told the parable of the unforgiving servant who was thrown in prison to be tortured because he refused to extend the forgiveness he received to a fellow servant. Jesus is very clear in his command to forgive.
To paraphrase St. Augustine “Our Lord never commands what he does not also provide”. So how do we forgive?
Colossians 3:13 “Make allowances for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember the Lord forgave you so you must forgive others.”
The key to forgiveness is to remember that we are forgiven.
His forgiveness is not based on our merit, there is not a single thing we can do to earn it, and we do not deserve it. Our sin and rebellion against the holy, righteous, loving Almighty Creator of the universe pales in comparison to any sin that is committed against us Yet, through the blood of Jesus the Lord forgives us. When we allow the joy of that truth to penetrate our hearts it gives us the freedom and desire to do the same for the people in our lives.
Everything the Lord commands us to do is for His glory and our good. When we forgive we reflect His glory, we display a glimpse of what God’s forgiveness looks like. Forgiveness is also for our good; it sets us free from the prison of bitterness, anger and hatred and allows us to live the joy filled abundant life the Lord desires for us.
Just in case you want to see Tahoe, I told you he was a lover!
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, have five children, one son-in-law, one soon to be daughter-in-law, and one wonderful grandson. Donna and Bryan have recently moved back to their home state of Arkansas after livingin southeast Alabama the past 23 years. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.