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Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

The central text of our meditation in this Bible Plan is Hebrews 12:1, 2.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1, 2)

Marathon training and running a marathon has so much to do with what one wears for the runs and what one does not wear.

I have seen marathon runners run with all sorts of clothing- rather heavy clothing. I have seen runners run with inappropriate shoes.
They just get over heated and have to give up-sometimes way too early.

I have seen runners, who have obviously not trained for the marathon. They are carrying too much weight on them. They give up pretty early.

We eat food, which we know is not good for us. Even seasoned marathon runners eat food which they know is not good for them. There is a misconception that marathon runners can eat anything, and they will OK. Of course, one realizes that it is not OK. Just training for a marathon, does not give you the liberty to eat bad stuff. Eating the wrong kind of food makes for a very bad marathon run.

Our core Hebrew 12 text reminds us to shed all the bad stuff.

In preparation for the marathon, I went to the running store. They saw my gait while I walked. They saw me run on the treadmill. They measured my foot. Then they recommended the right kind of shoes- lightweight shoes, which provided good support. They recommended the right kind of running t-shirt. This was not my favorite college t-shirt. The right kind of t-shirt does not get heavy in wet weather. It does not soak the sweat. It does not cause chaffing .They recommended the right kind of shorts, and socks. I was told to carry the minimum, and right amount of running material on me. I was preparing for a marathon.

I was told to get rid of all the wrong kinds of clothing, and the wrong kind of shoes. It would only impede my progress, and make it a horrible run experience.

Our Verse of the Day reminds us to wear the right stuff in this life marathon. “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” These are light virtues. If we wear these, it will be an easy run. Other “clothing” like pride, greed, jealousy, lust, gluttony, laziness, etc. are heavy clothing. They only make for a wearisome run. Why wear them? Why keep them? Get rid of them.

A Prayer:
Oh Lord for this marathon run called life, please help me always put on the light clothing you give me by your grace. Please help me shed the bad and heavy clothing.

2Pet. 1:3 ¶ His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

The central text of our meditation in this Bible Plan is Hebrews 12:1, 2.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1, 2)

I run marathons.
It is an endurance test of 26.2 miles.

To train for a marathon one needs to eat the right kind of food. It is miles and miles of running. The banana is a good and easy food. It contains potassium which keeps the runner from getting muscle cramps. Fruit that is high in potassium and iron are good. Fish is good for omega-3 fatty acids. Ancient grains like millet, sorghum or quinoa are good sources of healthy carbs. Ancient grains bread with peanut butter is absolutely yummy.

Marathon training has taught be to be a healthy eater.

A runner needs to be mindful to avoid bad food. Here are some of the no-nos. Soda is bad. I feel so awful that we have dumped all the coca cola on our sisters and brothers in Mexico. Cookies and candy of all kind are bad. I come from India. Indian candy is absolutely the worst for running. Alcohol is bad. Fried food is bad. White rice, and bread is bad.

A runner needs to be mindful of what one ingests. Good food gives good energy. It gives power to run the good race.

This is true of the marathon called life.

This is what our Verse of the Day is emphasizes. To be a good runner in this journey called life one needs energy and power. The Bible offers us the best power ever-“divine power.” All the great runners of Hebrew 11 were people who were endowed with God’s power.

The Gospels record that Jesus did amazing signs and miracles “for power came out of him and healed them all” (Luke 9:1). In the final words that the risen Jesus said to his disciples he reiterated, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” (Acts 1:8). This power is what fueled all the great runners of the Bible.

When I run long runs, or a full marathon, I pray, “Lord, you have promised me your power. I pray that your power will sustain me in this run.”
I meditate on texts like Isaiah 40:41, where the prophet promises,
Those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

A Prayer:
Oh Lord please give me the power to run well this marathon of life.

On a restful run

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)

Modern life is full of restlessness. One seldom finds people who are who exude restfulness.

I run marathons. One of the lessons I have learnt is to listen to my body and to listen to my heart during the runs. Usually, the first few miles of a training run or the marathon are the hardest. However, there comes a point in the run, when one reaches a state of restful running. The heart rate reaches a restful running rate. The body says to the runner, ”You can keep up this pace for a long time.” I call this the forever-run, running pace. This is the pace which enables a runner to accomplish the marathon or the ultramarathon.

This is the case with the marathon of life- the vocation of life.

The Hebrew word translated as “dwell” or “rest” is beautiful a word. It describes a state of restfulness. It describes life’s journey as taking a vacation in a restful resort. It is a restful resort because God is with you.

The Gospels portray Jesus’ life as a life of restfulness. John the Baptist proclaimed, “I saw the Holy Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it ‘rested’ on him” (John 1:32). When the disciples first encountered Jesus, they were drawn to a restful person. They ask him, “Rabbi, where do you rest? He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ So they came and saw where he rested, and they rested with him.” (John 1:38, 39). Throughout his lifetime on earth, the Messiah took his disciples to places and times of restfulness.

In his farewell message to his disciples, Jesus kept telling them, “Rest in me!” (John 15:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10). This is the secret of a restful vocation in life.

A Prayer:
O Lord, in this life’s marathon run, please help me rest in you, so that it would indeed be a restful run.

On being humble

“And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for
“God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God.”
(1 Peter 5:5, 6, NIV)

Humility is not something sought after in modern life and work. In every walk of life, a person is asked to proudly stand up for oneself, and one’s abilities.

I teach at a university. At a university a professor has to prove that she/he comes with spectacular qualifications- a PhD xyz. During the course of one’s carrier, a professor goes through a tenure revue. At each stage, one has to prove one’s abilities. If one does not do this, the person may be disqualified, at each stage. The motto that is generally used is, “Publish or perish!” At the end of the tenure review, a professor has to present a very thick portfolio, in which one must proudly display one’s abilities, achievements, qualifications, and the such. One should be able to proudly to, “Look at me! You cannot really do without me!”

Sadly, this is true of every job, vocation, and life in general. Everywhere one turns, there is competition to prove how much better one is than the other.

It seems like a humble person has no chance.

Quite contrary to this, Jesus teaches a counterculture life. He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

Sure, it may not result in a successful life, by human standards. However, it surely leads to a restful life. One can live at peace with God, with oneself, and with one’s neighbor and coworker. And, what is more? It surely makes for a good night’s sleep.

The rat-race of competition, and the quest to proudly prove one’s abilities, all the time, only leads to a restless life, and sleepless nights.

Why not try being humble!

A Prayer
Oh Lord help me to be gentle and humble, just like my Lord Jesus the Messiah!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1, 2)

I have run 10 marathons- 7 Chicago, 2 Boston, and 1 New York City. Each of these have been very distinct and amazing experiences. One does not just decide one day to go and run a marathon. It is 26.2 miles of running! One has to train every day of the year. One has to run 5 milers, 10 milers, 15 milers, and 20 milers according to a training plan.

I live in Chicago. In training, one must choose the kind of terrain which would resemble the marathon one is training to run. Chicago is flat. So, when I trained for Boston and New York, I had to find hills. In the Boston marathon one runs through many beautiful hills. They call is God’s country. In the New York marathon, one runs through all the Boroughs of New York City. One has to go up and down all these bridges which connect the Burroughs. So, I found a hill to train, which I call it Mount Trashmore. It is near Techny Towers, in the northern suburbs of Chicago. It is an artificial hill constructed from the tons and tons of Chicago trash. I just ran up and down this hill for hundreds of miles.

When one runs a marathon, or trains for marathon, it is wise to have a pace setter- an experienced runner, who is an expert. Each marathon has several pace setters. Even the elite runners- amazing marathoners from Kenya and Ethiopia, have pace-setters. During my marathon runs, I knew that as long as I could see the pace setter, for all the 26.2 miles, I was OK. I would usually try to run alongside a pace setter, who was running at a pace better than my goal. This way I knew I would be fine. Usually, I was fine.

This is essentially what our Youversion text for today is asking us to do in our life. Life is a marathon. Our vocation in life is a marathon. Keep your eyes fixed on your pacesetter.

  1. There are various things we need to keep in mind in training for this marathon, and in running the marathon. We must always remember that we are not the first ones to run this marathon. There are many others, throughout the history of humanity who have run the marathon of life.

Hebrews chapter 11 underlines the names of the great marathon runners of life. These are amazing runners like Abel, Enoch, Noah, and the such.

I would have loved to run alongside these runners!

This is quite humbling thought. Isn’t it?

2. When one is running, one must not carry stuff.

In my first Chicago Marathon, I thought I would need everything. It was 26.2 miles. I carried my jacket, because it was cold when I began the race early in the morning. I carried my water bottle, because I wanted to be well hydrated. I carried a Sony Cassette Walkman, because I knew it was a long run, and I wanted to listen to some nice music, while I ran. By mile 6.2, I realized this was a foolish decision, so I just dumped everything into the hands of a spectator outside Moody Church. Who kindly took it from me!

In the marathon called life, one must learn to shed all the baggage- all that we have collected and hoarded. We must especially shed the bad baggage, which will grossly impede our progress- our sins and bad inclinations.

3. Running takes perseverance. It takes patience. One must build endurance.

The Greek word in this text means all of those things and more.

Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, has never run a mile or a marathon. Sprinters do not have, or do not aspire to acquire the patience or endurance to run a marathon. They want to do things which would be quickly finished. But, life is not a sprint. Life is a marathon. One needs to build endurance, with patience and perseverance.

4. The marathon race is “marked out.” One must run the course marked out for the marathon.

Sadly, there have been a few cheaters who were caught jumping the course. The most famous one is a runner by the name of Rosie Ruiz. In 1979 she ran the New York City Marathon. Her finish time was clocked at 2:56:29, the 11th woman overall. In 1980, she ran the Boston Marathon. Her time was clocked at 2:31:56, the fastest in the women’s category. Sadly, it was discovered that she cheated in both marathons. She did not run the whole course marked out for the two marathons, and so she was disqualified.

Today, since then, all marathon runners have to wear a computer chip, so that each one tracked during the whole course.

In the marathon journey called life, it is of paramount importance to be accountable to God, and to fellow runners- the community of faith. It is good to meditate on the Word of God, so that one stays in course.

5. The marathon course in life is marked out for “us.”

This is what I like about running a marathon. All the runners run together. All the runners encourage each other and buoy each other. During my marathon runs, I have heard so many amazing stories of runners. I ran for example, the Boston Marathon, the year after the Boston bombing. That awful killing happened in 2013. I ran my second Boston Marathon in 2014. I ran alongside runners who were not able to finish the Boston Marathon in 2013 because of the bombing. I ran alongside people who had lost loved ones, or were injured during the Boston bombing. I ran alongside runners who had recovered from brain cancer, and the such. I heard so many stories, while I ran. I learnt so much from them.

This what we do in the marathon run of life. We encourage one another. We tell stories to each other, to help each other run the marathon of life.

6. Running the marathon can be a painful experience.

At the start of a marathon, I would see several of my students. Many of them finish and run well. Others do not finish. When I see a student whiz by me at mile 3 or 4, I would usually ask, “Is this your planned pace? Do not overdo it at this stage. You will regret it.” Some listen, Others do not. Surely, the students who do not listen are done at mile 16, 17, or 21- especially mile 21. In the Chicago Marathon, that is when there are no spectators to encourage you. All you see is the highways and cars whizzing by. In the Boston Marathon, at this stage, one has to climb five hills, popularly called the Heart-break hill. Many give up!

Miles 16-21 is when one can get dehydrated, and cramps-sometimes sever cramps can hamper one’s run. Many give up!

Marathons can be hot-very hot. I remember running the 2007 Chicago Marathon, when I looked up at building, and saw the temperature reading 95 degrees Fahrenheit. They had to shut down that Marathon. They ran out of water. The fire trucks were hosing down runners. Sadly, one marathoner died. Many were taken to emergency rooms in hospitals.

Not everyone encourages you, when you are training for a marathon. There are several naysayers who would discourage you. Several who would look at you cross-eyed and say, “Are you crazy or something?”
The marathon of life, similarly, can be difficult. Sometimes very, very difficult.

Training runs can be opposed by people. I remember cars trying to mow me down. People shouting racial epithets. Sadly, women athletes go through the worst. They endure so much- cat calls, and the such. Most sadly, some have been sexually abused, during their training runs.

So horrible!

7. What must I do? This text says, fix your eyes on the chief marathon runner- Jesus.

Training for a marathon, and running a marathon leads me to the core of the Gospel- the Marathon Good News.

God became human, and ran the great marathon race of life, so that we may all run the race of life looking to “Jesus the pioneer and perfecter” of this marathon race called life.

He endured so much!
He suffered so much!

Yet, he ran the good marathon race of life!

A Prayer:
Oh Incarnate marathon runner. Please enable me to run this marathon race called life, always intently and constantly looking to you, the great pace setter, the great marathon runner.

On anxiety

“Therefore do not worry.”
(Matthew 6:25, 31, 34 NIV)

The threat of a global economic crisis looms large all the time. Global powers like the USA, China, and the EU make decisions which impact the lives of everyone in global society. Businesses close down, jobs are lost, and this leads to much anxiety for everyone- the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. Personal economic crisis leads to individuals going into depression. Many times, this has deep and lasting consequences. Sadly, it is the poor that suffer the most in times of economic crisis. The rich suffer too. But, they use their economic power to do harm to the poor. They do this to reduce their own suffering.

This is the context in which Jesus is teaching. The Romans ruled Israel. They extracted revenue from the Jewish people. They set up a system of Jewish haves- the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who in turn extracted money from the common people. As a result of this, the common people were left with no money. The Sadducees hoarded money and wealth. But, they knew that frequent raids of the Roman garrisons would render them also penniless. This anxiety caused them to exploit the common people, even more rigorously. The Romans, in turn awaited the next major power to overthrow them through violence. This led to a horrible cycle of anxiety and injustices

Jesus says to both the haves and the have-nots, “You cannot serve God and Mammon (literally in Aramaic, the riches you trust).” (Matthew 6:24). He goes on to say, “If you trust in money, it will only lead to anxiety, and a downward spiral of exploitation of people you can exploit and/or depression, which leads to more exploitation.”

Jesus urges human beings to learn from God’s creation the lessons of trust and a life of satisfaction. “Learn from the birds . . . learn from the flowers . . . don’t be anxious.”

The crucial question is “who do we trust, God or Money?” If we trust in Money, it will lead to anxiety and a downward spiral of injustices against self and others. On the other hand, if we trust in God, it will lead to a life of fulfillment and joy- a life worth living.

The choice is ours.

On loving

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:21, NIV)

In society today, it seems like the sentence “I love you” is used rather flippantly and loosely. One uses it as a form of goodbye on the phone with a friend, or when one is leaving home, and so on.

What does it mean to love?
According to this teaching of Jesus, loving is not merely a nice indescribably feeling. Loving has strong ethical dimensions to it. When God gave the Ten Commandments, “loving” is intrinsically linked to the “ethical keeping” of the commandments (Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 5:10). It is up front and central. Throughout the Bible, it seems clear that possessing the Torah-the teachings of the LORD, and then effecting ethical behavior accordingly, are inherently linked together. This is how love is expressed.

In response, God “keeps” his “Covenant Love-” (Hebrew, Chesed), towards human beings. It is a different Hebrew word, and an exponentially strong form of love. It is as if God is saying, if you reach out to me with the extent of love, according to your ability, I will respond with a love which is beyond your wildest imagination.

The Bible opens up this mutuality of love to all human beings, not just the Jewish people (e.g. Isaiah 56:6).

It seems clear to me that this mutuality is true of any relationship between two beings- between two human beings, and between human beings and God. One must always ask the question, what is dear to the other? Usually, what is dear to the other is found in the ethical statements of the other. In the case of God, these are found in the Torah of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. In the case of relationships between human beings, it is found in the verbal and non-verbal statements of the other.

How do I express my love the other?
It is by holding dearly and practicing my ethical life in accordance to what is dear to the other person, whether this be God, or my neighbor.

A prayer:

O LORD please help me express my love towards you by being what you want me to be, and doing what you want me to do.

O LORD please help me express my love to my neighbor in the same way.