Warm Up: Zechariah 4:6, So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.
Stretching: Read Ephesians 2: 1-10.
Run: After a bout of heat exhaustion during my military training days, I can tell you that I don’t do so well running in the hot sun anymore. But one particular day back in 1998, I found myself running at noon in the heat of summer. Taking a route on an old back road, I can remember weaving back and forth from one side of the road to the other to pass through the shade being offered from trees that lined the roadside. Running in direct sunlight was brutal. But passing through the shade of those trees offered some temporary relief and helped me finish the race.
1998 was the same year I took a mission trip to Kostroma, Russia. This was an exciting trip because the country was just opening its doors to Christianity after years of Communist rule. It didn’t take long to realize that although the Russian people appreciated their new freedom, they didn’t know what to do with it. This was equally true with those in the church. Although new Christians in Russia celebrated the opportunity to meet and fellowship without fear of government retribution, they were locked into old habits of rules and regulations. Churches looked for structure and order. What quickly filled the void was religion. I was not prepared to do battle against religious spirits from the LEADERS of these new congregations. Instead of walking in freedom, they were captive to spiritual bondage and oppression; the supernatural equivalent of what the country had been through for 60-plus years. The metaphor of the shade was a word picture that I tried to share with them. We’re not strong enough or good enough to take the heat of what God requires from us. We have to stand in the shade of the cross, if we’re going to finish the race. That requires us to walk in grace, mercy, and compassion; the essence of what the cross was all about. Anything that requires striving in the natural is contrary to grace offered by Jesus Christ and makes a mockery of the cross. There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation. This was the thrust of Paul’s letter to the Romans from Chapter 3 through 8. Today’s scripture verses reinforce this. If there was any way we could earn salvation, the cross wouldn’t be necessary. But Jesus knew this was not the case and so he died to save us from our sins. We should not forget Isaiah 64:16, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Cool Down: “Lord, forgive me when I strive to do what you did for me.. Help me to realize that I’ll never be good enough to earn my salvation and always be thankful for the atoning work of your great sacrifice on the cross. This day, I thank you again that I am saved by your grace and your grace alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”