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Alexis de Tocqueville, French political thinke...

“I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors…; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.” ~ Alexis de Tocqueville

In honor of Alexis de Tocqueville, French political thinker and historian, who died on this day in 1859. Tocqueville traveled the United States and wrote one of the earliest works of sociology and political science in his Democracy in America.

Resources:
This Day in History for 16th April
Alexis de Tocqueville Quotes on America as a Christian Nation

 

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“As he was drawing near – already on the way down the Mount of Olives – the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”” Luke 19:37-38

 “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself,
but talent instantly recognizes genius.” 
~ Arthur Conan Doyle

It is easy to become a critic in our culture of entertainment. Genius is streamed in from the far reaches of the world as critics assume their roles upon couches and in recliners before countless televisions.

We lament our team’s quarterback, who struggles to identify a safety blitz.
We cringe at the singer whose high note is a bit flat.
We cannot comprehend how a referee can miss a call.
We smirk at the actor who portrays the same character in every role.
We bemoan the sophomore slump which fails to live up to the standards of an artist’s debut.
We expect world class performances but often excellence is lost upon those being entertained.

Most of us live in the world of the mediocre. That fact is reflected by our application of the words genius and exceptional upon those who are typically neither. We apply those terms to acquaintances of our daily lives who are exceptional, in comparison to ourselves, but rarely are they world class. Our direct experience is rarely much higher than ourselves.

It is when we move from entertainment to participation that we begin to truly recognize and appreciate the truly phenomenal.

57536-largest_2012KonaTop15run4I was perusing the results of the 2013 Ironman 70.3 World Championship. Sebastian Kienle won the event with 1:19/100 meter swim pace, 25.81 mph bike pace, and a 5:42/mile run pace. Since I am participating in triathlons, I can compare my best to those times. I recognize just how crazy fast those times actually are. I can better appreciate Sebastian Kienle’s excellence unlike someone who is not swimming, bicycling, or running.

I wonder if this is the principle at play in many churches. Many professing Christians live their lives absent the awe for the excellence of Jesus Christ. Their faith resides in the tidy compartment of their balanced and structured existence but absent any real passion. In many ways, they have assumed the role of critic in a church culture of entertainment. Week in and week out, many churches press for little more than Sunday morning attendance. It should not be surprising that those who come for entertainment fail to appreciate the majesty of our God who redeems.

A dynamic faith requires participation. We cannot sit complacently in our pews of mediocrity knowing nothing higher than our experience and those around us.

When we are striving for obedience, the sinless nature of Christ becomes astounding.

When we try to love our neighbors, God loving a world by sacrificing His Son for us while we were yet sinners is beyond comprehension.

When we suffer, Christ’s acceptance of the cross when a legion of angels awaited His call is a marvel.

When we struggle to forgive, the total forgiveness and condemnation of our sin will boggle the mind.

When we are walking in the Spirit, the gifts of the fruit of the Spirit attest to the phenomenal goodness of a God who cares for His own.

Those who accompanied Jesus during the triumphant entry were eye-witnesses to the excellence of Christ. Based on their experience, they acknowledged the majesty of the King of kings. We can have that same experience but we have to have a faith that is participating with the Spirit. It is when we participate with the Spirit by setting our eyes on the things of the Spirit that we will begin to truly recognize and appreciate the phenomenal nature of the Son of God. It is then that the dynamic faith of a child of God will join in the praise, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

There is no better time to renew our awe in the majesty of the Cross than during Easter. May we join with our brothers and sisters of old in praise of our Savior, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

PRAYER: Father, forgive me of my often lackadaisical attitude to your majesty. Forgive me for not appreciating what you have done for me. Lord, renew a spirit of awe within my soul. Open my eyes to the phenomenal nature of your Son. Help my grateful heart put words to praise. Blessed is the King who has come in the name of the Lord and with return. Come quickly, my Lord; Come and establish here on earth the peace that is in heaven and glory that is in the highest. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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Leonhard Euler is widely considered one of the...

“To [Scripture] belongs in particular the doctrine of both general as well as particular divine providence, through which we can recognize that we can never get into any circumstance where God did not expressly place us according to his infinite wisdom and goodness, and can come to the firm assurance that not a single hair may fall from our head without the will of our heavenly Father. Now if only we were to ponder this doctrine with the appropriate attention and apply it to ourselves, we would submit to the will of God under all circumstances without difficulty and even with pleasure, and in this way attain true happiness.”
~ Leonhard Euler

“They behave in the most unfair and irresponsible way toward this Book when they dare to absolutely deny any value to it because of some (apparent to them) irreconcilable difficulties. Most of these people will have to admit that they are not able to resolve the difficulties mentioned above against geometry, against the existence of bodies and against the possibility of motion, and yet it has not come to the mind of even one of them to reject the truth and the reality of these things… Now, since such great and important difficulties, yes, even apparent contradictions as it were, can be adduced against those things which can be recognized by reason alone; so there must be at least equally great difficulties in revealed doctrines, which cannot be arrived at by reason. Consequently one has even far less reason to take exception to them.”
~ Leonhard Euler

“It is therefore a settled truth that Christ is risen from the dead: since this is such a marvel, which could only be performed by God alone, it makes it impossible to cast any doubt on the divine sending of Christ into this world. Consequently, the doctrine of Christ and of his apostles is divine and since it is directed toward our true happiness, we can therefore believe with the strongest confidence all the promises which have been made in the gospel regarding this life as well as the one to come, and view the Christian religion as a divine work aiming at our spirituality. But it is not necessary to elaborate further on all this, since each one who is convinced only once of the resurrection of Christ cannot doubt any further the divinity of Holy Scripture.”
~ Leonhard Euler

In honor of Leonhard Euler, consider one of the great mathematicians of all time, who was born on this day in 1707.

Resources:
Mathematician – Apologist Leonhard Euler
The God-Fearing Life of Leonhard Euler

 

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“But he said to him, “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” Psalm 32:10

 Snort was a present for my wife that I bought at a 4-H fundraising auction. Before you reach the obvious conclusion that the gift of a miniature donkey makes me a hopeless romantic, I will confess to an ulterior motive. I bought Snort for one particular joke.  A joke that necessitated, Snort being my wife’s donkey.  While I and all the other 12 year olds out there might find my joke hilarious, the Devoted Life editor (my wife) felt that it might not be very appropriate.  This is probably one of those situations where it is good for a man to be married.  Suffice to say, my joke cost me $200 but I enjoyed it immensely.

000_2627However, my joke lost its appeal as it became more evident that Snort was my donkey. I would let Snort out of his corral and he would follow me around like a dog. If I dug a hole, Snort would put his head in it. If I was trimming shrubs, Snort would work his way between me and the bush. When I was petting the dog or cat, he would chase them away and rub up against me until I scratched between his ears.  He would even try to sit on my lap.

It had become obvious that Snort was my little donkey, which ruined my joke. However, it had also became obvious that Snort was a bad little donkey.

Snort had turned into an escape artist. He had learned how to open his pen, despite the measures we took. I would be standing by the kitchen window and suddenly a donkey would go prancing through our yard, nose stuck up into the sky in defiance. Snort was out…again.

Snort amused himself by nuzzling up against me while I was kneeling down to work or sitting in chair reading a book. He found great delight in nibbling my baseball cap and then running off with it. It was cute the first couple of times but then it got annoying as I was spending more and more time battling Snort for my hat.

000_2625However, Snort’s disobedience was becoming more than a simple annoyance. He was becoming a danger to himself and others. Once, he escaped from his corral and was able to get into our neighbor’s pasture with several mules. Those mules ran Snort relentlessly. My wife just happened to notice him in the pasture when she was driving home. By the time she got him out of the pasture, he was exhausted and bloodied, having been run into barbed wire fence in several areas.

On another occasion, he had gotten himself into the middle of our neighbor’s freshly planted wheat field. We called and called him but he refused to listen. Finally, my kids and I had to chase him across a corrugated field, stumbling and falling, as that nasty little donkey refused to go back home.

The worst manifestation of his defiance was the kick he had integrated into his prance of independence. He would run by with his nose in the air and give a little side-ways kick with his rear leg. Even though he was a little donkey, that kick could cause some real injury.

My joke had run its course; it was time to train Snort.

Since I had neither the time nor the knowledge, we gave Snort to a friend who had both. Snort’s world changed abruptly. He was disciplined and trained to go where his master directed him. He was forced to do tasks over and over again until he did them willingly. He was made into something more than a joke.

There are not very many useful things for a miniature donkey. Yet, Snort has been the star in several Christmas and Easter plays and has been the ambassador in a multitude of parades. He did all of those events with only a halter because he had been trained.

I wonder how many times I have been like an untrained Snort. A little donkey prancing around in defiance to my Master’s wishes; refusing to be led away from a destructive environment; being a danger to myself and those around me; being a joke.

God did not save us for his amusement. He did not send His own Son to redeem us for the purposes of a joke. He saved us for a purpose. The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes nicely the chief purpose of man; Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

The reality is that we have to be trained to this purpose. That will often require a bit and bridle to drive the rebellious Snort out of us. However, we have something that Snort does not have. We have the gift of understanding. Let’s use our understanding to cooperate with God’s purpose in our lives so that the bit and bridle are not necessary.

May we be like the horses in this video that come running when our Master cracks the whip.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for too often living without the understanding  you have given me.  Thank you for those time when you have turned my rebellious head for my own good.  Lord, continue to train me in your righteousness; teach me how I can glorify you and enjoy you in all that I do. Sanctify my heart so that I will hear your voice and come with a cheerful heart, without the need for a bit or bridle.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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English: pd-Japan, Japanese production of mits...

“I would give anything to retract my actions at Pearl Harbor, but it is impossible. Instead, I now work at striking the death blow to the basic hatred which infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. And that hatred cannot be uprooted without Jesus Christ … he is the only answer.”
~ Mitsuo Fuchida

In honor of Mitsuo Fuchida, the lead pilot of the December 7, 1941, raid on Pearl Harbor who shouted the war cry, “Tora, Tora, Tora!”. He became a Christian on this day in 1950.

Resources:
Today in Christian History – April 14, 2014
From Pearl Harbor to Calvary
Know Your Bible Recordings – Mitsuo Fuchida

 

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“But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.  And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’” Luke 14:16-20

 

Windows Calendar

As the calendar on my computer screen rolled down into the month of April, I noticed a deadline for a decision I have been avoiding. I placed this reminder on my calendar when the leaves were beginning to turn in the previous year. The number of days ahead comforted my indecision.

Yet, the mill of time has ground those days away, the leaves are budding anew, and I remain as indecisive as the day I typed my reminder. I have often picked up this decision in the intervening months, examined it from various perspectives and left it on the calendar. Time remained, so I cherished my indecision.

ironman%2070%203%20boise%20eventpagelogo%20200x70April’s sunshine, fair weather and dwindling time have forced me into a corner – will I register for the Boise Ironman 70.3 or not.

I have clearly made more of this decision than it merits, but my list of excuses has been extensive:

I am not sure I have enough time to get into half-marathon shape.
I am not sure I want to get into half-marathon shape.
I am not sure my knees can take the training.
I am not sure I want to spend the money.
I am not sure I want to spend the time.
I am not sure I want to suffer – especially through that run.

130608-F-IZ428-500

All of these concerns have caused me to delay a decision until my deadline. The delay comes from the unanswerable nature of the concerns, manifested as excuses. I have no idea what competing in an Ironman 70.3 will feel like. It is unknowable until one commits to competing.

What I do know is that competing in an Ironman has been a goal since I started doing triathlons.  I also know that I will never finish a race if I remain agnostic to competing.

I realized that I have been largely agnostic to the Boise Ironman. I acknowledge that it exists, but based on the unknowable aspects of the race I had remained uncommitted. I was awaiting answers that would come only after I had committed to accomplishing the goal that I have set for myself – completing an Ironman race.

I was awakened from my agnostic indecision by Jesus’ parable of the great banquet and the excuse makers. I have known many of these excuse makers. They cloak themselves in the philosophical coverings of the agnostic. They believe that there is a divine being, an ultimate cause, a mysterious entity behind everything …They believe there is a God. However, they will not commit to any religion or specific belief because they want to know more.

They cherish their intellectual indecision as they claim to be seeking answers to their questions. However, I have met few who are really seeking with any urgency. They pick up the consideration of God periodically and examine the questions from different perspectives but always place it back on the shelf of indecision. They rarely actually examine the information given to them to help in their decision.

Mary at the finishline

They are comforted by the perception of time. There are no deadlines that force a decision. There is no countdown to consequences. Therefore, the months and years slip past as the excuses of indecision mount.

They fail to acknowledge that indecision is a decision. It is like my indecision to compete. If I do not decide to enter the Boise Ironman, then I am guaranteed to never finish the race. Those who believe there is a God, but live in indecisive unbelief, are guaranteed to never complete that race that leads to eternal life.

We have been given all that we need to know to make a decision.  The Apostle Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke so that we could have certainty in what we have been taught:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4)

The Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John so that we would believe:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

The answers to the nagging questions about the nature of God will only be revealed after the commitment to believe. Understanding comes through faith, not before it.

So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith. (Romans 1:17)

Those cloaked in agnostic indecision should not rest comfortable due to the seemingly endless number of days ahead. No one knows the number of days they have. You have all that you need to make a decision. Read the Gospel of John. Read the Gospel of Luke. They were written so that you would have what you need to make a decision.

Decide to believe or not believe but just stop the excuses of indecision.

The mill of time is grinding away your remaining days – you know not how many you have left.

PRAYER: Father, I pray for all those who read the words written so that they may believe  that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing they may have life in His name. Lord, I ask that you remove all the questions of unbelief that they have used to remain indecisive. Draw them to yourself. Give them the gift of faith and reveal yourself to them. I pray that the power of the Gospel will flow over them for salvation as them come to a belief in you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

P.S. – I did register for the Boise Ironman.

Related Post:
“COST OF AN IRONMAN” – Nov 2
“2014 Resolutions” – Dec 29

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Originally posted on Levi's Daily Thoughts:

Physician of my sin-sick soul,
To thee I bring my case;
My raging malady control,
And heal me by thy grace.

Pity the anguish I endure,
See how I mourn and pine;
For never can I hope a cure
From any hand but thine.

I would disclose my whole complaint,
But where shall I begin?
No words of mine can fully paint
That worst distemper, sin.

It lies not in a single part,
But through my frame is spread;
A burning fever in my heart,
A palsy in my head.

It makes me deaf, and dumb, and blind,
And impotent and lame;
And overclouds, and fills my mind,
With folly, fear, and shame.

A thousand evil thoughts intrude
Tumultuous in my breast;
Which indispose me for my food,
And rob me of my rest.

Lord I am sick, regard my cry,
And set my spirit free;
Say, canst thou let…

View original 11 more words

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