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“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”  Philippians 3:19

lose-weight-now-300x200I have reached an unachievable milestone.

Four years ago my bathroom scale registered 227 lbs.  That too was a milestone but not a surprise.  I had been on a rather rapid ascension as I broke new heavier weights on a regular basis.  This ascension was quickly taking me to 230 lbs; an unthinkable weight that no longer allowed me to deny the reality of my physique.  I had ceased to be husky or thick or filled-out.

I was fat.

For years, my exercise had consisted of mere yard work associated with the eating habits of a twenty-nothing’s metabolism.  Inevitably, every birthday was heralded with a larger number on the bathroom scale.  Yet, my body type allowed me to deny the reality of the bathroom scale.  I carry my weight throughout my upper body.  As a result, I have never had a big gut.  I carry weight across my chest, down my back and through my torso.  In fact, my body has an amazing ability to insert fat into body locations that I didn’t know could hold fat.  I confused strategically placed fat for being muscle.

The result was a redefining of being overweight.

I read an article in Bicycling magazine about the ideal cycling weight.  According to the article, my ideal cycling weight is 167 lbs, which I thought was simply absurd.  There was no way that a guy of my stature and build could be 167 lbs.  So, I changed a couple of the variables in the formula and re-calculated an ideal weight of 186 lbs.  I felt that this weight while maybe not absurd, it surely was ridiculous.  There was no way a guy with my muscle mass could get down to 186 lbs.

Yesterday, when I stepped upon my bathroom scale, it registered 186.6 lbs.

It was a rather anticlimactic achievement of the unachievable.  I had a mental image of what 186 lbs. would look like and reality has not matched my mental glamour shots.

I still can’t see my abs.
I still have “man-boobs” and love-handles.
I can still lose another 10 lbs.
I can grab hold of exactly where the next 15 lbs. will come from.

When I was 227 lbs., I argued against obesity charts that stated I needed to lose 40 lbs.  I scoffed at an ideal of losing 60 lbs as impossible.  I am no longer scoffing.  I had lived a lifestyle that normalized excessive weight.  I criticized those who stated the reality of an ideal as being ridiculous and without understanding.

I have now proven who was ridiculous.

The most disturbing aspect of this weight loss is the realization of how deceived of my own condition I had become.  No one had deceived me.  I had done it to myself.  I like to think of myself as a logical and rational person.  However, I had convinced myself through years of denial that fat was muscle.  How irrational was that?  Yet, I don’t think I am alone.

obesity-overweight-statistics-diet-planIt was only when I had achieved some weight loss that the combination of a bathroom mirror and scale began to provide an effective rebuttal to years of justification.  I now know the ideal cycling weight is possible.  It is an ideal not measured by what others are doing or what I think is possible.  It is an ideal based upon accurately identifying fat.

The realization of this self-deception has caused me to contemplate the possibility of a similar pattern of denial in far more important aspects of my life.  I look at my spiritual life and consider myself reasonably mature.  I endeavor to live in a manner of obedience to the ideal presented in the Bible.  Jesus Christ says follow me and that has been what I desire to do.

However, I wonder if years of living in a soft and decadent age may have eased me into a redefinition of what is possible in the Christian life.  I can provide a series of justifications as to why the ideal of perfect sanctification has not occurred within my life.  Yet, could many of those justifications merely be a confusion of disobedience for spiritual maturity?  Self-deception substituting of sin for strength. Just as 65% of Americans are physically overweight to obese, how many professing Christians are spiritually over-weight to obese with sin?

We live in a world of convenient confession and an inoffensive gospel.  Individual self-esteem is idolized through every aspect of our society, including the Church.  There are many in the “church” who redefine sin as virtue and confuse unrighteousness with strength.

I fear me that the Christian church is far more likely to lose her integrity in these soft and silken days than in those rougher times. We must be awake now, for we traverse the enchanted ground, and are most likely to fall asleep to our own undoing, unless our faith in Jesus be a reality, and our love to Jesus a vehement flame. Many in these days of easy profession are likely to prove tares, and not wheat; hypocrites with fair masks on their faces, but not the true born children of the living God.  ~ C.H. Spurgeon

Many professing Christians are spiritually fat with sin, having deceived themselves into thinking the ideal is absurd.  I don’t want to be one.

We must return to believing that there is an ideal of obedience.  We must not redefine obedience in order to make it reasonable or appropriate for our time.  We must not criticize those who state the reality of the ideal as being ridiculous and without understanding.

Also, we must believe the ideal of obedience is possible for all those who are in Christ.

Some ideals of obedience may seem unachievable and they may not be achievable, today.  However, that does not eliminate our hope.  Do not be deceived into thinking that God does not have something better for you.  We are continually being transformed from one degree of glory to another.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.  (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Do not give up on the ideal of sanctification.  Do not be deceived into thinking you are strong when you are not.  Do not be content with carrying strategically placed sin simply because no one notices or you have a better façade than your friends.  Press on toward the goal of obedience emanating from a grateful heart in love with God.  Press on despite what the world around you is languishing in.  Press on toward the holiness that God has called us to because the obedience we desire comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.  All things are possible for those who are in Christ.

Let us never measure our religion by that of others, and think we are doing enough if we have gone beyond our neighbors. ~ J.C. Ryle

PRAYER: Lord, remove any self-deception that I may have allowed in my life.  Help me to see clearly.  Examine my heart and show me where I have allowed sin to linger and accumulate.  Make me lean in obedience to you.  Father, you have been so good to me.  Thank you for the gift of faith.  Lord, you are my good Father and you have said that you will give me what I ask in your name; I ask to be sanctified in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Transform me from one degree of glory to the next.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Portrait of René Descartes, dubbed the "F...

“So there remains only the idea of God; and I must consider whether there is anything in the idea which could not have originated in myself. By the word ‘God’ I understand a substance that is infinite, independent, supremely intelligent, supremely powerful, and which created both myself and everything else (if anything else there be) that exists. All these attributes are such that, the more carefully I concentrate on them, the less possible that they could have originated from me alone. So from what has been said it must be concluded that God necessarily exists.”
~ René Descartes

In honor of René Descartes, often credited as the “Father of Modern Philosophy”, who was born on this day in 1596.

Resources:
This Day in History for 31st March
René Descartes (1596—1650)
René Descartes QUOTES

 

 

 

“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12b

I sit before my computer after a full night’s sleep, exhausted. I suffer from post-tournament exhaustion. My family and I have spent the last three days lost in the altered existence of the NCFCA Idaho Open. It is a strange world unto itself as days are consumed with alternating rounds of speech and debate. Days seem to endlessly stretch, yet pass in a blink.

I love these tournaments.  I love getting to watch the skills and talents of so many young people.  This year I had the privilege to speak to these competitors during the morning devotion on the opening day of the tournament. The following is a portion of what I shared:

National Christian Forensics and Communication...

 

This morning you will be embarking into competition. I love competition. Through competition, we get to test our skills and learn where we can improve. Obviously, this competition will be a test of your speaking and debating abilities.

However, I want to draw your attention to another test. It is a test that will be happening over the next three days, but will have no awards ceremony, there will be no ballots, no points will be tabulated and there will be only one Judge.

It is a test most competitors are unaware of and many will ignore.  You will all be competing in this test, whether you acknowledge it or not. However, you do have to submit yourselves to this test if you want the results and the subsequent value.

There is a gem in this competition beyond the superficial comparisons of who is the better speaker or superior debater.  I am interested in that, but what I care more about is your understanding of what is in happening in your own heart.

A glimpse of what is really happening in your heart can come from this competition, if you are attentive. That is my hope. I challenge all of you over the coming three days to be attentive to this important test. Believe me; it will be more important than any ballot comment  you may receive.

For those who will hear your name called for breaks, who will receive the NCFCA single clap of recognition, who will cross the stage on awards night, I encourage you at the brief instant of achievement to be attentive to your heart. That is the moment of your true test from this tournament. What will you boast in?

You will boast in something – you have no control over that; we were created to praise.

Therein lays the beauty of competition. Rarely, do we have so clear, so distinct of a moment to observe where our hearts will assign praise. It is why I love competition. It tests our souls; it informs us of what often lies hidden in our hearts; it draws it out and that is of eternal value.

2 Cor. 10:17 says: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”

I challenge all of you who will accomplish what you have come here to achieve; have the courage to honestly assess where your heart is assigning praise.

  • Will you bask in your personal achievement or will you praise God for giving you the opportunity and the gifts;
  • Will you show kindness and compassion to those who are disappointed;
  • Will you be appreciative of all who made this opportunity possible;
  • Will you humbly acknowledge your dependence upon God in that moment of success?

Learning this lesson is hard and you will learn that it must periodically be re-learned. Our human tendency is to want the praise of people but here, in this competition, you will receive a lesson on how to turn the praise of people into the praise of God.

That is a fragrant act of worship.

If you can learn that, it will be of value to you for a life time;
eternal value.

It can be a lasting treasure from this tournament.

For the rest of you, the majority who will not hear your name called, who will not receive an award, you have an opportunity to receive a gem that actually might be of more value than those who receive medals.

Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 12: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness….For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9, 10b)

I challenge all of you who will not break; those whose memories will fail mid-speech; those whose arguments will crumble in debate; those who may be judged harshly – have the courage to honestly assess what your heart does when confronted with disappointment; when confronted with failure; when confronted with your weakness.

  • Does your self-esteem rely upon the praise of people or does your value reside in the reality that you are a child of God – is God’s grace enough?
  • Will you let a judge steal your joy or will you continue to walk in the Spirit and set you mind on the things of the Spirit – relying upon His strength?
  • Will you seek to encourage others who might be similarly disappointed?
  • Will you celebrate in the achievements of others?
  • Will you take results that you did not want and turn them in praise of your Sovereign Lord?
  • Will you allow God’s power to be made perfect in your weakness – whatever that might look like?

Paul said in 2 Cor. 11:20, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

In that moment of disappointment what will you boast in? Remember, you will boast in something – you have no control over that. Once again, herein lays the beauty of competition.

This is a test that is of more practical value than the one for those who will receive an award. In comparison to God, we are all ignorant; we are all helpless; we are all weak. We must learn how to boast in our weakness. It is a hard lesson to learn. We all want to be strong, smart, witty, and self-reliant. It is our default condition.  Therefore, it is a lesson that you must learn and will be re-learning throughout your lifetime.

If you’re attentive, this competition can teach you a lesson in how to live humbly before the Lord in all circumstances; how to be satisfied in God’s grace alone whether in victory or in defeat.

You can learn what it means to be righteously humble in defeat
if you attentively allow it.

You can learn what it means to be righteously humble in victory
if you attentively allow it.

This is why I love competition. The inward praise of you hearts will be revealed over the next three days.

I am looking forward to what the Lord is going to do over the next three days.  I am trusting the Spirit to reveal these answers to all who attentively submit themselves to this test and our one, true Judge.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the last three days.  Thank you for showing me, once again, that you are raising up a capable generation.  Father, I pray that your hand will be upon all the competitors from this tournament.  May your Spirit remain upon them and continue to teach them all that you have for them.  Soften their hearts and grant them an understanding of grace that goes beyond their age and experience.  Lord, encourage all the staff and volunteers who served at this tournament.  May their service be fruitful and continue to bring praise to your glorious Name.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:14

Why do I think the very thoughts I’ve turned from? Why do I seek out the very temptations that cause me to stumble? Why do I give words to the very thoughts that I know cause hurt? Why do I embrace the very indifference I find repulsive? Why do I embody the very selfishness that denies my worship? Why am I the very person I don’t want to be? Why do I do the very things I hate?

“I do the very thing I hate”, is a confession that every follower of Christ has made. Obedience to the commands of the One we love can be a baffling mystery of cyclical inconsistency. Those who are in Christ live in between worlds. We are new creations in Christ and yet we still live in the flesh.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Romans 7:18-19

The flesh that we inhabit is bound to this sinful fallen world. Some may use this fact as an excuse to live in sin.  However, our existence does not excuse sinful disobedience but rather it should inform our obedience.

We do not follow Christ through the power of the flesh. We do not yield our will to the commands of the law by relying upon feeling and emotions.

Obedience is an act of will; Will is the result of decisions; Decisions are made either in the mind based on knowledge or from urges of the flesh.

Since the flesh can only produce sin, obedience to the Word of God must come from a mind willfully yielding to guidance of the Spirit in faith.

So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Romans 7:26b

The Christian life should be progressively learning how to subject the feelings and emotions of a rebellious heart to the Christ-like decisions of a mind that loves God more than those fleshly urges. We have to learn how to do this. I find Proverbs helpful.

Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,  (Proverbs 2:2-4)

Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:5)

Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; (Proverb 2:9)

So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, (Proverbs 2:16)

So you will walk in the way of the good to the paths of the righteous. (Proverbs 2:20)

Proverbs shows the powerful progression of an engaged mind.

The children of God engage their minds in the wonderful search to know their Lord; praying for the Spirit to reveal insight and understanding; listening for the wisdom of God and inclining their hearts to understanding the comes only from faith.

God promises that those who seek Him in faith will find Him. They will be given the knowledge of God and understand the fear of the Lord. They will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.

The mind will have the understanding that it needs to bend the will from the flesh. Only when an engaged mind is working on the knowledge revealed through the Spirit can it make a decision that takes the flesh away from the forbidden woman and all other enticing temptations and onto the paths of the righteous, walking in the way of the good.

Our flesh will never be inclined to love God. Therefore, stop trying to obey God in your flesh.

Love God with your mind and watch your flesh follow.

“Loving God with all our mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.” ~ John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God

PRAYER: Lord, you know how often I stray after the flesh.  You know how I disengage my mind to do what I don’t want to do.  Please forgive me.  Father, give me insight and understanding; make my ears attentive; incline my heart to understanding.  Help me to know you; show me yourself.  Teach me how to love and fear you.  I love you Lord; keep my feet on the path of righteousness in glorifying obedience to you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Originally posted on Schreiberspace:

Ryle Practical ReligionHave you ever wanted to make it a point to read the Bible on a regular basis, but just weren’t sure how to go about it? If that describes you, here is some practical advice for you from J.C. Ryle’s book, Practical Religion (p.122-125):

  1. Start today. Just get started, and worry about figuring out the perfect way to do it later. You can always change how you go about it as you go. Ryle writes,

    “The way to do a thing is to do it, and the way to read the Bible is actually to read it. It is not meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it, which will advance you one step. You must positively read.” (p.122)

  2. “Read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it.” Don’t just set a certain number of pages as your goal. Make it your aim to learn and understand what…

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The Gift of Memory

Originally posted on From the Inside Out:

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“There it is, Mom, “ Steve remarked, as he pointed to a little white house in the middle of a city block. “That’s where we lived when I was growing up.”

“Oh, yes,” she replied. But did Mom really remember?

We were on an excursion through Columbus, Ohio, taking Steve’s mother past the landmarks of her life. Alzheimer’s disease had already stolen away much of her vibrancy and warmth, and, of course, her memory.

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Steve drove by West High School and continued his commentary. “That’s where we all went to school, you, Dad, Karen, and me. You were the very first homecoming queen.  How about that?  No wonder Dad asked you out.”

She murmured assent to Steve’s comments, but added nothing of her own.

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We drove past the brick ranch they built out in the country in 1966. Horses used to reside beyond the back fence. Just…

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HOLD FAST – Jan. 15

JD Blom:

HOLD FAST, my friends, to what is of first importance:
“That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scripture, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” 1 Cor. 15:3-8

Originally posted on A DEVOTED LIFE:

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:31-32

I don’t think that my adventurous spirit is sufficient enough to have sought to be a sailor in the era of the great sailing ships.   I am awed by those sailors who would leave the safety of land to venture into the unknown of the sea with only the sky as a guide and the wind to propel them.  My minimum requirements for such an adventure are engines, GPS and a satellite phone.

I fully respect the courage of those sailors.  They were on their own.  Their entire security was within the oak timbers and cloth sails of their vessel.  There was no rescue from the Coast Guard if you were washed over.  Their ship was their…

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