Posts Tagged ‘Christ Jesus’

h1

QUOTE (Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson) – Jan 21

January 21, 2015

English: General Jackson's "Chancellorsvi...

“You wish to know how to come to God; so as to have your sins forgiven, and to receive “the inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” Now my dear sister the way is plain: the savior says in Mark XVI chapter, 16th verse “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” But you may ask what is it to believe. To explain this I will quote from an able theologian, and devoted servant of God. To believe in the sense in which the word is used here, “is feeling and acting as if there were a God, a Heaven, a Hell; as if we were sinners and must die; as if we deserve eternal death, and were in danger of it. And in view of all, casting our eternal interests on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. To do this is to be a Christian.”

“But let me advise you simply to do as God enabled me to do, that is, resolve to spend the remaining part of life in His service, to obey the teachings of the Bible until death, and to rely entirely on the mercy of God for being saved, and though the future looked dark, yet it has become very bright. Never despair, even old Christians have dark moments.”

“[M]y religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.”

~ Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

In honor of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a Confederate General in the US Civil War, who was born on this day in 1824.

Resources:
This Day in History for 21st January
Goodreads > Quote by Stonewall Jackson
Stonewall Jackson Letters

 

h1

IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL – Mar. 9

March 9, 2014

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”  Philippians 3:8

Angry Gopher

Angry Gopher (Photo credit: *~Dawn~*)

I walked my nine acres of unproductive farm-ground in hunt for the only thing my property produces in abundance – gophers.  The rains of March have cleared my land of snow and sapped the frost out of the ground.  As green sprouts begin to push out toward the surface, other monuments to spring have been appearing across my acreage – the miserable gopher mounds.  I have a gopher problem substantiated by last year’s trap total of 126 gophers.  I have written about my hate of gophers before (Trapped Like a Miserable Gopher).

In response, I have picked up my ritual of gopher trapping.  I walk across the fields carrying a five gallon metal bucket filled with traps and flags that creates a rhythmic beat as trap chains beat against the bucket’s metal side with each step.  My shovel acts as a walking stick, keeping time with each step across uneven ground as I scan the surfaces ahead for any irregularities.

glaukos / Foter / CC BY-NC

While I hate gophers, I enjoy gopher trapping.  The menial nature of trapping allows me to pray and think as I haphazardly meander from one suspicious dirt mound to another.  On this day, the beating of the chains against my metal bucket drew my mind to the song “It is Well with my Soul” and thoughts of this last week.

My week contained a very unexpected discouragement.  It was another notable discouragement in a series of discouragements that have spanned the last several years.  Therefore, the lyrics of this song became more of a question than a statement.

Is it well with my soul? 

Foter / Public Domain Mark 1.0

“When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot”…have I been taught to say, “It is well with my soul”?  I consider what has transpired over these last several years and contemplate much of what I have been taught.  I have not experienced anything even remotely close to the tragedy of Horatio Spafford, author of “It is Well with my Soul”.  I know how materially and relationally blessed I am.

Yet,I think that years from now when I look back on this decade of my life, I will recognize it as a time of sustained pruning.  I have been taught such important lessons through all these discouragements.  I have been taught that there is only one thing upon which we can place our hope.  My lessons have come by the loss of many things that I unknowingly held dear.  It was only through the curtailment of these treasures that I discovered just how much I overvalued them.  I have lost my health to cancer, wealth to business failures, respect to employee intrigues, service to a Church plant closing, and friendships to disregard.

As I cleared dirt from the gopher hole I had just dug up, I mentally tried to clear away the debris of feelings in my search for an answer to the question of whether it truly was well with my soul.  I look back at what I have learned from each of these experiences. Upon each loss, I have chosen Christ.  There has not been anything that I have lost that has made me question the love of Jesus Christ for me.  In fact, my disappointments have drawn me closer to him.  When I have been stripped of what I value, I have come to recognize that it is not precious in comparison to Christ.  I stood in an empty field as pockmarked with gopher mounds as my life with disappointments and I sang:

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

It truly is well with my soul.  I know that my losses are insignificant in comparison to some but I am learning to cherish each loss because of what I have come to deeply know through them.  It has only been through disappointment that I have learned to rest in the blest assurance of Christ.  I had not realized how blind I have been to my pride and discontentment.

Foter / CC BY-SA

I gazed at my house in the distance and know that I have so much more that can be lost.  I mentally imagined losing it all – would it still be well with my soul?  Can I count all that lay before me as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord?  I cringe at the thought of walking the same path as Horatio Spafford.  I immediately know that I could not endure that on my own but I also know that I would not have to.  Today’s troubles are sufficient for today, there is no need to fret about the losses of tomorrow.  My Lord’s hand is strong and he will provide the strength needed at the precise time of need.  Therefore, I sang:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

I know that my days of trouble are not over.  I have many disappointments in my future that will teach me many lessons that I have yet to learn.  My hope is that I will learn from these previous disappointments in order to handle future losses in a more God glorifying manner.

This recent loss has revealed another blind spot in my life.  I thought that I was living joyfully.  I thought that I was showing to the world that I cherished Christ more than the treasures of this world.  However, I have learned that the imperfect manner in which I let go of those things that I highly valued, had more of an effect on people that I care for than I had realized.

I have grumbled about unfairness.  I have moped over what should have been.  I have withdrawn in sadness and defense.  I know that I have walked joylessly for significant periods.  I guess I had hoped it had not shown.  I have learned that my sinful response to loss has been a discouragement to others with considerable ramifications.  I unknowingly allowed loss to become a repelling stench to some rather than a God glorifying aroma that draws others to my Lord and Savior.

Foter / CC BY-SA

I have learned the importance of being a shining light in this world particularly in times of personal loss.  I am prone to selfish navel gazing.  However, God is most glorified when others can see us counting everything as loss in the mist of the loss.  There are consequences to wallowing in our despair.  Others are encouraged in their faith when they observe us holding firmly to Christ and allowing the cares of this world to easily slip from a loose grasp.  It is our losses where we can show others the great hope that we have.  I cannot change the past but I can plan for the future.  Therefore, I hope to learn from my past and embrace future losses with an eye to glorifying God in all circumstances.  May the Lord grant us all the strength to look beyond our loss, and demonstrate to the world watching where our true hope resides.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for all the losses that you have allowed in my life.  Thank you for revealing to me what I have been esteeming more than you.  Forgive me for holding on too tightly to the things of this world.  Forgive me of my pride.  Forgive my of my lack of contentment in you and you alone.  Father, forgive me for missing the opportunity of glorifying you in my losses and showing the world around me how wonderful you are.  Protect and encourage those who I have let down and discouraged.  Lord, I praise your name (It is Well ~ Kutless).  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Resources:
How to Count it All as Loss

Enhanced by Zemanta
h1

“BETTER TO BE LATE THAN IN VAIN” – Jan 14

January 17, 2014

“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:  ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;  in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men’.”  Matthew 15:7-9

tommulpagano / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

I tried to attend my first group spin last week.  As usual, work kept me preoccupied a few minutes beyond the time that I should have left for the spin session.  Now, I was late.  I hurriedly grabbed my bike and duffle bag of work clothes and rushed out the office back door.  I was immediately confronted with the reason that I was heading to a spinning session rather than a real ride.

The presence of winter still had its firm hold on the thermometer and its white blankets of snow and ice covered most of the ground.  I did the awkward winter shuffle to my pick-up, through the alley and across the adjoining street, burdened with a bicycle over my shoulder and a bag hanging from an outstretched arm for balance.

I hastily removed the front tire of my bike, set it against the rim of my vehicle, lifted the bike into its place in the bed of my pickup, and secured the front forks to the restraint.  I was ready to get the engine running in search of some heat as I patted one pocket and then the other; no keys.  I repeated the process, even patting my backside, which had no pockets.  After doing a few versions of this little incredulous dance, I realized that I had forgotten my coat which was why I was cold and more importantly contained the keys.

Frustrated with myself, I ditched my bag into the pickup bed and headed back to the office.  Since I was now seriously late, I raced swiftly back, recovered my bag from the pickup bed and leapt into the pickup.  I arrived late to the spin room a little exasperated.  In anticipation of a great workout, I went to retrieve my equipment.  I was in for a rude surprise.

Foter.com / CC BY-SA

I reached into the back seat of my pickup to retrieve my front wheel.   Imagine my surprise when I could not find a front wheel on my back seat.  I looked in the front seat – no wheel.  I looked in the pickup bed – no wheel.  I looked again in the back seat – still no wheel.  In my rush to get the spin session, I had forgotten to grab my bike wheel that I had leaned against the pick-up tire.

I had rushed about in vain.  All of that hurrying to get to a spin session that I now could not participate in because my wheel lay abandoned miles away.  The worst part was that someone had come along and snatched my wheel up before I could get someone from the office to walk out and check the street for it.

A bike is not of much use without a front wheel. 

I wonder how many times I have rushed off to a “spiritual session” and left the most important element behind.  I have headed to Church on Sunday morning with a grumbling heart, motivated by obligation.  I have eagerly agreed to help only to complain as the day approaches.  I have ministered and then moped when not appreciated.  I have poured myself out and then bemoaned the lack of fruit.

I have too often played the hypocrite.  I wonder how many times my rushing has been in vain because I forgot to focus on what was most important.  I become engrossed by the cares of  life and abandoned my reliance upon the one who actually accomplishes my intent.  I know that God is always with us but I also know that our hearts can drift far from Him.  We can get so preoccupied with activities, even good spiritual / ministry activities, that our hearts proceed without a thought of the God we love.  Our minds can get so focused on the trivial that we drive off and leave God with our morning devotions as surely as I left my front tire at work.

We are repeatedly warned that the most important attribute of a Christian is love.  Paul says that we are nothing, that we gain nothing, if we don’t have love.(1 Cor. 13:1-3)  Jesus tells us that we worship in vain when our hearts are far from Him.  Even Peter fell into a pursuit that took him away from the heart of God.  He tried to rebuke Jesus from going to Jerusalem to suffer, be killed, and rise on the third day (Matt. 16:21-22).  Jesus responded by showing Peter that he had set his mind on the things of man and drifted away from God’s will.  He actually was being used by Satan to discourage Christ which is not what he thought he was doing.

How many church splits have resulted from elders showing up with hearts far from Christ?

How many family gathering have been ruined by minds set on the things of man.

How many lifeless lessons have been taught or sermons preached by someone responding to obligation?

How many worship service have been wasted in thoughts of lunch?

Showing up is not good enough; showing up on time with an unprepared heart gains nothing.  It is like showing up for a spin session without a front wheel.  When we show up with an unprepared heart, we have just engaged life with so little faith that we could not kick a pebble from the parking lot, which is much less than moving a mountain.

When I showed up without a front wheel, I could not workout.  The problem with showing up with a heart drawn close to God is that we can proceed forward without him, which opens the opportunity to be actually used by Satan as Peter was.  Setting our minds on the things of God is not an option for the follower of Christ.

I would rather show up late with a heart drawn close to God by a mind that is set on the things of God than show up on time with a heart far from Christ due to a mind preoccupied by the things of man.  I do not want to live in vain.  I surely don’t want my preoccupation with the cares of this world to result in my service being used by Satan.

Let’s not live in vain.

PRAYER: O Lord, thank you for the grace that You have shown me when I have rushed off with my mind set on all my cares in this world.  Thank you for being merciful to me when I have acted faithlessly.  Father, help me to keep my mind set on you.  Give me a love for you.  Draw my heart close to You.  Prevent me from wandering away.  Lord, keep the works of my hands, which I do when my mind is not set correctly on You, from being used by Satan.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

h1

“PERFECTING WEAKNESS” – Jan 13

January 14, 2014

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”” 2 Corinthians 12:9

ncfcaMy son recently competed at the NCFCA Idaho Open Tournament.  I have come to anticipate being blessed by these competitions and once again I was not disappointed.

I had the privilege of watching the crisp intellect of youth being prepared for Kingdom service as teenagers hone their debating skills.

I was entertained by the creativity of students who take familiar tales and re-imagine them into something fresh and engaging.  I wait in anticipation to see how this creativity will display the glory of God to an unbelieving generation.

I was delighted by all the speeches that persuaded and informed me.  I know there will be a day when these students’  love of God will be as effectively communicated for a reward far beyond a temporal medal.

However, I was moved to tears by the students competing in apologetics.  I had to hide my eyes as emotions welled within them when a gaggle of teenagers noisily passed me on their way to a speech round.  They thoughtlessly carried these inexpensive boxes of plastic and cardboard as they chattered excitedly with one another.  I love those boxes.  Actually, I love the treasure contained within each and every one of those boxes.  It is a treasure that exceeds the value of all the diamonds within De Beer’s vaults.  These boxes contain the hours of time spent before open Bibles and theological books.  It contains the months of the Spirit of God leading, guiding, and teaching my younger brothers and sisters in Christ.

These boxes hold the notes of answers to 106 apologetic questions.  They contain the word of God applied to many of the difficult objections posed by those who oppose our faith.  Those boxes are sheaths to swords that are as real as any ever wielded by William Wallace and these students are learning how to rightly handle the word of God.  It is a wonderful thing to watch.

I love to watch it all.  I am always filled with optimism in how the Lord will use this generation.  They have so many strengths and talents.  Surely, God has raised them up for great things.  The future seemed bright as I guided our mini-Van away from the tournament into the tunnel through the late night darkness that the headlights created.

I was reminded within the midst of my admiration of the skills and talents of those students of the mysterious balance between the use of our gift and and the recognition of our utter weakness.  God uses those who have learned to live in human weakness to accomplish spiritual greatness despite our abundance or lack of talent.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Charles H. Spurgeon learned that lesson.  C.H. Spurgeon was an amazingly gifted orator.  You are not called the “prince of preachers” without being a good speaker.  Yet, this is what had to say about weakness:

The way to grow strong in Christ is to become weak in yourself. God pours no power into man’s heart till man’s power is all poured out. The Christian’s life is one of daily dependence on the grace and strength of God.

Spurgeon could have won many speech competitions but that was not what made him strong in Christ.  He became weak in himself.  Therefore, I prayed for all those gifted competitors who walked across the stage to accept awards at the NCFCA Idaho Open.  I praised God that they won. I prayed that He would protect them from the pride and over-confidence in their relative strengths that applause can bring. I prayed that God would reveal to them the weaknesses that are within them.  I prayed that God would lovingly wash their weakness over them so that they would know that only His grace is sufficient for them.  I prayed that their accomplishment, combined with the knowledge of their weakness would drive them to their knees in prayers of thanksgiving and acknowledgment that true power comes only in a life lived in humble weakness for Christ alone.

John Knox knew the lesson of weakness.  He was a small and feeble man, who ran from the room the first time he was asked to preach in public.  His experience as a slave in a French galley, chained to a bench with six other men pulling a fifty-foot-long oar, left him with a weak and broken body for the rest of his life.  Yet, John Knox knew that his strength did not come from his natural abilities.  God’s power was made perfect in John Knox’s weakness as it drove him to his knees in prayer.  The weakness of John Knox made him such a man of prayer that Mary, Queen of Scotland said,

I  fear John Knox’s prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.

John Knox probably would never have won a speech competition but he was greatly used by God.  Therefore, I praised God for all those competitors who did not win.  I praised God that they did not walk across that stage to accept an award.  I prayed that they would not be lost to despondency but rather the revelation of their weakness would humble them and drive them to a life of prayer and reliance upon their Lord and not their talents and strengths.  I thanked God for afflicting their self-esteem, revealing their utter and complete need for a Savior.  I prayed that their failures would reveal sin in their hearts and that our Lord would remind them that His grace is more sufficient than any trophy or medal, that  He does not need the strength of a debate or speech champion, and that His power will still be made complete in the weakness of a competitor who never won a round.  I prayed that all those who lost would know the power of God being perfected within them in whatever manner that God chooses to reveal their weaknesses to them.  I prayed that their defeats in speech and debate would be used to prefect their hearts in Christ.

I thanked God for my own weaknesses.  I praised Him for how I have been humbled from my altars of pride and self-worship.  I worshiped Him for my fears and afflictions because they have driven me to call upon my God and Savior for comfort and support.  I praised him for my victories and accomplishments because I know that they were only of Him.  I savored the flavor of my failures because they enable me to whole heartedly proclaim from experience,

“My God’s grace is sufficient for me.”

PRAYER: O Lord, thank you for using the weak.  We are all weak before you.  Thank you for showing us our weakness.  Thank you for using the weak to glorify your name.  Father, help me to live in humility.  Forgive me of my pride and my confidence in my own ability.  Forgive me for not coming to you in prayer and relying upon your strength.  Your grace is sufficient for me.  Lord, perfect your power in me by keeping me weak.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

RELATED ARTICLES:
A FUTURE IN GOOD AND CAPABLE HANDS

h1

“PRINCIPLES OF ENDURANCE – Small Tasks” – Jan 4

January 4, 2014

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.   Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Matthew 6:34

Tri-Bike TrainerThe mental weakness that has been exposed by my indoor cycling trainer has gotten me to thinking about endurance and some of the common principles between physical and spiritual endurance.  However, I came up with six principles that help me practice mental toughness in times of endurance both physical and spiritual.

1.      Control Your Emotions.

2.      Small Tasks

Physical:

How do you eat an elephant?… One mouthful at a time.

Endurance requires that we do not waste energy on those things outside of our control.

long_road-ahead

When running, I have found that it is not good to think about what mile 10 is going to feel like when mile 3 is not feeling so good.  I can usually make it to the next intersection or up the next rise or around the coming corner.  I don’t have control of much of what is down the road.  It might be pretty ugly but then again it might not.  I never really know.  Therefore, I try to run the road immediately in front of me.  I have confidence in my hydration and fueling strategy.  I know what heart rate will keep me in an aerobic zone.  All I have to do it keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually the finish line will appear.

Endurance is much easier to bear when you have companions working with you.

tour2

Riding 100 miles on a bicycle is daunting.  However, it is not too bad when all you have to do is stick to the wheel of the rider right in front of you.  I have been amazed at the difference between riding in a group and going solo.  There are clear drafting advantages that make riding in a group easier but I think the mental assistance is just as important.  The preoccupation of the brain with the dynamics of a group ride makes the miles slip by largely unnoticed in comparison to the mental battle of a solo ride.

Always count your own laps. Counting might seem trivial but keeping track of where you are and where you are going is critical for endurance.

20131001-235329My stomach always turns when I think about swimming over 40 laps.  I have tried counting down; I have tried counting up; neither has worked very well for me.  Therefore, I count laps in groups of five; I can’t count much beyond that anyways but my brain accepts 8 sets easier than it does 40 laps.  However, I always know how far I have to go.  I have a counter that straps to my index finger.  Although I play games with counting to keep my mind occupied, there is always the sure lap count on my index finger.  I am reminded of a swim story that I read:

At one California high school meet where there were no lap counters, nearly an entire heat of the girls’ 500 freestyle lost track of how many laps they had raced. Everyone in the heat except for the girl in last place assumed the girl in first place was keeping the right count. While everyone else was hanging on the wall thinking they were done with the race, the girl in last place—who knew exactly how many lengths of the pool she still needed to race—flip-turned. By the time the others in the heat figured out what was going on, the girl who had been in last place was nearly 25-yards ahead of everyone else. She finished the race in first place.  How to Count Swimming Laps

Spiritual:

Why do we worry about tomorrow?  Anxiety and worry makes spiritual endurance so much harder – it makes me want to give up.

For me, the sinful tendency of my worrying heart overflows during those sleepless, semi-conscious, nights with insomnia.  Just the other night, I overcame the temptation of anxiety by following the principles of endurance.  I awoke, a quick glance at the clock on my night stand told my brain that it should be asleep yet the cogs of worry had already started to turn.

1:30 AM and I worried about work – how to retain clients, why didn’t we get that last job, will we get the next one and how, how will a lawsuit play out, how should we respond, how do we respond to all the changes in our market, how can we keep everyone working, …what if , what if,…I have got to go to sleep.

2:30 AM and I worried about my kids – an upcoming NCFCA tournament, will my son be ready, will he make friends, what about my daughter’s friends, what about their hearts, do they love Jesus, are they saved, how to pay for college, will they have a happy life,…what if, what if,…I have got to go to sleep.

3:00 AM and I worried about my family – declining health, the lifestyle of extended family, their salvation, what about my retirement, where will we live if the wheels fall off, can I take care of all my responsibilities, how will I provide for my wife and kids, what will people say, surely they will gloat over my failures,… what if, what if,… I have got to go to sleep.

3:30 AM and I bemoaned my existence – the hours of fretting and worrying had successfully found the combination to a dark and brooding mental file that contains all the necessary supporting evidence of my failures and defeats.  The full force of a pessimistic mind had turned in on itself and shattered my will to endure in those dark hours before the sun rose.

By 3:45 AM, my anxious mind had swirled my desire to endure around a drain of defeat; whispering the glories of a hermit and a retreat to a protected life in a secluded warehouse,… I had had enough.  I roused myself from its semi-conscious state that was allowing my sinful heart of worrying to prey upon my undefended mind.

I prayed to regain the control of my mind.

I prayed the promises of God –He is in control of the future; I recalled how He took David from a cave to the throne; He was the one who blessed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; He is the one who brings rain and drought.  He knows what I need.  He is my Father and He knows how to give good gifts.  I am so much more valuable to Him than the birds of the air.  My fretting about all that is beyond me showed me how little faith I have.  I cried out into the dark, “Lord, help me in my unbelief.  Take my worries and concerns.  I trust you with them.”

I prayed God’s presence.  I thanked Him for never leaving me or forsaking me.  He is my constant companion.  He is in me and I in Him.  I recalled that all that He calls me to do is to take up my cross and follow Him.  Even when I feel friendless, I am never alone.  I just have to set my mind on the things of His Spirit.  The joy of the Lord is the wheel set before me.  I just need to set my eyes upon it and follow.  I can do that.  He has promised to give me the strength to do that.  I know if I do that then these times of worry are going to slip by largely unnoticed if I will trust in Him alone.

I prayed my Ebenezer’s (1 Samuel 7:12).  I contentiously went to that gloriously bright mental file of all the victories that the Lord has given me.  I counted them and recalled how God has been faithful to me particularly in my defeats and failures.  I considered how far he has taken me.  His grace has carried me through so many laps.  His grace has always been sufficient.  I praised Him for is love and mercy.  I praised Him for how He has used me in all my weakness and unfaithfulness.  While Istill long for heaven, I thanked Him for the work that He has given be to yet accomplish through the power of His Spirit; I thanked Him that my hope is not in this world; I praised Him for the life in His presence that He has promised.  I run this race to that finish line and I am not done yet.

…and sometime during those prayers of praise… I slept, my will to endure restored through the power of the Spirit.

(I hope to post the other 3 principles in the coming days.)

PRAYER: O Lord, come, my fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing the praises of your grace and mercy; Father, I raise my Ebenezer; here by your great help I’ve come; and I hope, by your good pleasure to safely to arrive at home.  I am constrained daily as a debtor to your grace.  Let your goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.   Hear my praise O Lord (Come Thou Fount)   I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

Resources:
Extravagant Grace, Barbara R. Duguid
6 Navy SEAL Tips to Achieve Mental Strength

h1

“PRINCIPLES OF ENDURANCE – Control Your Emotions” – Jan 1

January 1, 2014

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Tri-Bike TrainerRiding an indoor trainer is hard.  The physical endurance required for a trainer is no harder than riding along a rolling countryside road.  My legs cannot tell the difference between an interval in my basement or one on a road separating vast crops of mint and sugar beets.

However, my brain can tell the difference.

My brain is the nemesis that often defeats me.  My legs rarely demand that I dismount the trainer.  Physically, I know that I could go longer but it is my will that cracks when I am laboring.  I hate that.  I hate it when my brain quits while my body still has more left in the tank.  My mental weakness is fully exposed on the trainer.

Mental toughness in physical activities naturally leads me to contemplate mental toughness in spiritual realms.  Perseverance is the Christian word for those who are spiritually tough.  I have yielded to temptations when I knew that I did not need to.  I have seen some yokes of the Lord and cringed at the anticipated burden.  I felt heavily laden and sought out my rest.  I know that all my failures and weaknesses come from a sinful heart that exposes itself through mental weakness.

BonkI hate that my brain quits while the Spirit has unfathomable strength to offer.  I do not want to be the guy who does not endure well.  I want to be the one who perseveres to the end.  I have found that mental toughness does not just happen.  It has to be practiced.

Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like the muscles of the body.
~ Lynn Jennings

I realize that analogy between physical and spiritual mental toughness is not perfect.  It falls apart because we have an all-sufficient God who supports our faith.  However, I came up with six principles that help me practice mental toughness in times of endurance both physical and spiritual.

1.     Control Your Emotions

Physical (Negative Thoughts):
There is nothing that will get me to quit quicker than negative thoughts.  I fight negative thoughts.  I keep speaking the positive to myself – “You’ve got this”, “easy-peasy”, “Shut-up legs; you will obey me”, “I can go for miles”, “this is too much fun”.  I try to grimace with a smile.  I try to keep good posture and form; my emotions follow my posture.

Spiritual (Negative Thoughts):
Doug Wilson wrote “Sins are like grapes; they come in bunches.”  The truth of that statement resides in the negative thoughts that we wallow in after a spiritual failure. I try to fight those negative thoughts by practicing the following: (1) Immediately repent; (2) Acknowledge that I am weak and sinful; (3) Preach the wonder of the gospel to myself; (4) Praise God for my redemption through Christ Jesus; (5) Allow my weakness to drive me in greater joy in Christ rather than self-deprecation.

We must fight to keep the negative thoughts of defeat from stealing our joy. We are weak and sinful. Our joy does not come from our own strength and self-discipline. It comes from the fact that we are forgiven. Our perseverance comes from learning to quickly run head long into the arms of our forgiving Father when we stumble and fall. It is always bad for our souls when we linger in the negative thoughts away from the presence of our Lord.

Physical (Racing Someone Else’s Race):
Nothing gets me to implode quicker than racing someone else’s race.  I have to fight the over exuberance of chasing after other competitors.  It is easy to start chasing someone else beyond your ability and find yourself exhausted along the edge of the road.  When someone passes me, I work to trust my strategy.  I control the discouraging emotions of being passed and look for encouragement of being in the same race as that exceptional person.

Spiritual (Living Someone Else’s Faith):
The other area where I have imploded spiritually is through an unhealthy desire for the faith of others.  I have chased after the faith of others and wondered why I was unable to do what they had done.  I have ladened myself with the latest spiritual self-help methods.  I have thought that if I just followed prescribed spiritual disciplines than I would be able to live a life of personal holiness. It is easy to allow a healthy appreciation of the faith that God has blessed other brothers and sister in Christ with to transform into an unhealthy concept that our sanctification is wholly based upon our efforts.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

We need to trust that our faith is in the capable hands of its founder and perfecter – Jesus Christ.  We are to be encouraged by fellow followers of our age and those who have gone before us.  Their examples are given as an encouragement for us to strive with endurance in our own personal journeys of faith – setting aside the weight and sin that clings to us.  However, our personal paths are not found by chasing others.

Jesus is perfecting our faith uniquely in each of us.  He has us exactly where He wants us for His glory.  We should be encouraged by fellow followers of Christ, but still trust the one who created the new life within us.  We will do what we love to do – we were created that way.  We need to follow the joy that has been set before us.  New desires come with the new life that we have in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, follow the bread crumbs of joy that the Spirit has laid before you.

The Spirit has taken us on a wonderfully rewarding journey of endurance to the very end.  We need to trust Him and not make our sanctification a slave to someone else’s faith.

(In my not so successful attempt at keeping my posts shorter, I will post the other 5 principles in the coming days.)

PRAYER: O Lord, thank you for being the founder and perfecter of my faith.  Thank you for giving me a joy unspeakable.  Father, help be to focus on You in all that I do.  Help me to look to You as my example; make me gentle and lowly in heart.  Show me the rest that I can find only in You.  Teach me to endure.  Train me so that I will learn to rely upon you in everything and thereby become mentally tough in you.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

Resources:
Extravagant Grace, Barbara R. Duguid
6 Navy SEAL Tips to Achieve Mental Strength

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: