Posts Tagged ‘Gospel of Matthew’

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VETERAN PEACEMAKERS- Nov 11 (Reblog)

November 11, 2015

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:10

English: Veterans Day poster issued by the U.S...

Today is the day we honor our veterans in the United States. Appropriately, ceremonies with be held in appreciation of the sacrifice that so many have given in the service of our country. These ceremonies will inherently have a melancholy mood at least for me.

As I have written before (Imagine a World without Veterans), veterans are the product of war and threats of war. I recently ran across a quote by Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones in which he asked a series of pertinent questions.

Why are there wars in the world?
Why is there this constant international tension?
What is the matter with the world?
Why war and all the unhappiness and turmoil and discord amongst men?
According to this Beatitude (Matthew 5:10),
there is only one answer to these questions-sin.

Nothing else; just sin.”
~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

Sin is the reason there are wars and rumors of war. Sin is the reason that we needed the service of our veterans. Sin is the reason we will be creating new veterans long into the future.

Have you ever considered the cost of sin?

Many want to dismiss the costs of sin. They cast sin as a private matter of personal choice. However, consider the quantifiable costs we all pay due to a world enslaved to sin.

The annual budget of the US Department of Defense is $495.6 billion.
The annual budget of the US Department of Veterans Affairs is $163.9 billion.
The United States spends $659.5 billion every year just because of sin.

If there was no sin, we would not need the DOD or VA. We would be freed to spend over a half a trillion dollars every year on other things – science, medicine, technology. How far could a $659.5 billion annual investment progress our society?  I hope that we can agree that the DOD and VA costs are only a fraction of the quantifiable costs that sin imposes upon this world. A more careful accounting will reveal a staggering annual cost that we all pay to counter the effects that proceed from sinful hearts.

It is ‘out of the heart’ that evil thoughts, murders, adultery, fornication, jealousy, envy, malice and all these other things proceed; and while men are like that there will be no peace. What is in, will inevitably come out.
~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

English: AUBURN, Wash. (Nov. 5, 2001) Marine C...

The impact of sin upon our society becomes staggering when we consider the unquantifiable costs of sin.

What have families emotionally paid during deployment separations?
What are the costs to relationships impacted by PTSD?

What of the costs beyond wars and rumors of war?

What is the payment for drug addiction?
What are the costs wasted into pornography?
What costs have been incurred from anger, gossip, hate…

English: Unknown military cemetary in Poland P...

What about the ultimate wage of sin?

For the wages of sin is death…(Romans 6:23a)
What is the cost of a person’s soul?

While some may argue that Christianity has caused much of the evil in this world, the reality is that our world needs more biblical peacemakers to truly quell the costs of sin upon mankind.

The first thing, therefore, we must say about the peacemaker is that he has an entirely new view of himself, a new view which really amounts to this. He has seen himself and has come to see that in a sense this miserable, wretched self is not worth bothering about at all. It is so wretched; it has not rights or privileges; it does not deserve anything. If you have seen yourself as poor in spirit, if you have mourned because of the blackness of your heart, if you have truly seen yourself and have hungered and thirsted after righteousness, you will not stand any longer on your rights and privileges, you will not be asking, ‘What about me in this?’ You will have forgotten this self…

 Let me sum it all up like this: the benediction pronounced on such people is that they ‘shall be called the children of God’…It means that the peacemaker is a child of God and that he is like his Father. One of the most glorious definitions of the being and character of God in the Bible is contained in the words, ‘the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus.’ (Heb. 13:20)…

 That is the New Testament teaching. You finish with self, and then you begin to follow Jesus Christ. You realize what He did for you in order that you might enjoy that blessed peace of God, and you begin to desire that everybody else should have it. So, forgetting self, humbling self, you follow in His steps’ who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.’ That is it.
~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

English: A folded American flag held by a Unit...

I am grateful for the service of my country’s veterans. They have been a bulwark against the evils of man. They have spared me and my family from some horrible costs of sin. However, I think we do them a disservice if our gratitude does not go beyond an appreciation for a “peaceful and prosperous” life.

Our world needs veteran peacemakers – biblical peacemakers. We will all continue to pay the horrible costs of sin while the world chases humanistic and idealistic solutions to our fundamental problem – the sinful hearts of men. We need to be thankful for the opportunity our war veterans have given us so that we, as children of God,  can do what we have been called to do; be peacemakers.

We have been called to be peacemakers within our own world. We have the only solution to the dreadful cost of sin. May we faithfully serve our calling and become veteran peacemakers. Let us use this opportunities that our veterans have provided to lead as many to the One who can save them from paying the ultimate wage of sin.

…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23b

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the United States of America and the men and women who have served in the military to defend this country.  May you bless their service.  Lord, thank you for keeping the costs of sin bearable.  Thank you for giving time and opportunity for men and women to come to you.  Lord, help me to be a peacemaker; help me to be like You.  May you be glorified in those that you have called to be your children – peacemakers.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

 

 

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VETERAN PEACEMAKERS- Nov 11

November 11, 2014

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:10

English: Veterans Day poster issued by the U.S...

Today is the day we honor our veterans in the United States. Appropriately, ceremonies with be held in appreciation of the sacrifice that so many have given in the service of our country. These ceremonies will inherently have a melancholy mood at least for me.

As I have written before (Imagine a World without Veterans), veterans are the product of war and threats of war. I recently ran across a quote by Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones in which he asked a series of pertinent questions.

Why are there wars in the world?
Why is there this constant international tension?
What is the matter with the world?
Why war and all the unhappiness and turmoil and discord amongst men?
According to this Beatitude (Matthew 5:10),
there is only one answer to these questions-sin.

Nothing else; just sin.”
~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

Sin is the reason there are wars and rumors of war. Sin is the reason that we needed the service of our veterans. Sin is the reason we will be creating new veterans long into the future.

Have you ever considered the cost of sin?

Many want to dismiss the costs of sin. They cast sin as a private matter of personal choice. However, consider the quantifiable costs we all pay due to a world enslaved to sin.

The annual budget of the US Department of Defense is $495.6 billion.
The annual budget of the US Department of Veterans Affairs is $163.9 billion.
The United States spends $659.5 billion every year just because of sin.

If there was no sin, we would not need the DOD or VA. We would be freed to spend over a half a trillion dollars every year on other things – science, medicine, technology. How far could a $659.5 billion annual investment progress our society?  I hope that we can agree that the DOD and VA costs are only a fraction of the quantifiable costs that sin imposes upon this world. A more careful accounting will reveal a staggering annual cost that we all pay to counter the effects that proceed from sinful hearts.

It is ‘out of the heart’ that evil thoughts, murders, adultery, fornication, jealousy, envy, malice and all these other things proceed; and while men are like that there will be no peace. What is in, will inevitably come out.
~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

English: AUBURN, Wash. (Nov. 5, 2001) Marine C...

The impact of sin upon our society becomes staggering when we consider the unquantifiable costs of sin.

What have families emotionally paid during deployment separations?
What are the costs to relationships impacted by PTSD?

What of the costs beyond wars and rumors of war?

What is the payment for drug addiction?
What are the costs wasted into pornography?
What costs have been incurred from anger, gossip, hate…

English: Unknown military cemetary in Poland P...

What about the ultimate wage of sin?

For the wages of sin is death…(Romans 6:23a)
What is the cost of a person’s soul?

While some may argue that Christianity has caused much of the evil in this world, the reality is that our world needs more biblical peacemakers to truly quell the costs of sin upon mankind.

The first thing, therefore, we must say about the peacemaker is that he has an entirely new view of himself, a new view which really amounts to this. He has seen himself and has come to see that in a sense this miserable, wretched self is not worth bothering about at all. It is so wretched; it has not rights or privileges; it does not deserve anything. If you have seen yourself as poor in spirit, if you have mourned because of the blackness of your heart, if you have truly seen yourself and have hungered and thirsted after righteousness, you will not stand any longer on your rights and privileges, you will not be asking, ‘What about me in this?’ You will have forgotten this self…

 Let me sum it all up like this: the benediction pronounced on such people is that they ‘shall be called the children of God’…It means that the peacemaker is a child of God and that he is like his Father. One of the most glorious definitions of the being and character of God in the Bible is contained in the words, ‘the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus.’ (Heb. 13:20)…

 That is the New Testament teaching. You finish with self, and then you begin to follow Jesus Christ. You realize what He did for you in order that you might enjoy that blessed peace of God, and you begin to desire that everybody else should have it. So, forgetting self, humbling self, you follow in His steps’ who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.’ That is it.
~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

English: A folded American flag held by a Unit...

I am grateful for the service of my country’s veterans. They have been a bulwark against the evils of man. They have spared me and my family from some horrible costs of sin. However, I think we do them a disservice if our gratitude does not go beyond an appreciation for a “peaceful and prosperous” life.

Our world needs veteran peacemakers – biblical peacemakers. We will all continue to pay the horrible costs of sin while the world chases humanistic and idealistic solutions to our fundamental problem – the sinful hearts of men. We need to be thankful for the opportunity our war veterans have given us so that we, as children of God,  can do what we have been called to do; be peacemakers.

We have been called to be peacemakers within our own world. We have the only solution to the dreadful cost of sin. May we faithfully serve our calling and become veteran peacemakers. Let us use this opportunities that our veterans have provided to lead as many to the One who can save them from paying the ultimate wage of sin.

…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23b

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the United States of America and the men and women who have served in the military to defend this country.  May you bless their service.  Lord, thank you for keeping the costs of sin bearable.  Thank you for giving time and opportunity for men and women to come to you.  Lord, help me to be a peacemaker; help me to be like You.  May you be glorified in those that you have called to be your children – peacemakers.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

 

 

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HYPOCRITCAL HONOR, LET ME COUNT MY WAYS – Mar. 21

March 21, 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 doctrines the commandments of men.”   Matthew 15:7-9

office space1Hypocritical honor is inexorably linked with authority in a world that seeks favor.

I receive authority through the position that my municipal clients hire me to fulfill.  I have been complemented and praised by those with pending applications.  My opinions have been sought as a wise advisor by those to whom want my favor.  My friendship has been elicited by those under my authority.

I understand that much of the honor that I have received while residing in even limited authority is not genuine.

Much of the honor lavished upon those in positions of authority comes only by lips.  I know what it is like to hear words of praise and then observe actions that reveal a contrary heart.  Hypocritical honor is merely an acceptable form of bribery offered in hopes of receiving favor.  There is an astonishing variety of insincere honor that can be observed in our daily lives:

Children learn early to honor their parents in order to manipulate favor.

In hope of obtaining better grades, students heap adoration upon teachers and professors.

Incompetent officials are rarely challenged for want of a favorable future decision.

The camaraderie of managers is regularly fostered for job security.

In hope of getting out of a ticket, traffic violators will pile upon the officer layers of polite respect.

Politicians are often honored solely due to their elected position and not for anything they have done (or despite what they have done).

offficespace2Most of us have succumbed to hypocritical honor.  It is how we get through many of the ubiquitous layers of authority in our daily lives.  Hypocritical honor is a danger whenever authority is present in an association.  We all want favor and we can slide into insincere honor of those in authority without even being aware of what we are doing.

There is no higher authority than God.

and

We all want God’s favor and blessings in our lives.

God the Father 04

God the Father 04 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

This combination of authority and desire for favor is ripe for hypocritical honor.  Everyone is in danger of sliding into an insincere attitude toward God without even realizing what we are doing.  The religious, those who have grown up in the Church, and those adept with Christian culture, are the most susceptible.  This was Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees lavished words of praise and esteem to God but they did not love God.

But woe to you Pharisees!  For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God.  These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  (Luke 11:42)

God is like no other.  He has established a relationship with those who are His that is not based upon authority and favor.  God showed His love (favor) to this world by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, into world so that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ will not perish but have eternal life.  For those who are in Christ, the relationship with God has fundamentally changed.

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  (John 15:15)

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  (John 1:12-13)

So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.  (Galatians 4:7)

In our new relationship with God, we are to relate to Him as our loving Father.  We are to seek Christ as our friend.

We should never come to our Father, heaping words of adoration in hopes that He will not whack us – that is hypocritical honor and He hates it.

We should never be obedient in hopes of obligating favor from God’s authority – that is what a slave does and it is hated by God.

Our actions should originate out of love for our heavenly Father; it should be demonstrated by a friendship with Christ.  It is why Christ said:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

We can know our honor is sincere when it is demonstrated through obedient actions willingly given from a heart motivated only by love.  May we examine our hearts so that what comes out of our lips reflects a heart that is living in the favor of a new relationship as a child of God.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for sending us your Son to give us a new relationship with you.  Forgive me for reverting to my old slave mentality of seeking your favor through heartless words and actions.  Forgive me for not treating you as my friend and Father.  Forgive me for being a hypocrite.  Help me to live in your love.  Help me to respond to you in love in all my words and deeds. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“STRUGGLE TO FORGIVE – AGAIN” – Jan 18

January 18, 2014

“…You wicked servant!  I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”  Matthew 18:32-33

“Awww…crap on a cracker!”

My Coffee Mug 002That was what I thought as I began to read the new testament portion of my Bible reading plan this morning.  I am fully aware of the absence of the “Christ-like” nature in my response but I immediately realized that I was about to be divinely called out.  My response was that of a third grader whose parent just confronted them of their blatant disobedience.

Allow me to digress and explain my activities of the last week that I have allowed to fester into unforgiveness and hate.  It has been an attitude that I have been fighting and confessing all week but last night, actually early this morning, I allowed my mind to relish in the deep resent of being wronged.  Therefore, I was not surprised this morning to discover that my heavenly Father had orchestrated His Word perfectly to address the wickedness of my heart.

My company is going to be sued.  The process of being sued is not some abstractions when you own part of a small business that has been targeted.  It is personal.  It is even more personal when the chief antagonists are people who you once considered friends.  I wrote about this in “But I Don’t Wanna Be Slapped”.  That blog was written over a year ago and the saga is still on-going.

Mediation has finally been scheduled and documents provided with the assertions of our wrong doing.  My week has been spent reviewing those documents and writing responses.  The deeper I dig the more incredulous I have become at the sear lack of integrity, at least from my perspective, which my antagonists are abiding within.  I have been praying for them by name every night this week.  I have been asking God to bless them in obedience to Jesus’ command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 6:44).

The façade of a struggling heart was stripped away in the early morning hours when my brain awoke to thoughts of the case.  My mind drifted from facts to faces; faces that were once welcome in my home but now are enemies of my home.  Yes, they are my enemies for which I was shocked at the disdain that welled up for them.  I was even more shocked at the personal hate that I felt for their attorney and expert witness.

Worse than those thoughts was the fact that I drank them in.

Therefore, I was not surprise by the scripture that was awaiting me with my morning cup of coffee.  I knew what was coming.  My wicked heart had been clearly revealed.  My Lord cut me to the core.  He crushed any and all pretense and justification that I had created in my pre-dawn ranting.  He showed me how easily I have accepted His mercy, which was more costly than any mercy that I am being commanded to show.  I was confronted with my hypocrisy.

i am real estate photographer / Foter.com / CC BY

I realized that God in His continuing mercy toward me was showing me that I was forgiving from my mouth but not from my heart.

And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. (Matt. 18:34-35)

I know that this lawsuit may go on for a few more years and I don’t know how many times I am going to be coming back to this very same wicked place.  How can I forgive when the process does not allow for reconciliation or resolution? I am reminded of Jesus’ response to the question of who then can be saved.

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Matt. 19:26)

Therefore, I walk the path of a disciplined servant – I repented of my sinfulness, I thanked my Savior for His grace and mercy in forgiving my debt, which was much greater, and I asked Him for the strength to follow Him with all of my heart because I can’t do it myself.

Forgiveness is not an elective in the curriculum of servant-hood. It is a required course, and the exams are always tough to pass. ~Charles Swindoll

PRAYER: O Lord, thank you for not allowing me to wallow in my sin.  Thank you for confronting the wickedness and disobedience of my heart.   Thank you for being a lovely Father to me.  Help me in my unbelief.  Help me to be so enamoured by the grace and mercy that you have shown me that will will naturally flow out and onto my enemies.  Lord, be with them.  Show them the same love that you have shown me.  Draw them to yourself.  Enable me to forgive them not only with my mouth but with my heart.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“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

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“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

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“ELF-LIKE ENTHUSIASM” – Dec 27

December 27, 2013

“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”  Matthew 7:21-23

Cover of "Elf (Infinifilm Edition)"

My family and I fulfilled what has become one of our Christmas traditions.  We watched “Elf”.  One of our favorite scenes is when Buddy learns that Santa will be coming to the Gimbel’s department store.  Buddy’s pure enthusiasm upon hearing of Santa’s pending arrive is contagious.

Elf the movie:  Santa Announcement

The divergent realms of religion and spirituality all proclaim to know God with as much enthusiasm and confidence as Buddy the Elf.  They shout out with certainty that they know God.  Their great works are provided as proof that they really do know and have experienced God.  However, Jesus tells us that they will be proven as false as a Santa that smells like meat and cheese.

Jesus teaches us that we must know Him and also be known by Him.

There are many voices who encourage us to explore the spiritual.  Some deem all spiritual experiences equal.  Others preach a religion devoid of Christ.  Others have cast Christ as a good teacher, a prophet, the brother of Satan, or a mere created mortal.  Yet, they all claim to know God.

Enthusiasm does not make us known by God.
Extreme devotion to a belief does not merit recognition by God.
Even an intellectual knowledge of Jesus does not obligate acknowledgement by God.

There are few things more tragic than a life led in devotion to a false belief.  We are told that there will be many devoutly spiritual people, even professing Christians, who will be rejected because they are not known by Christ.  They were never one of His.

Jesus knows who are His own.  He is the good shepherd – He knows His sheep.

I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  (John 10:14-15)

Reza Vaziri / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Jesus calls out to His sheep.  His sheep are the ones who know His voice and follow Him.  They are the ones who believe that He is the one Shepherd who laid down His life for them.  They are the individuals who trust His leading as the Shepherd of the one true flock.

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  (John 10:3-4)

The ones, who change the gospel of Jesus Christ, proves that they are not one of His sheep because they don’t know His voice.  They don’t believe that He is the one shepherd.  They don’t believe in the one flock of God as revealed in the Bible.

We must be very careful of the voices that we listen to in this confused and deceitful world.  There are many voices shouting, with great enthusiasm, a false spirituality that will only lead to rejection by the one true God.

We can easily recognize these false voices because they lie about who the one Shepherd is and what He did for us.  Don’t be led astray by enthusiasm or miraculous works.  We all need to listen to the voice of the one Shepherd and follow Him alone regardless of all the noise going on around us.

PRAYER: O Lord, thank you for calling out to me.  Thank you for drawing me to yourself.  Thank you for being a shepherd to me.  Father, attune my ears to your voice.  Help me to discern your leading from all the false teachings vying for my attention.  Teach me to set my eyes upon You, my one Shepherd.  Enable me to trust your leading and create in me a desire to follow You wherever You may lead.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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