Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

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Do You Know Him? – John 17:3

March 28, 2020

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

I wonder do you know him?

I have heard criticism that people like me make too much of Jesus.  That people like me focus too much on the person of Jesus Christ rather than the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I wonder do you know him?

I have heard arguments that the obsession of people like me, on the person of Jesus, is too exclusive of the beliefs of others.  That people like me should accept Jesus’s teachings on the intellectual bookshelf, amongst the other great moral philosophers of the ages.

I wonder do you know him?

I have heard reasoning that people like me have made too much of the great historical figure that Jesus was.  That people like me have been duped by history’s charlatans into believing that Jesus was something more than a mere mortal.

They don’t know him!

Jesus did not reveal himself to be studied. He revealed himself to be known.  I can study historical figures and learn about their actions, motivations, and philosophy but I will never say that I knew them. Jesus continues to be a topic in many lectures.  His teachings are analyzed in countless books. I can learn everything about Jesus but I will never know him until I actually follow his teaching and believe what he said about himself.

I wonder do you know him?

Faith is the prerequisite to knowing God and Jesus Christ, whom he sent.  God did not reveal himself for intellectual praise.  God revealed himself through his son, Jesus Christ, to demonstrate his mercy and grace by saving a people who believe in him, as he revealed himself.

I wonder do you know him?

God doesn’t save people who are intellectually aware of his historical teachings.  God doesn’t award merit to the strict adherence to rules given in the wilderness.  God saves those who believe in him, love him, know him.  People like me.  

I know him because he saved me. I cannot help making too much of Jesus. The person of Jesus Christ is worthy of too much focus because that is what love does.  God is exclusive.  He always has been exclusive.  He is a jealous God.  He is exclusive to those who receive his free gift.  He is exclusive to people who know him.

I wonder will you know him?

“For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” John 16:27

https://ref.ly/Jn17.3 via the Logos Bible Android app.

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“ENSLAVED” – Feb. 24

February 24, 2020

“Then He said to them, ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.'” Matthew 22:21

close up photo of woman with her hands tied with rope

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I am a slave,
but I am not unique.
I am a slave,
but so are you.
We are slaves but
not in the way you think.

We are slaves of many masters.  We serve them all, typically without title but all hidden while still in the open.  Yet, their authority is enforced when the bounds of their reigns are transversed or challenged.  We were born into the bondage of our initial master, whose realm was established at the beginning, when it demanded our lungs to accept this new product called air.  Next, the bounds of nutrition were delineated through pangs in the belly.  The bounds of consciousness were defined by the needs of sleep.  As we mature, new bounds were yearly discovered.

We all labor to serve the Master of Flesh.  Our bodies demand obedience to biological needs, requirements for the preservation of life.  This realm redefines slavery as “self”.  You may say, “my body is not a master,”  I say, “are you free from it?”.  Try not obeying the Master of Flesh.  Try to exert your freedom from hydration.  Try to exert your freedom from food.  Soon, your flesh will punish your liberty with pain until you yield or die.  The Flesh is an unyielding task master.

Many live their entire existence solely under the tyranny of Flesh, laboring to satisfy its demands.  Some even cede more authority to the Flesh through addiction and/or neurosis.   Yet, all yield to the essential demands of the Flesh from the dawn of every day to its setting.

However, the flesh is not our only master.  As we mature, we enter the realm of another, the Master of Work.  Work’s realm includes all those activities mitigating Flesh’s tyranny.  I want leisure.  Therefore, I must work to be able to take a vacation.  I want amusement.  Therefore, I must work to be able to have a hobby, go to a movie, eat gourmet food.  I want more comfortable housing.  Therefore, I must work to be able to have a better home.  I want to be happy.  Therefore, I must work to be able to consume and feed my craving for happiness.

Work is not a private affair.  Work is a public engagement and therefore ruled by the cultural and governmental masters.  This realm redefines slavery as “citizenship”.  You may say, “my government is not a master.  I live under a constitution.”  I say, “are you free from it?”.  Try not obeying the Masters of Work.  Try exerting your freedom from taxation.  Try exerting your freedom to take another’s property.  Try exerting your freedom to live without clothing.  Try exerting your freedom to cry ‘fire’ in a fireless theater.  Transverse the bounds established by the Masters of Work and you will find your time relegated to satisfying the Master of Flesh.  You will become preoccupied with the necessities of existence because the means to mitigate the tyranny of the Flesh will be removed by the tyranny of Work.  Work is an unyielding task master.

We all yield to the essential demands of society in order to have a slice of the prosperity ensuing from our obedience as cogs in the economic mechanism of Work’s realm.  Even if Work could be freed from the Masters of government and culture, it can never be truly free because it resides in the realm of a third master.  Work cannot be free because work is not an end in itself.

The extent and quality of freedom in the flesh and work can only be experienced through obedience to the Master of the third realm in which we all reside.

The Master of the Divine inhabits a realm that was before the Flesh and before Work.  This realm defines the freedoms of those realms and our allegiance to those Masters.  God created the realm of the Divine.  He is the Master of all.  Yet, Satan rebelled against Gods’ rule and when he fell so did all of humanity.  You and I have been born into rebellion against the Master of the Divine.  Yet, we were not born free.  We were born under the tyranny of Satan, who bent the Masters of Flesh and Work into wicked task masters.  It was never meant to be this way.  The Divine has been redefined as “enlightenment”, “science”, “atheism”.

Our inward desire for liberty is an echoing call of creation.  We misunderstand it to be an inherent right of mankind.  It is actually a memory of creation, longing for a world ruled by the true Master; longing for a world where the flesh and work have no power to harm.  Our desire for freedom is incomplete.  It actually is a desire to be completely free to serve the Master as we were created to serve.

low section of man against sky

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Freedom is the freedom to do what we want.  When we are truly free, our nature takes us fully to God, the Master of the Divine.

So, I am a slave.  I am a slave to the Master of the Divine.  I live as an ambassador in the realms of the Flesh and Work.  I pay the requisite requirements to inhabit these realms, but they are not my Master.  I owe them no allegiance.  I will readily say my farewells to the Master of Flesh when the Master of the Divine bids me to return.  I will readily give what is due the Master of Work and give unto God what is His.

I am a slave to only one Master and He is good.  I will serve no other.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me for serving other Masters.  Forgive me for forgetting that you have set me free to serve you fully as I was intended.  Thank you for binding me to yourself.  Lord, you know that I am prone to wander.  Let your grace, like a fetter, chain my wandering heart to you.  Take my heart and seal it in servitude for your courts above.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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“ADVENTUROUS PERSEVERANCE” – Feb. 17

February 17, 2020

“As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” 2 Thess. 3:13

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An adventure, by definition, is the unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. My wife and I embarked on an activity at the beginning of the year that is not unusual nor hazardous. Yet, adventure seems it’s most earnest title. The title might need to be categorized in order to do it justice. The adventure is more accurately described as an adventure of the mind. While still not unusual, it seems a little mentally hazardous to our self-esteem.

We have become rebels in the Code Red cult of weight loss. This particular cult is exemplified by specific rules; drink your water, get your sleep, eat real food, no snacking, and be done eating by 6:30 PM. Oh, and no sugar!

Our lives have been transformed due to this weight loss adventure. The adventure excitement emanates from when it is working, and swings to discouragement when it does not. One becomes a bit captive to the scale as rebels weigh every day. There is the adventurous excitement of fitting clothing long banished to the museum of “What I Once Was”. Then, there is the hazards of the plateaus of complete rule obedience yet the scale does not display equitable obedience.

These unusually hazardous circumstances baffles the mental resolve of any weight loss adventurer.

assorted map pieces

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This morning my scale sent me into the treacherous waters of uncertainty and questionable resolve. I had done everything right, earning the anticipation of celebrating seeing digits that I have not observed for 2 years. I don’t know why I create weight memorials in categories of 10, but I do. I excitedly anticipated the proclamation that I have once again entered into the 180’s weight class. For me, that can be 189.9 pounds. It simply means that I no longer will see a 1 and a 9 preceding the stubborn pounds that I am incrementally assaulting.

I have been on the frustrating plateau of the 190’s for a month and a half. Yesterday, the plateau of the 190’s was assaulted with monumental resolve and certainty. My morning  started with a chest and back workout of push-ups and pull-ups and ab-ups. Throughout the day, the rules of Code Red were followed like a good rebel religious zealot. The pincer maneuver, to ensure the success of this full assault, was a long bike ride augmented by the vigor of it being a windy day.

The assault had all the elements needed for a celebratory victory over the obstinate 190’s. Except, it didn’t. This morning arose with all the hope of a goal achieved only to be dashed by the reality of a 1.6-pound gain. Rather than basking in the celebratory light of realization, I find myself in the hazardous gloom of reality. Sometimes, when you do everything right, it simply doesn’t work out as planned and we rarely know the reason.

Expectation can be a hazardous adventure. Short-term expectations are the most hazardous. Perseverance characterizes the route through the hazardous barriers of unrealized expectations. One must trust the process, otherwise, hands flung-up in resignation will become the anthem of all our adventures.

Perseverance is essential for all adventurous endeavors; athletic, academic, career, relational, and spiritual. Perseverance is critical in the spiritual life of a Christian. Particularly, when we are residents in a nebulous plateau of spiritual doldrums. One might be doing everything right. One might make great assaults upon a goal with certain expectations only to experience regression and disappointment.

These are the times to trust the process. These are the times to trust the Perfecter.

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1b-2a

Too often, we get fixated on the wrong things, just like my fixation with a number on a scale. My goal is not a number on a scale. My goal is to reduce the fat on my body. I want to be fit for all the benefits of fitness. Therefore, the short-term expectations of a scale display should not swing my resolve to such an extent.

empty highway overlooking mountain under dark skies

Equally, my spiritual resolve should not be dependent upon expectations that are surrogates of faithfulness. Our spiritual goal as Christians should be fruitfulness, blossoming from minds set upon the Spirit, eyes fixated upon Jesus, daily; even when we feel unfruitful. The perfection of our faith doesn’t follow a standard operating procedure, nor a regimented timeline.

Jesus is the perfecter of our faith. This means that He is perfecting our faith exactly in the manner that He intends. We just need to trust the Perfecter and keep our eyes fixed on Him while running our race even when the course before us doesn’t seem clearly marked out.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to praise you from the plateaus.  Help me to keep my eyes fixed on you.  Teach me to set my mind on the things of the Spirit.  Thank you for the faith that you have pioneered within me and the perfecting of the faith, which you have already accomplished.  Lord, don’t stop.  Please continue to perfect me in the power of your Spirit for you glory and fruitfulness.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH” – Feb. 10

February 10, 2020

“And he said to him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’ And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’” Mark 10:21

grayscale photo of laughing old man

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Odd is the feeling when one’s career ahead is shorter than what lay behind.
There is a transition from hopefulness to practicality.
I don’t know where or when but I suspect the why.

Reality is rarely as alluring as hopefulness.
The basic element of every dream is hopefulness.
Hopefulness colors our perspective with the brightest spectrum of the rainbow.
Reality washes our imagination in the muted hues of monochrome.

Yet, day upon day delivers the lessons of reality.
Reality brings a clarity.
Reality brings a realization of the possible.
Reality brings the responsibility for the practical.

Reality teaches that decisions can be dubious,
plans can be fiction, and
the unforeseen can be pivotal.

A transition seems to correlate, for most, in those middling years.
For those whose hopes were in the lights, age comes with the dimming.
For those whose hopes were based on the worst, they were barely ever young.
But those whose hope endures, eternal youth perseveres.

Youth is not in age; youth is hope.

Many have sought the fountain of youth. It is not found in an elixir. Youth cannot be sustained through the preservation of body, coverings of current fashion, nips, tucks nor amusements.

Youth is internal, eternal.
Youth is not temporal.
An old man can be young.
While, a child can be prematurely old.

Rarely is the source of youthful exuberance acknowledged.
Youthful exuberance flows from the deepest of wells, hope.

Hope hydrates youth.
Hopelessness shrivels the thirsty,
youthful soul when faced with the reality of present and past.

Who was the youngest of all old men?
Was not the man,
who hoped beyond reason,
who hoped beyond biology,
who hoped beyond practically,
the youngest of all old men?
Abraham’s hope was in the promises of God and that hope resulted in agelessness.
Yet, his hope was not in the child. His truest hope was revealed when the child was demanded.

His truest hope was in the Giver of the promise, not the reality of the promise.
Take the reality away and the hope remained.
Abraham was the youngest of old men.

man person people italy

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Who was the oldest of young men?
Was not the man,
who hoped upon his means,
who hoped upon his piety,
who hoped upon his achievement,
the oldest of young men?

The rich young ruler’s hope was in all that he could grasp. When his truest hope was revealed, his youthfulness shriveled into an aged sadness.

His truest hope was in the blessings that he had but not in the Blesser.
Take the reality away and the hope vanished.
The rich young ruler was the oldest of young men.

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

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Aging is a blessing. Aging reveals our truest of hope. The oddness one feels as we transition through life is a signal to an opportunity for revelation. The revelation of our truest of hopes. These revelatory opportunities will continue until all is taken away and there is merely the stepping into the promise. Hopefully, that step is taken with the exuberance of ageless youthfulness.

The Christian should be the most youthful of elder, because our hope should be ever increasing as we near our release to Jesus.
Stay young my brothers and sisters.

 

PRAYER: Lord, I want to live fully in the hope of your salvation.  I don’t want to put my hope on anything this world has to offer.  Help me to love you fully.  Help me to love you and not your blessings.  Help me to be joyful as I age.  I know that I have the tendency to be skeptical and grumpy.  May that not be me.  May I am joyful and happy as I take every step toward you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“Another Year” – Jan. 1

January 1, 2019

“And God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light.”  Genesis 1:3

Another year has passed.  Another year is upon us.  The flow of time creates natural opportunities for retrospection and planning.  The first day of a new year seems like just a division, natural or otherwise, to review the year that has been and plan for the one to come.

I enjoy the optimism of considering what I want to do and become in the coming year and then creating the goals to make that happen.  All things seem possible on January 1st even though I know that they are not.  My lists of goals are too long.  I can’t possibly achieve all that I want to accomplish within a year.  There will be some goal that have to be sacrificed.  Therefore, I have to prioritize my goals.  I have to determine what comes first.

Prioritizing goals is a wonderful sieve of desires.  What can I live without?

I live a life of abundance.  My problems are only problems in my world.  The inhabitants of the vast majority of the world will view my problems as blessings. So, I sieve.  I sieve my hopes and dreams through the screen of “what I can live without”.

This process quickly reveals the gems of my life.  It also reveals that we are not that far removed from the low tiers of a hierarchy closely resembling the construct of Abraham Maslow.  I can get a little apocalyptic when taking my thought experiment to the extreme.

However, have you ever considered what your basic physiological needs, safety, food, water, shelter, etc., are?  As in any good apocalypse movie (other than the Matrix), mankind can be very resilient until you block out the sun.  Light is a basic physiological need.  The sun might be our essential physiological need.  Without the sun, we will have no food.  Without food, we will die.

My little thought experiment brought me back to my January 1st tradition of starting a new Bible reading plan.  As with any good Bible reading plan, it starts with Genesis 1 on January 1; “In the beginning…”

backlit clouds dawn dusk

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Consider what God did first in his order of creation.  He created the heavens and the earth.  God then created light.  God created the essences of life – light.  However, I don’t think that it was by accident that light was created before the sun and the moon.  God created light from himself.  He is the source of light and therefore the sustainer of life.  You can take  away the sun and the moon but that does not remove the light originating from God.  By the very order of creation, God holds all the essentials of our life including light.

Therefore, I can apply the most brutal of apocalyptic sieves, even the blotting out of the sun, and the final gem revealed is God.  I cannot live without God.

I believe the sweetest aspect of the New Year is the opportunity it avails us to evaluate all the blessings we have, even to the elemental levels of light, remembering how essential God is to our very existence.

He is the one  we cannot live without.

 

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for another year.  Thank you for all the blessings  you have shown me.  Forgive me for the poor priorities of last year.  Forgive me for forgetting to recognize my reliance upon you in all things.  I cannot live without you.  Lord, remind me of my need for you through this coming year.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“THE LOVING SAPPER” – Nov. 25

November 25, 2017

“Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love.”  John 15:9

Enthusiasm waned in perfect inversion to the length of the day’s shadows.  The time had finally come to end the work and return home, which was dictated by both light and energy.  The path he walked seemed inclined in all directions as he began the long walk home.  Each step trudged along with heel barely higher than the sole.

The workman had been poured out.  There was nothing left.  He had given his all. Effort and more effort lay all about him but he was glad to be done at least until dawn.  He was well accustomed to the long treading of the trail home and happily started upon his routine.

Within sight of rest, random ruminations were rudely ruined by the wreckage caught in the corner of his eye.  A familiar plot, normally flourishing, lay ravished.  He had never paid much attention but he had remembered this small garden as blooming and inviting, well maintained and refreshing but that was not this evening.

The workman did not know when it was wrecked.  Had it been today?  Could it have been some time ago?  He did not know.  It was not his plot.  It was not his responsibility.  He could walk on by and no one would care.  He could turn the other way and no one would stare.  He could leave this destruction for another without despair.

But that was not his way.

The workman lived amongst destruction.  He knew it well.  The gardens he tended were strewn with munitions; bombs buried beneath every patch.  Inattentive tilling could trigger untold devastation with years of lost effort.  The workman knew that some bombs were buried deep and hard to trip while other were  exposed and ready to explode with a breath.

He could see several mines that would inevitably be tripped by someone less attentive and unaware.  He could not simply move on.  It was not his way.  With a sigh, he wearily stepped out of his routine and into the blast zone of this particular plot.  It was now his problem since he too would be effected by any mis-step.

 

The workman moved quickly with the skill of a sapper and defused all that he could readily see.  It was not hard.  It simply took care and gentleness to remove the danger. Yet, his heart broke over the destruction.  This plot had been stripped of all pleasantness; left barren and uninviting.

U.S. Air Force Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician

The workman returned to the pathway where he had left his satchel.  He removed a small delicate flower.  It was all that he had left and it was all that he could give.  He carefully opened the soil in the heart of the plot and planted this small gift…a flower.


A believer’s heart is the garden where Christ has planted this sweet flower of his love.  It is the channel through which the golden stream of his affection runs.  ~ Thomas Watson


It had been a long day and the last thing he wanted to do was to stop for some fuel.  However, he did want to get home so where wasn’t really a choice.  So, he broke his routine and reluctantly swung his pickup into the gas station.  A swipe of the credit card through the fuel pump produced the annoying message “See Attendant”.  This was not the desired result for someone who just wants to get home.   Another swipe of a different card produced the same results.  “What a waste of time” was all he thought as he wearily trudged toward the store with heels barely higher than the soles.

He saw the familiar face of the attendant standing behind the counter as he entered the store.  However, her faced somehow seemed to be a mere shadow of itself.  As his turn in line came, the workman gave his usual greeting.  The reply was far from usual.  It was terse, verging on rude.  A quick glance into her eye caught a tear turning into a glare.

Clearly, something had happened that had wrecked her normally jovial spirit.  Had it been today?  Could it have been some time ago?  He did not know.  He didn’t really know her.  It was not his responsibility.  He could walk out and no one would care.  He could not engage and no one would stare.

He could leave her in despair but that was not his way…he said a prayer, it was time to get to the real work of the day, for he was a loving sapper.

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for your love.  Help me to love others as you have loved me and your Father has loved you.  Help me to not ignore the hurting around me.  Help me to not selfishly protect myself from other’s issues.  Give me a heart the feels and desires to heal.  Give me the desire to share the sweet flower of your love that it may flow with your affection into the hearts of the hurting.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“HAVE YOU SEEN JACOB THACKSTON?” – March 6

March 5, 2017

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” Galatians 5:6

Have you seen Jacob Thackston?  Is that name recognizable?

Google will not readily yield an accurate association.
The trappings of fame are not its acclaim.
Familiarity does not come from notoriety.

The name, Jacob Thackston, has a particular importance to me.  It is a name that has come to transcend even the owner in my mind.  I associate this name more with a characteristic than a particular personage.  It represents a potential that resides in each and every one of us.

We are all potential Jacob Thackstons.

Four years ago, Jacob Thackston was one of the top Lincoln Douglas debaters in Region II of the National Christian Forensic and Communication Association (NCFCA).  He won several tournaments and qualified for the NCFCA National Championship.  However, I don’t remember Jacob Thackston for these reasons.

I don’t remember any of his speeches;
I don’t remember any of his cases;
I don’t even remember what he looks like.

In fact, Jacob Thackston had thoroughly faded from my memory when an event just five weeks ago brought his name flooding back to my remembrance.

It was my family’s first year of involvement in NCFCA that I became familiar with the name Jacob Thackston.  My son was 14 years old and we were at our second tournament.  We were still figuring out this whole crazy, one-clap, NCFCA experience.  My son was struggling with some learning challenges.  He was doing cognitive therapy and we were simply thrilled that he was doing one speech, an Illustrated Oratory speech.

The first time I heard the name Jacob Thackston was as we were leaving the tournament and a young man walked out of the building and yelled:

Hey Kyle, I want to see you doing LD next year.

My wife and I, were “who was that”?  And my son said, “That’s Jacob Thackston”.
It was a long ride home and that name came up repeatedly.

Jacob Thackston was a senior and he had won the Lincoln-Douglas final debate at that particular tournament and my son was a fan. My son had followed Jacob Thackston around the whole tournament and timed all of his rounds.  Yet, I discovered that Jacob Thackston had done a remarkable thing as a senior to this novice speaker, my son.

He showed kindness to my son.  He encouraged my son.

What I heard from my son the entire ride home was:

“Jacob Thackston thinks I should do LD”;
“Jacob Thackston said that he would help me”;
“Jacob Thackston thinks I can do it”.

I must confess that I did not agree with Jacob Thackston.  I thought this whole LD idea was a bad idea.  My son had learning challenges; he was going to get slaughtered…but we tried to be good parents, sucked it up and said, “Oh I think that will be wonderful.”

That made what I saw five weeks ago so incredible in my eyes.  Five weeks ago at the NCFCA Spokane Open, my son walked across the stage the winner of a NCFCA national open in Lincoln Douglas debate.  I was astounded.  Honestly, it was a sight that I never thought I would see while driving across the State of Washington and hearing my son first tell me about Jacob Thackston.As my son received his trophy, I was as proud as a Dad can be and I was grateful to a lot of people.  Like most NCFCA competitors, my son has received a lot of help and encouragement along the way.  Yet, Jacob Thackston specifically came to my mind because it had all started with him.

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It had all started with his kindness.

Consider what his words could have done.

He could have been harsh or condescending;
He could have been indifferent or aloof;
He could have said nothing;
He could have discouraged my son…
to the point that our second tournament was our last.

Now, you may not think that showing simple kindness is a big deal but I will vehemently disagree with you. It may have been a simple thing but just because it was simple does not negate its tremendous impact.

Jacob Thackston’s simple kindness changed our lives.

  • Kindness changed my son’s life. His life is different because of his involvement in NCFCA; profoundly, positively different.  Kindness tilled the opportunity of participation to be planted in his life.
  • Kindness changed my life.  I am on the board of directors for NCFCA.  The simple kindness of a teenager started a whole series of events that have brought me to participate in a way that I had never aspired.

That is the profoundly powerful impact of kind words.

The kindness of Jacob Thackston was more than a good guy being friendly.  The spirit of God can be recognized in his action. I believe that his actions were the result of the faith of a child of God working through love – specifically love in the form of kindness.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

What do you think counts from the second tournament that my family attended?  Do you think the trophy Jacob Thackston took home all those years ago counts for more than the change his kindness made in my family’s life?

The kindness of Jacob Thackston is an example of how to combine what we do with how we do it, for the glory of God.  Jacob Thackston competed with intensity; he pursued excellence; he was focused; he was prepared; he was ready to address life issues from a biblical worldview.  He was successful.

However, what he did at that tournament in Washington did not eclipse how he did.  The kindness shown to my son demonstrated a faith working through love and that made all of his actions count.  It was his faith working through kindness toward a novice teenager that has continued to bring glory to God.

Kind words do not cost much.  Yet they accomplish much.
~ Blaise Pascal

Therefore, my encouragement is to never underestimate the power of simple kindness.  Speak what needs to be spoken.  Do what needs to be done.  Yet, always speak and do from a heart that loves God, a soul that hopes in God, a mind that is set on God and an attitude that loves your neighbor as much as yourself.  May our words accomplish much and may our legacy be a legacy of kindness for the glory of God.

Have you seen Jacob Thackston?
Have you been Jacob Thackston?

May we all become Jacob Thackston!

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for the how you have used and continue to use the kindness of Jacob Thackston.  Father, help me to be like Jacob Thackston.  Help me to live a life characterized by simple kindness.   May the fruit of you Spirit flourish in my life in a love for you and for all those with how I interact for your glory.  May we all become a people who glorify you through our kindness.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“PERSUADED BY IMPERFECTION” – Feb. 17

February 17, 2016

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

She walked into the competition room with a face set in determination.  A faint smile graced her face in recognition of the judges patiently awaiting her arrival.  However, this polite acknowledgement faded the instant she found her mark, centered before the three seated personages, who were to witness her assault on the challenge before her.

She stood before a long table, which separated her from these strangers.  With head slightly downcast and her arms held rigidly at her side, she appeared to be using every ounce of will containing the urge to flee the room.  It was clear that the coming moment was to be more a personal confrontation of self than a speech competition.

She began to speak in a quiet, clear voice.  Her eyes lifting to make contact with each judge yet her brow remaining determinedly fixed forward.  She spoke smoothly through the memorized lines with the only movement being the slight rotation of her hands with fingers earnestly extending as if to dispel the building nervous anxiety.

And then, it happened.  The speaking stopped.  It sputtered to life again only to fall into an awkward quiet, allowing the room to fill with an oppressive silence.

She retreated into herself.  The seconds ticked on.  Her eyes closed.  The seconds ticked on.  Her lips whispered words already spoken.  The seconds ticked on.  Anxiety growing with the silence.  An anxiety easily observed  by a reddening complexion as it proceeded with each tick up her neck and over her ears.

Don’t run…the seconds ticked…find your place…the seconds ticked…you can do this!

Then, as if catching a rail at the last moment, the words began to flow.  Her reddened complexion receding with each remember line.  She finished with a slightly embarrassed smile, shook the judges’ hands, and quickly escaped the room.

I sat emotionally drained.  I had just witnessed something remarkable, but it has taken me a while to truly appreciate the accomplishment of this young lady.  As I contemplated what I had the privileged to observe, I realized that I had been thoroughly persuaded.  I was persuaded as much by the actions of this speaker as her words.

Her actions gave meaning to her persuasive speech, “how to overcome the fear of public speaking.”

I am still persuaded by this young speaker even though this NCFCA speech and debate competition is now more than a month in the past.  Tears well up as I remember this young lady who so boldly stood before me and triumphed over her fear.

She was not the best speaker that I judged that day.  She was not the most articulate or polished.  She was not smooth or natural.  She did not excel in a competition that placed her at the boundary of her natural gifts.

Yet, she was the most poignant speaker I heard.

She was effective because I could see the reality of her words in the practical accomplishment of overcoming a struggle.  She practiced what she preached.  I saw the raw reality in her overwhelming weakness.  Her weakness gave credence to her words.  That is what made her speech so persuasive.

We need more of that raw reality in the world.

There are so many people whose lives abound with insecurities and failures hidden behind carefully manicured personas of perfection.  I consider the associations of my life and see very little raw reality of weakness.  I scroll through Facebook but see few facing fears, standing amidst failure, or admitting to weakness.

I know that it is there because it exists in my life.

I don’t have it all together but you will never learn that from Facebook.  I battle doubt.  I clash with consistency.  My hope continues to find residency in my 401k account.  I am frustrated by a faith that feels incapable of moving a mole hill.

The longer I live, the more I realize  the weakness of my existence.  The raw reality of my life is that weakness exists even in my strengths.  I know this same raw reality exists in every Christian.

No one is the person they want to be.
Yet, is that the reality that we regularly see?

PreachThis young lady reminded me that the raw reality of weakness combined with Truth is the most persuasive when they are in unison.  We deprive our message of a powerful impact when we pretend to be perfect.

My weakness is testimony to the power of Christ in my life.  Through all my disobedience, failures, and faithlessness, I am still standing as a child of God through the sufficiency of His grace.  His power is demonstrated in my inability to obtain righteousness through my own strength.  I am far from self-righteous perfect.  I am consistently humbled in my weaknesses,I believe, for the expressed purpose of keeping me from being conceited.

Why should I then live behind a false illusion of perfection, depriving my testimony of the practical demonstration of the power of Christ to overwhelm my weakness?

It is why I can be content in confessing my weakness.
My weakness gives credence to the power of God’s word.

As Christians, we have always been called to live in the strength of God’s power; not our own strength.  We have been called to love God and our neighbor from the raw reality of our faith’s current condition.  Love forced through a false reality will tend to appear phony.

The world has enough phony Christians pretending to be perfect, while really living in pride.

The world needs more Christians willing to live in the raw reality of humble weakness – demonstrating the sufficiency and power of God’s amazing grace.

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for my weaknesses.  Forgive me for my pride; for trying to portray an illusion that I am stronger than I really am.  Help me to be real with those who are in my life.  Help me to acknowledge your grace in all that I do.  May we all become a people who glorify you through our weakness.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“DILATED SOUL” – Jan. 20

January 20, 2016

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:4-5

The door swinging shut was like plunging into an abyss.  I stood for a moment in the stunned shock of a lost sense.   A long repressed fear manifested in a disquieting shiver as the gloom of darkness seeped into my being.

In the disorienting gloom, my hands spring out as like the sudden sensory loss might cause me to crash into a surrounding wall.  I groped for a wall.  My fingers, landing upon textured drywall, immediately began sweeping the surface as if trying to read indiscernible Braille.  My eyes strained against the blackness in a futile attempt to distinguish the outline of the light switch.

I knew the switch had to be somewhere near the door, in its usual place.  My hands began to swing in large radii in the desperate attempt to find light.  My search was going disconcertedly nowhere.  In mounting frustration, I paused.

In that pause, my eyes adjusted to the lack of light.

RedeyeThe pupils of my eyes dilated to a degree that captured all the light available.  I had not noticed any light when the door had initially closed.  However, my eyes now collected a sliver of light that was penetrating the door at the threshold.  It was not much light but it was enough.

Having opened up to the light, my eyes were able to distinguish the faint outline of a switch right in front of me.  I flipped the switch without thinking and immediately was hit by a rush of light into my wide open eyes that nearly dropped me to my knees.

My floundering in darkness reminded me of the amazing nature of the eye.  The eye is a marvelous organ for the regulation of light.  The iris of the eye has two types of muscle.  There is a ring of sphincter muscles that encircle and constrict the pupil down to a couple of millimeters across to prevent too much light from entering.  There is another set of dilator muscles that can expand the pupil in low light.  The function of the iris is to pull in all the light necessary so that we are not blind.

The human body was created for light.
We were specifically designed to let light in.

I wonder if our soul isn’t similarly designed.

We were designed to have the true light of the world within us.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

Yet, sinful man sits imprisoned in the gloomy darkness of a closed off soul.  The sinful desires of the flesh have constricted their soul, preventing the light of the world from entering in.  They grope about in search of the light but they cannot find the source.  Yet, the source is all around them.  They cannot see because the pupil of their soul is closed.

I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.  Isaiah 42:6-7

Every person needs God to dilate the pupil of their soul.  God overcomes the power of sinful flesh in order to open our souls to His penetrating light; He opens the eyes of the blind.  The light of the glory of God flowing into a dilated soul drops every sinner to their knees.

Iris_close-upThe Christian life is merely learning to live in the light; learning to live with a dilated soul.  Our sinful nature continues to want to clamp down and close out the light of the world; it has malfunctioned into regulating the amount of light that can be let in.  Repentance and following Christ is a continual process of yielding to the dilation of our soul.

We were created to have the light of life.  Thankfully, God has not left us in the darkened prison of our closed souls.

“The pupil dilates in darkness and in the end finds light, just as the soul dilates in misfortune and in the end finds God.”  Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for not leaving me in darkness.  Thank you for sending your Son, the light of the world, to lead me out of the dungeon of my own darkened soul and into the light of life.  Father, continue to dilate my soul; continue to open up my heart to your light.  Do not let the cares of this world constrict my desires and prevent your light for entering into me.  Help me to walk in your light in all things and at all times.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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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

 

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