Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

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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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TALENTLESS GLORY – Sept 10

September 10, 2014

“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20

 The other morning, I once again watched this video as I ate my breakfast.

The emotions elicited from Carrie Underwood’s exaltation of our God’s greatness caused me to linger upon God’s glory. I am always encouraged to see God-given talent directed back toward our Creator.

Musicians using their talents to lead me in worship of God;
Teachers whose charisma encourages me to follow Jesus;
The intellect of pastors drawing me deeper into the mysteries of the divine;
Authors explaining difficult truths that ease my understanding;
Poets whose words plow fresh soil in my soul;
Artists who create works that raise my eyes beyond this world.

I can easily acknowledge and join in the praise that the talented present to the Lord through the works of their bodies.

I am equally tempted, in darker moments, to think that the glory potential of my body is significantly lower than that of the talented. I know that the price paid for my salvation is the same as that paid for Carrie Underwood or C.S. Lewis or Spurgeon or Milton or any number of talented people who love or have love our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, it seems that the Lord might have gotten a poor bargain when he saved me. When I consider what I have to offer God, I am inclined to place myself on the clearance rack.

I don’t want to diminish my talents, but I also recognize that they are not “world class”.  However, there are billions of people just like me.

We have never been at the top of the class.
We have never been invited to an audition.
We have never been courted for the corner office.
We have never won a race.
We have never had a best-seller.
We have never even been close to a platform.

As a result, the glory that God receives from my body and those like me comes quietly, without ovation, from a heart that fumbles with rudimentary talents in simple love for our Savior.

I wonder if this glory from the simple is not the glory highly esteemed by our Lord.

Consider the fact that He has created more “unexceptional” people than the world class variant.  There is rarely a question of motivation for the under-gifted. The gifted will always have to struggle against their love for the praise of men.

I have never made melody with my voice in praise to our Lord with the secret hope of a compliment. I am not musical. Therefore, I have only one motivation when I worship our Lord through singing – love. I sing praises to the glory of God because I love him. I believe that the glory from my body, at that moment, is purest and most undefiled by my love of self, primarily because I lack talent.

I believe God relishes that glory – pure glory coming from a heart that is loving Him first and foremost.

However, I have preached with a secret hope of being complimented. I have written with a desire to be liked. I have used my talents in assorted ministries for God’s glory and gotten a little boost in my self-love. This self-love complicates the purity of my worship. It contaminates the motivation of my praise. As a result, the glory to God from those who were blessed by the use of my talents was probably purer than the direct glory from my conflicted motives.

Those with unexceptional talents should be encouraged when we consider the primary purpose of man – to glorify God and enjoy him forever. God has created us perfectly. He has given everyone some gifts, but He has not given those gifts equally. He was not random. He was not arbitrary.

Consider for a moment that God has not given you talent so that you can better serve your God-given purpose, which is to glorify Him with your untalented body.

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

Let us use our under-talented bodies to glorify God; motivated by a love for Him from a pure heart, good conscience and a sincere faith. We are the one who can do that the best – we were created for it.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the gifts that you have given me. Help me to use them to glorify you. Forgive me for using the talents that you have given me to seek the praise of men. Teach me how to use the talents that I have with a pure heart, good conscience and a sincere faith. Lord, thank you for the gifts that I don’t have. Thank you for depriving me of world class talent. Thank you for obscurity. Thank you for anonymity. Thank you for creating me just as I am so that I can better fulfill my purpose with all that I am, in purity and sincerity.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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A TALE OF TWO TRI’S – Sept 1

September 1, 2014

“For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” Psalms 149:4

The triathlon season has come to a close for me. I competed in only two events this summer, the Boise Ironman 70.3 and the Emmett Most Excellent Triathlon. I am confrontDSC_0085ed by very different emotions as I reminisce over the two events.

The Boise Ironman was an event that I trained specifically for. I blogged several times regarding my apprehensions associated with this new and longer distance. I had specific goals for each leg of the race.

I hoped to swim the 1.2 mile distance between 40 to 45 minutes.
I wanted to do the 56 mile bike in less than 3 hours.
All I wanted to do was survive the ½ marathon; my goal was a time of 2 hours 30 minutes.

swim-massThe swim was cold – frigid cold.  So cold, I wanted to quit when my head broke the surface for the first time. However, the race start filled me with enough adrenaline and coursing blood that cold water concerns quickly evaporated. I swam my typical serpentine route as I struggled to stay on course. Other than getting a little motion sickness from swimming through a couple wakes and drinking a couple waves, the swim went very well. I came out of the water right at 40 minutes. I was thrilled.

My official time corresponded well with my experience – 40:05, 2:04/100 average.

DSC_0108My plan on the bike was to ride within myself and stick to my nutrition and hydration schedule. I tried to maintain a speed of over 20 mph on the flat sections of the course, knowing that my average speed would suffer on the hills. Surprisingly, I was averaging just over 20 mph as I descended back into the City of Boise. However, my stomach threatened to revolt. I had been regularly drinking the Gatorade that I was packing and consuming a gel packet on the ½ hour. By mile 45, the thought of eating another gel pack made me want to vomit and I acquiesced to the will of my stomach when it sent up a warning “erp”. I slowly watched my average speed fall as I tried to manage the fatigue that was creeping into my legs. However, I still held onto my goal of finishing the ride in less than 3 hours. I chuckled when the timer beep signaled the end of my ride with only seconds to spare.

My official time corresponded well with my experience – 2:29:53, 18.68 mph average.

I transitioned to the run and into the unknown. I managed the first couple miles relatively respectfully. However, my heart rate began to rise and fatigue was setting in alarmingly fast. I changed to a run-walk strategy. I ran until my heart rate cliDSC_0110mbed to 160 bpm, when I would walk it back down to 140 bpm. I did this throughout the run and to my surprise it was a reasonably pleasant experience. I was going agonizingly slow as a constant stream of runners continued to pass me, but at this point I did not care.  I just wanted to finish. I shuffled over the finish line just over 2:30.

My official time corresponded well with my experience – 2:30:53, 11.31/mile average.

0727_010853Overall, I finished with a time of 6:17:27. I had hoped to finish at 6:15, but I was very satisfied with my performance. I was 68th out of the 105 athletes in my age group; my typical place in the meat of the bell curve. My experience corresponded well with the official results.

My second race of the season came after a week of business travel, followed by a week of County fair. I went to sleep after 11:30 PM following an evening at the 4-H and FFA livestock sell with the decision not to race the following morning. However, I awoke with plenty of time to make the race that I had pre-registered and paid for. I never have the opportunity for open water swims so I figured I would do the race for the swim and see what happened with everything else.

I had the best swim that I have ever had in a race. I swam a reasonably straight route and did not have any major corrections. For the first time, I did not even get caught up in the melee at the turning buoys. I focused on stretching long and felt like I was going fast; very few swimmers passed me. When I came out of the water, I discovered that I had missed the start button on my watch so I had no time. I came out just behind this young guy and felt very good about the fact that there were not very many athletes in the transition area.

My official time for the swim was 27:20, 1:40/100 average.

This time was only 20 seconds faster than my time last year. I felt so much faster than last year. Also, according to the official time, the guy coming out of the water ahead of me was 41 years old, not the twenty-nothing kid I had remembered. My experience did not correspond this official record.

I had a very good ride. I was feeling strong and did way more passing than being passed. I was averaging between 22-23 mph over most of the route. A young guy passed me on the most significant climb and we exchanged some words of condolence. He became my pace setter as we headed back to the City of Emmett. Some weird cross winds picked up over the last third course so I contented myself with riding between 20-21 mph. The last check of my average speed was 21.75 mph as I came into the City of Emmett.

My official time was 1:10:46, 21.07 mph average.

This time was actually 19 seconds slower than my time last year. That did not make any sense. I know I rode that course faster than last year. According to the official time, the young guy that paced me on the bike was actually the same 41 year old guy who came out of the water 2 seconds ahead of me. My wife videoed me coming into the bike-run transition area and also caught a glimpse of the rider just ahead of me. I found a picture of the athlete who should have been ahead of me according to the official records on Linkedin and checked it against the video. They don’t look like the same guy.

DSC_0309I began my run with the usual trepidation. The day was relatively cool and I was feeling good. The normal flow of runners passing me did not seem as ferocious as usual. I was hoping to run the 10K under 1 hour and after a first lap of just over 28 minutes, I was right on pace. I checked my watch regularly with about two miles to go. It was going to be close. I lengthened my stride and really started to dig deep over that last ½ mile and I was encouraged as I gobbled up several athletes who had passed me earlier. The last check of my watch as I headed down the final stretch put me under 59 minutes, I was going to make it. I crossed the finish line and as they were cutting my timing chip off of my ankle, I stopped my watch – 59:something. I had done it and came in under 1 hour.

My official time was 1:00:08, 9:41/mile average.

That was a 10 second per mile average improvement over last year but it did not correspond at all to my own time. By my reckoning, I should have been about a minute faster.

Overall, I finished with a time of 2:41:10. I was 6th out of the 13 athletes in my age group and exactly 1 minute faster than last year. However, my experience of the race tells me that I should have been knocking on the door of the podium.

I can easily accept the official results of the Boise Ironman because they are confirmed by my experience. I probably will never fully accept the official results of the Emmett Most Excellent Triathlon because they are so counter to what I experienced. However, the official results of both races stand, whether I accept them or not.

In many ways, the tale of these two triathlons illustrates one of the most significant stumbling blocks to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel tells us that every person is a sinner in need of a Savior. It tells us that we are not good. It tells us that we have rebelled against God and have earned the punishment of hell.

The Gospel is good news to those whose experience corresponds to the official record of the Bible. For these, Jesus Christ saves them from what they know they deserve and gives them what they could never earn.

The Gospel is a stumbling block to those whose experience tells them that they are good enough. Their experience has them comparing themselves to other people and concluding that they do not deserve condemnation. Their pride leads them to follow their own understanding and reject the official record of pending judgment.

Just as it is pride that elevates my race experience to equality with an official timekeeper, it is pride that keeps a person from acknowledging his place before God and keeps God from exalting him. It is pride that makes people believe that they deserve the podium.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:10)

At the end of the age, it is only the official record that will stand. It will not matter whether we agree with it or not. All will be humbled before the splendor of His majesty. All pride will crumble and utterly pass away before the Lord.

And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,
And the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.(Isaiah 2:17)

Don’t wait until that day to let go of your pride for then it will be too late. Today is the day to accept the official record of the Lord God and to receive the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for breaking my pride and enabling me to see past my experience and to the truth of your Word.   Forgive me for reverting back to that old pride and not living daily in the good news of the Gospel.  Lord, enable me to not think of myself.  Help to keep my eyes firmly fixed upon you. Father, break down the stumbling block of pride that is keeping the lost focused upon their personal experience.  Call them to yourself and salvation.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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THE DAY FOR MEDIATION – August 5

August 5, 2014

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6

 Mediation is a process intended to intervene in a dispute in order to resolve it. The success of mediation depends upon the disputing parties’ willingness to resolve the conflict. A mediator will never be successful if either or both disputants are unwilling to resolve that which separates them. 

Mediation%20BacksI was reminded of this prerequisite during a mediation I recently participated in.  I have blogged several times about a dispute that has entangled my company for several years.

 But I Don’t Wanna to be Slapped
Dealing with Troubles
A Prayerful Run
Struggle to Forgive – Again

 As you can see, this lawsuit has been looming in the back of my mind for years. While confident that a court will vindicate our reputation, the cost and uncertainty of litigation motivated us to count the days to mediation.  I was looking forward to the appointed day of mediation.  I was optimistic that our antagonist was finally ready to resolve this seemingly endless dispute.

It has been over five years since this chasm destroyed the relationship of a long-term client. We had been their trusted advisor for more than ten years and had successfully completed hundreds of projects. Yet, that history was tossed away like rubbish when a problem arose on a significant project.

Millions of dollars (literally millions) have subsequently been spent in adherence to recommendations of new advisors. Advisors, who have reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars destroying a relationship based upon lies and mis-information in my opinion.

They have thrown treasure after a course of action without ever seeking a response to their accusations. They have readily believed the words of  “professionals” with whom they have no history, without even inquiring the opinion of the professionals with whom they have known for years to faithfully pursue their best interest.

They have swallowed the lie and have become liars. They only know one-side of the story yet they willingly followed the lie because it promises to provide the delight of their eyes that their accounts cannot afford. They believe it to such an extent that they cannot conceive of a necessity to mediate. Therefore, they rejected the opportunity to resolve our dispute and will continue their legal intrigues, sacrificing their integrity in pursuit of misguided opportunity.

The failure of this mediation means that this all too familiar burden will probably be carried into the coming year and beyond. This blog post has taken me several iterations to write as I have once again been confronted with the anger and forgiveness that this conflict distills to the surface of my mind. It is difficult to sit across the table from individuals who have plotted the destruction of your livelihood.

Yet, I should not be surprised by the conflict I find myself entangled in. I should be thankful that it does not happen more often because the basis of the dispute has been the scourge of man since the beginning. I am reminded of the first ancient lie that was blindly followed.

 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:4)

 Adam and Eve believed what the serpent said; willingly accepting this new advisor because his words promised the delight of their eyes. They blindly followed words that they wanted to be true and never went back to God to confirm the words of the serpent or to get the other side of the story.

Since Adam and Eve, all of mankind has followed in the legacy of that first lie. The result of blindly following lies has resulted in conflict between God and every individual who has walked the surface of this earth. Every person has broken the righteous requirement of God’s law.

We all have a choice – take our chances in front of the judgment seat of God or meditate.

The good news is that God has provided us a mediator. He has sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, to condemn the sin in our flesh and to resolve our dispute with Him.

Art4TheGlryOfGod / Foter / CC BY-ND

However, the success of mediation depends upon the disputing parties’ willingness to resolve the conflict. God is willing. He has done His part. He is willing to accept the ransom of Jesus Christ, the propitiation for our sins. However, this divine mediation will never be successful if a person is unwilling to resolve that which separates him from God.

Divine meditation is God’s greatest gift to mankind.

Don’t reject His mediator, Jesus Christ. Don’t blindly believe whatever lie that promises to grant you the delight of your eyes. If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as the ransom for your sins, then you are still in conflict with the God.

Come to the mediation table God has prepared. Come with a willing heart and receive forgiveness of your sins and be reconciled with God.

The opportunity to mediate will not last forever – today may be your appointed day for mediation.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the gift of mediation.  Thank you for giving your Son as a mediator.  Forgive me for so often believing the lies of the world and following after whatever is delightful to  my eyes.  Thank you for forgiving me.  Help me to forgive others.  Thank you for reminding me that our greatest need is to resolve the dispute with you caused by our sin.  Open the eyes fo those who do not know you.  Call them to your mediation table and show them their need to mediate.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

 

 

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MASTER OF OFFENSE – July 25

July 25, 2014

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all thing, endures all things. Love never ends…” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

taken___liam_neeson_by_antsupoju1-d4z8mwd

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you have emotional expectations, I can tell you I have limited means to fulfill them. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a life time. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you walk away, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will be your friend, I will be your confidant, and I will offend you.”

I have a particular set of skills; skills meriting a warning as ominous as that given in the movie Taken.

All who share my particular skill set understand the latent hazard that we represent.   We are a very dangerous subset of the population, easily blending into the masses.

However, our skills are often exposed despite our best attempts to befriend. The practitioners of the art of offense tend to be naturally gifted. We rarely have to think about our art.

We have an ingenious ability to select the most inappropriate combination of words.

 Our simple mis-timed questions can re-infuse the socially diffused.

We can build the harshest of corners by a mere sequence of honest observations.

We can block  social cues in a focused demonstration of our skills.

And that is without even trying.

The reality is that all humans are skilled in the art of offense but there are a special few who are masters.  The masters of offense have a unique ability to separate thought and love. Love should pilot thought. However, the truly offensive allow their thoughts to range far from the constraints of love.

Thought can be freed to search the bounds of circumspect.
It can peer past emotions and formalities for dispassionate assessment.
Thought can fly free beyond reality into blissful imagination.
It can dive deep into the depths of hidden meanings and intents.

Yet, thought unguided by love is destined to the shackle of disdain; the prison of all offensive masters.
Love is what frees thought to become all that it was intended.

Love allows thought to persuade.
Love soothes accurate assessment.
Love returns fragrance after thought’s searing.
Love hinders speculation.
Love binds lips opened by thought.

imagesCAENI4DCDespite my skills, I don’t want to be a hazard to others. I don’t want unfettered thoughts, freed to practice the skillful art of offense. I have tasted too often the bitter loss wrought by those skills. Since I can be naturally offensive, my focus must be on yielding to the mastery of love. My thoughts must cling to the course set by love. Love will faithfully guide thought to kind and patient response.  Love pulls thought from envy or boasting and away from arrogance.  Love enables thought to accept someone elses way and soothes thought’s resent and irritation.

Thought produces wonder actions.  Thought gives life to all of our gifts but it is love that produces the fruits of the Spirit in thought because love always returns to the Father – the source of love. Love delivers our thoughts to the Father; thoughts set upon the Father produce more love for the Father and our neighbor.

God is glorified only when Love and Thought are connected.

Thought and love cannot be separated for the Christian – it is our DNA.

Therefore, no Christian is obligated to live a life dominated by their offensive skills. Our warnings can fall away as our thoughts yield to His love because we are new creatures, created with a new DNA of love and thought.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for making me a new creation.  Thank you for bonding my thoughts to your love.  Forgive me for breaking those bonds and allowing my thoughts to wander unrestrained.  Forgive me for not loving my neighbor as you do. I don’t want my thoughts to wander from you.  Tune my thoughts to sing your praise.  Let thy love, like a fetter bind my wandering thoughts to thee.(Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing)  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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A FABULOUS PAIR OF LEGS – July 13

July 13, 2014

“Thus you will recognize them by their fruit.” Matthew 7:20

English: Recreational floaters on the Boise Ri...

My family and I recently floated the Boise River. While we waited in the rental line, I noticed a man in line before us. This man was probably in his fifth decade but he had a striking characteristic. He had fabulous legs. He did not have the legs of a middle-aged man. His legs were so distinct that I nudged my wife and whispered, “Check out the legs on that dude.”

the-razors-edgeThese were legs to be admired. They were chiseled masterpieces of bronzed muscle. The definition of his calf muscles hinted to a power unusual for a man of his age. The large veins that traveled along the inside of the ankle were visible up across his shins noting an uncommon endurance. It was obvious that these fabulous legs had been crafted over years of rigorous training and hours of intense activity. These sorts of legs don’t just happen.

These were the legs of an athlete.

It did not take much insight to determine what activity had crafted these legs. The tan-lines had distinct edges starting just above the ankle and ending just beyond the knee. However, the conclusive clue was what was missing. There was a feature normal to a man that was absent from these legs.

His upper body demonstrated a genetic ability to grow a furry coat. However, the legs contradicted his natural state. These legs had been groomed clean. There is only one type of athlete, who has legs that are muscled to the point of veins, tanned in this particular pattern, and shaven.tan-lines1

These were the legs of a cyclist – a long-time cyclist.

As I admired these fabulous legs, I narcissistically wondered what the person behind me thought about my legs. I wondered if my athleticism was as evident in my conditioning. As I glanced back at my own calves, giving them a little flex, I questioned how well my continence revealed the passions of my life to an examining eye.

Beyond my vanity, the important passion of life looms large. I really care very little about getting recognized for a great pair of legs. However, there are characteristics that I hope are recognizable in a casual observation.

Does the person next in line see self-control in my behavior?
Has my wife come to expect gentleness in my response?
Are my kids accustomed to patience and kindness in my reactions?
Do my co-workers consider me a peaceful person?
Would my biography describe me as a joyful and good man?
Am I recognized by love and faithfulness?

Our passions are obvious to those around us and the fruit of our lives are revealed in a myriad of manners. I hope that we all can be identified by characteristics that are more important than a fabulous pair of legs.

PRAYER: Father, I want to be known by the fruit of your Spirit.  I want to be recognized as a child of God.  Lord, continue your work within my heart.  Transform me into your likeness.  May the world see you in my life for your glory.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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HOME – June 24

June 24, 2014

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:15-17

Adirondack Hotel room

The familiar chime from the cell phone slowly lures a reluctant mind back to awareness. A pale orange light sneaks between the voids of drawn shades to cast a dim tint to a small simple room. I squint to see the blurry view as I roll onto my back and crane my head from pillows that had failed to provide a restful sleep.

A flat screen television sits atop a cabinet across from the foot of the bed. An open suitcase with clothes strewn within sets upon a stand along the adjoining wall. I swing my gaze to the night stand at the edge of my bed. Amongst the jumble of receipts, gum package, wallet, cell phone, and pocket change, I reach for my eyeglasses.

The action of restoring my vision brings me to full awareness of my surrounding. The annoying buzz of an air conditioner; the strange fragrance of cleaning agents masking previous inhabitants, a generic interior design, a comfortable but comfortless bed, all confirm that I am in yet another unfamiliar hotel room. However, I am very excited that this is my last night, at least for this trip.

Today, I am going home.

Throughout this week-long business trip, I have met pleasant people, experienced new areas, completed successful meetings,secured future work, eaten good food, yet, I have longed for home. I have missed my wife and kids. I have missed the place where I belong. I have missed the familiar of belonging.

Airport Wait TransferThe desire for home is a powerful emotion. Many a weary traveler has made the lament at the end of a long trip of  “I just want to get home”. I wonder if our intense desire for home was given to us to draw us to something more than a place and those who love us.

Our desire for home draws us back.
Home causes us to not to be satisfied with the amenities of a journey.
Home encourages us to complete the journey to its final destination – the place we belong.

I have the propensity to seek the comfortable. I long to be satisfied and contented in my place. I am easily enticed by the amenities lining the pathways of life. All these conflicting desires could easily loosen the draw to my eternal home. Therefore, I know that I need encouragement to not be satisfied with the “cheap hotels” of this journey.

I wonder how many of the struggles of life are given to us as encouragements to continue in that journey; to roust us from false contentment or nudge us from debilitating disappointment.

Any traveler who loses sight of home will be lost.

When I travel, I am thinking of my home. I talk with my wife and kids at night. I desire to stay connected to all that is transpiring while I am gone. I plan my route of return. I long for the ease of my household, the comfort of my bed, the view from my porch, and the belonging of family.

Likewise, the journeying Christian should be equally preoccupied by their thoughts of home.

We are not of this world. We are traveling through it to our eternal home. When we set our mind on the things of the Spirit, we are setting our mind on Home. We are relishing the intense desire for home that was given to us in order to draw us to the place of our inheritance and the One who loves us.

The draw of the Spirit is the source of the lament of many a weary traveler explaining “I just want to get home”. May we be grateful for that lament because it keeps us moving to the Hope that will never disappoint.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for calling me Home.  Thank you for reminding me that this world has nothing for me in comparison to you. Keep me from settling on the amenities of this journey.  Keep me moving toward you.  Draw me Home.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen (This is Home – Switchfoot)

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DISCOURAGING SHADOWS – May 9

May 9, 2014

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” Proverbs 4:18

I don’t like my shadow!

I have been spending a lot of time running. I am still building up my running miles for the Boise Ironman 70.3. I ran 10.6 miles (17.06 km) last night with two more weeks left to top 13 miles before starting to taper down prior to race day. As a result, my shadow and I have been spending a lot of time together on the lonely rural roads of my running routes.

Running is far more mental than you might think. It is very easy to fall out of form. I try to concentrate on a high cadence, feet landing under me at mid-sole, chest forward, arms pumping like a gun-slinger, and deep breathing. It feels great when it all comes together.

57536-largest_2012KonaTop15run4I feel like an athlete when I hit that rhythm in form. Images of my favorite triathlon videos play in my mind:

Bevan Docherty – Super-human Triathlon Sprint Finish
Crazy sprint finish between Javier Gomez & Jonathan Brownlee

My imagination paints the course of my impending race over the abandoned fields. I can envision myself running with long, fluid strides trailing behind me, speeding me to the finish line.

At a glance, my shadow crushes these delusions. When I look about me, I will catch a sight of my shadow. My shadow does not remind me of the runners in my favorite videos. It reminds me of Forest Gump and not the young Forest Gump but the desert shuffling Forest Gump. My strides look short and my torso looks fat as my shadow mockingly shuffles beside me.

forrest-gump-the-original-ultra-runnerI don’t like my shadow because it conveys a truth that is not helpful to dwell upon – I am sliding to 50 years old; I’ve been running (inconsistently) for less than 3 years; I can still lose another 10 pounds; and I am slow. Dwelling upon what I am, does not deliver me to what I am becoming and does not let me enjoy how far I have come.

surreal-running-shadow-scaledTherefore, I prefer to run into the sun. When I run to the sun, my shadow falls behind me and out of sight. I still am who I am – a middle-aged guy trying to stay in shape.  I know that I will never be an elite athlete,  but that reality does not need to steal the joy of being a triathlete and participating in the race.

Many people don’t realize that we cast a similar spiritual shadow. As Christians, we are being transformed from one degree to another into the image of Christ. We travel down our God-ordained paths of righteousness with the light of Dawn shining upon us; the Son illuminating our lives as we follow Him. However, the enlightenment of the Spirit will cast a shadow from all the areas of our lives that remain sinful and disobedient.

We can see who we were in our spiritual shadows. We can see all those areas of our lives where the righteousness of Christ has not cast away all darkness. I get discouraged by glimpses of my spiritual shadow – those plaguing sins; those inconsistent disciplines; those worldly loves; the slow pace of my sanctification.  In the past, I have become so discouraged that I questioned my salvation.  Focusing on my spiritual shadow resulted in a joyless religion.  Dwelling upon my sin never delivered me to what Jesus is making me and never raised praise in how much I have been transformed.

businessman-running-to-the-sunrise-with-his-shadowTherefore, I prefer to travel the path of righteousness with my face toward the Son. When I consciously focus my mind on the things of the Spirit, my spiritual shadow falls behind me and out of sight. This is not to minimize sin and the need to faithfully follow Christ, but that work is in front of us. What we have been or who we are, does not dictate who we are transformed into when our lives are illuminated by Christ.  I might never be an elite man of faith.  I know that I am a sinner in need of a Savior.  I also know that I am a Child of God with a seat at His table and that is more than enough to motivate me to continue in the joy of my salvation.

Don’t allow the joy of your salvation to be stolen
by focusing on your spiritual shadow.

Focus on the Son and enjoy the work of the Spirit in your life.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for redeeming.  Thank you for sanctifying me.  Turn my eyes toward you and away from all my continued failings.  Father, keep my face turned towards, you as I walk in the light of your Son as I continue along the path of righteousness that you have laid before me.  Keep me from being discouraged by my spiritual shadow.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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