Archive for the ‘Christian Living’ Category

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“LOW VALUE PROBLEM SOLVING” – Feb. 3

February 3, 2017

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!”  Psalm 72:18-19

The following is a devotion I was allowed to share with students at a recent NCFCA National Open tournament in Spokane, WA.  I hope you find it encouraging.


Iintel have been reading a book by Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, called “High Output Management”.  It is not a Christian book and I don’t know if Andy Grove was a Christian.  This is, as the title suggests, a book on management.

I read a statement in his book regarding the manufacturing process that I found profound enough to post it on Instagram (@blom.jd), which is the true measurement of a quote.  I believe this singular sentence encapsulates a truth that goes beyond the production of widgets or the motivation of employees.  He stated:

 A common rule we should always try to heed is to detect and fix any problem in a production process at the lowest-value stage possible.

Obviously, the context of his statement is manufacturing.  Simply, it is better to remedy a problem as close to the raw materials of a manufacturing process as possible.  It really is a common-sense statement.  It is always better to discover a problem before you make continued investments of time, money, intellect, and a myriad of resources.

However, there is a universality of this simple principle that goes beyond business.  Simply change the words, production process, and you may see a much wider application.

A common rule we should always try to heed is to detect and fix a problem in our relationships, friendships, school studies, debate case, speeches, at the lowest-value stage possible.  Doesn’t that make sense?

When is the best time to dump a problematic debate case or a cluttered speech?

At the last tournament, after you have invested much time and effort or
before the season even begins?

Obviously, it will be far better to address the problem before the season starts,
at the lowest-value stage.

It makes sense.

This morning I look out and see a crowd of individuals who are at a very low-value stage.  Now, don’t be offended; “he called me low-value”.  I did not.  I am observing that most of you are at the beginning of your potential.  You are at the starting line of a myriad of different paths.  Soon, you will be making massive investments in the subsequent steps on your individual paths that we call life.

Therefore, is it not sensible to try to detect and
fix any problems at this early stage in your life?

I can tell you as a middle-aged man who has had to address problems later in life, at “higher value” stages of life, that it gets much more difficult and messy the longer you wait to address a problem.  Therefore, my first advice to you this morning is to live by the simple principle:

It is far better to detect and fix problems when they are small and manageable,
before they become difficult and messy problems.

The Jonathan Edwards Collection 20 Classic Works Kindle EditionMy next advice is associated with how to detect and fix these small problems in our lives, which leads me to another book I am reading, the Complete works of Jonathan Edwards.  The other day I posted this quote from my readings to Instagram.

Let us endeavor to obtain, and increase in, a sensibleness of our great dependence on God, to have our eye to him alone, to mortify a self-dependent and self-righteous disposition.

I look out upon you all this morning, and I see the sovereign hand of God.  I see a generation being raised in the power of the Holy Spirit for the challenges of a time yet to come.  I see excellence elicited, skills sharpened, intellect ignited for what, I do not know but I do know that it is for a purpose.

This is all for a purpose.

Therefore, I implore you this morning hear Jonathan Edwards’ advice because I know of few problems that have a greater potential to seep into your life and ruin all of this wonderful potential then problems from the seeds of self-dependence and self-righteousness.  If you do not detect them early then they will manifest themselves later in your life, at higher-value stages, when it will be much more painful and destructive.

  • Take on an attitude of imperfection; continually, daily, seeking out problems before they are difficult and messy problems.
  • Endeavor to obtain and increase in the sensibleness of your complete dependence on God; it truly is sensible – learn what that means and increase in that understanding.
  • Start a practice of setting your eyes on Him alone. Learn how to control your mind.
  • Start a practice of mercilessly putting to death an attitude of self-dependence.  You are who you are by the grace of God alone.
  • Prune every bud of self-righteousness, before you and others are forced to taste its bitter fruit.

I earnestly encourage you, today, to live a life that endeavors to set your mind on the things of the Spirit.  Allow the Spirit today, through the grace of God, to increase your dependence on the one who has rescued your soul and be obedient to your calling.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray that you will reveal the roots of self-dependence, the buds of self-righteousness that we are harboring unaware.  Show us how sensible it is to depend upon you.  Empower us in our endeavor to live a life that is killing self-dependence and self-righteousness and glorifies you in all that we do.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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“GLORY OF THE BONSAI” – March 19

March 19, 2016

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith”.’”  Romans 1:17

CLF - Olmstead ParksHe gazes out the window upon a familiar sight.
The Big Oak swaying in the breeze.

Dominating the landscape, it sends limbs far into the sky.
Within it canopy, countless birds find rest and make a nest.

No river is too far for its driving roots.
It drinks deeply from an unseen source.

The Gardener delights in it’s canopy.
The Gardener delights in it’s cool shade.

The Gardener loves the Big Oak.

He looks at his small branches.
They don’t even eclipse the table.
Why don’t they reach the sky?

Although, he has tried.
He tries to send them high.
But every time, they’re clipped short.

It is as if he is bound and pulled down.

He looks at his shallow roots.
They don’t even fill the divot in the a rock.
He knows they need to go deep.

Although, he has tried.
He tries to send them deep.
But every time, they’re rolled in a ball.

It is as if he is contained and drained.

The Big Oak is so much better.
How can the Gardener delight in his canopy?
How can the Gardener delight in his cool shade?

The Gardener will never love him as that Big Oak.

Unseen hands rotate him and he looks out a new pane.

Malus_hupehensis01
He sees the Big Apple Tree.

Its branches are filled with fruit.
The harvest is full.  Worker’s baskets overflow.

It produces a 100 fold, maybe more.
It’s fruit will bless tables far and wide.

It’s roots pull in nutrients for each blossom to grow.
It’s branches are thick;
they can bear the load of fruit, multi-fold.

The Gardener delights in it’s sweet fruit.
The Gardener delights in it’s abundance.

The Gardener love the Big Apple Tree.

He looks at his single cone.
It is so very small.
He knows there should be more.

Although, he has tried.
He tries to grow more.
But every time, it takes so long.

It is as if he lacks the power to grow.

The Big Apple Tree is so much better.
How can the Gardener delight in his produce?
How can the Gardener delight in his abundance?

The Gardener will never love him as that Big Apple Tree.

Doors are opened.
People line up in single file, along every aisle.
He doesn’t know what for.

A party ensues.
Happy faces filled with congratulations.
Pictures are taken with a group all around;
But he doesn’t know what for.

The people leave and the doors are closed.
The Big Oak sees him through the right pane.
The Big Apple Tree sees him through the left.
Bonsai_IMG_6408He sits in a house of brick and glass.
He’s been given the best location; a centerpiece.
This house was built for him alone.

He resides upon a table of stone, made for him long ago.

Ribbons hang along every wall.
Awards and plaques are stacked in trophy cases.
They attest to his “best in show”.

The Gardener spends innumerable hours with him;
more than with the Oak or Apple tree.
Pruning every leaf, wiring every branch, binding every root.

The Gardener has made him a work of art.

The Gardener delights in his canopy.
It was never intended to provide shade.
The exacting artistry of the Gardener is reflected in every shape.

The Gardener delights in his produce.
A single fruit is precious.
The Gardener knows what He has given.

The Gardener is perfecting it all.

As long as he compares himself to those who have been given more;
As long as he believes that he is in control;
As long as he doubts the hand of the Gardener;

He will never know that he is the Gardener’s pride and joy.


I don’t know why some have been gifted with amazing minds while others struggle for a coherent thought.

I don’t know why some have been gifted to capture a stadium while other can’t even get their pet’s attention.

I don’t know why some have been miraculously freed from addiction while others continue  stumbling in their temptation.

I don’t know why some have been given health while others linger in affliction.

I don’t know why some have been given wealth while others have to scrape for every penny.

I don’t think we are supposed to know.

Consider the glory from weakness; blessed are the poor in spirit.
Consider the glory from hurting; blessed are those who mourn.
Consider the glory from humiliation; blessed are the meek.

Each is a pruning, binding, training.

We are called to live by faith, which is a gift of God.  We are called to live under exacting artistry of the One who is the author and perfecter of our faith.

Therefore, you can trust that all the pruning, binding, and training has a purpose.  It frees you to simply be.

You are being created into a work of art, exactly the way the Master wants you to be.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for perfecting.  Thank you for giving me gifts and depriving me of others.  Father, I place all my trust in you.  Help me to live by faith.  Help me to worry less about what I need for tomorrow and focus on the blessing I can be today for your glory.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

This post was inspired by the bonsai video and the amount of effort and time it took to create this tree.

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“BIRDS OF A FEATHER…” – Feb. 29

February 29, 2016

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  John 10:27

Cowboy_popup-webMy wife and I recently were in a local appliance store.  As we perused our freezer options, a cowboy sauntered in from the back of the store.   I say sauntered because that is exactly how he walked.  His boots making the familiar clack-tap with each step on the hardwood floor.  It seemed like a slow, relaxed echo from a saloon of the old-west.

As I turned, I saw exactly what I expected to see.  The epitome of a cowboy -worn cowboy boots with a little manure clinging to the heel, Wrangler jeans, large belt buckle of rodeo origin, leather vest over a western shirt, a handle-bar mustache, and a dirty black cowboy hat.

I watched him make his transaction and he sounded exactly as I expected.  He talked with the cashier in a slow, western drawl, about the weather, hunting, work to be done, and the superiority of cash to credit cards as he pulled two hundred dollars of twenties from his leather wallet.

“Now, there is a unique individual”, I thought but then I immediately wondered “is he?”  Could he really be my personified ideal of an individual if I knew exactly what he would look and sound like?  He was the epitome of cowboy; that is not unique.

In a society that idealizes the concept of individualism, I see few examples of truly unique individuals.

Consider the labels:   Cowboy Nerd Hipster Poet Biker Goth Academic Artsy Devote Musician

The images associated with these labels that flash through our brains are probably very similar.  There are stereotypes for even those who many consider the most unique of our society.

It seems that there are few truly distinct individuals and I wonder the extent to which any human lives uniquely.  Even the most unique among us still end up in some stereotypical flock.  We often confuse individualism with genius or exceptionalism or independence.  For me, the truly unique individual is the one who lives outside the imposed influence of society in general and his own neighborhood in specific.

Yet, is that even possible?  More importantly, is that a state that should be desired?

I was recently watching some videos on birds flocking.

The mesmerizing movement of these flocks make it seem like an orchestrated control over the mass.  Yet, we know that the actions are the agglomeration of each animal’s individual decisions based upon a local perception of their surrounding.

Science does not know how birds flock without sheer chaos and crashes.  Wayne Potts studied birds flocking in 1984.  He found that the turning of flock can spread from bird to bird three times faster than any individual bird’s reaction time.  This suggests that there is not much thinking occurring within each individual bird as they fly along.  They are most likely responding unconsciously to the actions around them.

The most interesting explanation of this phenomenon has come through the attempts to simulate flocking in computer animation.   Craig Reynolds developed three rules that are still the basis of flocking simulations:

  1. Avoid collisions with nearby flockmates
  2. Attempt to match the speed of nearby flockmates; collisions are unlikely if the velocity of the individuals are similar.
  3. Attempt to stay close to the nearby flockmates; there is a stronger influence of nearby neighbors than distant members of the flock.

I wonder, if we could achieve a broader perspective, whether the activities of man would appear more like the random motion of a flock’s unconscious decisions rather than a choreographed pattern of deliberated reason.

How many times have you wondered, “how did I get here”?

Just as a bird may be baffled by how it came to alight in a field miles from its origin, I often feel swept away from principles and priorities to find myself in a cultural landscape far from my origin.  We are all influenced by friends and family.  We are inundated by beliefs and values through education and entertainment.  It seems as if norms are cast aside without much thought or consideration.

I’m baffled by where we often find ourselves.

I wonder if we humans are more influenced by the Reynolds’ rules of flocking than we care to admit.  Soren Kierkegaard referred to it as being lost to the finite, which is mindlessly following social conventions.  It is accepting the current paradigm of expectations without consideration.  Consider the bird in a flock; that bird probably thinks that it is acting as an individual but it is really at the mercy of those around it.  That bird has lost its individuality to the finite influences of the flock.

The scary part is that the bird doesn’t even realize what it has lost
– its individuality.

Let’s use Reynolds’ rules of flocking to evaluate the individuality of our personal decision making:

  1. Are you conflict adverse? Will you go along with ideas or activities that you don’t agree with simply because you don’t want to offend or be excluded?  If your first tendency is to subjugate your actions to those of others, then you might be flocking.
  2. Do you simply accept the ideas of experts? Do you match the actions of those you respect because surely they have thought it through?  If your tendency is to receive thoughts rather than think them, then you might be flocking.
  3. Is your identity associated with affiliations? Do you follow along with the group for fear of being left behind?  If you tend to move with your community even when it is turning away from core beliefs, then you might be flocking.

Every person who has bucked these rules have found themselves outside the flock.  I think that the reason we see so few true individuals is due to the fact that living outside the flock is hard.  In fact, I don’t think that we were ever meant to live outside the flock.

The problem is that we often choose the wrong flock.

I believe that we created flock.  We were created to flock to God.  We were meant to instinctively know and follow God.  The problem arises when we substitute the voice of God with the voice of man.

The truly unique individual is the one following the voice of the Shepherd because only He truly knows each person in the unique personhood.  True self is only found in relationship with God.

Let’s use Reynolds’ rules of flocking to consider what flocking to God might look like:

  1. You avoid collisions with God. You know that sin causes conflict with the Shepherd.  Therefore, you strive toward obedience to the will of God in your life.  If your first tendency is to subjugate your actions to God, then you’re probably flocking to your Shepherd.
  2. You match everything to the Word of God. You don’t simply accept the ideas of others but you examine those ideas to the scriptures to see if they are true.  When you match your beliefs with the Bible, collision with God are unlikely and you’re probably flocking to your Shepherd.
  3. You strive to stay close to the leadings of the Spirit. The Shepherd takes each of us through life with many meandering turns.  If your tendency is to follow even when you don’t understand, then you’re probably flocking to your Shepherd.

The Church should be a conglomeration of truly unique individuals.  It should be a beautiful flow of individuals, each participating from their unique personhood revealed through their relation to the Good Shepherd.

There should be a stereotypes for those who are in Christ – the image of Christ and the Fruit of the Spirit.  Unfortunately, that is often not the stereotype that Christians are known for.  The problem rises from the fact that too many who profess Christ are still lost in the finite and flocking to the mentality of man.

We, as unique individuals in Christ, have the continuous task of keeping our flocking instinct focused on the correct initiator.  The hardest of all tasks is to recognize when we are quietly losing our self to the influences of the world rather than influencing it.

quote-Henry-Ward-Beecher

Living as a unique individual in relation to God is rare because it is hard.

Obedience to God will result in conflict with people.
You may be hated for your refusal to follow the flow of man.
“…but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world,
therefore the world hates you.”  John 15:19b
But take heart, God has overcome the world!
We will always be secure.

Following the Bible as the inspired Word of God will result in being excluded.
You may be ridiculed for clinging to traditions or supposed doctrines of bygone days.
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?  
There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  Proverbs 26:12
But take heart, we have a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,
the hope of those who through faith and patience
will inherit the promise – eternal life.

Following the path God has laid before you will result in periods of isolation.
You may find yourself abandoned and alone as others drift after the ideas of man.
“I know your works.  Behold, I have set before you an open door,
which no one is able to shut.  I know that you have but little power,
and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”  Rev. 3:8
But take heart, we are never abandoned or forsaken.  
We are loved!

Living as a truly unique individual, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, will be hard but the promise of the joy set before us will be so worth all that we may have to patiently endure.  Keep your eye on Jesus!  He will never fail you.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to truly follow you and you alone.  Help me to hear you voice.  Show me where I am being influenced by the ideas and opinions of people.  Enable me to resist my inclinations to go along with the flock.  Give me strength to stand alone.  Give me endurance to stay on course to the open door that you have laid before me.  Help me to keep your word.  Father, I want to imitate you.  I want to be a reflection of your loving kindness. I want to embody the hope that you have given me.  Lord, may all I do bring glory to your name.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

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“LOSE IT” – Feb. 22

February 22, 2016

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  1 Corinthians 9:25

“How could I have let this happen?”

This was my thought as I stepped off of the scales about a month ago.  In April of 2015, I wrote FAT DENIED  which chronicled my struggle with weight.  After writing that post, I continued to lose weight and got down to 182 lb.lose-weight-now-300x200

I felt great. 

My Strava account  testifies to the fact that I broke more PRs (personal records) from April through September, 2015 than at any other time.  I had demonstrated that the unnecessary layer of fat around my torso was the great hindrance to my athletic performance.  I was committed to keeping the weight off.

And then, the off-season happened;
My calendar cleared of all races;
Daylight savings robbed me of training after work;
And I ate my way through the holidays.

I was staring in disgust at a number on my scale that I had allowed to happen in just 4 months.  I had never wanted to see 190 lbs. again and here I was staring at 200 lbs.

“How could I have let this happen?”

Actually, I know exactly how it happened.  It is not a mystery.

I lacked self-control.

I ate more food than my activity level could burn off.  A snack here and there.  I ate a little extra of this and that.  I had maybe seconds and sometimes thirds, which was all  it took to make the numbers on the scale start to climb.   I am frustrated and disappointed with myself because this is completely on me.

I lacked self-control.

So, I have started again.  I have begun to lose that same 20 lbs. but I am not following a diet.  I am not subscribing to some method.  My weight loss strategy is simply self-control.  I have already learned what I should be eating.  I know how to exercise.

My issue is self-control.

Therefore, I am utilizing a self-control tool.  I am using the LOSE IT! app to help me maintain self-control.  I am not dieting.  I am seeking to live a balanced life.   After I reach my weight goal, I want my calories in to be roughly equal to my calories out.  I want to lose weight at this time.  So, I want my calories in to be less than my calories out.  I need data to help my self-control.

The LOSE IT app allows me to set a weight goal level and the date that I want to achieve it.  Based on those parameters, I have a daily calorie account.  I log what I eat and the app tallies it up.  I log my exercise and the app subtracts the calories burned from my total.  The goal is to keep each day below my daily calorie total.

I have found it to be an incredibly helpful self-control tool.

Several times I have climbed on by bicycle trainer, when I didn’t feel like it, simply to burn some calories because I had eaten too much.
I have foregone seconds and certainly thirds because I know how many calories that I have left for the day.
I am better at keeping my hand out of the nut jar because I know how many calories are in a handful.

I realize that some will think that I am being legalistic about my use of the LOSE IT app.  However, they don’t value my goals.  What they term legalistic, I define as self-control.  I wish that I did not need to use the LOSE IT app.  I know a buffet is not beneficial for me.  I wish that I could be free to eat whatever I wanted without any detrimental effects to my goals.   I can’t.

I lack self-control.

I could not help but think of the spiritual application of my recent weight gain experience.  Paul encourages us to live a life of self-control.

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  1 Corinthians 9:27

What does a self-control life look like to you? 
I think many may be too quick to confuse self-control with legalism.

The problem with legalism is that it is self-control with the wrong goal.  Legalism seeks righteousness through works but lack love for God.  Self-control seeks to love God by eliminating the stumbling blocks to our weaknesses.  I know that all things are free to me but all things are not beneficial.

I have to live in the world but I don’t want to be of the world.  Therefore, I can only consume a certain amount of the world; I have to exercise the spiritual disciplines to stay strong.   This is how I maintain a balanced spiritual life.

Some may criticize me for being legalistic.
Others may call me licentious.

However, I know what my spiritual goals are.  I know the race that I am in.  I am not running aimlessly.  I am not boxing as one beating the air.  I have learned the areas in which I have freedom and those in which I need self-control.  I know how to practice the spiritual disciplines.OpenBible

Based on those parameters, I strive to live as one who is running to obtain the prize.

How about you?

Do you have a spiritual goal?
Do you know your weaknesses?
Do you practice any spiritual disciplines?

Are you running to obtain the prize?

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for giving me a hope that surpasses this world.  Thank you for completing the work  you have started in me.  Thank you for giving me weakness.  Thank you for teaching me discipline.  Father, help me to live a balanced life that strives to glorify you.   Help me to be in the world but not of it.  Enable me to run as one running to obtain the prize.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Please feel free to follow me on Strava or Lose It!

Francis Chan

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“RAISING THE UNDEAD” (Part 1) – Jan. 30

January 30, 2016

“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  Matthew 7:14

The group had been trudging for days along the wet, desolate, and narrow way.  They had been skirting a monolith, silently resting to the south, covered with a black cloud perpetually weeping over it.  They stared in dread of this place, always filling the periphery of their vision, knowing all too well the horror that lay within.

The dirt road meandered endless ahead, being lost to sight behind rocky climbs, just to suddenly reappear as a silhouetted streak across distant meadow, only to be lost again as it dipped over the horizon.  However, the oppressive presence of what they simply call the Place, suppressed the chatter of even the most stringent follower of this normally joyful fellowship.  Silence clung to the travelers each time the narrow path swung into close proximity of the Place.

The narrow road was navigating a circuitous route around the monochromatic city lying below, filling a landscape of hewed hills and diverted streams.  There were many diverting roads along the narrow path.  Each beckoning the earthly into the unearthly with an avenue of wide, smooth pavement, gently descending as if following a meandering stream into a welcoming reservoir.  However, each follower knew that what lay below was not a reservoir of refreshment but a cesspool of filth.

They had plodded past many tempting diversions never with a hint of turning from their long familiar path.  This was the reason for the gasp that moved as a wave through the group as their Leader silently turned, onto the pavement without the slightest warning.  His intention were clear.  They were to travel into the Place.

Many stopped, confused by the new direction.  Having recently escaped the clutches of the Place that now lay directly before them.  They dreaded any step in that direction.  Others slowed as deep apprehension made each step a force of will.  Even the longest followers of the Leader looked ahead with grave concern.  They had followed the Leader on several such diversions into the Place.  They knew what lay ahead.

The group had quickly strung out into a long single file string despite the width of the roadway.  Their Leader continued at the head, gracefully moving ahead with an effortless, yet deliberate pace.  Normally, each follower found the Leader’s pace easy to shadow despite their varying levels of conditioning.  However, many now found the pace uncommonly tasking and began to fall back.

By Roberto Strauss from Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland (Orange night sky Frankfurt) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Without any direction from the Leader, the long-time followers peeled back from their normal positions, to lend their strength to those struggling with indecision.  These experienced trekkers quietly stepped alongside those struggling with the dread ahead; gently lifting them, urging them forward with the confidence that they would all survive.  They had been through this before.  All would be fine if they just stayed together in the presence of their long-time Leader.

The quick diligence of these faithful followers successfully pulled the ranks of the group together just as they came to gates of the now towering terror.  The Leader looked over his shoulder and smiled to see that all who he had called were packed in tight.  He knew a long night was before each and every one.

Despite what the others sensed, he knew there was glory ahead.  He turned and took a step through the gates of the undead.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for drawing us through the narrow gate.  Thank you for coming into this dark world to seek and find the lost.  Thank you for saving me while I was still dead in my sin.  Thank you for cleansing me and making me a new creation in Christ Jesus.  I praise your glorious name.  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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“SECULAR SKEPTIC BUT NOT UNIVERSALLY SKEPTICAL” – Nov. 16

November 16, 2015

“And  we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”  Hebrews 6:11-12

I watched the most recent Republican Presidential Debate on FOX Business News with my son.

At one point during the debate, he asked me what I thought about the candidates.  I grumbled some affirmation regarding the candidate’s sound-bite solutions but mixed in my reservations as to whether any of them will actually fulfill their promises.

“I’m skeptical” was the conclusion of a decidedly negative lament on my doubts associated with the promises of leading candidates.  To which, my son commented on the fact that I am the most skeptical person he knows.  While, I had selected that particular word.  It made me a little circumspect when I heard it used as an adjective to my character.

Granted, my son hasn’t been around very many skeptical people; we homeschool after all.  Yet, I recoiled at being a skeptic in my son’s eyes due to the negative association that comes with that word.  I was concerned by what I might be patterning for him.

Skeptical is defined as not easily convinced; having doubts or reservations.  Based on this definition, I am a skeptic, particularly of politicians.  I am not easily convinced by charismatic talk of how a candidate is going to make America better.  I have doubts and reservations regarding the grand promises of those seeking political office because I have seen so few of those promises fulfilled.

In fact, I probably have gone beyond mere skepticism into full political cynicism.  Cynical is defined as distrusting or disparaging the motives of others.  In general, I distrust the motives of all politicians of both parties.  My cynicism has come from years of being lied to or mislead by those in political office especially if that office is in Washington, DC.

Therefore, as I listen to candidates make their promises I am overwhelmed with an equal sentiment of skepticism and cynicism.

Skeptical – I doubt whether they have or can obtain the political ability to actually do what they say.
Cynical – I question whether their words are mere semantics formulated for an election-day victory.

Politicians in America have earned the skepticism and cynicism of the US voter.  I wish more voters would think critically of what candidates are selling and hold them accountable to their promises.  Yet, I have lost my optimism of the political process.

Years of broken pledges have fouled my political optimism with the contaminated water stored up in the reservoirs of campaign promises.

I am not pessimistic but realistic.
I am a secular skeptic but not universally skeptical.
I am a humanistic cynic but not celestially cynical.

I want to pattern for my son that it is important to think critically about all promises that are dependent upon the ability and will of the one making the promise.  That is why I am skeptical and cynical of all politicians in their ability and will to keep their promises.

I desire my son to follow this same example of critical thinking and apply what the Bible teaches about God’s character to what He promises.

God’s character is why I am not universally skeptical.

“Ah, Lord God!  It is you who has made the heavens and the earth
by your great power and by your outstretched arm!
Nothing is too hard for you.”  Jeremiah 32:17

God has the ability to keep any promise that He makes.  If God has the ability to create this world and all that is in it, then there is not a promise in the Bible that is beyond His omniscient, omnipotent power.

God’s character is why I am not celestially cynical.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God,
because God is love.”  1 John 4:8

God proved His love for us by sending His only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  If God proved His love by giving His Son so that I can have eternal life, then there is not a promise in the Bible made with questionable motives.

With God, all skepticism can end because He can do everything He says.

With God, all cynicism can end because He has proven His motivation.

With God, we can have full assurance of hope in every promise that He has made.

“Prayer irrigates the fields of life with the waters
which are stored up in the reservoirs of promise.”
~ C. H. Spurgeon

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the promises that you have made in the Bible.   Thank you for revealing yourself to us so that we can have confidence in all your promises  Lord, give me a full assurance of hope to the end.  Father, grant that same assurance to my son and daughter.  Help them to see mankind for who we are and You for who You are.  Help us not to be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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