Archive for the ‘Gospel of John’ Category

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Balance & Rhythm in Swimming and Life – July 1

July 1, 2014

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26

I had a great swim the other day. It was a swim that finally felt right after a week of unsatisfying attempts. I have been getting back to regular swimming. A week was lost to business travel and my post – Boise Ironman 70.3 training break had stretched out longer than originally intended, resulting in irregular pool attendance.

Swimming technique goes quickly with inactivity. The delicate balance and timing of a smooth swimming stroke can easily be lost to a few weeks without a reminder. However, it is a wonderfully meditative sensation when one finds that intricate rhythm of a smooth free-style stroke.

I found my lost free-style stroke the other day and it was wonderful.

reachThere are three basic aspects of a free-style stoke. (Just a disclaimer, I have never been coached in swimming. Everything I know about swimming, I learned on Youtube and blogs.)

The Reach: The forward arm enters the water at a point inside the shoulder line and only fully extended under the water. I like to feel the full stretch of my forward arm timed with the rotation of my torso and exit of my other arm from the water in the recovery. The reach is important because it helps keep you from sinking. Also, a long reach increases the length of your arm which gives more power to the catch and pull phase.

catch 2The Catch & Pull: The forward arm should stay fully extended for a brief moment before “catching” the water – this enhances gliding through the water. The forward arm then catches the water with the hand and the forearm. It is important not to churn the water but to “feel it”.  This is where the power in the stroke comes from. The arm accelerates throughout the stroke as you rotate your torso using the power of your core, right up to the point of exit, when the hand passes the hip.

recovery 2The Recovery: Once the arm is pushing back (when the hand has passed the elbow) the elbow begins to straighten. When the arm exits the water, the elbow immediately begins to flex again, staying high with the hand close to the body. The exit of the arm is important because it causes the rotation of the torso, which reduces drag through the water and sets up a long, stretching reach of the forward arm.  It also let’s you breath – which is important.

All the aspects of the free style stroke need to be synchronized and balanced for an efficient swimming stroke. I have read that a swimmer with deficient technique can expend 50% more energy than one using a stroke that is balanced through the various stages. Swimming is unforgiving of poor technique.

All the stages of the free-style stroke need to be in balance and in rhythm. When it happens, swimming becomes easy.

reach 2I was thinking about the Christian life as I enjoyed re-discovering the rhythm of my swimming technique. The Christian life needs to be a balance between the future, the present, and the past – all blended into a seamless rhythm of continued forward progress; otherwise known as sanctification.

The Reach (Future): We are told to set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13). We have to stretch for this hope. When we are reaching for the hope of the Gospel, it lengthens us; we can glide through troubles and not sink into the cares of this world. In addition, a hope that is set on the full assurance of our faith corrects selfish motivations and gives power to our service and obedience in the present.

catchThe Catch & Pull (Present): The power of the Holy Spirit is manifested in the present of the Christian life. The present is where we do the work of service and obedience. We reach forward to our hope, check our motivations and then catch the opportunities of our life. The power of our daily lives comes by faithfully using our God-given strengths, being sensitive to the Spirit (feeling His presence), and then pressing into our firm foundation. The key to a powerful present is consistently pressing into the Spirit throughout our day. We need to be consciously setting our mind on the things of the Spirit from the time we wake to the moment we close our eyes to sleep. That is how we make the most of the present.

recoveryThe Recovery (Past): The Christian has to learn how to handle the past. Lingering in the past will only drag us down. Therefore, we need to exit the past cleanly – forgiving who we need to forgive; confessing what we need to confess; correcting what needs to be corrected – and then immediately get back to the Hope that lays before us. It is this quick transition from past experiences to future hope that will lengthen our time for good works in the present, which give the Spirit more opportunities to manifest His glorious power in our daily lives.

The Christian life is a wonderful blend of future, present, and past. I know how easy it is to lose that precious rhythm:

I have neglected meditating on the Hope that I have been called to.
I have churned away trying to please God with my good works in proof of my salvation.
I lingered over thoughts of the past that have drug me to a stop.

20131001-235329Throughout those periods of life, I could feel that my spiritual life was not quite right. Consistency has always brought me back to the wonderful rhythm of a life synchronized with the Spirit. Whenever I am not feeling it, I still jump into the deep water of my Lord and Savior. Taking a break from God never is to your advantage.

Our helper, the Spirit, is the one who always corrects our deficient and inefficient living. Let’s get back to living in the Spirit, for His glory, in all the aspects of our lives – past, present, and future.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for allowing my life not to feel right. Thank you for giving me your Spirit to be my helper – to teach me and correct me.  Lord, continue to work in my life.  Show me where I am out of balance.  Help me to come into rhythm with your Spirit in all aspects of my life.  Give me a heart that Hopes in you.  Teach me how to exit cleanly from my past and immediately reach out to you.  Grant me the power of your Spirit to live every moment of my life for your glory. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Photographs: Swim Channel Facebook

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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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MALADY OF THE EXPERT – May 16

May 16, 2014

“Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.” John 8:49

Hello my name is Expert
We live in a land of experts.

If we have a disease, we go to the hospital’s experts.
If we want knowledge, we go to the University’s experts.
If our car maintenance light glows, we go to the car dealership’s experts.

Tax issues – specialist in accounting.
Court issues – specialist in law.
Building issues – specialist in engineering.

We expect our specialists to have answers. We pay them for answers. Often, specialists are cast aside until we find the one who agrees with what we want to do. Even if we can get the answer we want, a bad response is often better than the uncertainty of  “I don’t know.”

We want to know.

This expectation of answers has probably always been at the bedrock of religion. We want answers for our questions of the physical world and we want answers to our questions of the spiritual world.  I recognize the expert’s attitude exerted against Jesus by the Pharisees in chapters 7 and 8 of the Gospel of John. That similar attitude seems to echo through the theological debates of our time. They provided reason and rationale as to why Jesus was not the Christ.

The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” (John 7:20)

But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from. (John 7: 27)

…But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (John 7:41)

They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” (John 7:52)

So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” (John 8:13)

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48)

The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be? (John 8:52-53)

Yet, these proclamations of experts proved to be false and misguided. Their expertise in the Law failed them because it was not based on complete understanding. They were applying flawed, sinful understanding to a manifestation that was without precedent. They rejected the Christ because He did not fit the model in which they were so convinced He would appear. Jesus did not come as they expected, therefore, he could not have been the Christ. Their expertise did not adequately provide the understanding to inform them of the events that were transpiring around them.

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. (John 8:43)

I read the Pharisees’ objections to Christ and can uncomfortably relate to their self-assured theological knowledge. They were the experts of theology for their day and based on their knowledge they had answers. It just happened to be horribly wrong answers based on a lack of understanding.

Calvinism vs. Arminianism
Infant Baptism vs. Adult Baptism
Charismatic Gifting vs Cessationism
Sunday Worship vs. Saturday Worship
King James Only vs. ESV Only vs. NASB Only
Traditional Service vs. Contemporary Service vs. SOMA Service
Premillennialism vs Postmillennialism vs Amillennialism

How much of the rhetoric from these debates is honoring to our Father?

I have studied these issues and I have my opinions. However, I also know that those who do not share my opinions can advocate their position from scripture. I don’t know of a better illustration of this fact than the debate moderated by John Piper between Jim Hamilton, Doug Wilson, and Sam Storms. (An Evening of Eschatology – Piper, Hamilton, Wilson, Storms)

Three capable theologians, who love and follow Jesus, came to three different conclusions based on their understanding of scripture. The fact is that two or maybe all three are wrong. Someone has made a wrong decision based on flawed understanding. Yet, churches have split over these issues in ways that I view as dishonoring our Father. It is the malady of the experts.

Since we are all subjected to the same malady, the only cure is grace.

crossChrist was perfectly clear in His teaching to the Pharisees about who He is.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you before Abraham was, “I am”. (John 8:58)

The further away we get from that central teaching – Jesus Christ and him crucified – the more grace we need to show our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As we mature in our faith, we should delve into the “secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (1 Cor. 2:6) However, we must resist the arrogance of the experts.

We must show grace in our theological assertions for our more immature brothers and sisters so that their faith “might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:5)

We must show humility in our debates, understanding our inherently flawed understanding of the mysteries of God.

Imagine how glorifying God’s church would be, if our debates were dominated by experts of humble grace rather than experts of flawed understanding.

PRAYER: Father, you know that I am inclined toward the attitude of the expert.  Forgive me for caring more about winning a theological argument than showing grace to a fellow heir in Christ.  Forgive me of the dishonor that has been wrought when love was not my foremost objective.  Lord, make me into an expert of humble grace.  Give me wisdom in delving into your wonderful mysteries.  Remind me of my continuing lack of understanding to keep me humble.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

A man should never be ashamed to admit he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.
~ Alexander Pope

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ASCENDING THE IMPOSSIBLE – May 1

May 1, 2014

“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’” John 3:3

I just returned from another business trip to Mount Rainer National Park. Unlike my last trip (Knowing Greatness without Sight), the skies were clear and I was able to behold clearly the mountain. I gazed upon the heights of the mountains with a yearning eye.

IMG_20140429_185759_417 (3)The clarity of the skies promised an unimpeded view to anyone at the pinnacle of such a mountain. I so wanted to see that view. Yet, I knew that neither I nor anyone else would behold the view on that day. The snow is still too deep and the trails too treacherous to ascend Mount Rainer. Therefore, the prize of the glorious view from its pinnacle was not beheld by any mortal man on that clear day.

IMG_20140429_191018_723 (2)There is another site that is even more unattainable than the wintry panorama of Mount Rainer’s peak. No man can ascend to God’s presence and behold the Kingdom of God. For this site, Jesus told us that we must be born again.

How does one ascend to a peak that has no trail?
How does one scale a summit whose base cannot be found?
How does the flesh accomplish that which is born of the Spirit?

It is impossible. It is impossible for man to find access or even to see the Kingdom of God from the pinnacle of any human accomplishment. No one can ascend to heaven.

No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 4:13-15)

crossThis is the glorious good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The ascent to heaven, access to the Kingdom of God, is now possible – not by any work of the flesh but by the work of the Spirit.

We can stand at the pinnacle of the mountain of God and see His Kingdom. We can enter into His rest and eternal life. It is an ascent that we cannot make but was accomplished for us. The prize of this summit is a gift given to all how believe in the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.

Praise be to God who has made the impossible possible. May we marvel at the miraculous heavenly things of God Almighty!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for making a way to your holy presence. Thank you for making the ascent to your Kingdom for us.  Thank you for the work the Spirit that I might be born of the Spirit.  Forgive me for my lack of marvel at the gift of eternal life that you have given me.  You are great and greatly to be praised.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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I LOVE YOU…THERE I SAID IT – April 27

April 27, 2014

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

 “I love you!”, my friend professed as I turned to leave.

Oh, man…why did he go there?

“I have a profound appreciation for you, also,” was the perfunctory reply I dared not utter since  “love”  hung in the air.

I struggled for an appropriate response as milliseconds turned toward awkwardness.

Why could I not respond with, “I love you too”?
Why does professing our love from a brother in Christ seem so weird?
Why couldn’t we  just hit each other on the shoulder and that be enough?

I mustered up a weak, “me too,” as I made for the door.

Endless loveFew phrases cause me more social angst than a profession of brotherly love from a non-confidant. I might have been scarred by the Bud Light commercials from the mid-90’s (I Love You Man).

The problem arises from my cultural interpretation of the implied meaning of love.  Love as defined by Dictionary.com:

  1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
  2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
  3. sexual passion or desire.
  4. a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.

I know intellectually what the Bible teaches regarding love.

The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  (Mark 12:31)

These things I command you, so that you will love one another.  (John 15:17)

Love one another with brotherly affections.  (Romans 12:9)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other…  (Romans 13:8)

Let brotherly love continue. (Hebrews 13:1)

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart… (1 Peter 1:12)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  (1 Peter 4:8)

Greet one another with the kiss of love…  (1 Peter 5:14)

Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.  (1 John 2:10)

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)

If anyone says, “I love God”, and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  (1 John 4:20)

Motherly Love

Our culture has skewed the meaning of love to such an extent that I struggle with the emotional aspect of love. I can intellectually know that I should tell my brother in Christ that I love him but a mental checklist suppresses my feelings:

Do I have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for this other person?
…Nope.

Do I feel a warm personal attachment or deep affection for this person?
…Not really.

Do I feel a sexual passion or desire for this person?
…Definitely not.

The inevitable conclusion is that I don’t feel the profound emotional response of love for this person as I have come to know what those feelings should entail. This conclusion makes any reciprocal profession of love seem less than genuine (Rom. 12:9). How can I love them…I barely know them?  That makes it weird.  Weirdness goes off the scale in trying to tell a sister in Christ that she is loved by me.  And to just complicate it more, consider the implications of the command to love our enemies.

But I say to you who hear, Love our enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  (Luke 6:27)

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? Fore even sinners do the same.  (Luke 6:32)

If they truly are our enemy, than all the inherent meanings of love are turned upon their head. Our love must be genuine. It must flow from a heart that truly feels love. Therefore, we need to change our definition of love.  C.S. Lewis has aided my personal definition transition. He defined love as:

Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.
~
Answers to Questions on Christianity,” God in the Dock .

When we remove the societal demand for emotional affection from the definition of love, we begin to gain a better understanding of how to practically live in genuine love for those who are acquaintances, distant neighbors, or an enemy.

When I love someone, wishing for that person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained, my actions become those defined by love (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

Love is patient and kind
…because that leads to their ultimate good.

Love does not envy or boast
…because that will not lead to their ultimate good.

Love is not arrogant or rude
…because that will detract from their ultimate good.

Love does not insist on its own way
…because that is the way to their ultimate good.

Love is not irritable or resentful
…because that will detract from their ultimate good.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing
…because that will not lead to their ultimate good.

Love rejoices with the truth
…because therein lies their ultimate good.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things for the ultimate good of those we love.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish
but have eternal life.

(John 3:16)

God loved us while we were yet enemies because He desired our ultimate good and He accomplished it.

I  genuinely want that for everyone. I genuinely wish that all would come to Christ. I genuinely wish that all my family, friends, acquaintances, and enemies would come to their ultimate good. I don’t want to do anything that would be a stumbling block to anyone’s salvation or sanctification.

Based on this more appropriate definition of love, I do love people even though I find it sort of weird to express it.  However, expressing our love for one another is important.

Therefore, I want to express to all those who are reading this blog:

I LOVE YOU!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for first loving me.  Thank you for desiring my ultimate good and working out everything to that end.  Thank you for enabling me to love others – even my enemies.  Help me to to desire their ultimate good.  Lord, I lift up my enemies to you in love – give them their ultimate good, which is to know you. Father, make me a loving person in all ways and at all times.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Just to clarify, I love you …in an unromantic, less than platonic,  non-sexual, slug you in the shoulder sort of brotherly love …
that genuinely and earnestly wishes  the ultimate good for you,  that Jesus Christ, will flow in and through your life.

I know … it just seemed a little weird.
(I am working on it.)

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HEADWINDS TURNED TO TAILWINDS – Mar. 5

March 5, 2014

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8

honeycut07 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

I really wanted to go for a bike ride over the weekend.

I stepped outside and walked to the edge of the porch only to have a cold westerly wind change my mind.  A few moments of gazing at the trees bending under an unseen load convinced me that I did not want to venture out into that kind of wind. So, I returned back to the serenity of indoors.  I did this analysis three times before I rationalized my cycling kit on and grabbed my bike. I know that riding in the wind is not much fun, but I just wanted to get out of the house and get a work-out in.

The soundness of that logic was questioned throughout the first few miles of my ride as tree limbs bent into the roadway delivering a moaning question as to why I had ventured from my protective walls. I fought that wind for miles upon miles, grinding away in my smallest chainring, hoping to at least match my forward speed to that of the wind in my face. There was no escaping the relentless resistance of that wind since the route I had decided upon took me directly into it. I tried to stay low and ground away with each pedal stroke in anticipation of the turn.

The turn is when you pass the half-way mark and start to head home. Better yet, the turn would put my back to the wind on this day. I made my way with eagerness onto a road that would connect me to the turn. It also had the benefit of taking me out of the frontal assault of the wind. It was on this road that I felt the first few drops.  In my battle with the wind, I had not noticed the dark clouds that now barred my return.

ryanmatthew21 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I summited the last climb before the turn with the full knowledge that I was going to get wet and this ride was going to get really miserable. The skies opened up on me as I descended to the turn. Water rolled off of my chin and down my back as my wheels spun a whisper of spray that appeared to double their size.  I quickly lost all concern for wind as I made the turn, for my mind had shifted to the concerns of slick pavement and the hope of home. I dipped my head to keep the rain off of my glasses and grabbed a harder gear – I needed to get home.  I focused on my cadence as I continued to work through my gear cassette until I could not shift anymore.

I was in my hardest gear and pedaling freely. I don’t know how fast I was going since my speedometer had quit, but I must have been tickling 30 mph. I rode like this for several miles, maintaining a speed on the flats that I could never hold by myself. The only reason I was being hurried home was because of the wind. That very same wind that I had fought all the way out, was now lifting me to a speed I could never do unaided.

afphotography / Foter / CC BY-NC

That ride home was fun. The very same wind that had caused me such misery going out, provided great joy on the way home. In fact, wind transformed what normally is more miserable than a head wind, a cold ride in drenching rain, into an exhilarating experience that I will remember.

This love / hate experience with wind spurred my meditation of the workings of the Spirit of God in those who are His.  I believe that there are times in our spiritual lives when we are walking directly into the resisting force of the Spirit that is intent upon changing our direction.

 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. (Acts 16:6-7)

I don’t know how the Spirit resisted Paul but it seems like Paul’s path became too difficult so he changed it. I believe that the Spirit still works that way. We just have to discern when to follow the guiding blow of the Spirit and turn out of the wind to the path of less resistance. That is not always easy to discern because the Spirit might have other purposes.

I believe that there are times when the Spirit blows in our face not to get us to change to direction but in order to strengthen us. The trials and temptations of our lives could simply be removed by the Lord, but often He does not. Frequently, He allows them because we need the work-out.

 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

The Holy Spirit guiding us through suffering is evidence of God’s love for us.  God loves us too much to leave us as spiritual couch potatoes. There are times when we feel resistance in our lives because the Spirit is blowing into our face in order to build endurance, which will produce character, and from that character will emerge God glorifying hope, and everyone needs hope to persevere to the end.  In these instances, we should not turn from the path that we are on. We need to grind on. We need to get low and endure. We need to accept the love of God through our suffering.

We can accept our suffering as the love of God because we, by faith, know that the power of the Spirit is actually what is carrying us home. While the Spirit is allowing and guiding us through difficult times, it is also the Spirit who is powering us through those very same difficulties.  It is because of the tail-wind of the Holy Spirit that we can endure longer than we could ever do unaided. It is because of the power of the Spirit that we can perform beyond our abilities.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Therefore, we are driven to hope when we grind into the Spirit’s head-wind and when we experience the powerful effects of the Spirit pushing us home.

I often don’t know where or how the Spirit is blowing in my life.

I find it difficult to know when the Spirit is guiding me to turn in a new direction or to grind on.

I regularly fail to realize the power that is pushing me forward as I labor to follow Christ.

I am quick to grumble about trials rather relishing all the joy and peace in believing.

However, the mysterious winds of the Spirit, in all their forms, are a blessing for those who are in Christ. The Spirit is our gift to help us through this fallen world.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:5)

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world give do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:26-27)

We never have to be discouraged or afraid. We have been given the Holy Spirit – our Helper.  He is the One who will do all that is necessary to get us home – guide us in the right direction, build hope in our hearts, and carry us when needed.  Praise God that we have not been abandoned. We are loved and cared for by our Helper who will be with us forever.  Now, let’s go live our lives relishing all the joy and peace in believing.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for sending us our Helper. Thank you for the work of the Spirit in my life – guiding, correcting, stengthening, and sustaining me.  Lord, teach me to rely upon your Spirit in all conditions.  Teach me to live in your joy and peace.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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“SEEING BEYOND TOMORROW’S GLOOM” – Feb 22

February 22, 2014

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Nick Kenrick .. GO Canada GO / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The future looms before every person.  The length and breadth of these tomorrows are generally assumed greater than their actual duration and are often casually dismissed.  However, every breath taken is an act of exploration into a realm never before experienced.  The mystery of tomorrow forces us all into the uncertain adventure of living life.

In my optimism of youth, I relished this adventure.  The future was a land of opportunity and freedom.  Without responsibilities and obligations, I raced around the blind corners of tomorrow, crashed through decisions without apprehension, confident that the future was a gift that waited to be opened.

Scott Hudson * / Foter / CC BY

Years have been spent on this adventure of tomorrow and my optimism for youth has waned.  Explorations into the temporal mysteries has proven that all that lay ahead is not the pleasant gift I once assumed.  The unabashed plunge to see beyond the bright horizon has been slowed by the dim of experience.  Hard knocks and expensive lessons weigh down optimism.  Disappointment and torn relationships sap the spirit of adventure.  Unfulfilled expectations and suffering erode confidence into trepidation.

The filter of experience reveals the future as a dark, dense forest where even a breeze becomes lost.  Experience teaches that the adventure of life is a long walk through an imposing, meandering wilderness of darkness broken only by sporadic patches of light.  It is a place where dreams are swallowed and a sanguine disposition gasps for air.

Mirkwood!

Mirkwood! (Photo credit: eckenheimer)

Hope is lost when informed only by the rhetoric of experience.

Experience knows that the satisfaction sought in the land of tomorrow never can be sustained in the present.

Experience knows that happiness and contentment can be stolen by a telephone call.

Experience knows that esteem can slip away in a wave of miscalculation.

Experience knows the eternity within man’s heart will  eventually be swallowed by failing flesh.

Daunted courage is all that can come from a mind informed only by experience.  Hard earned wisdom will inevitably restrain the will into steps of caution through a future of unseen but anticipated difficulties.  The optimism of youth cannot withstand the honest revelation of experience when its hopes are placed within the finite horizon.  The finite future is a dark land of trials and tribulations that no amount of optimism can overcome.

Experience can only be rebutted by a hope that resides beyond the finite horizon in the infinite. 

Undaunted courage to walk through the difficult mysteries of tomorrow arises from the hope in the land that is promised but yet unseen.  Optimism is sustained through finite disappointments of today only when informed of an infinite hope that cannot be taken.

Art4TheGlryOfGod / Foter / CC BY-ND

Hope abounds only within the completed work
of the Overcomer of this world, Jesus Christ.

The power of positive thinking is a foolish hoax of the deceived.  There is no power in the optimism for a finite world.  Experience has taught me that hope is lost in the finite but the Spirit sings to me of the everlasting joy in the infinite.

Therefore, I reclaim my youthful optimism by setting my eyes beyond the finite horizon to a promised land at the feet of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Overcomer this world.  I can joyfully race around the blind corners of tomorrow, crash through decisions without apprehension, and confidently stride toward the gift of eternal life while I endure all things because I eagerly await my adoption as son, the redemption of my body (Romans 8:23).

That is the power of an optimistic life that leads to peace.
True, unfailing power comes only in thinking that is set upon the positive redeeming work of Christ.

PRAYER: Lord, give courage to my soul to face tomorrow.  I take all my fears and failures that experience beats down upon me and cast them before you.  I renounce my pessimism that years have hard won.  I reclaim the optimism of my youth, transformed by your grace.  Spirit, speak to my worn soul of the joys that await.  Revive my vigor for a life lived in the conquering power of my great Redeemer.  Thank you for giving me the gift of eternal life.  Help me to set my eyes upon your promises beyond the finite horizon that I am drawn to.  Draw me deeper into you … Draw me to the infinite.  I praise you O Lord (Take Heart).  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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