Archive for the ‘How to fight the good fight’ Category

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“MY PORTION OF IMMORALITY” – May 24

May 24, 2013

“We will not give our daughters to the people of the land or take their daughters for our sons. And if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day…” Nehemiah 10:30-31

The general moral decline of Western Society seems to be a favorite topic among Christians.  It does not take long before the topic is raised in some context when Christians gather.  I have heard it preached from the pulpit  in various forms.  I have discussed it after violent tragedies.  I have read about it in research studies.

This decline tends to be present in an abstract, third party manner.  Like it is something that is being imposed upon us Christians, the last bastions of moral piety in our society.  I have heard some folks attribute statistics of immorality as evidence that the end of the age is upon us.  It might be, but then again it might not.

Consider the premise of the lament; our society should be moral.

True morality is a fruit of the Spirit.  Therefore, a truly moral society is a society that is made up of individuals who are saved in Christ and filled with the Spirit.  Why would we expect a society made up of people who are not in Christ to act like they were?

What should concern those who are in Christ is not the society as a whole.  What should concern us is the body of Christ – the Church.  Our lament should be associated with all the indicators that suggest the Church is not statistically that much different than the society in which we are imbedded.   The implication is that there are a lot of unsaved people in the Church and in our society.

I know the overwhelming feeling of this lament.  What can one person do about a world that seems to be changing so quickly in the wrong direction?

God did not make changing the world our responsibility.

God did not appoint any of us with the charge of transforming our society.

God called us, as individuals, to follow Him; to love Him and to love our neighbors.

He has called us to be holy as He is holy.

He has has called us to be imitators of Him.

A moral society comes from the agglomeration of individual hearts that are seeking the Lord.  True holiness comes only from walking in the Spirit.  Walking in the Spirit comes when we are settling our minds on the things of the Spirit rather the the things of the flesh.  It comes from individuals wanting to follow Christ when they roll out of bed in the morning.  It comes from friends who want to please God more than the crowd.  It comes from parents who love their kids enough to teach them about Jesus rather than being their buddies.

I have talked with a brother who could quote the statistics of declining church attendance in Europe; yet, he was an irregular attendee here in the US.

I heard a Christian mother complain about the violent video games her sons played; games that she bought for them.

I have seen Christian girls walking through the mall wearing the “short shorts” and skin-tight tank tops; clothing their parents bought for them.

I have known parents concerned about their kid’s friends; friends that they pick-up and haul around town.

The general decry against the sexual agendas presented on television has been stated in so many ways; yet, we still are watching – we know characters and who they are sleeping with; we know every scantily cladded dancer on Dancing with the Stars.

The number of murders a child sees on TV is staggering but that has not gotten us to turn away.

We put our money down for movies and music containing images, language and beliefs that are directly contrary to that which we claim.

Basset Hound at Sesimbra, Portugal.

Basset Hound at Sesimbra, Portugal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sad reality is that we Christians, in general, are not that distinct from the society in which we live.  I realize that I am more like the lazy basset hound, who loudly barks at those who don’t belong but wags his tail in hopes that they will bring a tasty treat, then I should be.  That speaks more to my heart condition than anything else.  I delight in the things of this world more than I should.  I like to momentarily allow my mind to rest on the things of the world.  I support the immoral through my indifference, familiarity, and occasional sampling.  My heart condition is what I present before my Lord.  I have a portion of responsibility in the general moral decline of my society.  I have no power or influence of the world.  I will let God handle the grand plan.  I am responsible for what He has called me to do – follow him with all of my heart, mind, and soul.

If we all just do that, it will be amazing to see what the Lord will do with our society.  Let’s live what we believe, lead our families in the way of the Lord, and let God take care of the rest.

PRAYER: Lord, give me a desire to be like you.  Create in me a longing for personal holiness.  Lord, I want to be a pleasing fragrance to you.  I want to walk in your Spirit continually.  Forgive me for allowing my mind to drift away from you.  Forgive me for sampling the offerings of the flesh.  Forgive me for pointing out all that is wrong with the world around me and ignoring the unrighteous desires of my own heart.  Help me to walk every step of my life in your Spirit, to produce abundant fruit.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“WANTING TO BE LEGOLAS” – April 21

April 21, 2013

“…He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.” Acts 27:43b-44

Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's T...My daughter recently bought the DVD of the Hobbit by director Peter Jackson.  We have subsequently watched it a multitude of times in the last couple days so my mind has been flooded with images of Middle Earth.  I love epic tales.  I have been drawn into all of J.R.R Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth due to their epic scale.

The problem with epic tales is that they can skew our expectations of reality.

We are all part of the most epic plan ever imagined.  The wonderful aspect of this plan is that it does not come from an author’s imagination but it is real.  God’s redemptive plan has been unfolding throughout history.  What story could be greater than the Creator God of the Universe, the Great I AM, saving His fallen and rebellious creation from certain destruction?   It is a plan of unfathomable dimension and limitless depth.

However, this epic plan mostly unfolds in the ordinary.  It is typically carried out in the normal.  Every person plays a role in the greatest story of history when they rise in the morning and either set their minds on the things of the Spirit or the flesh. We are all living in the epic whether we know it or not.

There are the occasional glimpses of the spectacular but the majority of the time we trudge along in the familiar.  I want to participate in  God’s epic plan with grace and courage.  I am reminded of a scene in the Return of the KingLegolas slays an oliphant by effortlessly swinging up its side while agilely dodging his assailants. After killing the beast he then gracefully slides down it’s trunk to land lightly upon his feet.  That is the sort of participant in God’s great unfolding story that I want to be.

Mûmakil in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rin...

Mûmakil in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, this is where the imagination and reality clash.  Reality is more like the Apostle Paul’s experience. Directed by God to return to Rome, he was placed on a ship by his captors.  They were caught in a violent storm for fourteen days where they struggled in vain to hold the ship together.  They had to unload cargo into the raging sea.  Able seamen had to be prevented from abandoning their ship and responsibilities.  They spied an opportunity to run their ship ashore on a beach of a nearby island.  They casted off their anchors, set the sail, and made for the beach only to strike a reef.  The entire party gets washed ashore amid planks and a myriad of ship debris.  They were undoubtedly covered with sand and the grime of the sea, bruised and battered.  It was not a very graceful exit.  It certainly was not an elegant or agile landing.

That is life.

Orlando Bloom as Legolas in Peter Jackson's li...I have never really experienced a “Legolas” type moment.  Most of my moments have been more of the ungraceful and awkward type where I have landed in an inglorious and embarrassing heap.  That does not mean that they were unimportant or not a part of God’s plan.

We need to be careful about seeking out and participating in only “Legolas” like moments.  They may never happen.  I don’t know if I have ever felt like I had the perfect words to say or write.  I can’t remember ever clearly seeing the path before me so that I could effortlessly bound forward without the risk of tripping.  If we wait for the perfect conditions to make our leaps of faith, then we may never jump.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

Our eyes are on another world as we walk through this one.  We have placed our conviction in things that cannot be seen.  Our reality is that we move forward by faith.  That means that we may stumble.  That means that we may become part of a group that gets ingloriously washed ashore.  We may pick imperfect words and look foolish.  We may not see the next foothold and appear indecisive.  We may be walking along and trip over the common and fall in an awkward and embarrassing heap.

PESUDA ship wreck, Tlell, BC in HDRHowever, I will risk landing in a clumsy heap over the security of standing on the sideline of God’s wonderful plan of redemption with my dignity intact.  My dignity is not worth much in comparison to God’s plan.  The opinion of others is insignificant in comparison to the glories of God. The blessings of a deep and meaningful relationship with God are found only in the practice of our faith.    God will only be found by those who seek Him through the power of His Spirit.  That happens when we are actually in the epic journey of faith.

Are you ready to trust in the promises of God and take your potentially inglorious next step?  We need to remember that every inglorious step that we take forward leads us to a glory beyond what we can even comprehend at this time.  That glory of our Lord will cause all the struggles and suffering of this time to fade in an insignificant memory.  Every inglorious step, taken in faith, serves a purpose and is transformed by the Spirit into glory for our Lord and Savior.

We must decide which glory we want the most – God’s glory or our own.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for so often choosing my glory over yours.  Forgive me for seeking out opportunities where my risks of appearing inglorious can be managed.  Forgive me for not trusting you like I know I should.  Father, help me in my unbelief.  Help me to walk by faith and to set my eyes not on what I see in this world.  Help me to set my convictions on the things that I cannot see.  Help me to take the next step of faith, forgetting myself, for your praise and glory.  Amen.

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“SPIRITUAL BONK” – April 18

April 18, 2013

“In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe.  Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians.” 2 Chronicles 16:12

I went for a run yesterday morning.  As I plugged along, I meditated upon the passage from 2 Chronicles that I had read that morning.  I have been particularly troubled by the story of King Asa.  I do not like the stories of people who start off well but don’t end well.  It messes with my Disneyland world-view.

I have grown up in a land with the myth of happy endings.  It has never been true but that is the message from most entertainment.  I like movies with happy endings.  I don’t want to pay to be depressed.  I like stories where the good guys always win, the evil plot is always foiled, the nerd gets the pretty girl, and the mean people are taught a lesson.  I wish that my Disneyland world-view was real and everyone was guaranteed a happy ending.  I wish that everyone would finish this race of life well.

Disneyland is a land of make-believe and that is where the idea of “it will all work out” belongs.

I have been reading about the kings of Israel:

King Asa started out well but did not finish well;

King Rehoboam started out rough, did well in the middle, but did not finish well;

King Solomon started out well but did not finish well;

King David started out well, stumbled along the way, but did finish well;

King Saul started out rough and did not finish well.

As I ran along I could not help but think about Paul’s analogy of life being a race in 2 Timothy.  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  Running a race is an apt analogy to our long walk of faith through this life.  There are some who will finish the race well and there will be some that don’t.  Have you considered why?

BonkingI have been hesitant to even consider doing an Ironman triathlon.  My hesitance is due to a fear of not finishing well.  I don’t want to be the person, drunkenly staggering across the finish line with sedated legs that just will not do what the brain is telling them to do.  I really don’t want to be the person who starts to hallucinate and loses control of some pretty important bodily functions.  I don’t want to just finish the race, I want to finish well.

The problems in an endurance race are usually revealed at the end.  The key to finishing well is that final push past the fatigue and the pain and the voices in your tell head telling you to give up.  However, there is no pushing past a mixture of dehydration, training errors, gastric problems, and/or nutrition gaffes.

As I was heading toward home on my run, I could feel the fatigue setting in while I was thinking about bonking and finishing well.  I struggled to keep up the cadence of my stride and I could see the time rushing past at a much quicker pace than the asphalt.  I knew I was not going to come in with the time that I wanted.  I had been on pace the first two-thirds of my run but lost it in that last little bit.

Marathon

Marathon (Photo credit: Stijlfoto)

My mind turned to all those elderly folks who are closer to the end of their race than I am to mine (assuming natural causes have their way).  They are in the homeward length of their race where the fatigue is setting in.  They are battling failing bodies in which most everything hurts.  They are tired and easily exhausted.  Their minds may be telling them that they have done enough and that it is fine to rest.  There are some who are spiritually bonking because they never developed the habit of seeking Christ for their spiritual hydration and nutrition.  They may be in the final push with a body and soul that was poorly trained from years of indifference.  They may lack the strength that comes from years of walking and meditating with the Lord.

I see some elderly folks who appear to be finishing very strong, almost sprinting to the end, and the love of the Lord is just overflowing and the fruit of the Spirit is abounding;

I see some who are making it to the finish line but their pace has dropped off considerably and it is hard to distinguish their love for God from their love of tradition;

I see some who appear to have bonked – sitting on the curb unable to move forward.  The fruit of their lives is now impatience, bitterness, unkindness, and a general grumpiness.

My heart is drawn to those in the final lap of their lives.  I want them to finish well.

However, I realized, as I was walking up my driveway after my run, that I cannot remember the last time I prayed for my parents to finish well.  They are in this push.  I cannot remember praying for my elderly brothers and sisters in Christ that they will persevere in their faith and finish well.  I guess I have always assumed that they are mature in their faith and that everything is going to work out well for them; that they are past the hard part of their walk of faith; that they are in that final coast to the end and the acceptance of  “well done good and faithful servant”.

That is a Disneyland world-view.

English: Rachel Booth Winning Disneyland 1/2 M...

English: Rachel Booth Winning Disneyland 1/2 Marathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that we all would do well to remember that the final lap of any race can be the most difficult one.   We need to be aware of the fatigue that our older brothers and sisters in Christ are pushing through.  We need to be aware that they may need support as their habits of previous decades may have deprived them of the strength that they now need.  We need to be willing to show them more grace and encouragement to sprint to the end and abound in glorious praise of their Savior.

They are at the point where they have to dig deep to finish well.  Let’s cheer them on.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for not showing enough grace and compassion to my elders.  Forgive me for not empathizing with the struggles of this stage in life.  Help them to finish well.  Give them a vision of the finish line.  Give them a love for You that causes them to dig deep and push past their physical fatigue.  May their walk of faith turn into a sprint, as they rush into your arms to your glory and praise. Amen.

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“TRAPPED LIKE A MISERABLE GOPHER” – April 2

April 2, 2013

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:11-12

I am a ruler; a sovereign noble over more than nine acres of flora, fauna and terra firma.  My kingdom produces a variety of produce including cheatgrass, kosher weed, thistle, white-top, knapweed, ragweed, stinkweed, milkweed, morning glory, hemlock, crabgrass, Russian olive, among other varieties of the unwanted.  My kingdom is not a land of agricultural produce.

IMAG0018However, there is trouble in my kingdom.  There is open rebellion to my rule.  Not all the inhabitants of my lands are willing to subjugate their existence to my rule.  The gophers have declared their independence.  They have declared their freedom and pockmarked my fields with mounds of defiance.  They are usurpers and destroyers.

I hate gophers.

Their existence is a stench.  Their menacing message has reached even within my yard.  The audacity of proclaiming their message of defiance by blanketing mounds of soil over my grasses of fescue, cultivated by my own hand, has to be stopped.  My domain must be defended.

I have declared war on all gophers and have bounded myself to their destruction.  Their destruction has been primarily wrought through the use of the trap.  This season my wrath has been particularly felt by these usurpers.  I have already trapped 44 of their rebellious kind.

Mazama Pocket Gopher trapping arrayDeception and lies are the principles of effective trapping.  The gopher must be deceived into complacency in order for the trap to deliver them to their destruction.  The gopher must be lured from the safety of their natural environment into the artificial environment of my trap.  This dance of enticement requires the practice of the art of deception.  Every gopher that I have trapped has followed the promise of one of my lies.  I have never pursued any gopher down their filthy tunnel.  I am a master of deception and lies.  My lies are crafted upon their natural tendencies to orchestrate a sonata that is so seductive that they willingly shuffle from the hand of safety into my hand of destruction and death.

The immature gophers are easy.  They are oblivious to a change in environment and the danger that it represents.  I don’t even have to be very careful in crafting the deception of my trap for these wee-ones.  They stumble along and don’t perceive that the walls of their tunnel have changed from dirt to plastic, they don’t comprehend the unfamiliar scent of my hand, they do not consider the danger of the message dangling enticingly before  their nose.  They push against the trip-wire that I have lured them to and there is no time for escape once tripped.  They are in my hand in that instant and their destruction is assured.

I prefer to kill gophers when they are young, before they get the chance to mature and start to reproduce.  That is when they become a real problem.  Therefore, I am diligent in setting my traps during those periods when I know that the young are venturing out into their own tunnels.  I can tell when a little one is finding its own way.  Their tunnels are small and their mounds are little.  Their tunnels are shallow and easy to dig up.  I seek them out.  I will pursue a young one over a mature one.  A mature gopher is hard to deceive.  My time is best spent on the young ones.  Therefore, my eyes roam my lands for small mounds and I am quick to spread my traps of deception when the young ones venture too close.

This does not mean that I do not entice the mature gophers.  I celebrate every mature gopher that I destroy.  They are the ones responsible for the greatest encroachments into my domain.  Therefore, the mature gophers, especially the leaders, which I can ensnare, are particularly satisfying because I understand the difficulty in getting them to fall.  The trick for trapping a mature gopher is to get them distracted from their natural senses.  The deception for a mature gopher must be sufficient to get them to rush into the trap.  They must be enticed to rush forward with passion, otherwise the warning signs of even the most skillful lie will alert them to danger and they will flee, backfilling their tunnel, and the opportunity lost.

I play on the passions of the mature.  I know what they love.  I know what instincts drive them.  Gophers are very territorial.  Each gopher has its own tunnel system and they defend it vigorously.  Their territory is their greatest love; it is their greatest passion.  They will rush to the defense of their territory.  When I set a trap for a mature gopher I spin the lie of their greatest passion.

I take the body of a gopher that I have already killed and lay it behind the trip-wire of my trap.  A mature gopher will be blinded by their passion to protect their territory and rush past all the warning signs that normally would have kept them safe.  I have trapped gophers so large that I don’t know how they pushed themselves into my trap.  Their territorial passion must have been all consuming.  This has been the only way I have been able to kill the big ones.  It is the only way I have been able to effectively deceive them.

I use death to entice them to death.

Every follower of Christ lives in a world, whose ruler hates them.  Those who call on the name of Christ are an abomination to the ruler of this world.  We have an enemy who is seeking our destruction.  We have an enemy who cannot destroy us in safety of our new environment in Christ.  Therefore, he must lure us out of the safety with deceptions and lies.

He has an affinity for feasting on the destruction of the immature.  He spins lies that the words of God are not true and cannot be trusted; he crafts the deception that giving up the pleasures of this world is not worth the gift of eternal life; he amplifies the cares of this world to choke the young with anxiety and worries so that they forget what they have been promised; he send in charismatic wolves to preach a slightly different message that sends the careless in a direction that leads only to the trap trip-wire.  He seeks the young ones who are venturing out on their own because they are easy to deceive.  He wants to get them before they spread the message of the Gospel and become a real problem.

However, that does not mean that he does not come after the mature ones.  He just has to work harder.  He has to craft more elaborate lies.  His traps may take years to be laid.  He knows that he must get the mature followers of Christ to blindly rush after his lies and ignore all that they know to be true.  He must stoke their passions for the flesh.  He must get them to abandon their first love.  All he has available for bait is death.  Therefore, he must make death appear beautiful and desirable.  He must craft an illusion that in death there is the promise of all that they have ever desired.  He must get them to believe that death is preferable to life.

He uses death to entice the wayward to death.

Our enemy roams this world seeking those whom he can devour.  Do you believe that?  There are many who don’t believe that.  There are many who live in so careless a manner that it appears that they are oblivious to the existence of a predator.

It is in Christ where we are safe.  We are secure when we are living according to the Spirit and our minds are set on the things of the Spirit.  We have nothing to fear when we hear the word of God, believe it and bear fruit.

The fact that we have nothing to fear does not mean we should be lackadaisical to dangers.  We do not need to fear of this world due to our ability to cling to the promises of God.  The setting of our minds on the wonderful promises of God and the things of His Spirit is what grounds our hearts to our first love.  It keeps our passions for our first love.  When we love God with everything that we are and have then there is no passion that will entice us to rush away from our Lord.  Perseverance is the following of our passion for Christ and Him alone.

Let us not ignore  the world that we live in.  We have an enemy who is cunning.  He will lay many traps for us.  However, he is not to be feared as long as we do not let our love for our Lord to venture from our hearts.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for freeing us from a spirit of slavery and living in fear.  Thank you for giving us the Spirit of adoption as sons by whom we can cry “Abba! Father!”  Thank you for hearing our cries.  Lord keep us and protect our hearts from all of the passions that can be used to entice us to wander away from you and our minds to drift back to the things of this world.  You are better than all that this world has to offer, combined.  Keep me under the shelter of your wing.  Amen

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“VALUE OF SLEEP” – Mar. 26

March 26, 2013

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:2-5

67/365: Sleeping InMy mortal body is often one of my most stringent usurpers of my soul’s control.  Unfortunately, the whims of my flesh greatly influence my mindfulness of God’s benefits; how He has forgiven my iniquity, how he has healed me from sickness, how He has redeemed my life, how He has crowned me with steadfast love and mercy, how He completely satisfies me with His goodness.

Sleep is a precious commodity.  Ask any parent of young children and they will tell you that their one wish is for a complete night’s rest.  I no longer have young children who disturb my slumber.  As of late, I have a misguided internal clock that is more effective than any wailing infant.   I have taken to awaking at 2:30 in the morning, tossing and turning until 4:30, only to have my alarm disrupt my dreams at 5:30.  I realize that there are many who struggle with insomnia to a far greater degree than I.  I am thankful not to face their struggle.

This morning, I arose not very mindful of the benefits of my Lord.  I was far more mindful of the benefits of sleep.  It was a prolonged battle between soul and flesh, to drag my reluctant bones to my desk and open the precious words of God.

I know that if I had remained in bed that God would not have loved me any less.  I know that I would not have been punished if I had missed this time of meditating on His words.  I know that God’s blessings are not contingent upon fulfilling my allotted time of reading my Bible, journaling and prayer.  I know that sometimes it might be best to just get the rest.

I also know that this is the most peaceful, refreshing, and renewing part of my day.  I set aside this part of my day because I want to.  I do not do it because I have to.  I do it because as a child of God, I get to.

The battle then is most often with my mortal body.  I am very easily inclined to become focused on the condition of my body and allow it to dictate my day.  I am reminded of Paul’s admonition, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control….” (1 Cor. 9:27a)

It is when I allow my body undo control that I begin to forget the benefits of my Lord.  I begin to think that the comforts that I feel are equal to the benefits of the glory of God.  It is a sad state when a discomfort as minor as a little sleeplessness (I cannot even bear to call that suffering) is counted as worth some of the glory that is revealed through God’s word and by His Spirit (Romans 8:18).

So, I arose this morning and was incredibly blessed by the Lord.  I have been reminded of His benefits:

How he has forgiven all my iniquity;

How I get to celebrate His mercy and grace this Easter;

How He has blessed me and my family with health;

How He has redeemed my life when I was without a redeemer;

How He has filled my cup to overflowing with His steadfast love and mercy;

How His goodness has made me content with where He has placed me.

My Lord has renewed my soul this morning more than any sleep could do. 

The slight glimpse of His spectacular glory was so worth the two hours of sleep that I lost.  I look forward to what He has for me tomorrow.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for your faithfulness.  Thank you for that day in the future when you will fully reveal your glory and it will make the sufferings of the world, great and small, so very worth it.  Thank you for renewing my soul.  Amen

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EATING STALE CHIPS- Dec. 28th

December 28, 2012

“Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:15-16

I have a very special purpose in my family.  I eat things.  In particular, I eat old things and not the things that get better with age.  I eat the things that get worse with age; much worse.

TimothyI am the alternative to a dog or the garbage disposal.  I don’t know how many times that I have been told, “You need to eat that before it goes bad.”  We all know that the demarcation of “going bad” is a very subjective one.  However, pushing that line is a risk my wife is willing to take because, heaven forbid, we ever throw anything out.

Therefore, we all play our roles.  My wife tells me to eat something in the back of the refrigerator; I dutifully pull it out and ask her to smell it. She has a better sense than I do for the decaying state of organic matter.  If she gives it the sniff of approval, then down the hatch it goes. My role is fulfilled and my immune system bolstered.

I have come to accept my role without much thought or consideration.  I have even raised my son in my footsteps.  I now actually have to fight for the scraps.  There is no crumb in the bottom of the bag that doesn’t get sucked out.  There is no quarter of a sandwich that doesn’t get consumed.  There is no drop of questionable milk that ever goes down the drain. No ancient casserole ever need fear the landfill in our home.  I have become so accustomed to eating things that it has become second nature.

That is not necessarily a good thing.

The other day I was vacuuming in our basement. My son had been down there, eating and playing video games, and had left a mess. Normally, the cleaning would be his responsibility you make the mess, you clean the mess.  However, company was on the way so time was critical and teenagers tend to move like they’re in molasses while cleaning.

Anyway, I was vacuuming and came upon a chip. Without thinking, I picked up the chip, examined it, popped it in my mouth and continued my vacuuming, chewing away, without a second thought.  As I chewed my little snack, I realized that the wonderfully processed and artificial flavor in my mouth was actually one of my favorite chips. I love those chips, except I couldn’t remember the last time we had those; It had to have been quite a while – at least a month.

Original flavor Sun Chips in the bag

Original flavor Sun Chips in the bag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a month old chip, that had been hiding away in the crevasse of the couch, in my mouth!  What to do?  It was then that I became aware of the staleness of my little morsel; not very pleasant after all.  What to do?  I did the only reasonable thing – I swallowed; I was committed at that point; I had more vacuuming to do; there was no place to spit it out; let’s face it – I have eaten worse. So, I swallowed. My second nature of eating things has not been good for me.  I had popped something in my mouth that I would normally have refused to eat.  Yet, I ate it – I even swallowed it. I have concluded that eating old things is not a good habit.

We need to be very careful of what we allow to become second nature throughout our lives.  Our habits and normal practices can become so routine that we will do them without thinking.  They become second nature.  That is fine if the practices are good for our soul.  It is very bad if the practices are of this world.

This is why we are to make a practice of training ourselves in godliness, setting our hope on the living God; devoting ourselves to scripture reading, exhortation, and teachings.  The habits that we create in life come from what we repeatedly do.  What we repeatedly do is what we become.  We can either create good habits or bad ones; both will be equally hard to break.

Consider how much of the things of the Spirit that you consume in relation to the things of the world.  What habits are you allowing to form?

 “Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.” (Samuel Smiles)

Let’s keep a close watch on ourselves so that we form habits that will keep us from inadvertently consuming the stale chips of this world.

PRAYER: Father, you know all of my bad habits.  Thank you for your forgiveness, mercy, and patience.  Thank you for breaking many of my bad habits through the power of you Spirit.  Lord, continue that work in me.  Show me those areas in my life where my second nature does not lead me to your righteousness. Show me those areas where I am still clinging to the flesh.  Father, I desire to walk in your Spirit in all areas of my life so that the fruit of your Spirit may be abundant throughout my life for your glory.   Amen

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FAITH LIKE A RUSSIAN TRACTOR – Nov. 25th

November 25, 2012

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9

According to Steve Cochrane in an article for Tech Republic, you should avoid Russian tractors if you’re in the tractor market. At least you should strike soviet-era tractors from your list. That is unless you enjoy doing mechanic work on tractors, then this might be the tractor for you.

The soviet tractor was the product of a mindset that did not value continual improvement and quality. There was no competition, only quotas, so design rarely changed and flaws persisted. They just kept doing what they did to meet the expectation of the state. The result was a product that did not fail to disappoint. Russian farmers had to continually invest their limited income into repairs of an inferior product.

The contrast is a vehicle manufactured by Toyota. Toyota is a company with stringent quality control. They are continually seeking to improve their product and maintain a high level of quality. Toyota has even developed their own production method called “lean production” and the result is a vehicle that rarely disappoints. It is why a Toyota is… well, a Toyota.

I was wondering how you would describe your faith; would you describe it like a Russian tractor or a Toyota?

There are folks who just continually struggle in their faith; it seems like their spiritual lives consistently fall apart on them. They seem to spend all of their time working on themselves and can never be used. They practice their faith in a manner to simply please the expectations of others. They seem like a Russian tractor.

That may be due to a fundamental flaw in their mindset.  Many folks “get saved”, mark it off their bucket list and just keep doing what they have always done. “Getting saved” is only the start of the Christian life. It is the start of a life of continual improvement and an obsession on quality control that in Christian talk we call sanctification. However, sanctification, like quality, doesn’t just happen. Toyota has invested billions into their production process to get the results that they now enjoy. The soviets never did and now they are gone.

We need to be willing to invest in our own sanctification. That means we need to be willing to put the time in. Sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit but that does not free us of responsibility. We can’t just keep doing what we do. We need to knock, seek, and ask.  All of those words are verbs; action words. When we do all of those actions with our Father in heaven and He will never fail us. We will never be let down by our Father when we invest in our own sanctification.

There may be some folks that go – how? I have been there and have been discouraged by trite answers. I have wondered how this all works because I am tired of being…me.  Maybe, the tools of Toyota’s lean production process can lend us truths in the pursuit of quality in our faith.

  1. Sort through items keeping only what’s needed: Let’s face it; our lives are full of things that we don’t need. There are some things that simply have got to go. They are keeping you bound to this world. They are sources of unholy desires that simply have to be removed because they will continually bring you down.  All things are free to you but all things are not beneficial. You know what those things are. It is time to deal with them.
  2. Straighten – a place for everything and everything in it’s place: Organize your life. As an example, if you find it difficult to have a consistent time in prayer and Bible reading, then organize it. Set aside the same time every day. Don’t try and fit it in; you will never find the time. Get all your Bible stuff in the same place. We can find all sorts of excuses to get up and waste the precious little time that we have. Do this sort of organizing throughout your life and you will be amazed at the consistency that will come from it.
  3. Shine – cleanliness:  Be passionate about purity. It can be so discouraging to fall into that same old sin. Be quick to go to our Father and confess that sin, once again, and be reminded that your sins are forgiven (cleansed), and turn to him (setting your mind on the Spirit) ; become a spiritual neat freak. We can become comfortable with filth in our lives. We need to check our desires and continually clean. We live in a corrupting world that can cling to us like dirt. We need to continually be cleaning the desires of our heart and setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.
  4. Standardize – develop systems and procedures to maintain and monitor the first three: We need to create an examination process in our lives that helps us evaluation how we are doing. This takes humility. We need to remember that we have never “made it”. We are all works in progress. I think that it is healthy to daily evaluate: do I need to sort through things, standardize, clean. A heart that desires Christ more than anything else should always be humbly seeking the Father to make sure we are still moving; constantly desiring more and wanting to go deeper.
  5. Sustain the new level of performance:  Many Christians have this idea that the Christian life is a rollercoaster.  That is a defeatist trap. Sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit; it is a gift of our Father that he gives us when we seek him. Why would that go up and down? That doesn’t mean that we will not experience disappointment and suffer. However, circumstance should not affect our maturity. It should enhance it. We need to have an expectation that this new level of fellowship with our Father is the norm. If it even begins to wane, we need to fight to sustain the new normal for our lives. Dig in and fight for it; don’t be content with the way it has always been.

When we get serious about our own faith, we will find that we can have a faith like a Toyota. A faith that will never fail us. All we need to do is start by asking, seeking, and knocking and our Father will give it to us.  Our Father is the best Father ever. He knows how to give good gifts. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)  Do you believe that?  Claim it! Do it! Prove it!  Take God at his word and you will never be disappointed in his faithfulness.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for begin such a good Father to me; thank you for giving me every good thing that I need.  Lord – I desire more of you. I desire to know you more. I desire to know you deeper. Lord – I ask that you will fill me with your Holy Spirit; overflow in me. Lord – show me those areas of my life that I need to sort through; show me where the filth in  my life is hidden; give me strength to organize my life with you as the priority. I can’t do this without out you. Thank you for not expecting me to; Lord make me into what you desire – I am willing.   Amen

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