Archive for the ‘Obedience’ Category

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“FAT DENIED” – April 13

April 13, 2015

“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”  Philippians 3:19

lose-weight-now-300x200I have reached an unachievable milestone.

Four years ago my bathroom scale registered 227 lbs.  That too was a milestone but not a surprise.  I had been on a rather rapid ascension as I broke new heavier weights on a regular basis.  This ascension was quickly taking me to 230 lbs; an unthinkable weight that no longer allowed me to deny the reality of my physique.  I had ceased to be husky or thick or filled-out.

I was fat.

For years, my exercise had consisted of mere yard work associated with the eating habits of a twenty-nothing’s metabolism.  Inevitably, every birthday was heralded with a larger number on the bathroom scale.  Yet, my body type allowed me to deny the reality of the bathroom scale.  I carry my weight throughout my upper body.  As a result, I have never had a big gut.  I carry weight across my chest, down my back and through my torso.  In fact, my body has an amazing ability to insert fat into body locations that I didn’t know could hold fat.  I confused strategically placed fat for being muscle.

The result was a redefining of being overweight.

I read an article in Bicycling magazine about the ideal cycling weight.  According to the article, my ideal cycling weight is 167 lbs, which I thought was simply absurd.  There was no way that a guy of my stature and build could be 167 lbs.  So, I changed a couple of the variables in the formula and re-calculated an ideal weight of 186 lbs.  I felt that this weight while maybe not absurd, it surely was ridiculous.  There was no way a guy with my muscle mass could get down to 186 lbs.

Yesterday, when I stepped upon my bathroom scale, it registered 186.6 lbs.

It was a rather anticlimactic achievement of the unachievable.  I had a mental image of what 186 lbs. would look like and reality has not matched my mental glamour shots.

I still can’t see my abs.
I still have “man-boobs” and love-handles.
I can still lose another 10 lbs.
I can grab hold of exactly where the next 15 lbs. will come from.

When I was 227 lbs., I argued against obesity charts that stated I needed to lose 40 lbs.  I scoffed at an ideal of losing 60 lbs as impossible.  I am no longer scoffing.  I had lived a lifestyle that normalized excessive weight.  I criticized those who stated the reality of an ideal as being ridiculous and without understanding.

I have now proven who was ridiculous.

The most disturbing aspect of this weight loss is the realization of how deceived of my own condition I had become.  No one had deceived me.  I had done it to myself.  I like to think of myself as a logical and rational person.  However, I had convinced myself through years of denial that fat was muscle.  How irrational was that?  Yet, I don’t think I am alone.

obesity-overweight-statistics-diet-planIt was only when I had achieved some weight loss that the combination of a bathroom mirror and scale began to provide an effective rebuttal to years of justification.  I now know the ideal cycling weight is possible.  It is an ideal not measured by what others are doing or what I think is possible.  It is an ideal based upon accurately identifying fat.

The realization of this self-deception has caused me to contemplate the possibility of a similar pattern of denial in far more important aspects of my life.  I look at my spiritual life and consider myself reasonably mature.  I endeavor to live in a manner of obedience to the ideal presented in the Bible.  Jesus Christ says follow me and that has been what I desire to do.

However, I wonder if years of living in a soft and decadent age may have eased me into a redefinition of what is possible in the Christian life.  I can provide a series of justifications as to why the ideal of perfect sanctification has not occurred within my life.  Yet, could many of those justifications merely be a confusion of disobedience for spiritual maturity?  Self-deception substituting of sin for strength. Just as 65% of Americans are physically overweight to obese, how many professing Christians are spiritually over-weight to obese with sin?

We live in a world of convenient confession and an inoffensive gospel.  Individual self-esteem is idolized through every aspect of our society, including the Church.  There are many in the “church” who redefine sin as virtue and confuse unrighteousness with strength.

I fear me that the Christian church is far more likely to lose her integrity in these soft and silken days than in those rougher times. We must be awake now, for we traverse the enchanted ground, and are most likely to fall asleep to our own undoing, unless our faith in Jesus be a reality, and our love to Jesus a vehement flame. Many in these days of easy profession are likely to prove tares, and not wheat; hypocrites with fair masks on their faces, but not the true born children of the living God.  ~ C.H. Spurgeon

Many professing Christians are spiritually fat with sin, having deceived themselves into thinking the ideal is absurd.  I don’t want to be one.

We must return to believing that there is an ideal of obedience.  We must not redefine obedience in order to make it reasonable or appropriate for our time.  We must not criticize those who state the reality of the ideal as being ridiculous and without understanding.

Also, we must believe the ideal of obedience is possible for all those who are in Christ.

Some ideals of obedience may seem unachievable and they may not be achievable, today.  However, that does not eliminate our hope.  Do not be deceived into thinking that God does not have something better for you.  We are continually being transformed from one degree of glory to another.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.  (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Do not give up on the ideal of sanctification.  Do not be deceived into thinking you are strong when you are not.  Do not be content with carrying strategically placed sin simply because no one notices or you have a better façade than your friends.  Press on toward the goal of obedience emanating from a grateful heart in love with God.  Press on despite what the world around you is languishing in.  Press on toward the holiness that God has called us to because the obedience we desire comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.  All things are possible for those who are in Christ.

Let us never measure our religion by that of others, and think we are doing enough if we have gone beyond our neighbors. ~ J.C. Ryle

PRAYER: Lord, remove any self-deception that I may have allowed in my life.  Help me to see clearly.  Examine my heart and show me where I have allowed sin to linger and accumulate.  Make me lean in obedience to you.  Father, you have been so good to me.  Thank you for the gift of faith.  Lord, you are my good Father and you have said that you will give me what I ask in your name; I ask to be sanctified in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Transform me from one degree of glory to the next.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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FAST FLEEING – Jan 25

January 25, 2015

“You have neither art nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God” Acts 8:21

I have done it to myself. training bible

At the beginning of the year, I laid out my annual training plan.(Training Plan)  I have been following the plan very consistently. It has been helpful to have a purposeful plan for both my physical and spiritual training. My January has been more productive than any in recent memory and I believe that is due to these plans.

For me, the advantage of a training plan is that it allows you to schedule, as a self-coach or personal trainer, the activities that you know are necessary for continued improvement. I rarely feel like doing hard things. Therefore, the hard workouts don’t seem to come up on my playlist when I am making my selection on what I feel like doing.

I have just such an activity schedule for next week. I placed this activity on my calendar in the comfort of my Christmas vacation. It is an activity that I know I should do, but I never get done; I am scheduled to fast next week.

Fast! What have I done to myself?

My earlier coaching-self knows the importance of fasting. The Coach knows the scripture references on fasting. The Coach spouts his most convincing passage to fast:

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them and then they will fast.” (Matt 9:14-15)

However, my present training-self immediately resorted to the typical response, when he realized what was scheduled for him. My trainee-self rebelled against my coaching-self and tried to get out of it.

I had double scheduled this week and was planning on going to my son’s NCFCA speech and debate tournament. I could not possibly fast through that week.

This excuse normally works.  Fasting is never convenient.  I usually can come up with some reason as to why I can’t go without eating.

But then, my work scheduled changed. I have several critical projects that will not let me take next week off…suddenly I can fast again.

“Fine; I’ll do it,” my trainee-self conceded to my coaching-self.

My training-self then began to re-hash all the old reservations about fasting. I have not done well in past fasts. I don’t feel very spiritual when I fast. I actually feel the opposite. All sorts of nastiness comes out of me when I fast. Fasting seems to be counter-productive. The trainee-self made a convincing argument that the Coach doesn’t know what he is talking about by inserting an activity that is clearly not going to develop continued improvement. Fasting is not for me. What is he thinking?

This excuse has always been the closing argument to get out of fasting.  Fasting makes me feel bad and very un-spiritual.  Therefore, I should not do it.

And then, I listened to this video by John Piper:

One of the purposes of fasting is to actually expose all the nastiness that I normally can keep hidden under a full belly. Fasting allows us the opportunity to deal with our nasty inner selves through prayer as they are revealed.

“Alright, alright, alright; I’ll do it,” was the capitulation of my training conscious.

I resolved to the fact that I am going to fast this coming week when the Trainee took one last attempt to get out of the maniacal scheduling of the Coach.  My nephew did a month-long juice fast about a year ago. I was amazed at the amount of weight he lost. I have been trying to lose weight. The Trainee began to wonder how much weight he might be able to lose in a week-long fast. It would be awesome if I break my metabolism loose and drop a substantial amount of weight. I began to focus more on the athletic benefits of a fast rather than the spiritual.
However, the Trainee immediately recognized that his heart was not right regarding the purpose of fasting. “It will be useless,” the trainee reasoned. I do not want to be like Simon the Magician who tried to buy spiritual gifts for all the wrong reasons. I should not fast with a heart that is not right before God.

This is a particularly sweet excuse.  The “my heart is not right” excuse has gotten me out of a lot of things that I did not want to do.

And then, I read verse 22:

Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.  (Acts 8:22)

I suddenly had the first nasty heart condition to repent before the Lord as part of my fasting period.

“I give up. I’ll do it,” the humbled Trainee whispered.

All the debate within my own head, reveals why the Spirit has consistently laid fasting upon the heart of my coaching-self. As all of my excuses have fallen, I have come to an even firmer resolution that I need to do this hard thing. I need to fast. My rebellious training-self has a lot of hidden nastiness that needs to be dealt with.

I realize that this resolution would probably never have happened if my coaching-self had not placed it into the training schedule. That is the power of a plan. Therefore, I am going to fast. As ugly as it may be, I am confident that my future self will be grateful to the obedience, even though it has been reluctant, of the present me in following the Spirit’s call to obedience.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for being so reluctant to give up my food.  Forgive me for all the excuses that I have come up with not to do what I believe you have been drawing me to do.  Help in the coming week.  Lord, enable this period of fasting be a blessing to my soul and bring glory to you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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RACE MODE – April 25

April 25, 2014

“You were running well.  Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”  Galatians 5:7

I have six weeks to go until the Ironman Boise 70.3. Time has slipped past quicker on the calendar than the asphalt has passed beneath me since my decision to enter (The Agnostic will never be an Ironman). My training has been very consistent yet my time-on-legs has not accumulated as rapidly as I would have liked.

Two rules of thumbs have come to press me into an uncomfortable dilemma. I need to add running miles slowly to avoid injury. Yet, I need to begin tapering from my longest run, three weeks before race day so I will be fresh when it really matters. I have been adding one mile per week. If I get in a 10 mile run this weekend, then I can get to 13 miles over the next three weeks, just in time before I need to start backing off.

It will all work out as long as I stay on schedule.

However, the weather has not been cooperating with my schedule. This last week has been full of rain and wind that has completely kept me off the bike and has forced me to limit my runs. I look to the forecast of the weekend without much hope of a break in the weather.  I need to get in a long run, but that will probably mean a miserable run in a cold, driving, rain.

My race day looms through the gloom of storms. The storm front will not push my race day back.  I will either have to endure through uncomfortable training conditions or face the disappointment of not being ready on race day.

If a race did not occupy a spot on my calendar, I would not train in inclement weather. I would not go out in miserable conditions when they could be avoided by delay. I would not strive to improve at the expense of unnecessary discomfort.  There is no need to endure the uncomfortable when there is plenty of time to train or there is no race on the horizon.

We train differently when we are in race mode. We have to demonstrate more self-control in our training when we are striving to do well in a race. Therefore, I will be going for a run this weekend. I hope it does not rain but I am resolved not to let the weather detour me from my goal.10299087_634665106615225_8860704770501170396_n

The same is true of our spiritual training. We live differently when we are in race mode.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

We all have a day coming when we cross the finish line of life. Will we finish well? Are we striving to obtain the prize? The storm clouds of life will not push back our final day. That glorious day should loom through all the momentary gloom of daily cares.

Yet, I do not see a lot of folks living in race mode. The self-control of spiritual disciplines is quickly discarded at the hint of inclement conditions.

Evening prayers are shortened to accommodate late-night TV.
Comfort is sought in ice cream rather than our Savior.
Praise of men governs a prideful tongue.
Charity is withheld in lieu of vacation.
Ministry is replaced by a nap.
Envy flourishes in the discontentment of loss.
Worship of flesh replaces praise of the Almighty.
Harsh words are not withheld due to unrestrained anxiety.
Morning bible reading is discarded for minutes of additional sleep.

It is easy for the cares of this world to throw us off our game. Self-control is difficult when the pressure and discomfort of a sinful will wars against our redeemed soul. It is easy to surrender to our sinful passions when we are living as if there is no finish line and cease to strive for the prize.

We do not live aimlessly. Our self-control is not in vain. We are following Christ in order to obtain the prize of eternal life. We are striving in our spiritual training to glorify the God we love and to enjoy Him daily. We say  “no” to our flesh because we are in a race for the glory of God and we only have so many days to the finish line.

Let’s not waste a day of training.  May we continue to follow Christ even when the world around us is miserable and we just want to stay in bed.  The finish line is coming and none of us knows the day.  What is hindering you from running well?

I think this video by John Piper, Make War, is excellent at describing the attitude we Christians should live in.

PRAYER: Father, keep me in race mode. Lord, help me to make war on my sinful flesh.  Don’t let me be live like there will always be another day to glorify you.  Help me to number my days.  Give me the strength to follow you in the foulest of circumstances.  Give me the perseverance to always strive forward in obedience regardless of what my flesh wants to do.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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WARNINGS OF THE OBVIOUS – April 22

April 22, 2014

“If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting.”   Deuteronomy 28:1-2

I am dismayed by the litigious world that we live in. I know of no better example of our society’s misplaced responsibility than the absurd labels manufacturers place on their products in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit. I am inclined to think that these labels are necessary for a special type of consumer.

dumb-and-dumber

Here are a few that made me laugh from the website:
Things People Said: Warning Labels.

“Eating rocks may lead to broken teeth.”
On a novelty rock garden set called “Popcorn Rock.”

“Caution: Hot beverages are hot!”
On a coffee cup.

“Do not eat toner.”
On a toner cartridge for a laser printer.

“Do not drive with sunshield in place.”
On a cardboard sunshield that keeps the sun off the dashboard.

“This product not intended for use as a dental drill.”
On an electric rotary tool.

“Recycled flush water unsafe for drinking.”
On a toilet at a public sports facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“For external use only!”
On a curling iron.

“Warning: knives are sharp!”
On the packaging of a sharpening stone.

“Remove plastic before eating.”
On the wrapper of a Fruit Roll-Up snack.

“Turn off motor before using this product.”
On the packaging for a chain saw file,
used to sharpen the cutting teeth on the chain.

The sad reality is that these labels are needed. People will do stupid things because they think  they know best. Their foolishness will cause them to ignore the obvious.

I want to believe that these warning labels for the obvious are not necessary for me but then I read the Bible. I read of Moses’ warnings to God’s chosen people and they read like warning labels for the obvious.

And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)

If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)

These warnings of the Bible are pretty simple. God, Creator of heaven and earth, will be for those who love and follow Him with their whole heart. Those who are in Christ will know Him as Father and be adopted as children of God. He will grant upon them love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and eternal life.

However, it is going to go bad for those who refuse to love and obey the One, who holds the stars in place. God’s wrath will fall on those who stubbornly cling to their rebellion against the King of kings. God will discipline those who are His, to bring them back into a right relationship with Him as any loving parent will discipline their child.

I read these warnings and they seem so obvious – it is better to be with God than against Him.  Yet…Dumb_and_Dumber_To_39522

How many times do we continue to live in disobedience?
That is like trying to sharpen a chainsaw without turning the motor off.

 How many seasons have passed without opening the Bible or kneeling prayer?
That is like trying to get nutrition from a snack pack without opening the wrapper.

How regularly is the filth of entertainment consumed?
That is like drinking recycled flush water from a toilet and not expecting to get sick.

How eagerly is a conversation turned to gossip?
That is like pouring a cup of coffee on our lap and being shocked that we get burned.

 How long is anxiety coddled?
That is like grinding our teeth away on rocks and hoping they don’t break.

 How casually are the passions of lust titillated?
That is like juggling knives without being lacerated.

We often deny the obvious warnings of God because we think we know better. However, our rejection of God’s warnings simply proves that we are not any wiser than the intended audience of manufactures’ most ridiculous product warning labels.

God warns us for our good and because He loves us. Let us not foolishly ignore the common sense warning of the obvious – it is better to be with God than against Him.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me of my foolishness.  Forgive me for thinking that warnings do not apply to me.  Thank you for your warnings.  Thank you for loving me and working good for me by disciplining me.  Thank you for not leaving me as I am.  Help me to follow you as a child – in loving obedience.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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SKIPPING GYM CLASS – April 4

April 4, 2014

“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds so doing when he comes.” Luke 12:43

We heard the news with glee, a substitute. My high school freshman PE teacher was out for the day but the class was going forward with a substitute teacher. We knew this substitute teacher – old, crotchety, and devoid of humor. Before we even knew what the day held, we hatched a plan.

We were going to skip class.

Locker Room

My two accomplices and I waited to implement our grand strategy. As the class exited the locker room, we turned left when they went right into the gymnasium. We scurried to the back of the locker room and waited for the sound of sneakers on concrete to dissipate.

We had done it. We had escaped from the tyranny of that humorless substitute teacher. We now had a whole hour of freedom. Except, we were confined within the belly of the high school. We had not thought about that in our hasty decision. If we left the locker room, we would be caught. We were dressed in our gym clothes; if we went anywhere, it would be obvious that we were skipping gym class. Besides, it was too cold to go outside.

The enthusiasm of our rebellion faded into boredom as we settled onto the locker room benches to wait out the class. We could hear the bouncing of balls and the excited shouting of games at play. However, it was too late to blend back into the class. The teams would have been picked and roles assigned. We would be caught if we tried to join the fun going on in the gym.

We filled the time with the combination of head-locks, talk of girls and toys, and the typical silence of adolescent boys. Our banal discussion came to an abrupt halt when we heard a door open and close. Someone had entered our sanctum. Footsteps began to fall on concrete with the unmistakable sound of an adult. To our horror, the footsteps were heading directly toward us.

We retreated deeper into the locker room. We were going to get caught. I did not want to get caught. I was not sure what awful punishment would befall me but I did not want to find out. The footsteps were relentless in their progression. They were not deviating in the least. The even pace of each step mercilessly pushed into the confines of the shower/toilet room. There was no escape – we could not get out. Yet, our rebellion was not done. We were determined not to get caught.

English: photo of toilet seat

Our only choice was to hide. A co-conspirator and I entered the toilet stall with its walls and doors. We quickly perched ourselves upon the toilet seat, so that our pursuer would not see our feet, and closed the door. There we waited, backs to the wall, frightened face to frightened face. In hushed silence, we listened to the footsteps.

He had come into our section of the locker room. He was coming down the row of lockers, clack, clack, of one foot step after another. He was taking a direct route to our confine. Does he know? How could he know? On he came; one step after one horrible step, until we heard the steps stop just outside our toilet stall. Could it be that he has to go the bathroom?

While the footsteps were bad enough, they were nothing compared to the bang on the toilet stall. I was lost in my hope of escape. So, the bang nearly frightened me off of my perch and into the water below. We were frozen until the next bang was followed by the words, “come on, get out of there”.

It was over. We were caught. I don’t know how. He must have been part blood hound. I reached over from my perch and unlatched the door. As it lazily swung open, I received the most disapproving look of condescension in my life. There the varsity basketball coach stood with two of the most pitifully idiotic teenage boys still perched upon the toilet seat before him.

Trip to New Zealand

Trip to New Zealand (Photo credit: miss_rogue)

He did not say anything other than, “let’s go” with a roll of the eyes and a shake of the head. And with that, our rebellion was over. We had been caught and now had to make the humiliating walk to the principal’s office in our gym clothes.

I later found out that our rebellion had saved us from the best day of gym class, ever.  The substitute teacher had let everyone play whatever they wanted to do, while he read the paper.

I had rebelled against supervised freedom for unsupervised confinement and punishment. That had not been a good choice.

How often do we make this sort of bad choice in our spiritual lives?

We rebel against God’s instruction in anticipation of freedom and pleasure. We refuse obedience because it seems like we are being forced to do something awful. We run from the presence of God thinking we can escape only to find that what we have escaped to is not as we had imagined.

It is foolish to think that our rebellion and sin will not be discovered. God will relentlessly pursue us. He will back us up into the confines of our own choosing until we are revealed perched upon the toilet seat of bad decisions.

While we have endured the anxiety of being pursued by God, what have we saved ourselves from? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control…yeah, that is horrible. How idiotic is it to run from real freedom under the loving supervision of our heavenly Father for the unsupervised confinement and punishment of rebellion and sin?

Seems like an easy choice to me.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for running from your blessings. Forgive me for foolishly thinking that I know what is best for me.  Thank you for being so good.  Thank you for being so gracious and patience with my idiotic decisions.  Thank you for the freedom that you have given my in your Son, Jesus Christ. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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I AM SETTING OUT – April 3

April 3, 2014

“So the people of Israel set out from Rameses and camped at Succoth….And they set out from…And they set out from…And they set out from…And they set out from the mountains of Abarim and camped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho…” Numbers 33:5-49

Moses’ diary of the stages of the people of Israel while in the wilderness chronicles a consistent pattern. It is a boringly consistent pattern when read in summary. The Israelites were constantly moving on. They were setting out from one place and heading to another place. They still did this pattern for decades because they were not in the promise land.

Desert

Desert (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

The land they were passing through was not their inheritance. They were not to settle in a land filled with idolatry that would draw them away from following God with their whole hearts. We can read about what happened to the nation of Israel when they failed to take possession of the Promised Land and settle in it as God directed them.

The enticements of the settled land became barbs in their eyes and thorns in their sides, and they had trouble in the land where they dwelt. (Numbers 33:55)

I wonder what the summary of my spiritual journey toward eternal life chronicles.

We get in trouble when our hope settles in this life. We are passing through a world of temptations that can become barbs that pull our eyes away from Christ. We are baited into fulfilling desires that can become thorns in our sides that hold us back.  The summary of our lives should demonstrate a consistent pattern of setting out from those loves that entice our hearts away from wholly following Christ.

I am setting out from my love of praise.
I am setting out from my pride.
I am setting out from my anger.
I am setting out from my gossip.
I am setting out from my success.
I am setting out from my failure.
I am setting out from disappointment.
I am setting out from my love of money.
I am setting out from my jealously.
I am setting out from my envy.
I am setting out from my worry.
I am setting out from discontentment.
I am setting out from my love of comfort.
I am setting out from my lust.
I am setting out from my fears.
I am setting out from my doubt.
I am setting out from unbelief.

I know there are a lot of things that I need to set out from. I can readily attest to the areas of my life where I settle. Many times, I will set out only to circle back to those sinful loves of my heart that bind me like thorns in my side.

DesertWe all have specific idols in our lives that have strong allurement. We should not be discouraged by the number of times we set out from these wayward loves. We will always battle temptations to settle for the false promises of this world.

I hope that the diary of my life is a boringly consistent pattern when read in summary.

The pattern of a follower of Christ should be one of consistent setting out. While we are still in this life, we will be constantly setting out from those things that keep us from wholly following Christ. We can have confidence in a future of not settling because of the power of the Spirit. There is not a power in this world that can keep us from setting out in the power of the Spirit. I look forward to a future of not settling for anything other than my inheritance – eternal life as an heir of God. Therefore…

I am setting out from the idols that ensnare me.
I am setting out despite the barbs in my eyes and the thorns in my side.
I am setting out in faith, pursuing the Hope that will never disappoint.
I am setting out with a mind on the things of the Spirit.
I am setting out with a heart wholly devoted to Christ.

 

PRAYER: Father, thank you for giving me a hope to set out for. Forgive me for settling upon loves that will never satisfy me.  Forgive me for settling when I should be following.  Lord, help me to follow you.  Give me the power to set out.  Remove the barbs from my eyes.  Pluck the thorns from my sides.  Free me from all that entangles my love for you and you alone.  Thank you for saving me and giving me an inheritance that I did not deserve. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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“GOD IS CALLING” – Nov 25

November 25, 2013

“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,”Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”” Jonah 1:1-2

The story of Jonah will spring from the memory of anyone who has grown up in the Church.  I trembled before the flannel graphs of my youth, at the thought of being pursued by God for refusing His calling.  I learned very early that resistance is futile when God calls.  I imagine that my search for a calling from God may have started to germinate in those early Sunday School classes.

VLA  radio telescope - New Mexico

VLA radio telescope – New Mexico (Photo credit: alienwatch)

In fact, I cannot remember a time when my ear was not somewhat inclined toward the cosmos in expectation of hearing a word of God regarding my future.  I have so often felt like a radio telescope searching the divine for my niche in God’s sovereign plan.  I never received a calling as I had learned it to be.

I wondered why God would not want to use me.  I feared that my life was not qualified for God’s work.  What would happen if He did not call?

I acknowledge that there are some Jonahs out there; people who are running from what they know to be God’s direction.  However, my experience has been that there are many more slogging through their daily lives just waiting for God to call.  These are folks desperate to know that God has made a specific and relevant place for them in His sovereign plan.  They are willing to trek off into far off lands, to face dangers, and to sacrifice according to their calling – if that calling were clearly defined.

DISH HEADSPastors often will talk about their calling into the ministry; “The Lord has called me to ‘XYZ’”.  In fact, I have heard the advice of eminent teachers stating that a person who has not heard the certain calling of God is not qualified for the ministry.  I have heard recollections of how God has spoken to a faithful servant and told them to be part of a specific ministry; “God told me…”.

 

I was awed in my youth by the conviction of these special people who had the authority of God in their calling.  They were obedient Jonahs.  They had not run when the word of the Lord had come but had yielded to their part in God’s sovereign plan.  They had a part.

My awe has diminished somewhat with age.  I hope that it is not skepticism.  I have learned through the years that many of these callings were not what I had understood.  When pressed, many of these divine callings transform into descriptions of what I find familiar.  They describe something that is not as supernatural as I had expected or maybe I have been treading in the supernatural more than I had thought.

They will often explain an experience that I have known while walking according to the Spirit.  Their callings sound more like what I call leadings.  I have felt my heart inclined toward participating in a ministry.  I have felt the irrepressible urge to preach.  I have been drawn to give.  I have been bold to speak.  I have been oppressed to serve.  I heard an inner voice echo within my conciseness saying “You should do that.”

I realize that many find great comfort in ascribing these leadings to the direct word of the Lord in their lives.  May God bless them.  It is not for me to determine how the Spirit will interact with a child of God.

Maybe, it is timidity, hopefully, it is humility, but I am hesitant to claim the authority of “God has told me” because I am not certain that what I heard was prophetic.  I know that the working of the Spirit in my life can be fallible, not because of Him but because of me.  I know that I don’t hear things as clear as I should.  I know that I will often hear what I want to hear.  I know that my flesh can corrupt the message.

However, it is very comforting to understand that I have not been left out of God’s plan due to the lack of the mysterious calling.  He has called me for years.  I just didn’t recognize it as such.  We are being called to obedience daily.  We are all being called to love one another.  We are all being called to seek, give, teach, worship, glorify, encourage, preach, defend…  The children of God are all called to follow Christ.

So, go do it.  Go do all that God has already called everyone to do.

Stop waiting for a spiritual trump card.  Stop waiting for the divine authority of a calling.  If the Spirit is leading you to do something, go do.  You might be misguided.  You might meander about while you try to figure things out.  You probably will be opposed.  You might face criticism.  You might not feel supported by family and friends.  You might even be wrong but if you are walking in the Spirit and responding in a faith being worked through with love, then God is going to make it all work out for His good.

Our Lord is going to be faithful and true.
He will confirm upon you His great pleasure as you step out in faith.
We have been set free to take that step.
We are not going to screw it up.

If an opportunity presents itself to show God’s love, than take it.
If you feel a desire to serve God, then go knock on some doors where opportunity lives.
If you have work in your hands, be content to serve God where you are.  Don’t despise what God has given you to do in hopes of something better.

If you feel like God wants you to do something: pray about it, talk to other believers you trust, seek the scriptures, and if it all checks out – then do it.

We make the search for a calling harder than it really is.  God is not playing a mysterious game of hide and seek with His children. He has given us all the tools that we need to obediently follow him.  We don’t need hyper-spiritual super solutions or to decipher a mysterious code.

We just need to trust and love our Lord and then do what comes to our heart – relaxing a bit would help.

The truth is that God is more committed to showing you His will than you are to discovering it.  ~ Tullian Tchividjian

PRAYER: O Lord, you know that I have struggled and continue to struggle with knowing your will.  Forgive me for being envious of my brothers’ callings.  Forgive me for wanting a calling that I  do not have and may never have.  Help me to be content with what You have called me to do today.  Open my eyes to the opportunities that you place all around me.  Bless the work that you have all ready given me.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

I highly recommend Kevin DeYoung’s excellent book,  Just Do Something – A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will  for those who could use more guidance about understanding God’s will for our lives.

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