Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

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“GLORY OF THE BONSAI” – March 19

March 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

The Gardener loves the Big Oak.

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

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

It is as if he is bound and pulled down.

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

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

It is as if he is contained and drained.

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

The Gardener will never love him as that Big Oak.

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

Malus_hupehensis01
He sees the Big Apple Tree.

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

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

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

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

The Gardener love the Big Apple Tree.

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

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

It is as if he lacks the power to grow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gardener has made him a work of art.

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

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

The Gardener is perfecting it all.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

I don’t think we are supposed to know.

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

Each is a pruning, binding, training.

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

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

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

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

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

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RETELLING PROVERBS 7 – Sept. 30

September 30, 2015

“My son, keep my words and treasure up my commands with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”  Proverbs 7:1-3

This is my attempt to retell the advice of Proverbs 7
in the context of this present age.

My son, I have some advice for you.

Pause for a time;

Hear what I have learned,

That you may receive wisdom and not pain;

That you will be guarded by knowledge and not nature.

For all that is shapely is not trim;

And not all that is buxom is natural.

Hear the truth in my words;

Value the understanding of experience.

A day will come when you will doubt the relevance of old men.

And dismiss advice as uninformed.

Therefore, settle the matter in your mind.

Decide if truth will be the foundation of your principles;

Be as familiar with her as of your sister’s image;

Know your principles as well as any intimate friend,

To keep you from the temptation of seduction.

The familiar story, you have heard.

A young man, full of naïve confidence,

Convinced of his own resolutions,

Purposefully pursues an avenue without sense.

Foolish boy who plays with indwelling fire,

Without an ability to extinguish.

He closes the door, beyond the eyes of elders.

A singular face illuminated by a screen;

Fully aware of the call echoing within;

Lying in wait.

Harmless browsing, bannered by advertising;

Images unsought sponsor a search;

Articles of the alluring allure;

Lists of the hottest ignite heat;

News of the attractive attract;

Only the simple ignore the sequence.

A swing of the door leads to a click on something dormant;

A scroll through the dormant germinates to a click on scantily cladded;

A scroll through the scantily cladded sprouts to a click on the claddless;

A scroll through the claddless blossoms to a click on the corrupt.

A slide starts with a solitary swing.

And now, O Son, listen to me,

And be attentive to the words of my mouth.

Do not believe those who claim no harm in pornography;

Do not value the famous who belittle the value of morality;

Do not credit bondage as freedom;

Do not confuse forgiveness with relevance.

This sin is written with a cursor of steel;

With an icon of diamond it carves cravings into the soul.

Cravings create a crack;

Cracks create a cleft;

Clefts keep one from the power of the One.

Everyday, you train your mind to either,

Seek the pleasure of God

Or the pleasure of flesh.

Let not your heart be turned by a door and swing;

Do not illuminate your face in privacy,

For many have been trapped

And their morality harvested;

Countless convictions have yielded to this call and compromise.

Pornography is a house along a path leading from God;

Those who travel it will never find Him.

Do not think that there are no consequences

To actions behind swinging doors.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray for all those caught in pornography.  Father, I ask that your healing and restoration will abide on all those caught in this sin who call upon your name.  Lord, keep me and my son from this hidden sin.  I ask that you will grow in us this fruit of your Spirit, self-control.  Help us to rely upon you in all things.  Help us to be aware of the danger.  Help us to be careful to love you with all of our heart, soul, and strength. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 3)” – Sept. 21

September 21, 2015

“It shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:26-28

Thank you for sticking with me as I have reflected upon my experience at the 2015 LOTOJA.  You can find part one and two here:  No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 1); No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 2).lotoja map_thumb[2]

I surmise that the general impression from the reading of my LOTOJA experience will be viewed as rather negative.

The LOTOJA is a very long bike ride on which you experience many emotions.  I experienced spectacular vistas, exceptional volunteers, and the exhilaration of achievement.  Yet, those experiences are not what come to my mind as I reflect upon the LOTOJA.  I have to consciously push aside my memories of frustration to mine the positive from my LOTOJA experience.

This reality demonstrates a distinct failure on my behalf. 

I allowed the behavior of others to dominate my perception of an epic ride.  I grumbled through seventy-five percent of my LOTOJA. My grumbling was fixated upon actions that demonstrated a disregard of my expectations.  I realize that the recounting of my fellow riders may characterize them as being rude.  However, it is not an entirely fair characterization.  They are good guys.  I never perceived any ill will through our trip.

Therefore, I choose to view my LOTOJA as a case study in differing expectations.

The term domestique, in cycling road racing, refers to the cyclist who works for the team and team leader.  They are the cyclists who carry the water bottles and food and do the work of pulling team members through difficult sections.  The French word, Domestique, is translated “servant.”

I had the expectation that this ride would consist of a team composed entirely of domestiques.  We were going to be servants to each other in order that we would all finish together.

981002_10201434224324276_965735367_oApparently, my team did not share my expectation.  They held an understanding more typical of cycling racing in which a domestique is dropped when he ceases to be useful.  My grumbling originated in the offensiveness of being treated as a domestique.  No one waits for a domestique and I had expected someone to wait for me.

I grumbled away the blessings of an epic ride dwelling upon unfulfilled expectations.

I confess that the LOTOJA is not the first time where I have allowed my grumbling to dominate the perception of my life.  I have expectations, like most people.  Those expectations typically reside upon people who are close to me.  I have expectations of family, friends, and Church fellowship.  I have the most expectations of those who have joined me on this spiritual journey called “life.”

I have relatively few expectations, beyond lawfulness, of those who are outside the immediacy of my life.  I don’t have a problem with them treating me as a servant.  If a person is not a Christian, I don’t expect him to display the fruits of the Spirit.  As John Newton  stated, they warrant my deepest pity, kindness, and prayers.  If he is a Christian, I seem to be more inclined to extend him grace because I don’t know his level of spiritual maturity.

I struggle most when those who are close to me treat me like a domestique.  I am referring to those situations when someone we consider a teammate in life acts upon differing expectations or fails to live up to our standard.

It hurts when those expectations are not fulfilled. 

It hurts to be disregarded.
It hurts not to be valued.
It hurts to be perceived as useless.
It hurts not to be included.

It hurts to be treated as a servant.

long_road-aheadI have wasted too much of this epic life grumbling about being treated like a domestique.  I know of too many circumstances where someone has allowed an offense to linger for years because of a failure to meet an expectation.

I have no solution to avoid the hurt.  We live in a messy world.  Those who are close to me are imperfect humans with indwelling sin.  I am an imperfect man in need of sanctification.  We will let each other down and treat each other in ways that are perceived as undeserving.

Our fundamental problem is that we don’t inherently want to be treated as a servant.  We get our feelings hurt when we are not appreciated or valued or included.

We grumble when we are actually treated like the very person we have been called to be.  Many Christians are comfortable with the title of servant just as long as they are not treated as such.

Ideally, we would live in a community abounding in the fruit of the Spirit where everyone has a servant’s attitude.  It would be like the perfect group ride where we are servants to each other in order that we would all finish well together.  That perfect world is coming, but it is not here today.   Our reality is that sometimes our teammates lose their servant’s attitude and do not reciprocate our expectations of servanthood and we are left feeling like a lowly domestique.

USAPCC_2Jesus called himself a domesitque.  Jesus did not come into this world to be served but to serve and he continued to serve even went He was treated like a servant…and worse.

We have been given an epic life to live.  Don’t allow the behavior of others to dominate your perception of value.  There are those in this world who may treat you like a lowly domestique.  Are you living for them?

God calls the true domestique great.  Greatness in the eyes of our Lord is our goal.  May we be true servants; in actions and attitudes.

PRAYER:  Father, forgive me for so often taking title of servant, but not the attitude.  Forgive me for allowing the opinions of others to dominate my perception.  Forgive me for not seeking first your kingdom and greatness in your eyes.  Help me Lord to be a servant in actions and attitude.  Help me to be joyful in being treated as your Son was treated; like a servant.  Give me a heart that values your approval above all others.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 2)” – Sept. 18

September 18, 2015

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I apologize for the length of this recounting.  In the spirit of Treebeard, the LOTOJA (Logan, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming) takes a very long time to ride, hopefully, it is worth taking a long time to recount.   You can find part one here:  No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 1).
lotoja map_thumb[2]

After catching up with my team at the top of Strawberry Summit, we pedaled on as a reduced team of four.  We had two more climbs and about 60 miles until our next stop in Afton, Wyoming were we would meet our own support crew.  It was so nice to work within my own team.  I slowed my pace to fit the team as we all took turns pulling the group in order to conserve energy.  My irritation evaporated with the increasing temperatures of mid-day and the friendly chatter within the group.  We stopped for about 20 minutes to fix one team members shoe cleat but other than that we made good time.

We passed over Geneva Summit without much problem and headed into the last major climb after stopping to allow a couple of the team members time to recover.  I have a climbing cassette (12-30 gears) on my bike for rides like the LOTOJA.  It allows me to keep my cadence up on climbs without burning out my legs.  I can spin freely but I don’t go very fast.  As a result, I was the last team member to summit the Salt River pass.  My climbing cassette had worked wonderfully but the heat and duration of climb had still taken it out of me.   I rolled into the rest station to find one team member anxious to get off the pass.  I acquiesced after taking on some water but not fully recovering.  It is all downhill into to Afton, so I thought I would be fine.

The descent off of Salt River is fun.  It is a wide highway with long, sweeping curves that allow you to really let loose.  Since my legs were still a little fatigued, I let the team go on the descent at 40 mph.  I figured that we would regroup at the base and pedal into Afton together.  However, I was dismayed to see my team about a quarter mile ahead of me when I came out of the tuck of my descent.  They had jumped onto a group of other riders and were pedaling away.  I dropped into an aero position with the intent of trying to catch up but that was when the headwind hit me.

There would be no catching up with this head wind.

I finally soloed into Afton, exhausted and infuriated.  My team never waited for me and as a result I had expended precious energy bucking a headwind mostly by myself.  I tossed my helmet onto the ground as I approached my team already recovering in the park.  I thought I was done and I was ready to quit this so-called team.  I sat down and began to indignantly eat through my weariness.  Fortunately, my self-control returned just prior to my ability to coherently communicate so I was able to restrain myself from expressing my consternation in a manner that I would later regret.

We rolled out of Afton as a team.  I realized that my appreciation of landscapes was declining in direct proportion to the accumulation of miles.  Beyond 120 miles, I had to remind myself to periodically look up and behold the beautiful country that we were cycling through.  We were now focused more on the 8:30 PM cutoff time.  One team member abandoned the ride in Alpine so we were down to three.

I was concerned about the cut-off time so I took the majority of the pulls after Alpine.  I had gotten my second wind and was feeling pretty strong.  I pulled our group through the out-skirts of Jackson, Wyoming, accumulating slower riders who jumped on as we passed them.  I took a break after a particularly long pull, falling behind my two remaining teammates.  While I was still recovering, we passed over a drainage grate when I heard twang-clank-clank.  I wasn’t sure what happened but everything seemed fine and the sun was setting.  So, we pedaled on.

I realized something was wrong when my turn to pull came.  Pedaling had become really hard.  I was struggling to keep the pace of my team.  I fell to the back and did everything I could to just hang onto the wheel ahead of me.  The sun was going down and my team members turned on their headlights.  I didn’t have one.

We approached a slower rider and my team accelerated around them.  I tried to go when it was my turn but I didn’t have anything left.  It was taking all of my effort to just keep the pedals moving.  They were quickly 100 yards ahead and I had no voice.  I watched the light of their headlights flicker into the distance.  They had left me, again.

I rode on alone doing everything I could to maintain 12 mph worried that they were going stop me due to the darkness.  I surmised that I had expended too much energy trying to get us to Jackson before sunset and was now tanking out.  The last fifteen miles to the finish line were the hardest I have ever pedaled.

I crossed the finish line exhausted.  After dismounting, I started walking in the direction of the guiding volunteers.  I went to pull my bike alongside me but the rear tire would only skid.  I pulled harder and the tire rolled but again began to slide.  You don’t think very clearly after 200 miles so it took me a little while to realize my problem.  I could now see in the illuminated dark that the twang-clank-clank I heard at sunset was the breaking of a spoke on my rear wheel.  I had just ridden 10+ miles on an out-of-balance wheel, which was rubbing against my brakes.  That is why it was so hard.

The overwhelming feeling that coursed through me as I was handed my finishing metal was:

“I’m glad that is over.”

I learned a lot on that long ride through three states.  In the next post, I will share some of the reflections that a clearer mind has sifted through.

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“No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 1)” – Sept. 17

September 17, 2015

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

The LOTOJA (Logan, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming) is an epic cycling event.  The ride takes you over 205 miles, three summits, and through three States, all in one day.lotoja map_thumb[2]

It is a very long day.

Accepting the challenge of the LOTOJA seemed like a good idea in March, but as September approached my trepidation grew.  I found confidence in the fact that I was part of a team.  We had five riders and we were going to stick together so everyone would finish.  We were not concerned about any time other than the cut-off time.  As a team, we could cross the LOTOJA off of our individual bucket lists.

That plan fell apart from the start of the ride.  Some of our team members are not morning people and as a result we got to the starting line with just minutes to spare from our 6:27AM start.  This was also the time when my decision to drink another cup of coffee while waiting made its presence felt.  I hurriedly sought out a Port-a-Potty.  I did all that I could to hasten this untimely call of nature but by the time I got back to the starting line they were already lining up the next wave of riders.

My team was gone.

I started my LOTOJA by cycling through Logan, Utah in the dark.  I pedaled along, slightly consternated about being abandoned, but I figured that they would wait for me at the first stop in Preston, Utah, 33 miles ahead.  I rode by myself for about 15 miles until another group came along and I was able to jump onto their pace line, which took me into Preston.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

I rolled into my designated feed zone at Preston with the surprise of not seeing any familiar faces.  I wandered around for a while in search of our support crew until I finally resorted to my cell phone.  Fortunately, the support crew was still there but it was disheartening to hear that my team had just left Preston within minutes of my arrival.  I was on my own, again, until the base of Strawberry Mountain, where I was told that they would wait for me.

I pedaled on, jumping onto other groups of cyclists when I could and pedaled solo when I couldn’t.  I passed a rest station at the base of the first small climb.  There was no team waiting for me.  My irritation grew as I watched the miles accumulate on my odometer.  I pasted over the summit of the first climb to find it vacated by my team.  “Surely they’ll wait for me at the bottom of the descent”, I thought.

1Buff Bill SH near UXU RncUnsurprisingly, there was no team at the bottom of the descent.  I started the ascent of Strawberry Summit with the realization that I might just have to finish this ride solo.  After riding through beautiful farm land and into rolling mountains canvased with a stunning combination of pine and deciduous trees, I came to the rest station at the top of Strawberry Summit.  To my surprise, there was my team getting ready to leave.  It had taken about 60 miles but I had finally caught up with them.  This time they waited but there were only three cyclists.  One team member had decided to drop them and ride solo.

I thought that odd.  This is not what I had expected from a team ride.

(The LOTOJA is a long ride.  It probably shouldn’t be surprising that the recounting of it takes a long time.  Therefore, I am breaking my tale up into a series of post.)

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FEAR OF FALLING – Sept. 8

September 8, 2015

“Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.”  Joshua 23:11

DSC_0011-ZF-5601-95690-1-001-010I recently returned with my family from our vacation to Northern Idaho and Montana.  A highlight of this vacation was ziplining within views of Coeur d’Alene Lake.  It was thrilling to soar from treetop to treetop, unencumbered by the constraints of the ground.  A zipline may just be the best substitute for wings available to man.DSC_0019-ZF-5601-95690-1-001-018

 

This activity was a huge accomplishment for my wife who has a fear of heights.  Her fear of heights is a misnomer.  She has a fear of falling.  Therefore, I appreciated the care taken by the tour guides of Timberline Adventures.  Our guides were very careful to make certain that we were always secured from falling.  We had safety harnesses that were always attached to the trolley, a tree, or a railing.

DSC_0021-ZF-5601-95690-1-001-020TheDSC_0023-ZF-5601-95690-1-001-022y were very careful because the danger was real.  That danger could have kept us from soaring.  It could have kept us from experiencing th
e heights.  It could have prevented us from encountering the freedom of an eagle.

 

By being very careful, we were prevented from falling and we saw the world from a new perspective.

The word “careful” has been resonating in my mind as I have observed the revelations and opinions spilling into the public awareness after the disclosure of the Ashely Madison registrants.  The mere existent of a website like Ashely Madison is a stark reminder of the current condition of our society.

We live in a careless culture.

Consider the habitual attitude inhabiting a mind, long before a person registers on a site like Ashely Madison.  Those exposed in this latest of scandals probably embraced the carelessness of our culture long before any action was taken.  This revelation is not an abnormality and not limited to the secular world.  The majority of professing Christians that I know, myself included, live in a morass of careless and muddled thinking.

I believe that careless minds devastate more Christians than anything else.

So, what causes us to be careless?

I am careless when I don’t perceive danger.  I am careless when I am comfortable, confident, and certain.  I am careful when I am fearful of falling.  I am careful when I sense danger.

My carelessness rises in direct proportion with my freedom from fear.

Joshua warned the Israelites to be careful.  He warned them to be careful because they were in danger.  The danger that they faced was from not following the commands of God.  The Israelites were warned many times to fear God and be careful to obey His commandments. Some will argue that the fear of God is an Old Testament warning.  However, consider Jesus’ warning to the disciples:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  (Matthew 10:28)

I know that a lot of people struggle with the ideas of both loving and fearing God.  I have reconciled these two seemly contradictory concepts by equating the fear of God to the fear of heights.

I don’t fear heights.  I fear falling.

I don’t fear the majesty or glory of God.
I don’t fear a God who is merciful and gracious.
I don’t fear a God who is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
I don’t fear a God who forgives iniquity and transgression and sin.

I don’t fear God. I fear falling away from God.

I fear the indwelling unbelief of my own heart.
I fear the unbelief that prefers the trinkets of this world to the glory of God.
I fear the unbelief that the pleasures of this world are better than the love of God.
I fear the unbelief of a lukewarm faith.

We live in a spiritually dangerous world.
Yet, many live in careless tranquility.

We were meant to soar in the love of God. DSC_0026-ZF-5601-95690-1-001-025

However, I don’t have the ability to stand in God’s presence on my own.  I will certainly fall without the power of the Spirit working in my life.  It is those thrilling heights of God which increases my fear of falling from His presence.

Therefore, we must be careful to secure ourselves to His presence by being careful as to where we allow our minds to settle.  That is why we need to be careful.

It is easy to be critical of those currently blushing due to the revelation of their sin.

I cannot cast a stone.  I have too much carelessness in my own life.  For me, the Ashley Madison revelation has been a good admonition to renew a healthy fear of God and increase the carefulness of my own daily walk in the Spirit.

By being very careful, we abide in the Spirit and are secured to God’s presence.
There is no greater height than the throne of God Almighty.

So, before you start throwing stones, ask yourself:

How careful are you?
Where do you allow your mind to wander?
Do you allow your mind to settle on the things of the Spirit or the things of the flesh?
Are you aware of the dangers of your own unbelief?

PRAYER: Lord, I pray for all those whose carelessness has resulted in such a devastating sin as adultery.  Father, I ask that your healing and restoration will abide on all those caught in this sin who call upon your name.  Lord, I ask that you will raise up within your Church, followers who excel in self-control.  I ask that you will grow in me this wonderful fruit of your Spirit.  Help me to rely upon you in all things.  Help me to be aware of the danger.  Help me to be careful to love you with all of my heart, soul, and strength. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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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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