Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coming In Second - AND WINNING!

The thrill of being a participant! The mental and physical preparation; the miles of running; the proper nutrition; training; the focus – the finish line! It’s a long distance race. The course is not clear but you have been assured, you will know the way as you proceed - focused upon the prize!

The prize? Oh, it is everything! Its value is unimaginable. There is no sacrifice too great [so as] to compare with the reward. People have willingly given their very lives to participate. Every obstacle only strengthens. Every mile reenergizes with hope and anticipation. The only thing that matters is that moment, that race, that day!

Sure, there were difficult days during training. There were discouraging moments when you wondered if participation was really necessary – certainly there would be room in the viewing stands. Why go through the pain? Why? Because of the prize! You must not focus upon the past pain – this might discourage you. The “what if” moments of the race might cause you to break your stride.

But there were good days in training! There were days you felt you could conquer the world. You were invincible! Why even go through the race? You’d proven your stamina and were proud of your progress. Why participate? Why? Because of the prize! You must not focus upon the past successes – they might cause you to place false hope in “self” causing you to drop your guard, making you vulnerable and subject to every whim that might come along the way.

No, TODAY is the race! It is NOW. The failures and successes of the past no longer exist! NOW IS THE TIME! It is a fresh, NEW BEGINNING! And as the gun goes off you strain towards the finish line. You cannot see it; you do not know how far it is; you do not know the obstacles that lie ahead – but you strain with every fiber of your being – focused upon the prize!

And you finish - in SECOND PLACE - AND WIN!

But how can this be?

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.
Prov. 3:5,6

But made His own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
Ps. 78:52

And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
Is. 58:11

And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, Who hath not left destitute my master of His mercy and His Truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master's brethren.
Gen. 24:27

And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.
Is. 42:16

To Him the Doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name, and leads them out. When He puts forth all His own, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him because they know His voice.
John 10:3,4

For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our Guide even unto death.
Ps. 48:14

He Who crosses your finish line FIRST, [HE] designed your course, [HE] paid your price [HE] made the sacrifice, [HE] goes before you – to guide you, to protect you, to clear the path, to restore your soul, to encourage, to refresh, to strengthen, to carry, to console, to draw you closer to HIS prize!

May we all one day say with Paul:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.
2 Timothy 3:7,8

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Being IN THE WAY without being in the way!

“Doing my best to stay out of God's way while being in it..."

“I keep tripping over my own two feet!”
“I can’t get out of my own way!”
“I feel like I’m my own worst enemy!”
“Sometimes I can’t tell if I am coming or going!”

Sound familiar? Why is it that when I try so hard to do my very best – I fall so easily? I want God’s will for my life - but it is so hard to find! Why doesn’t He just show me His way?

Perhaps the real question I must ask myself is, “on whose terms do I want God’s will?” Perhaps what I have actually been praying is, “here’s what I want God; bless my desire.” And so, having prayed (and therefore excusing whatever I do as God’s will) I pursue whatever I want with little or no thought at all of God.

Paul “trips all over himself” in Romans 7:14-20:

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no long I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing! Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

He goes on to say in verse 24:

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ My Lord!”

The will of God is not a place - it is a position. Therefore, the child of God does not aimlessly search for His will but rather lives within it. We understand this more clearly as Jesus explains:

“…He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice…”
–John 10:3,4

Experiencing the truly balanced life and living within God’s will are the result of obedience. Obedience allows us to “hear” his voice and enjoy life to the fullest while following Him in the path He has prepared for us. We will discuss in detail precisely what the Word of God says about obedience. Here are a few simple truths for today:

1. To live in God’s Will we must be God’s children.
2. Through our obedience we can be assured that we are living within His Will. Obedience in prayer, study and service removes self-imposed detours and distractions.
3. God ALWAYS positions Himself ahead of us. He clears our path so that nothing too great will overtake us. He prepares us, through our obedience, for challenges ahead that He will use to reveal His love more clearly to us.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone! Sunday's BLOG will be, "Coming in Second, AND WINNING!"

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Proper Positioning

The “Self Help Industry” is expanding throughout the United States and the world. PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) books, infomercials and seminars create an air of expectancy and hope for millions. Ad campaigns exploit our subliminal seduction with destiny to, “Be all that you can be!”

Self-help. SELF-help. Truth be told, it isn’t about “self” at all:

“There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” – Proverbs 14:12

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” - Isaiah 53:6

“As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” - Romans 3:10, 11

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” - Romans 3:23

“For whosoever shall keep the whole low, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” - James 2:10

“If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” - 1 John 1:8

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Lord.” - Titus 3:5, 6

“For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not of works, lest any man should boast.” - Eph 2: 8,9

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver and gold, from your vain manner of life received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” - 1 Peter 1: 18-19

“Marvel not that I said unto thee, you must be born again.” - John 3:7

"[The jailer] brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." (Acts 16:30-31)

To know the will of God, we must become a child of God and it is IMPOSSIBLE to become a child of God apart from the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is nothing WE can “do” to be acceptable in the sight of Almighty Perfection and Purity. There is no such thing as “Self-Help” when it comes to our eternal state. On the contrary:

“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father, Who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have WE not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name have WE not cast out demons? And in Thy name done many wonderful WORKS? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” - Matt 7: 21-23

The will of God? The first step is clear:

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is long- suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotton Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life!” John 3:16

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give the unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” - John 10: 27, 28

Nothing is more vitally important than our position IN CHRIST. The price has been paid on Calvary. Has he called? Have you heard His voice? Will you follow?

Wednesday November 25, 2009 “Being in THE WAY, without being in the way!”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

God’s Will; A Celestial Scavenger Hunt?

Is it just me? It seems that every time I hear someone speak about “God’s will” they are always looking for it. It conjures questions like:

“Why did He hide it?”
“If He wants us to live in it, why is it so hard to find?”

Or one I remember from my childhood:
“Where did you put it when you had it last?”

God’s will for my life … wow! Just the thought of the creator of the entire universe being so detailed that He would have a specific will for my life is enough to set my mind into a tailspin. However, the Bible, God’s written letter of love – TO US, clearly and unequivocally tells us we have been on His mind and in His heart for quite a long time.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart!” - Jeremiah 1:5

“You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!” - Psalm 139: 16

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” - Jeremiah 29:11

“The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:24

This particular subject was intended to be an article. I think, however, the topic demands more attention and time. Let’s take the next few “Posts” and examine God’s will – what it is and what it is not.

We’ve been “spiritually exercising”. We’ve begun to experience the benefits. In the next several “Posts” we will begin determining the “why” of it all. Take a look at those verses again and let them ring in your heart:

Jeremiah 1:5; “I formed you; I knew you; I set you apart!”

Psalm 139:16; You saw me; You scheduled my life; it is permanently recorded in Your book!

Jeremiah 29:11; "I know the plans I have for you, DECLARES THE LORD, plans to give you hope and a future!

1 Thessalonians 5:24; “The One who calls you is faithful and HE WILL DO IT!”

Next Sunday we will explore, "A Proper Positioning". Please feel free to comment or add verses to this blog. May God richly bless you until then!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Enjoying The Benefits

Have you noticed the great migration? Former joggers have left the pavement for rooms filled with elliptical machines, stair-climbers and a host of stationary bikes. Pilates, resistance and load exercises, low intensity low impact workouts are becoming more and more popular within every age group.

Why? Doctors have found that as the body ages, years of constant pounding and stress often result in crippling damage. Conversely, a disciplined program of low-impact stretching, breathing, walking and resistance exercises can result in:

1. increased brain power;
2. elimination of stress;
3. increased energy;
4. convenient opportunity to exercise more;
5. improved relationships;
6. stronger immune system;
7. healthier heart;
8. increased appetite for healthy foods;
9. over-all increase in performance;
10. improved movement;

Let’s look at these in the light of God’s Word, the Bible, and see how our “spiritual exercises” WILL benefit. Take a moment to look up the verses. You might want to keep them on hand – it’s always nice to refer back to the Trainers Manual:

1. increased brain power; Philippians 4:8,9; Psalms 1:1,3
2. elimination of stress; Philippians 4:6,7; 1 Pet 5:7
3. increased energy; Colossians 1:10,14
4. convenient opportunity to exercise more; Hebrews 13:5; Jeremiah 33:3;
5. improved relationships; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Ephesians 4:29
6. stronger immune system; Psalm 119:11
7. healthier heart; Psalm 31:23,24
8. increased appetite for healthy foods; Isaiah 55:1,3; 2 Timothy 3:16,17
9. over-all increase in performance; Psalm 27:1; Isaiah 40:29,31
10. improved movement; Philippians 4:13; Romans 12:5,8

“And the very God of Peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, WHO WILL ALSO DO IT.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:23,24

Until Wednesday, God Bless

Peeking Before You Peak

Okay, time for a bit of personal confession. And by the way, I am convinced that whoever said, “Confession is good for the soul…” was confessing someone else’s short-comings - not their own!

If you are a member of a gym or exercise program you’ve seen the individual I am about to describe. Their physical appearance indicates that fitness and dietary discipline have not been a priority. But their new gym shoes and name-brand workout clothes catch your eye. Their apparel and physical condition are as incongruent as racing stripes on a four cylinder Honda Element!

Nevertheless, you watch as they move from machine to machine. They are careful to inconspicuously adjust the weight, sit for a few moments, then re-adjust the weight to a higher level before moving to the next machine to repeat the process. What is most striking is the manner in which they continue to glance at the mirror after completing their ritual. I call it, “peeking before you peak!” They have not been committed long enough to result in any visible changes but still, they peek.

I laugh at the scenario; that is, until I realize that often I do the very same thing. Take for instance, this blog. The first several postings seemed to flow. I just felt a peace knowing that it is His Word, the Bible that speaks to the hearts of mankind. But then - then I hit a writer’s block. I couldn’t come up with a pithy statement or saying. I became concerned about what creative catchy phrases to use to “enhance” the message.

I asked my friend and sister in Christ at work, Crystal Puckett, to pray with me about it. And it hit me! I mean right then! (As I side note, I will be very careful about what I ask Crystal to pray for from now on.) The truth is I was peeking. I was looking in my spiritual mirror at ME. I took my eye off of the mark. I had writer’s block because I was concerned about me and what I was going to write and how you the reader would be impressed. I was trying to dress God’s word in Nike shoes and Champion Sweats, strutting by the mirror of “self” before even exercising one “deep-knee-bend” in prayer.

An old hymn says, “Only one life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” – Psalms 90:17

It isn’t me who should be seen in that spiritual mirror – as we grow in Him, we should reflect Him and His love to others; let Jesus be seen in me.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Resistance: "Friend Or Foe?"

While working as a nurse and caregiver during WWI, Joseph Pilates refined his exercise methods. “Resistance and load” would no longer be avoided – they would be conquered, molded into submission, and utilized as a tool to improve the life of the user. Pilates stimulates smaller stabilizing muscles thus providing “core” strength and balance necessary for proper body alignment, ease of motion, and balanced living. Knowing the proper starting position of any Pilates exercise is of paramount importance. It may at first be necessary to use props such as balls, pillows or cushions to insure proper posture. This will focus resistance to the areas intended. If the starting position is not correct the body cannot benefit from the resistance and load. Exercise becomes a daily grind of wasted time and wasted effort with little or no evidence of progress. However, proper posture, disciplined force, focused concentration and patience result in the regeneration of stabilizing muscles and the strengthening of the body from its core through its extremities.

Spiritual conditioning is very much the same. Resistance and load is no stranger to spiritual lives. While we may, “suck it up and suck it in” externally, internally our very core can be under tremendous stress. Knowing the proper starting position of any spiritual exercise is of paramount importance:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary [the devil] prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 5:6-11

When the Author and Finisher of our faith speaks so clearly there is little more that man can contribute. Until Wednesday, God bless!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

WEBLOG; I never saw it like that!

The road to attaining and maintaining true balance begins with belief. Belief that there is a need for change and belief that faithful diligence to a proven, prescribed program will bring about desired results.

“If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” - 1 Tim 4:6–8

As the physical body requires proper nourishment, fluids, exercise and rest, the spirit of mankind requires regeneration and a maintenance program for spiritual health. Isn’t it just like God to use the physical world to explain spiritual truths? Jesus did this very thing in the form of parables; earthly stories with heavenly meanings.

And so before any change in direction can be implemented in an individual’s spiritual life, they must come to a recognition and belief that change is necessary. They must recognize they are headed in the wrong direction. Sincerity does not assure desired results. An individual can be sincere but sincerely wrong. Therefore, proper instruction is required by a Master in Spiritual Training. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes unto the Father but by me.” – John 14:6

Having surrendered to His instruction, a commitment is then made to a different spiritual lifestyle – one that nourishes the spirit daily, quenches spiritual thirst with the living water (John 4:7-14), and is strengthened by the exercise of godliness. Experiencing true balance is the result of obedience to the will of God.

Perhaps it is a trite observation; I will let you be the judge. I find it amusingly curious that writing a BLOG has taken on new meaning. BLOG; Believing, Loving, and Obeying God!

Even more curious, Webster’s Dictionary tells us that the word was included in 1999 and is an abbreviation for the word, “Weblog”. WE-BLOG; it is what sets Christians apart, WE Believe, Love, Obey God; true balance!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Coordinated Whole

"With body, mind, and spirit functioning perfectly as a coordinated whole, what else could reasonably be expected other than an active, alert, disciplined person." - Joseph Pilates

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" - Romans 12: 1,2

As with any piece of machinery, overall productivity and efficiency depend up maintenance and calibration of individual components. So too the body, mind and spirit. Joseph Pilates realized that the body requires careful attention and calibration. It was to him an expected requirement for enjoying an active, alert and disciplined life.

Joseph Pilates did not invent the body’s requirement for continual improvement. He simply recognized what God had already set into motion.

Psalm 139:14; “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and my soul knows very well.”

Here the Psalmist offers an uncontrollable adoration to God for His unimaginable handiwork. Every component of the human body - sets into motion a reverent awe. So powerful is this handiwork of God that the Psalmist can only say, “my soul knows very well.” This phrase denotes the impossibility of man to even utter, with absolute knowledge, how the eye can see, how the ear can hear, how all the components of the body work together. But deep within man’s soul is the recognition of God. Mankind may defiantly attempt to remove every visible outward expression of God - but the souls of even those who would outwardly defy Him, forever internally proclaim Him.

And so, as believers present themselves to God for His service, He speaks clearly through them to the souls of those to whom He calls. And by so doing we prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.