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I used to pray for martyrdom.  Yes, you read it right.  Everyday I would pray that when my card was pulled, my end would be for Christ at the hands of a persecutor.  I sold myself on the fact that being a martyr was truly the only “good” way to die.  Perhaps it is.  I mean, who wants cancer?  Or dementia?  Or years upon years in a nursing home?  A car wreck?  At least dying as a martyr has significance; purpose; honor.  Yep, that’s me.  I want a selfless death because I’m…selfish.

A martyr shouldn’t be confused with a murderer.  Many terrorists today are called martyrs but the truth is that all they are is murderers on suicide missions in the name of selfishness and false religion.  A Christian martyr is killed for his faith.  A Christian martyr does not kill for his faith.

Anyway, I read many books on the martyrs of the Christian church down through the ages.  I read how they died, who killed them, and why.  That’s about when I stopped praying that I’d be one.

I mean, these men and women were brutally treated and mercilessly tortured.  They were brave, courageous, and unmoved by horrendous physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse.  They are rocks.  I figured I probably didn’t qualify.  Moreover, I recognized a greater truth: It is harder to live for Christ than it is to die for him.

By saying so, I do not mean to diminish the valor of those who stand in the face of death without wavering in their profession of faith.  There is no greater honor on earth than to die for Christ.  In Jesus’ words, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  

Still, the Bible, in its great wisdom, calls me to much more than a one time act of valor.  Christianity calls me to repetitive, daily actions referred to collectively as “dying to self.”  Those who do not discipline and master the art of living life for Christ will never stare down the barrel of a terrorist’s gun or kneel to be beheaded and confess Jesus Christ as Lord.

Early in my Christian life I would not only daily pray to be a martyr, but also for wisdom, insight, and conviction of sin.  These were the main things I prayed for day in and day out for years.  The wisdom God gave me at the time was that I must learn to live for him everyday if there was any chance I’d have the opportunity to die for him one day.  Because living for Christ is dying for him.  Every.  Day.   He’s still working on that with me.

All that to say, I’m thankful for college men and women who will stand, look death in the face, and confess Christ.  What an amazing faith!  What an amazing honor.  I know what “kind” of Christians they must have been.  They were real ones – not mere professors.

Maybe I won’t ever get to die for Christ.  Then again, maybe I get that opportunity every single day I live.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” ~Philippians 1:21

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“It’s not spelling, it’s writing!”

“It’s not math, it’s language!”

These are the type of emphatic statements my daughter makes when I correct her school papers.  She does not understand why I mark spelling wrong on her penmanship homework.  She doesn’t get it when I tell her about how she wrote her “5” backwards when she numbered her language quiz.  She thinks each subject should remain separate.  At 9, she has learned to compartmentalize her life in such a way that she feels comfortable justifying error.  She can now enjoy the benefits of avoiding personal responsibility, refuse helpful accountability, and ignore necessary correction – at least in as much as she can continue to convince herself that it is perfectly safe to live life in sordid, unconnected, error-filled pieces.  

I guess spelling, penmanship, math, and language are going to have to wait.  This lesson is far too important to sidestep.  I need a divine lesson plan straight from the Almighty.  As far as teachable moments go for the week, this is it.  I can’t afford to fumble.  

I spend the next five minutes trying to explain how every part of her life is a piece of her puzzle.  I tell her everything must fit together if she wants the best outcomes.  I feel desperately inadequate as we close our studies for the day.  I look to my Father for help giving a less insufficient answer and I ask him to show me how to help her.

What I find is myself standing in utter need, waste deep in confession, and at the mercy of mercy itself.  How many times have I said in my heart things like, “It’s not church, it’s a picnic.”  “It’s not Sunday, it’s Saturday night.”  “It isn’t right, but I’m not wrong because this part of my life has nothing to do with that one.”

That one.  You know, that part which holds it all together; the centrality of all of life; the big picture creator; the weaver of this great tapestry; the one golden thread running through the whole of it all.  The subject?  Jesus Christ.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

He holds all things together.  Every piece of our lives belongs to him.  There is not one about which we have the liberty to say, “This isn’t Christianity, it’s recreation.”  “This isn’t about Jesus, it’s about me.”  “This isn’t religion, it’s work.”  “This isn’t God’s business it’s mine.”  No.  None of that holds water at the end of the day and we all know it.

We know that if Christ is not welcome at work or play or in the recesses of our own hearts and minds at any given moment – if we relegate him to any specific areas and leave him there – nothing will ever fit together properly.  The pieces of our lives will simply never match.  The practice of compartmentalizing our Christianity means spiritual slumber, carnal living, and abdication of personal responsibility.  A compartmentalized Christian repeatedly refuses helpful accountability and ignores necessary correction.  The Bible calls that person a fool.  

A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent. (Proverbs 15:5)

Little wonder why it also warns parents that folly itself is indeed bound up – tied in knots; holding captive; intertwined to a serious and dangerous degree – in the hearts of our children.  We must teach them his ways if we want them to lead righteous lives.  

The problem then becomes us.  We cannot teach what we do not know.  We cannot teach what we do not do.  If our lives are separated by subject, our children will never learn integrity, consistency, faithfulness, or sacrifice.  They will learn, however.  They will learn hypocrisy, abdication, irresponsibility, and self-righteous self-defense.

iF u dOnn’T blevE me, teSt mY werDs?

Go ahead and try to pretend you don’t need reading to do math or language to write.  You will end up like a professor of faith who acts as if he does not need God at work; play; in relationships; etc.  A sayer who cannot, by mere virtue of his own bad theology, be a doer of any good thing.  

Lord, let me not be foolish!  Every compartment of my life must include you.  

 

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“Balance.  Position.  Timing.  Boxing comes down to those three things.  If you get ’em, it won’t matter how much bigger or stronger your opponent is.”  

“Life comes down to those three things, Coach.  Maybe if I can learn them here, I can apply them there.”

Balance.  Analytical thinkers like me have a lot of trouble with this.  We like to lean to the extreme end.  The black end or the white end feels much more natural than the mushy grey middle.  But, when you lean, you fall.  Life is a tightrope and each of us must hold the pole.  If we do not compensate equally on both sides, every move will prove disastrous.  

 Position.  I’m often either so close that I cannot protect myself or so far away that I cannot make any kind of decent impact.  I stand up when I should be crouching down.  I crouch down when I should be standing up.  I punch when I should be blocking.  I block when I should be punching.  I’m stiff when I should be loose.  I’m loose when I should be stiff.  I think I need to learn how to dance before I learn how to fight.  Proper position is imperative throughout the duration of every fight.  

Timing.  Oh, timing, how you elude me!  Timing is everything.  That’s why I got nothin’.  Too fast and overzealous and I am a wrecking ball.  Too slow and unengaged and I become another statistic who missed her best shot.  Both leave me full of regret.  Until I live, eat, and breathe training – be it with boxing or brotherly love – I will not possess the art of proper timing.  

What I’m really grasping at in all of these is precision.  I want to hit the mark.  No wavering.  No leaning.  No falling.  No missing.  No fouls.  No prematurity.  No hesitation.  Precision is what I pine for – and that takes pain, patience, and potential.  

 “You’re killing me!” 

“I’m training you.”

How many times I have cried out these words bantering my Maker!  How many times he has calmly answered the very same way.  

Self-pity is not part of the protocol when one is on the roster to learn practical precision.  No amount of pain or impatience will arrest the progress of the person in whom God sees the potential for perfection.  

Balance.  Position.  Timing.  The life of a Christian is rooted in these three things.  If you get ’em, you will overcome the opposition regardless of the difficulties.  Be precise.

Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes. ~Ecclesiastes 7:18b

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I’ve had exactly one lesson.  Aside from a couple years of kickboxing, shadowboxing, and beating my belligerence out on the heavy bag, I do not know the first thing about boxing.  I’ve been in four street fights – only two of which I was the aggressor.  This is not the same.  I am hardly qualified to teach anyone anything about boxing.  Nevertheless, here is what I learned on day one.

My stance is wrong.  My angle of impact is wrong.  My position is wrong.  I do not protect myself properly.  My balance is off, and, if I enter a fight uncorrected, it will hurt.  A lot.  Truth be told, it will hurt anyway.  Like teach told me – boxing hurts.  

You know what he didn’t tell me though?  He didn’t say, “Your stance is wrong.”  He said, “Stand like this.  Good!”  He didn’t say, “Your angle is wrong.”  He said, “Press in and hold your punch.  Can you feel how your angle corrected?”  He didn’t say, “Your position is wrong.”  He said, “Turn your body away from me…like this.  Don’t leave yourself wide open like that.  Better!”  He didn’t say, “You’re gonna know it if you keep trying to protect yourself like that.”  He said, “Hold your protecting fist flush against your face.  It will hurt less if there is contact.”  He did not laugh when my wretched excuse for balance left me lying on the floor.   He gently reminded me how important balance is. He did not allow me to continue throwing the wrong kind of punches when he saw that I was bleeding. He wiped my blood up off the floor and showed me something else. 

I cannot imagine how utterly ridiculous I looked to this guy (and my husband who sat watching the whole sitcom.)  But I do believe I learned more about life – particularly the Christian life – than I have in a long time.

Teach said two things that I doubt I will find myself soon forgetting.  He said, “Boxing is a game of windows.  You have a split second to make your move and then the window closes.”  He also said, “Boxing is war.  It may not seem like it to those who think it is just a sport, but when you are in that ring, you feel it.  It is war.”

Life is a game of windows.  We have momentary, fleeting opportunities to get this thing right.  The Christian life is war.  Those who do not see it as such are not engaged.  And we who are engaged have a monumental choice when it comes to teaching the privates entering boot camp how to fight fair.  Boxing is offensive and defensive at the same time.  So is the Christian life.  We can discourage and destroy others with heavy-handed defense or we can train and encourage them so patiently and respectfully that it makes even our offensive moves kind.  

That’s the kind of teacher I want to be.  That’s the kind of trainer I want to become.  I imagine I will have a lot more blood on my face and hands even if I do it the right way.  I might even look like a big disgrace at times.  But the war is worthy of my all.  I refuse to stop fighting.  I just have to better learn how.  Quitting is not an option in war time.  I will persevere.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you. ~Psalm 32:8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcCaTXcwh9w

 

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Paul elaborates further on his opening statements in Galatians 1 and 2.  He wants his hearers to understand who he is, where he came from, and why his accusers are bogus.  He gives ample reason why they can be assured that he is trustworthy.  Paul gives a detailed account of his travels and experiences both with God and the church.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus…(In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) ~Galatians 1:10-17, 20

Why would Paul so adamantly state that he was not lying?  Apparently there were more than a few who were spreading misleading information regarding he and his reputation.  So much so that he felt he had to vehemently declare his own innocence in the face of those he cared so dearly for.  But as he defends himself, he insists that he has only one opinion in mind – God’s.  Ironic, huh?  A man defending himself for the sake of the truth he is teaching and the God he is serving.  While his accusers may charge his defense self-righteous,  2000+ years of study has proven otherwise.  

Paul defends himself and restates his motives because he recognizes the great potential for men to misunderstand, misrepresent, and malign him because of them.  Let’s face it, when you’re working for God, people don’t always understand.  He wants his brothers and sisters to recognize that, too.  So, he reminds them who he is working to please and where his authority comes from.  Paul wasn’t flaunting Pharisaic degrees given by rabbis.  He wasn’t pointing to his strict upbringing or his noble birth.  Never once do we see Paul boasting about his worldly accolades – even though we are certain he had more than most.  But, no.  When Paul pointed to his qualification, he pointed to God alone.  When he pointed to his past, he pointed only to his own failure.  (Galatians 1:12-14)

Little wonder why Paul’s emphasis is stayed upon the sufficiency and supernatural calling of Christ alone.  (Galatians 1:15-17)  No doubt this is why these false teachings and bogus accusations are so concerning to him.  He knows the mission of these men is not just to discredit and discount him.  Their mission is to discredit the true gospel and replace it with a false one.  Can someone say cult?  Yikes.

So Paul regards not anything of his own making or doing.  He relies not upon himself or any worldly credentials.  Yet, he proves that he has everything.  Paul had what the religious authorities of his day did not.  He had the mighty hand of God Almighty laid strong upon his very life. (Galatians 1:15-24)  No one could miss that, unless, of course, they needed to.

Yes, these men who claimed to be the authorities needed to discredit Paul.  They wanted people to disbelieve him.  His true doctrine did not fit with their destructive practices.  From self-promoting, self-made rituals to regulatory impositions upon other people, they wanted to stay right where they’d always been – in charge.

Why would the Christians follow, though?  Why would they allow these guys to enforce their man-made rules?  Why would they mix works with faith as a prerequisite to salvation?  Why would they mix the law with the gospel?  Didn’t they know better?  What was the motivation for such unpleasant penance?  And why was it so important for them to make sure they followed these guys?  

Well, not surprisingly, they did it for the same reason men and women today do just the opposite: persecution.

Today, most religious authorities do not persecute for lack of ritual observation (although a few still would have us all working for salvation, abstaining from marriage and meat, and wearing what’s most out of style.)  But, no.  Now, the most destructive heresies come as a result of what many claim to be a “lack of tolerance.”  Oh, yes.  This is our cultural creed.  Where the Jews’ cultural creed was don’t eat, don’t associate, don’t include, and don’t dare forget your fast and sacrifice (even though Jesus finished all that) or else we’ll ostracize you, ours is don’t judge, don’t discern, don’t debate, don’t question – even if – you guessed it – heresies are prevalent within the church (because, well, Jesus wouldn’t want anyone spitting hairs over things like sin or exposing it for goodness sake…and if you do, we’ll ostracize you.)  

Both errors result from missing the imperative balance between law and grace.  Love brings law and grace together for the good of all, not self-interest.  

We must recognize our time and refer to Paul and Jesus who both rightly refused to bow to the bosses with the biggest britches.  We’ve simply got someone else to please.  Fight on, Christian soldiers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mG78M7g9wRo

 

 

 

 

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On day one post-marathon I was convinced that running may truly be an activity I’d have to refer to pre-May 2013.  Six days later, I think my right foot is finally starting to forgive me.  Perhaps I will run again someday – hopefully next week.  Hopefully.

As I sat painfully stretching, examining my mystery injury, I considered Romans 10:15.

 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

My foot looks lovely enough, I thought, but it feels like an unforgiving failure.  What was most definitely caused by overuse and under-attention has kept me limping for the better part of the past week.  

Oh, foot, I can surely relate.

I have to admit I was a little worried about pulling off my daughter’s eight-year-old birthday party on Friday when the pain wasn’t subsiding.  

How can I bring good news to others if my feet can’t take me where I need to go?  And if I go despite my pain, how will I ever heal?  Now I know why the Lord gave me a pain-filled foot post-marathon.

My only answer this week has been hope.  Hope.  Hope that I wouldn’t live out the rest of my days full of pain and run-less.  Each day I told myself, “Tomorrow will be better.”  And each day I woke up without a better-feeling foot.  But hope repeated, “Tomorrow will be better.”  Six days went by without any better-ness.  In fact, I’m positive there was some worse-ness mixed in there somewhere.  But today is day seven.  Today is Sunday.  Today is Mother’s Day.  New beginnings are bound to burst forth.  I’ve refrained from running for an entire week and rested as much as possible with three children running circles around me.  I’ve kindly attended, stretched, and slept.  My foot is finally forgiving.

But will my feet be beautiful today?  I can only hope.  Here’s the good news I’ve brought to make them brilliant:

Some days we’re called to run.  Some days we’re called to rest.  When we get the two confused, pain ensues and failure is imminent.  As Christians, we will receive the prize of eternal life with Christ.  But that’s not until day seven.  First, he’s promised us six days of suffering, sacrifice, persecution, and pain.  

Who’s in?

Bringing the good news to others often means limping when you want to lounge.  It means providing when you feel the most pain.  It means resting when you really want to run.  Most of all, it means hoping against every hesitation of hell – especially when there is no bona fide better-ness in the here and now.   

Limp.  Humility always precedes valuable ministry.

Provide.  Give freely that which has been freely given to you.

Rest.  Running wild without repose is a remedy for retardation.

Hope.  When the present is harsh, hellish, unhealthy, and unhappy, fix your eyes on the future.  Hope is holy.  It is brought by our Great Helper – the Holy Spirit.

 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ~Romans 8:24-25

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBKybUusyP8

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hateThanks to a friend’s question, I considered this tragedy today.  I found it necessary to deal with the reality of God’s judgement hypothetically, since I do not know all things about God’s motives for allowing any given suffering on earth.  Here are my thoughts:

I think that *IF* God is judging America, they’ve completely missed the boat on how to deal with it biblically. True prophets *predict* specific events of destruction; they don’t rally their troops after the fact to make sure everyone knows they’re condemned. (more…)

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