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Posts Tagged ‘perseverance’

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Paul has written a letter to the Galatian church with a heavy heart.  He has corrected and admonished them regarding exclusion, works-based religion, and the danger of following the arrogant leaders who teach such things calling them the gospel.  He’s given instructions on how to restore an erring brother (little wonder why!) and brings his letter to a close with a final exhortation and warning.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. ~Galatians 6:6-10

Paul has three things left to say in his effort to summarize his instructions here.  Give back, don’t give up, and do good.

Give back.  How many times were we taught the gospel before we embraced it?  How much love were we shown by God’s people?  How many served us?  Every believer owes a debt of love to Christ and to his people.  As we have received, we must so give.

Do not give up.  Paul says do not grow weary.  He tells the Christians that they will only benefit if they don’t give up.  For some of us, that seems like quite an enormous “if.”  This is the crippling fear of every martyr and every saint who is under fire, pressed by temptation, and bearing great burdens for the gospel’s sake.  Doubtless, an instruction like this implies our great tendency and ability to do so.  But to whom shall we go?  And to what?  We’ve only two options in this world: spiritual life or carnal life; living for Christ or living for self.  And isn’t it just like us to believe we can sow to our flesh yet still reap good to our soul?  Oh!  How deceived we so often are!  Otherwise, we’d haven’t need for Paul to write, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, of whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

In times when the darkness seems so dark and the masquerader seems so much like our saving angel of light, we must pine to remember Paul’s true words.  

Do not be deceived!  Do not grow weary!  Do not give up!  Do good!

Finally, do good.  Do good to everyone, but especially those who believe.  Where the Judiazers in Galatia sought to exclude, Paul includes.  We cannot do good to people if we have grown weary of them.  We cannot do good if we give up.  We cannot do good to those we exclude, ostracize, or alienate.  We cannot do good if we are sowing to please our flesh.  We cannot do good if we allow favoritism, cliques, superiority, or stereotypes to infringe upon on Christianity.  We’ve no business being involved in such things.  Our business is only to do good to everyone.  

Give back.  Do not grow weary.  Do not give up.  Do not give up.  Do not give up.  Do good to everyone.

God, help me hear Paul’s words today.  

 

 

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I survived my first week of training.  I lost a few pounds and gained a few insights.  I have to admit, throwing punches at a real person takes some getting used to.  It’s one thing when you’ve got beef.  It’s another when you’ve got nothing but appreciation, admiration, and respect.  It is not natural.  It’s hard to get in the right frame of mind.  You have to focus on something other than that human being.  You have to focus on your mission; your position; your goal.  

“Frankie liked to say that boxing was an unnatural act, that everything in boxing is backwards. Sometimes best way to deliver punches is step back. But step back too far, you ain’t fighting at all.” ~Eddie Scrap On Dupris in Million Dollar Baby

You know what is even more unnatural?  Being jabbed at.  How about being jabbed at by a dude twice your size, ten times your strength; skill; speed; knowledge; precision and who possesses all the skill and experience you have not even begun to learn yet.  

“I wanna run away from you, Coach!  I’m scared!  You’re stalking me down!  I got nothin’!”

“You do not run!  Never run.  You wanna fight?  Fight!  You wanna run?  Get out on the road.  You might as well give it up.”

For a wanna-be fighter who has an extremely poor defense and only knows how to play offense when when the opponent is a stationary, lifeless bag, I needed to hear that.  For a girl who has spent her entire life running – both literally and figuratively – Coach has something here that I desperately need to learn.  

Never run.  Fight.

I love to run.  Running is my favorite activity when I’m happy, sad, mad, or ready to implode.  Running gives me clarity.  It relieves stress.  It gives me peace and time to meet with my Maker; to pray; to decompress; to re-prioritize.  

Running does other things, too, though.  Running avoids.  Running ignores.  Running fails to deal with what’s still waiting at the finish line.  Running makes a kind of pseudo peace even though it knows there’s a stalker standing inside the ring who must eventually be dealt with.  It’s an extremely poor defense when you are confined to a ring surrounded by fire.

The Lord is using my very amateur attempts to learn how to box to teach me what to do when running is not the answer.  

Running may save me from pain in the moment sometimes, but it will never keep me from feeling the pain in proximity to the problem day in and day out.  I’m going to keep getting burned on those flaming ropes if I continue trying to run from the fight.  The truth is, I’m going to need some offense.  Poor defense is not sufficient to win the match of life.  

Our culture has all but lost its ability and desire to debate, discuss, dissect, and deal well with its opponents.  Instead, we run.  We hide in flaming corners getting burned by our own foolish defense.  We must fight for the truth by staying in it no matter how small of an underdog we seem to be.  

Running has its place, but so does fighting.  You will not fight if you keep running loosely lodged in you back pocket.  You will not run if you are a real fighter.    When you begin to realize that the shame of deserting is far worse than the pain of getting beat up, you cease to run and you learn to fight to the very end.  

I want to be a real fighter.  I want to be able to run without needing to.  I want to learn how to focus so fully on my mission; my goal; my God that it no longer matters how I feel about my opponent.  Whether I love, hate, fear, or have neutrality towards him, I want to be able to lay it down and strike at the heart of that fighter every single time.  Then, I will be of use to my manager.  Then I will not need to run no matter how badly I am beaten.  Then I will have the heart of a true fighter.  

“In the clearing stands a boxer 
And a fighter by his trade 
And he carries the reminders 
Of ev’ry glove that layed him down 
Or cut him till he cried out 
In his anger and his shame 
“I am leaving, I am leaving” 
But the fighter still remains. ~Simon and Garfunkel

 

 

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Once again, Satan has obtained God’s permission to torment Job.  He has already extinguished all of Job’s earthly possessions and murdered his children.  All that’s left is his health and his wife.  Therefore, Satan takes Job’s health and uses his wife to tempt him.

“To God’s children, Satan is a tormentor first, and then a tempter.  His own children, however, he tempts first, and draws them to sin, and afterwards torments, when thereby he has brought them to ruin.” ~Matthew Henry

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.

9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. ~Job 2:7-10

Life couldn’t get much worse for this poor fella.  Just after he’s lost all his children, livestock, and servants, he becomes afflicted with a very painful disease.  Instead of binding up and gently nursing his wounds, his wife leaves him to “scrape” them with broken clay by himself.  Not only does she not care for him, she afflicts him even more by discouraging him from trusting God.  When Job is at his lowest, she tempts him to throw off his faith and give up on life altogether.

  “It is Satan’s policy to send his temptations by the hand of those that are dear to us, as he tempted Adam by Eve and Christ by Peter.” ~Matthew Henry

Job never falters.  He responds by telling his wife she sounds like an unbeliever.  He affords God the right to be sovereign over both good and evil.  While many men refuse to seek and obey God despite every earthly blessing, Job never denies God or sins against him despite all of his pain and lack of earthly blessing.  Why?  Who could respond this way?  

The answer is our ultimate comfort and rest in our darkest hours.  It is this: God saves and God keeps.  No mortal man could experience these trials and continue in faith of his own accord.  Well, if we’re being honest, no mortal man could ever even come to faith of his own accord.  But Job not only had great faith, he also kept his faith with the worst odds in human history.  That tells me that it certainly wasn’t him keeping himself faithful, it was God keeping him from falling by his own mighty hand alone.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. ~Jude 1:24-25

What a comfort!  You wouldn’t think studying a passage about a man who had lost everything, come down with a wasting disease, and is dealing with a quarrelsome, faithless wife would be comforting.  But nothing is too hard for Our God.  What a comfort to know and understand that severe pain and misery may indeed come into each and every one of our lives, and yet, we serve a God who will never let us go.  If he saved us, he will keep us through hell and high water.  It’s a good thing, because we are going to need him to do just that – both in life and in death.

Lord, help me to put away the fear of falling away from you in trials and temptations.  Help me remember that the same mighty hand who chose me will ever keep me.  I am yours and nothing can separate what God has joined himself to in love. 

 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:38-39

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2BpTCeRPZQ

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With hands covering their ears, they grimace.  

“It’s too loud, Mommy!”

“I just hope they never show up at my house!” I reply.

Sitting through last night’s Americanism Day parade proved how powerful the presence of a few flashing firetrucks can really be.

I thought about my children’s reaction, which was common across the board for the children all the way down the street.  I was reminded of the world in which we live.  I saw our culture as they shielded themselves and shook their heads.

Amid the firestorm of free for all philosophies, a few providential protectors remain with us, preaching the truth powerfully.  But it seems to be nearing the end of the putrid parade we’ve been putting on and they’re beginning to sound their alarms.  They are driving up and down our streets by way of God’s true church – his people.  But are God’s children even listening?

So many of us choose to cover our ears and grimace when the unpopular truth is told to us – no matter how loud and clear.  In this smoking cesspool of political correctness, we’d rather hope that neither those heralds nor their chief – Jesus – ever shows up where we are.    But attitudes like that tend to change when it’s our house that’s on fire.

To that end, I turn on my siren.  Once again I pass by your way to say simply:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. ~1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Don’t be found sitting on the sidelines covering your ears.  Stand in the gospel.  Tenaciously hold fast to the Word.  If you do, your presence will doubtless be plainly, painfully powerful.  If you do not, be duly warned: profession without perseverance is vain unbelief.

“We should be alarmed if we were not sure to live a month, and yet we are careless, though we are not sure to live a day.” ~Matthew Henry

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGZfPfU6yXo

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trustDavid’s men are defeated and hopeless.  The enemy has destroyed their homes and taken their families.  They’re ready to kill David and call it a day.  David himself is quite upset and broken over the loss of his own home and family.  But David turns to God and draws strength to fight on.

And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David.And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?” He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.” So David set out, and the six hundred men who were with him, and they came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. 10 But David pursued, he and four hundred men. Two hundred stayed behind, who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor. ~1 Samuel 30:6-10

Notice that David doesn’t retaliate towards his deeply grieving men.  He doesn’t repay murderous threat for murderous threat.  He is wise.  Even though justice may indeed have permitted him to execute those who spoke of stoning him, David ignores their foolish talk.  He recognizes that hopeless men are helpless men.  Instead of vengeance and bickering, David calls on Hope – that is, David calls on God against all odds. (more…)

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runnerPrayers and paragraphs precede the pain of pre-marathon preparation.  The over-sized bay window beckons my attention as day breaks and I stall.

It’s Tuesday.  Ten miles are to be turned in before breakfast if I intend to stay on track.  But it’s nine degrees.  And I’m cold standing on this side of the window.  My thoughts begin to turn toward negligence and laziness as I begin the process of self-preservation.

No!  Don’t think one more thought!  Go and accept that you’re going to be cold!  This ain’t the prom, you pansy, it’s you’re prime.  Deal with it. Go. (more…)

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