Friday, February 27, 2009

#30 Where Did That Muscle Come From?

Each time the new year rolls around there are countless thousands who set it
in their minds to make resolutions. These range from losing weight to
saving more money. Personally, I have discovered that if I do not make any
resolutions then I cannot be said to have broken them. Makes sense to me
anyway. But even though I do not make resolutions I have tried many times
to lose weight. I have come to grips with the fact that I was not born with
metabolism and therefore weight sticks to me like bugs to a windshield;
neither is easy to get off.

When I joined the military and went off to basic training and discovered
that the Army had/has a great weight loss program. They make sure that you
either walk or run everywhere you go, when they think you need it they have
you drop and do push-ups, they threaten to give you more exercises if you
eat certain things, and they scream real loud at you just in case your
hearing is bad so that you do not miss anything. I went into the Army
weighing 211 and I came out of my advanced training weighing about 175. So
needless to say, the Army's weight loss program had amazing results. I
recall the first week we got into our training. I realized that my body had
muscles of which I was not aware. I can remember waking up and jumping out
of my rack-Army's name for your bed-and wondering where the aching muscles
in my back, legs, and arms came from. The first two weeks were pretty
grueling for sure. Eventually my body adapted to the training and it became
easier and easier to make it through each day until I finally totally
adapted to the training and had little to no problems doing all that was
expected of me. Granted, I did not openly complain about my aches and
pains. After all I was 30 years old and I could not let all the young
whipper-snappers know that I was about to die on our first 4 mile run and 12
mile road march. Soldiers are expected to be tough, suck up the pain, and
drive on with the mission. I praise the Lord that those days are now fond
memories, but it certainly made me appreciate so much about life and the
blessings that it brings.

When I think of physical training of the body it always makes me think of
the spiritual training that each of us needs. You see, we are each one
engaged in a spiritual battle that demands we chose sides. Jesus made it
very clear while He was on earth that we are either for Him or against Him
(Matt 12:30). It is imperative that we choose to follow Christ. If we fail
to do so then we are choosing Satan by default. When we chose to follow
Jesus we-as spiritual Soldiers-need to also train and prepare for the
battles that lie ahead. Like all military personnel who train to serve
their country, we as warriors for Christ need to train for the spiritual
battles in our lives. We need to exercise those spiritual muscles that
provide a defense for our souls. While running, aerobics, and other
exercises will help us to be healthy and live better lives, it is the
spiritual fitness that is more pressing I believe. We need to understand
how to pray, how to study the Bible, and how to share our faith with those
around us. Sure when we first begin to exercise those spiritual muscles it
may hurt at first because we are not sure what to do or how to do it. But
as we spend time with Christ, He will instruct and empower us to do the work
He has called us to do. Just as our bodies groan under the pressure and
rigors of physical training, our minds may balk at us at first when we
attempt to have daily prayer and Bible study. But I promise you that the
more you pray and study the more you will feel the presence of the Holy
Spirit filling you so that you will know that you can do whatever Jesus
calls you to do because it is Christ who is working through you. In fact,
you cannot be effective for Christ without the Holy Spirit working through
you as your personal spiritual trainer so to speak. I pray that each of you
will consider your personal spiritual training regimen to see if you are
preparing for the daily battles with the forces of evil in this world or if
you are just going through the motions of being a Christian without truly
tapping into the power that the Lord God longs to give you.

Dear Father God,
As we consider the concept of spiritual fitness this evening I know that far
too many of us fall short in what we need to be doing. It is my sincere
prayer that we would each surrender our lives to you completely so that we
can be about Your business here on earth. Father, we too often make excuses
for why we are not doing what you would have us to do spiritually, but I
pray that you would forgive us where we have failed You in these areas and
that You would give us no rest internally until we decide to do whatever You
ask us to do. We realize that salvation does not come by our works, but we
also realize that if we truly love You and our Savior Jesus then we will be
driven by that love to carry out the gospel commission to the world around
us. Bless us Father as we pray and study and may You give us many
opportunities to witness for You. It is in Jesus' holy name that we pray,

Friday, February 20, 2009

#29 First in Flight

Isaiah 40:31 "...They will mount up with wings like eagles..."

For as far back as I can remember, I have loved airplanes and the concept of
flight. Growing up I was forever building model planes. I spent a lot of
time with my grandparents when I was little and whenever my grandmother
would go to town I would tag along and then beg her to buy me a model
airplane. My collection ranged from the crudest of bi-planes to the giants
of then-modern war birds. If it had wings I wanted to build it. My
grandmother was so indulgent of my love and she rarely told me no when I
asked for the models. She had been somewhat conditioned by my uncle when he
was a boy. When he was growing up he always wanted to build model cars and
trucks. So I suppose it felt pretty natural to buy me the airplanes when I
came along.

My love for airplanes continued as I became a teenager. Two of my friends
in high school had parents who could afford to help them get their Private
Airmen's Certificate. Most people call it a "pilot's license" but it is
technically an airmen's certificate. Anyway, two of my friends had theirs
and they took me up with them on occasion. I can recall the first time we
sat on the runway in the small Cessna and my heart beat with great
anticipation. As my buddy awaited clearance from the control tower I sat
there in awe. Finally, we got the Ok for takeoff and we began to roll
forward. In no time the small craft climbed into the air. What an awesome
feeling it was to rise above the earth and see everything below get smaller
and smaller. We only stayed up for about 30 minutes but it was like taking
a trip to heaven for me. While we were in the air my friend let me have the
yoke. I pulled back ever so gently and the nose would raise up. I could
twist it to the right or left and the craft would bank in that direction. I
was more excited than I had ever been in my life. Afterwards, I spent all
the time I could reading about flight and dreaming of someday having my own
certification. However, my family was poor and having the several thousand
dollars needed for the lessons and the ground school were not even remotely

When my family and I first moved to Southern for me to pursue my ministerial
training we lived in a duplex apartment right next to the Collegedale
Airport. Watching the planes take off and land never got old to me. Even
today when I drive by an airport I have to stay focused on the road because
I will be drawn to watch the planes. I still love to fly and I jump at any
chance to do so. I have also come to the point in my life where I realize
that getting my Private Airmen's Certificate is not likely to be a reality.
It will always be a dream and as such I will never give up on it. But
instead of thinking about that dream and feeling that it may never be a
reality I choose to look beyond and focus on a time when I know that I will
surely fly. You see, as Christians we can each have the hope of flying.
Yes, I know that not everyone shares my affinity for flying. I am quite
aware that some people are petrified of the thought of climbing into to a
multi-thousand pound vehicle that is going to be hurled through the air in
hopes that it will stay there long enough to make it to a desired
destination. However, there is one flight that we should all want to make.
For the Christian there should be an intense desire to fly someday soon.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. It is
in that passage that we read about the Lord coming with a shout to raise the
dead in Christ back to life. The resurrected dead will fly to meet Jesus in
the air then those that are alive and remain when Christ returns will also
be called up in the air to meet Jesus where we will all then follow our Lord
all the way to the courts of heaven. Not only will we all get to fly on
that glorious day, but we will see things that only a very few human eyes
have ever seen along the way. We will be shown things that "eye has not
seen and ear has not and which has not entered into the heart of man..." (2
Cor 2:9).

I don't know about you friends but I long for that day. It is that hope of
being with Jesus that gives me the courage to push through the difficult
times in my life. It is knowing that soon Jesus will rescue us from this
world of sin and death that gives me the zeal to share the good news of the
gospel to the world around me. One day in the not-too-distant future we
will see the eastern sky burst open as the Lamb of God comes to reap His
redeemed. In His glory, the glory of the Father, and the glory of all the
holy angels Jesus will come to give flight to His followers. When that day
comes I don't really care if I am first in flight. I simply want to be
among the harvest that is gathered unto my Lord. I encourage each of you
this evening to choose to also be among those that love Jesus more than the
fleeting pleasures of this temporal life so that you too can mount up with
wings like eagles and follow your Savior to heaven.

Dear Father of Grace and Mercy,
As we pause to lift up our hearts in prayer to You just now.
We bring You praise, glory, and honor because You are worthy of all three.
Father there are many of us who love to fly and probably just as many who
could care less if they ever fly in any man-made craft, but regardless of
our earthly preference regarding flight I pray that You will place within
each of us an intense desire to take flight with Jesus when He comes in all
the glory of heaven. Give us the courage to choose now in this moment to
follow Jesus completely. I pray that we would all be willing to let off all
the weights of sin that this world would have us cling to. May those
weights of sin be cut loose so we may rise up and be with Jesus when that
day comes. We know that we cannot do this of our own accord Father. We
desperately need Your Holy Spirit to come in and fill our hearts with His
love and character. May we fully surrender so that we may be molded into
the men and women that You would have us to be. May we bow low before Jesus
here on earth that we may take flight with Him very soon. It is in Jesus'
name that we pray, Amen.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

#28 Paradigm (pair-a-dime) Shift

Psalm 119:18 NASB "Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things..."

I have always been an avid reader. My taste has varied over the years but
without a doubt I love to read. There came a time in my life-that still
exists-where I wanted to read books to enhance my personal development. One
book I came across during that time was one by Stephen R. Covey entitled
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. As you may guess from the title,
Covey presents his view of seven habits that highly effective people have
and he suggests that the reader who incorporates these habits into their own
life will also elevate the rate of their effectiveness. One aspect that
Covey covers in the very first chapter is that of paradigm shifts. A
paradigm is the viewpoint through which you view a particular portion of
life. If, for instance, you were raised all your life being told that the
color that you see when you look at the sky is green then it would take a
shift in your paradigm to think and know that it is actually blue. Covey
uses an excellent illustration to emphasize this point.

He tells of a man who is traveling on the subway. It is late at night and
the man is weary and worn out from an exhausting week of work. All he wants
to do is sit there quietly and wait for his stop to come up so he can go
home and crash. His peace is quickly shattered by another group of people.
Not too far down from him there sat another man who had three kids. The man
sat there staring blankly out the window as his children ran wildly about
the small subway car. The kids were loud and unruly to the point that it
quickly irritated the work-worn man. After about 15 minutes he had enough
and decided to go over and ask the man to take control of his kids. With
disgust on his face he walks over and taps the dazed man on the shoulder.
With a startled reaction the man snaps around to see who needed his
attention. The tired business man proceeded to ask the man why he was just
sitting there while his kids ran loose all over the car. The dazed man
looked around as if noticing his children's actions for the first time.
With tears in his eyes and an apology in his voice he spoke to his irritated
riding companion. The dad said that he was sorry for the disturbance and he
promised to keep his kids quiet. The business man asked why he was just
sitting there in a daze. Fighting to hold back tears, the dad said that he
was trying to find a way to tell his children that their mother had just
died that afternoon. Immediately the business man felt about two inches
tall. He suddenly realized how selfish and careless he had been with his
words. He then apologized to the father and offered his sympathies for the
loss of his wife. With a sense of shame and embarrassment he went back to
his seat and watched the kids play as they would no doubt have too few days
of happiness in the near future. Truly his paradigm of the situation was
totally changed but not only of that situation. He moved forward from there
with a promise to himself to never assume to know what is happening based on
outward appearances.

When I think of this story it makes me think back to all the times in my
life when I thought my viewpoint or my paradigm was the correct one. We all
have the natural tendency to think that because we have arrived at a
particular way of thinking that it must be right. Sadly this is not always
the case. Surely there is wisdom in the Lord's counsel when He tells us
that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 15:22). The
older I get the more I realize how much I do not know. The older I get the
more I want to look to others who have gone before me and ask about how they
met with success. I think each of us should be and have mentors. We need
people around us who are not afraid to speak the truth in love. We need
people around us who will not be afraid to disagree with us if they should
need to do so. Not only that, but we need to be willing to be the voice of
difference if it will call others to take a stand for truth and justice.
But apart from our earthly relationships we should be deeply interested in
seeing if God wants us to make changes. There have been times in my life
that I have actually prayed and asked God to change my paradigm on something
if I was headed down the wrong path. It has been so awesome to see that
happen when God does it. Our theme verse this evening has the writer of the
Psalm asking that their eyes be opened to behold wonderful things. In a
world that is on the fast track to failure we need to become spiritually
sober and vigilant in all aspects of our lives. We need to realize that
time is short and every minute wasted headed down the wrong path is time
that could and should have been spent sharing the gospel of Christ.
Friends, I hope that you will join me in asking God to change our thoughts
for the better. I pray that you will seek God and ask Him to shift your
paradigms if indeed you need to make a shift. Until we grieve the Holy
Spirit it is never too late for the Lord to change our hearts and our
thoughts. I implore you to not go on living one more day without first
surrendering your heart completely to the Lord Jesus Christ. He has the
power to open our eyes that we might behold the wonderful things of God.

Dear Father,
As we come to You in prayer we need Your salve to anoint our eyes. Father,
we are too often blinded by our long-held perceptions of life and our sense
of the way things ought to work. Lord, may we never get to the point in our
lives that we refuse to hear Your words and live by Your guidance. Please
take our hearts of stone and give us each one a heart of flesh; a heart that
longs to beat in tune with Your heart. May we allow You to shift our
paradigms if we have our focus on the wrong target. We long for Your return
and we wish to live our lives in accordance with Your will. Even so, come
quickly that we may be with You forever more. It is in Jesus' name that we
pray, Amen.

Friday, February 6, 2009

#27 Proper Alignment

Television is an amazing technology. The fact that you can get a picture
with sound through the air is nothing short of incredible. Now days you can
even get television in high definition. And once you see a high definition
picture you wonder how you ever put up with regular definition pictures.
Let's take it one step further. Not only can you get television through the
air or passed through a coaxial cable that is plugged up to your home, but
you can receive signals that are broadcast from space via satellites in
either geostationary or highly elliptical orbits 22,300 miles from earth.
I find that to be pretty impressive.

There have actually been times in my
life that my family has subscribed to one of the major national satellite TV
providers. I was even zealous enough to want to do the install myself.
There are several factors that have to be considered of course when you
choose to do the install. Do you have a clear view of the southern sky?
This is needed to assure that the receiver dish at your home can get a clear
line of uninterrupted signal from the satellite that is orbiting in space
above the equator. Also, depending on where you live in North America you
will have to point your receiver dish to the correct azimuth--the direction
on the compass--you need.

The other component to consider is the elevation
or angle that the receiver dish needs to be in relation to the ground. Once
you have all these factors as close as you can get them with a compass and a
level you should be receiving some amount of signal. You then move the dish
ever so slightly to the right or the left to dial the signal in as strong as
you can. Basically you have to align your receiver dish with pinpoint
accuracy so that the narrow band of signal being transmitted from the
satellite can be captured by the receiver on the end of your dish. Once
everything is aligned properly you will be able to enjoy your favorite

Television is not the only commercially available service
transmitted from satellites. You can also subscribe to internet service.
The same alignment procedures are followed and the process is just as
tedious. While in Iraq I was able to arrange a deal with a civilian
contractor to have internet service in our rooms on the military base via
satellite. Needless to say, the Soldiers were quite happy to have the
service and be able to connect with their families.

While I am impressed by the services that are available through satellites,
I am even more impressed by the avenue of communication the Bible calls
prayer. You and I have the ability to connect with the God of the universe
through our Lord Jesus Christ in prayer. In Hebrews 4:16 we are told that
we can come boldly before the throne of grace. Obviously we cannot waltz
right into heaven and chat directly with God so we have to understand that
we come before the throne through prayer. And we have this line of
communication because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

So just like in our discussion of satellites, we too need to be "properly aligned" as it were. There are certain parameters that we need to consider in order to
have effective communication and to receive the "best signal" so to speak
from the Lord.

First we need to remember that we serve a living God who
longs for fellowship with His creation. We were created in the image of God
to communicate directly with Him and serve Him. When sin entered the
picture our direct line was severed and men then had to connect with God
through an earthly high priest and we now connect with God through our
perfect, kingly High Priest the Lord Jesus.

So in order to connect with the Father we have to align ourselves with Jesus. We do that by fully surrendering to God; admitting that we are sinners and confessing to Jesus in order that He might grant us forgiveness (1 John 1:9). This is
equivalent to the azimuth on the compass in our satellite discussion. In
other words, we too have to be turned the right way. Secondly, we have to
have the proper elevation so that we have even better alignment. Paul
reminds us in Philippians 4:8 that we should dwell on things that are pure,
lovely, and of good repute. When we do that our thoughts will be elevated
to the point that we spend more time thinking about the Lord and what He
would have us to do that we do worrying over the trials of this life: many
of which are out of our control anyway.

I hope that as each of you consider my analogy tonight that you will ask
yourself if you are properly aligned with God. Are you turned the right
way? Do you listen to and watch things that are going to elevate your
thoughts? If you cannot answer either or both of those questions with some
amount of assurance then I would encourage you to consider the path you are
on. You may realize that your current alignment has you tuned in to the
wrong frequency in this life. I pray that each of you will stop to examine
your life and ask the Lord of heaven to reach down and align you how He
would have you to be. As we fast approach these last days we need to make
sure that we are aligned and connected with the God of the universe through
a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Dear Father,
As we come to You this evening, we recognize our deep need of You. Father,
we need to be aligned with You and we know that Your word is filled with the
guidelines that will properly direct us if we allow it to do so. In Your
word we learn of Jesus and the life saving message of the cross. Give us
the courage just now to turn away from and to tune out this world of sin.
By Your grace may we each choose only to receive Your signal Lord. We
cannot do it on our own, we need Jesus more than ever before. Please
forgive us of our sins that we may be washed clean of all guilt and shame,
and may Your Spirit live in our hearts from now until You come to take us to
be with You forever. We pray these things in Jesus' name, Amen.