Sunday, July 27, 2008

Don't Quit

Don huddled in the freezing cold with a group of other guys around a pitifully small fire. The guys were chatting but Don was lost in thought, staring at the embers. “One shot,” he thought. “One shot and it would all be over.” He was fondling the frozen, wooden grip of his pistol. The “one shot” was a well-aimed pistol-shot through his foot. One carefully self-inflicted gun-shot wound would end the freezing, the pain, the hunger. It would get him off the line and, most likely, back to England and out of the war – perhaps for good.

Yes, it would be quitting. But it was so cold! And the things he had seen! Just yesterday, one friend had died and another two had been severely wounded and were heading home.

One shot would end the war for him. But at what cost? He realized that it would cost him his integrity and that would be too high a cost.

Nearly ten years earlier, his father had quit. It was during the Great Depression. It had finally caught up with his father’s insurance business. They lost everything – money, the house, everything. But to Don, there was no sin it that. Most everyone was affected by the Depression. The sin was not that his father lost everything. It was that his father had quit.

Now, in that foxhole in the forest outside of Bastogne, Belgium in January, 1945, Don was faced with a similar choice. Quit or fight on?

Don chose to fight on.

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! – Hebrews 12:1-3 (The Message)

We all face times when we want to quit. We’re tired, we’re weary, we couldn’t possibly go on like this. A marriage that has fallen on near-impossible times. A job that we detest. A boss that we can’t work for. A member at church that we just are tired of with all their complaining. It would be easier to just give up, to quit.

But at what cost? God did not create us to be quitters! He sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins to give us the power to overcome everything in this life. Through the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we can get through our “winters.” We can fight on, run the race, strive for the prize. Christ did! He blazed the trail for us. Don’t give up! Stay on that trail, because Christ came back and now walks with us – side-by-side, and sometimes carrying us – as we run the race.

Don’t quit. All may seem lost but it really isn’t. You can keep fighting. God will give you that power. When you feel like quitting, remember this: This is exactly what Satan wants you to do. This is the moment that he’s most fearful of. C.S. Lewis wrote, in The Screwtape Letters, (a fictional account of one devil’s letters – Screwtape – to another devil, Wormwood), “Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human … looks round upon a universe from which every trace of the enemy [God] seems to have vanished, asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys” (emphasis added).

I'm homesick—longing for your salvation; I'm waiting for your word of hope. My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise; how long must I wait for your comfort? There's smoke in my eyes—they burn and water, but I keep a steady gaze on the instructions you post. How long do I have to put up with all this? How long till you haul my tormentors into court? The arrogant godless try to throw me off track, ignorant as they are of God and his ways. Everything you command is a sure thing, but they harass me with lies. Help! They've pushed and pushed—they never let up—but I haven't relaxed my grip on your counsel. In your great love revive me so I can alertly obey your every word. Psalm 119:81-83 (The Message)

©2008 True Men Ministries.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dark Nights of the Soul

A friend of mine told me about the book "Dark Nights of the Soul" by Thomas Moore and the way he described it intrigued me. I picked it up yesterday and started reading it. Good insight so far.

It started me thinking about the dark nights that I have experienced, especially in recent years. The ending of one ministry, the beginning of another.

At the end of that one ministry, we sold our first home. The summer before we did that, we took these pictures.

I recently was looking at this and I noticed that both my wife and I are in "the shade" or in the "dark."

Coincidence? Maybe. But its good metaphor nonetheless. We were happy, but evcen while we were happy, I now recognize that we were also going through a "dark night."

I've realized that it wasn't a problem to be solved, but a time to experience and listen for God's "still small voice." It was hard to hear, and it is only now that I'm in sunny Southern California that I can look back at that time and understand what God's still, small voice was saying.

More to come....

Monday, July 7, 2008

Problem solved?

Job loss.
Death of a child.
Flunking out of school.
End of a relationship.

These are all problems that people face. And in today's world, these are all problems that need to be solved - the sooner the better.

I don't think that's true. I also don't think that its healthy to face these or any problems we have with that mindset.

When you boil everything away and get to the core of a human being, there is only one problem that has to be solved. That problem is sin.

The problem of sin is solved when sin is forgiven. And sin is forgiven by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In other words, the only problem we truly face is our sin and Jesus solves that probem for us.

So, what about the rest of these so-called problems?

They are part of the human experience and God allows them in our lives to shape us into the people He intends for us to be.

They are not problems to be solved, but experiences to be, well, experienced. Learn from them, go through them with eyes wide open. Soak in all that they bring. They may seem like they can destroy you, but they can't. Not really. Jesus is our protector, He is our shield.

I once read a prayer suggestion for a person who is going through what Thomas Moore calls a "dark time of the soul." It goes something like this:

God, help me to learn all that I'm supposed to learn during this time so I don't have to go through it again.

I'm still working through my thoughts here, but I wanted to get them down so I wouldn't forget them.

More to come.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Declaration of Independence

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

What was going through his mind after the fact? Samuel Adams, along with Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Josiah Bartlett and 52 others put their signatures to a document that for 250,000,000 people today is a symbol of freedom and independence. But 231 years ago, it could just as easily have been their death sentence – and for several that is exactly what it was.

The Declaration of Independence. A piece of paper. Fragile. Easily destroyed. Extraordinary measures are taken today to preserve it. In the end, these measures will prove unsuccessful, as they must with anything made of such fragile stock. We’ve enshrined the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives in Washington D.C. But it is the power of the idea that gave – and continues to give – life to these words of Thomas Jefferson so long ago.

Something much more powerful is enshrined in the heart of the Christian. Not words written with ink on parchment but life written in blood on the heart and soul.

Our independence from sin, death and the power of the devil – paid for by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – is the power of the Christian’s life. Our individual independence comes in the words “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The lives that were freed from England with the Declaration of Independence were now lives full of responsibility. Two wars would be fought against England because of the Declaration. It is a fact that freedom is never free.
Our freedom from sin is a completely free gift from God (grace) but it is not free. It cost the life of the Son of God. Now a life lived for God is a life with responsibility.
We live in God’s Kingdom, sharing the Good News about Jesus, doing the things that need to be done – not to get to heaven, but because we are going to heaven!

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, let us not look at this as a “midsummer respite” with nine more weeks of summer left. Rather, let us give thanks to God for that independence. In the freedom given us as citizens, let us exercise the freedom of religion (not from religion) and share the Good News about Jesus that gives us independence from sin through his death and resurrection.