A Long-Haul Mentality

race horses

In the book ?Seabiscuit”, about the famous Depression racehorse, his trainer had to teach the horse to pace himself. Initially, Seabiscuit would streak out front, then run out of gas and lose the race. But eventually he learned pace himself, then put on a final burst to win.

As believers, it doesn?t really matter if we explode out of the starting gate. What really matters is how we finish. Paul had a long-haul mentality:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness…(2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Paul went the distance and made it to the final bell of the good fight. We need his long-range mindset.

We need this mindset with our children. On a day-to-day basis, it’s easy to get discouraged when we see little or no fruit. Usually we expect fruit in our kids too soon. Though God saves some at a young age, often he opens their eyes after years of parents sowing in faith.

We need a long-haul mentality when it feels like our church is in an eternal day of small beginnings. We need to think long-term about that new believer who’s victorious one day and in the “Slough of Despond” the next.

We need to think long-haul about ourselves. It’s easy to become discouraged with our spiritual growth when we analyze ourselves short-term. But look back 6 months or 6 years and you’ll see that Jesus has changed you.

We especially need to think long-term when we’re suffering. Scripture tells us to look ahead to eternity to the weight of glory our afflictions are producing (2 CO 4.17-18). Looking at them short-term, they seem heavy and endless. But in heaven we’ll see how light and momentary they actually are.

William Wilberforce began his battle to abolish slavery in England in 1787. Finally, after battling for 46 years, in 1833, Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire. He died 3 days after the Act was passed. What if he had not had a long-haul mentality and quit after 5 years or 20 years?

Let’s think long-haul. Let’s fight the good fight today and keep running the race, for the glory of Christ.

Photo by SaraScho

God Does Good With Gusto

fountain

I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul (JE 32.40-41).

One of my new prerogatives as a grandfather is spoiling my granddaughter.

Before vacation, I pillaged a number of neighborhood garage sales and carted home bags of colorful blocks, noisy toys and brightly colored books to give baby Charis. If I had the time and money, I?d probably convert Stephen and Jen?s home into a veritable Toys ?R Us if they’d let me. I love blessing Charis, just like I love blessing my own kids.

But God loves to bless his children infinitely more. He’s made an unbreakable, unchangeable promise to never stop doing good to us. He pours out his kindness on us every hour of every day in this life and will continue to lavish the riches of his grace on us in the coming ages (EPH 2.7). God has bags and bags of grace stored up for us. And nothing, including our sins and failures will deter his generous hand.

There aren?t enough computers in the world to track his kindness to us. Even while we?re sleeping, he?s overnighting mercies to us, most of which we haven?t even sought.

He puts the fear of him in our hearts so we?ll never turn away from him. What security! If left to myself, I?d bolt from Jesus quicker than a cockroach from a spotlight. But our Father continually replenishes our love for him from the infinite spring of his own love.

And he doesn?t begrudgingly dole out blessings, but does good to us with gusto- ?I will rejoice in doing them good.? He takes pleasure in heaping his love on us. Take the charge I get out of blessing my granddaughter and multiply it by infinity.

And God promises to bless us ?with all my heart and all my soul.? Think of it: the Lord of the universe, doing good to us with all HIS heart and all HIS soul. I?d be happy if a human tried to bless me with all his human strength, but to have God promise to put his almighty heart and soul into blessing me leaves me speechless.

How can we not praise him?

Photo by discopalace

John Wilkes Booth Meets Sinclair Ferguson

John Wilkes Booth

Earlier this week I wrote a post entitled Lessons From John Wilkes Booth, which sought to draw insights for the Christian from the life of presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth. This is the part two of that post.

Meditation Leads to Action

Booth’s killing of Lincoln wasn’t a random act of wickedness. It was the result of much thinking, meditation, and fantasizing. Hatred for Lincoln festered in Booth’s heart for months before Booth finally pulled the trigger in Ford’s Theater. Six months before the assassination, Booth and his rebel comrades concocted a plan to kidnap Lincoln and hold him for ransom, only to be thwarted by faulty information regarding Lincoln’s whereabouts. On the day of the killing, Booth penned the following letter:

For a long time I have devoted my energies, my time and money, to the accomplishment of a certain end [kidnapping Lincoln]. I have been disappointed. The moment has arrived when I must change my plans. Many will blame me for what I am about to do, but posterity, I am sure, will justify me.

Clearly John Wilkes Booth spent many hours mulling over his intense hatred for Abraham Lincoln.

As I ponder the words of Booth, I’m reminded of the words of Sinclair Ferguson, who said the following (read this quote slowly):

The evangelical orientation is inward and subjective. We are far better at looking inward than we are looking outward. We need to expend our energies admiring, exploring, expositing, and extolling Jesus Christ.

John Wilkes Booth spent his energies thinking about the glorious cause of the Confederacy, and it led to drastic action on behalf of the Confederacy. I want to follow the wise advice of Sinclair Ferguson and spend my energies admiring, exploring, expositing, and extolling Jesus Christ.

Our tendency as Christians is to always be looking inward, interpreting all of life through the foggy lens of our feelings. Sinclair Ferguson is aware of this temptation and exhorts us to spend the majority of our time pondering the glories of Jesus Christ and all that he has done for us through his life, death, and resurrection.

What will be the result of regular meditation on Jesus Christ? Love for Christ. Service to Christ. Passion for the gospel. All these are the result of “expositing, exploring, and extolling Jesus Christ”. Meditation leads to action.

Question for discussion: How do we move from being people that are continually looking inward to people that spend their energies pondering Jesus?

The Root Of My Anger

Anger sign

A loud thump, followed by laughter and more loud thumps, reverberated from upstairs.

I ran upstairs to discover my boys having a battle and throwing things at each other. ?I thought I told you to get ready for bed!? I scolded, as they stifled laughter. It was like the scene in ?What About Bob? when Leo Marvin catches his patient Bob Wiley and his son Siggy jumping on the beds and shouts, ?All’s I want is some peace and quiet!? Giggling, Bob says, ?Okay, I’ll be quiet,? and Siggy says, ?And I?ll be peace!?

I was fuming like Leo Marvin. ?You guys are making me mad.” ?But you’ve said no one else can make you mad,? one replied. I hate it when my kids quote me. For I?ve always told them that when we get angry it’s our own sin.

It sure doesn?t feel that way though. It feels like other people or things are the cause. That driver who pulled out in front of me. My teen who smarted off to me. The boss who asks too much of me. It feels like things outside us cause our anger. Scripture says we should look within:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask (James 4:1-2).

Here?s the root of our anger: We want something and can?t get it, so we fight and quarrel.

So here’s a million-dollar question that helps expose that root: What do I want right now that I’m not getting?

When we discover our idolatrous craving, then we can repent and seek grace to change.

I once read about a pastor who was looking forward to some quiet relaxation when he got home. His wife, who?d been with their small children all day, desired some adult conversation that evening. Their cravings came into conflict and they began fighting for their desires until they both became angry. What caused their anger? Each wanted something and wasn’t getting it.

Once driving a stretch in Pittsburgh I hit every red light and started getting irritated (angry). By God’s grace I asked myself what I wanted and wasn’t getting. I realized that what I wanted was for every red light to turn green the moment I approached ? I wanted all creation to serve me. I wanted to be God. I wasn?t getting what I wanted so I got angry.

So the next time you get angry, ask yourself the million-dollar question. Excuse me, I have to run upstairs ? I just heard a loud thump.

Photo by Mirsasha

Would We Recognize Jesus Today?

Fog

If Jesus walked among us today, would we recognize who he truly was? If we heard him street preaching or had a long theological discussion with him in Starbuck’s, would we believe in him as the only son of God?

I don’t think so. Look at John 7:3-5

So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him.

This is astounding. Jesus’ own brothers refused to believe in him. They saw him with their own eyes, heard his words, and watched his life. Yet in spite of all this they wouldn’t believe. They walked in complete spiritual darkness, unable to recognize the Son of God when he stood directly in front of them.

I’m no different than Jesus’ skeptical brothers. I once lived in spiritual darkness. I didn’t love Jesus, and I couldn’t see him. And the frightening truth is, apart from divine intervention I was doomed to a life of spiritual darkness. I was destined for a hopeless, joyless, hell-bound life.

But God saw me. Those are sweet words. God came to me and peeled the scales away from my eyes. John 6:37 says:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

Why did I come to Jesus? Because the Father chose me and gave me to Jesus. The Father looked upon me with love and compassion, took me by the hand, and gave me to his son. And then I came.

Do you remember when Jesus opened your eyes? What circumstances did God use to draw you to himself?

+photo by ricoeurian

I Aced My Vacation

soldier2

Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle (PS 144.1)

I’m happy to announce that I aced my vacation.

Amazingly, I had no training and still passed with flying colors. I killed deck-lounging and mystery novel reading. Breezed through staying-up-late and sleeping-in with no problem. Pulled off hanging-out-with-fam-and-friends without even breathing hard.

I didn’t need any training for vacation, but vacations always end and it’s back to real life, which for believers in Christ, the Bible calls war. Paul calls it fighting the good fight of faith. He calls it warfare in Ephesians and tells us we must take up weapons and armor to stand firm. He encourages Timothy to be a good soldier. Peter tells us Satan’s prowling around like a roaring lion and we need to resist his attacks.

The Lord trains every one of his children for battle. He introduces pressure and hardship. He drops us in the middle of the desert and teaches us to depend on him and keep our eyes fixed on the cross. Sometimes he straps heavy packs on our backs so we learn to endure and persevere. We fall down and he urges, “Get back up again! Keep running! Don’t give up!”

Sometimes God takes us to the front lines, or hangs us on the side of a cliff to keep us clinging to him in prayer. Sometimes He exposes us to the “friendly fire” of criticism or other’s sin, so we’ll learn to forgive our brothers and sisters.

And when we can run a mile with a 50-pound pack on our backs, he ups it to 5 miles with a 100-pound pack.

Don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re in combat. The Lord is training your hands for war and your fingers for battle. He’s strengthening you to be able to bear even more. He’s deepening your trust in him, building up your endurance, fortifying your faith.

So bless the Lord! Bless the Lord who trains your hands for war. Bless the Lord who is doing great things in your life through the hardships you are facing.

photo by gopal1035