Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 27 September 2017

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.  Hebrews 12, verses 12-13.

These verses strongly echo Isaiah 35, which says “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”   And it carries the echo of Galatians 6 which cautions men to counsel each other wisely and in Godly love, but to be wise ourselves to not be pulled into temptation.

So I’m attending a School of Discipleship and Ministry at the Calvary Chapel where we attend here in Paris.   This week’s lesson was about how to carry out the mission of the church.  In doing that, Jesus followers are encouraged, even expected, to live in ways that edify and glorify God, that are Godly and upright, and can be a good example for others.   That doesn’t mean being goody-goody or snotty:  it means ‘walking the walk and talking the talk.’   It means being honest and moral.  And that’s tough, especially in a poor town full of drug use, poverty, despair, and economic disadvantages.

Every day you live your life like that is like working out hard in the spiritual gym.   It’s like pumping serious iron of the soul.   Every time you say ‘no’ to temptation, you lift the weight, then put it down.  Every time you walk away when you could be confrontational you run the extra spiritual mile.   Every time…you get the picture.

Yet it’s true.  In order to walk a Godly walk we have to choose the best path.   We have to train ourselves up in the ways of the Word.  That requires studying Scriptures.   That requires personal prayer with God.   That requires doing things that Jesus wants us to do:   loving, listening, helping, serving, being selfless.  When all I want to do is buy a six pack and forget my many troubles, God calls me to write these words instead.  To listen to other believers, to share my story and work to serve others.   To walk away, confess my pain, accept His peace.

Man, that’s a tall order.   You better believe, then, our Savior is a tall, tall man.

During this School of Discipleship and Ministry, the pastor is talking about core beliefs of the church, about church history, about mission and vision, about leadership in the Lord.   The center of all he’s taught is Christ and only Christ.   I find that refreshing, and even though change is coming in my life I intend to keep returning to finish out the course.  I find it refreshing because so much else of the world in which I walk is focused elsewhere.   You know yours is as well.   NFL debates, same sex marriage, public corruption, celebrity wreckage, divorce, unemployment, kids having kids and kids aborting kids:   pick your poison.   In 2017 America there’s plenty to go around.   So I find my respite these weeks in going back to God, in focusing on first principles.   First of those is Jesus Christ is God who lived, died, and lives again to redeem sinners like me and you.   He did everything necessary to make that happen, and now He asks us to follow Him.   To follow requires a spiritual workout where you’ll flex muscles of the soul, sinew of the conscience, blood pumping and heart racing to new beats.

Yep:   that’s a tall order indeed.  Are you willing to stand up for the mission?   “I don’t think I can” you might be saying.   It might seem too embarrassing, too inconvenient, perhaps even too risky given the social world we live in.  But let me propose that, if you’re even thinking about it, God’s Spirit is already working within you, calling you to a new purpose, a new mission.   He’s giving you a mission He’s prepared just for you, and He’s going to ready you for it.   Put on your gym shoes, my friend.   We’re in training.

For further reading:  Isaiah 35:3-4, Proverbs 4:26, Galatians 6:1.

Lord, help me to train up more to serve You.



Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 11 January 2015

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Mark 13, verses 28-29.

You know the obvious message of these verses is “pay attention to the signs.”   As we’ve been talking, another is “be ready now.” Have you considered another message they convey?

God keeps trying.

The last week I’ve been working on a new project, this one in Washington DC.   It’s actually a sales pursuit and I don’t know if it will pay out or pan out yet.   I’m one of 10 on a team trying to land a deal, and there’s no guarantee that we’re going to be successful.   In reality, the client may hear our pitch and simply say, “thanks but no thanks” even though we’ve worked many hours to do our best.   Yet knowing all that, we’re still trying because that’s what people do.   It’s what you have to do to try to be successful.

Closer to home, my wife and I are struggling in opening our winery business. It hasn’t moved as fast as we thought it would, and purchasing the property we want for the vineyard is proving to be difficult. At times, we’re each getting discouraged because even though we have a passion for the idea, sometimes the dream ebbs and flows.   But we’re still trying.

And then there’s weight loss; forgive me for some self-indulgent talk.   I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life.   When I was a young skinny kid I vowed to defy my genes and gravity and never get heavy.   I failed. Now, just north of 5’11’’ and 220, I’m much heavier than I want to be or is healthy.   Exercise and diet have been a see-saw of disappointment, and while I’m currently among the New Year’s ‘resolved,’ it’s tough going.   But I’m trying even if I’m not always successful.

Just yesterday I watched the movie “Unbroken.”   You’ll remember it’s the story of Louie Zamperini, the Olympic distance runner, WWII POW, and forgiveness-embracing evangelist.   Zamperini dedicated his life to Jesus, vowing that, if Jesus saved him from death in the war, he would spend the rest of his life evangelizing.   That’s what he did, eventually reconciling with all of his Japanese war tormentors who would meet with him.   Louie Zamperini lived a long and successful life in the Spirit because he always kept trying even when it meant spiritual and physical torture.

All these are stories that reflect how God keeps trying in our lives.   He never gives up on us.   He always tries to reach out and communicate, to bring us back to Him even when we reject Him and run away.   To prove it, He regularly, continually gives us signs of His presence and His promises so that we won’t lose heart and stick with Him.   It’s not just to be ready and pay attention to the signs:   it’s to cling to Him in every minute of our lives because He is always trying to connect to us.

Lord Jesus, thank You for always trying to reach me even when I don’t try to reach You.   Never give up on me, I pray.   I will follow only You.

Read Mark 13, verses 1-31.