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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Confidence

Firm trust.

Children have no difficulty with confidence. They trust without question. Children trust firmly, with resolution. Confidence comes naturally to a child.

Then, everything changes. Sometime, somewhere, somehow, confidence wanes, trust falters. One grows and the focus of trust shifts away from the parent to self. We throw ourselves off balance when God’s natural design is corrupted by the sin nature. Confidence is significantly weakened and distrust takes over.

Confidence must be relearned, re-established and to have it fully, one must return to the one who instilled that in our design. We must return to our maker, and in so-doing, retrain ourselves to think, live, believe differently. Confidence takes discipline. We need to practice trusting God and practice takes time, requires focus, saying “yes” to some things and “no” others. Our mental, physical and spiritual diets may have to change, get rid of the fat that weighs us down, build up the spiritual muscles we need to be functional and powerful.

Peter wrote, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” (2 Peter 1:10).

What are “these things” that require discipline and how do “these things” build confidence? God has already and powerfully given everything we need for both life and godliness, achieved by knowing Christ (2 Pe. 1:2-3). By His glory and excellence, God has granted precious and magnificent promises for the purpose of experiencing Him and thus escaping the sinfulness that holds us down, prevents growth—kills us (2 Pe 1:4). Now, reconnected to our Maker by the means of Christ, we have confidence restored by faith which gives rise to moral excellence, leading to knowledge, manifesting in self-control, with strong perseverance, in the context of godliness that in turn builds up others in love. (2 Pe 1:5-8).

And it gets better because “these things” are not useless, nor are they unfruitful because our confidence is not for us to keep and turn inwardly again, throwing ourselves off-balance; rather, our confidence in Christ is for others, that they too can be unburdened from sin!

Confidence, firm trust, means there is no need for disorientation because of a firm hold on the solid foundation that will never move! 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Tabata": Life

At first I thought “Tabata” meant "have a great Monday", but by the end of my workout yesterday I realized there was a slight mistranslation. It’s more like, "I think I'm going to be sick." I can think of two times in my life when I exercised so hard that I got physically ill--and both instances were back in High School. Yes, Tabata really took me back. Thanks for the memories. Seriously, and with all due respect, “Tabata” is the last name of a doctor who designed the fitness routine. Let your fingers do the Googling, for more information.

Yesterday's WOD (Workout of the Day) started with a warm up of (5x) 100m sprints and (3x) 10 Pull-ups. The WOD was Tabata burpees, air squats, pushups and AB Mat straight leg sit-ups. "Tabata" (for the uninitiated) means 20 second of work (max effort) and 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds. Start with the first maneuver for 8 rounds, then do the second maneuver until done. 20 minutes of no-hands riding the Happy-Go-Pukey.

Just to show how much I need help, I can't wait to see what today's WOD brings.

Yes, there is a spiritual principle here.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)

The realm of physical fitness has me wanting more, but when it comes to the pain found in the life experiences while following Christ, that is less appealing—we are disinclined to continue, but we must. By the second round of the second exercise, I was ready to quit. There are times when a spiritual battle rages so hard against us, we want to quit. We will do anything to make it stop—pain hurts! I can’t catch my breath, yet the machine rolls on! The truth is we will come bruised but uncrushed, a little light-headed and disoriented but remembered by God, intact with the life of our Lord and Savior manifested in us. Gasping, but full of the Spirit when we obey.

Hang on. Press through.

We have intense periods of spiritual “max effort” and short periods of rest, but the ordeal does not last forever. The result is strength for the next go-round and the glory of God in Christ as He accomplishes His purpose in us and through us.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Put It Down

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that has been set before us.” (Hebrew 12:1)

After a heavy workout, I feel like collapsing. Though the ground feels nice as I gush sweat like a lawn sprinkler, that pile is really not the best position in which to be. One needs be upright. So I walk around with my hands on my head, filling my lungs with air.

I’m running much faster now that some of this weight is coming off. I started at 252 by walking for 15 minutes. Then 15 minutes became 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, then 45 minutes. Then my body whispered “faster.” So I went faster. And the weight is coming off. With faster comes stronger and the end of the workout is full of accomplishment.

The encumbrance, the weight must come off in order to run with endurance. Jesus said the thorns that choke are world-worries, things that do not matter eternally, desires for other things. These enter in and cause unfruitfulness by cutting off the life-line (Mark 4:17). No production because there is no life. These are things that need to be laid aside.

We often hear the example of “girding up the loins,” but this carries more the idea of “stop carrying and put down.” I went on four mile hike a few weeks ago intentionally carrying an additional 40 pounds. That was hard work, needless to say, (especially considering at that point in time my pack was 7 pounds more than my heaviest weight) but not ideal for running with endurance. That’s what cracks me up about CrossFit—pile it on, go faster, harder, “for time.”

What fascinates me most about this Hebrews 12 passage is the number of times the word “discipline” is used. “Endurance” is used 4 times  and “Discipline” is used 9 times. What does it take to lay aside that which weighs down? Discipline—but not a discipline I can generate, nor is it for my purpose that I run. “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.” (Heb 12:10). 

Sometimes we just don't know what it is that needs to be shed in order that we may run. His discipline does train us to run with heaviness, but to run lightly. That which needs to be shed is very specific--did you see that weight is called "the sin that so easily entangles"? When God by discipline exposes it, drop it. Put it down.

That’s the goal. This is the reason we run. Not because of the cloud of witnesses who are watching from the stands, but because of the strength we need in our weak knees that will carry us along the straight path, pursuing peace with all men and sanctification that we may be pleasing to the Lord (Heb 12:12-14). 

We need to put off everything that keeps us from reaching that goal.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Run In Such A Way That You May Win

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” (1 Cor. 9:24)

Recently athlete Adam Coccia was quoted to say this about CrossFit. "This is CrossFit. No one is going to stop you from stopping. Nobody is going to be disappointed if you scale down. You have nothing to prove to anyone, but to yourself. And that might be the most important aspect of CrossFit."  

There is a connection between Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthian Christians who were struggling, learning what it meant to be God’s saints in a hostile world and Adam’s comment about CrossFit. I find this illustrated best by the Monday’s workout following a fairly hefty warm-up:

200m run 
4 minute jump rope 
400m run 
3 minute jump rope 
600m run 
2 minute jump rope 
800m run 
2 minute jump rope 

Sounds easy. Looks good on paper. I had to jog (not run) the 600, and walked the first 400m of the last 800--but I finished. I scaled down and finished in such a way that I could actually finish and not quit. Had to take a few quick breathers jumping rope, but I finished.

One reason I like to exercise outside is because life is not easy; that is, victorious Christian living does not occur in a gym or a box (ala CrossFit). Life happens “out there,” in the heat; and, we have before us the opportunity to quit or finish. Quitting accomplishes nothing. Finishing brings strength.

The struggle of living God-pleasing lives in a hostile world is not easy. We have not only the grace God to help us through but we also have His strength. His strength is not provided to us to help us quit, but to finish and finish well. Think of all those who have gone before us, scaling their pace so they could finish with unfaltering steps. My Granny and Pop were two people that come to mind, two people I can personally say have run to win. They did not flame out. Stopping was not an option for them. They watched their steps, as it were, and paced themselves along the path of obedience to Christ. I love that example—I need that example.

Someone somewhere said that the Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon. Marathon running may need the training of intervals and short bursts of speed and strength (preparing for the long haul), but it is scaling back that counts. Let nothing stop you from pursuing Christ.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's Fitting, the Cross Is

Since May, I started something I had no intention of starting and now I can’t stop. Making matters worse I’d never heard of that which I’ve gotten myself into and now I am saturated in it. Just after my birthday in May I started Crossfit and it has rocked my world physically, emotionally and spiritually. Running the risk of sounding like a commercial—there ain’t nothing like Crossfit. Mind you: this from a non-sports person.

Short testimonial: I started a weight loss and exercise program back in 2011 with fairly good results, but got stuck on a plateau (I lost about 30 pounds from 2011 to 2013). Since late May, I’ve not only lost 12 pounds (to date) but have grown stronger. Oh my goodness. I’m swimming in the kool-aid.

The Crossfit WODs (Workout Of the Day) are intensely varied and address the mind as much as the body. One feature is finishing, no matter what. Sounds good until one sees the WOD—just about anyone may think “I can do that.” Well, hold that thought because about half way through one needs to be reminded that “it can be done.” Sometimes finishing is more difficult that the WOD itself; for instance, the other day we faced 3 rounds of 400 meter run (one time around a track), 40 lunges, 30 sit-ups, 20 pushups and 10 burpees. We were dead at the second round. Of course 90 degree heat + heat index was no help, but still . . .

The spiritual principles that come to mind are enormous. Consider (again, from a person who never really enjoyed sports. Still don’t—just Crossfit) what it takes to prove oneself as a competitor: one must know the game, know and play by the rules, finish well AND in good form to the satisfaction of the judges. So here we are playing the game of “life” (as it were)—we are all in this thing together. What is striking is that we all start from the same place: weak, feeble—and we learn from early on that we don’t know the game, nor do we know the rules so we learn by violation—from our mistakes. But we can't repair the damage done by them.

Only one person has ever played correctly. He made both the playing field and the rules. He came and played in perfect form. He is the winning team. We can’t get to the podium because our record book shows more penalties, more “no reps” than successful ones, than goals made. His charts are clean, no penalties. All reps complete. Here’s the best part: he is building a team who will not merely wear His name, but will represent Him in every game. He made it all possible by one act: giving Himself, taking all my “no reps” on Himself. If one will accept this, the records are swapped and His perfections become ours and He joins us on the floor, cheering us on until we cross the finish line. If one will not accept this, then achievement noted, time noted, and leave the game unaccomplished. 

CrossFit--the Cross of Christ. It's fitting.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Photoblog: Black Light



Negative photo of ceiling light reflected off plastic table-top.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Arriving" on Life's Journey

I am just now looking through my blog subscriptions and one in particular has been posting strings of self-help-style posts:

“5 Simple Ways To . . .”
“4 Warning Signs That . . .”
“How To Solve 10 . . .”
“30 Second To . . .”
“Avoid These 4 . . .”

This is where we are, in the age of fast, pat answers. Has someone written a computer program, having found the algorithms of life that produce solutions to nearly every problem imaginable? Don’t be fooled. It’s not that easy.

Life is a journey we all make together. We are born, we will die; however, what takes place in the  “dash between the dates” is unique. Where is life’s journey taking us and how do we know we’ve arrived? The beginning is definite, so when did we begin to think the end is nebulous? How is it we’ve become convinced that the challenges of the journey are met with simplistic answers? How did the human race survive before the internet? Seems impossible.

One question that cannot be answered in the algorithm is: “who am I?” See, as we travel the journey of life, we get caught up in the journey and forget the one who is travelling. We forget we are travelling with others. The only way to find the answer is to return to our Maker.

So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. You shall walk in the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may life, and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong days in the land which you shall possess.” (Deuteronomy 5:32-33).

An idea is floating around out there somewhere that says, “you can’t tell me how to live my life. I am who I am--I am my own person.” Perhaps there is an element of truth to this: I can’t tell you how to live, nor can I tell you how to be. It is unfair to be compared to someone else. Yet, our Creator tells us how to live with the end result of an abundant life. These words were originally said to an entire nation who (at that time) had no place to call their own--they were on a journey. No pat answers for them. No internet. Just the narrow way of doing what the LORD God said. When they obeyed, they knew when they’d finally arrived.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ain’t No Such Thing as Writer’s Block

Ain’t no such thing as writer’s block, so stop pretending. There is so much to say, so much to put down on paper—there’s not enough time in a day to get it all down. The page is blank, all you need to do is fill it. Go ahead. Put it down. Pull the thoughts from your head and out of your heart and record them on paper. Or screen.

Consider what you have—all that knowledge, all that wisdom. You have opinions and thoughts. Sound them out. Test them, try them. Compare and contrast with what others have to say—but you can’t do it until you get it down. Sometimes ideas show how good or bad they are once they enter the realm of the objective. You know what I mean. Sure, you can sit there and contemplate all day long, but the moment you sound it out, get it out of your head it, you can often see it for what it is.

All those questions you have—you have questions, right? They are not difficult to ask, but asking good questions sometimes takes practice. Get them down. Put them on paper. Try to write out nothing but questions. After the first couple of dozen you may find a theme. Like sowing seed: nothing grows until you get it in the ground with a little water.

You might be surprised once you start writing with nothing in mind. You might find yourself going on and on and on, not able to stop because suddenly you have so much to say. Nobody has to read it. Write it and delete it. Tear it up. Burn it. But write it first.

What’s important to you?

How do you feel?

What’s on your mind?

Lookie there. Four whole paragraphs and I have nothing to say (but it sure felt good flexing the ol' writing muscle).

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Monday, July 08, 2013

Discipleship in the Face of Danger

“Intrigue, innuendo, intimidation, insinuation, those constitute the discipline of danger. Our temptation is to turn from our task to untangle the intrigue, to take time to undo the innuendo, to flee from intimidation and to fight hidden insinuation. Our safety is in doing our duty (Nehemiah 2:3), in putting our trust in God (Neh. 6:9), in standing stedfast and immovable (Neh. 6:11) and in serving in silence. The result for us will be as it was with Nehemiah, ‘the wall was finished . . . our enemies . . . were much cast down in their own eyes; for the perceived that this work was wrought of our God.’ (Neh. 6:15-16). Danger feared is folly, danger faced is freedom.”


(Edman, V. Raymond. The Disciplines of Life. Scripture Press Foundation, 1948)

Friday, July 05, 2013

Book Review: "A Catalog Of The Ways People Grow" by Severin Peterson

Peterson, Severin. A Catalog Of The Ways People Grow.  New York: Ballentine, 1971.
(I read old books because there are there)

The most likeable feature of this 367 page encyclopedia is the rare and painfully honest assessment Peterson gives to the reader of his own collection. He suggests, “that you regard this book as being a manure spreader, that all the words in this book are, at best, manure, and that this book is a vehicle for spreading manure . . . . As you read this book, you can, if you like, be spreading manure. If you leave it on the ground, it will smell a little and then dry up.” So how can one be not just a little curious?

Peterson goes on to describe the benefits of manure to a garden, but this is truly less a catalog of the fruits of a productive garden so the title does not fit the analogy. The book is an alphabetical arrangement of worldview; that is, ways man tries to understand the self and the world in which he lives. Certainly one would expect to find growth as man comes to a level of understanding but if there is any growth (continuing with the failed analogy) it is wild and unchecked, un-pruned and without cultivation.

One is tempted to reprint the table of contents (from Aikido to Zen), but Peterson’s Directory may be most helpful for our purposes. Here we find the content arranged topically, indexed and supplemented with resources for additional study. The general topics are: Physical Functioning and Sensing; Feeling and Relationship to Others; Action and Behavior; Motivation and Willing; Suggestion and Altered States; Imagination and Symbols; Spiritual Concerns; and Environment (as a way of developing the whole person).

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in his book, “The Nature and Destiny of Man” that man is his own problem because he does not know how to think of himself. Peterson’s approach attempts to show ways mankind assumes that mankind must be an expert at being mankind (hence “growth”) but clearly this is not the case. The encyclopedia makes no judgment concerning the ideas expressed; however, weaknesses in various positions make themselves evident.


This book is good for a survey of worldview in short articles. Perhaps not intended for cover-to-cover reading, but one will find it to be informative for those more (how shall we say), private moments behind the closed door.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Disciple

The disciple is that one who has been taught or trained by the Master, who has come with his ignorance, superstition, and sin, to find learning, truth, and forgiveness from the Saviour. Without disciplines we are not disciples, even though we profess His name and pass for a follower of the lowly Nazarene.” (Edman, V. Raymond. “The Disciplines of Life.” Scripture Press Foundation, 1948)

Edman gives us much to contemplate in this simple definition of discipleship. He suggests that the disciple “has been taught.” The disciple has learned truth and found forgiveness from the Savior. There is no good intention to follow, to pass off as a follower. The disciple came with ignorance and has learned. The disciple came with unjustified beliefs and presuppositions and has not only been corrected but trained to live in truth. The disciple came with sin and has been cleansed not by his own doing or merit but by his Master, the Saviour. The disciple correctly represents His Master to the world in both word and work.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Photoblog: Ewww!

This 5" ugly bug wanted to fight. My wife held him off like a champ.


Monday, July 01, 2013

Happy Canada Day!

The road to Canadian independence from England began on July 1, 1867, when Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada were united into a single country as the result of the Constitution Act. The goal of total independence took nearly a century to achieve because many Canadians considered themselves British. The first official celebration of independence was recorded in 1917 and the government instituted July 1 as a holiday in 1958. It is common (Canadian) knowledge that the country overall celebrated its independence all together for the first time in 1967, at the 100th anniversary of the Constitution Act. This year, Canadians enjoy a three day weekend!

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