Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Power of Focus

Read: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Manny Pacquiao was a very focused man. The pride of Filipinos everywhere, Manny’s boxing success has made him a hero. I watched as he was waiting to be introduced. He continued to practice appropriate maneuvers, focused on his nearby opponent. He danced about, throwing punches, ducking blows, doing everything he could to sharpen his senses and moves for the real bout to come.

Once the boxing match started, Manny became the challenger. His opponent had lots of experience and successes in the past. But, this bout was different. Manny soon gained the upper hand and eventually defeated Miguel Cotto. Manny looked much quicker and better prepared. This became very evident by the fourth round. His promoter, Bob Arum considers Manny the best fighter that he has ever seen. Mark Kriegel of FoxSports.com says that “There’s never been a bigger little man!”

Like Manny Pacquiao, followers of Jesus need to be prepared for a battle. This is a spiritual battle involving an enemy that aims for the knockout blow! Sounding like a boxer, the Apostle Paul tells disciples of Jesus at the Greek city of Corinth:

“…I do not fight like a man beating the air.

No, I beat (discipline) my body and make it my slave so that

After I have preached to others,

I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:26b-27)

Let us examine our hearts and discern our own motives. Let us beware of carelessness and laziness. Self-control of your thought life, feelings and actions is essential to live in victory over an enemy – Satan and his forces – whom you cannot physically see. Paul’s words of warning to Jesus’ followers at Ephesus are so relevant to us today:

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against

the devil’s schemes.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but …

against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:11-12)

Practice your boxing skills by regular meditation on God’s word, fervent praying, continual praise of God, and active engagement with others in communicating God’s gift of eternal life. In all of this, live by faith and seek deeper intimacy with God as you grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, our coming victorious King!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Flying Lessons on WestJet

Read: Ephesians 2:1-10

It started out as a routine trip as the plane rolled along the runway. In the usual manner, the pilot directs the plane to V2 speed – the point at which lift-off from the runway needs to happen. As we lifted off solid ground, the lower air turbulence almost immediately began to shake the plane. I don’t remember ever experiencing turbulence like that so close to the ground. The cross-winds were strong at Edmonton airport and pummeled the plane, causing it to lurch side-ways as we climbed.

In such opposition and turbulence, the solution was to keep on climbing until we reached cruising altitude at 40,000 feet. Once we arrived on the higher level, flying became more enjoyable and our plane made consistently smooth progress all the way to our destination. This experience reminded me of the spiritual life that God calls each of us to live.

In the first century, Christian believers (in the Ephesus region of what is now Turkey) were reminded of the sinful turbulence in “lower level” living. As real followers of Jesus, they now had the power to break through lower turbulence and climb to a higher level in Christ. Speaking of lower level turbulence caused by sin, the Ephesians Christians were told:

“You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the…prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” (Ephesians 2:2, NLT)

When you encounter Satan’s strong winds, there is a choice. You can either choose to stay grounded or you can keep your eyes on Jesus and let Him lift you up to a higher level. If you listen to the desires of your body, you will be tempted to quit, to give up. But, if you are a true follower of Jesus, then remember what God has given you. He has given you a whole quality of life and the enabling grace, power to persevere through this world’s sinful cross-winds and reach cruising altitude in Christ.

Remember that God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so very much…For He raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with Him in the heavenly realms – all because we are one with Christ.” (Eph. 2:4a, 6, NLT)

If you have chosen to fly with Christ to a higher level, keep on living, practicing what you are – a chosen son or daughter of God. Continue to grow in your faith and relationship with God. As you do, you will experience more of the fruit living beyond the sinful lower level and demonstrate more of the results of living on the higher level in Christ. As a pilot completes his check list, so be sure to consider your check list – that is the real cost of following Jesus to this higher level of eternal life. Are you ready to go all the way?

Follow God’s flying lessons and trust Him to accomplish all the wonderful blessings that He has planned for you (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Talk to Him!

The written instructions from my wife Sandra were unmistakably clear. She was about to leave for a week of visiting with her mother. Before she left, she wrote out a list of things regarding care of our little dog, Teddy. She knows that I tend to get busy with my plans and often ignore him in the process. After listing the items such as feeding and walking him, she printed the words in BIG letters so that I could not miss this last instruction: “TALK TO HIM!”

Like people, dogs get lonely, stressed out and in need of consistently healthy affirmation. Our dog needed to know that I cared about him. An affirmed dog who receives the expressed love of his owner is a healthier dog. For a couple of days after Sandra left, Teddy ate very little food. He missed her encouraging words. Therefore, I determined to follow my instructions – especially that last part. So, I talked to him!

The Bible has much to say about the need for us to talk to one another for the purpose of encouragement and personal growth. Our physical, mental and emotional health depends on our receiving verbal spiritually encouraging words. Yet, we get so busy with our plans. Even in churches, many lonely, stressed individuals come and go without anyone talking meaningfully with them. They are starved for affirmation. Like our Teddy, it can even disrupt their appetite and performance.

I am not talking about empty shallow words without real substance. The words of which I speak are best summarized in the words of Paul, the apostle to Christians disciples in the Greek city of Philippi:

Whatever happens, dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you joy.

I never get tired of telling you this.

I am doing this for your own good.” (Philippians 3:1, NLT)

Whenever you are in a group or assembly of any kind, resist the temptation to stay talking with your friends. Break out of that routine and verbally connect with that other person. Your friends will be there. But, you may never see the other person again – even in the church. TALK TO HIM! TALK TO HER!

Even if you don’t feel like doing this, do it for the good of the other person (Philippians 3:1). Act on this and you will begin to develop the “mind” of Jesus Christ in you:

“You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus was. Though He was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by His poverty he could make you rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NLT)

So, talk to him or her. Break out of your own busy schedule and mindset. Talk affirmation to someone near you today – making them “rich” in the blessings of God.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Open Trails!

Read: Colossians 4:17; Galatians 6:7-10

Hiking trails are everywhere today! When I returned to my home town area, signs of trails for hiking, walking, and exploring were obvious and enticing. It takes persistence in a clear plan and much hard work to maintain a trail. Trees, bushes and plants of many kinds can quickly overtake a path and block or hinder the progress of walkers/hikers. For me, it’s a joy and great inspiration to walk a trail. It strengthens my body; renews my mind and refreshes my spirit.

Therefore, it was with great anticipation and excitement that I retraced a well- worn trail established from my growing up years. To my shock and dismay, this trail leading to a summit with great ocean views is now largely blocked by plants and thorns and, in the summer, stinging insects. Since I knew about the view on top, I pushed my way forward, and after much perspiration, body cuts and scrapes, arrival at the summit was achieved. But, returning to the base of the path and the main road proved to be more difficult than climbing up because I lost sight of any evidence of the trail in the now thick undergrowth. If only others in town would again hike the trail and blaze the path, it would have been much better for me to make progress.

Another trail in the same area had been built and maintained for a short period of time. But, sadly, the people who built it no longer maintain it –another example of a work not completed, a trail not maintained. It seems that people now prefer the popular well travelled easy road. In the Bible, there is a short but powerful verse – a reminder to each of us that God has a wonderful work assigned. The key is to complete that work.

Tell Archippus: See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” (Colossians 4:17, NIV)

God calls us to complete the work that He has assigned to us. It may be easier to start a work but it takes our total commitment to the Lord and a willingness to persist and persevere to the very end. “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Each of us is called to demonstrate the trail to Jesus by the way we live, the thoughts we think and the actions we take. By this can others see the direction to take and the decision to make in receiving eternal life and entering God’s eternal family They need to see the clear path or trail to Jesus! God has given you a work to accomplish (Ephesians 2:10). By your daily walk with God, you will open a glorious trail to Jesus for others to follow. So, complete your work and keep your ‘trail’ open!