Fighting The Good Fight

rockyOne of the true facts of life is that it is rarely a cake walk and it often serves up a big slice of tough times.  Regardless of the path you choose to follow or the dream you will pursue, you may have to scrap a little along the way.

When the odds seem to be stacked against you, you might want to heed the words of Sylvester Stallone’s alter ego, Rocky Balboa and take it, “One step. One punch. One round at a time.”

Even though I never liked the politics of Muhammad Ali, I admired his prowess as a boxer.  The champ once said that, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”

Ali was known more for his ability to bob and weave than he was for a knockout punch, and his rope-a-dope antics frustrated his opponents as well as his fans.  There were few, however, who questioned his dedicated preparation for a fight and his desire to win.

Just as a boxer trains hard, studies his opponent, and then steps into the ring with faith in his skill set, the Christian needs to:

  • Endure hardness as a good soldier (2 Timothy 2:3)
  • Keep a cool head. Stay alert because the Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up (I Peter 5:8, The Message).
  • Fight the good fight, finish your course, and keep the faith 2 Tim 4:7-8
  • Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-11).

The myth of Rocky Balboa was his ability to reach inside and find the inner strength to beat the unbeatable foe—he willed himself to win.

When you have to face a battle, remember the words of Psalm 144:1:  “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, He trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.

God will do more than just train you, He will sustain you: “The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes (Deuteronomy 1:30).”

Note: One of my favorite theme songs is in this clip of  Rocky training with Apollo Creed https://youtu.be/TnqZl_blT7E

When Light Dispels the Shadows

cambodiaIn a recent article in Christianity Today, an article chronicled an important change in Cambodia.  A decade ago, this Southeast Asian country was a mecca of sex tourism, and many of the sex workers were only 15 years old or younger.

Cambodia has changed from being a nation of few laws and little social accountability to one that has established anti-trafficking police units in every province and a reporting hotline that is staffed by Christians.

When light dispels the shadows, it’s because Christians are embracing the mandate Jesus gave to the church:  “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).”

What dark corner of your world needs to be illuminated by the power of God’s love?

The Nasty Secret of Bloodshot Eyes

article-2358570-1A9F7641000005DC-522_634x378It’s enough to make you cry!   You know what I mean . . the stinging sensation when your eyes began to burn after jumping into a swimming pool. Up to this point, you may have attributed the red eyes and stinging to chlorine in the water. I hate to be the one who breaks the news to you, but chlorine isn’t the chemical culprit:  It’s urine.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that when pool goers go in the pool, the urine binds with the chlorine and produces chloramine.  Not only is chloramine an eye irritant, it is also a derivative of ammonia that can cause respiratory problems among some swimmers.

If you find the thought of little tykes tinkling in the pool a bit disgusting, think about your stream of sins from God’s perspective.  Jesus said, “It’s what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness—all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution (Mark 7:20-23 from The Message).”

Are the habits that define you ones of pollution or purity?  Are they mortifying to God or glorifying to Him?  I encourage you to live a life that glorifies God by clothing yourself “with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).”

When Lions Devour Lambs

misconductThe number is 225, and it involves a group of people in the small Caribbean nation of Haiti.  While a large portion of Haiti is known more for its poverty than anything else, one segment has seen even more oppression and suffering.

A United Nations peacekeeping mission has been accused of sexual misconduct in a scheme that involved the sexual exploitation of 225 Haitian women.  Their sex for shoes shenanigans has robbed these women of the peace they had hoped for, and it throttled their trust in the economic promises of the United Nations.

No one should engage in any form of sexual exploitation or sex trafficking, and this is especially true for a high profile agency like the United Nations.  When abused by those you trust the most, the sanctity of your soul is violated, and you are left empty and hollow.

  • Over 600,000 women and children are bought and sold, across international borders, every year and exploited for forced labor and sex.
  • In the USA alone, multiple thousands of kids under 18 years of age are lured into the sex industry every year.
  • Human trafficking is a $32 billion a year industry.

Any time anyone looks at pornography on a computer or buys a sexually explicit magazine, he is supporting this industry and he is exhibiting despicable and demeaning behavior.  Lust is no companion of pure love, and the two are at the opposite ends of the emotional continuum.

What can you do to help stem the rising tide of moral degradation?  You can get involved with groups like Love 146 and Samaritan’s Purse.  You can also answer the call of Jesus to share His peace with the oppressed:  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God  (Matthew 5:9).”

Raw Emotion

Reading-facial-expressions_articleDo you remember the last time you did it?  Something happened and you let your guard down and the true you showed:  Your emotions were on display for everyone to see.

Immediately following His Passover entry into Jerusalem the emotions of Jesus were easily seen :  “When Jesus came closer and saw the city, He began to cry, and He said, If you had only known today what would bring you peace! But you cannot see it (Luke 19).”

In a moment, Jesus went from the joys of the palm branches to the tragic reality of what the future held.  In this incident, it’s easy to see His love in:

  • His walk of grace as He came near to the city
  • His eyes of love in the way He beheld the people
  • His heart of compassion as He wept due to the spiritual blindness of the people

Is it a comfort to you to know that the love, grace, and compassion of God is yours to claim?  It’s available to you because of who Jesus is and what He did.  Notice how this is explained in The Message:

Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has entered the inmost Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our faith. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.      ~Hebrews 4:14-16

The Sinister and the Saint

eyeI’m not sure if I should label it progression or regression, but I have gone from wearing no glasses, to bi-focals, and for several years now I have moved into the tri-focal stage.

Each step in this vision process involved a trip to the eye doctor and a prescription for new glasses.  The last time I got a new prescription for eyeglasses, I noticed the abbreviations OS and OD. The OS is for the left eye, and it is a Latin abbreviation that means “oculus sinister.”   The right eye is OD and is the Latin “oculus dextrus.”

The fact that I have a sinister left eye, made me curious, and I looked at the etymology of oculus sinister and dextrus:

  • The Latin meaning of sinister speaks of that which is “contrary, false; unfavorable; to the left.”
  • Dextrus has the meaning of being “right or ready.”

In these two words, we see the struggle that each of us face.  It is the conflict between evil and good or flesh and spirit.  In Romans 8:5, Paul said:  “For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

Since your “outlook” is determined by the flesh or the spirit, you may want to take an “in-look” at what the Bible says about desire:

  • James 1:14-15: Everyone is tempted by his own desires as they lure him away and trap him.  Then desire becomes pregnant and gives birth to sin. When sin grows up, it gives birth to death.
  • Proverbs 27:20: Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
  • 2 Peter 2:14: Having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, they entice unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices.

Which one of your eyes guides you?  Do you see the world through the sinister side or the saintly side?   I encourage you to take a look at your life, and consider using the words of Psalm 119:36-38 as your prayer for today:

“Turn my heart toward Your Law, so I will not earn money in a wrong way.  Turn my eyes away from things that have no worth, and give me new life because of Your ways.  Keep Your promise to Your servant, the promise You made to those who fear and worship You.”

In the Line of Duty

imagesWhat is the significance of the number 51?  If you are counting to 100, it means you are over half there, or that you still have 49 numbers to go.  If you are celebrating a birthday, you can now say:  “I’m more than half a century old.”

If you are among a special class of mothers, it means your heart is broken.  It means that the precious child you held in your arms as a baby is now gone—killed in the line of duty.

51!  50 +1 police officers gave their lives in 2014 as they did their best to protect and serve the people and communities where they lived.  In 2013 the FBI reported that 27 officers died in the line of duty.  This was the smallest number in a single year since 1980.

When I think of these sad and startling statistics, I’m reminded of the words of Paul to Timothy:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

~I Timothy 2:1-4

Is our society void of a “peaceful and quiet life” because “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” are not being made for our government officials and on behalf of our law enforcement officers?

Please join me in praying for their safety and protection and for the collective mindset of our nation as a whole.

A Normal Failure

images (2)Success and failure are the topics of many discussions.  In the Proverbs, Solomon draws a contrast between the “God-loyal people” and the “wicked” and how they manage the difficult times they face:

“Don’t interfere with good people’s lives; don’t try to get the best of them. No matter how many times you trip them up, God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet, while the wicked end up flat on their faces.” ~Proverbs 24:15-16

When a person is successful, he hears the cheers of the crowd; however, when he fails, the whispers of the same people are heard as an agonizing shout.  Failure is, however, a normal part of a person’s life.

With this in mind, let me share my Top Ten Failure Quotes:

  • Failure is not falling down: It is staying down.
  • “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Wooden
  • “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
  • “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison
  • “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
  • “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” – Zig Ziglar
  • “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
  • Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ~Samuel Beckett
  • Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. ~Lloyd Jones

When I think of a God-loyal person, I think of Tim Tebow.  This young man had a stellar career as a college quarteback.  When his professional career came to an abrupt halt, some peole labeled him as a failure.

Tebow stayed in shape, continued to work hard, and he signed a contract with the Eagles this week.  He is anything but a failure, and he is a living example of Solomon’s words: “God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet . . . “

Follow the Leader

Follow_the_Leader_Photo1When I woke up this morning I was thinking of the word “follow” and the several times Jesus spoke this word.  I did a quick scan of the four Gospels, and I found a couple of interesting concepts.

In Mathew 4:19-20, Jesus said:  “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men, and they immediately left their nets and followed Him.”

  • Principle: If you do not follow Jesus you will be snared by the net of the world.
  • Principle: Fishing for fish is good, but fishing for men is better.

In John 8:12, Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

  • Principle: If you don’t walk with Jesus in the light, you will stumble without Him in the dark.
  • Principle: Jesus does not HAVE the light of the world, He IS the Light of the world.

In John 10:27, Jesus said: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

  • Principle: Obedient sheep hear His voice and make the choice to follow Him.
  • Principle: When you deny and won’t comply, you are easy prey for the wolf.

Here’s the simple truth:  You can follow or be hollow.  When you are hollow, you will search for fullness, satisfaction, contentment, and love in all the wrong places.  When you follow Jesus you can be fully holy.

The wisdom of Solomon is a fitting conclusion:  “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, But He loves him who follows righteousness (Proverbs 15:9).”

TV Time

o-CHILDREN-TELEVISION-facebookAs I was watching the nightly news, I became curious about TV statistics.  Based on research by statistics brain, I found that:

  • 99% of households in the USA possess at least one television.
  • The average child will spend 1,480 minutes a week watching television.
  • By the time a child is 18, he/she will have seen 150,000 violent acts and viewed 16,000 thirty second commercials.

With these statistics in mind, answer the following questions:

  • Who or what is having the greatest influence in the life of your child or grandchild?
  • If 1,480 minutes are being spent in front of the TV, how much time is being spent reading the Bible, praying, or engaging people in a positive way?

There are two warnings from Paul that are worthy of mention:

  • He said you should not be like a child who is “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every false wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14).”
  • Make sure that “no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2:8-9).”

The 1,480 minutes of TV wouldn’t be so bad if it was healthy and wholesome; however, I think much of it is detrimental to a person’s well-being.

 

Look at the language Paul used. How much of the 1,480 minutes is captivativing philosophy that can be describe as the “trickery of men, craftiness, deceitful scheming?”