Monday, February 26, 2018

The Little Things

"It's the little things that get you!"  One of my football coaches would say this.  A missed block would destroy a good play.  A lazy cut on a pass route would cause the pass to be incomplete.  A missed assignment in the secondary meant a touchdown for the other team.  In fact, this year's national championship game ended with a player losing concentration for just a tiny moment, and that was all it took.  Game over!

In the story of David and Goliath we most often talk about how the little guy sometimes wins ... how good overcomes evil ... how the underdog sometimes has his day.  But I want us to think of this story from Goliath's perspective.  Goliath had swagger ... but swagger is of little value when the battle begins.  Goliath had size, might and training so he assumed he would win ... but those things don't matter when your opponent is focused and determined.  Goliath had himself (it was all he needed in his battles to this point) ... but Goliath didn't know the spiritual side of the battle ... he didn't know that David was empowered by God.

I know this is a familiar children's story and we adults sometimes place this little tale in that happy, childhood, nostalgic place in our mind.  But there is another place for this story.  For men, and some women, Goliath's folly is how we live our daily life.  We are hurting, depressed, overwhelmed, confused and in turmoil, yet we respond in the way Goliath responded.  We want to look like nothing is wrong ... so we play the swagger card and nobody sees our hurt.  We say, "It's all good," but we know it isn't all good ... we mask our fears by our cliche' responses.  We (be honest guys!) say we can handle this without God's help or the help of others ... and we stay in that place of hovering, never facing or moving past our problems.

In the Bible story, David won because he did some very healthy things. He faced the problem with no personal swagger (he was impossibly outmatched ... so he knew his lack of resources).  He used his mind and his focus to understand he was in the fight of his life and he used every resource (agility, quickness, skill, training, knowledge) he had.  And David allowed God in to the battle.  Enter the battle without pride.  Look for every tool and resource so that you can face your enemy and give the battle all you got!  And never enter the battle without God being over you, around you, beside you and before you.  Randy

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Inward Battle

I wonder if our most dangerous and important battles are those inside our heart?  There is the battle for control ... do we control or does God?  There is the battle for truth ... do we create our own truth or do we rely on God's truth?  There is the battle to define success ... do we follow the world or do we follow God's definition of success?  Hard questions, and the answers are equally hard.

One of the sports-related stories that has surfaced recently is the story of the Russian curler who has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PED).  When I think of PED use I can't think of a sport less likely to need an "edge" than curling.  It is like taking steroids to become a better bowler (but what do I know?).  Anyway, as I read this story I thought about the three questions above.  What does a curler have to tell himself that will justify PED use, risking the possible penalty of loosing an earned bronze Olympic medal?

He must become very self-centered in taking control of things. "My ends justify the means to that end!"  "Self-exaltation is my standard and the standards of the sport are not adequate!"  "Life is all about what I need!"  Before you accuse the Russian ask yourself a question.  Have you ever prayed, "God, tell me Your plan for my life!"  Sounds good till you take that sentence apart.  First, is your plan the point or is God's plan the point?  Do you expect that you will be comfortable, fulfilled and "peachy" doing what is in God's plan, or will your joining God's plan be clunky, hard, uncomfortable and inconvenient?  Is it "my" life or is life a gift from God that has been given to me as a sacred trust?  Is life about me and my control or does God take precedence?  It is a battle!

He must rationalize truth.  Pilate asked Jesus "Quid est veritas" ... "What is truth?"  It is a human quest which can be noble but, I fear, is most often our attempt to shape the truth to meet our needs.  For the Russian curler the truth is whatever I can get away with.  For the alcoholic the truth is "I will be fine with just one drink."  For many of us the truth is whatever we can rationalize.  I hate that rationalization is one of my spiritual gifts (not given by the Holy Spirit I must say).  In a world of lies, a media-culture filled with misinformation (from every side) and even lies about God from prominent leaders, you can begin to understand why Pilate asks this question.  For one Russian curler, being decisively-evasive was his truth.  It is a battle!

He must define success in a very self-focused way.  I know a pastor at a prominent church in the Destin area that has told associate pastors they need a better car because they are "not portraying the image of our congregation."  I know many who value leadership by who makes the most money.  I know church leaders who value election to high offices and public accolades as measures of success.  Then I read the most prominent Biblical writer (by number of books, by volume of content) saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all" (1 Timothy 1:15, NLT).  Want truth?  That is the truth.  The inner battle rages between what we want to feel, what we want to think and what we have been given in the blessing of Scripture.  These 'truths' are different.  Which will we follow?  It is a battle!

These are the reasons Jeremiah (17:9) said, "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is!"  And these are the reasons that cliche' answers like "Follow your heart" should be removed from our pool of standard advice.  Follow (Worship) God, and Him only!  Randy

Monday, February 12, 2018


Over the winter it is easy to get complacent and  lethargic.  It has been cold and now it is rainy.  My fishing gear, lawn care items and other spring/summer equipment has been in storage-mode.  I could just forget about all of it and wait till warmer weather.  But what I have learned is that those times of quiet, reflection and stillness are also times to do the maintenance and care I can't do during busier summer months.  So I oil my reels and check the strength of my line.  I clean up that lawn equipment and make sure I have everything necessary for using it during the coming months.  That mindset is very much an allegory for Lent.

Lent is a time when we consider our mortality, our sinful nature, our spiritual health and our need for God's forgiveness and God's care.  We take time, effort and energy to keep our faith in working order.  We check for the strong and weak places.  We allow God to come in an do that good work only He can do.  It is a great time of the year and it is a necessary part of our Christian journey.

We do this care and maintenance because 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us that our enemy is persistent.  Peter says, "Stay alert!"  Our enemy is prowling around and he never relents from his pursuit of those he can devour.  During Lent we take inventory of ourselves.  We ask the hard questions ... "How are things with my soul?"  ... "How can I become more open to God so that God will be able to teach, mold and use me?"  ... "What spiritual disciplines (praying, fasting, journaling, studying, worshiping, reading, serving, giving) can I employ so that God has total access to me?"  ... "What are my weaknesses?" ... "What do I need to give to God so that God will be able to grow me?  While most of us think of Lent as passive and reflective, it should be that good kind of work that brings you the tiredness of completion and fulfillment.

We also do this "soul-care" because we are called to (Acts 2:42-47) "continue" in the faith.  Luke, the writer of Acts, says or implies this attribute of the Christian walk in the words of Acts.  Luke understood that our faith, our life as a Christian and our journey with Jesus is not a passive endeavor.  The enemy is persistent so we must also be persistent.  The enemy is at war with us and for us to live in an attitude of peace, we must be vigilant, constant and focused.  Jesus said to be watchful for we never know when we will be challenged and we never know when Jesus will return.

May your Lenten season be filled with growth and productive maintenance of something of great value ... your soul!  Randy

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Lord's

I hear it a lot.  "That's not in my skill set."  "I can't do that because it is out of my comfort zone."  "That makes me anxious so I can't do it."  These are some very American excuses for not doing things.  In a society that is driven by feelings this is what results.  Everyone is their own CEO, Commander and Chief and Field General.  How does this track with Scripture?  I have to say ... not so good!

There is a wonderful story in 2 Chronicles 20.  In the story the Amorites and the Moabites have come up against Israel and things don't look good.  The army, in Scripture, was called "a great multitude."  King Jehoshaphat was shaken and fearful but he did what we should do when we are fearful and shaken ... he sought the Lord.  He prays ... "we have no might against this great company and we don't know what to do!"  I think this was a good prayer for God sent them into the battle saying, "you shall not have to fight this battle for the Lord will be with you.  The battle is not yours but God's."  The next day Jehoshaphat does something very strange.  He sends out the praise band to sing about God's glory and His mercy that "endureth forever."  It was a great move of faith and a great risk, but it was God's will.

I thought of three things when I re-read this wonderful story.  First, when we are fearful and have no clue what to do, going to God is a good and rational thing.  God has overcome the unknowns of this world and God knows a path that will lead us to whatever victory is appropriate for our situation.  Second, we need to remember the power of things given over to God.  Jehoshaphat totally gave over an impossible situation to God.  He let is go completely.  He did not cling to the problem, his rational understanding of the overwhelming odds or his own plans to solve the problem.  The problem was given entirely to God.  Finally, let's carefully look at this story and understand that God's solution (and the action required by God's people) was totally irrational from our human mindset. "Lord ... you must be crazy!  Send out the singers?  Prepare for the 'fight' by singing praise songs?"  God's will is often beyond our understanding but to follow we must trust He knows what He is doing!

Go to God with your problems.  Don't do a halfway job of giving them to Him.  Be ready to follow the uncomfortable, irrational and even mystical instructions of God.  For the battle is the Lord's if you give it all over to Him!  Randy