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2.11.2019

Who Is This That Cures The Sick?

Greetings All,


     Today I offer you a true story of healing found in the book, "He Touched Me" by John Powell (a professor of psychology and theology who also had his own counseling practice). The healing of a patient he had diagnosed as "neurotic" (always complaining, always indecisive, very egocentric, and forever absorbed in the memories of her painful past). Yet, much to his surprise she was delivered from that ailment through an encounter with Jesus -- an encounter with Jesus that not only changed her, but him. Much of the small book (95 pages) focuses on learning how to be completely open, honest and transparent with God in prayer. It was a point he learned from the Reformer, Martin Luther, whose first law of successful praying was: "Don't lie to God!"   He also notes that honest "self-disclosure" is imperative to any true praying and is the essence of true love. This story follows the heading in his book entitled: "Who Is This That Cures The Sick?"   Enjoy.
     "At the end of the summer just before our university classes were to begin, I answered the phone to hear the voice of a [woman I had counseled numerous times without any success]. I knew she would want another appointment and would want another to agonize along with her while she resurrected the same old problems...  But how the Spirit loves to surprise us!  The voice I heard on the phone was somehow the same, yet somehow different. My "keen diagnostic ear" said that there was a new peace in her. I had to ask several times, "Who is this?" She quietly and peacefully said that she did NOT want an appointment, that she knew I was busy and did not want to take any more of my time. The only purpose for the call, she said, was to thank me for my time and patience and the help I had given her over the last three years.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
     There was all the resonance of sincerity, but such abrupt personality changes just do not happen in real life. So I said: "You're different, aren't you?" And she replied, "Oh yes!" "What happened? I asked.  "I met Jesus Christ." 'You what?" I queried.  "I met Jesus Christ. Before this I knew about Him, but now I know Him."  "If you tell me you had a vision...," I started to say. "No, no vision. But I did meet Jesus Christ."  Then I told her, "I don't know whether you want to see me, but I want to see you."
     When she came to my office my eye confirmed what my ear had led me to suspect This was a "healed" person. I do not mean to detract one iota from the contribution they make to the lives of wounded human beings, but clinical psychology and psychiatry must not be allowed to pose as saviors or redeemers. Therapy can never be a substitute for a life of faith. I knew, from my training in psychology, that no reputable therapist could ever promise this kind of "cure," this new "wholeness." There is no plastic surgery to remove the psychological scars that all of us bear to some extent. By supportive psychotherapy we can be comforted, and by reconstructive psychotherapy we can be somewhat readjusted and develop new coping mechanisms, but... we cannot be healed or cured. This woman, seated before me, expressing gratitude and claiming to have met Jesus Christ, was "healed." She knew it and I knew it.
     Without overtones of pride or egotism, she told me of her experience. She was invited to a prayer meeting. She told me how she decided to go, not really to pray, but to be able to say later that she had, "tried everything, even prayer meetings."  However she was not prepared for the opening announcement of the leader of the prayer meeting.  He began: "We have come here tonight to pray. And if you can find it in your heart to join us, please stay.  We both need and want you.  But I have a feeling that some of you may have come out of curiosity, like spiritual Peeping Toms to see what goes on at prayer meetings. If this is why you came, and if you cannot find it in your heart to join us in reaching out to God, then I would like to ask you respectfully to leave."  O my God, she thought, decision number one!  She did decide to stay, trying to pry her mind away from the "exit" sign, to turn it to the Lord. Then she heard one of the leaders of the group urge the others to "open" themselves to the Lord. "Open all the doors and windows of your soul to the Lord. Don't keep any rooms locked or closed off to Him. Let Jesus take over. The depth of the faith that releases the power of God is measured by your willingness to let God direct your life... Surrender your life and your heart to Him." 
     She felt helpless to direct her own life successfully, and so, at the exhortation of one of the other people in the prayer group, she sincerely and almost desperately invited Jesus to come into her soul, her life, her world.  She offered God her unconditional surrender and He took her at her word, accepted her gift, became her Lord.  "For so many years," she told me, "there had been a high, hard, impenetrable wall between God and myself. I used to throw my little gifts over the wall and hope that someone was on the other side receiving them. It was impersonal, unsatisfying. But I thought it was the best I could do or even hope for. Somehow, in that moment -- perhaps it was due to all the other people in the room praying for each other -- the wall came down. Somehow Jesus was standing there with arms held out to embrace me. I knew Jesus as real for the first time."  While my friend continued to describe her moment of grace, God was somehow, strangely, having another moment with and in me. I was remembering hungrily all the things that had somehow slipped out of my hands, out of my life.  I was remembering the night He "touched" me...
     In the days that followed, I began to pray with a new intensity. From the early morning shower till the darkened moments while waiting for sleep, I kept inviting Jesus into my house of many rooms. I kept reassuring Him that I was ready to admit my own bankruptcy, my own helplessness to direct my life, to find peace and joy. I constantly invited the Holy Spirit to take down my walls, to destroy the barricades that were so many years in the building. I asked the Spirit to free me from the ingrained habit of competition, from the insatiable hunger for success, from the need for recognition and adulation.  What began to happen in me almost immediately can be compared only to springtime. It seemed as though I had been through a long, hard-frozen wintertime. My heart and soul had suffered all the barrenness, the nakedness of nature in winter. Now in the springtime of the Spirit, it seemed as though the veins of my soul were thawing, as though blood was beginning to course through my soul again, and new beauty began to appear in me and around me." 
     There is something about a person who has truly encountered Jesus, and been changed by the Holy Spirit, that makes us yearn to experience what they have.  In fact, this "thought" is dedicated to such an individual -- a good friend and true man of God from my church who passed away unexpectedly on Saturday -- Steve Reall.  His relationship with God (whom he always referred to as "Abba") was passionate, very real, honest, and transparent. Thank you Steve for your friendship, and prayers, and for being to me an example of a true committed soldier of Christ and lover of Jesus looks like.  Your example will not be forgotten. 

Living in the Grace of Jesus, Pastor Jeff

2.04.2019

Does This Truth Paralyze or Energize?

Greetings All,

     This past week I received a book in the mail that was printed in 1918 -- just a month and a week past being exactly one hundred years ago!  The book contains the addresses presented by various people at the Philadelphia Prophetic Conference in May of 1918.  As a lover of history I had to read through it to see if what was said then was relevant to today.  Much of it was, of course, since it centers around the Bible. Yet because it took place the year WWI ended, eleven years before the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, and about 20 years before the outbreak of WWII, some of the applications of the Bible were obviously dated.
     I particularly enjoyed the presentation of one Pastor Herbert Mackenzie, a former missionary to Africa who "retired" to take a church pastorate in Cleveland, Ohio.  This message, entitled, "Does This Truth Paralyze or Energize?"  focuses on Matthew 24:14"This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, as a testimony to all nations, and then the end shall come," and the command in II Timothy 4:1 to, "preach the word in season and out" in view of Christ's appearing and His kingdom.  I hope you might find encouragement through it as well. Enjoy. 

     "Jesus has said unto us, 'Go ye therefore into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.'  In light of this war, we all recognize our duty as citizens to to do our best for our country, and for the world in a crisis as grave as the one which we are now passing through. We also recognize we have a Leader (Jesus Christ) who is leading us on in a spiritual conflict; that we have a commission which must be obeyed and completed in order that He may come again and receive us unto Himself.
     Doctrine always decides duty.  It does matter what a man believes...  Doctrine is the plan of teaching that precedes the plan of duty... The doctrine is intended to be the inspiration that gives us the impulse and impetus to obey all the commands of our Lord... A man asked me not so long ago what was the greatest thing he could do for God.  I said, 'The greatest thing that you can do for Him is to do what He is doing.'  That is what God wants for you and me to do.  To long for that for which Christ is longing. And Christ is longing to see a completed body; a body that must be drawn out from all the people of the earth.  Those who know the Lord's purpose do not need to be given any personal appeals. I have never asked any individual for a dollar for missions in 20 years. Men whose hearts are touched by the promise of the Lord's return need only to be informed of the need and are satisfied to give their best to the Lord, for they live in the light of the gleams of the coming glory...
     The Word of God instructs us concerning the plan of God for our service. Somebody has said that Judaism and heathen religions have respect for boundaries and are content to leave everyone else alone. But the man who knows the plan of God is not willing to leave anyone alone.  It does not matter how near or far away the man may be who needs the Gospel. I have come to the conclusion (by examining my own heart) that we can never be like Christ until we love the world.  Christ loved the world, and no man can begin to be like Him until in some measure he too can say, 'I love the world'... 
     In the first chapter of Acts Jesus says to His disciples, "But you shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth."  And those disciples knew what he meant by 'witnesses.'  For that word witness (marturos) means 'martyr-testifiers.'  Those men knew when He uttered that word that this testimony which they were called to give, this witness which was to be their work, was to be of more value to them than their own lives. There are boys, perhaps your boys, your brother, your friend, who will lay down their life, or are willing to lay down their life, for their country in this war. Yet there is something wrong with you, and with me, if our lives are worth more in our sight than the witness for Christ which He has left to our trust... 
     Years ago (in the early 1890's) I was traveling through Central Sudan.  I found that from the west coast clear up to Lake Chad about 40 tribes were waiting for the Gospel.  Only one tribe of the 40 had the complete record of the Scriptures.  Forty tribes in ignorance (of the Word), in idolatry, in superstition, steeped in paganism -- with a thousand Moslem teachers and traders sent out to convert them from paganism to Mohammedanism. All that in comparison to one Christian missionary sent out by the entire church of God.  I walked 17 miles a day for 7 days without finding a trace of any person who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Scores of villages waiting, waiting, WAITING -- while you and I are enjoying the fullness of His blessing, sitting at His feet and looking into His blessed face.  My time (because of my age) has gone. I want, however, to say this. Somebody has spoken here about rewards. Somebody has said in this conference something about taking a crown and laying it at His feet. I know of no other way of securing a crown to lay at His feet than by gaining it in the work of soul winning; of making known to the world the glories of His cross. 
     There was a moment in the life of the Lord Jesus when He stood before that earthly judge, took the curse from beneath our feet, and permitted His enemies to take those thorns and entwine them into a crown and place it on His brow. He loved us enough to take earth's curse from beneath our feet and to lift it to His blessed brow.  Oh, what a delight that some day we may be able to take the crown which He has placed upon our heads and consider that the highest that He can give to us for our service, is only worthy to be placed at the feet of Him whose shoe latchet John tells us we are unworthy to loosen."
     Sudan is still a place which needs to be reached with the Gospel, as are many other places in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia -- not to mention (due to the changes in the spiritual climate since this book was published in 1918) the former strongholds of the Christian faith -- Britain, Continental Europe, Canada and the U.S.   What he pointed out then is still true today -- "there is something wrong with you, and with me, if our lives are worth more in our sight than the witness for Christ which He has left to our trust..."   If we would be willing to die in the service of our country, but not in the service of our Lord, something is terribly wrong deep in the recesses of our soul.
     The truth of Matthew 24:14 still stands before us: "This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, as a testimony to all nations, and then the end shall come."  Will the hope of seeing His appearing, and His kingdom, motivate you to do all you can to join with Him in doing what He is doing? Will it move you to share the Gospel and carry out the task laid upon the whole church -- the task of taking the Gospel to the world we are called to love as Jesus loves it?

Living in the Grace of Jesus, Pastor Jeff

1.28.2019

The Intrusive Word, Preaching to the Unbaptized

Greetings All,

I like stories. I do.  Not fiction, but stories that are true.  And I hope you like them as well, since this week's"thought"  is a story.  A true story.  One that is a little humorous, a little sad, and a little challenging as well. It comes to you from William Willimon and is taken from the preface of his book, "The Intrusive Word, Preaching to the Unbaptized."  Enjoy.


     

     "In my last congregation, we decided that we needed to grow. We voted to launch a program of evangelism... You know what that means. It's the, "We had better go out and get new members of we'll die" syndrome..  Our church had begun a two-decade decline in membership, so we figured that a little church-growth strategy was in order.  We studied a program from our denomination telling us how to get new members. Among other things, the church-growth program advocated a system of door-to-door visitation. So we organized ourselves into groups of two and, on an appointed Sunday afternoon, we set out to visit, and invite people to our church.
     The teams went out, armed with packets of pamphlets describing our congregation, our denomination, and fliers portraying me, the smiling, accessible pastor, inviting people to our church. Each team was given a map with their assigned street. Helen and Gladys were given a map. They were clearly told to go down Summit Drive and to TURN RIGHT. That's what they were told. I heard the team leader tell them, "You go down Summit Drive and turn right. Do you hear me, Helen? That's down Summit Drive and turn right."  But Helen and Gladys, both approaching eighty, after lifetimes of teaching elementary school, were better at giving directions than receiving them. Thy turned left, venturing down into the housing projects to the west of Summit Drive...  [They] proceeded to evangelize the wrong neighborhood, and thereby ran the risk of evangelizing the wrong people.
     Late that afternoon, each team returned to the church to make their reports. Helen and Gladys had only one interested person to report -- a woman named Verleen. Nobody on their spurious route was interested in visiting our church, nobody but Verleen. She lived with her two children in a three-room-apartment in the projects, we were told. Although she had never been to a church in her life, Verleen wanted to visit ours. This is what you get, I said to myself, when you don't follow directions. This is what you get when you won't do what the pastor tells you to do. You get a woman from the projects named Verleen.
The next Sunday, Helen and Gladys proudly presented Verleen at the 11:00 service, along with her two feral-looking children.  Verleen liked the service so much she said that she wanted to attend the Women's Thursday Morning Bible Study.  On Thursday, Verleen appeared, proudly clutching her new Bible, a gift from Helen, the first Bible Verleen had ever seen, much less owned. I was leading the study on the prescribed reading for the coming Sunday, Luke 4, the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. "Have any of you ever been faced with temptation and, with Jesus' help, resisted?" I asked the group after presenting my material. "Have any of you refused some temptation because of your Christian commitment?"  One of the women told about how, just the week before, there  was some confusion in the supermarket checkout line, and before she knew it, she was standing in the parking lot with a loaf of bread she hadn't paid for.  "At first I thought, 'why should I pay for it? They have enough money here as it is.' But then I thought, 'No, you are a Christian.' So I went back in the store and paid them for that loaf of bread."  I made some approving comment.
     It was then that Verleen spoke up. "A couple years ago, I was into cocaine really big. You know what that's like!  You know how that stuff makes you crazy.  Well, anyway, my boyfriend, not the one I got now, the one who was the daddy of my first child, that one, well, we knocked over a gas station one night.  Got two hundred dollars out of it.  It was as simple as taking candy from a baby.  Well, my boyfriend, he says to me, "Let's knock off that Seven-eleven store down on the corner.'  And something in me, it says, 'No, I held up that gas station with you, but I ain't going to hold up no convenience store.'  He beat the hell out of me, but I still said, 'No.'  It felt great to say 'No,' cause that's the only time in my life I ever said 'No' to anything. Made me feel like I was somebody."  Through the stunned silence I managed to mutter, "Well, er, uh, that's resisting temptation. That's sort of what this text is about. And now it's time for our closing prayer."  After I stumbled out of the church parlor and was standing out in the parking lot helping Helen into her Plymouth, she said to me, "You know, I can't wait to get home and get on the phone and invite people to come next Thursday!  Your Bible studies used to be dull. I think I can get a good crowd for this!"...
     Verleen taught me that evangelism is not about getting new members for the church...  Evangelism is not about helping more nice, buttoned-down, middle-class folk like me to find deeper meaning in our lives. Evangelism is a gracious, unmanageable, messy by-product of the intrusions of God into the lives of people.  Verleen was not the only one who intruded into our nice, bourgeois club called Northside United Methodist Church.  She had been brought there, I believe, by Another. Time and again in our life together as a church, just when we get everything all figured out, the pews bolted down, and everyone blissfully adjusted to the status quo, God has intruded, inserting some topsy-turvy-turned life like Verleen, just to remind the baptized that God is large, unimaginable, and full of surprises...  I contend that, through evangelism - through repeated confrontations with the intrusive grace of God - the church can be born again. By letting God use us in God's never-ending pursuit of the unbaptized, the baptized can rediscover what it means for us to be the church. That unlikely gathering of those who are called to sign, signal, and witness to the graciousness of God in a world dying for lack of salvation."

     Willimon dedicated his book to Verleen.  His experience struck me because I have also experienced the blessing of God bringing along very real, transparent, 'don't-yet-know-church-words-or-culture' people like Verleen.  A non-churched addict who had contracted aids through sharing needles, and was initially dating a prostitute. A man I had the privilege of baptizing him before he passed.
     Another was a young lady, who after much prodding by a friend, finally came to our church in Honduras in an expensive car she had borrowed from a friend.  She parked on the steep hill in front of the church, and during the service the emergency brake let loose. One of the greeters interrupted the service to ask if anyone owned a grey Mercedes, because it had just rolled down the hill into a brick wall. At that, the lady jumped up from her seat, and in front of everyone (in a very loud voice) blurted out: "Oh ___!"  And, despite the initially stunned faces, the church elders were so happy she had joined with us, they paid for the repairs.
     Another time, a gentleman who struggled with alcohol (and had previously gotten into a fight with his wife in our front yard!) called us to come down to his house because he'd "found Jesus."  When we arrived at his house, he was watching a VHS (some of you remember what those are) of a Bill Gaither Concert.  And at one point in the concert, he was so moved by joy (I can't remember the song), that he leaped up where he was standing, and jumped so high, that his head hit the glass globe of a hanging light and shattered it all over him and the floor!  And that doesn't even include the young new-to-church ex-nightclub dancer, who offered a prayer request during the service with such descriptive language that some of the older folk almost turned pale from shock!
     You see, sometimes Christians can forget that Jesus' band of disciples were not all moral, straight-laced, upstanding, well-educated, middle-class, "grew-up-in-church-every-week" type people.  Some came from the other side of the tracks.  Some shocked those who were the self-appointed guardians of the religious status-quo.  It's supposed to be that way. In fact, if the Verleen's of the world are not attracted to our churches, or feeling welcomed there, we are doing something wrong. For as we see in the gospels, sinners (the really bad ones like Zealots, prostitutes and tax collectors) were attracted to Jesus, felt loved by Jesus, did not feel judged by Jesus, and wanted to be around Jesus. It's something that should be true of us as well if we are Christians (or as the word means, "little Christ's"). Dare we pray for more gracious intrusions from people like Verleen?

Living in the Grace of Jesus, Pastor Jeff

1.22.2019

Service to God and Others

Greetings All,

Today's "thought" speaks of spiritual disciplines. Yes, spiritual disciplines!  Those activities we train ourselves to do to grow spiritually.  Yet this message is not always popular.  In an age of comfort and ease, even people in the church often see spiritual disciplines as "legalistic," often thinking (or suggesting) that somehow growth just happens without any effort or self-discipline on our part. Something they  will state even though Paul tells us in Galatians 5:23 that self-discipline is a Fruit of the Spirit.  It's one of the traits of character that God's Spirit (if that Spirit dwells within us) works to produce and grow in us over time as an expression of godliness.
















     
     So, today, I will let Donald Whitney speak on this topic from his excellent book entitled: "Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life."  For those whose hearts have been reoriented by God to desire godliness, this book is very helpful. For he shows us that spiritual disciplines are not contrary to grace, but flow out of the grace God gives. They don't earn us merits with God, they evidence that God has changed our affections so that we desire the things He wants for us.  They show us that God is within us moving us to engage in those activities that will bring growth in godliness. This selection has to do with the Spiritual Discipline called Service to God and Others.  Enjoy.
     "Discipline without direction is drudgery... It is said of God's elect in Romans 8:29: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son." God's eternal plan ensures that every Christian will ultimately conform to Christ-likeness.  We will be changed "when he appears" so that "we shall be like him" (I John 3:2). This is no vision. This is you, Christian, in a few years. So why all this talk about discipline? If God has predestined our conformity to Christ-likeness, where does the discipline come in?  Although God will grant us Christ-likeness when Jesus returns, until then He intends for us to grow toward that Christ-likeness.  We aren't merely to wait for holiness, we're to pursue it.  "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy," we're commanded in Hebrews 12:14, "for without holiness no one will see the Lord."  Which leads us to ask what every Christian should ask, "How then shall we pursue holiness? How can we be like Jesus Christ, the Son of God?"  We find the clear answer in I Timothy 4:7: "Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness."
     ...There is little value in practicing Spiritual Disciplines apart from the single purpose that unites them (Colossians 2:20-23, I Timothy 4:8). That purpose is godliness... The Spiritual Disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness. Godly people are disciplined people.  It has always been so. Call to mind some heroes of church history -- St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Bunyan, Susanna Wesley, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Lady Huntingdon, Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, George Mueller -- they we all disciplined people.  Godliness comes through discipline.  We avail ourselves of the Spiritual Disciplines because they help grow us in Christ-likeness.


THE DISCIPLINE OF SERVING

     The Pony Express was a private express company that carried mail by an organized relay of horseback riders. The eastern end was in St. Joseph, Missouri, and western terminal was in Sacramento, California.  The cost of sending a letter by Pony Express was $2.50 an ounce.  If the weather and horses held out, and the Indians held off, that letter would complete the entire two-thousand-mile journey in a speedy ten days, as did the report of Lincoln's Inaugural Address.... Being a rider for the Pony Express was a tough job. You were expected to ride seventy-five to one hundred miles a day, changing horses every fifteen to twenty-five miles. Other than the mail, the only baggage you carried contained a few meager provisions... In case of danger, you also had a medical pack... In order to travel light and to increase speed of speed of mobility during Indian attacks, the men always rode with nothing but shirts, even during the fierce winter weather.  How would you recruit volunteers for this hazardous job?  An 1860 San Francisco newspaper printed this ad for the Pony Express: "WANTED: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk daily. Orphans preferred."  Those were the honest facts of the service required, but the Pony Express NEVER had a shortage of riders [even though 20 employees lost their lives in the year and a half it was in existence until the telegraph wires replaced the need for riders].
     We also need to be honest with the facts about serving God.  Like the Pony Express, serving God is not a job for the casually interested. It's costly service. He asks for your life. He asks for service to Him to become a priority, not a pastime. He doesn't want servants who will give Him the leftovers of their life commitments. Serving God isn't a short-term responsibility either. Unlike the Pony Express, His kingdom will never go under, no matter how technological our world gets.  The mental picture we have of the Pony Express is probably much like the one imagined by the young men of 1860 who read that newspaper ad.  Scenes of excitement, camaraderie, and the thrill of adventure filled their heads as they swaggered over to the Express office to apply. Yet few of them envisioned how that excitement would only occasionally punctuate the routine of the long, hard hours and the loneliness of the work.
     The discipline of serving is like that. Although Christ's summons to service is the most spiritually grand and noble way to live a life, it is typically as pedestrian as washing someone's feet. Richard Foster puts it starkly: "In some ways we would prefer to hear Jesus' call to deny father and mother, houses and land for the sake of the Gospel, rather than His word to wash feet. Radical self-denial gives the feel of adventure. If we forsake all, we even have the chance of glorious martyrdom. But in service we are also banished to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial." The ministry of serving may be as public as preaching or teaching, but more often it will be as sequestered as nursery duty. It may be as visible as singing a solo, but usually it will be as unnoticed as operating the sound equipment to amplify the solo. Serving may be as appreciated as a good testimony in the worship service, but typically it is as thankless as washing dishes after a church social. Most service, even that which seems the most glamorous, is like an iceberg. Only the eye of God sees the larger hidden part of it.
     Beyond the church walls, serving is baby-sitting for neighbors, taking meals to families in flux, running errands for the home-bound, providing transportation for the one whose car breaks down, feeding pets and watering plants for vacationers, and -- hardest of all -- having a servants heart in the home. Serving is as commonplace as the practical needs it meets. That's why serving must become a spiritual discipline. The flesh connives against hiddenness and sameness. Two of the deadliest of our sins -- sloth and pride -- loathe serving. The paint glazes over our eyes and puts chains on our hands and feet so we don't serve as we know we should or even want to.  If we don't discipline ourselves to serve for the sake of Christ and His kingdom (and for the purpose of Godliness), we'll serve only occasionally, or when it's convenient or self-serving...  However, those who want to train themselves for Christlike spirituality will find it one of the surest and most practical means of growth in grace."
     Tom Landry (former coach of the Dallas Cowboys for most of three decades) put it well when he said: "The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don't want to do in order to achieve what they always wanted to be."  That's true for us as Christians as well.  "Christians are called to do things they would naturally not be prone to do -- pursue spiritual disciplines -- in order that they might become what they've always wanted to be, that is, like Jesus Christ" (Whitney).  A mentor once told me (and I now have it taped to the wall in my house): "Character is making yourself do what you don't want to do because you know it will be good for you."  This can't happen without the fruit of the Spirit we call self-discipline. In an age that tends toward undisciplined living, his words go against the grain. Yet they are totally in line with the teaching of the New Testament (I Corinthians 9:23-27).  Self-discipline is a primary part in the pursuit of godliness.

In the Service of Christ, Pastor Jeff