pecaspers: a Blog in transition

September 19, 2013

Can You Fix My Heart? – TMA Article Draft

Peter: “Can you fix my heart?”
Me: “Yeah buddy, I can fix it.”
Peter: “Can you really?”
Me: “Yes, I really can.”
Moments later…
Peter: “We did it!”
Me: “Who did it?”
Peter: “You did it!”

That’s a close approximation of an exchange between my son and me from the other day. His side is exact because it was so awesome that I typed into a post draft because I knew I had to write this out to share. As soon as my beloved son said “Can you fix my heart,” I knew there was a sermon illustration in there. However, it just got better and better.

This wasn’t some deep, philosophical request from my almost-three-year-old. My mom had given him a set of tangram magnets. (You know, they’re those sets of simple shapes you use to create larger shapes; you probably played with them in a math class at some point.) He was asking me to put the heart-shaped set back together. When I claimed my ability to fix his heart, he double-checked me. “Can you really?” he asked. He was forgetting two facts: (1)I’m a stinking wiz at tangrams, and (2)I’m the one who put it together the first time.

He stood close to the action as I maneuvered the pieces into position. He “helped” in the sense that as I put the pieces into place he would touch some of them, often sliding them slightly out of position so I had to nudge them back. He tried to claim that “we” did it, but he was honest enough to admit that it was really me who had put the heart back together.

If you don’t see where I’m going with this, then pay attention and get ready to be introduced to the one true and living God, the one who made you.

He throws a party in heaven every time one of us comes to him and says, “Can you fix my heart?” (See Luke 15). But we also often ask, “Can you really?” He is the one who made us in the first place. He is a master at both creation and restoration. It is His joy to take the broken heart we have and give us a new and better one (see Ezekiel 36:26, Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 7:21-23, John 7:38, Hebrews 8:10, etc.). He is also good and tender so that he endures us when we claim, “We did it!” “We” didn’t do it. He did it in us — or can do it in you. You and I cry out for the mending of our messed up hearts, but He does all the fixing. (I’ll leave it to you to discuss and discover how dead people are even able to cry out for new hearts, but that’s beyond the scope of my story.)

The point of it all is that God the Father sent God the Son to live, die, and rise from death so that all who will believe in Him can receive God the Holy Spirit, fixing our hearts and bringing glory to God. You see, God is the ultimate puzzle solver, and He is the one who put you together in the first place. Can you look at your remade heart and shout “You did it!” triumphantly to Him? It all begins with a simple, humble, child-like request to a good Father.

[This is the original draft of my article published in the 9/17/2013 edition of the Tallassee Tribune as the contributed article on behalf of the Tallassee Ministerial Alliance.]


August 21, 2013

Old Habits Die Hard

I just got back to my house after being away for a couple of nights. I checked the mail, turned the air conditioner back down, and eyeballed my garden. You know, the usual things.

Then something strange happened. This sense that I needed to check the answering machine hit me. (Pause for effect.) We don’t have an answering machine. We don’t even have a landline telephone. We haven’t had one for years. I might be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure we’ve never had one in this house. Nevertheless from somewhere in my past, there is still some connection in my brain that says I’m supposed to check the answering machine when I get home after being away.

There’s a sermon illustration in there somewhere.

Without trying to exhaustively cite passages of Scripture, this is the kind of thing Paul and other New Testament writers are talking about when they instruct us to live according to who we are now in Christ and not live according to our old life of slavery to sin. In Colossians 3, Paul talks about putting off the old man and putting on Christ. John talks in his fisrt and second letters about walking in light and not in darkness. James has a few things to say about our works displaying our living faith. I’m sure there are many other examples.

Now, it’s not sin for me to feel like I need to check an answering machine I don’t have. Come on, this is an illustration. I had a pattern in my life. There was a time when checking the answering machine is something I did daily, even multiple times daily. And then my life changed; we got rid of the landline and the answering machine obviously went away as well. It would be very strange to keep an answering machine without a phone line and stranger still to check it. Checking the answering machine is just not part of my new life. The very thing that makes an answering machine useful, a phone line, is no longer a functioning reality in my home.

That’s how it ought to be for Christians and their sin. God in His goodness came to live and die and rise again so that we could be counted dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. Because we have been cut off from sin and sin from us, then we ought to no longer live as though our slavery to sin were still a functioning reality. We should live freely out of the new creation Christ has brought about in us.

Old habits die hard. We spent years living according to our slave-master Sin’s wishes. We did what sin told us to do, and we enjoyed it a large amount of the time. Yes, we have been changed. Yes, our nature is new and our standing before God is established as righteous. However, we still carry the memories, personality, preferences, etc. that we’ve been developing in our life of sin.

The landline is cut off, but we’re still all toting around answering machines. Through community with fellow believers, accountably, spiritual disciplines, and other means, the Holy Spirit aides and allows us to put the old life behind us and to live increasingly in light of the present reality of His presence in us and our new identity in Christ. We must always be careful though. We still live in these same fleshy bodies. You never know when you might find yourself in a situation that feels like one you have been in before, and it’s possible to respond based on an old habit instead of the present reality.

You will be happy to know that I didn’t go looking for my old answering machine to check it… That’s because I got rid of it years ago. Is there any paraphernalia (physical or metaphorical) of your old life that you need to get rid of so that you are less likely to fall back into an old habit?

August 15, 2013

TMA Article Draft – Happy New School Year

[Originally contributed to the Tallassee Tribune as the Tallassee Ministerial Alliance article for the August 13, 2013 edition.]

Let me be one of the first to wish you a happy new year, a new school year that is. Next week the school-age citizens of our area will be returning to the hallowed halls of learning. Along with that return, everyone else’s lives will lock back into a steadier routine. Coworkers won’t be off on vacation, parents won’t be desperate to find daily activities to occupy their offspring, children won’t be out playing in yards throughout the day, teenagers won’t be hanging out until one day fades into the next–for the most part. Whether you have kids or not, the school year affects all of us as surely as a rising tide raises all boats.

The return to school always brings up one question year after year. What did you do with your summer? It’s the title of an essay for every student at some point: “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” Did you go anywhere? Did you have any adventures? Did you accomplish any goals? Did you read any good books or see any good movies? Did you work your tail off because in your vocation summer is a busy season? What have you got to show for the last couple months of your life?

Now for the pastoral twist.

Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is,” (ESV). Did you make a wise use of your summer, and did you ask God on the front end how He wanted you to spend it? If you are like most people, you probably didn’t stop to consider what God thought of your vacation plans, your summer reading, or your bathing suit. And there’s a lesson there; Christians aren’t supposed to be just like everyone else. In context, that is precisely what Paul is pointing out in Ephesians 5. He even begins this section with the audacious instruction to, “…be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God,” (Eph. 5:1-2, ESV).

Now as worthy a point as that is, there is a greater one yet. Do you realize that you will be held accountable before God for how you spent, not just your summer, but every moment of your life? Do you realize that he finds how you have spent and will spend much of your time to be an infinitely offensive evil against His holy character? But thank God that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” so that we might stand in his infinite righteousness before God. Being both sinless man and infinite God, Jesus was able to satisfy God’s wrath against our sin and restore to a right relationship with Himself all who will repent (turn away from sin and self-righteous attempts to be “good enough”) and believe in Him.

So the real question isn’t “What did you do with your summer?” What is important is this: What have you done with Jesus?

August 9, 2013


Filed under: Hustle,Job Hunt,My Life in General — pecaspers @ 10:31 AM
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[This might become a book one day]

I used to hustle. I was never great at hustling in all areas of life, but there was a time when the hustle would instinctively kick in. It still kicks in when the pressure is on and things just must get done, and that keeps me hopeful. However, chances are that the drift will continue away from hustle until I’m merely dragging my butt over everything I do unless I fight back.

That would unacceptable. That is why I must fight back.

Maybe you didn’t play sports, weren’t in Scouts, never participated in marching band, and missed out on all other disciplined, physical, group activities in your early years. If that’s you, then you might not understand the concept of hustle. Go watch Remember the Titans, Drumline, and Up; those movies are all about hustle. (Up? Really? Yes, Russell wasn’t all that smart, but the little dude had hustle.) For the rest of us, we know that “Hustle!” was the basic demand of every leader who wanted expected you to move quickly from task to task and consistently maintain discipline in whatever that task might have been.

When I played Dixie Youth baseball, Coach Bud would yell for us to hustle as he made us run our little prepubescent butts back and forth. If you were the chubby kid at the back of the pack like me, then you got to run more in order to sweat the weakness out so the hustle could have more room to work. When I was in Boy Scouts, hustle was getting things done quickly and efficiently–keeping meetings on track, setting up camp before the sun set, getting the fire started early enough so that you didn’t end up eating undercooked meat, and working hard on service projects so a quality job was done faster and better than you would ever expect a group of volunteer teenage boys to manage. Hustle is why in the Auburn University Marching Band “early is on time, on time is late, and late is inexcusable,” and “there’s no walking on the band field.” Hustle wins games. Hustle wins awards. Hustle gets things done. Hustle makes the difference between mediocrity and excellence. Thompson High School band director Jon Bubbett would say “Pride is an attitude that separates excellence from mediocrity,” and I would now say that hustle is the overflow of a good and proper pride–meaning the healthy desire to do well at whatever you do because you respect those you work for, those you work with, and yourself.

In his book Start, Jon Acuff offers help on walking the road to “awesome” rather than “average.” He talks a lot about hustle making the difference between those two paths. Hustle is not the same thing as awesome, but you don’t get awesome if you don’t have hustle.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my hustle. (I’ll save my thoughts on that for the another post.) Like I said, I never had a lot of hustle, but the hustle I remember having was far greater than the piddly little bit of hustle I can scrape together these days.

It’s gotten better over the last few months. I’ve been working on upping my hustle for a while. I’ve worked up to being able to run 3 miles in 30 minutes without stopping and dropped thirty pounds in the process. That took some hustle, and it’s built up my stamina so I can keep hustling longer and better in all things. I’m doing better in my practice of spiritual disciplines, Christian hustle. I have producing plants in my garden. This post is even evidence of some hustle.

The point is this, I’m shooting for awesome. I can’t get to awesome without hustle. It didn’t take long for me to realize I lack the hustle to be awesome. Oh no! What will I do? Simple, I’ve got to work out my hustle muscle.

I firmly believe discipline begets discipline. That’s one of the reasons I started running. I hate running, but it has helped me grow in discipline. You can’t really have hustle without discipline. You can quickly flit from thing to thing, but that’s not hustle. Trying to hustle without being disciplined, that’s how you burn a day without getting anything substantial accomplished. That’s how you end up, theoretically, sitting down to look for churches to send your résumé and end up on Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, and four hours later you don’t have an envelope to put in the mail, and it’s time for lunch/dinner/bed so you quit and leave it for later. But I digress.

Discipline is foundational, or it is at least the platform on which hustle stands. (Given enough thought, I’d probably argue that the gospel is foundational, upon which stands the Christian Worldview, upon which stands God-honoring discipline…or something like that). You must have discipline if you are going to build hustle on top of it. Likewise, you must have hustle if you are going to build awesome on it. Discipline is what gets you out of the bed in the morning to get life done. Hustle is what gets you up early enough to walk toward awesome and still get life done, and hustle gets life done in such a way that you have time throughout to keep progressing toward awesome. Hustle also allows time for more growth in discipline, which allows for more hustle, which allows for both more discipline and more awesome; and so on it goes.

I want to be awesome. So no more walking on the field for me. It’s time to get my hustle back.

July 15, 2013

TMA Article – I Love the Bible

Filed under: Ministry,My Life in General,Tallassee Tribune drafts — pecaspers @ 3:00 PM

I love the Bible. Do you want to know why I love the Bible? I love the Bible because it tells me about God, and I love God. Do you want to know why I love God? I love God because He loved me first and because He is good and because He has revealed His goodness and love to me. Do you know how I came to know this? It’s in the Bible; see 1 John 4:19, Psalm 100:5, and Luke 10:21-24 for a sampling. I love the Bible.

There is no book like the Bible. The Bible is the number one best-selling book of all time. The Bible has been translated into more languages than any other book in the world. (And any good translation goes back to the original languages, so please don’t give me any of that “it’s a translation of a translation of a translation” mess.) There are more ancient hand-written copies of the Bible, in whole or in part, than any other ancient book. Most ancient literary works exist in less than ten or twenty copies which date to a thousand or more years after they were originally written. There are over twenty-five thousand ancient biblical manuscripts (with that many copies, sorting out the copyist errors gets relatively easy), the time between the originals and existing copies being as short as forty years for some New Testament books. Why did ancient Jews and early Christians diligently copy and distribute their Scriptures? It’s because they loved the Bible. They loved the Bible because it told them about God.

I finished reading the Bible for the almost fourth time last week. I say almost fourth because one time it was The Daily Bible which arranges the Scriptures chronologically and blends redundant passages together; so that time doesn’t fully count. The translation I just finished was the 2007 edition of the English Standard Version. Do you know what I did this morning? I pulled out The Holman Illustrated Study Bible, and I started reading it. But I didn’t start in Genesis 1:1, I started with the Introduction because it’s a study Bible with lots of notes, so I wanted to know exactly where the translators and editors were coming from. Do you know why I did that? It’s because I love the Bible.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I love the Bible. I love it because it tells me about God. And I love God. It’s not just instructions. It’s God’s story of how He created Man, of how Man rebelled against Him, of how He provided a way of salvation from our rebellion by punishing Himself in our place, of how He sent out His people to tell the world so that all might turn to Him and be saved, and of how He will come and judge the world and recreate a new home for His people to be with Him. So, I read and re-read and study and meditate on and pray through the Bible.

In this room with me, I have at least eight copies of different translations of the Bible in English, a Hebrew Old Testament, a Greek New Testament, and a small stack of The New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs from the Gideons. I have these to study from, to share, to give away, and a couple for sentimental reasons. I have them because I love the Bible. You probably have one or more copy of the Bible in your home, but do you love the Bible?

It’s not, “Do you have positive feelings about the Bible?” The question is this: Do you love the Bible? I’d be a bad husband to my wife if I never spent time with her; my love is evident in my actions. I’d be a bad father to my son if I never did anything with him and never said anything to him; my love is evident in my actions. God wrote a book. Do you love God? Have you read His book? Do you love His book? I love the Bible.

[Originally written as a Draft for the Tallassee Ministerial Alliance contributed article in the Tallassee Tribune in July 2012.]

July 10, 2013

TMA Artical Draft – Crazy Talk

Filed under: Ministry,My Life in General,Tallassee Tribune drafts — pecaspers @ 12:00 PM

Have you ever said something then realized that it was a crazy thing to say? Maybe you hurt someone’s feelings, maybe you claimed something outrageous about yourself, maybe you stated something with authority that wasn’t accurate, or maybe you boasted of some future plan that you couldn’t possibly fulfill. I have done that sort of thing more often than I care to admit. I’ve probably done it more than I even realize. The good thing is that I’ve gotten pretty good at admitting my mistakes and eating crow (the secret is in the sauce).

Jesus said some pretty crazy stuff, but he never had to apologize for it. That’s because He was always right. One of my favorite crazy things Jesus said is in John 8:46. After calling a bunch of self-righteous folks liars and sons of the Devil, he says “Who among you can convict me of sin? If I tell you the truth, why don’t you believe Me?” (HCSB). The response back is that they call Him a demon-possessed half-breed and eventually go looking for rocks to throw at Him when He claims to be the I AM who existed before Abraham (see John 8:48-59).

Can you imagine what the response would be if you stood up before a bunch of people who did not like you and said “Tell me one thing I’ve ever done wrong?” Some would be dumbstruck by the absurdity, others would begin shouting grievances, others would sit down with a pen and paper and get back to you later, and at least one guy would go blog about it. It can be helpful and humbling to ask close friends to point out your blind spots, but you would be crazy to offer that sort of challenge to people who already hate you. Crazy, that is, unless you really are without any flaws. If you are perfect, if you have never made a mistake, if you do all things well and only say what God has told you to say, then you are confronting people with the stark difference between you and them, between you and everyone really.

The crowd in Jesus’ day didn’t like what they heard, but they couldn’t come up with an a single sin with which to convict him. In fact, the only thing they could get any traction with when they finally sought to put him to death was that He claimed to be God and King. The trouble is that He was–and is–God and King. He came back from the dead as a proof of all His claims.

It’s a good thing He did, too. When he sacrificed Himself, He made the way for me and you to be forgiven before God of all the crazy things we’ve said, done, and thought. Because of His victory over sin and death, we can have peace with God and with one another. So the next time you are on either the transmitting or receiving end of some crazy talk, remember the one who is without sin. His blood bought us reconciliation with God. And if we have been forgiven our foolish words, then we must also forgive others for theirs. Otherwise, what we’re saying is that their sin against us is bigger than ours against God. Now, that’s crazy.

[Draft for an article published in the Tallassee Tribune, July 9, 2013]

April 15, 2013

We Have a Crap Problem

We have a crap problem at our house. Stay with me; I’m going somewhere with this.

My son is potty training. While he’s pretty good about going pee-pee, the poor kid struggles to go poop. He holds on to it for too long then dances around on his tip-toes saying “oh dear, oh dear.” If you ask if he needs to poop, then he’ll tell you that he just needs to pee-pee. But of course, that’s not the solution to his problem. Eventually, he’ll either poop in his pants, or we’ll sit him on the potty and enter into a battle of wills to keep him there until he just can’t hold it anymore. Then we celebrate. “Look! I put my poops in the potty!” “Good job!” …as if he hadn’t been fighting his need to poop for hours or days.

It’s extremely frustrating, potty training that is, from a parental perspective. I’m sure it’s emotionally hard on my wife to sit watching her son in pain knowing that she could just tell him it was O.K. to go in his pants. However, she had a preschooler in her class once who would ask for a diaper to poop in for years after he had mastered the other side of potty-training, and she doesn’t want that for us.

As a man, I like to fix things. So as a father, I want to fix his problem, but I can neither physically force him to poop nor go for him. I have also had no success at commanding him to poop or threatening to punish him for not going when I can clearly see he’s struggling to hold it in. (Don’t call DHR. If you have been through it as a parent, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then one day you will.) We are trying to train him in how to deal with his bodily waste in a healthy way, but he wants to keep it inside and deny that there is any need to let it go.

The poor boy gave me a new line the other day while he was sitting on the potty after about ten minutes solid of stumbling around on tip-toes trying to put together a puzzle rather unsuccessfully due to his decreased ability to focus his motor skills. I said to him, “Just let your poops go. You’ll feel so much better.” And he looked at me and said, “I don’t know how!”

Now, he does know how. This isn’t the first time we’ve put him on the potty, and it’s certainly not the first bowel movement he’s ever had. Here’s where this article will take it’s turn.

Isn’t this exactly what we (include yourself if you are a Christian) put our Heavenly Father through? In so many ways, isn’t he trying to show us how to get the crap out of our lives so we can stay focused on enjoying Him and enjoying doing the good work He has set us apart to do?

The apostle Paul wrote this to the Philippian church after having described his own Jewish, self-righteous pedigree:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— (Philippians 3:7-9 ESV)

The word translated as “rubbish” is a light vulgarity. Depending on your generation and geography, it’s roughly equivalent to crap or the “s-word.” If you are walking barefoot in the grass and squish down into a warm pile of dog feces, what word do you use? That’s the way you should read this text.

Paul says all the things that he once thought were so important are really “rubbish.” It’s not that this stuff is worthless, rather it’s that it has negative value. Paul is saying that he considers himself worse off because of all the things he might be tempted to find some significance or value in.

You have seen that show Hoardes, right? They try to help people who have amassed so much useless stuff that it is litterally (see what I did there) a danger to their physical health and has usually caused relational breakdown with family and friends. That’s what Paul says we are, spiritual hoarders.

Paul wants us to recognize that life–real, good, glorious, wholesome, true, beautiful, eternal life–is hindered by all the mess we falsely think has worth.

We are children of God who do not know what to do with our feces. We need to poop, we’re crying out, we’re distracted, we aren’t able to enjoy being with our Father and family,
but we won’t admit to ourselves that letting it go is as simple as it sounds.

And it makes me realize how frustrated God must be with me at times. And it makes me think about how good a Father He is that he doesn’t just grab me and squeeze. And it makes me wonder why we dance around and try to stay busy ignoring what we’re in desperate need of expelling. And it makes me stop and consider what I might be missing out on in God’s Kingdom because of the earthly things I cling to for support.

We have a crap problem.

Let’s remember, too, going potty isn’t a one time thing. I have to take the trash out of my house every day or two and to the curb once a week. You may rid yourself of rubbish today only to find there is more to be rid of tomorrow. It’s only natural.

Praise God, however, because there is a day coming when the King will renew everything and all the broken things that bring junk into our lives will be set right. There is no “rubbish” in God’s house.

Until then, learn from the Father how to get rid of the waste in your life. Don’t be like my son. Just let it go. You’ll feel so much better, and you’ll make Daddy proud. He loves to see his children mature and succeed.

March 14, 2013

I Hate Running: Thoughts on Discipline

Filed under: Ministry,My Life in General — pecaspers @ 9:43 PM
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Have you ever hear of a “runner’s high”? It’s some sort of euphoria you are supposed to experience when you take up distance running.

I have never felt that.

I (dramatic pause) HATE (more pause) running.

Tonight, I made the mistake of trying to go for a 2.5 mile run too soon after a heavy dinner. I cut my run short by about half to avoid any scenario involving puking. Cutting it short wasn’t ideal because I missed my run yesterday, but I guess now I’ll go back to my Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday run schedule.

As the New Year began, I purposed to get back to training as though I had a race to run. My father-in-law, who likes to run marathons, got us to run a 5k with him last year. The pounds were dropping as we trained for that race, but they not-at-all-surprisingly came back on when I stopped training after the race. So as a means to the end of getting in sight of 200lbs by the end of 2013, I downloaded a 10K Trainer app and started getting after it.

There haven’t been many days I’ve missed so far. I’ve gotten to the point where I can jog for a full 25 minutes without a break–when I don’t have steak and potatoes weighing me down, that is. In two more successful runs, I’ll be pushing it toward 27 minutes. And of course, the eventual goal is to be able to run a 10K in about an hour of solid jogging.

But let me reiterate that I hate running. I do not enjoy my runs, at least not the running part. I do enjoy getting the time to listen to sermons, podcasts, music, etc. I enjoy the chance to get out of the house. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when I’ve pushed myself beyond my former limits. But I hate, I hate, I hate the running.

Typically I get about half a mile behind me before contemplating punking out. Then, I decide that the growth in discipline is worth the effort and keep pressing on. A little after half-way through, I’ll start setting short-term goal to overcome. “Just make it to the stop sign, and we’ll see how we’re doing then,” I tell myself. When I reach the goal, I realize I’ve got more in me, and I keep going. With about 5 minutes left, I’ll start to tell myself that it would just be embarrassing to quit after making it so far. My go-to internal encouragements to get me through the tough spots are that (A) Jesus endured worse, so I can make it through this to His glory by His Spirit in me; (B) Satan likes failure and quitting, so keep going just to stick it to the Devil; (C) Jessica will find it sexy how strong and awesome you are if you keep going. Option C isn’t strictly true of any individual run, but I’m holding out hope that it proves true in he long…run. (I tried to stop that pun, but what’s the use?)

So why do I run?

The Apostle Paul says, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come,” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV).

One of my biggest ongoing struggles is consistency in discipline. There are virtually no expectations or limitations put on me by my church. Other than Sundays and Wednesdays, nobody constrains me to be anywhere or do anything in particular. It’s easy to be wasteful and poorly prioritized with so much flexibility in ordering my time. And so, that is where 1 Timothy 4:8 comes into play.

The “some value” of “bodily training” includes the fact that discipline begets more discipline. Now, obviously the health benefits are there, and I’m running for those as well. However, developing a more disciplined life is more of a driving force in my taking up running.

And since running is a practice in developing discipline in my life, it’s really not a shocker that I hate it. See, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it,” (Hebrews 12:11 ESV). Discipline is always unpleasant in some sense. It costs some sacrifice of blood, sweat, tears, or worse. And yet, don’t miss the promise. Discipline produces righteousness, and righteousness IS pleasant and peaceful.

And so I run. I hate running. If by running I might come to be more like the Savior I love, then I’m going to need new shoes because I have a long way to go.


January 21, 2013

MLK and Inauguration Day 2013

If you don’t live under a rock, then you know that today was both the presidential inauguration and the public celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Much was made during the ceremonies in Washington D.C. of the way Dr. King’s “Dream” was on display as fulfilled in the re-inauguration of the United States of America’s first Black president. But that’s kind of ridiculous if you think about it.

To quote King, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Like it or not, there were plenty of people who voted for and against Barack Obama just because he is Black. Interestingly enough, he’s actually bi-racial. King’s dream wasn’t that Black people would overtake White people in positions of power and influence. The dream is that people’s moral character will be seen for what it is without reference at all to the color of their skin. The dream is not reached until we stop talking about the first Black, Latino, Asian, or whatever whoever. When a person’s race doesn’t enter into the equation of how good a man or woman someone is, then we’ll be on the way. (Side note: My point here isn’t to argue for or against President Obama’s character.)

I’ll happily admit we’ve made a lot of progress. And of course, first [insert race/gender] [insert significant achievement]s occur as a sign of that progress. My own denomination elected Fred Luter as President of the Southern Baptist Convention this year; he’s the first Black President of the SBC. However, we have not arrived in a post-racial America until the hype is all and only about a person and not his or her skin. We have not arrived in a post-racial America until people stop throwing “he’s Black” into conversations when it isn’t actually important to the story being told–you know what I’m talking about. We have not arrived in a post-racial America until there’s a recognition of the fact that Black folks and White folks and Asian folks and every other kind of folks do in fact have some real cultural differences but that we’re all, more importantly, just folks. Folks created in the image of God. Folks diversified into many nations, tribes, and tongues by God and for His glory. Folks who all need salvation from their sin by Jesus the Son of the one true and living God. Folks who will all one day bow their knees and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Pray for President Barack Obama; not because he’s Black, but because he’s the President of the United States of America.

January 14, 2013

Resolutions Have a Bad Reputation

Every New Year, millions of people claim they are making “resolutions” without really planning to discipline themselves to make the change stick. Because of this, some people would argue that even having New Year’s resolutions is pointless and just another meaningless–even bad–part of our culture. I think that line of thinking is ridiculous.

Just because most people play at making resolutions like they play at Santa Claus doesn’t make it a foolish thing to use the New Year as an opportunity to begin a new effort in personal growth. The rolling over of a calendar year is a great time to reflect on the year(s) now past and decide what needs to change for the year(s) to come. While the date is rather arbitrary, Jan. 1 is as good a day as any to set ourselves up for some self-discipline, and the cultural celebration of leaving the past behind to move toward a brighter tomorrow means that we can catch a little positive momentum from those around us–even if they aren’t as thoughtful and intentional in their resolutions as we are.

What dooms most resolution-makers to failure? Well, I’ve already mentioned that many don’t really have any intention to follow through. For those who actually want to see some change in their lives, there are two big flaws in most people’s plans. One is, in fact, the complete lack of a plan. Two is the utter vagueness of the resolution itself.

One of the most common resolutions is weight loss. Most people don’t attack that goal with a plan. I’ve done it before. I’ve set the goal of losing weight only to discover that months or years have gone by without me doing anything substantial to reach that goal. If you’re going to lose weight, then you have to have a plan. Any change takes time, and there are usually small steps to get that change to stick. But if you don’t know what steps you intend on taking, then it’ll be hard to take any. It’s also hard to gauge your success if you do make any progress. So, you have got to have a plan.

But if you’re resolution is just “to lose weight,” then you’ve run into my number two. If your target is just a haze, you’ll never hit it. You can’t measure success on a vague goal, either. Sure, you can pat yourself on the back for any little win, but you usually have nothing firm to hold on to.

With these things in mind, I’m resolving the following common things:

“To Lose Weight” – I am resolved to reach the end of 2013 at 200 lbs or less. I’ll spare you the details of my plan, but it includes daily sweating and a return to training like I have a race to run.

“To Read More Good Books” – In another post later on, I’ll see if I can list out the books I read in 2012. I try to rotate through some basic categories as I read. The Gospel, marriage, pastoral ministry, missionary biography, classic fiction, current fiction, and what I’ll call “special topics.” Right now, I’m reading The Explicit Gospel, by Matt Chandler. Next will likely be the Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage which I should have read last year or before but didn’t. The Puritan classic, The Reformed Pastor, by Richard Baxter is probably my first pastoral ministry book for the year. I haven’t chosen my next missionary biography, but I’ve got a few on my shelves that I haven’t read yet. I often get my classic fiction fix via audiobooks, but I’m thinking I’ll pretty quickly plow through a copy of Dune that I pulled from the free bin at 2nd & Charles a while back. I often read fiction concurrently with heavier topics. Current fiction isn’t a priority worth planning, but I’ll see what the next big thing is in a few months. In “special topics,” I’ve already got a copy of Francis Chan’s Multiply, and I’d like to get Mohler’s Conviction to Lead. After that, it’s time to cycle back through categories…or adjust/add to my categories. …So many books, so little time.

I am further resolved that 2013 will be the year that I…

…Get my family out of poverty. This is going to happen as a simple reality of finding a new position in vocational ministry which is paid full-time. It is also the transition I am most excited about. I am… Nah, that’s a post for another time.

…Become pastor of a church. This too brings me a lot of hope when I think about it. I know God has a place for me, and I’m looking forward to finding and settling into it. I just hope I am not presuming on The Lord that my search will end before 2013 does.

…Become a gun owner. I jokingly tell people that I need a shotgun because I have a daughter on the way and need something to clean whenever the boys start coming over. That has some truth behind it, but there is also just the masculine instinct that tells me I ought to have a weapon which can be used against anything or anyone who threatens my family–snakes, zombies, intruders, an over zealous government, whatever.

…Become a father of two, one of whom is a daughter. I know, I know. That’s not really a resolution, but it a major transition that will occur this year.

I’m hopeful about all these things to come in 2013 and more. All of this is of course under God’s sovereign hand and you should read “if it is the Lord’s will” before and behind all of the above.

I’m going to have a great year…I just know it.

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