Enemies at the gate

King David’s life was characterized by mountain tops and deep valleys. He wrote many of the Psalms during these bright and dark periods. Several express his state of mind while being pursued by enemies.

Consider Psalm 3, for example. In this case, his son Absalom is seeking to usurp his throne. Yes, his son is attempting to kill him and rule in his place.

Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.” (Psalm 3:1-2)

I sometimes find it difficult to locate myself in David’s psalms. After all, I don’t have anyone trying to kill me, especially not my son! I hardly ever have a spear thrown at my head (1 Samuel 18:11).

However…

I do have enemies. They show up all the time. Let me name a few.

Pride

Envy

Bitterness

Lust

Fear

Do you recognize any? Ever struggled like me?

Like roaring lions (1 Peter 5:8), I often find these enemies at the gate. They come to rob my peace, my joy, my obedience, my life (John 10:10).

Maybe I understand David better than I think. Let’s see how he responds to this relentless pursuit.

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people. (Psalm 3:3-8)

The next time you wake in a cold sweat, the next time fear grips you in the dark of night, the next time you are tempted to choose wrong over right, hate over love, take heart. The very same God that saved David from the tens of thousands will save you as well. In a mighty way.

Choose Him. Call out. He’s quick to deliver, pleased to bless, full of love. For you.

Peace, friend.

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Sort your face

Face it Americans, our British brothers and sisters across the Atlantic sometimes say it better, or at least with more style. Neflix has unlocked the BBC for me and I enjoy collecting English phrases that are, to borrow a term, brilliant. Here’s a selection with my own parenthetical interpretations.

You’re mad. (You’re saying or doing something that is out of the norm. It can indicate either disapproval or admiration.)

You stroppy cow. (This is a girl who is ill-tempered and rude. It’s probably said by one woman about another, but potentially as a term of endearment if said face to face.)

Piss off. (Take your leave; it can be rude or mark the end to a harsh exchange that indicates everything is now okay).

My favorite expression, by far, is “sort your face.” It’s a reminder that your facial expression is negative and you should correct it. While I believe it’s important to avoid walking around with a grimace, it’s far more valuable to sort your heart and mind. Once you do this, your face will follow.

Paul talked about this sorting process in his letter to the church in Philippi (located in modern day Greece). Here’s what he says in the third chapter.

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. (Philippians 3:8-9)

Paul had definitely sorted his face. He had considered his past life as a Pharisee, where he earned his righteousness by rigorous, relentless rule following, and abandoned it. He now considered it garbage, to be thrown out and forgotten. Instead, he directed his path toward Jesus and the corresponding life-under-grace. Paul realized that becoming one with Jesus was never about Paul or his human efforts; this new life was about submission, admitting that he was incapable of saving himself from sin. Jesus alone did this work and He stated from the cross that the work was finished (John 19:28-30).

May I suggest that the scowl on my face, on yours too, is often because our minds have drifted back to the garbage from our past? As J.I. Packer teaches in “Knowing God”,

When Paul says he counts the things he lost rubbish, or dung (KJV), he means not merely that he does not think of them as having any value, but also that he does not live with them constantly in his mind: What normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure? Yet this, in effect, is what many of us do. (p. 25)

I have really good news for your face (and heart and mind). You can put down whatever shame you lug around like an oversized carry-on through a busy airport. You can disregard the regret that makes today a burden and tomorrow hopeless. You are forgiven, friend, you are loved. Direct your thoughts toward getting to know this Savior, Jesus. God has concrete plans for your good (Jeremiah 29:11).

Use this as a reminder for each new day. Your face will then reflect God’s morning light, His love for you as His adopted son or daughter.

21 Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3:21-23)

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10,000 hours

Pearl Jam released the song “Life Wasted” in 2006. The lyrics speak to our inherent desire to avoid a wasted life, a life spent in useless pursuits and activities.

I have faced it, a life wasted.
I’m never going back again.
I escaped it, a life wasted.
I’m never going back again.
Having tasted, a life wasted.
I’m never going back again.

It’s gratifying to see a bad path corrected in our review view mirror. I love the repeated line “I’m never going back again.” It speaks to life experience, escape from destructive behavior, and maturity. For me, there are certainly choices and circumstances to which I know I’ll never return, not on your life.

We’re probably in agreement that it’s important to carefully choose how we spend our days. Malcolm Gladwell offers an interesting perspective in his #1 national bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success. In Chapter 2, “The 10,000-Hour Rule”, he says:

The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.

In my professional life I study and teach about machining dynamics, or the vibrations that occur when removing material using a defined cutting edge to produce a desired geometry (e.g., milling an engine block from an aluminum casting). I ran the 10,000 hour test on myself.

Let’s say that I spend 20 hours a week actually thinking about machining dynamics (the rest of my work week is consumed by tasks that I wouldn’t consider as dedicated thinking, although they are necessary). In a year with 50 work weeks, this gives 1000 hours/year.

I started learning about machining dynamics in 1994 during my graduate studies in the former Machine Tool Research Center at the University of Florida. That was 24 years ago. Even if I’ve only achieved half of the 1000 hours/year target, I’ve still exceeded the 10,000 hour requirement. Am I an expert? I believe so, but you can decide for yourself by reviewing my book Machining Dynamics: Frequency Response to Improved Productivity.

There’s a problem, though. A big one. Even if, at the end of my career, I’ve managed to change the global machining industry, even if I’ve trained new thought leaders in the field, even if I’ve provided elegant solutions to the most challenging problems, I may still be looking back on a life wasted.

J.I. Packer explains this agonizing position in his million-copy-selling manuscript Knowing God (page 19).

Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives. As it would be cruel to an Amazonian tribesman to fly him to London, put him down without explanation in Trafalgar Square and leave him, as one who knew nothing of English or England, to fend for himself, so we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.

Don’t miss your opportunity; begin your 10,000 hour journey today. Getting to know your loving Father and Savior eliminates the possibility of a life wasted. I’m never going back again!

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Golden blood

The rarest blood type is Rhnull blood. It is characterized by a complete lack of antigens in the Rh system, which is the largest blood group system. Among the millions of blood type varieties, only 43 people on Earth have ever been reported to possess Rhnull and there are only nine active donors [1]. For this reason, it’s referred to as “golden blood”.

Interesting, right?

It’s not the most exclusive blood in history, though. There’s a particular blood type that has only occurred once and will never appear again. This blood, when spilled, was capable of healing all of humanity simultaneously.

18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 
19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

Let’s be specific about “spilled blood”, just so we don’t miss the full impact of what Jesus did. He knowingly subjected Himself to:

  • being hit by fists (Matthew 26:67)
  • being flogged (Matthew 27:26)
  • being stripped bare (Matthew 27:28)
  • having thorns jammed into his scalp (Matthew 27:29)
  • being spit on (Matthew 27:30)
  • being struck on the head with a staff over and over again (Matthew 27:30)
  • being offered wine mixed with poison (Matthew 27:34)
  • being nailed to a cross through his hands and feet (Matthew 27:35)
  • death by crucifixion (Matthew 27:50).

The Son of God came to Earth as man to endure this torture for you. He loves you so much that He chose to die, rather than losing you to sin and the enemy. He willingly shed His blood and died on your behalf.

Jesus is the universal donor. A transfusion from Him will heal you completely, no matter your sin, your heartbreak, your loss, your shame. Will you choose Him today? All you need to do is ask and believe.

Love you!

 

 

  1. https://curiosity.com/topics/rhnull-the-rarest-blood-type-on-earth-has-been-called-the-golden-blood-curiosity/
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Control

Control has become a cornerstone of American life and culture. I see it constantly. Public transportation is limited to large cities because we must own a vehicle to control when we depart and arrive. Helicopter parents manage every aspect of their children’s lives to ensure they are in the right school, on the right team, with the proper friends, accepted to the best college. Relationships are strained by an unspoken competition for the upper hand. Endless digital tools are available to organize and sort our days down to the minute, our data down to the letter or number.

Control.

Is the following statement too harsh? “I must control my environment or I cannot be certain of my security, happiness, or peace.” Perhaps, but I don’t think it’s too far off the mark for many of us.

Temperature control. Cruise control. Impulse control. Gun control. Pest control. Damage control. Crowd control. Birth control. Quality control. Self control. Skincare products to control aging. Prescription medication to control, well, everything. It’s pervasive.

Given our preoccupation with control, I thought you’d be interested to know that Paul taught about it in his letter to the church in Rome. I’d read this passage in Romans before, but this time it stopped me in my tracks. I haven’t been able to think about anything else. Listen.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)

Control.

This passage seems binary to me. You are either controlled by sin or by the Holy Spirit. I choose the Holy Spirit! Frankly, though, I’m a little fuzzy on what it looks like to be controlled by the Spirit. Unfortunately, I’m far more experienced with the sin side of this coin.

When I let sin control me, I desire something (list the typical offenders here) more than God. My mind is then filled with thoughts of that idol (God-replacement). I’m preoccupied with it. I make irrational sacrifices to obtain it. I hurt others, I hurt God, I hurt myself. All this leads to death, even if I am still breathing.

It stands to reason that being controlled by the Spirit must be the opposite of my sin-experience. So, when the Spirit controls me I desire God above all else. I seek Him daily. I think about Him constantly. He has all my loyalty.

This control remains a choice, daily. Will you invite the Holy Spirit to manage your thoughts and desires? Will you ask the Spirit to reveal those dark closets within your mind, to fling them open and throw out the refuse? This is the day, friend. This is life!

 

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Connected

Jesus is talking. Listen.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  (John 15:5)

Chances are you don’t spent a lot of time cultivating grape vines. In Jesus’ day, though, this was a big deal. He’s explaining that He is the source. If we are connected to Him, if we have daily relationship, if we learn from and rely on Him, our lives will begin to look more and more like His life. As we abide in Him, He moves into our heart as well.

Under these conditions, we will produce fruit; we will bless others with love, generosity, grace, and mercy. If we live our lives without a focus on Him, though, we can do… wait for it… nothing. He doesn’t say “less”, He says “nothing”. Wow.

Let’s see if I can update this illustration to align with today’s culture.

I am the wireless; you are the device. If you are connected to me and me to you, you will access and bless the global community; apart from me you can do nothing.

Make sense? Can you hear me now?

Connect to your Savior. He loves you. He died for you. You need Him more than you know! Peace to you, friend.

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You implied

1982, small town Kansas, seventh grade English class at Oxford Middle School on a warm spring afternoon. Mrs. Metz is teaching sentence diagramming. 12-year-old Tony sits at his desk in his hand-me-down Levis, Steelers t-shirt, and tennis shoes. He is enthralled. He’s fascinated by the application of lines and symbols to graphically illustrate subjects, verbs, and phrases. To him, it feels like algebra for grammar.

This is a true story.

I distinctly remember the day we learned about “you implied” (or “you understood”). We were presented with a sentence that began with a verb. “Go to the store.” Where was the subject? How could we diagram this mystery? Oh! What the speaker really means is “(You) Go to the store.” The “You” is implied.

My favorite “you implied” examples from the Bible are spoken by Jesus. They’re important. Listen.

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you. (Matthew 26:26-27)

Take and eat. Drink from it. The “you” is implied. Jesus is talking to you; He is commanding all believers and no one is excluded from His invitation. These meal-time instructions are directed independently of nationality, social standing, economic status, skin color, education, culture, or gender.

We live the salvation life by taking Jesus into us, by eating and drinking Him. It’s not enough to be near Jesus, to hang around His house. We must daily invite His Holy Spirit into our heart, mind, and will to see lasting change, just as we must eat and drink daily to thrive physically.

This eating and drinking follows an important example of another part of speech I learned from Mrs. Metz, the conjunction. These are the FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So).

8If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:8-9)

Jesus’ promise to us is that when we confess our sins, He not only forgives, but He also washes us clean. Forgive and cleanse. This is our new birth. We then add sinews and strength when we eat and drink Him daily.

Do it!

The you is implied.

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