masteryAs I grew up on the farm, we learned many things. The number one lesson we learned was if you want to develop a skill, follow someone who has already mastered that skill. The second point of that lesson is follow someone who believes you can master that skill. In other words, don’t take piano lessons from someone who can only play chopsticks. But, equally as important, don’t take lessons from someone who believes that your greatest level of performance will be chopsticks.

How were we taught this lesson? In countless ways. We were taught to master ourselves in simple games of Mother May I and Red Light, Green Light. We had a game we played with a ball on the front porch that went from simple coordination to performing a complex set of movements involving twisting and jumping off the porch, while catching the ball as it bounced back off the wall, while still ending up upright and in a ready position when you landed on the ground (with the ball in your hand, of course).

I don’t know who came up with these things to do. All I know is, if you learned to do something, whatever it was, you were expected to improve and speed up over time.

When we were young and went to the country store in the evening, we were expected to watch the card games and observe how each person played. Eventually, we would get to play at home and sharpen our skill.

All the while, whatever we were learning or making choices about, we heard our parents say, “whatever you decide will be good.” This basic belief was repeated and affirmed over and over again.

This is the way God calls us to follow Him. In the beginning of our disciple’s journey we are commanded to repent, to align ourselves with the Master of Life. We are also called to believe and trust in the God who is for us, who believes we can become holy as He is Holy.

The Apostle asks, “What shall we say in response to this?…  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”(Romans 8: 32 – 33)

Have you committed yourself to the One who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life?” Have you confidence the Lord has confidence in you?

Have you committed yourself to mastery? In The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, they list committing yourself to mastery as the first of the Three Commitments that Lead to Extraordinary Results. In this blog post, they are echoing the pathway of grace and I’ll share in the next couple of days how the other two commitments reflect the path, too.

Until then, ask yourself a One Thing kind of question, ‘What’s the ONE Thing for which I can commit myself to mastery that by pursuing, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?’

P. S. I highly recommend you read the book, The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

Knight and Day“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3: 12 – 13)

If Jesus tells you He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (and He does) and He tells you He is the Door, the narrow gate through which you access life, why are you still walking around looking for an entrance?

How many miracles does Jesus have to do to prove to you who He is?

How many people does Jesus have to forgive before you would call on him to forgive you where you have missed the mark with him?

How many people would Jesus have to restore, heal, and redirect before you would say, that’s something He is really good at doing?

How is God supposed to make things new in your life when you don’t accept anything new into your belief system?

What are you predisposed to believe: God is out to help you or God is out to hurt you? God is out to bless you or God is out to burn you?

Why do you think Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead? What if it directly applies to you?

Which is more important: your opinion or the truth?

Thanks for reading. Had to ask.

P. S.  I am reminded of the scene in Knight and Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz where Cruise’s character, Roy tries to explain to June her chances of survival: “with me or without me”.  This is why I had to ask these questions today. With Jesus or without Jesus?  Have you got peace, forgiveness of sins, joy, eternal life, an abundance of grace with which to move, breathe, and live?

Had to ask.

 

pridequoteThe seed of sin holds its own destruction. When it first flowers you may not see it. In the beginning of sin, there is only the betrayal, the small failure, the falling short of victory. We feel the dis-appointment. We hopefully are conscious and aware that we have missed the mark. But, we’ve been told, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” So, one sin begets two; begets a thousand.

We got locked into a self-serving, sin-perpetuating biased way of doing things. At first, the dis-appointment nudged us towards introspection and evaluation. Now, it moves us to look for someone to blame.

True self-improvement will always pull us back towards humility and truly starting over. Sin with all its bitterness will simply demand repetition or recruitment of a crowd that agrees with us.

Pretty soon, a battle is being fought, sides have to be chosen.  Alignment to a path with those committed to breakthrough becomes impossible for us. Why? Because, we are no longer committed to breakthrough and newness of life. We are now committed to putting off and forestalling our breakdown and downfall.  This translates into a commitment to destroy anything or anyone who will once again expose our dis-appointment.

To what are we appointed? The Bible says, we  are all appointed to death and after that the judgement. (Hebrews 9: 27) But, what if that judgement had already been borne by someone else? Indeed, it has been. “so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Hebrews 9: 28)

For those, who await a different outcome, it is not too late for you. Today, if you will hear God’s voice, the offer of grace stands.  Yes, you are appointed to death but come before the Lord in humility and repentance and let that death be a death to self, a confession of your sin, and a turning to the Lord that uproots you from the life you’ve lived up til now and roots you and grafts you into God’s kingdom.

Yes, you will still be fighting a battle but this one will begin in humility.

prayinghands“This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8: 10 – 11)

Touch me directly. Set your hand upon me. I am not content with lessons shared by the preacher or teacher. I am not content with holding the hand of one who holds yours. I am not content to know that a deep and abiding relationship is possible.

When will I come alive? When Your whisper is upon my ear. When will I be awakened? When Your Word touches my lips. When will I be energized? When Your breath, the breath of Your Spirit, alights upon me – when I will feel the rush and fire of Your Presence for myself.

Call to me and my heart will answer. The Day is approaching but I have no fear for it. I only fear moving from Your side. So, hold me close. Speak the Word that draws me closer still. You alone captivate my will, restore my soul, and lead me forward.

Lead me, Jesus: not just in the quiet stillness of the morning or in the fresh hope of each day but in all the routines where I may have shut you out and not even been aware of it.  Lead me most within the mundane repetitions of my work or waiting for I desire nothing to be mundane anymore. I want all things to be made new. I want all things infused with Your Presence. I want all things to be overshadowed with Your Goodness and Mercy. I want all things to be made Holy.

 

elijah“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5: 16b – 18)

Verse seventeen says, Elijah prayed earnestly. Literally translated, the verse reads very emphatically, “Elijah prayed when he prayed.” Do we?  Jesus warns his disciples against empty repetition or the vain chanting of sounds, so how can be we be earnest when we pray? How can we make sure we pray when we’re praying?

  1. Does my praying sanctify the Lord God in my heart? (1 Peter 3: 15) “This, then, is how you should pray,” Jesus said, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6: 9) There is something about our every prayer that should bring us to our knees, overwhelm us, leave us in awestruck wonder, and acknowledge that “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” (1 Kings 18: 39)

But, at the same time prayer brings us to our knees, prayer raises us in light of God’s “eternal power and divine nature”. (Romans 1: 20)  What a mighty God we serve is not a question. It is the affirmation of every prayer.

2. Is my praying more about representing the Lord and His kingdom and will or more about requesting God’s help with establishing my kingdom or will? Representing or requesting? What do you think? Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6: 10)

3. Is my praying more a perpetuation of my stubbornness and personality or a practice through which God prescribes for me what I need each day?  Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6: 11)

4. Do I forgive as I pray? Do I tear the walls down or fortify the obstructions and barriers that I feel in my soul?  Do I clear the path for God’s blessing in my life to flow freely through me or do I pile up materials for blocking and diverting that blessing? Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6: 12, 14 – 15)

5. When I pray who gets put to the test?  When Jesus teaches us to pray: “lead us not into temptation,” (Matthew 6: 13) he is acknowledging our human frailty. Jesus is not trying to cover for God or give us an excuse for unbelief.

When the disciples were first confronted with the nature and blessing of Jesus, it exposed who they were. In that time of testing, Peter fell before Jesus and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5: 8) But, Jesus didn’t go anywhere. Instead, Jesus committed himself to making Peter a fisher of men.

When we pray, “lead us not into temptation” we are praying for Jesus’ commitment to be fully realized in us and that the tests we go through will not only be revelations of our weakness but revelations of Jesus’ strength and faithfulness.

The Apostle Paul affirmed this when he said, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8: 35 – 37)

6. When I pray do I expect to see the salvation of God revealed?  Does my praying only allow God to give the answer? “This then, is how you should pray,” Jesus said, “deliver us from the evil one”. (Matthew 6: 13)

“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.  Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1 Kings 18: 36 – 37)

advice3 Words of Advice from Mark 11 and 12

  1. Have faith in God. Let it crescendo and accelerate through your soul until the mountains move at the sound of your voice and the obstacles against you flee at your approach.
  2. Forgive. Forgive until you experience the live stream of mercy from heaven enveloping you and bearing you up through every circumstance and challenge.
  3. Don’t play the fool. Don’t draw back from God as if God has bad breath when He begins to breathe the Holy Spirit upon you. Don’t beat up what God is trying to nurture. Don’t kill what God is busy raising up to life.  Don’t criticize what God is encouraging. Don’t reject or despise the marvelous and mighty work of God.

When we play the fool, God’s way always begins in us as if it is insignificant. It won’t grow large until our faith does.

How will you allow your faith to grow, today?  How will you deal with people when you remember you have something against them?  How will you avoid playing the fool?

remember“I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder.” (2 Peter 1: 13 RSV)

As long as I’m alive there is something for which a reminder is always appropriate. What is it? To make God’s call and His Word the basis for everything we do. Even if we already know this is true and have it firmly established, a reminder is still in good order.

What’s the purpose for the reminder? That we, with greater speed might escape and move away from the corruption that is in the world through desire and that we, with greater speed and choreography, have more and more in common with God’s nature.

These reminders can be stirring us up to the promises of God. These reminders attest to God’s glory and excellence. These reminders can point out the difference grace still needs to make for us to be conformed into the image of God’s Dear Son.

We need these reminders and I am thankful for the ones I get, even though I’m sometimes slow to appreciate them as I should.

I remember when as a young man I watched my grandfather, whose nature with whom I had way too much in common, was acting inappropriately. His caregivers would always respond so graciously, confessing for him, “He’s just not himself, right now.”  But, I was concerned, what if this behavior is closer to the truth than we want to admit?

Regardless, I developed a new prayer in those days, one which I am reminded to repeat quite often. It goes like this. “Lord, please work in me a thorough work of grace, so when I am not myself I look more like YOU than me.”

Again, I remind you, make God’s call and His Word the basis for everything you do. Let everything be laid upon that foundation. That way, everything that happens in your life will be an eternal gift and legacy.

How will you be reminded of this? Do you have a daily habit of hearing from God?  Do you have someone in your life that points out the differences between your nature and the Lord’s?  Do you have a plan to add speed and choreography to your actions that enable you to be in closer sync with Jesus?