Life Hike

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Turning 50 is a lot like getting your first bloody nose: You see it coming from a mile away and you’re dreading the event every second, but after it happens, you realize it wasn’t that bad after all and suddenly, you’re not scared  to lean into a punch anymore.

I played in my church’s annual turkey bowl this year (football game) and I am certainly feeling my age right now. I’ve had a whole year to get use to the idea that I’m turning 50, but I honestly would have liked a few more years to get used to the idea. The turkey bowl turned out to be the “old” guys against the “young” guys, and for all the nay sayers, the “Old” guys won! But that’s not the point of this blog.

Watching our young men on the field, I was very impressed with the way they carried themselves, the way they were competitive, the way they didn’t back down from the task in front of them. The were young MEN in every sense of the word: Strong, determined, forgiving, and purposed. The young men of the Road give me a hope for the future of our community. Even though they aren’t my children, I am proud of them none the less.

Knowing the caliber of the men around me, it makes turning 50… not so bad.

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“We and the world, my children, will always be at war.
Retreat is impossible.
Arm yourselves.”

–Leif Enger

As John Eldridge and others have written, we were born into a world of  sin, a world of chaos, a world at war. The wars of the physical world are only shadows of the real war, the real battles that take place in the spiritual realm. There are numerous references to this war throughout the old and new testament: Daniel Chapter 10, 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 , Ephesians 6:13, and many more.

I want to share with you 3 truths about warfare.  These truths have been proven over and over again in battle.

#1. You cannot gain ground in battle without conflict. WWII, Korea, Desert storm, the Soviet-Afghan war, these are all excellent examples of ground gained and lost through conflict. You are fooling yourself if you think the same thing doesn’t apply to your spiritual life. Because of Satan’s bent on destruction of God’s faithful, EVERY victory, EVERY advancement will be marked by conflict. When we truly realize this, our whole view of tragedies, mishaps, and disappointments change. Its not that God has forgotten us, or He allows bad things to happen because He is sovereign. Think about it, it took an angel 21 days to get to Daniel because the angel was fighting with a demon of Persia, and even had to get Michael, the Arch Angel to help him. Since then, the battle has only gotten worse!

#2. Battles cannot be won without a supply line. When armies are cut off from their supplies, they perish. Its simple math, once the bullets are spent, once the food is eaten and the water drank, you’re done.  Like a tank running out of fuel. When satan cuts you off from your supply line (church, friends, family, Bible reading, prayer) he has effectively defeated you. MAINTAIN your supply line!!

#3. To fight effectively, you HAVE to believe in what you’re fighting for. The most effective fighters are those that are fighting for their very lives, family, homes. You always hear that a mama (insert ANY animal here) fights ferociously when her offspring are threatened. In the movie “Cinderella Man” (A true story about boxer James Braddock during the depression) was asked in an interview, “Jimmy, what are you fighting for?” His reply was based on providing food and shelter for his family. His reply was simply, “Milk.” Don’t forget that you are fighting for your spiritual birthright.

Enger was right, we ARE at war, and retreat is impossible, or as my buddy says, “Retreat is NOT an option.”

Arm yourselves.

 

 

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I was listening to the radio today on the way from church to the chiropractor’s office and the pastor was speaking on family. He commented that  When Cain killed Abel, it wasn’t because of violent games he played on his console, or anything he learned from his classmates, nor was it anything he had gotten  off  the internet. The pastor’s point was the motivation to kill Abel came from within Cain’s heart, not his environment or the people he associated with. I thought about it and realized this was the very first family to walk the earth and they were DYSFUNCTIONAL. Then I pondered, I have  never known a “functional” family, so what if there is NO dysfunctional family? What if the family unit is flawed by nature? God designed Adam and Eve to live together in the garden, but never mentioned child bearing until AFTER the fall of man. What if the family unit is flawed because of the sin Adam and Eve incurred in their life.

We are ALL dysfunctional. It is not because of our mother and father divorcing, it is not because of drug abuse, nor is it even because of physical abuse. It is because of the separation of our hearts from our creator. Divorce, drug abuse, physical abuse, these things are results of the sin, not the cause of the sin.

Looking at each other, and families with this mindset, be encouraged that NO ONE except for Christ was/is perfect. Romans 3:23 tells us  that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Therefore, it isn’t because we are failures, it isn’t because we are less of a human being, rather it is because of the  spiritual chasm that lies between us and our creator, our true purpose.

I have a really screwed up family; stuff that inspires horror stories, but we are NOT dysfunctional, we are merely  sinners.

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Men are like jeeps in the fact that we are “purposed” built. In other words, we were designed for a specific purpose in mind, a bullet waiting to be launched towards a target. Like any projectile or purpose built machine, unless we are on mission (pointed at our target), we are a danger to ourselves and everyone around us. Let’s take a Jeep for example: A Jeep wrangler is built to go off-road, to climb rocks, to traverse rough, uneven ground. Out in the wilderness, it is a precision machine and can carry you just about anywhere (I have pictures to prove it). In a Mall parking lot, it is cumbersome, slow, and trying to park in a “compact” space is harrowing.

What is your target? Is it to be the best father you can be? Is it to be the best husband you can be? is it to be the best at your profession (Athletic or Academic)? Or do you not have a directiontarget? Picking your target is crucial to your survival as a man. A valid target provides desire, determination, and discipline. Not having a target (or an invalid target) provides apathy, atrophy, and chaos. Proverbs 13:4 states, “A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”, so a valid target is a target that provides life to you, that gives you life, not death. To determine whether a target is worthy, ask yourself these questions concerning your target:

1. My target is a goal, a finish line. Is it a finish line that I will be proud of crossing? Is it one I will proclaim from the mountaintops? Or is it a target that I would be ashamed of if anyone found out?
2. Will my target make me a better person? A stronger person? or will it undermine my health and, or mental acuity?
3. Will my target change my geographical, physical, or spiritual location? (by definition, goals, targets, or finish lines are in a different location (physically, spiritually, geographically) from where are now.

Determine your desires and you will identify your target(s). Identify your target(s) and you can shape your determination (make plans, develop strategies). What must I do to accomplish my goal, reach my target? How long will it take before I impact my target? What AO (Area of Operation) in my life does my target reside? Is it spiritual? Is it physical? is it monetary? These are questions we need to ask ourselves as men and commit the answers to pen and paper. Make the answers tangible so you can remind yourself of your target(s) daily. Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Determination is fueled by accomplishments. That is why writing down your target(s) is crucial to your success. Frequently analyze your position in relation to your target(s). Are you moving closer or straying off target? Are you accelerating towards your target(s) or are you losing momentum. Your determination will ebb and flow based on your position. The rule in motorcycle riding is to “look” through your turn in order to traverse the turn as safely and quickly as possible; the same principle applies in life: You will move in the direction you are looking, think about it.

That’s it for today. I’m going to take my family camping. 🙂

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1 Corinthians 15:55-58 “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Is Paul talking about life? more succinctly, life eternal? What does he mean “the sting of death is sin”, and “the power of sin is the law”? Christ died on a cross, in shame and humility so that we might have eternal life. The unbelievable, inconceivable (at least to us) act that took place on this day over 2000 years ago was brutal. It was ghastly. It was a glimpse of the worst of humanity, it was death. And yet, the whole event, no matter how bloody, pointed to eternal LIFE!

Through no work of your own, Christ has offered you and me the gift of eternal life. The ONLY thing to stop us from accepting it is ourselves. The sting of death IS sin. Satan holds our sins over our heads every day like a 3 ton boulder that could fall any moment and crush our very existence. “You aren’t good enough for Christ’s gift.”, “Do you really think He will accept you in light of all your sin?”, “You disgust Christ.”. These are statements that the evil one throws at us like poison daggers every day of our lives. The sad truth is that often, these daggers find their mark. The remarks drive home the fact that we are incapable of being holy, that we will always be ‘human’. Ironically, the remarks drive us further and further away from the Grace that Christ offers us. Grace that He KNOWS we need because we are in fact incapable of being holy on our own.

The power of sin IS the law. The law reminds us every day what we SHOULD do and what we SHOULD’NT do. The law is a “plum” line if you will, showing us what our lives SHOULD look like. But Satan uses that model not as a guideline, but as a wall that is so high and unattainable. A wall that discourages instead of encourages.

Christ’s act of selflessness on the cross was not a split second decision. “Oh well, this is the only way I can help these poor, detested humans.” No, it was a well planned and executed mission. Probably the greatest strategical move ever known. He love us SO much… John 3:16 says it best. When the poison daggers start flying, stand tall on the knowledge that Christ suffered and died for you before you EVER committed the sin that’s being held over your head. When Satan tells you that you aren’t good enough, smile and praise our Father above and just remind Satan that you don’t have to be good enough because Christ was better than you ever could be. In doing so, you turn that wall back into a plum line. Every sin, every time God’s grace is extended towards you, let it propel you closer to Him. Let it spur you on to be more LIKE Him. As Paul said in Phillippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”