Victory is Ours

 

John 16:33

 

Baseball season is coming soon.  Spring training is just around the corner.  I remember a game that I thought was going to be very competitive.  I bought tickets to see this one at the ball park!  The first six innings could have been characterized as ho-hum at best.  Things, however, turned around fast!!

It was the 7th inning and the Braves just really kicked into action.  Their opponent that evening was the New York Mets.  The yawning crowd now began to gain momentum as first one run and then another was knocked home by the Braves.  By the 9th inning the score was tied.

I sat in a section with two Mets fans.  They were bantering with us, yelling “the Braves will never win this game.  You might as well go home now.  This game belongs to the Mets.”  Calmly and quietly I called to them.   The Braves will pull it out in the last.  You just watch.

Sure enough the teams go into overtime.  The Mets had their time at bat, scoring no runs.  It’s the bottom of the inning and up comes the batter that tied the score.  He hits the ball to a perfect position in the outfield allowing the runner at third to come home and score the winning run for that game.  There were high fives and whoops and hollering going on in that section.

I had a measure of calculated confidence in the Braves.  But it was calculated, nevertheless.

Jesus gives a word to his disciples that is more than calculated.  Building on all that he had shared with them that evening, He asserts:  “I have defeated the world.”  It’s a done deal, disciples.  The opponent is beaten.

With that truth in mind, they were to move on in peace and so are we.

No matter what is thrown at us; however difficult the curve balls of life seem; no matter the distance we have to run; whatever the opposition looks like—-VICTORY IS OURS!  God’s word is credible!  The reality of the truth of our victory is not a calculated statement but an eternal fact.  Jesus pulled us out of our defeated position and won the victory for us.

That’s cause for cheers and celebration today!

January 2015 Director’s Desk

 

I was fourteen years old and can remember the moment as if it were yesterday.  I sat mesmerized in the music room of my high school as I listened to one of my peers play Chopin with ease, sensitivity, and love.  Yes, love!  It was obvious she was absorbed in the music she was creating.  As far as she was concerned, we were non-existent in that moment.  It was the piano, the notes on the page and herself.  Effortlessly her fingers moved up and down the keyboard producing exquisite music.  When she “returned” to us, we asked her how long it took her to become so accomplished.  I was stunned to learn that she practiced four to six hours per day and still kept up with school and one outside activity—the high school choral group to which we both belonged.

Discipline can be demanding, time-consuming and difficult.  Yet, when exercised, discipline is one of the most freeing activities in which we can engage. Discipline focuses our attention on an activity or goal.  It simultaneously includes and excludes.  In the words of Dr. Terry Walling of LeaderBreakthru: “you say ‘no’ to the many things you could do so that you can say ‘yes’ to the one or two things you should do.”  In other words, to sharpen our focus, to hone our skill(s), and/or to build our character, it is imperative that we willingly let go of even the good to concentrate on and for what is best.  The “best” will be different for each of us as it relates to skills.

There are, however, disciplines that each of us needs to engage as we learn to walk with Jesus.  I learned from my friend that fingers have muscle memory so that when a certain configuration is practiced over and over, you don’t even think about it—you simply let your fingers “go” and what has been practiced becomes easy movement.  So it is with spiritual habits.  It is not in our nature to naturally employ discipline in the area of prayer, Bible reading, solitude, generosity, etc.  We discipline ourselves so that these become habits.  They could become ritualistic.  More likely, they will enable us to become so absorbed in living with God in new, improved, and exciting ways that we find ourselves turning more and more to Him, cultivating our relationship and deepening our love.  Disciplines are not works to God; they are ways to God.

We will be offering information and exercises over the next few months as we concentrate on spiritual habits that, when embraced, will assist in cultivating the lives of spiritual leaders.  Many of you are practicing spiritual habits.  We invite you to offer ways in which they continue to help you.

Rather than focusing on weight-loss and physical exercise alone at the start of this new year, let us together focus on losing those things that hinder our walk and fellowship and exercise together in ways that increase and cultivate our love for God and each other.

Happy New Year!

Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

spiritual-disciplines-thumbnailby Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun has written a book for believers everywhere who have a desire to spend time in the company of Jesus.  In her book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, she writes “spiritual disciplines are intentional practices, relationships and experiences that give people space in their lives to keep company with Jesus.”  The desire for keeping company with Jesus springs from the presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life, according to Calhoun, and “spiritual disciplines that do not help us partner with the Trinity in worship are empty worthless acts and a perfect waste of time.”

Wasting no time, Calhoun uses “WORSHIP” as an acrostic to organize more than sixty spiritual discipline practices into seven groups: ‘Worship’, ‘Open myself to God’, ‘Relinquish the false self’, ‘Share my life with others’,  ‘Hear God’s Word’, ‘Incarnate the love of Christ’, and ‘Pray’.  The goal is not that every discipline is mastered.  Rather, the handbook serves as a compass in guiding the reader to discover which spiritual discipline practices fuel their own desire for noticing God and responding to His Word.  Each practice in the handbook includes a tabled summary, pages of discussion, reflection questions, practical steps to help the reader experience the discipline and a list of additional resources.

This book dispels the notion that discipline is drudgery or simply a cadre of repetitive acts of behavior.  I recommend this book for Christians who want to know how their desires and disciplines work together in bringing about the spiritual transformation they are longing for.

Matthew 11:28-30 – Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?  Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill- fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.  (The Message)

The Christmas Story – Joanne Holz

True-Christmas-thumbnailThe Christmas story is not a tame account of an historical event.  We have allowed it to become cute (think Santa, stockings, and children’s plays) or romantic (think Hallmark movies)!  We associate the story with December and a specific season, missing the meaning and import for daily living throughout the year.

In reality Christmas was and continues to be lived out as a cosmic event of reclamation, rescue and redemption.  Typically we end the year with the celebration of Christmas.  The gifts of Christmas bring life, meaning and direction when they are embraced, enjoyed, and employed all year long.  We live and lead from them all year long.  Leaders, we are called to participate in and co-lead a “contrast society” that God has been working towards from before the foundation of the world.  Christmas is the dawn of that society in Jesus!

Gift #1 for the New Year:  Our circumstances, our families, our friends, our place of origin, or our traditions do not define us.  We are defined by and in relationship to our Redeemer.

Mary and Joseph quietly participated in leading a revolutionary lifestyle.  Their plight was not an easy one.  Surely they heard the rumors—the whispers—the outright accusations against them.  They must have endured the looks, the slights, the exclusion from invitations others would have received.  They were making decisions and living life from a completely new grid!

When God is heard and obeyed, life is lived one day at a time “by a way not known.”  It is the most secure way.  It is the way of inward peace and stability.  It is the way that continues the redemptive purposes of God in this world.  (What else are we or should we be leading into?)

Not many—perhaps not even most—understood or approved of their choices.  It is not uncommon to have to leave friends, family, traditions or the familiar by the wayside when we choose to follow God fully.  But consider their legacy!  Consider the gifts left by those whose hearts were fully surrendered to God.  We, 20+ centuries later, are the beneficiaries of their obedience.  God defined his children, Mary and Joseph!

Leaders!  How would our influence be different if we followed our Leader as did Mary and Joseph?  How would following Him impact the way in which we lead, the choices we make, the way we spend our time, or the ways in which we allow others to influence us?  What legacy might others draw on long after we’re gone?  Is it clear that our life is defined by our relationship to Him?

Gift #1:  He defines and gives definition to our life.  We can lead authentically as we continue to unwrap that treasure.