Discipleship – demands fixed intention

I noted only the eyes of the lanky, solidly-built High School Junior.  The pitcher for a local school’s softball team, she helped lead the team to a Division I championship.  In the process of delivering a pitch, her entire body followed the focused intensity of her eyes and mouth.  She had one motive:  pitch to win!  San Diego U-T, North County Section, 6/8/17

In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus talked with three men about discipleship.  Two volunteered to serve him, one without reservations, the other with a condition.  He warned the former to count the cost of serving and the second to concentrate only on discipleship, not on other duties.  Jesus also invited a third man, who agreed but wanted to delay.  He warned him that discipleship demanded immediate action and couldn’t be secondary to any other interest.

All three men lacked the focused intention to discipleship the young girl offered to pitching a softball.  If we want to follow Jesus, DO IT…NOW..WHOLEHEARTEDLY…FIX, focus, rivet—your eyes on Jesus in a laser intensity.  Only such effort discards what’s otherwise a diversion; and delays what otherwise keeps us from immediate obedience. 

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Holy Spirit – Christ’s own surrogate

General Eisenhower wore himself nearly into a breakdown planning Overlord, the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944.  He gave the final order to GO at 04:30 Hours 5 June.  6 June, 06:30 Hours infantry hit Normandy’s beaches.

He went to his trailer at Southwick House once he gave the order to GO.  Before he rested, he took paper from a drawer and wrote what he never had to publish:  a statement to be released to the world should the landings fail.  The note absolved all but one person for the failure:  Dwight David Eisenhower.

However, think about the burden he continued to bear after giving the O.K. to attack Hitler’s Fortress Europe.  All the bright military minds leading the Allies had devised as good-as-could-be-done invasion of a still-powerful German presence.  And all that those bright, inventive minds could do was to leave the implementation of the order to GO in the hands of subordinate officers and everyday soldiers at the squad level.  San Diego U-T, 6/7/17

The very idea had to give all the Generals nervous pause.  Could ordinary officers and men implement the plan?  They could and they did, involved in a military Crusade.

When Jesus ordered his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until empowered by the Spirit’s baptism, Acts 1:4-5, he had no nervous tension and never wrinkled a brow in anxiety.  Because he left the oversight of the Kingdom to the third Person of the Godhead.  To this day the Holy Spirit retains oversight of God’s Kingdom.  And shall all the days yet come until Jesus returns to verify the victory he won Resurrection morning.

Had it not been for the Spirit’s personal involvement, the disciples-turned-apostles wouldn’t have written the flawless Four Gospels detailing the authentic ministry of Jesus.  Or the splendid Acts of the Apostles detailing the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome.  Or the stimulating Epistles which instruct to this day in Christian living.  Or the Revelation which expresses God’s Victory over all Satanic manifestations.

Jesus had no fears.  In the Holy Spirit he sent Someone Just Like Himself And The Father to supervise, direct, remind and empower godly men to establish Christianity in a hostile world.  To this day the Holy Spirit lives in the Word of God to teach lovers of God in Christ how to live, how to witness, how to be anxiety free and how to conquer Satan in a world still dedicated to hating God in Christ.  Shed no tears, Christians, thinking that Christianity fades away.  Set no date for a memorial service for Jesus Christ.  He is NOT DEAD, but LIVES and LIVES forever, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

The Victory is won, Christians.  The War has been finalized, Christians.  Jesus has conquered, Christians. Rejoice!  Be Glad!  It takes only our faithfulness to him to secure our place in the Grand Review at the End. 

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Apologetics book:  Their Own Best Defense, Volume 2, Part 1 

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Life – is a steeplechase

Not many think life is a sprint.  Long ago, and far away, when parents had multiple children because so many died early, they may have believed that.  Not today when age 80 IS NOT the time to pull up one’s legs on the bed preparing for death.

But neither is life a long distance-run, demanding strong-winded perseverance until we reach our end.  Life IS NOT uninterrupted.  Life is never accommodating that way, offering a long, perhaps painful journey from beginning to end.

Everyday life is a confounded steeplechase.  Just when you get up a head of steam, forging ahead, an obstacle looms.  It’s not going anywhere.  In a steeplechase, runners must GET OVER it, not AROUND it.  We have an advantage in life.  We can determine the best, most cost-free way to find ways around the obstacle.  But around is longer, more time-consuming and sometimes presents other problems.

Following the example of actual steeplechasers, let’s find the best way over the obstacle/problem/crisis.  One, we can leap across it, regain our balance and propel ourselves onward.  Two, we can leap on the top of the problem and, using it as a support, hurl ourselves over and across it.  Either decision often lands us in water, which is as often a breaking point of the runner’s stride.

Either decision demands an alteration of our steps, pace and speed as we approach the obstacle.  We slow, alter the length of our stride just to PREPARE for leaping upon or over the obstacle.  In addition we find that the obstacles aren’t all set the same distance apart so we can pace ourselves, as in the hurdles.  No; just when we have our distance pace set, a shorter- or longer-separated obstacle demands alterations.  So life is never evenly-paced, predictable and under our control.  Like steeplechasing, life isn’t for the faint-hearted.  And the older we get, the more demanding it is.  Until we claim, “Getting old isn’t for sissies.”

Nevertheless, growing older in faith empowers us.  The Lord who died at 33, and never knew the weaknesses attendant on increasing years, always accompanies us, never leaves us alone on the journey and, at its end, guarantees in the world to come a body that shall never age or weaken.

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Christ – the desired model

Jean-Honoré Fragonard left France to study art in Rome.  The effort puzzled and disappointed him.  The great masters bewildered him.  Michelangelo’s energy terrified him.  Raphael’s capture of beauty moved him to tears but discouraged him.  He simply couldn’t imagine himself being in their company.

In self-defense he fell into indolence.  Unable to equal them, he felt no need to continue. Then he had an epiphany. If he couldn’t master the artistic levels the incomparables represented, why not study lesser, but still challenging, artists?

That led him to study Baroccio, Pietroda Cortona and Tiepolo.  They offered skills above his without overwhelming him.  Holding his attention they simultaneously enlarged his mind and art.  Durant, History of Civilization X, 115

The moral of his story is:  if some models in one’s career seem too advanced or hard to follow, choose others within one’s skill level.

However, and Christians PAY ATTENTION, we never settle for a lesser model than Jesus Christ to study and emulate.  Even though his life is unparalleled in history.  Even though no one, not even the apostles, came close to his perfection.

Why then shouldn’t the example Jesus Christ set intimidate us into giving up, forgetting it, being satisfied with lesser model set by mortals like ourselves?   Because of what happens when we try to be like Jesus!  Whatever way we TRY to be like Jesus, and succeed only partially, or not at all, the very effort leads us closer to where God wants us to be.  While we try but fail, we succeed in being increasingly mature Christians and MORE like Jesus than we were before.  Thus…given enough efforts at trying to be like him and only partially, or not at all, succeeding, the spiritual principle always works:  the human effort multiplied by the Holy Spirit’s grace leads us from one level of maturity to another.

So what if the measureless person of Christ can’t be equaled…now…or ever?  What if we spend eternity plumbing his depths and breadths?  The very effort will continue to enlarge and deepen our lives step beyond step, measure beyond measure, dimension after dimension.  Amen to the Master’s richness of wisdom and knowledge!  Romans 11:23.

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Apologetics book:  Their Own Best Defense, Volume 2, Part 1 

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Humility – before God necessary for success

Two cartoons appeared in the San Diego U-T May 27, 2017:  one, an attack on President Trump; the other a tribute to him.  The tribute had in Bold print LEADING from BEHIND—the well-deserved criticism of his predecessor.  Except Trump had redlined from BEHIND. 

The bitter attack had Trump before the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem sticking his prayer into a crevice.  And what was Trump praying, the cartoonist asked?  That he was in over his head.

That’s the present hubris in Washington, D.C.  All of its bureaucrats, especially the liberals—but ALL who make a career out of getting elected and re-elected —consider themselves too intelligent to make mistakes.  For aren’t they graduates of Yale and Harvard, or other prestigious schools?  And haven’t they been schooled to make the political decisions the electorate isn’t refined enough to make?  Even though Ronald Reagan was right:  the nine most dangerous words in the English language are:  “I’m from the government.  I’m here to help you.”

The dangerous leader is the one who doesn’t feel he’s out of his depth and relies on his own insights to lead.  In the present world crises, trust only those who rely on God in Christ to lead them.  If they don’t, trust NO ONE.  Remember that it was the politicians and statesmen who blundered the world into both WWI and WWII.

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Memory – in . of …

Memorial Sunday, May 28, 2017.  It didn’t have the look of a posed picture.  I hope it wasn’t.  Any posed photo would insult the veteran under the stone marking his grave.  It would also disgrace a private moment.  It seemed so real.  A woman holding roses in the crook of her left arm, her right bent over the top of the stone, her head on that arm—remembering, sorrowing, perhaps weeping, perhaps talking to the body below as if the departed-person could hear.  San Diego U-T, 5/29/17

In moments like these…melancholia seizes us…we grieve…we miss those who have gone before…leaving us behind to remember…to continue…to never forget.  And to thank God that Jesus rose from the grave, guaranteeing the present delight of our dead in Christ’s presence.  Guaranteeing the resurrection of all the dead in Christ, who receive a new, immortal body created in Christ’s image revealed in Revelation 1:12-18.  The instant and temporary sorrow will one day be overwhelmed by the VICTORY coming to all who love the ONE who loved us and gave himself for us.  Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

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Sin – blood still forgives

For some years now medical authorities have worried that super-bugs would limit the effectiveness of anti-biotics.  That would produce a colossal reversal in the effectiveness of medicine.  No one’s health would profit.  Anti-biotics became necessary because folk medicine had limited effectiveness.

The long-dreaded return of a long-gone disease is upon us.  Even now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that at least 2 million annually contract anti-biotic resistant infections.  At least 23,000 die.  San Diego U-T, 5/30/17

A new generation of medicines must be developed if the medical profession is to continue to improve the nation’s health.  Time will tell if our geniuses are equal to the challenge.

Preachers never worry that the message of Christ’s cross weakens before Satan’s increasing wickedness.  That Satan will produce a Super Sin that baffles, weakens or destroys Christ’s cleansing power over ALL SIN!  From the Garden of Eden to the day Jesus died, the shedding of blood delayed God’s punishment of sin—the legacy of the Jewish Day of Atonement.  On the day Jesus died, to this very day, the Master’s blood, shed to forgive all sin from Adam on to the end of history, has removed, not delayed God’s punishment of sin.

No Satanic wickedness can become too great for Christ’s blood to remove.  It takes only Christians being honest with unsaved people:  you’re lost in sin.  And telling them the good news:  Jesus died for you and he’ll forgive any sin you have committed or will before you die.

Both factors have to be at the center of Christian outreach.  We dare not overlook human sin in an effort to make our appeal more amenable.  That will only disgrace Christ’s sacrifice and remove his invincible Presence from our outreach.  Stressing human sin to the unsaved energizes the Gospel with an appeal to sinners.  What they need to hear, and long to hear, is hope for escape from sin.  And Jesus is that HOPE.  All repentant sinners have access to the power of GRACE in forgiveness by accepting Jesus as Savior and being baptized for the forgiveness of their sin.

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Apologetics book:  Their Own Best Defense, Volume 2, Part 1 

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Talent – can be long hidden

It’s true that Anna Mary Robertson, AKA Grandma Moses, began to paint for “life” at 78 years.  It’s true that she began to paint because arthritic hands prevented her doing farm or needlework.  It’s also true that her only training had been copying Currier & Ives prints.

However, as small children she and her brothers had their father’s stimulation.  He urged them to draw pictures on the white sheets of paper he purchased for them.  That start in childhood finally matured after nearly 80 years.  Unforgettable Women of the Century, 120

That suggests a spiritual perspective.  What skill, giftedness, talent, etc. may lay inert in a disciple’s life?  What may we have had an interest in as a youngster or teen-ager that we allowed as adults to be buried under other interests or responsibilities?  That means Christians should give careful thought before automatically saying NO when asked to serve a certain way.  Only after investigating their past, and not finding the skill-set desired can they refuse for a reason, not as an excuse.

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God – himself the only essential person

Madame Guyon, once a beautiful aristocratic woman bewitched by the world’s allure suffered a life-changing attack of smallpox.  That turned her from those in the upper crust who no longer chose to break bread with her to Jesus Christ, God’s Living Bread on whom she could continually feast.

For seven years she longed to feel God’s presence only to feel disappointed that he had forsaken her.  Through enough Bible study, fasting and prayer to educate her, she learned to walk by faith, not feelings.

She also found a startling new truth:   the deeper into God’s word and discipleship she plunged, she wanted to possess God himself, not merely God’s gifts.  She wanted the GOD of consolation, not merely the consolation he offered.  The GOD of peace, not just the peace of mind he bestowed.  The GOD of truth, not only the truths his word taught.  Deeper Life Experiences of Famous Christians, 80

A necessary factor in all Christian discipleship.  All too often we seek the benefits of God in Christ instead of the colossal Presence of God in Christ.  The former attitude admires the gifts of God; the latter seeks and embraces God in Christ himself, whatever good we experience, whatever challenging burden we bear.  What do we seek for our discipleship?

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Apologetics book:  Their Own Best Defense, Volume 2, Part 1 

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Fear – relative

Any of us would be afraid to fly down and around an oval at 200 miles an hour.  That doesn’t faze New Zealander Scott Dixon.  On May 21 he won the coveted pole position for this Sunday’s Indy 500.  He’ll bank $100,000 for that success.

He and friend Dario Franchitti headed for an Italian restaurant in downtown Indianapolis Sunday evening, May 21.  Store closed.  They then decided to find a fast food provider.  They found a McDonald’s about a mile from the fabled Oval.  Closed for remodeling.

Next door a Taco Bell beckoned.  Into the drive-through they wound their way, their windows down, fearing nothing, tough-minded big-time racers that they were.  To all of a sudden be accosted by two teenagers with the great equalizer.  A pistol shoved against Dixon’s head brought the surrender of wallet and cell phone.  Keeping his cool—he was sure he and Dario kept their cool—he obliged.  And off the criminals rushed.  (They were arrested soon after.)  San Diego U-T, 5/23, 24/17

Dixon later reflected on his close call with a lot worse fate than being robbed.  He and Dario wore expensive watches, which the thieves didn’t know.  Dixon was glad nothing “silly”—his word—happened.  Nothing silly?  Not dangerous, wicked, lethal?  A tough man.

Yet he admits it made him feel small.  Falling from pole-position to robbery victim would have that impact.  It would reduce one from being invulnerable to feeling defenseless.  It might even encourage the toughest guy to keep his car windows up and his doors locked.  It would certainly teach him to be aware of his surroundings at all times, especially at night, especially in an area of a city plagued by crime.

Speaking of fear.  If having a pistol held to your ear gets whatever the thief wants, what will it be when each human dies and stands before Jesus Christ for judgment?  If the gun would force quiet compliance, how could we imagine we’ll have any voice at all when God Almighty opens the books to the page with our name?  The man in Matthew 22:12 warns us:  don’t plan on talking your way out of trouble when Jesus looks down on us.  Even the saved won’t speak then.  The unsaved will certainly be tongue-tied.  Only Jesus will speak.  And what will he say?  “Well done”, or “I don’t know you”?  The saved will then find their voice and Praise the One who loved them and gave himself for them.  The lost will then scream unavailingly as they’re cast out, that Jesus doesn’t understand, to please let them explain, that they didn’t really mean any of the things they said against him, blah, blah, blah.  Too late, too late.  For the unsaved, who will continue forever shouting their innocence, too late, too late.  Don’t be one of them! 

Check out my E-books and website at:  www.smashwords.com/profile/view/virgh; www.uglydogpro.com 

Books at:  www.createspace.com.  (Go to search, dropdown to store, Virg Hurley.)   

Apologetics book:  Their Own Best Defense, Volume 2, Part 1 

Books also at www.amazon.com  (Virgil Hurley)