I was in a Sam's Club some time prior to this past Christmas when I noticed a book in the book area. Mind you, it wasn't one of the books out on display. This book was underneath one of the display racks. The cover was a dull black color with simple white lettering on it. I found myself drawn to the book. The title of the book is Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink (St. Martin's Press: New York, 2017). Jocko Willink is a retired Navy Seal officer and author of several books.
I bought the book, took it home, and quickly devoured it. I have since re-read it several times and I find myself drawn to it time and again. It seems quite clear to me that discipline is what God has me cuing in on in my life right now. In fact, I believe discipline is at the core of the Christian life.
Allow me to share an excerpt from the book with you:
"People look for the shortcut. The hack. And if you came here looking for that; you won't find it. The shortcut is a lie. The hack doesn't get you there. And if you want to take the easy road, it won't take you to where you want to be: Stronger. Smarter. Faster. Healthier. Better. Free.
There must be discipline. Discipline: the root of all good qualities. The driver of daily execution. The core principle that overcomes laziness and lethargy and excuses. Discipline defeats the infinite excuses that say: not today, not now, I need a rest, I will do it tomorrow.
What's the hack? How do you become stronger, smarter, faster, healthier? How do you become better? How do you achieve true freedom? There is only one way. The way of discipline"
Discipline comes from discipulus, the Latin word for pupil, which also provided the source of the word disciple. This means that at the root of the Christian disciple's life is the act of discipline. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:27 that "I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." Perhaps this was in Paul's thoughts when he told Timothy to "Fight the good fight of faith" (1 Timothy 6:12). A good soldier knows that becoming a good warrior requires discipline. So it is with us.
I feel as though I have only scratched the surface on this subject. I sense that it holds the key to every Christian who truly desires to walk the path of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. So, for now, I will end this. More to come...
I'm sure that I will shed more than a few tears as I relate this story. You see, I had to put our beloved dog Kuria to sleep a few days ago. It was a heart wrenching decision to make. Her teeth and jaw had become so bad, despite our best efforts, that it infected her nasal cavity, which caused her to constantly bleed from her nose. There was a constant weeping from her right eye as well. She had lost weight the last month or so, and we noticed that she had a hard time just standing anymore. She would swagged like a drunk person. Breathing became more and more laborious for her. I would hear here fighting to breathe in the middle of the night. We just couldn't bear to see her suffer anymore.
So the day we so dreaded arrived. I spent the morning hours with her. She seemed to sense that this day was different. She would sit and stare at me for minutes on end. She came up to me at one point and i reached down and placed her in my lap. She would not sit in my lap for any length of time the last few months, but now she laid on my lap, placing her head on my leg. The time for the inevitable last ride was fast approaching.
I had built a box especially for her, which would have enough room for her and nearly all of her toys when the time came. Soon it was 3:00 pm. Time to go. She sat up front in the passenger seat and I let the window down so she could lean out, but she would not press her face into the passing air this time. We had planned for me to stop by where my wife worked on our way to the vets. I had been able to keep my emotions reasonable in check up to this point. But when my wife said goodby to Kuria for the last time, I broke down. Our hearts were being torn apart.
We got Kuria, a pure bred Jack Russell Terrier, when she was eight weeks old. She was so tiny, i literally put her in my shirt pocket on our way home from her birth place in Pennsylvania. She was simply beautiful, inside and out. And she was so smart! I would take her for runs with me in the Maryland countryside. She loved to swim! She had lived in three states with us, She has run, kayaked, camped, swam, and lived life to the full with us. She would have been seventeen years old this November.
We arrived ten minutes early at the vets, so we took one last walk. Then it was time. I will spare you the details, as I cannot bear to retell it. They brought Kuria to me after they had put her to sleep, wrapped in a blanket. I took her warm, still body in my arms and gently placed her in the box I built for her, laying her in her favorite bed. Then the long, tear-filled drive home. Her last ride home.
During the ride home, through my tears, I asked God why it hurt so much. Why did it feel like my insides had been wretched out of me. This is what He said to me; "Now you know what I felt when My Son was put to death." I never thought of it before; the pain God must have felt when He saw His only Son make His last journey to Jerusalem, knowing that He would die there. The sheer agony when He saw His Son suffering, then dying. God does have feelings. He feels anger, anguish, and yes, deep sorrow. In a way, God has allowed me to experience this heart-wrenching experience to understand how He felt giving His only Son.
I have been changed by this experience. I loved Kuria with the kind of deep, passionate love only another dog lover could understand. And Kuria loved me deeply and passionately in return, accepting me for who I am, warts and all. Kuria's life may have ended here on earth, but her love continues. I carry it with me. So it is with God. I love God with the kind of deep, passionate love only another real Christian could understand. And God loves me deeply and passionately, accepting me for who I am, warts and all. Jesus' earthly life may have ended, but He is alive, and His love continues. I carry it with me.
Some people believe that we'll see our pets in heaven. I don't know if I can make a theological case for that. But I do know that I will see My Lord and Savior one day, and He will wipe away every tear from my eyes. Until that day, I will remember a great friend and companion, and yes, weep an occasional tear. Selah.
The following is an an article a friend of mine wrote shortly before leaving earth for heaven. He is at home now, and his faith has become reality. Welcome home my friend.
By Russ Rickeard
A favorite story of mine involves a missionary teacher who was preparing to go home on furlough. After she had told her class she would be leaving shortly, one of her best students was absent for a week. When he returned to class, he brought an exquisite seashell which he had picked up at the beach as a farewell gift for her. She thanked him for the gift, and realizing hat he had walked three days to get to the shore and find the shell and then walked three days back to their village, she said that he really shouldn't have walked so far just to get her gift. He replied, "The walk is part of the gift."
I have always found that line to be very poignant—The walk is part of the gift. It is a reminder that the involvement of the giver is more valuable than the intrinsic price of the gift. But recently I have seen those words in a completely different context.
Salvation is often called the gift of eternal life. Even after we have accepted this gift, we still have to live here on this earth, and we often speak of our life as a walk. Throughout the Bible—in the writings of Moses, in the Psalms, the Prophets, the Gospels and the Epistles—we find life referred to as a walk. Most of us think that this walk is our gift back to God. While some can picture their walk primarily as a stroll through a flowered field with the pleasant murmur of a brook in the background, others of us have experienced traumatic walks. Instead of strolling through grassy fields, we have had to stumble through the stark desert. There are no fragrant blossoms, only thorns. Instead of instant refreshing from the stream, we learned to conserve the water in our canteens because the next well is not even in view. When we started up the mountain, our ascent was not a series of gentle switchbacks; rather we have climbed around huge boulders and over treacherous rock slides. When we stop and contemplate our progress, we are usually bruised and bloody, tired and sore.
After a particularly rough climb recently, I was appreciating the gift of victory and self-control I had been enjoying, but I was upset and ashamed of some things I had gone through. I wished it had been easier to get here. That was when I heard the Lord say, "The walk is part of the gift." I thought, "Part of the gift? What else can I give? What more do you want?" Lovingly he continued, "What I'm saying is that your walk is part of my gift to you. It is wrong for you to despise the path I have chosen for you to walk. Don't you see what I have been doing as we have walked along this path? Haven't you appreciated the fact that whatever you have endured I was there with you? This rough terrain has brought you into an intimate relationship with me. Would you be comfortable with this closeness to me if we hadn't had to wrap our arms around each
other as we huddled in the storms? When we squeezed through that crevice together, we were close—remember? And I held your hand tightly when you stumbled and fell over the edge; the scars attest to how badly you were injured but I didn't let you destroy yourself. Look past the scrapes and the scars. Look at the muscle and stamina and endurance you have developed. Look at the man you have become—and are still becoming."
He allowed me to look back over my path for a moment before he went on. "Look at all the things you don't have to fear any more. You don't still want that bondage, do you? The only way you could be standing where you are right now was to walk the steps that brought you here. To fully appreciate the gift of where you are today you have to appreciate the gift of getting here."
I was silent as the impact of his words penetrated my mind and my heart. Place
and process, both are a gift from God. As glorious as my ultimate prize will be, I will never lose sight of the wonderful privilege I have of walking this road with him. Indeed, the walk is part of the gift.
I needed to take a trip to the local Walmart earlier this week to pick up a few things. I had my list in hand and planned on going right in, strategically planning my route to get everything on my list without wasting any time, checking out, and exiting the store, secretly hoping for a record time. As I pulled into the parking lot, reviewing my strategy in my head, I was caught short by something I saw.
Parked along the main entrance into the parking lot was an eighteen wheeler. It was strategically parked so that everyone who entered and exited the parking area could not help but see the truck and read what was written on the side of the trailer. Emblazoned on the trailer in huge letters for all to see was the name JESUS. Temporarily forgetting my own plans, I positioned my vehicle so that I was viewing the side of the truck clearly. I got out of my vehicle and stood there looking at the truck and it's message, watching as other vehicles passed back and forth, taking notice of the name of Jesus on display.
I was struck by the moving billboard. I wanted to find the driver and ask him a myriad of questions. Mostly I wanted to thank him for being a witness for Him. It also got me to thinking. What message do I convey to the people in Walmart? Am I more concerned about maintaining a safe neutrality, strategizing on how I can get in the store, get what I came for, and get out? Might there be a greater purpose for my being at Walmart at that particular time? What do people see when they see me in the ordinary chores of life? Do they see the Jesus in me, or just another busy person trying to avoid eye contact with other people in the store, trying to get what I came for and get out?
What we value most is often on display. People are watching us all the time. So what are we advertising? I want to be like that truck. I want people to see JESUS on display when they look at me, whether in a church, post office, or a Walmart. The message of that truck spoke loudly to me. I want to be that moving billboard. I want to have Jesus on display in and through me wherever I am, for whoever I encounter throughout the day. How about you?
Lord Jesus, help us to love you more than our own lives, so much so that we become living testimonies to and for You. Amen.
Yesterday I received my first full taste of Indiana spring storm weather. Our area was under a tornado watch and warning throughout the day and into the evening. One of the threats of such storms is the loss of electrical power. Sure enough, we lost power for about an hour late that night.
I will admit I felt a little apprehensive at the thought of losing power. What would happen to all the food in our refrigerator? What if it's cold outside and the heater isn't functioning? What if our cell phones lose power and we can't recharge them at the house?
We have become so dependent on electricity to run our lives. We take for granted the idea that it will always be there when we need it, as close as an outlet; and when it's not, our world is shaken. What if we all lost electrical power for an extended period of time, say a month or so. The prospect of such an event fills us with fear, to say the least. Such is the state of our dependency.
Are we as dependent on God as we are with electricity? Have we become so nonchalant with His grace, mercy, and power in our lives that we simply take it (Him) for granted? Do we expect Him to always be there, as close to us like an electrical outlet, ready to plug ourselves in when we really need Him? Has He become, for many of us, someone to tap into only in moments of need?
Unlike the electric power at our houses, which will always be susceptible to power outages, God will never, ever leave us nor forsake us. His Holy Spirit has been given to us as a guarantee upon our lives, supplying us with God's life-giving power. He is the ultimate power source. So we never have to fear any power outages with God, as long as we stay permanently connected to Him. Are you staying plugged in to God?
I was contacted by a family earlier in the week. One of their sons, who was 22, died in his sleep from an apparent overdose. I sat with the family in my office, feeling the depth of their grief at their lose; a life extinguished at such a young age. And the questions are asked. Why? Why did he have to die? Why would God allow this to happen? They search for answers to the cause of their grief. They're looking for something to hold on to when it feels like the floor has dropped from beneath them. They are crying out for something that most of the world screams for when life doesn't make sense. They're looking for hope.
So let's define this thing everyone is looking for, this thing called hope. Hope is the absolute assurance of future good; to look forward with confidence to that which is good and beneficial. To express desire for some good with the expectation of obtaining it. Hope is what we all desire, isn't it? We all want to know and believe that something good can come from our tragic circumstances, that life can break through again from the ashes. After all, what is the alternative? Despair. Deep depression. Hopelessness.
But where can one find such a hope? Where does one go when life has ripped a dream from us or death has taken a loved one from us? Can the world we live in give us this hope we all so desperately yearn for? In short, no. Try as we might to grasp some sort of hope in the things this world has to offer, they all eventually lead us back to where we started, searching once again for a hope that will not disappoint or fade over time. So the question remains, where can you and I find real hope?
Real hope, true and lasting hope, can only be found in and through Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter expressed this fact when he wrote, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:3-4).
There it is. Jesus Christ gives to everyone who receives Him as their Savior and Lord (born again) hope, a living hope. This is a hope that we all need to help us when the tempest storms of life threaten to take us under. It is a hope that the world cannot give, because it cannot be found there. Real and lasting hope can only be found in relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a hope that acts as a fixed anchor in our lives; one that is "undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you."
I will be officiating at this young man's funeral, and undoubtedly I will be looking into the faces of friends and family members who are looking, searching for something to grab hold of in their time of despair. They will be searching for hope. And hope in and through Jesus Christ is what He will offer to anyone in attendance. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful" (Heb.10:23).