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The Blessings of a Long Battle, part 2


 “Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it; where there is no struggle, there is no virtue.”   John of Kronstadt

Part 1 of this post highlighted how God can bring good out of a long struggle with a sin, weakness, and/or problem by helping the Christian make the transition from putting their faith in formulas (e.g., “Do these three things and your problem will go away”) to a restful trust in Christ. Again, no sane Christian advocates habitual sin but the benefits of a protracted battle are numerous:

(1)  After a long battle, in making the transition from formulas to faith in God, a new brokenness develops in the believer. They’ve come to the end of themselves, run out of “self–effort fuel”, and are beginning to learn what Christ meant when he said, “…apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

(2) During a long battle with sin or weakness, there is a pattern of falling down and getting up. Proverbs 24:16 says that a righteous man falls seven times but keeps rising again. In this process many Christians report that a new intimacy has emerged in their relationship to God. They’ve come to know the God of mercy and compassion as never before because they’ve been repeatedly forgiven after their many stumbles.

(3) “He who is forgiven much loves much.” Along with a new intimacy, a greater love for God can also develop, after a long battle, because we’ve been forgiven over and over.

(4) And since God has extended his tender mercies to us over and over, we then can extend his mercy and compassion to others who have a protracted struggle with some issue. If our heart is right, a long battle can inoculate us from self–righteousness and judgmentalism in relation to others who fall over and over. How can we not extend to them the same grace that God extended to us?

In extending this grace to others, we may become a wounded healer to them. The healing we received from Christ during our struggle is graciously passed on those often struggling with similar issues. Healing emerges from your wounds just as resurrection emerges from death.

(5) After a war, the soldier of Christ often emerges battle–tested and wise to the schemes of the enemy. If a person has been pulled down into the dust 27 different ways by the devil, then, if he or she is paying attention, they’ve learned 27 strategies the enemy of our soul uses to try to destroy us.

In Twelve Step programs, one often hears the acronym H.A.L.T. mentioned in discussing relapse back into addiction. These four letters stand for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired and emphasize how these conditions create fertile soil for relapse.

If you frame the issue a different way, these are four strategies the devil uses to bring us back into bondage. How was this acronym learned? By people relapsing over and over when these conditions were present. Recovering people became wise through their failures in their long battle with addiction.



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The Urgency of This Moment

“Johnny Quick”

 “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.”

John 9:4, NLT

To be quick means that we move very fast; being slow often implies a reluctance or a mental delay.  To hesitate while doing God’s will for us suggests a degree of ignorance or stubbornness.  Our quickness is to be seen while doing “the tasks assigned to us.”

Urgency should be woven into our hearts.  We need to have wings on our feet, a fleetness and an alacrity.  A “double-eagerness” as we carry out His work.  It should be of no surprise that God sets before us an itinerary of work He wants us to do.

So many brothers and sisters sleepwalk through their salvation. They snooze when Jesus desires they “watch and pray” with Him.

Jesus was on a  timetable. He communicated a need of doing.  He is in tune with the work of God, and is involved in the urgency of his present moment.  Jesus knows this, and he clearly communicates the need to do.  We are not called to be manic for Jesus; we are expected to be alert and aware.

This is a cry for urgency to his disciples.

“The night is coming.”  It is getting late.  In response Jesus issues an order.  Work at what the Father has assigned you.  It is almost dark now.  There is a “principle of spiritual velocity” calling us to an alertness and an awareness of needful things to do before “the time is up.”

In Acts 9 the disciples show a holy zeal in their day’s work.  We can’t stop speaking what we have seen and heard.”  The Old Testament prophets carried this urgency–Jeremiah and Amos both declared to us this avidity placed on the believer.  Jesus desires that we factor in this concentrated awareness of the approaching night.

I recently read of an evangelist in the last century.  He had a watch made, and on the dial he had a picture of a setting sun.  And over it, the words, “the night comes.”  Everytime he would look at his watch he would be reminded of the shortness of life and the need of the performance of his duty.  That lesson should be transmitted to each zealous believer.

The key word I guess, in all of this, is zeal.  And often the older we get the more this word becomes diminished, and distant.  (I believe our Father understands this about us.) No matter what we do, He focuses His love on us.  There will never be a condemnation on us.  But we can still waste away our lives in a tragic way, which we will later regret. 

But we have to ask ourselves this, will I just be an admirer, or can I become a zealous disciple of Christ?

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Unfixable Things, [Desperation]

sisyphis-bwLife is jam-packed with problems.  Money, marriage, children, work, health, church and so much more.  In Greek mythology, we find lessons from a man named Sisyphus.  He was the king of Corinth, and known to be a rascal. He was conniving and arrogant  (a good description, “hubris”). The gods hate hubris in people.

Somewhere along the line, he really ticked someone off and he was condemned for all eternity to roll a huge boulder up a large hill.  He would toil and sweat, to reach the top, only to have that boulder roll down the hill.  He would have to start all over again– endlessly repeating this work. Up and down– forever and ever. (Apparently– he’s at it today.)

I suggest that there are quite a few things that are inherently unfixable. It certainly seems like we are going to resolve them.  It may even seem like we’re making some headway.  When we get close, our boulder rolls down the hill. And we stand there looking dumbfounded, wondering what we can do differently next time. Often when we are aware of the tedium and the monotony– the repetitive effort; it seems about time that we do something different.

But there are also hard, and ghastly things, issues that we will never change.  We try, and then we try harder.  But it is apparent we can never make things so they click.  These are simply unfixable from our point of view. We’re completely– “over our head.” And, guess what?  We really are.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. 42 Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42, NCV

Making things work should never be your top priority.  We face problems that in ourselves we will never correct.  I must tell you this, we can’t turn these issues into our primary focus.

  1. The Lord Jesus is to be all that we seek.  He is our first priority. We are to concentrate on His dear presence– above all else.
  2. Perhaps, instead of seeking solutions for our lives, we should be seeking His face?
  3. Apart from His power we will forever labor and toil.

“Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

Philippians 4:13, MSG

We are to talk to Him about these things that perplex us. I would suggest that these convoluted problems are the Fathers’ way of driving us to Him.  Eternity is now our real home, and we must come to the place in God where we seek Him now, just like we will in heaven.  We can quit rolling our boulder up the hill.  We will cease and desist. Instead we will trust and seek His face.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should goI will counsel you with my eye upon you. ” 

Ps. 32:8, ESV

“But we are citizens of heaven and are eagerly waiting for our Savior to come from there. Our Lord Jesus Christ 21 has power over everything, and he will make these poor bodies of ours like his own glorious body. ” 

Phil. 3:20-21, CEV

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April Fool’s Day: An Accident Report

This is a bricklayer’s accident report that was printed in the newsletter of the English equivalent of the Workers’ Compensation Board.

Dear Sirs,

I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Block #3 of the accident reporting form. I put “Poor Planning” as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following details will be sufficient.

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. When I completed my work, I found I had some bricks left over which when weighed later were found to weigh 240 lbs. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which was attached to the side of the building at the sixth floor.

Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the 240 lbs of bricks. You will note on the accident reporting form that my weight is 165 lbs. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building.

In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel which was now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed. This explains the fractured skull, minor abrasions and the broken collarbone, as listed in Section 3, accident reporting form. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley which I mentioned in Paragraph 2 of this correspondence. Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of the excruciating pain I was now beginning to experience.

At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel weighed approximately 50 lbs. I refer you again to my weight. As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and severe lacerations of my legs and lower body.

Here my luck began to change slightly. The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked.

I am sorry to report, however, as I lay there on the pile of bricks, in pain, unable to move and watching the empty barrel six stories above me, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope. And I lay there watching the empty barrel begin its journey back onto me.


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Spirit at Work


“And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

Romans 8:2, NLT

The old farm was falling apart. It was as if a twister had passed this way, and blew everything to smithereens. The house was diapilated; windows broken, and most of the paint peeling off the siding. An old shed was looked like it was about to collapse. Weeds grew tall and wild. It was a sad, and neglected place.

As I came through the undergrowth, I saw a man some distance away. I stopped, not sure if I was welcome on his property. I quietly watched him for a few minutes, but he never looked up. I walked a bit closer, but he just kept working– he really seemed absorbed in whatever he was doing.

“Excuse me sir, I hate to interrupt,” I called out. But the man continued his work. There seems something rhythmical about what he was doing. There was a definite cadence, that only he seemed to hear. He worked without ceasing.

I drew closer and saw the pump he seemed to be using. Water gushed out, and into an animal trough. Then I looked up and saw his face. Why, he wasn’t a person after all, but a mechanical man! Someone had painted a likeness of a farmer, and bolted it to the windmill. The figure was simply attached to the pumping apparatus. I had to laugh. It sure had me fooled.

As I saw this, I slowly realized that the man was not pumping the water. But the water was pumping the man! The man was just responding to the wind in order to pump out the clear, cold water. And so I began to think…


In many ways, this is how we work spiritually. Something other than us ourselves powers us. It only appears that we are laboring, but a man in the Spirit functions quite differently than what we expect. We dare not think we can control the Spirit, rather it is we who need to be controlled. When we are truly filled with the Holy Spirit, He will flow through us quite easily.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Roman 15:13, NLT


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For The Work, For Our Lord

A Leader's Prayer
A Leader’s Prayer

Lord God, you have placed me in your church.

You know how unsuitable I am. Were it not for your guidance I would have brought everything to destruction. I wish to give my heart and mouth to your service. I desire to teach your people, and long to be taught your work.

Use me as your workman, dear Lord. Do not forsake me; for if I am alone I shall bring all to nought. Amen.


A written prayer by Martin Luther, (b. November 10, 1483 – d. February 18, 1546) Catholic Monk, Reformer, Theologian, Writer.


Some General Quotes by Luther:MartinLuther

“Faith is a living and unshakable confidence, a belief in the grace of God so assured that a man would die a thousand deaths for its sake.”

“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”

“Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved. Now choose what you want.”

“In our sad condition our only consolation is the expectancy of another life.”

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