Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cross in the Hand

It was a busy Tuesday morning and I almost forgot that I promised a friend that I would go pray with her dad that day. Russ’ health was fading fast as complications from a long journey with Parkinson’s was coming to end.  I jumped into my truck and headed to the home of this dying man.  As I sped through the church drive, a sobering thought hit me. “I’m rushing through my day to go pray over a dying man.  I have spent no time in thought or prayer preparing my heart to enter this sacred moment in a man’s life.”  I stopped the truck and confessed my lack of attention for this man’s situation.  I asked God to slow my heart, my mind and pace.  I prayed, “God, I don’t want to wing it!  I need your grace. I need your Word.” 

As I pulled into the driveway, an idea came to mind. “I need to bring this man a cross!”  I backed out the drive and retraced my route back to my computer bag I had left in at the Cascade Campus.  I carry a couple handmade wooden crosses in my bag that we’re specifically designed for situations just like this. 

Let me explain.

I have a dear friend at the Kentwood Campus. His name is Trent and he’s a man in his late 70s. Over the years, God has called him and his wife into a unique prayer ministry.  It’s a prayer ministry for people they will probably never meet this side of heaven.  Trent has a workshop in his garage where he cuts, sands, stains and polishes crosses.  These crosses are specifically cut to have soft, rounded edges and they are all the perfect size to gently and comfortably fit into someone’s hand.  A small, simple and detachable card is placed with the cross reminding the recipient of some of Jesus’ comforting words.  It also informs the receiver that the extensive sanding and polishing of each cross provides Trent and his wife the time to pray for those who give these crosses and for those who receive them.  When I first met Trent, he brought me a box filled with these crosses. He offered them for me to give away to anyone that God leads me to pray with.
I entered the home of this dying man with cross in hand.  I was greeted warmly by his wife and daughter as they showed me to his room.  Russ was struggling, every breath labored.  His time to leave this life was getting close.  I showed his wife the cross and explained to her what it was and who provided it.  She took the cross and placed it in his contracted, tension-filled hand.  You could see him squeeze the cross and though he couldn’t speak, it seemed he liked the cross in his hand.   I prayed over Russ and his family.  We cried some and chatted about the hope we as believers have in the middle of the most difficult times in life.  His wife commented on how good it was to a Christian on days like these. 
That night, Russ’ daughter called to inform me that her dad had just passed.   She said, “Phil, you need to know that he clung to that cross until his dying breath.”  As I put down my phone, my mind went back to those hurried moments, rushing through my day and through a church parking lot to go wing a prayer for a dying man.  I became very grateful for a God who loved this precious family enough to slow me down before he put me into a very sacred moment.  I became very grateful for Trent who prays in faith for people he’ll never meet.  But most importantly, I renewed my gratitude for the power of the cross, not just that little handmade cross in Russ’s hand but the Cross that Jesus willingly wore so that we could have life, so that we could have hope. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ridiculous Mercy

First published in 1862, Victor Hugo’s literary masterpiece, Les Miserables is a story still resonating with audiences 150 years later. Hugo’s story has been adapted to television, stages from Broadway to your local high school, as well as musicals and large budget movies. The latest movie/musical was released world-wide in theatres this past December featuring some of Hollywood’s biggest stars: Huge Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway. It’s getting wonderful reviews, but I still love the 1998 version that featured Liam Neeson. That’s when I first encountered this powerful story of grace.

The story centers around a British ex-convict in the early 1800s named Jean Valjean. Jean has been released from prison where he’s spent 19 years of hard labor for stealing a piece for bread to feed his starving sister. Upon his release, a priest takes him in. Jean’s evil ways continue as he chooses to steal silver from Bishop Myriel. Authorities catch up with Jean Valjean and bring him back to Bishop Myriel with the stolen goods. In one of the most compelling moments of the movie, Bishop Myriel convinces the police that the items were not stolen, rather he gave them to Jean. As the police stand in bewilderment, Myriel directs his wife to get their silver candlesticks to add to Jean’s bag. After the police leave, Bishop Myriel and Jean Valjean have this very powerful exchange:

Bishop Myriel: “Now don't forget, don't ever forget, you've promised to become a new man.”
Jean Valjean: “Promise? Wha, Why are you doing this?”
Bishop Myriel: “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I have bought your soul. I've ransomed you from fear and hatred, and now I give you back to God.”
I have to admit that when I watch that scene in the movie, I have mixed emotions. Viewing it through the eyes of Bishop Myriel, my heart responds to his actions with, “Dude, that’s ridiculous! Why would you open your home to him? Then he steals from you and you don’t have him hanged? What? You gave him more stuff? No mercy, Bishop. Give him justice!” But something shifts when I view the story from the eyes of Jean Valjean. My heart melts for Jean. Grace and mercy seem to have this freeing power as unconditional love is expressed to him.

I think that’s the nature of grace and mercy. It’s both ridiculous and powerful. When God gives his people grace or mercy, it makes no sense yet it seems to have the capacity to make a dynamic impact on them.
Each year, the Israelites celebrated the most holy of days on their calendar. It was the Day of Atonement, known today as Yom Kippur. This day came ten days after their New Year and followed nine days of reflection, confession, and repentance. The Day of Atonement was to be a day of judgment on sin, a day when wrath would be exercised on what was unforgiven. But God placed two goats between the people and the impeding judgment on their rebellious sin. One goat would be slaughtered on the altar and the sins of the people would be placed on the head of that goat. The second goat would be driven into the wilderness as a symbol of God banishing their sin from the people. This and many other things were done year after year to atone for the sins of the people. But, when Jesus entered the process, “every year” turned to “once and for all.”

But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice. And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9.26-28 NLT

The truth of the matter is that we all have stood—caught with our bag of stolen silver—deserving judgment and punishment. But Mercy has come in the person of Jesus Christ. He has stepped between us and punishment. We can enter the Day of Atonement with joy and thanksgiving. Perhaps Jesus would rewrite Bishop Myriel’s powerful line this way:

My brothers and sisters, you no longer belong to evil. With my blood, I have bought your soul. I've ransomed you from fear and hatred, and now you belong to God.

Spend some time this week reading Psalm 103. This is a beautiful, worshipful response to God’s ridiculous mercy given to us.



Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Test of Camping

[This article is also found on Ada Bible's blog - Sabea at www.adabible.org/sabea ]

This past summer, my wife and I made an interesting vacation choice. We needed to be in Marquette to move our son into his college dorm and to be with our daughter as she gave birth to our first grandchild. It was a great milestone week for us, but wanting to save some money and feeling a bit adventurous, we decided to camp… in a tent… for six nights… in the temperamental Upper Peninsula weather.

This wasn’t the first time we had tent-camped—we had all the equipment from weekend excursions from the past. But, it had been a few years since our last tent adventure, and six nights was the longest I had ever camped in a tent. There’s a lot of planning and packing that goes into a week in a tent: clothes for all types of weather, coolers and tubs filled with food, chairs, charcoal, tools, and gear. Packing, unpacking, setting up, preparing, living out of bags and tubs.

Everything about camping takes more time and energy: cooking, eating, cleaning, showering. It’s a slow, inconvenient way to live. My wife tells me that’s the allure and beauty of camping. It’s a process that slows you down; it relaxes you.

Honestly, it took me two days to discover that allure.

Camping frustrated me. It created tension in me. Why was I purposely making everything in my life more difficult and time consuming? Why was I trying to live in the very limited shelter of a tent, subject to the elements of weather, constantly battling bugs and dirt in the simplest duties of living? Our first meal was BBQ chicken over an open fire. Seemed like a great idea, but our wood was wet and we fought to keep the fire hot enough. It took two hours to finish cooking. It hardly seemed worth the time and effort. I grumbled through the whole experience.

But after a couple days of struggle, I began to settle into a new rhythm. I became more patient and began to enjoy the process of it all. But, in the end, I was glad to pack it all up and rejoin life with comfort, quickness, and convenience.

As we continue exploring the series on the feasts and festivals of Israel, I’m intrigued by the things that God asks his people to do in their celebration. God gives them physical things to do that were to help them remember and commemorate their past, while celebrating their present state of blessing. In the Feast of Tabernacles, God tells the Israelites to move out of their homes and live in shelters, booths or little tabernacles, for seven days. This was a symbol of remembrance of Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the desert where they lived in tents and God’s presence with them resided in a mobile tabernacle. This was like a national campout!

I think this exercise illustrated two important principles to God’s people.

First, it reminded them that, though their season of wandering was very difficult, God remained present with them—meeting their needs and sustaining them in every way. Second, the exercise reminded them that God had delivered them from the wilderness and was currently blessing them abundantly. They were to see his blessing in the harvest of the crops and grapes they had just gathered. In response, they were to give a gift of gratitude in proportion to God’s unique blessing.

As I think about this festival, I’m left with some significant questions to ponder.

How do I see the “desert” seasons of my life?
How does God lovingly sustain me when my resources are depleted?
How does God love me when I wander?
How are my needs and longings met in times of trial and hardship?

But, there’s another set of questions that this discussion causes me to pursue.

In times of abundance, am I proportionally grateful and proportionally generous?
Or, do I have the propensity—as God blesses me with more—to spend more on myself?

Take some time to reflect on the principles taught through the Feast of Tabernacles. Ponder God’s generous hand with you in the desert times and in the abundant times. Respond to him with generous gratitude.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gratitude, Generosity and Terminal Cancer

Yesterday was one of those rare and special days in ministry when I had the honor to be in the presence of someone truly impressive. Her name is Renee and she’s dying. For two years she’s battled cancer, and recently the doctors told her that any treatment she receives will be to help the quality of her life rather than the length of her life. She’s planning her passing and understands that her number of days is short.

Until yesterday, I had not met Renee. She had requested the pastoral staff come to her home to pray with her. We are always willing to do this for folks, but honestly, I always feel awkward and anxious as I enter these situations. I never know what people are truly hoping for in these moments of prayer.  Would Renee hope we could bring God’s miraculous healing of her cancer? Would she or her family be in an inconsolable emotional state? Would she have questions about death, heaven, and her spiritual state? All of these were possibilities and we needed to be prepared and willing to speak into them by God’s grace and the Spirit’s power. What would Renee need from us? But as Dan, Cindi, and I walked into her front door, we all knew immediately we were in for something completely unexpected. We were in for a rare treat.
As we walked through the door, Renee greeted us with a radiant smile and a warm, prolonged hug. She was truly excited to see us, though we had never met. Immediately, I felt at ease. As we talked with Renee in her kitchen, we could see physical signs that cancer and chemotherapy had ravaged her body. She introduced us to her sister Mimi, who helped arrange our visit and to her daughter and son-in-law who came for the day. “Can you believe that they drove all the way from Kalamazoo just to clean my house?” she exclaimed.
As we moved into her living room, we could hear a vacuum cleaner running in a back room. Renee began to talk about her family as we looked at a picture of her four daughters on a shelf in a prominent place in the room. As I understood her, only one was a biological daughter. The other three were girls that she and her husband had taken in over the years. They had come to be their daughters through love, care, and an open home. She explained that the daughter who was cleaning her home was a girl they took in 18 years ago when she was 15 years old. Her life was riddled with pain and abuse and Renee and her husband opened their lives and home to this girl in need.
Renee talked about her husband who had passed away a few years prior. She looked forward to seeing him again in heaven. She joked about the things she wanted to say to him and hoped that heaven had been a good place for him the last few years. Renee told us stories of her life while using words like “blessed” and “grateful” throughout. It was obvious to me that this woman is traveling the final days of her life with joy, contentment, and uncommon peace.
Cancer was stealing physical comfort from her, but it could not steal her love for each moment she had breath. Inwardly, I asked myself, “What prepares a person to face their death with such ease and comfort?” I’ve concluded that Renee must be a person who lives in constant gratitude for the blessings God gives her. Her gratitude spills out into generosity. She knows that God has blessed her with the purpose of her being a blessing to others. Living with that heart-perspective has led her to finish well with joy and dignity.
As we go through this series on the Jewish festivals, I’ve wondered about the lives of those who celebrated these holidays faithfully. What principles did they live by as a result of these celebrations? Well, I think Renee helped me answer that question. Think about the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. This was another festival that celebrated the harvest. The principle that God wanted to instill in his nation was to give thanks to the Giver who had again provided for their needs. He wanted the people to then share some of that provision with the poor and those traveling through their region. In Leviticus 23, God lays out an elaborate way for them to offer their sacrifice of gratitude for the harvest. It included them offering to God wheat, bread, lambs, bulls, and goats. It appears to be a generous offering back to God their provider. But, there was more.

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 23.22

Interesting thing to add to the end of a festival description, isn’t it? God wants his people to experience his provision and blessing with grateful hearts, gratitude that spills over into generosity to God, and to others in need.
Renee became of hero of mine yesterday in that regard. She’s a woman who has lived these principles for a lifetime. She can now pass into the arms of the Giver with joy and ease. I’m grateful for that hour with Renee and hope she can encourage and minister to me more in her final days. It was a pleasure to learn a lesson about gratitude and generosity from this special lady.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Cold Shower

An old friend of mine tells the best rescue story I’ve ever heard.  I wish you all could hear him tell it but let me give it a try. 
Kurt and his wife Ginger had been vacationing in the Upper Peninsula’s Keweenaw lakeshore.  Kurt had just packed up his boat and gear as they prepared for the 10 hour journey home.  As he loaded his van, something caught his eye out in Lake Superior.  It was a canoe.  He had noticed that particular canoe earlier tooling around close to shore.  It was a dad with his two young sons.  What grabbed Kurt’s attention was how far out the canoe was now and how choppy the lake had become since the last time he saw it. Kurt reached in his bag for some binoculars.  Something in him told him that that they could be in trouble. He wanted to be sure they were alright.  Lake Superior conditions are known to change quickly for the worse and this man’s boat was not equipped to handle the increased chop.  Looking through his glass, Kurt’s fears for this family were realized.  They had drifted too far from shore and the canoe could no longer navigate the waves.  The boys were hunkered down in the bottom of the canoe as dad, looking very tired, fought with all he had to fight the current back to shore.
While Kurt unpacked his boat from the top of his van, Ginger began to make 911 calls. Kurt also had a canoe but his was equipped with a small engine.  He hoped it had enough power to carry the waves.  Ginger got word from emergency personnel that the closest rescue boat was over an hour away.  They would continue to look for help in the area but it was appearing that this family had to survive for at least another hour.  Kurt was convinced he had to help and as he put his boat in the water a couple walking the shoreline stopped to see what he was up to.  Kurt explained the situation and a man Kurt had never met, climbed into Kurt’s front seat of the canoe.  
As they navigated the chop to go find the father and his sons, Kurt noticed his boat was taking on water.  He knew that this rescue would need to be quick and efficient for anyone to survive.  He began to feel his life and the life of the stranger in the front of his boat were now at risk. They found the family fairly quickly but as they came along side the other canoe, they noticed it filled with water and the dad was now outside the canoe.  Kurt and his friend began to move the boys from the swamped canoe to his and then the dad from the side.  But with every movement they made, waves crashed into Kurt’s boat taking on more water. It too was becoming swamped and before long, all five people were submerged in the water.  Cold water.  40 degree, cold water.  Kurt knew that hypothermia was just minutes away for each of them, so he pulled everyone together and asked them to link their arms through another person’s life-vest straps.  Perhaps this would help conserve body heat but Kurt was thinking that this would also help those doing body recoveries.  Based on when the rescue boats were expected to arrive in the area, he was convinced they weren’t going to make it. 
But as any hope began to drift, something amazing happened.  Out of nowhere, a police boat appeared.  This particular boat was not supposed to be available that day but when they heard the calls on the radio they put their boat in the water and started a search.  Not knowing exactly where to look, they set out in a general direction to see if they could help.  That general direction led them in a straight line to the two swamped canoes.  Within moments, all five were out of the water and treatment for hypothermia began.  Everyone would survive.  Everyone was rescued.
One of the most compelling parts of this story was something Kurt said he does to remember that day.  He told me that on a frequent basis he’ll stand in the shower and turn off all the hot water.  He’ll stand for minutes in the coldest shower he can endure.  When I asked him why he does that, he said “I never want to forget how cold Lake Superior water was.  I never want to forget what I was rescued from.” 
Thousands of years ago, God put dates on the Jewish calendar for celebration.  One of those dates was for the Passover Feast.  In essence, this date was similar to our 4th of July.  This was a celebration of the freedom they were given from their slavery in Egypt.  They had been delivered; they had been rescued!  Each year, they were to remember what they were delivered from by acting out the events that God orchestrated for them to be set free.

Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household…. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.

That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast…This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

At Passover each year, they were to take their best lamb and kill it.  They were then to paint their door posts with the blood.  The lamb could be eaten but they needed to eat with travel clothes on.  Interesting dinner, isn’t it?  In a way, God is asking them to stand in a cold shower.  He wants them to feel the fear and pain of the past.  He wants them to feel the life and death urgency of their ancestors burden of slavery.  He wants them to never forget what they were rescued from. 
We too have been slaves; slaves to our sin.  God has again provided a dramatic rescue.  Some of us have been rescued out of the ugly mire of our sin.  We’re in a swamped boat, cold and clinging to life. We’ve been plucked out of the middle of our broken mess.  Others of us have been rescued from a sinful mess.  It’s like we’re tooling along the lakeshore as the wind blows and waves pound.  God rescues us before we can drift deep into danger.   Either way, we are all rescued!
So how do you mark your salvation?  What causes you to remember the pain of your past slavery?  How do you celebrate the joy of the freedom that was gifted to you through God’s dramatic rescue of you?  Think about what your cold shower could be this week.  



Monday, November 26, 2012

The First and Best

I always found it interesting that the only time the really nice dishes came out of the cupboard was when “company” was coming over. Mom’s good China dishes and fancy glasses were used almost exclusively when guests joined us for Sunday dinner. In reality, I didn’t really care about the dishes we ate on, I only cared about the food that would land on my plate. But, I also noticed that the best food was served when company was over. My dad was a pastor of a small country church when I was growing up and mom was a wonderful pastor’s wife. She viewed her role in supporting dad’s ministry as being warm and hospitable, opening up our home to guests on a very frequent basis. These guests would get the best we had to offer— the best dishes, the cleanest house, the choicest cuts of meat from the freezer, and a killer dessert.

I didn’t mind all the special attention that was given to company, the benefits were obvious to a growing boy who loved to eat. I knew it would be the best meal of the week. But, there was a moment at the beginning of each of these meals that would trigger a bit of concern in me. You see, there was this rule in our home that guests would be served first. After the prayer, each dish on the table would be lifted from the table and handed to the guests. I wasn’t to take anything until our guests were served. So, when that platter of fried chicken was placed on the table, I would eyeball the best piece hoping it would still be there when the platter got to me. I hated the idea that our guests got the first shot to grab the best piece. Selfish and petty, I know, but that was my boyish, child-like mindset in those situations. Looking back though, I can’t remember not getting a satisfying portion of all the food offered at any meal. In fact, we always had enough for seconds and even thirds.
No one taught me how to feel and think that way. Selfishness and self-protection came natural to me. I think it came from a primal, fleshy view of life that says, “Get what you want and deserve, then protect it with all you have.” Ironically, being generous, hospitable, and selfless had to be taught and learned. Those principles of living didn’t come naturally.
As God formed his chosen nation, Israel had to learn the same lessons. God wanted them to be distinct, set apart, and different from every other nation on the planet. Every other nation had a “get all you can and protect it” mindset but God’s people were to stand apart from this selfish life-view. God wanted them to realize that all they had came from the generous loving hand of God; and he wanted them to trust him to provide on a continual basis.

This principle was clearly seen in the festivals, or the celebrations, that God placed on their yearly calendar. The Festival of the Firstfruits was a time God set for them to express their joy and gratitude for their annual harvest. In essence, God tells them to throw a party because the harvest was gathered and it was good—God had provided them with what they needed in abundance. But what’s interesting about this celebration is what God asks them to do before they enjoy the fruits of the harvest. Check this out:

When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest… you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the Lord a lamb a year old without defect, together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with olive oil—a food offering presented to the Lord, a pleasing aroma—and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine. You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. (Excerpts from Leviticus 23.9-14.)

I find that interesting. Before they could enjoy the fruit of their harvest, God asks them to give back their first and their best. Why? I think it’s because they were like me at that the table with the platter of fried chicken. They needed to be taught to trust that God had provided more than enough, even when their best had been given away. The alternative was for them to give from their leftovers. How would that reflect the heart of God?
Hundreds of years later, God demonstrated this principle of giving the first and the best in the most dramatic way. Mankind had a sin problem that could only be resolved with God giving something of high value. He gave his Son—his first and his best.  Jesus, the Son of God, the second member of the Trinity, came in humble fashion as a baby. This baby grew into a man, the Messiah, who died an unimaginable death to pay the penalty we owe for our sins. Jesus was the ultimate lamb without defect. Now that Jesus, the ultimate firstfruits offering is given, we can celebrate life—eternal life.  I’m so glad God gave from his first and best and not from his leftovers.
So, how does the principle of firstfruits affect the way you give? Are you giving your first and best from the resources God has provided you? Or, do you give from what’s left over after you’ve grabbed the best from the platter?  Something to ponder this week.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Wiggley Bat

Over the next couple of months, I’ll be using some of my disposable time in a batting cage. Baseball season doesn’t start until March, but the winter months offer a great opportunity for players to work on their hitting. Hitting a baseball is a very mechanical, athletic motion that takes a lot of repetition to master and fine tune. And because of that, the mechanics can easily break down and bad habits set it.
Last winter, I coached a high school player who had the habit of wiggling his bat incessantly as he waited for the pitch to be thrown. I’m not sure where he picked up this habit. He may have seen a major league player do it or it may just have been a nervous tick he developed. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wiggling your bat, unless it negatively affects the outcome of your swing. It was obvious that this little habit was no help to him as he struggled to make solid contact, swing after swing. So, I put a ball on a tee and gave him one instruction, “As you get into your hitting stance, focus on a quiet, still bat. Then, just hit the ball.” After some tee work, I threw him some live pitches, giving him reminders and gentle corrections along the way. By the time we finished, his hitting was much better and the wiggle was gone. He beamed with confidence. All he needed to do was to simplify his approach to break a habit that was negatively affecting his performance.
A week or so later, I noticed that this little bat wiggle was back. This time, I held my correction back and I stood and watched him struggle. I wanted to see if he could figure it out and correct himself. I wanted to see if he changed his approach. Again, he was struggling to make solid contact. I asked myself, “Does he remember what we talked about? Does he realize what’s going on with his bat moving all over the place? Does he think he’s doing it right? Or… did he not believe me? Did he not think my correction was good and right for him?” After a few minutes, I stepped in and we started again. I’ve learned that repetition seems to be a key to coaching. Over time, he’d get it without my help.
When we began the New Testament Challenge this fall, we looked at this passage:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3.16-17
My coaching mind resonates with this verse. A big part of coaching is pointing out what needs correction and what needs further training. The goal is to be ready, equipped to do what the coach wants us to do. These verses tell us that God uses his Word to show me how to grow and improve in how I live. But, I think we struggle with the same issues my baseball player did with his wiggly bat. We listen to teaching but then forget what we’ve heard. We hear correction but when faced with an opportunity, our mind and body default to old, bad habits. We’re given instruction but we doubt that the guidance will really help.
As we finish the NTC this week, I hope we all have developed a new or better training habit of reading Scripture on a regular, if not daily, basis. But, reading is not enough to bring about transformation. We need to read in a way that we capture the principles in our mind and heart. And, we need to read with the attitude of wanting it to break our bad habits of living and to help us build new ones. Most importantly, we need to read so we can know the ultimate Coach and trust that his words are true, beneficial, and have our best in mind.