Tag Archives: pain

#aztecstrong #marshallstrong #churchstrong

Have you ever been in a situation where pain is imminent? Maybe you’re about to fall. Maybe you’re about to crash. Maybe one false move could cause loss of limb. In any case, your sensed are heightened, and you are keenly aware of every motion in effort to stave off the potential harm that could befall you. No longer are you drifting in semi-conscious automatic behavior. Now you are engaged, and your focus is keen.

How about another scenario. What do you do when you cut yourself badly? Let’s say you are in the kitchen cutting vegetables, and your finger gets in the way trying to pretend it’s one of the vegetables. The knife goes right to the bone. Do you continue in your course of action? NO! You immediately stop, and all your consciousness and efforts focus on stopping the bleeding and healing the wound. In fact, even as the wound heals, your body cannot help but remain focused on the sensitivity of the wound.

Pain focuses us. Terror unites us. Routine divides.

When I think of the terror of the Aztec and Marshall County High School shootings, it strikes me how unified the communities have become in the aftermath of the tragedies. People are reaching out to one another in ways they never would otherwise. Aztec is reaching out in prayer and support for Marshall County. Those two groups would never have even known each other. We are unified when we are singularly seeking to survive from similar circumstances. We have empathy and concern for one another, and we show it outwardly.

In the first century, the church was hemmed in on every side with persecution from a variety of groups that did not like how the Kingdom of God defines by selfless love threatened their power schemes. Christians were imprisoned and killed. People ran for their lives. But the church was growing. How could this be? It would seem the persecution would eradicate this loosely-banded group of misfits claiming such an outlandish story.

Instead of hurting the church, it actually caused its growth. People were unified in their drive to survive and invite others into a better way of love, and as the persecution came, they moved and continued to share, thus spreading the gospel to all the lands within a matter of about two years.

Tragedy and persecution united the church, and it grew.

Today the church is apathetic. Sure, you have ministers, pastors, evangelists, and a handful of people in each congregation that are actively trying to reach out with the good news of Jesus, but the majority of every church is apathetic concerning discipleship and righteous living.

When the church was being persecuted, you didn’t participate if you were unsure. You didn’t ride the fence because that would cost your life. You were either all in or all out. There was no place for another option. Those who were all in banded together in unity of purpose and message and turned the world upside down.

Today, churches are full of people who are riding the fence concerning their relationship with God. They aren’t atheists, but they aren’t sure they want to be fanatics about Jesus either. Thus the church merely survives rather than thriving as in the days of tragedy and persecution.

As the church continues day-to-day as it has for over two hundred years here in America, she becomes less and less energetic concerning the salvation of all mankind. She becomes complacent regarding righteousness. She becomes divisive when, in her boredom, she has more time to focus on petty arguments within her body than with survival and the central message of Jesus.

We must wake up. Just like a person who has become complacent regarding health needs to get back on an exercise and healthy-eating regimen, so the church needs to get healthy again. Away with the infighting. Away with the laziness. Away with the unrighteous behavior that makes church people indistinguishable from the world. Away with the lack of love.

Instead, let us be active. Let us follow the guidance of the Spirit and be lit on fire with passion for the salvation that only comes through Jesus. Let us love enthusiastically, and let us work together in our churches and in the community. Let us reach out to other communities of faith and, in unity, encourage one another and pray for one another as we singularly reach out into the world to spread the good news of hope in this life and in the life to come.

Today’s the day of renewal. Let’s not wait until persecution comes back.


A Goal In Mind


This coming June I will have an opportunity of a lifetime: Rafting the Grand Canyon. 

Jody and I will join Trenton Keeling and 14 others on a 277 mile, three week excursion to survive some of the biggest whitewater in the country amidst some of the most remote terrain on earth.  It looks to be an awe-inspiring trip with many opportunities to rejoice in the majesty of God. 

I won’t be able to go on the entire three week trip. Instead, I plan to hike down to Phantom Ranch (nearly ten miles of downhill) and join the group for the last two weeks.  

Recognizing that this trip will be more taxing than my usual office time behind the desk or lunch meetings with various people, I began last January to try and train for this adventure. I have run and run and run and mountain biked and hiked and done push-ups, squats, dips and sit-ups. None of this has been pleasant. 

In fact, sometimes it’s downright uncomfortable. One morning I needed to run, but it had snowed the night before, so I was running in wet shoes as I trudged through the snow across the bridges. The first time I began rowing training, it was 49° outside with a 30 mile per hour wind. I have been saddle sore and had aching tendons. I have sweat and sweat and sweat. I have turned town French fries with my meal! 

Today I’m supposed to join Trenton and Jody and raft through Durango. The high up there is a balmy 44°. I’ve never rowed through Durango.  This might be a near-hypothermic day.  

Yet I continue to train because I know what the end result needs to be. I need to be stronger. I need more skill. I need to lose weight. I need to be mentally prepared.  And I need to do whatever it takes to achieve these goals recognizing that the suffering I may endure is eclipsed by the benefit of having trained. 

Did you know that the apostle, Paul, uses similar terminology to refer to our life in Christ? 

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Do you see the language? Training. Discipline. Running. Goals. 

What’s your goal as a Christian? If you became a Christian because you simply wanted forgiveness of sins, you’re missing out on the greatest blessings of Christianity. Christianity should be about life transformation. We should daily be striving to follow the ways of Jesus. We should be reading how to live in His word, the Bible. We then be praying (it’s like drinking energy drinks or protein shakes for the soul) to find strength. Then we should be training – actively striving to put into practice what we have read from Jesus and seen in Jesus. 

A person who “gets saved” but doesn’t strive for a transformed life is in danger of falling back into the world. It is possible to walk away from God once you’ve “been saved”, but most of the time it doesn’t happen overnight. Most times falling away from God looks like spiritual apathy as a person claims Christianity but continues in the autopilot of living like the world. This leads back to spiritual death. 

So what’s your goal as a Christian? Do you want to grow in your life in Christ so as to enjoy all the blessings you’ve been given through Jesus? It’s going to take work, training, discipline. But it’s worth it. 

Hebrews 12:11-14

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

God bless you as you train. 


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