Monday, November 22, 2010

Weight Watchers

Don't be deceived by the title of this blog post. While some physical weight loss would be good for me right now, that is not the weight loss I am referring to.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12: 1 & 2 (ESV)

After reading the verse I posted you can probably tell already what I'm going to talk about. This is something I have been struggling with lately. I allow so many things to slow me down with my walk with God. All of us who are Christians should always be striving to move forward in our Christian life. Always trying to let the Lord work, and mold us into just the people God wants us to be...but truth be told, most of us are very resistant to this work of God in our lives. We rebel, we want to do things our own way.

Many of us would claim that we are trying our best to live our lives for God, but are we really? Are we truly, always trying to purge our lives of things that are displeasing to God, and pursuing those things that are pleasing to God?

I don't say all this because I believe I have already attained this level of Christian life...certainly not! I am definitely NOT perfect...but we, in our Christian life, should always be striving forward. Seeking to know God better, and please Him more everyday.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Philippians 3 : 12 - 16 (ESV)


Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Dragon


There was once a great and noble King whose land was terrorized by a crafty dragon. Like a massive bird of prey the scaly beast delighted in ravaging villages with his fiery breath. Hapless victims ran from their burning homes only to be snatched into the dragon's jaws or talons. Those devoured instantly were deemed more fortunate than those carried back to the creature's lair to be devoured at the dragon's leisure.

The King led his sons and knights in many valiant battles against the serpent. Each time they wounded the dragon and he retreated to his hidden lair deep in the mountains. While he healed, the kingdom would be at peace for a time. "Take courage," the King told his people. "One day the dragon will be slain." Riding alone in the forest during a period of calm, one of the King's sons heard his name purred low and soft. In the shadows of the ferns and trees, curled among the boulders, lay the dragon. The creature's heavy lidded eyes fastened on the prince, and the reptilian mouth stretched into a friendly smile.

"Don't be alarmed," said the dragon as gray wisps of smoke rose lazily from his nostrils. "I am not what your father thinks."

"What are you, then?" asked the prince, warily drawing his sword as he kept his fearful horse from bolting by pulling in the reins.

"I am pleasure," said the dragon. "Ride on my back and you will experience more than you ever imagined. Come now. I have no harmful intentions. I seek a friend, someone to share flights with me. Have you never dreamed of flying? Never longed to soar in the clouds?" The sunlight glistened with an iridescent sheen on the dragon's metallic green scales. "Bring your sword for security if you wish, but I give my word no harm will come to you."

Visions of soaring high above the forested hills drew the prince hesitantly from his horse. The dragon unfurled one great webbed wing to serve as a ramp to his ridged back. Between the spiny projections the prince found a secure seat. Then the creature's powerful wings snapped twice and launched them into the sky. Once aloft the dragon wafted effortlessly on the wind streams. The prince's apprehension melted into awe and exhilaration.

From then on, he met the dragon often, but secretly, for how could he tell his father, brothers, or the knights that he had befriended the enemy? The prince feltseparate from them all. Their concerns were no longer his concerns. Even when he wasn't with the dragon he spent less time with those he loved and more time alone.

The skin on the prince's legs became calloused from gripping the ridged back of the dragon, and his hands grew rough and hardened. He began wearing gloves to hide the malady. After many nights of riding, he discovered scales growing on the backs of his hands as well. With dread he realized his fate were he to continue, and so he resolved to return no more to the dragon.

But, after a fortnight, he again sought out the dragon, having been tortured with desire. And so it transpired many times over. No matter what his determination, the prince eventually found himself pulled back, as if by the cords of an invisible web. Silently, patiently, the dragon always waited.

One cold, moonless night their excursion became a foray against a sleeping village. Torching the thatched roofs with fiery blasts from his nostrils, the dragon roared with delight when terrified victims fled from their burning homes. Swooping in, the serpent belched again and flames engulfed a cluster of screaming villagers. The prince closed his eyes tightly in an attempt to shut out the carnage, but the agonized cries and smell of burning flesh assailed him. The dragon's long neck snaked and spasmed as he crunched bone and devoured his roasted prey. The prince retched and clung miserably to his spiny perch.

In the predawn hours, when the prince crept back from his dragon trysts, the road outside his father's castle usually remained empty. But, not tonight. Terrified refugees streamed into the protective walls of the castle.

The prince walked among bedraggled women carrying wailing children with gashes from the dragon's talons. Some victims, too badly wounded or burned to walk, were brought in carts or dragged on makeshift pallets. The prince's heart was torn. Their pain brought tears to his eyes and shame to his soul. "What have I become?" he asked himself. At that moment, he wanted even more desperately to be free of the dragon.

Perhaps his father, in all his wisdom, could help. But the prince feared that the truth would make him abhorrent in his father's sight. Surely he would be disowned, exiled, or perhaps even condemned to death.

The castle bustled with frantic activity to care for the refugees thronged in the courtyard. The prince attempted to slip through the crowd to close himself in his chambers, but some of the survivors stared and pointed toward him.
"He was there," one woman cried out, "I saw him on the back of the dragon." Others nodded their heads in angry agreement. Horrified, the prince saw that his father, the King, was in the courtyard holding a bleeding child in his arms. The King's face mirrored the agony of his people as his eyes found the prince's.

The son fled, hoping to escape into the night, but the guards apprehended him as if he were a

common thief. They brought him to the great hall where his father sat solemnly on the throne. The people on every side railed against the prince.

"Banish him!" he heard one of his own brothers angrily cry out. "Flay him!" "Burn him alive!" other voices shouted.

As the King rose from his throne, bloodstains from the wounded shone darkly on his royal robes. The crowd fell silent in expectation of his decree. The prince, who could not bear to look into his father's face, stared at the flagstones of the floor.

"Take off your gloves and your tunic," the King commanded. The prince obeyed slowly, dreading to have his metamorphosis uncovered before the kingdom. Was his shame not already great enough? He had hoped for a quick death without further humiliation. Sounds of revulsion rippled through the crowd at the sight of the prince's thick, scaled skin and the ridge growing along his spine.

The King strode toward his son and the prince steeled himself, fully expecting a back-handed blow even though he had never been struck so by his father.

Instead, his father embraced him and wept as he held him tightly. In shocked disbelief, the prince buried his face against his father's shoulder.

"Do you wish to be freed of the dragon, my son?"

The prince answered in despair, "I have wished it many times, but there is no hope for me."

"Not alone," said the King. "You cannot win against the serpent alone."

"Father, I am no longer your son. I am half beast," sobbed the prince.

But his father replied, "My blood runs in your veins. My nobility has always been stamped deep within your soul. Nothing can take that from you."

With his face still hidden tearfully in his father's embrace, the prince heard the King instruct the crowd, "The dragon is crafty. Some fall victim to his wiles and some to his violence. There will be mercy for all who wish to be freed. Who else among you has ridden the dragon?"

The prince lifted his head to see someone emerge from the crowd. To his amazement, he recognized an older brother, one who had been lauded throughout the kingdom for his onslaughts against the dragon in battle and for his many good deeds. Others came, some weeping, others hanging their heads in shame. The sister who was known for her beautiful singing came, tearfully removing her slippers to reveal spiked scales on her feet.

The King embraced them all.

"This is our most powerful weapon against the dragon," he announced. "Truth. No more hiddenness. Alone you cannot resist him. Together you will prevail, for you draw strength from one another. Those of you who think yourselves immune to the serpent's wiles, beware lest you be the next to fall. Those ensnared, you must desire freedom more than the dragon's flight. The struggle will be long and fierce. Over time, you will choose more often against the dragon than for him until finally you go to him no more."

"Will the scales then be gone as well?" asked the sister, looking at her bared feet.

"No, my child," the King answered gently. "But, in time, they will fade. And one day, when the dragon is finally slain, all traces of the scales will disappear."

"Death to the dragon!" someone yelled from the crowd and a great cheer rose up in chorus, "Death to the dragon! Long live the King!"

From: Parables for Personal Growth
By: Dr. Melinda Reinicke

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Countdown has begun...and other thoughts...

So...does anyone notice a new box on my profile? I have a countdown going now 'til my enlistment is up. This was inspired by my Division Officer asking me the other day how many days I had 'til I was done in the Navy. I told him I hadn't started one yet...so he told me I should...because I guess he started his around day 1000 or something. Anyways...so that's how many days I have left! I'll probably be coming home sooner than that though, because I should be able to get some terminal leave...I might be home between 30 and 60 days prior to that. But we'll see how that goes.

Another update...I still haven't heard back from Northland about my application. Every time I receive an email from them, it's just telling me that the application is "in review." They also said I should know within the next couple of weeks if I got accepted or not. Literally, the second I wake up in the morning I check my email to see if I have an email from Northland, and also again when I come home during lunch. So...if you think of me, please pray that the Lord gives me patience!

Also, God has impressed on my heart some things lately that I feel I need to share. I have talked about this before, but I just wanted to bring up some more examples to support it. The topic is keeping Jesus Christ as the foundation upon which we base our faith.

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 3:11

I see it so often in the Navy. Someone will have their faith based on their feelings, or on others...but those foundations do not last. People who depend on their feelings, or their family and friends...they will fall. I remember before I joined the Navy, I was telling people that I believed the Navy would either make me, or break me. I think now, reflecting on the past three years...it kind of did both. It broke me down, so that I could be rebuilt. Well, I guess that Navy can't take credit for that change...that was all God. The Lord has taught me how to let Him be my foundation for my faith...because if I hadn't, I never would have made it this far, still trying my best to live for Christ. It was an often painful ride, and it surely isn't over...I still have a lot more to learn!

Christ is the only lasting foundation...He will never let us down, He will never fail us.

Alright...well that's all for now. I hope, and pray that what God has taught me, might be a blessing to you!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Who'll take the son?

A wealthy widowed man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.

When the Viet Nam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

Later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly.

He often talked about you, and your love for art." The young man held out his package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."

The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture.

"Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift." The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.

The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection. On the platform sat the painting of the son.

The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?" There was silence.

Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."

But the auctioneer persisted, "Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding - $100, $200?"

Another voice shouted angrily, "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!"

But still the auctioneer continued, "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?" Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting."

Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. "We have $10, who will bid $20?", the auctioneer continued.

"Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters."

"$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?" asked the auctioneer. The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.

The auctioneer pounded the gavel. "Going once, twice! SOLD for $10!"

A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!"

The auctioneer laid down his gavel, "I'm sorry, the auction is over."

"What about the paintings?" - the angry crowd yelled.

"I am sorry, said the auctioneer, "when I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this moment. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"

God gave his Son, Jesus, 2000 years ago to die on a cruel cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is, "The Son, the Son, who'll take the Son?"

Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything.
--Author unknown.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

True repentance has a distinct and constant reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. If you repent of sin without looking to Christ, away with your repentance. If you are so lamenting your sin as to forget the Savior, you have a need to begin all this work over again. Whenever we repent of sin, we must have one eye upon sin and another upon the cross; or, better still, let us have both eyes upon Christ, seeing our sin punished in him, and by no means let us look at sin except as we look at Jesus. A man may hate sin just as a murderer hates the gallows but this does not prove repentance if I hate sin because of the punishment, I have not repented of sin; I merely regret that God is just. But if I can see sin as an offense against Jesus Christ, and loathe myself because I have wounded him, then I have a true brokenness of heart. If I see the Savior and believe that those thorns upon his head were put there by my sinful words; if I believe that those wounds in his heart were pierced by my heart-sins; if I believe that those wounds in his feet were made by my wandering steps, and that the wounds in his hands were made by my sinful deeds, then I repent after a right fashion. Only under the cross can you repent. Repentance elsewhere is remorse, which clings to the sin and only dreads the punishment. Let us then seek, under God, to have a hatred of sin caused by a site of Christ's love.

-Charles Spurgeon

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Please Vote Today!

Alright, so one cool thing that they do for military members, is they do this thing where they expedite our absentee ballots. I turned in my absentee ballot a couple of weeks ago, and I just check on it, and it has been delivered to Jefferson, Ohio...the county seat of my county (Ashtabula). So...I can honestly say that I have voted!

If you can vote, have you? Do you plan on it? I don't care what your party affiliation...every American needs to vote! All the people in the past who have gone to war...they went to war so that we could maintain that freedom. We are doing them a disservice by not voting. So...I hope this doesn't come too late...as it is already early morning of election day back in the states, but I encourage everyone who reads this before the polls close...please go out and vote!