Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Simple Gospel

This past Sunday wrapped up our annual week-long Missionary Conference. Typically the way this works is the missionary speaks to the congregation; the congregation provides new or continued prayer and financial support, and; the missionary goes back to the field. The missionary's message is usually along the lines of, "This is what I did in the field; these were the results, and; please continue to support me."

Missionaries, those who are called, are all called to the same purpose. Jesus gave that call in Acts 1:6-8, "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."

Quite simply, we have received power of the Holy Ghost to be witnesses everywhere. Witnesses to what? The gospel. That is given to us simply in I Corinthians 15:1-6, "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep."

From these few passages just shared I want to focus on two bits that perhaps you wonder why I included. For instance, what does Acts 1:6-7 have to do with the call and what does I Corinthians 15:6 have to do with the Gospel? I'm glad you asked.

First I will tell you what I personally have to do with this. God has called me to minister to the Church, to call them to "awake unto righteousness and sin not" and to be ready at all times for the Lord's coming for His Bride (us). When I hear missionaries or other witnesses speak anything other than the simple truth of the gospel, I fear for them and the unsaved listeners. No other words will God use than His own in the salvation of a sinner. No other words will He use than His own to wake up a sleeping Christian to repentence.

God is telling us in Acts 1:6-7 that the kingdom is coming. Therefore we have a job to do to be used of Him to usher it in. God tells us in I Corinthians 15:6 what happens to us when we don't do this work according to His Word and commandment. Quite simply, when we don't proclaim the gospel in it's pure simplicity, we fall asleep.

This is quite on purpose. God does not want His Word compromised, added to, taken away from, or changed in any way. It is HIS Word. And so mercifully He puts some to sleep that they continue not in this sin. God desires that they be awake and bold in the Word.

The missionaries I heard just on Sunday spoke of things that are not the Gospel. They are fleshy things like quotes of our culture, personal experiences, feelings about God, "Christian-ese", words that are not bold, and do not speak the name of our Lord Jesus Christ nor His exclusive role as Savior. Rather, they speak of experiences, blessings, and numbers. I am really not so concerned with what they said however. My wife thought I was getting too deep into it. I said, "No, I am trying to stay simple. All I was listening for was the simple Gospel and the bold proclamation of the name of Jesus and the power of such." It's not what they said, it's what they didn't say.

I have prayed many years for the remnant. I will pray no more for them (slight detour here for a moment).

The "remnant" as I find it in Scripture applies strictly to Israel. My use of the word up until now was incorrectly applied to the Church, the wheat of God's kindom. So from now on, I will simply refer to the Church as the Church. I will pray for them. I will pray also for the remnant. (Now back to the post.)

My prayer for the Church is to intercede on their behalf when God brings before me such situations as this past Sunday. This ministry of intercession is well described by Oswald Chambers in today's "My Utmost for His Highest":

"If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give him Life for them that sin not unto death." 1 John 5:16

If we are not heedful of the way the Spirit of God works in us, we will become spiritual hypocrites. We see where other folks are failing, and we turn our discernment into the gibe of criticism instead of into intercession on their behalf. The revelation is made to us not through the acuteness of our minds, but by the direct penetration of the Spirit of God, and if we are not heedful of the source of the revelation, we will become criticizing centres and forget that God says - ". . . he shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death." Take care lest you play the hypocrite by spending all your time trying to get others right before you worship God yourself.

One of the subtlest burdens God ever puts on us as saints is this burden of discernment concerning other souls. He reveals things in order that we may take the burden of these souls before Him and form the mind of Christ about them, and as we intercede on His line, God says He will give us "life for them that sin not unto death." It is not that we bring God into touch with our minds, but that we rouse ourselves until God is able to convey His mind to us about the one for whom we intercede.

Is Jesus Christ seeing of the travail of His soul in us? He cannot unless we are so identified with Himself that we are roused up to get His view about the people for whom we pray. May we learn to intercede so whole-heartedly that Jesus Christ will be abundantly satisfied with us as intercessors."

The sin of which I speak is not unto death for God desires these to wake up and sin not. He has called them to be witnesses. Rather than focus on their words alone, I shall focus on the need of God for them. Get right with God and He shall pull the Word from them and it shall be pure.

You see my friends by my own admission that I was guilty of the same thing, so I must be no hypocrite, but rather an intercessor. We must all watch with certain tongues, for God says in Proverbs 18:21, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof." This power can only be His own Word.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Jesus says in Luke 10:17-21, "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight."

I have to confess something to you for your admonition and encouragement. Walking in the Spirit without sin, clothed in His purity and holiness, feels good. I mean it feels really good. So good in fact that I can get caught up in the feeling itself. God then has to reprove me for taking this feeling to the flesh. That is not where it belongs in the life of a mature believer. And so, having woken up only about five years ago, I now find that in some areas of my nearly 30 years of Christian life, I am still immature, a babe.

That is what Jesus is saying to His followers here. Don't hold onto the feeling. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Keep perspective. God allows these feelings, and in fact reveals them to "babes" like me, in order to help us to grow. Turn that feeling into rejoicing. Worship the Lord in the beauty of that holiness.

And this leads to my second confession. I am constantly asked by God, "Worship me." I try so hard, but I'm not sure at all what I am supposed to do. I examine the Scriptures closely but the answer seems elusive to me. There are two verses that are quite direct and yet still the meanings are dark. I absolutely love going through this. God is teaching me and I am thrilled. I want to know how to worship Him the way He deserves and desires. That is in spirit, in truth, in the beauty of holiness. While I understand these three, and know that I am in that state, or need to get there when God prompts me, I sense there is just one more thing missing.

You see, the meaning of the word "worship" according to Strong's is:

1) to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence
2) among the Orientals, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence
3) in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication
used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank
-to the Jewish high priests
-to God
-to Christ
-to heavenly beings
-to demons

I wonder, is it that simple? Is God calling me to such a position? I have but one reference point to go by and it is most powerful:

God says in Philippians 2:9-11, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

There are times of intense prayer when this comes to mind by the Spirit, I speak aloud to God, and at that Name, I cannot but help go to my knees and confess "that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." I simply cannot help but obey that call.

I think that worship should be just as powerful. While I am not asking for a feeling to follow, I am looking for a fact from the Bible. I want to worship God in maturity, spending time with Him in the same place He has my name written. I do not want to hinder worship for not knowing its proper position. Is it the hand, the knees, or flat out? Perhaps all three. Perhaps otherwise.

Why do I question this? Because the meanings provided by Strong's are cultural. I want what is absolutely Biblical, right from God. Let's take the first example of the use of the word "worship" in the Bible.

It's found in Genesis 22:5, "And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you."

How did Abraham know what to do? The meaning of the word, this time in Hebrew, according to Strong's is:

1)to bow down
(Qal) to bow down
(Hiphil) to depress (fig)
-to bow down, prostrate oneself 1c
-before superior in homage 1c
-before God in worship 1c
-before false gods 1c
-before angel

So it's pretty much the same thing and is quite consistent in use throughout the Bible.

How did Abraham know to bow down? God didn't tell him to bow down. He told Abraham to make an offering of his son Isaac.

I think that in one sense Abraham's first action was that of an immature babe. He simply took God at His word and obeyed by faith. For that reason, God blessed Abraham ("...because thou hast obeyed my voice." - Genesis 22:18b) But God also provided for Abraham because Abraham believed God. God provided for him not only righteousness, but also the ram caught in the thicket.

You see, this is God's way of helping us to grow up. He wants us to believe and obey with childlike faith. The moment we do, God has held in store something far greater for us because now He knows He can trust us with a greater blessing. God does not do this with immature believers. He won't entrust the greater blessing to those who hold onto the feelings of God's initial blessing.

So I conclude this my friends: I will worship when I am called. I will rejoice. I will worship in the beauty of holiness, in spirit, and in truth. And I will do it on my face. The rest I will leave up to God, for I believe now as a simple child that I should obey what I know from God. He will correct me if necessary. But we'll go no further on this point until I do the simple thing.

This is true of any Christian discipline.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm Stuck

Much of what I believe and teach hinges upon the reality of the Body of Christ, His Church. We are defined in Colossians 1:18a, "And he is the head of the body, the church," and 1:24b, "...his body's sake, which is the church." The word "church" in Greek is Ekklesia and it has but two meanings in the New Testament: church (115 uses)or assembly (3 uses). The Greek Lexicon basically defines this as a group of people gathered together in a particular place. This is where I get stuck.

An entire doctrine known as the local church has been built around this word and its definition. The doctrine focuses on the place of the church rather than the people. The people are a matter of fact but the place is what has significance. Additional portions of the doctrine include church authority, leadership, discipline, sacraments, gifts, and so on.

My position is just the opposite. The locality of the church is insignificant to the people. Without people, the church simply does not exist. This is a matter of existential precedence. God's churches happen to be wherever God's people happen to be. And simply because we live and die, so do church locations.

But there are other reasons why churches come into and go out of existence. The Book of Revelation keenly describes seven specific churches. The church at Sardis was warned in Revelation 3:5, "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels." God is not addressing a place but a people. Places have no place in the Lamb's Book of Life.

Well I could go on and on with examples from both sides of the argument. But it seems to be that the folks on the "place" side of the argument consistently bring in one argument, "my church" or "my denomination". They base their argument of doctrine upon the rightness of their organization, theology, statement of belief, catechism, or some other place-oriented thing.

What I find troubling with this approach is that it is contrary to Biblical authority because it attempts to supercede Biblical teaching. I have yet to read an argument from anyone, even respected teachers, who does not in the same paragraph associate the authority of his words with his particular church/denomination organization. Yet in the very same paragraph or adjacent, he will also emphatically state that we must all nevertheless accept what we believe is "most Biblical". Well folks, you just can't have it both ways.

So what I am really looking for is a dissertation of Biblical teaching on this subject. I could care less what organization it comes from and would prefer not to know that particular bias. We have made entirely too much show of our church facades and this has ultimately shadowed the true beauty of the Church Body, its people.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quick and Powerful

Since 1980 I have been training in the martial art of Tae Kwon Do. Just about anybody who does martial arts thinks very highly of Bruce Lee. Folks who enjoy Kung Fu theater definitely enjoy watching him even if they cannot emulate him. I picked up a book just before heading to Japan so I could have an interesting and possibly beneficial (physically) read during my month-long stay. "Bruce Lee's Fighting Method - The Complete Edition" by Bruce Lee (himself) and M. Uyehara fit the bill perfectly.

Who better to learn from than the master himself? During his brief life, Bruce Lee was considered the best martial artist in the world. He started his training in the traditional kung fu arts of his native China. He became so good that he began to develop and perfect his own style known as Jeet Kune Do. After a while his desire was to share his knowledge and art with the western world. He wanted to do this not just in the movies but especially in his own training schools.

Unfortunately he met a lot of resistance from the Chinese masters. They did not want westerners to learn the ways of the east. Even today, many believe we are incapable of learning the martial arts. I personally believe that is true in the sense that we typically do not learn the philosophical and cultural aspects of the arts. However, the physical aspects have definitely caught on here in the US over the last 40 years, thanks in large part to one of Lee's friends, Chuck Norris.

Bruce Lee's fighting method was definitely unconventional. Just about everything I learned in Tae Kwon Do I have thrown away to learn Jeet Kune Do. Unfortunately, two things are happening: First, I have no master to teach me, and; second, I find myself totally uncoordinated it seems as I learn all new moves and ways of thinking. I wish Bruce was still alive and by my side to teach me. It's quite difficult to do it slowly in a mirror.

Bruce said in his book that this is in fact a terrible way to train (as I just read today so now I better stop it). He said that he never heard of a world class sprinter train to win a race by walking around the track. Likewise, the Jeet Kune Do fighter will not learn to be quick and powerful unless he trains quickly and powerfully all the time.

As I pondered all this today while riding in a bus to another city, some excellent counsel from the Lord came to me. Perhaps you have already picked up on some of the connotations.

It is difficult to learn a martial art by reading a book and looking at still pictures. Yet in the Christian life, our major tool of learning is a book with no pictures at all. What is the difference? Why is the Bible so quick and powerful and why do we see the results from reading it in such quick and powerful ways? Let's look at the Scripture.

God says in Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

The answer is because the target of all Scripture is our spirit and mind. These two elements of our triune being direct our actions. This is what God says in Proverbs 23:7a, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:" We are what we think. We do what we think. And we think at the speed of light (literally).

The other big difference between the efficacy of reading the Bible and any other book is the fact that the Bible is literally a living Person. It is not mere words on paper or mental banks. God says in Revelation 19:13b, "and his name is called The Word of God." Who is this talking about? That answer is found in John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

This is one of my favorite truths in all the Bible. The Word of God is quick (alive) because Jesus is the Word and Jesus is alive. He says so in John 11:25b, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:"

There is no life in "Bruce Lee's Fighting Method". It's just a method. Words on paper. Very difficult to get into the mind and out through the body. Having a master by your side makes it much easier but that master is dead. But my Master, my Lord Jesus, is alive and dwells within me by His Holy Spirit. And His Spirit teaches me everything just as He says in I John 2:27, "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." No matter how hard I try to imagine him there speaking the words of his book to me, Bruce Lee just isn't there to help. Even if another were to come along and teach me personally, it just would not be the same as having Bruce teach me himself. He was the master and is still considered unmatched today.

The other thing that occurred to me today, and this is something new, is how all this helps me with combating random thoughts. We all have this battle. We can be right with the Lord, even in the middle of worship when out of nowhere comes an evil thought. These wicked things come from that old dead man trying to get up. To keep him down and dead, I need to act quickly and powerfully against him (the flesh). Formerly I would start to do things like:

Ask, "Now where did that filth come from?" or,

Try to convince myself that it was just one thought and it will go away on its own. After all, I was alright with God just a moment ago. But then I find throughout the day that one more thought comes along randomly, then another, then another, and then pretty soon it turns into wicked thinking. If left alone, that turns into wicked actions. Sin always works this way as God tells us in James 1:14-16, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren."

So now my desire and training is focused on quickly and powerfully putting to death even the very first random thought, just as with any sin of any magnitude. I have written much about this method so I will not fill the page here again (although I can barely resist the richness of the Word!). Just as Bruce taught (and why his method was so superior): the best fighter is he who is most quick and powerful. Speed and power come from short, straight-line punches and kicks.

God's Word works just like that too. The term "sharper than any two-edged sword" refers to a dagger actually. We think of swords as long metal blades while a dagger is a short blade. Swords slice but daggers pierce. Swords do widespread damage but daggers do precision cutting. That is what God's Word does - precision cutting. Short, straight to the heart words. Perhaps you have heard the term "spiritual surgery". That's what this means.

Thanks for letting me share a bit unconventionally today.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

We're all Insane

It's true. We are all losing our minds. Literally going insane. The root cause is spiritual adultery. What is that?

God provides a physical example along with the consequence in Proverbs 6:32, "But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul."

This "destruction of the soul" is literally insanity. It is the total corruption of the mind through the indulgences of the flesh. For the sinner, this cannot be helped. Is it no wonder that the world is mad? For the Christian however, the effect is the same although the Christian has the power to not sin and therefore stop the process of mental decay due to sin.

God tells us in Romans 7 with another physical example regarding marriage how it translates into spiritual reality. The physical marriage between man and woman is compared to the spiritual marriage between man and the law. So it is with adultery.

When we commit sin, we commit adultery. Why is this so? Because as Christians, we are betrothed to Jesus. According to the ancient culture and Word of God regarding this reality as pictured in Ephesians 5:25-27, our betrothal is as good as being married, even though the consummation is yet to come.

Therefore, to go back to the world, commit sin, or live under the law is adultery against our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. The result is the destruction of the mind.

But where sin did abound, there did grace much more abound. And we have the advantage over the world of getting our minds back. Here's how God does it:

"He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." - Psalm 23:3

"For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." - Romans 11:36-12:2

So you see, God restores our soul (mind) in righteousness. In addition, we must purposefully renew our minds through living sacrifice.

I can personally testify to the reality and efficacy of this Word. I destroyed my mind with sin (things that are not even to be spoken of) until God saved me at age 18. Since then, He restores it and I renew it daily. It is not of works but grace alone. Praise God.

PS -

I remembered another verse that is quite important and relevant here. Concerning wisdom and its personification of the Lord Jesus Christ, God says in Proverbs 8:36, "But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death." Here again is another very powerful statement regarding the effects of sin on the mind.

That word "wrongeth" literally means to do physical damage to. Sin destroys those little gray cells! This is something no medicine can cure, no drug can alter, no potion can diminish. Only the blood of Jesus can wash away all that sin and only then can God begin to reverse the effects.

Monday, March 2, 2009


One of my first blogs asserted that the Christian life is a full-time job. This was meant in the context of occupation, not just living by faith in whatever workplace. Most people disagreed with that position. I would like to revisit it today.

Right now God is taking me through a discipline of learning just how hard it is to live the Christian life He calls me to. (We are called in the same way I still contend, though I will write this blog today in the first person.) By living the Christian life in full time occupation I mean living a free, holy, sinless, righteous, worshipping, serving, ministering life before God with and among His Body of fellow believers who live likewise. (Yes, this sounds like some eutopia but hand on for a moment to gather in my Biblical rationale.)

The daily stuggle obviously centers around living either in obedience or sin. It is a matter, as God says in Romans 6:16, of yielding, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" I have the power by the blood of Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit to make this choice every moment of my life. This is something that no sinner has. While they are powerless to stop sinning, I am not. The question is, what does it take to do it?

The apostle Paul was by no means a super athlete. Yet God used through his pen so many examples of the athlete to describe the power, responsibility, and actions I must take in order to obey unto righteousness, that I awake (and remain awake) to righteousness and sin not (I Corinthians 15:34). Before I get to the Scriptures, I will describe an Olympian example of most of us are aware of.

Michael Phelps won eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics last year. His is just one of a handful of examples of those who could be classified as super athletes, the best of the best. They are truly a handful in number. For while there are hundreds of players out there, perhaps thousands, and thousands more over the centuries, only a few rise to the top classified as household names.

My aim here is not to become a household name. My aim is to worship God unhindered by sin. It is to serve the Body freely. It is to gather treasure in heaven to cast as crowns back to my Lord Jesus. As you will see, there is great profit in this both in this life and that which is to come.

Here are some excerpts of Phelps' training six to seven years ago before he became the biggest Olympic champion of all time. These are taken from "Swimming Technique", January - February 2003, as written by his coach Bob Bowman and Michael J. Scott. First, I assert that as the coach, Mr. Bowman is like a discipler, and Mr. Phelps is the disciple.

Mr. Bowman describes Phelps this way, "One component of Michael Phelps' phenomenal success is his "made-for-swimming" physique. But the main component is the carefully-crafted training program that his coach, Bob Bowman, has created for him."

God says in II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Our success in living the Christian life starts with this reality, that we are "made" for it by Jesus. We are new creatures. Second, we need to be discipled by a trainer.

The work of training/discipling is a two-sided coin. There is much personal responsibility that I have to modify the way I think. There is much work for those who make me a disciple to guide me along the way.

"Michael is much more disciplined than he was in his earlier days....he might have to do some things he didn't want to do, like train, sit still, pay attention and not talk....

These days, he's modified his behavior_either voluntarily or involuntarily....'you are going to do it in practice.'"

My thinking is modified as I obey Romans 11:36-12:2, "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

"Michael has an athletic mentality second to none. He is keenly competitive, and that's what drives him. In competition, he is incredibly focused and able to relax. The higher the level of competition, the better he is. That's something you just don't see very often.

What he needs to work on is the same thing he had to work on as a child: to strengthen the connection in his mind between what happens on a daily basis and how that affects what's going to happen when he gets in the big meet. He's better now and better than 90 percent of the population, but he still has those days_about once every six weeks_when he's tired, and it's a struggle for me to get him to do things and maintain the same intensity in workout that he gives in the big meets."

Now that Phelps is better than the entire population of this planet, we can see how this determination and focus paid off. But even the best get tired. Here's how Paul continued to strive:

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." - Philippians 4:13

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." - II Corinthians 12:9

"We continue to develop Michael as a complete swimmer."

I am already complete in Christ as God says in Colossians 2:10-12, "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." See how the constant mortification of sin must be done. We must work out our salvation in this way to develop our completeness.

"...we have spent a lot of time on endurance work, improving technical issues and gaining strength...."

"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." - II Timothy 2:3

"But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." - Matthew 24:13

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:1-2

"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." - I Peter 1:13-16

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." - Isaiah 41:10

"Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees." - Isaiah 35:3

"Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD." - Psalm 31:24

After all this, Mr. Bowman and Mr. Scott show the daily regimen of training that Michael Phelps uses. It is every day of his life. There are no breaks. It is morning, afternoon, and evening. No time off. Training and competition are his entire life. There is nothing he does that is not focused to this end. It is his full-time job.

The apostle Paul used athletic and military terms to often describe what it takes for us to live the Christian life. I think he used these terms because they are easily understood by the common man. Paul himself probably was not an athlete. He was a Pharisee and a sailmaker by trade. But as a keen observer of life and an astute practitioner of their methods, he learned to "keep under" his body (flesh).

"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." - I Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul lived this way, fought this way, and won this way. God did not provide us with an alternative. This is the way. It is hard. The knowledge of the way is simple. It is a matter of yielding to the flesh because it is easy, or yielding to obedience unto righteousness. God wants me and you and all of His saints to live this way, fight this way, win this way. "Failure is not an option." (Here's an interesting tidbit...the terms and their various derivatives "option" and "alternative" do not appear in Scripture. As I said in a blog a few weeks ago, I find this comforting and reassuring because it makes the way simple. It does not make the way easy, but it is simple to understand that there is only one way.)

"Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." - Matthew 7:14 If you are of the remnant, then you are of this few. Go through the gate with me, get on the way, find it, and finish strong.