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Are You Looking in the Windshield or the Rearview Mirror?

Do you ever just want to quit?  Walk away? Be done with it all?  Chuck it?  Leave it all behind? 

If you could see through a window into my soul, you might be surprised to discover how many times in the past I’ve counted out the years left before I can “hang up my spurs and saddle,” so to speak. 

No, I’m not leaving my day job.  Yes, I’m thrilled to serve in the capacity God has given me. 

However, let’s be honest. Who hasn’t dreamed about winning the lottery, stepping down and moving on to greener pastures?  This happens in marriage.  This happens with work.  This even happens with the Christian faith.

The older I get, the more I realize the truth of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (NIV).  When I was younger, I always had a vision of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to accomplish.  Now that I’m tipping the scale past the midway point, I find myself looking in the rear-view mirror more than through the front windshield. 

What do I need to do in those moments where life simply seems too hard to manage?  Keep my eyes on the prize.  Stay focused on the vision of where I’m headed.

D. A. Carson tells the story of Florence Chadwick who, in 1952, stepped off the beach at Catalina Island and into the water, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She was already an experienced long-distance swimmer: she was the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly on the day she set out; she could scarcely see the boats that would accompany her.  For fifteen hours she swam.  She begged to be taken out, but her trainer urged persistence, telling her again and again that she could make it, that the shore was not far away.  Physically and emotionally exhausted, she finally just stopped swimming, and she was pulled out.  The boats made for the shore, and she discovered it was a mere half-mile away. 

The next day she gave a news conference.  What she said, in effect, was this: “I do not want to make excuses for myself.  I am the one who asked to be pulled out.  But I think that if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it” (A Call to Spiritual Reformation, 61-62).

Can you see the shore? The shore of a stronger faith? The shore of a healthy marriage? The shore of a life well lived? Sometimes the fog of life’s circumstances prevents us from seeing our destination.  But this is where we pray to see with eyes of faith, believing that “the sun still shines, even when it’s hiding” (Winnie the Pooh).

I encourage you even now as you read these words: Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  Keep swimming.  The shore may be hidden from view but not from eyes of faith.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12, NIV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Our Mind Will Respond as It Has Been Trained

Do you want to change? Do you want to let go of that habit, sin, or burden that keeps holding you back? Do you want to have abiding peace and a heart filled with love?

I do. After years of trying, failing, trying, failing, and trying yet again, I found myself leading a Christian life of complacency because nothing I tried worked to break the cycle of sin, negative thinking, and discouragement.

Many people face the same dilemma. They long to change and try to change but slip right back into old sin patterns which leave them resigned to a fate of mediocre faith.

During my summer sabbatical, I read and reread a couple of books that have helped me chart a new course. I’m moving from pleading with God and begging Him to change me to the realization that He is already guiding me to a path of transformation through training my soul by training my mind.

In John Ortberg’s book, Soul Keeping, and James Bryan Smith’s book, The Good and Beautiful God, I’m learning that transformation from stagnation to health does not come through willpower alone. The will is merely our human capacity to choose. What informs our will are three elements: the mind, the body and our social context. All three are powerful resources that lead us back into our ruts of past behavior or forward into new trajectories of freedom and growth.

In Jesus’ first recorded sermon, he begins by saying, “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Repent, metanoia, means to change one’s mind. Jesus knew that transformation begins with the way we think. The Apostle Paul builds on this concept when he writes, “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). We are to “set our minds on things above” (Colossians 3:2). We are to have the same mind in us “that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

If my body is sending impulses to my brain (hunger, thirst, fatigue, lust), or if my social context (peer pressure) is tempting me to fall back into old sin patterns, my mind will respond—and here’s the key—as it has been trained. My mind guides my will which determines my choices, and I either move toward greater oppression or greater deliverance.

You might remember how Peyton Manning led the Colts in their win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. The game was played on a rain-soaked field with slippery footballs and mud-saturated cleats and jerseys. Rex Grossman, quarterback for the Bears, fumbled several times, but Peyton Manning never did. A few weeks after the Super Bowl an inquisitive reporter discovered that every few weeks Manning would practice with water-soaked footballs. What he did in practice enabled him to be ready for what he did in the game.

Training the mind to guide the will which determines our choices takes time, discipline, and consistency. This is why some church traditions call spiritual disciplines spiritual exercises. Just as we exercise physically to transform the body, we need to exercise the mind to transform the soul and finally find . . . freedom.

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith . . . for if you practice these qualities you will never fail” (2 Peter 1:5, 10 ESV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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