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Remember Who You Are

kingdom of heaven

Kingdom of Heaven was an average film with one above-average line.

In one scene, Jerusalem is besieged by a Muslim army that far outnumbers any Christians fit to fight. Balian, played by Orlando Bloom, prepares the city for the coming onslaught. One action he takes is to knight dozens of men on the eve of battle. He can’t find any experienced fighters, so he commands servants and farmers and craftsmen to kneel. He commits them to the task and proclaims, “Rise a knight!”

Watching this, the discouraged Patriarch of Jerusalem mockingly asks him, “Does making a man a knight make him a better fighter?”

Balian turns slowly to face the cynic and says simply, firmly, “Yes.”

No apology, no explanation, no defense for his actions.

“Yes.”

It’s a great film moment.

Remembering who you are in Christ makes you a better person. Maybe you’ve heard the choral piece called This Is My Destiny. The song lists all the ways God identifies who we are:

He calls me child.
He calls me to His side eternally.
He calls what once was lost now found,
once bound to sin set free.
He calls me holy,
calls me righteous,
by the blood redeemed.
He calls me overcomer,
crowned with victory.
This is my destiny!

A cynic may ask, “Does simply calling a man these things make him a better man?” Like Balian, we have no other argument, explanation, or apology. We simply say, “Yes!”

We need constant reminders of who we are in Christ, because Satan works hard to strip us of this exalted identity. Today, remember who you are—and live accordingly.

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Who’s On Your Fridge?

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“Can I take your picture?” Peter Bregman asked.  “I want you on my fridge.”

Bregman was talking with Marvin, a man in his 70s, working out with boxing gloves in the gym.  Bregman knew little about him, having just met him.  But the man’s energy and sunny outlook were an inspiration.  So he took his picture.

Which sparked a thought:  Why not start a collection?  “A collection of pictures of ordinary people, about whom I know very little, but who inspire me with some quality I want to nurture in myself.”  He wrote about it for Fast Company magazine.

What a great idea!  If your fridge displayed little snapshots of ordinary people who inspired you, whose pics would you post?

The practice wouldn’t just help us in our personal development.  It would also change what we decide to look for in others.  Bregman writes:

We focus on what people are doing wrong, on their weaknesses and shortcomings.  We gossip and complain.  We get frustrated and passive aggressive.  We find ourselves constantly surprised by the flaws of our colleagues:  How could he/she/they do that?

What if, instead — or at least in addition — we chose not to miss an opportunity to be inspired?  If we gossiped about things people did that energized us without fixating on the things that disappointed us?  If we looked for sparks that ignited our enthusiasm and incited our goodwill?  And if we allowed those sparks to light our fires of passion?

Believers, of all people, should be good at finding inspiring qualities in others.  The Bible informs us that every person is made in the image of God.  Yes, we are all fallen image-bearers who reveal our fallenness at every turn.  And yet everyone still has what Pascal called “rumors of glory.”  As Aslan told the children in Narnia, “You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve.  And that is honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.”

Shame and honor.  Both.  At the same time.

We should never forget the great capacity that fallen people have to disappoint — and plan accordingly.  And yet we should never forget whose image fallen people still bear — and catch our breath when we see it.

And, maybe, preserve the moment in a snapshot for our fridge.

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Shocking Revelation!

A routine of daily prayer and meditation is tough to develop. In fact, we’d rather apply electric shocks to ourselves than sit alone and think.

That’s the finding of a widely-reported study published in Science. When psychologists simply asked people to sit alone with their thoughts and report on the experience, few liked it. But would people so dislike sitting inactive that they’d rather engage in a mildly unpleasant activity? To find out, researchers left people alone in a room with nothing but an electrical shock device. Two-thirds of men and a quarter of women preferred to administer tiny jolts to themselves than do nothing. The average was about 7 times in 15 minutes, though one man managed 190 zaps in that time frame.

Blaise Pascal would not have been surprised. Even back in the 17th century he wrote, “If our condition were truly happy we should feel no need to divert ourselves from thinking about it.” Without distractions, we’re forced to examine the worth of our assumptions and behaviors and priorities. Maybe that’s why even those of us who are Christians prefer to start our day with our mobile devices instead of our Bibles.

But Jesus often withdrew from the crowd for private prayer (Matthew 26:36, Mark 1:35, Luke 9:18). If he found benefit from it, surely those who follow him will.

Don’t be afraid to start your day with a little prayer and Bible study! In my daily reading, I reflect on a text until I can answer three questions:

What do I need to praise God for?

What do I need to confess?

What do I need to ask God for?

It’s a simple routine to practice, but over time the results can be profound. Through this practice across the years I’ve uncovered assumptions I needed to change, or rebellions I needed to surrender, or new roads I needed to take.

Spend some time alone with God today. You may be—um—shocked at what you discover.




The Most Important Word You’ll Learn This Week

Boxing-London

Maybe you read about the South Korean woman who was granted her driver’s license after 960 tries. Her tenacity has given new meaning to a popular Korean term: sajeonogi.

It’s the most important word you’ll learn this week. But first, the driver’s license story.

The New York Times wrote about Cha Sa-soon, a 69-year-old widow who lives in a remote village in South Korea. She wanted to learn to drive so she could take her grandkids to the zoo without relying on the bus system. But Ms. Cha had limited reading skills, having begun school at 15 only to drop out for lack of funds a few years later. So, her biggest obstacle was the 50-minute written test consisting of 40 multiple-choice questions. She failed this exam 959 times, at a cost of $5 for each try.

But she never gave up, and she’s the proud owner of a driver’s license today. She’s also the proud owner of a $17,000 car from the people of Hyundai, who feature her on prime-time commercials in Korea.

The NYT piece says she’s become the embodiment of sajeonogi.

That’s a conflation of four words that capture a proverb on perseverance: Sa means four, Jeon means “to be knocked down,” Oh means “five,” and Gi means “to rise.” So, sajeonogi means to rise five times when knocked down four times. The idiom became popular after Korean boxer Hong-Su-hwan won the 1977 super bantamweight championship by a knockout after being floored four times.

You’ll need a commitment to sajeonogi to leave your mark in this life.

No one makes an impact on the lives of others without perseverance. In Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14), he faced many setbacks in his efforts: a co-worker abandoned him, his health broke down, and he met with hot opposition. Still, he never gave up, and so “the word of the Lord spread through the whole region” (13:49).

Maybe life has knocked you down recently. The really important question, though, is why you’re still on the floor. Beat the count, rise up, and get back in there.




Of Father’s Day and Foundations

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Here’s a parable for our times: Half of the town of Kiruna, Sweden, is being moved two miles from its current site at a cost of $4 billion. Decades of iron ore mining has slowly eroded the foundations of the town built above the world’s largest underground mine.

It’s an expensive lesson: Lose the foundation, lose your way of life.

Across the next 40 to 50 years, some buildings will be torn down and rebuilt. Others will be taken down piece by piece and reassembled in their new locale, including a historic wooden church. The church was once voted Sweden’s most beautiful building but the ground it was built upon is giving way, so it won’t last.

Some remain uncertain that the new location will be any more secure than the sagging earth they’re leaving. For the relocation, the state-run mine has chosen a spot where they have deposited waste rock from the mining process.

Nevertheless, most accept the move as inevitable. “The people in Kiruna have known since 100 years ago they were living on iron ore,” said Vice Mayor Hans Swedell. “They knew that sometime they would have to move.”

As I said: A parable for our times.

A little apathy in our civic duties, chronic laziness in our parenting, a few bad decisions in our business, a few compromises in our church—like the tap, tap, tap of a miner’s pick, these things can slowly chip away at the foundations. The consequences aren’t immediate, but over time we find we’ve jeopardized the life we hoped to build.

It’s a good reminder for dads as we approach Father’s Day. Spiritual leaders have to pay attention to the foundation on which they build their homes. But it’s a good reminder for all of us who want to build something that lasts.

In Isaiah 58:12, the prophet looked hopefully for people who would “rebuild the ancient ruins” and “raise up the age-old foundations.” Let’s be the fulfillment of that prophecy in our own families, churches, community, and nation.

What can you do today to tend the convictions and habits that uphold the things important to you?




About Tom

ANCHOR COURSE LOGO Tom Goodman is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and he holds a doctorate from New Orleans Seminary. He has served as pastor in Louisiana, north Texas, and overseas in Grand Cayman before becoming the pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, Texas. Diane and Tom have been married since their days at Baylor University, and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen. Tom enjoys scuba diving, watching the latest Netflix DVD with Diane, and chasing mis-hit golf balls.
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