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A New Year’s story about a boxing match gone bad.

January 1, 2018
7

This is not my forest, believe me.  This photo is of a tree pathway in Holland and photo credits are freely given to Lars van de Goor 

Our new home has a little patch of woods behind it; not much, really, barely a half an acre.  The previous owners took this nice little micro-forest and dumped rotted logs, dry brush and broken lumber. It’s just right for my next project;  I want to clear out some paths and make a nice little circuitous walkway and park for the little family relatives who come to visit.  I’m working in the midst of these recent freezing temperatures in order to avoid confronting any snakes or possible spidery abodes, let alone the maddening mosquitoes.  I’ve been scrambling around the countryside looking for cast-off bricks and rocks to line the paths.  It’s a long process, but I want to make it so that my nieces, nephews and grandkids can toddle and trot through a nice patch of greenery.

I’ve been going at it hard during this holiday break, readying it by first clearing out the junk.  Sort of like the new year – I want to start things right by first clearing out the wrong, as I think we all do.  We want a fresh start.

Spiritually, I am digging into the ground-floor, down-in-the-gravel basics of what Jesus would expect of me.

So let’s go to His first sermon.

Matthew 5:3.  Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  

That first word “blessed” is the Greek word makarios, meaning a deep seated, down-in-the-soul contentment.  So, wait a minute; the first step in pleasing Jesus and getting joy myself is to be poor in spirit?

Plainly, yes; humility is the forefront characteristic of a Christian.  Think of it.  It was a necessary step in order for you to become a Christian, right? Pride never pushed anyone through Heaven’s gates. Poverty of spirit – emptying oneself of self-centeredness – is the first step in becoming a child of the kingdom.

This is so clear, so direct.  So where did we Christians go off the rails?

It’s really a heart issue through the ages, but obviously we are dealing with a new generation’s temptation. This most recent phenomenon has changed society, and sociologists are saying that the world has changed because of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.  People no longer want to be private.  Moreover, they want to be cheered.  We Believers are not immune to this.

Modern Christianity’s discovery of social media has engendered the individual Christian’s need to construct a personal stage platform and go into theatrics.   We’ve all become play-actors. The first stages of Facebook and Instagram were innocent enough, with family photos and personal achievements, but things got out of hand quickly, didn’t they?  The desire for a spotlight became addictive among Believers, and the result is really a new form of Phariseeism, I believe.  We’re all religious but showy.

What happened to poverty of spirit?  If we aren’t needy, we cannot get help (it’s called the grace of God!).  The Pharisees confronted Jesus whenever he was attending the celebratory feast of the conversion of Matthew Levi and He hit them right between the eyes with the truth of being poor in spirit:  “The sick need a physician, but those who refuse treatment cannot get the help they need.”  I think of Apple CEO Steve Forbes, who was dying of cancer but would not take the necessary treatment to deal with it, instead flying around the world to experiment with alternatives that seemed more attractive.  By the time he got back to the States, he was told that it was too late.  He didn’t realize that his refusal to get the right treatment would cost him his life .

I want my life to be a clear pathway that people can walk and see the risen Christ.  I also realize that any time I let my pride stand in the path, there is little room for seekers to follow the proper walkway; they’ll start wandering in the side-path flora and fauna which only leads to misdirection.

Just like the micro-forest pathway I am cleaning out in our back property, I need to look into the deep timberland that is known as Brad Zockoll’s life and clear out the pride that would keep God’s grace from working in me.

When I was an interim pastor in North Carolina years back, I struck up a great friendship with an octogenarian named Charlie, who was a professional boxer earlier in his life.  “In those days, Brad, I got back a little extra for how well I did in the ring.  For instance, I got twenty-five bucks for winning by decision, but a knockout would get me an extra ten dollars.  Well, I was building a good win-loss record and on one Saturday night I was feeling really good in a five round bout, tagging the other guy right and left.  I was scoring points each round and was obviously going to win the match over the other guy, so I decided that I might get that extra ten bucks.  I was going to step in and knock this guy out.”

Charlie paused for effect.  “Well, I stepped in for a right cross, and the next thing I know, I was on my back, waking up and looking at the overhead lights.  You see, the other guy was waiting for me to make that mistake.  He was actually holding back and letting me score points, hoping I would get cocky.  In my pride I stepped in and walked right into his trap.  He decked me and won the fight.”

Charlie’s boxing story is a constant reminder to me of the danger of the pride-trap.

So, I am reviewing and renewing right now.   Lots of prideful trash has to be hauled away.  Self-reliance is giving away to Christ-reliance.  I hope you’ll pray for me.

 

And please let me know if you have some unused bricks that I could use for our little forest pathway.

 

 

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