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Tuesday, January 31

It's Not About Holding The Line... It's About Advancing It!

In times like we're in now, we must remember how "practice" does not make "perfect" but, only, "perfect practice" makes "perfect".  I (Keith) often look back on the time when I was privileged to play college football, remembering all that went in to being prepared to play in just one 1-hour game on the weekend.  I remember practicing for four grueling hours a day, five consecutive days a week, plus daily studying the playbook and watching game film in the classroom at night, preparing for that one 1-hour game on the weekend.  I often see the comparison of that to our being prepared to work with The Trinity to gather this end-times harvest of souls.  The perfect practice we must do is in prayer and meeting with The Holy Spirit in the pages of our play book, God's Holy written Word, every single day.

We have a question for you. If you were asked to draw a parallel between the intense, fatigue-inducing opposition, and the oppression we are fighting against in the spirit realm now, and something you have had to fight through in the natural realm to achieve a landmark victory in your life, what would that be?

For me (Keith), it would be the dreaded two-man practice sled in football. The two-man sled is an extremely valuable piece of resistance training equipment used for building the strength and endurance of football players. It is a brutal piece of training gear by which no player can make a team's roster without mastering, first.

The two-man sled is usually constructed of iron and weighs about five hundred pounds. Add to that the weight of one 250-300 pound line-coach standing on it.  And what you have is around 800 pounds of dead weight, weight that two players wearing 40 pounds of equipment are required by their coaches to hit and push with all their might until that line-coach blows his whistle to end the drill. Unlike any other strength and endurance training equipment available, there is none more physically, mentally, and brutally draining as the two-man sled.

I have actually seen coaches award players a position on their teams, not because they were tremendously talented but, because a coach saw a passion in them to put their whole heart into whatever he called on them to do. In short, the two-man sled was a great place to start when it comes to determining whether or not a player truly wants to play the game.

Much like the intensity of the two-man sled in the natural realm, we have been pushing against intense opposition in the spirit realm for many years now, due to the increasing moral decline of those in government and in our churches. And like you, we sure would like to hear God's Great Trumpet blast about now. However, until God chooses to blow His Trumpet, we will continuously "press" toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God i-n Christ Jesus, as individuals and as a ministry team for the sake of others who do not know Christ.

Personally, as I war in the spirit realm against wicked forces that sometimes feel like they are going to defeat me, The Holy Spirit is faithful to bring back to my mind experiences when I have fought through to victory. As young aspiring football players, we eventually learned the benefits of the brutal two-man sled. During those early pre-season training camps we were oblivious to those benefits, but would come to realize them in the weeks to come. Just the same way that we would get stronger with each hit we made against that training sled, with each hit we take in the spirit realm, we are presented with another opportunity to have built in us, by the steady Hand of the Great Physician Jesus Christ, His strength and endurance that will, in turn, better equip us for the hits to come on the spiritual field of battle.

In the beginning of our conditioning during pre-season camps, two players all-but passed out pushing the two-man sled just fifteen yards, but would soon be able to push it thirty yards without even breaking a sweat. And, by the end of the football season, those same two players would have built up enough strength and endurance to push that thing around the entire practice field with three coaches standing on it, and still have energy to spare. So, in the natural realm, resistance training is crucial in developing one's physical and mental strength, and endurance. The same way in the spiritual realm, resisting our enemy whenever he hits us, is crucial for developing Christ's strength and stamina in us. James 4:7 says, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

In the natural realm, I could tell how well or not-so-well our opponents had practiced based on each opponent's performance, physical endurance, grasp on the play-book, and ability to execute the plays.  I could tell if they had practiced "perfectly" or had merely practiced.  Having a passion to "practice perfectly" every day with the same intensity and dedication as we approach an actual game leads to our ability to persevere and perform at maximum efficiency.  And, as my Momma would say, "If you gave your all, did your best on each play, and lost, you still come away a winner."  So, even in times when we "lose" a game we still "win" when we persevere to the end, to the final whistle.  And, one definition we found for "persevere" is: "to continue without halting despite difficulties or setbacks". So, it would be safe to say that two common attributes of a winner is they practice perfectly and they persevere.

One outstanding example of an athlete who modeled the benefits of both "perfect practice" and "perseverance" for all of us who watched his career is Michael Jordan, NBA Hall Of Fame basketball player. I watched an interview in the '90s on a major sports channel where Michael Jordan was asked what his secret was for out-performing his opponents. His response, though simple, was profound. He replied, "I love to practice!"  He went on to say, "Since very early in my career, despite how I felt, I have approached each play during practice with the same passion and intensity that I do each play during an actual game."

Michael Jordan made the study and the practice of his sport his life's passion.  He loved what he did and it showed on the score boards. Playing basketball was not something he did, it was who he was, despite challenges and even heartbreaks he may have faced along the way in his life. He always brought his best to each practice and to each game. He pushed harder and further than most did, and he persevered to the end! In the eyes of so many fans, Michael was and still is a sports "hero", an example of the rewards of practicing perfectly and of persevering to the end.  Just as Michael Jordan's career set a lasting example of "perfect practice" and how to "persevere to the end" for all future athletes, the saints of God left their written accounts of "perfect practice" and what it looks like to "persevere to the end" for all of us to follow in The Holy Scriptures for a pattern of success in our lives. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17)."

Now is the point we have been looking forward to most:  pointing out true heroes who fulfill their calling of the highest order, above that of any earthly professional. Just as coaches of every sport, and owners of every business, look everywhere for aspiring people who work "with total abandon", God looks to and fro (2 Chronicles 16:9) for those who will work also "with total abandon", who will apply all of the gifts and talents He put in them to fulfill His plan and dream whole-heartedly... this is a "hero" in His eyes. God's hero's greatest fear does not come from the devil but comes by way of the mere thought of misrepresenting our Loving Father, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Spirit. This hero knows and loves The Holy Scriptures - "the play book" - and executes each passage as The Holy Spirit leads. This hero's heart is fixed on pursuing Oneness i-n God, through Jesus Christ, by the leading of The Holy Spirit.  This hero is passionate to magnify God.  This hero's passion is to see others come to our Father God, through Jesus Christ, and furthering their own mission of becoming one in Jesus Christ as well. God's heroes, no matter the hardships, sow selflessly of their life and all that is entrusted to their stewardship, working with The Holy Trinity, to persevere and to push through all resistance in order to display, in word and deed, the love, understanding, wisdom, knowledge, and compassion that Jesus Christ has so lovingly and generously built into each of us by way of His wonder-full Holy Spirit. This hero is a faithful member of The Body of Jesus Christ, equipped by his or her love for God and a passion to know His Holy Word to persevere i-n Jesus Christ through all manner of resistance, to the very end when His great Trumpet sounds!

"As we in The Army of Jesus Christ find ourselves in this final push just before the great trumpet sounds, we must take our thoughts captive, practice self-control, ask The Holy Spirit to meet with us in the pages of God's Holy Word, hydrate by the Living Water of His Word, which is The Scriptures interpreted to us by The Holy Spirit, and FOCUS on what He leads us to be honored to fulfill in our own calling as we encourage others in theirs.  Remember who we are, and remember Whose we are!  Though our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has won "the war" for us already, we have isolated skirmishes left to overcome before He, The Great Conquering King, returns in ALL of His Glory, with The Mighty Host of Heaven at His Side.  Now it's time for all of us to put our ALL in the fight to finish our job, to work with pure Focus, Fearlessness, Love, Discipline, and every single thing we've got in us that God has given to... press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!   Now Go!!

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself (Philippians 3:13-21).

  From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for loving us, teaming with us, and being ALL IN on this final harvest of the souls for the Kingdom of God.  By our praying for one another and being intentional to sow our individual life experiences, talents, time, and seed into our reaching toward the goals God has given, we will benefit, together, in the fruit and inheritance of our Father's Kingdom, in these final hours.

To Show GOD BIG in a World that Sees Him small… 
sums up the reason Keith stepped out in faith to focus on reaching the lost and strengthening believers everywhere, through Toward The Mark, Inc.  Keith and Brenda's prayer is that you will be encouraged and edified by the Secrets from God's Word that Keith recounts in our written and recorded products.

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