with Bob Condly


Remembering the Present


Do you exercise? If so, what do your prefer? Jogging? Lifting weights? Lounging on tree branches? Lots of options!

Do you keep a record of your workouts? My routine includes calisthenics like deep knee bends, push-ups, and planks. But to keep track of sets and reps, I have to write them down. Otherwise, I won’t recall what I’ve accomplished. A log also helps me to review progress (or the lack thereof!).

I record my exercises because of a simple principle: it’s easier to read than it is to remember.

But there’s a potential problem–forgetting to write down my workouts!

Recently I was doing some pull-ups, and I took a breather between sets. During the break, I glanced at my notepad and saw that I hadn’t jotted down the sets I’d done. No problem, I told myself, I’ll repIay them in my mind and then count the total. Except that I had no recollection of what I’d been doing!

Always primed for a spiritual lesson, a thought struck me as clear as a bell while I was reflecting on this situation: I forget things because my mind isn’t in what I’m doing.

Why is that? Well, I like to listen to podcasts during my workouts. I get twice the benefits in the same amount of time: exercise for my body and my soul. I’m trying to follow Paul’s advice in Ephesians 5:16 to “redeem the time.” Who can argue with that?

However, as Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of The Voice of the Martyrs, observes, “Most of us, when we are praying, think of the pancake on the stove which might burn. While making pancakes, we think how nice it would be to pass our time in prayer. While speaking with one man, we think how useful it would be to pass our time with another. We never do anything well. Only one thing can be done well at a time.”

What’s my real problem: memory or multitasking?

And what’s the solution?


Kevin Tupper defines mindfulness as “paying attention . . . noticing what you are doing, feeling and thinking at the time you are actually doing, feeling and thinking it.” Or in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s succinct phrase, it’s “being here, now!”

How do you develop mindfulness?

Surrender yourself to God.

The Jesuit priest Jean-Pierre de Caussade wrote a book that has been printed with two different titles: Abandonment to Divine Providence and The Sacrament of the Present Moment. They’re two ways of saying the same thing. Holding nothing back from Jesus frees you to focus with Him on what’s right before you.

Here’s how he describes believers who’ve yielded themselves to Christ: “in the state of abandonment the only rule is the duty of the present moment . . . they abandon themselves to Him, and, entirely absorbed by their duty, they think not of themselves, nor of what may be necessary for them, nor of how to obtain it. The more assiduously do they apply themselves to their little work, so simple, so hidden, so secret, and outwardly contemptible, the more does God embroider and embellish it with brilliant colors” (59).

When you give yourself up to God, His will becomes clear to you.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2 (NASB)

And with God’s guidance, you can appreciate the value of His work in the present moment.

“The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.” – Psalm 118:24

“God deals out joy in the present, the now.” – Ecclesiastes 5:20 (MSG)

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:18-19

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34

Reducing distractions will help your memory because you’ll have less to remember. But doing the right things matters more than mere efficiency.

Ask Jesus what God’s will is for you today and abandon yourself to Him. Then you’ll accomplish something worth remembering.

Between Pleasure and Pain Lies Purpose


At the beginning of this week, I intended to share some insights I’d gleaned from a Bible passage. I jotted down my thoughts and saved them online.

Then, as I was listening to a podcast, the speaker mentioned pleasure and pain. Only half paying attention, I heard myself reply out loud, “Between pleasure and pain lies purpose.”

“Hey, that should be my next blog post!” I told myself. So I shelved the first one and began a separate post.

The next day, it dawned on me that the two topics were related. I could combine them into a single blog entry.

So here we are!

The passage of Scripture that I’d studied is found in Philippians 4:10-14. I’ve indented the verses to illustrate how their arrangements emphasize distinct themes.

  • 10 –  I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.
    • 11a – I am not saying this because I am in need,
      • 11b-12a – for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
      • 12b – I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
    • 13 – I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.
  • 14 – Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

The outer verses (10 and 14) reveal the apostle Paul’s gratitude for the Philippian church’s interest in helping him. They cared about Paul and he appreciated it.

Taking a step in, the first half of verse 11 and verse 13 announce the apostle’s confidence. He believes that Jesus can and will help him to deal with any issue he faces.

At the center of the passage, the second half of verse 11 and verse 12 describe the extent of Paul’s education. He’s learned to handle the extreme situations of life.

What’s the main point? Paul was self-sufficient. (That’s the meaning of the  original Greek word translated “content” in verse 11.)

This doesn’t mean that Paul ignored God. Far from it; he depends on the Lord quite a bit. But Paul promotes settled contentment; he’s secure.

Also, this doesn’t mean that Paul ignored other people. He’s thankful for the help that the church can provide, but it’s as if he’s indifferent.

Paul demonstrates self-sufficiency in his ministry. He values the assistance of others and prefers to serve in teams, but he’s prepared to go it alone if circumstances dictate. The only thing Paul won’t do is quit serving Jesus. He’s sticking with his mission.

“Between pleasure and pain lies purpose.”

That phrase captures Paul’s attitude. Poverty can be painful; plenty feels pleasurable. The apostle experienced both, but he pursued neither. Rather, he focused on Christ and His kingdom. The Gospel was his purpose.

Committing yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ brings stability to your soul. Life’s ups and downs won’t throw you off track; you’ll stay the course because your decision is firm.

And you’ll realize that Jesus gives you all the strength you need to live out your dedication. Good things won’t distract you; bad things won’t defeat you. Through His Spirit, you’ve already succeeded.

Don’t spend your life pursuing pleasures or fleeing pains. Deal with them in the best way possible–by purposing to follow Jesus. Value Him above all else and you’ll be able to handle anything else.

with Bob Condly

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