Archive for the ‘2 Corinthians’ Category

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“THE LOVING SAPPER” – Nov. 25

November 25, 2017

“Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love.”  John 15:9

Enthusiasm waned in perfect inversion to the length of the day’s shadows.  The time had finally come to end the work and return home, which was dictated by both light and energy.  The path he walked seemed inclined in all directions as he began the long walk home.  Each step trudged along with heel barely higher than the sole.

The workman had been poured out.  There was nothing left.  He had given his all. Effort and more effort lay all about him but he was glad to be done at least until dawn.  He was well accustomed to the long treading of the trail home and happily started upon his routine.

Within sight of rest, random ruminations were rudely ruined by the wreckage caught in the corner of his eye.  A familiar plot, normally flourishing, lay ravished.  He had never paid much attention but he had remembered this small garden as blooming and inviting, well maintained and refreshing but that was not this evening.

The workman did not know when it was wrecked.  Had it been today?  Could it have been some time ago?  He did not know.  It was not his plot.  It was not his responsibility.  He could walk on by and no one would care.  He could turn the other way and no one would stare.  He could leave this destruction for another without despair.

But that was not his way.

The workman lived amongst destruction.  He knew it well.  The gardens he tended were strewn with munitions; bombs buried beneath every patch.  Inattentive tilling could trigger untold devastation with years of lost effort.  The workman knew that some bombs were buried deep and hard to trip while other were  exposed and ready to explode with a breath.

He could see several mines that would inevitably be tripped by someone less attentive and unaware.  He could not simply move on.  It was not his way.  With a sigh, he wearily stepped out of his routine and into the blast zone of this particular plot.  It was now his problem since he too would be effected by any mis-step.

 

The workman moved quickly with the skill of a sapper and defused all that he could readily see.  It was not hard.  It simply took care and gentleness to remove the danger. Yet, his heart broke over the destruction.  This plot had been stripped of all pleasantness; left barren and uninviting.

U.S. Air Force Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician

The workman returned to the pathway where he had left his satchel.  He removed a small delicate flower.  It was all that he had left and it was all that he could give.  He carefully opened the soil in the heart of the plot and planted this small gift…a flower.


A believer’s heart is the garden where Christ has planted this sweet flower of his love.  It is the channel through which the golden stream of his affection runs.  ~ Thomas Watson


It had been a long day and the last thing he wanted to do was to stop for some fuel.  However, he did want to get home so where wasn’t really a choice.  So, he broke his routine and reluctantly swung his pickup into the gas station.  A swipe of the credit card through the fuel pump produced the annoying message “See Attendant”.  This was not the desired result for someone who just wants to get home.   Another swipe of a different card produced the same results.  “What a waste of time” was all he thought as he wearily trudged toward the store with heels barely higher than the soles.

He saw the familiar face of the attendant standing behind the counter as he entered the store.  However, her faced somehow seemed to be a mere shadow of itself.  As his turn in line came, the workman gave his usual greeting.  The reply was far from usual.  It was terse, verging on rude.  A quick glance into her eye caught a tear turning into a glare.

Clearly, something had happened that had wrecked her normally jovial spirit.  Had it been today?  Could it have been some time ago?  He did not know.  He didn’t really know her.  It was not his responsibility.  He could walk out and no one would care.  He could not engage and no one would stare.

He could leave her in despair but that was not his way…he said a prayer, it was time to get to the real work of the day, for he was a loving sapper.

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for your love.  Help me to love others as you have loved me and your Father has loved you.  Help me to not ignore the hurting around me.  Help me to not selfishly protect myself from other’s issues.  Give me a heart the feels and desires to heal.  Give me the desire to share the sweet flower of your love that it may flow with your affection into the hearts of the hurting.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“PERSUADED BY IMPERFECTION” – Feb. 17

February 17, 2016

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

She walked into the competition room with a face set in determination.  A faint smile graced her face in recognition of the judges patiently awaiting her arrival.  However, this polite acknowledgement faded the instant she found her mark, centered before the three seated personages, who were to witness her assault on the challenge before her.

She stood before a long table, which separated her from these strangers.  With head slightly downcast and her arms held rigidly at her side, she appeared to be using every ounce of will containing the urge to flee the room.  It was clear that the coming moment was to be more a personal confrontation of self than a speech competition.

She began to speak in a quiet, clear voice.  Her eyes lifting to make contact with each judge yet her brow remaining determinedly fixed forward.  She spoke smoothly through the memorized lines with the only movement being the slight rotation of her hands with fingers earnestly extending as if to dispel the building nervous anxiety.

And then, it happened.  The speaking stopped.  It sputtered to life again only to fall into an awkward quiet, allowing the room to fill with an oppressive silence.

She retreated into herself.  The seconds ticked on.  Her eyes closed.  The seconds ticked on.  Her lips whispered words already spoken.  The seconds ticked on.  Anxiety growing with the silence.  An anxiety easily observed  by a reddening complexion as it proceeded with each tick up her neck and over her ears.

Don’t run…the seconds ticked…find your place…the seconds ticked…you can do this!

Then, as if catching a rail at the last moment, the words began to flow.  Her reddened complexion receding with each remember line.  She finished with a slightly embarrassed smile, shook the judges’ hands, and quickly escaped the room.

I sat emotionally drained.  I had just witnessed something remarkable, but it has taken me a while to truly appreciate the accomplishment of this young lady.  As I contemplated what I had the privileged to observe, I realized that I had been thoroughly persuaded.  I was persuaded as much by the actions of this speaker as her words.

Her actions gave meaning to her persuasive speech, “how to overcome the fear of public speaking.”

I am still persuaded by this young speaker even though this NCFCA speech and debate competition is now more than a month in the past.  Tears well up as I remember this young lady who so boldly stood before me and triumphed over her fear.

She was not the best speaker that I judged that day.  She was not the most articulate or polished.  She was not smooth or natural.  She did not excel in a competition that placed her at the boundary of her natural gifts.

Yet, she was the most poignant speaker I heard.

She was effective because I could see the reality of her words in the practical accomplishment of overcoming a struggle.  She practiced what she preached.  I saw the raw reality in her overwhelming weakness.  Her weakness gave credence to her words.  That is what made her speech so persuasive.

We need more of that raw reality in the world.

There are so many people whose lives abound with insecurities and failures hidden behind carefully manicured personas of perfection.  I consider the associations of my life and see very little raw reality of weakness.  I scroll through Facebook but see few facing fears, standing amidst failure, or admitting to weakness.

I know that it is there because it exists in my life.

I don’t have it all together but you will never learn that from Facebook.  I battle doubt.  I clash with consistency.  My hope continues to find residency in my 401k account.  I am frustrated by a faith that feels incapable of moving a mole hill.

The longer I live, the more I realize  the weakness of my existence.  The raw reality of my life is that weakness exists even in my strengths.  I know this same raw reality exists in every Christian.

No one is the person they want to be.
Yet, is that the reality that we regularly see?

PreachThis young lady reminded me that the raw reality of weakness combined with Truth is the most persuasive when they are in unison.  We deprive our message of a powerful impact when we pretend to be perfect.

My weakness is testimony to the power of Christ in my life.  Through all my disobedience, failures, and faithlessness, I am still standing as a child of God through the sufficiency of His grace.  His power is demonstrated in my inability to obtain righteousness through my own strength.  I am far from self-righteous perfect.  I am consistently humbled in my weaknesses,I believe, for the expressed purpose of keeping me from being conceited.

Why should I then live behind a false illusion of perfection, depriving my testimony of the practical demonstration of the power of Christ to overwhelm my weakness?

It is why I can be content in confessing my weakness.
My weakness gives credence to the power of God’s word.

As Christians, we have always been called to live in the strength of God’s power; not our own strength.  We have been called to love God and our neighbor from the raw reality of our faith’s current condition.  Love forced through a false reality will tend to appear phony.

The world has enough phony Christians pretending to be perfect, while really living in pride.

The world needs more Christians willing to live in the raw reality of humble weakness – demonstrating the sufficiency and power of God’s amazing grace.

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for my weaknesses.  Forgive me for my pride; for trying to portray an illusion that I am stronger than I really am.  Help me to be real with those who are in my life.  Help me to acknowledge your grace in all that I do.  May we all become a people who glorify you through our weakness.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 2)” – Sept. 18

September 18, 2015

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I apologize for the length of this recounting.  In the spirit of Treebeard, the LOTOJA (Logan, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming) takes a very long time to ride, hopefully, it is worth taking a long time to recount.   You can find part one here:  No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 1).
lotoja map_thumb[2]

After catching up with my team at the top of Strawberry Summit, we pedaled on as a reduced team of four.  We had two more climbs and about 60 miles until our next stop in Afton, Wyoming were we would meet our own support crew.  It was so nice to work within my own team.  I slowed my pace to fit the team as we all took turns pulling the group in order to conserve energy.  My irritation evaporated with the increasing temperatures of mid-day and the friendly chatter within the group.  We stopped for about 20 minutes to fix one team members shoe cleat but other than that we made good time.

We passed over Geneva Summit without much problem and headed into the last major climb after stopping to allow a couple of the team members time to recover.  I have a climbing cassette (12-30 gears) on my bike for rides like the LOTOJA.  It allows me to keep my cadence up on climbs without burning out my legs.  I can spin freely but I don’t go very fast.  As a result, I was the last team member to summit the Salt River pass.  My climbing cassette had worked wonderfully but the heat and duration of climb had still taken it out of me.   I rolled into the rest station to find one team member anxious to get off the pass.  I acquiesced after taking on some water but not fully recovering.  It is all downhill into to Afton, so I thought I would be fine.

The descent off of Salt River is fun.  It is a wide highway with long, sweeping curves that allow you to really let loose.  Since my legs were still a little fatigued, I let the team go on the descent at 40 mph.  I figured that we would regroup at the base and pedal into Afton together.  However, I was dismayed to see my team about a quarter mile ahead of me when I came out of the tuck of my descent.  They had jumped onto a group of other riders and were pedaling away.  I dropped into an aero position with the intent of trying to catch up but that was when the headwind hit me.

There would be no catching up with this head wind.

I finally soloed into Afton, exhausted and infuriated.  My team never waited for me and as a result I had expended precious energy bucking a headwind mostly by myself.  I tossed my helmet onto the ground as I approached my team already recovering in the park.  I thought I was done and I was ready to quit this so-called team.  I sat down and began to indignantly eat through my weariness.  Fortunately, my self-control returned just prior to my ability to coherently communicate so I was able to restrain myself from expressing my consternation in a manner that I would later regret.

We rolled out of Afton as a team.  I realized that my appreciation of landscapes was declining in direct proportion to the accumulation of miles.  Beyond 120 miles, I had to remind myself to periodically look up and behold the beautiful country that we were cycling through.  We were now focused more on the 8:30 PM cutoff time.  One team member abandoned the ride in Alpine so we were down to three.

I was concerned about the cut-off time so I took the majority of the pulls after Alpine.  I had gotten my second wind and was feeling pretty strong.  I pulled our group through the out-skirts of Jackson, Wyoming, accumulating slower riders who jumped on as we passed them.  I took a break after a particularly long pull, falling behind my two remaining teammates.  While I was still recovering, we passed over a drainage grate when I heard twang-clank-clank.  I wasn’t sure what happened but everything seemed fine and the sun was setting.  So, we pedaled on.

I realized something was wrong when my turn to pull came.  Pedaling had become really hard.  I was struggling to keep the pace of my team.  I fell to the back and did everything I could to just hang onto the wheel ahead of me.  The sun was going down and my team members turned on their headlights.  I didn’t have one.

We approached a slower rider and my team accelerated around them.  I tried to go when it was my turn but I didn’t have anything left.  It was taking all of my effort to just keep the pedals moving.  They were quickly 100 yards ahead and I had no voice.  I watched the light of their headlights flicker into the distance.  They had left me, again.

I rode on alone doing everything I could to maintain 12 mph worried that they were going stop me due to the darkness.  I surmised that I had expended too much energy trying to get us to Jackson before sunset and was now tanking out.  The last fifteen miles to the finish line were the hardest I have ever pedaled.

I crossed the finish line exhausted.  After dismounting, I started walking in the direction of the guiding volunteers.  I went to pull my bike alongside me but the rear tire would only skid.  I pulled harder and the tire rolled but again began to slide.  You don’t think very clearly after 200 miles so it took me a little while to realize my problem.  I could now see in the illuminated dark that the twang-clank-clank I heard at sunset was the breaking of a spoke on my rear wheel.  I had just ridden 10+ miles on an out-of-balance wheel, which was rubbing against my brakes.  That is why it was so hard.

The overwhelming feeling that coursed through me as I was handed my finishing metal was:

“I’m glad that is over.”

I learned a lot on that long ride through three states.  In the next post, I will share some of the reflections that a clearer mind has sifted through.

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“No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 1)” – Sept. 17

September 17, 2015

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

The LOTOJA (Logan, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming) is an epic cycling event.  The ride takes you over 205 miles, three summits, and through three States, all in one day.lotoja map_thumb[2]

It is a very long day.

Accepting the challenge of the LOTOJA seemed like a good idea in March, but as September approached my trepidation grew.  I found confidence in the fact that I was part of a team.  We had five riders and we were going to stick together so everyone would finish.  We were not concerned about any time other than the cut-off time.  As a team, we could cross the LOTOJA off of our individual bucket lists.

That plan fell apart from the start of the ride.  Some of our team members are not morning people and as a result we got to the starting line with just minutes to spare from our 6:27AM start.  This was also the time when my decision to drink another cup of coffee while waiting made its presence felt.  I hurriedly sought out a Port-a-Potty.  I did all that I could to hasten this untimely call of nature but by the time I got back to the starting line they were already lining up the next wave of riders.

My team was gone.

I started my LOTOJA by cycling through Logan, Utah in the dark.  I pedaled along, slightly consternated about being abandoned, but I figured that they would wait for me at the first stop in Preston, Utah, 33 miles ahead.  I rode by myself for about 15 miles until another group came along and I was able to jump onto their pace line, which took me into Preston.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

I rolled into my designated feed zone at Preston with the surprise of not seeing any familiar faces.  I wandered around for a while in search of our support crew until I finally resorted to my cell phone.  Fortunately, the support crew was still there but it was disheartening to hear that my team had just left Preston within minutes of my arrival.  I was on my own, again, until the base of Strawberry Mountain, where I was told that they would wait for me.

I pedaled on, jumping onto other groups of cyclists when I could and pedaled solo when I couldn’t.  I passed a rest station at the base of the first small climb.  There was no team waiting for me.  My irritation grew as I watched the miles accumulate on my odometer.  I pasted over the summit of the first climb to find it vacated by my team.  “Surely they’ll wait for me at the bottom of the descent”, I thought.

1Buff Bill SH near UXU RncUnsurprisingly, there was no team at the bottom of the descent.  I started the ascent of Strawberry Summit with the realization that I might just have to finish this ride solo.  After riding through beautiful farm land and into rolling mountains canvased with a stunning combination of pine and deciduous trees, I came to the rest station at the top of Strawberry Summit.  To my surprise, there was my team getting ready to leave.  It had taken about 60 miles but I had finally caught up with them.  This time they waited but there were only three cyclists.  One team member had decided to drop them and ride solo.

I thought that odd.  This is not what I had expected from a team ride.

(The LOTOJA is a long ride.  It probably shouldn’t be surprising that the recounting of it takes a long time.  Therefore, I am breaking my tale up into a series of post.)

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VACATION FRUIT- Oct 6

October 6, 2014

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-9

 There is nothing like a good vacation to make you want to go home.

My family and I have just returned from a vacation to the east coast of the United States. We spent two weeks continuously touring sites from New York through Virginia. Our heads are still spinning comprehending all we saw and the soles of our feet still aching from the miles trekked.

Every day, our vacation produced fascination and enjoyment as we explored places I had only known in books.

We saw the birthplace of English North American colonization at Jamestown.

We saw the birthplace of English North American colonization at Jamestown.

We walked the streets of colonial Williamsburg, the capital of colonial Virginia.

We walked the streets of colonial Williamsburg, the capital of colonial Virginia.

We visited George Washington's home at Mount Vernon.

We visited George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon.

We visited Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello.

We visited Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello.

We walk the first halls of power at Independence Hall

We walk the first halls of power at Independence Hall

We were guided through the modern halls of power at the US Congress...

We were guided through the modern halls of power at the US Congress…

...White House...

…White House…

...and the Supreme Court

…and the Supreme Court

We joined a prayer walk for Pastor Saeed in front of the White House.

We joined a prayer walk for Pastor Saeed in front of the White House.

We contemplated the cost of freedom at the Lincoln...

We contemplated the cost of freedom at the Lincoln…

WWII, Korean, and Vietnam memorials

…WWII, Korean, and Vietnam memorials

We were overwhelmed by the collections of the Smithsonian...

We were overwhelmed by the collections of the Smithsonian…

...and Botanical Gardens.

…Botanical Gardens.

We pondered the destruction of the civil war at the flashpoint of Harpers Ferry.

We pondered the destruction of the civil war at the flashpoint of Harper’s Ferry.

We were assaulted by New York City’s time square.

We were assaulted by New York City’s time square.

We applauded the talent display on Broadway (The Lion King).

We applauded the talent displayed on Broadway (The Lion King).

We wept the loss captured at the 911 Memorial.

We wept the loss captured at the 911 Memorial.

We drank in the hope promised by the Statue of Liberty.

We drank in the hope promised by the Statue of Liberty.

Our east coast conceptions crumbled under the landscapes of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey.

We had a fabulously full vacation. Yet, the allure of home was universally felt as our vacation drew to a close. A desire for the familiar overwhelmed our affection for continued exploration. We had toured for two weeks through a land that was not our own. We created memories that will last our lifetime and enhanced a love for home.

A desire for home may be the greatest fruit of our east coast vacation.

I am reminded of a quote by C.S. Lewis:

I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death.

Most of us have lives filled with wonderful busyness. We have so many blessings to experience and enjoy; so many opportunities to explore and fulfill. I assert that the average person in North America and Europe are living what historically would be a life of wonderful vacation. Yet, there runs through our culture dissatisfaction with this prosperity. We live  fabulously full lives. Yet, there is an allure felt by most for something more.

It is the call of our true country. It is the unsatiated desire for our heavenly home. A home we were created for.

A desire for our heavenly home may be the greatest fruit of the dissatisfied prosperous. We need to redeem our incessant dissatisfaction with the wonderful and amazing. Rather than letting dissatisfaction turn to contempt or thanklessness, we need to be reminded that our tendency is to look to earthly pleasures to satisfy something that they were never created to fulfill.

The blessings of this earth are “only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage” to enhance our love for our heavenly home and Father. Our longing for something more is the reminder that we are not home. A reminder that should give us courage and direct our efforts toward pleasing our Lord and Savior who has created for us an everlasting home with Him.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the blessing of a wonderful vacation.  Thank you for the opportunity to travel with my family and see so many wonderful sites.  Thank you for my home.  Thank you for the reminder that you have created for me an everlasting home with you.  Forgive me for being dissatisfied in the earthly blessings you have given me.  Forgive me for forgetting that this is not my home.  Create in me a desire for my true country with you.  Help me to be of good courage and to desire to please you in all that I do.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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“PERFECTING WEAKNESS” – Jan 13

January 14, 2014

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”” 2 Corinthians 12:9

ncfcaMy son recently competed at the NCFCA Idaho Open Tournament.  I have come to anticipate being blessed by these competitions and once again I was not disappointed.

I had the privilege of watching the crisp intellect of youth being prepared for Kingdom service as teenagers hone their debating skills.

I was entertained by the creativity of students who take familiar tales and re-imagine them into something fresh and engaging.  I wait in anticipation to see how this creativity will display the glory of God to an unbelieving generation.

I was delighted by all the speeches that persuaded and informed me.  I know there will be a day when these students’  love of God will be as effectively communicated for a reward far beyond a temporal medal.

However, I was moved to tears by the students competing in apologetics.  I had to hide my eyes as emotions welled within them when a gaggle of teenagers noisily passed me on their way to a speech round.  They thoughtlessly carried these inexpensive boxes of plastic and cardboard as they chattered excitedly with one another.  I love those boxes.  Actually, I love the treasure contained within each and every one of those boxes.  It is a treasure that exceeds the value of all the diamonds within De Beer’s vaults.  These boxes contain the hours of time spent before open Bibles and theological books.  It contains the months of the Spirit of God leading, guiding, and teaching my younger brothers and sisters in Christ.

These boxes hold the notes of answers to 106 apologetic questions.  They contain the word of God applied to many of the difficult objections posed by those who oppose our faith.  Those boxes are sheaths to swords that are as real as any ever wielded by William Wallace and these students are learning how to rightly handle the word of God.  It is a wonderful thing to watch.

I love to watch it all.  I am always filled with optimism in how the Lord will use this generation.  They have so many strengths and talents.  Surely, God has raised them up for great things.  The future seemed bright as I guided our mini-Van away from the tournament into the tunnel through the late night darkness that the headlights created.

I was reminded within the midst of my admiration of the skills and talents of those students of the mysterious balance between the use of our gift and and the recognition of our utter weakness.  God uses those who have learned to live in human weakness to accomplish spiritual greatness despite our abundance or lack of talent.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Charles H. Spurgeon learned that lesson.  C.H. Spurgeon was an amazingly gifted orator.  You are not called the “prince of preachers” without being a good speaker.  Yet, this is what had to say about weakness:

The way to grow strong in Christ is to become weak in yourself. God pours no power into man’s heart till man’s power is all poured out. The Christian’s life is one of daily dependence on the grace and strength of God.

Spurgeon could have won many speech competitions but that was not what made him strong in Christ.  He became weak in himself.  Therefore, I prayed for all those gifted competitors who walked across the stage to accept awards at the NCFCA Idaho Open.  I praised God that they won. I prayed that He would protect them from the pride and over-confidence in their relative strengths that applause can bring. I prayed that God would reveal to them the weaknesses that are within them.  I prayed that God would lovingly wash their weakness over them so that they would know that only His grace is sufficient for them.  I prayed that their accomplishment, combined with the knowledge of their weakness would drive them to their knees in prayers of thanksgiving and acknowledgment that true power comes only in a life lived in humble weakness for Christ alone.

John Knox knew the lesson of weakness.  He was a small and feeble man, who ran from the room the first time he was asked to preach in public.  His experience as a slave in a French galley, chained to a bench with six other men pulling a fifty-foot-long oar, left him with a weak and broken body for the rest of his life.  Yet, John Knox knew that his strength did not come from his natural abilities.  God’s power was made perfect in John Knox’s weakness as it drove him to his knees in prayer.  The weakness of John Knox made him such a man of prayer that Mary, Queen of Scotland said,

I  fear John Knox’s prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.

John Knox probably would never have won a speech competition but he was greatly used by God.  Therefore, I praised God for all those competitors who did not win.  I praised God that they did not walk across that stage to accept an award.  I prayed that they would not be lost to despondency but rather the revelation of their weakness would humble them and drive them to a life of prayer and reliance upon their Lord and not their talents and strengths.  I thanked God for afflicting their self-esteem, revealing their utter and complete need for a Savior.  I prayed that their failures would reveal sin in their hearts and that our Lord would remind them that His grace is more sufficient than any trophy or medal, that  He does not need the strength of a debate or speech champion, and that His power will still be made complete in the weakness of a competitor who never won a round.  I prayed that all those who lost would know the power of God being perfected within them in whatever manner that God chooses to reveal their weaknesses to them.  I prayed that their defeats in speech and debate would be used to prefect their hearts in Christ.

I thanked God for my own weaknesses.  I praised Him for how I have been humbled from my altars of pride and self-worship.  I worshiped Him for my fears and afflictions because they have driven me to call upon my God and Savior for comfort and support.  I praised him for my victories and accomplishments because I know that they were only of Him.  I savored the flavor of my failures because they enable me to whole heartedly proclaim from experience,

“My God’s grace is sufficient for me.”

PRAYER: O Lord, thank you for using the weak.  We are all weak before you.  Thank you for showing us our weakness.  Thank you for using the weak to glorify your name.  Father, help me to live in humility.  Forgive me of my pride and my confidence in my own ability.  Forgive me for not coming to you in prayer and relying upon your strength.  Your grace is sufficient for me.  Lord, perfect your power in me by keeping me weak.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“POWERFUL WEAKNESS” – July 9

July 10, 2013

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Bicyclists on Flagstaff Mountain
Bicyclists on Flagstaff Mountain (Photo credit: Let Ideas Compete)

“One more hill to go,” was the mantra that reverberated through my mind on the descent.  We were on the tail-end of a 30 mile, “out-n-back,” ride composed of a series of rather steep, rolling hills.  I have been making this ride all season in training for the “Four Summit Challenge” at the end of this month.

I swept up the base of this remaining obstacle as gravity turned from a pleasant companion to an uninvited burden.  I responded by dropping a gear and immediately felt the pressure migrating back into my thighs.  I dropped another gear and pushed into the pedals, working to keep my pedal cadence high, trying to transfer as much speed up the hill as I could.  The road soaked up energy as I had to drop into the middle chainring.  I was not even halfway up the hill and my legs had already made their emergency call for oxygen and my lungs were struggling to meet the demand.

“One more hill . . . One more hill . . . ”  I was at that point where I either had to drop another gear or stand and charge to the top.  My mind said, “This is the last hill,  why not!”   but my legs had a list of reasons as to why not.  The victor of this mini-debate was declared as my legs popped me out of the saddle and started the strange little pedal dance of a cyclist desperate to get a climb’s summit.  I quickly crested the hill but the damage was done.  I was gasping for air as I circled around, waiting for the other riders.

“Oh mama, that hurt.”

Giro d'Italia 1991

Giro d’Italia 1991 (Photo credit: ta_do)

After we gathered ourselves, a fellow rider paid me the nice compliment, “You are much strong than even at the beginning of the year.”  I guess all of the riding and climbing has started to pay some dividends.  I had just charged up a hill that I have had to crawl up in the past.  However, I was not feeling like I thought I would feel when I was a “strong(er) climber.”  That ride wasn’t any easier than the first time I had tried it.  In fact, that last little hill had put the hurt on me just like it had always done.

This experience reminded of the quote from three time Tour de France winner, Greg LeMond:

“It never gets easier, you just get faster.”

I have a tendency to think that strength will make things easier.  Whereas, strength does make things easier it also leads to doing harder things.  My little training course has not become easier because my increasing strength has allowed me to go over it faster, which makes it harder.  That is the way strength works.

Strength has to be challenged.  Strength has to be forced to the point that it is once again relatively weak.  Any amount of strength that I have gained this season will begin to deteriorate the moment that I start making my training course easier.  I will be at my strongest only when I am pushing myself to weakness.

My strength begins to ebb when I never experience weakness.

Many have a tendency to think that once they become spiritually stronger then following Christ will be easier.  I have followed Christ for more than thirty years and I can attest to the fact that following Christ has not become easier.  What I thought was hard thirty years ago is no longer as challenging.  However, I still have enough challenges in my spiritual walk that my weaknesses are a constant reminder.

This knowledge of weaknesses, rather than deficiencies to be scorn, actually is evidences of strengths being challenged.  It is at our weakest when we experience real strength.  Paul was given a thorn in his flesh to remind him of his weakness and the sufficiency of God’s grace.  Paul needed to remember his weakness so that the power of God could be perfected through him. Paul never laid back and rested in his strengths.  He never lived like following Christ was easy.  Paul went and did hard things.  He endured the hard things of insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

Relative to me, Paul was incredibly strong.  However, he was well aware of all his weaknesses through the challenges of doing difficult things for the glory of God.  It was by embracing his weaknesses that the power of the Spirit continued to give him the strength that he needed.

For when he was weak, then he was strong.

There are many who have taken the easy route.  They have become secure in their spiritual strengths.  They no longer push their strengths to the point of weakness.  Beware when you feel strong.  Beware when following Christ becomes easy and comfortable.  You should be concerned when your weaknesses are not before you.  The reality is that the strength that you have may just be ebbing away.  The power of Christ does not rest upon those who think  they are strong.  The power of Christ rests upon those who acknowledge their weaknesses and need of Christ.  The power of Christ rests upon those who feel their weakness.  The only way to feel your weakness is by doing hard things.

We are all at our strongest when we are at our weakest.  Let’s go do some hard things and be reminded of how weak we really are.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my weakness so that the power of Christ might rest upon me.  Father, keep me from seeking the easy route.  Push me to use the strengths that You have given me.  Challenge me so that I may know my weaknesses.  Sustain me through my weakness – your grace is sufficient for me O Lord.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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