Posts Tagged ‘Following Christ’

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WORSHIP WEDNESDAY (Chris Tomlin)

February 24, 2016

Christian faith is ever to be growing and transforming to the end of life for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Transforming faith reaches the depths of the heart, untangles the tentacles of affection, and reforms the very form of a child of God’s soul.  The maturation of faith awakens early and often under the clear understanding and belief that the God of the Universe, the God of Creation, the Great I Am, is the Best Father of those who are His. The essence of Christian faith is not the general adoration of the unknowable.  The child daily abides with the Father whom he knows and loves.  Within that relationship, the divine power of Spirit transforming faith is released.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!  Luke 11:11

I worshiped this morning to this reminder from Chris Tomlin to the reality of who God is – a good, good, Father.

“The child asks of the Father whom he knows.
Thus, the essence of Christian prayer
is not general adoration, but definite, concrete petition.
The right way to approach God is to stretch out
our hands and ask of One who we know has the heart of a Father.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

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“RAISING THE UNDEAD” (Part 1) – Jan. 30

January 30, 2016

“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  Matthew 7:14

The group had been trudging for days along the wet, desolate, and narrow way.  They had been skirting a monolith, silently resting to the south, covered with a black cloud perpetually weeping over it.  They stared in dread of this place, always filling the periphery of their vision, knowing all too well the horror that lay within.

The dirt road meandered endless ahead, being lost to sight behind rocky climbs, just to suddenly reappear as a silhouetted streak across distant meadow, only to be lost again as it dipped over the horizon.  However, the oppressive presence of what they simply call the Place, suppressed the chatter of even the most stringent follower of this normally joyful fellowship.  Silence clung to the travelers each time the narrow path swung into close proximity of the Place.

The narrow road was navigating a circuitous route around the monochromatic city lying below, filling a landscape of hewed hills and diverted streams.  There were many diverting roads along the narrow path.  Each beckoning the earthly into the unearthly with an avenue of wide, smooth pavement, gently descending as if following a meandering stream into a welcoming reservoir.  However, each follower knew that what lay below was not a reservoir of refreshment but a cesspool of filth.

They had plodded past many tempting diversions never with a hint of turning from their long familiar path.  This was the reason for the gasp that moved as a wave through the group as their Leader silently turned, onto the pavement without the slightest warning.  His intention were clear.  They were to travel into the Place.

Many stopped, confused by the new direction.  Having recently escaped the clutches of the Place that now lay directly before them.  They dreaded any step in that direction.  Others slowed as deep apprehension made each step a force of will.  Even the longest followers of the Leader looked ahead with grave concern.  They had followed the Leader on several such diversions into the Place.  They knew what lay ahead.

The group had quickly strung out into a long single file string despite the width of the roadway.  Their Leader continued at the head, gracefully moving ahead with an effortless, yet deliberate pace.  Normally, each follower found the Leader’s pace easy to shadow despite their varying levels of conditioning.  However, many now found the pace uncommonly tasking and began to fall back.

By Roberto Strauss from Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland (Orange night sky Frankfurt) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Without any direction from the Leader, the long-time followers peeled back from their normal positions, to lend their strength to those struggling with indecision.  These experienced trekkers quietly stepped alongside those struggling with the dread ahead; gently lifting them, urging them forward with the confidence that they would all survive.  They had been through this before.  All would be fine if they just stayed together in the presence of their long-time Leader.

The quick diligence of these faithful followers successfully pulled the ranks of the group together just as they came to gates of the now towering terror.  The Leader looked over his shoulder and smiled to see that all who he had called were packed in tight.  He knew a long night was before each and every one.

Despite what the others sensed, he knew there was glory ahead.  He turned and took a step through the gates of the undead.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for drawing us through the narrow gate.  Thank you for coming into this dark world to seek and find the lost.  Thank you for saving me while I was still dead in my sin.  Thank you for cleansing me and making me a new creation in Christ Jesus.  I praise your glorious name.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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WORSHIP WEDNESDAY (Kristene DiMarco)

December 30, 2015

The first step of a child of God is to follow Jesus.
The last step of a child of God is to follow Jesus.
Every intermediate step a decision to follow and not stray.

I worshiped this morning to this reminder from Kristene DiMarco to be resolute and decisive in ever one of our intermediate steps of faith.  The lyrics of the song are:

My heart is steadfast oh God, and I won’t be led astray
by the things that, simply will fade before Your face Oh,
And I will follow You, I’m wrapped up in You, I belong to You

I was made for this, one thing is to see and to seek Your goodness
Take me by the hand and lead me

And I will follow You, I wrapped up in You, I belong to You

I have decided, and I have resolved in my heart
that I will go anywhere, anywhere just to see Your face
I have decided, and I have resolved in my heart
that I will go anywhere, anywhere, anywhere
just to see Your face

I will follow You, I wrapped up in You, I belong to You

Moments may come when I feel so afraid but
I rest in the promise you made that You will remain forever faithful and

I will follow You, I wrapped up in You, I belong to You

I belong to You

~ Kristene DiMarco, I will Follow You

 “I claim no right to myself, no right to this understanding,
this will, these affections that are in me.
Neither do I have any right to this body or its members,
no right to this tongue, to these hands, feet, ears or eyes.
I have given myself clear away and
not retained anything of my own.”
Jonathan Edwards

 

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RETELLING PROVERBS 7 – Sept. 30

September 30, 2015

“My son, keep my words and treasure up my commands with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”  Proverbs 7:1-3

This is my attempt to retell the advice of Proverbs 7
in the context of this present age.

My son, I have some advice for you.

Pause for a time;

Hear what I have learned,

That you may receive wisdom and not pain;

That you will be guarded by knowledge and not nature.

For all that is shapely is not trim;

And not all that is buxom is natural.

Hear the truth in my words;

Value the understanding of experience.

A day will come when you will doubt the relevance of old men.

And dismiss advice as uninformed.

Therefore, settle the matter in your mind.

Decide if truth will be the foundation of your principles;

Be as familiar with her as of your sister’s image;

Know your principles as well as any intimate friend,

To keep you from the temptation of seduction.

The familiar story, you have heard.

A young man, full of naïve confidence,

Convinced of his own resolutions,

Purposefully pursues an avenue without sense.

Foolish boy who plays with indwelling fire,

Without an ability to extinguish.

He closes the door, beyond the eyes of elders.

A singular face illuminated by a screen;

Fully aware of the call echoing within;

Lying in wait.

Harmless browsing, bannered by advertising;

Images unsought sponsor a search;

Articles of the alluring allure;

Lists of the hottest ignite heat;

News of the attractive attract;

Only the simple ignore the sequence.

A swing of the door leads to a click on something dormant;

A scroll through the dormant germinates to a click on scantily cladded;

A scroll through the scantily cladded sprouts to a click on the claddless;

A scroll through the claddless blossoms to a click on the corrupt.

A slide starts with a solitary swing.

And now, O Son, listen to me,

And be attentive to the words of my mouth.

Do not believe those who claim no harm in pornography;

Do not value the famous who belittle the value of morality;

Do not credit bondage as freedom;

Do not confuse forgiveness with relevance.

This sin is written with a cursor of steel;

With an icon of diamond it carves cravings into the soul.

Cravings create a crack;

Cracks create a cleft;

Clefts keep one from the power of the One.

Everyday, you train your mind to either,

Seek the pleasure of God

Or the pleasure of flesh.

Let not your heart be turned by a door and swing;

Do not illuminate your face in privacy,

For many have been trapped

And their morality harvested;

Countless convictions have yielded to this call and compromise.

Pornography is a house along a path leading from God;

Those who travel it will never find Him.

Do not think that there are no consequences

To actions behind swinging doors.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray for all those caught in pornography.  Father, I ask that your healing and restoration will abide on all those caught in this sin who call upon your name.  Lord, keep me and my son from this hidden sin.  I ask that you will grow in us this fruit of your Spirit, self-control.  Help us to rely upon you in all things.  Help us to be aware of the danger.  Help us to be careful to love you with all of our heart, soul, and strength. 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 3)” – Sept. 21

September 21, 2015

“It shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:26-28

Thank you for sticking with me as I have reflected upon my experience at the 2015 LOTOJA.  You can find part one and two here:  No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 1); No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 2).lotoja map_thumb[2]

I surmise that the general impression from the reading of my LOTOJA experience will be viewed as rather negative.

The LOTOJA is a very long bike ride on which you experience many emotions.  I experienced spectacular vistas, exceptional volunteers, and the exhilaration of achievement.  Yet, those experiences are not what come to my mind as I reflect upon the LOTOJA.  I have to consciously push aside my memories of frustration to mine the positive from my LOTOJA experience.

This reality demonstrates a distinct failure on my behalf. 

I allowed the behavior of others to dominate my perception of an epic ride.  I grumbled through seventy-five percent of my LOTOJA. My grumbling was fixated upon actions that demonstrated a disregard of my expectations.  I realize that the recounting of my fellow riders may characterize them as being rude.  However, it is not an entirely fair characterization.  They are good guys.  I never perceived any ill will through our trip.

Therefore, I choose to view my LOTOJA as a case study in differing expectations.

The term domestique, in cycling road racing, refers to the cyclist who works for the team and team leader.  They are the cyclists who carry the water bottles and food and do the work of pulling team members through difficult sections.  The French word, Domestique, is translated “servant.”

I had the expectation that this ride would consist of a team composed entirely of domestiques.  We were going to be servants to each other in order that we would all finish together.

981002_10201434224324276_965735367_oApparently, my team did not share my expectation.  They held an understanding more typical of cycling racing in which a domestique is dropped when he ceases to be useful.  My grumbling originated in the offensiveness of being treated as a domestique.  No one waits for a domestique and I had expected someone to wait for me.

I grumbled away the blessings of an epic ride dwelling upon unfulfilled expectations.

I confess that the LOTOJA is not the first time where I have allowed my grumbling to dominate the perception of my life.  I have expectations, like most people.  Those expectations typically reside upon people who are close to me.  I have expectations of family, friends, and Church fellowship.  I have the most expectations of those who have joined me on this spiritual journey called “life.”

I have relatively few expectations, beyond lawfulness, of those who are outside the immediacy of my life.  I don’t have a problem with them treating me as a servant.  If a person is not a Christian, I don’t expect him to display the fruits of the Spirit.  As John Newton  stated, they warrant my deepest pity, kindness, and prayers.  If he is a Christian, I seem to be more inclined to extend him grace because I don’t know his level of spiritual maturity.

I struggle most when those who are close to me treat me like a domestique.  I am referring to those situations when someone we consider a teammate in life acts upon differing expectations or fails to live up to our standard.

It hurts when those expectations are not fulfilled. 

It hurts to be disregarded.
It hurts not to be valued.
It hurts to be perceived as useless.
It hurts not to be included.

It hurts to be treated as a servant.

long_road-aheadI have wasted too much of this epic life grumbling about being treated like a domestique.  I know of too many circumstances where someone has allowed an offense to linger for years because of a failure to meet an expectation.

I have no solution to avoid the hurt.  We live in a messy world.  Those who are close to me are imperfect humans with indwelling sin.  I am an imperfect man in need of sanctification.  We will let each other down and treat each other in ways that are perceived as undeserving.

Our fundamental problem is that we don’t inherently want to be treated as a servant.  We get our feelings hurt when we are not appreciated or valued or included.

We grumble when we are actually treated like the very person we have been called to be.  Many Christians are comfortable with the title of servant just as long as they are not treated as such.

Ideally, we would live in a community abounding in the fruit of the Spirit where everyone has a servant’s attitude.  It would be like the perfect group ride where we are servants to each other in order that we would all finish well together.  That perfect world is coming, but it is not here today.   Our reality is that sometimes our teammates lose their servant’s attitude and do not reciprocate our expectations of servanthood and we are left feeling like a lowly domestique.

USAPCC_2Jesus called himself a domesitque.  Jesus did not come into this world to be served but to serve and he continued to serve even went He was treated like a servant…and worse.

We have been given an epic life to live.  Don’t allow the behavior of others to dominate your perception of value.  There are those in this world who may treat you like a lowly domestique.  Are you living for them?

God calls the true domestique great.  Greatness in the eyes of our Lord is our goal.  May we be true servants; in actions and attitudes.

PRAYER:  Father, forgive me for so often taking title of servant, but not the attitude.  Forgive me for allowing the opinions of others to dominate my perception.  Forgive me for not seeking first your kingdom and greatness in your eyes.  Help me Lord to be a servant in actions and attitude.  Help me to be joyful in being treated as your Son was treated; like a servant.  Give me a heart that values your approval above all others.   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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