Posts Tagged ‘NCFCA’

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“HAVE YOU SEEN JACOB THACKSTON?” – March 6

March 5, 2017

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” Galatians 5:6

Have you seen Jacob Thackston?  Is that name recognizable?

Google will not readily yield an accurate association.
The trappings of fame are not its acclaim.
Familiarity does not come from notoriety.

The name, Jacob Thackston, has a particular importance to me.  It is a name that has come to transcend even the owner in my mind.  I associate this name more with a characteristic than a particular personage.  It represents a potential that resides in each and every one of us.

We are all potential Jacob Thackstons.

Four years ago, Jacob Thackston was one of the top Lincoln Douglas debaters in Region II of the National Christian Forensic and Communication Association (NCFCA).  He won several tournaments and qualified for the NCFCA National Championship.  However, I don’t remember Jacob Thackston for these reasons.

I don’t remember any of his speeches;
I don’t remember any of his cases;
I don’t even remember what he looks like.

In fact, Jacob Thackston had thoroughly faded from my memory when an event just five weeks ago brought his name flooding back to my remembrance.

It was my family’s first year of involvement in NCFCA that I became familiar with the name Jacob Thackston.  My son was 14 years old and we were at our second tournament.  We were still figuring out this whole crazy, one-clap, NCFCA experience.  My son was struggling with some learning challenges.  He was doing cognitive therapy and we were simply thrilled that he was doing one speech, an Illustrated Oratory speech.

The first time I heard the name Jacob Thackston was as we were leaving the tournament and a young man walked out of the building and yelled:

Hey Kyle, I want to see you doing LD next year.

My wife and I, were “who was that”?  And my son said, “That’s Jacob Thackston”.
It was a long ride home and that name came up repeatedly.

Jacob Thackston was a senior and he had won the Lincoln-Douglas final debate at that particular tournament and my son was a fan. My son had followed Jacob Thackston around the whole tournament and timed all of his rounds.  Yet, I discovered that Jacob Thackston had done a remarkable thing as a senior to this novice speaker, my son.

He showed kindness to my son.  He encouraged my son.

What I heard from my son the entire ride home was:

“Jacob Thackston thinks I should do LD”;
“Jacob Thackston said that he would help me”;
“Jacob Thackston thinks I can do it”.

I must confess that I did not agree with Jacob Thackston.  I thought this whole LD idea was a bad idea.  My son had learning challenges; he was going to get slaughtered…but we tried to be good parents, sucked it up and said, “Oh I think that will be wonderful.”

That made what I saw five weeks ago so incredible in my eyes.  Five weeks ago at the NCFCA Spokane Open, my son walked across the stage the winner of a NCFCA national open in Lincoln Douglas debate.  I was astounded.  Honestly, it was a sight that I never thought I would see while driving across the State of Washington and hearing my son first tell me about Jacob Thackston.As my son received his trophy, I was as proud as a Dad can be and I was grateful to a lot of people.  Like most NCFCA competitors, my son has received a lot of help and encouragement along the way.  Yet, Jacob Thackston specifically came to my mind because it had all started with him.

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It had all started with his kindness.

Consider what his words could have done.

He could have been harsh or condescending;
He could have been indifferent or aloof;
He could have said nothing;
He could have discouraged my son…
to the point that our second tournament was our last.

Now, you may not think that showing simple kindness is a big deal but I will vehemently disagree with you. It may have been a simple thing but just because it was simple does not negate its tremendous impact.

Jacob Thackston’s simple kindness changed our lives.

  • Kindness changed my son’s life. His life is different because of his involvement in NCFCA; profoundly, positively different.  Kindness tilled the opportunity of participation to be planted in his life.
  • Kindness changed my life.  I am on the board of directors for NCFCA.  The simple kindness of a teenager started a whole series of events that have brought me to participate in a way that I had never aspired.

That is the profoundly powerful impact of kind words.

The kindness of Jacob Thackston was more than a good guy being friendly.  The spirit of God can be recognized in his action. I believe that his actions were the result of the faith of a child of God working through love – specifically love in the form of kindness.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

What do you think counts from the second tournament that my family attended?  Do you think the trophy Jacob Thackston took home all those years ago counts for more than the change his kindness made in my family’s life?

The kindness of Jacob Thackston is an example of how to combine what we do with how we do it, for the glory of God.  Jacob Thackston competed with intensity; he pursued excellence; he was focused; he was prepared; he was ready to address life issues from a biblical worldview.  He was successful.

However, what he did at that tournament in Washington did not eclipse how he did.  The kindness shown to my son demonstrated a faith working through love and that made all of his actions count.  It was his faith working through kindness toward a novice teenager that has continued to bring glory to God.

Kind words do not cost much.  Yet they accomplish much.
~ Blaise Pascal

Therefore, my encouragement is to never underestimate the power of simple kindness.  Speak what needs to be spoken.  Do what needs to be done.  Yet, always speak and do from a heart that loves God, a soul that hopes in God, a mind that is set on God and an attitude that loves your neighbor as much as yourself.  May our words accomplish much and may our legacy be a legacy of kindness for the glory of God.

Have you seen Jacob Thackston?
Have you been Jacob Thackston?

May we all become Jacob Thackston!

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for the how you have used and continue to use the kindness of Jacob Thackston.  Father, help me to be like Jacob Thackston.  Help me to live a life characterized by simple kindness.   May the fruit of you Spirit flourish in my life in a love for you and for all those with how I interact for your glory.  May we all become a people who glorify you through our kindness.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“PURE WORDS” – April 13

April 13, 2016

“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.”  Psalm 12:6

ncfcaThis past week I had the occasion to attend another NCFCA speech and debate tournament with my family.  I was afforded the opportunity to be a parent judge on multiple speech and debate rounds.  As a result, I had the privilege of judging the finals of the Biblical Presentation speeches.

This was the first time I had witnessed Biblical Presentation as it is a new event this year in the NCFCA.  “Biblical presentation is a speech that creatively develops and presents one or two selections of scriptures in an effort to foster understanding of God’s word, deepen the speaker’s Christian faith, and encourage the listener”.  NCFCA Speech

I now have a new favorite speech category.  I could not get enough of these speeches.  Each speech presented warmed my soul because at their core, each speech was the pure Word of God.  I got to listen to approximately 80 minutes of teenagers presenting 8-10 minutes each of memorized biblical passages, word for word,  in extremely engaging and creative ways.

There was one in particular that is still blessing me.  The speaker was not the most creative.  She did not have the most powerful or engaging voice.  She did not have the most dynamic interpretation.  However, she made the most significant impact on me in her 10 minutes.  She presented two of her favorite passages from Isaiah in such a genuine and heart-felt manner that tears welled up in my eyes from the unadulterated beauty of God’s word.

It was almost startling to hear sacred words simply spoken.   I was not preoccupied by her presentation.  Her interpretation was not a distraction.  On the contrary, I was drawn into the words.  I was captured by the Spirit.  I was renewed in the wonderful truths that filled the room with each utterance.

In recollecting that speech, I have been struck by the reality of how rare it is for us to simply hear the Word of God earnestly spoken in its entirety as the author intended.  So often, we sit silently reading our Bibles or we hear a few verses read before a Pastor spends an hour telling us what they mean.

Both are needed and good so I am not being critical.

However, the presentation of Isaiah reminded me of the power of the Word of God and the benefit from simply listening to the pure words of the Lord.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the opportunity to hear anew the purity of your Word.  Thank you for showing me the beauty of inspired scripture.  I pray for all of those who are memorizing and sharing your Words through the NCFCA.  I pray that you will bless each one of these competitors and write your word on their hearts.   I pray that the purity of your words will abound and refine all those who hear for their enrichment and your glory.  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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“THE GEM OF COMPETITION” – Mar 29

March 29, 2015

“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12b

I sit before my computer after a full night’s sleep, exhausted. I suffer from post-tournament exhaustion. My family and I have spent the last three days lost in the altered existence of the NCFCA Idaho Open. It is a strange world unto itself as days are consumed with alternating rounds of speech and debate. Days seem to endlessly stretch, yet pass in a blink.

I love these tournaments.  I love getting to watch the skills and talents of so many young people.  This year I had the privilege to speak to these competitors during the morning devotion on the opening day of the tournament. The following is a portion of what I shared:

National Christian Forensics and Communication...

 

This morning you will be embarking into competition. I love competition. Through competition, we get to test our skills and learn where we can improve. Obviously, this competition will be a test of your speaking and debating abilities.

However, I want to draw your attention to another test. It is a test that will be happening over the next three days, but will have no awards ceremony, there will be no ballots, no points will be tabulated and there will be only one Judge.

It is a test most competitors are unaware of and many will ignore.  You will all be competing in this test, whether you acknowledge it or not. However, you do have to submit yourselves to this test if you want the results and the subsequent value.

There is a gem in this competition beyond the superficial comparisons of who is the better speaker or superior debater.  I am interested in that, but what I care more about is your understanding of what is in happening in your own heart.

A glimpse of what is really happening in your heart can come from this competition, if you are attentive. That is my hope. I challenge all of you over the coming three days to be attentive to this important test. Believe me; it will be more important than any ballot comment  you may receive.

For those who will hear your name called for breaks, who will receive the NCFCA single clap of recognition, who will cross the stage on awards night, I encourage you at the brief instant of achievement to be attentive to your heart. That is the moment of your true test from this tournament. What will you boast in?

You will boast in something – you have no control over that; we were created to praise.

Therein lays the beauty of competition. Rarely, do we have so clear, so distinct of a moment to observe where our hearts will assign praise. It is why I love competition. It tests our souls; it informs us of what often lies hidden in our hearts; it draws it out and that is of eternal value.

2 Cor. 10:17 says: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”

I challenge all of you who will accomplish what you have come here to achieve; have the courage to honestly assess where your heart is assigning praise.

  • Will you bask in your personal achievement or will you praise God for giving you the opportunity and the gifts;
  • Will you show kindness and compassion to those who are disappointed;
  • Will you be appreciative of all who made this opportunity possible;
  • Will you humbly acknowledge your dependence upon God in that moment of success?

Learning this lesson is hard and you will learn that it must periodically be re-learned. Our human tendency is to want the praise of people but here, in this competition, you will receive a lesson on how to turn the praise of people into the praise of God.

That is a fragrant act of worship.

If you can learn that, it will be of value to you for a life time;
eternal value.

It can be a lasting treasure from this tournament.

For the rest of you, the majority who will not hear your name called, who will not receive an award, you have an opportunity to receive a gem that actually might be of more value than those who receive medals.

Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 12: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness….For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9, 10b)

I challenge all of you who will not break; those whose memories will fail mid-speech; those whose arguments will crumble in debate; those who may be judged harshly – have the courage to honestly assess what your heart does when confronted with disappointment; when confronted with failure; when confronted with your weakness.

  • Does your self-esteem rely upon the praise of people or does your value reside in the reality that you are a child of God – is God’s grace enough?
  • Will you let a judge steal your joy or will you continue to walk in the Spirit and set you mind on the things of the Spirit – relying upon His strength?
  • Will you seek to encourage others who might be similarly disappointed?
  • Will you celebrate in the achievements of others?
  • Will you take results that you did not want and turn them in praise of your Sovereign Lord?
  • Will you allow God’s power to be made perfect in your weakness – whatever that might look like?

Paul said in 2 Cor. 11:20, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

In that moment of disappointment what will you boast in? Remember, you will boast in something – you have no control over that. Once again, herein lays the beauty of competition.

This is a test that is of more practical value than the one for those who will receive an award. In comparison to God, we are all ignorant; we are all helpless; we are all weak. We must learn how to boast in our weakness. It is a hard lesson to learn. We all want to be strong, smart, witty, and self-reliant. It is our default condition.  Therefore, it is a lesson that you must learn and will be re-learning throughout your lifetime.

If you’re attentive, this competition can teach you a lesson in how to live humbly before the Lord in all circumstances; how to be satisfied in God’s grace alone whether in victory or in defeat.

You can learn what it means to be righteously humble in defeat
if you attentively allow it.

You can learn what it means to be righteously humble in victory
if you attentively allow it.

This is why I love competition. The inward praise of you hearts will be revealed over the next three days.

I am looking forward to what the Lord is going to do over the next three days.  I am trusting the Spirit to reveal these answers to all who attentively submit themselves to this test and our one, true Judge.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the last three days.  Thank you for showing me, once again, that you are raising up a capable generation.  Father, I pray that your hand will be upon all the competitors from this tournament.  May your Spirit remain upon them and continue to teach them all that you have for them.  Soften their hearts and grant them an understanding of grace that goes beyond their age and experience.  Lord, encourage all the staff and volunteers who served at this tournament.  May their service be fruitful and continue to bring praise to your glorious Name.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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FAST FLEEING – Jan 25

January 25, 2015

“You have neither art nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God” Acts 8:21

I have done it to myself. training bible

At the beginning of the year, I laid out my annual training plan.(Training Plan)  I have been following the plan very consistently. It has been helpful to have a purposeful plan for both my physical and spiritual training. My January has been more productive than any in recent memory and I believe that is due to these plans.

For me, the advantage of a training plan is that it allows you to schedule, as a self-coach or personal trainer, the activities that you know are necessary for continued improvement. I rarely feel like doing hard things. Therefore, the hard workouts don’t seem to come up on my playlist when I am making my selection on what I feel like doing.

I have just such an activity schedule for next week. I placed this activity on my calendar in the comfort of my Christmas vacation. It is an activity that I know I should do, but I never get done; I am scheduled to fast next week.

Fast! What have I done to myself?

My earlier coaching-self knows the importance of fasting. The Coach knows the scripture references on fasting. The Coach spouts his most convincing passage to fast:

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them and then they will fast.” (Matt 9:14-15)

However, my present training-self immediately resorted to the typical response, when he realized what was scheduled for him. My trainee-self rebelled against my coaching-self and tried to get out of it.

I had double scheduled this week and was planning on going to my son’s NCFCA speech and debate tournament. I could not possibly fast through that week.

This excuse normally works.  Fasting is never convenient.  I usually can come up with some reason as to why I can’t go without eating.

But then, my work scheduled changed. I have several critical projects that will not let me take next week off…suddenly I can fast again.

“Fine; I’ll do it,” my trainee-self conceded to my coaching-self.

My training-self then began to re-hash all the old reservations about fasting. I have not done well in past fasts. I don’t feel very spiritual when I fast. I actually feel the opposite. All sorts of nastiness comes out of me when I fast. Fasting seems to be counter-productive. The trainee-self made a convincing argument that the Coach doesn’t know what he is talking about by inserting an activity that is clearly not going to develop continued improvement. Fasting is not for me. What is he thinking?

This excuse has always been the closing argument to get out of fasting.  Fasting makes me feel bad and very un-spiritual.  Therefore, I should not do it.

And then, I listened to this video by John Piper:

One of the purposes of fasting is to actually expose all the nastiness that I normally can keep hidden under a full belly. Fasting allows us the opportunity to deal with our nasty inner selves through prayer as they are revealed.

“Alright, alright, alright; I’ll do it,” was the capitulation of my training conscious.

I resolved to the fact that I am going to fast this coming week when the Trainee took one last attempt to get out of the maniacal scheduling of the Coach.  My nephew did a month-long juice fast about a year ago. I was amazed at the amount of weight he lost. I have been trying to lose weight. The Trainee began to wonder how much weight he might be able to lose in a week-long fast. It would be awesome if I break my metabolism loose and drop a substantial amount of weight. I began to focus more on the athletic benefits of a fast rather than the spiritual.
However, the Trainee immediately recognized that his heart was not right regarding the purpose of fasting. “It will be useless,” the trainee reasoned. I do not want to be like Simon the Magician who tried to buy spiritual gifts for all the wrong reasons. I should not fast with a heart that is not right before God.

This is a particularly sweet excuse.  The “my heart is not right” excuse has gotten me out of a lot of things that I did not want to do.

And then, I read verse 22:

Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.  (Acts 8:22)

I suddenly had the first nasty heart condition to repent before the Lord as part of my fasting period.

“I give up. I’ll do it,” the humbled Trainee whispered.

All the debate within my own head, reveals why the Spirit has consistently laid fasting upon the heart of my coaching-self. As all of my excuses have fallen, I have come to an even firmer resolution that I need to do this hard thing. I need to fast. My rebellious training-self has a lot of hidden nastiness that needs to be dealt with.

I realize that this resolution would probably never have happened if my coaching-self had not placed it into the training schedule. That is the power of a plan. Therefore, I am going to fast. As ugly as it may be, I am confident that my future self will be grateful to the obedience, even though it has been reluctant, of the present me in following the Spirit’s call to obedience.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for being so reluctant to give up my food.  Forgive me for all the excuses that I have come up with not to do what I believe you have been drawing me to do.  Help in the coming week.  Lord, enable this period of fasting be a blessing to my soul and bring glory to you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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EMBRACING JUDGMENT – Mar. 17

March 17, 2014

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”  Philippians 3:17

National Christian Forensics and Communication...

National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have spent the last three days, five if you count travel, with my family in Richland, Washington for the National Christian Forensics and Communication Association (NCFCA), Tri-Windy Speech and Debate tournament.  My son competed in two speech categories and Lincoln- Douglas debate.  However, I think that I was more consumed with this tournament than he was.

These tournaments rely upon community members to be judges for the students.  Parents are used to fill in the judging gaps as necessary.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of gaps to fill at this tournament, so I spent a lot of time judging.  I was responsible for determining winners and losers of debates.  I had to place speakers in a ranking order from 1 to 7 or 8.  I had to have opinions.  I had to have preferences.  I had to judge and reveal my conclusions.

After a speech or debate, I was thanked by each competitor for giving my time to come and be a judge for them.  They welcomed being judged.  While I was there for them, I don’t know if these competitors grasp how much they are impacting the judges that sit before them.  Those who judge cannot help but be influenced by those they are judging.

I am two days removed from the competition but I am still lingering over the spoken words from that tournament:

I am still savoring the tears of compassion elicited by words spoken with a quiet, confident, spirit.

I am still smiling in remembrance of the precious lisp of a voice given to a cricket who just wanted to be a butterfly (I Wish I Were a Butterfly).

I am still feeling the empathy that came from a delicate portrayal of mental illness. (The Yellow Wallpaper)

I am still appreciating how two competitors made a caterpillar come to life.  (Alice in Wonderland)

I am still awakened to the reality of a child soldier. (War Child: A Child Soldier’s Story)

I am still relishing the tears of laughter from the creativity of an interpretation of  Dr. Seuss.

I am still encouraged by the student who endured when his memory failed him.  He fought through to the end with courage greater than the comic-book characters he was portraying.

This tournament was ostensibly about the competitors.  However, there is always so much more happening when an individual embraces judgment.  The judged will inevitably influence the judge.  These competitors are learning the skills of the spoken word.  These are skills that will assist them in influencing their world for the rest of their lives.  However, that influence is not just in the future – I was influenced by their words.  These speech and debate tournaments are less about the competitors than they may realize.  These competitors are influencing the judging adults that sit before them now because of their willingness to be judged.

If they were not willing to be judged,
they would never influence these adults.

Georg Gsell. "The Apostle Paul."

We live in a world resistant to judging.  Often, we will try to protect ourselves from judgmental eyes.  However, we will never influence a world without embracing judgment.  When Paul challenged us to imitate him, he was opening himself up to judgment.  We form opinions about Paul’s life because of his challenge; we have to determine if his example is worthy of following.  Paul embraced the judgment of others and profoundly influenced the world.  If Paul had worried about judgment, he would never have interacted with the world.  He would never have spoken publicly.  He would never have written letters.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul had a profound influence over the world, because he was willing to be judged.

The world watches all of us.
We can either scorn their judgmental opinions or
we can embrace the opportunity to influence.

Going out into the world is a declaration of our willingness to subject our lives to the judgment of the world.

Are you willing to allow your words to be judged?
Are you willing to allow your decisions to be judged?
Are you willing to allow your beliefs to be judged?
Are you willing to allow your life to be judged?

It is not about us; it is about influencing those who judge.   The willingness of those who are willing to be judged are an example to me:

Judge the words I speak;
Judge the words I write;
Judge how I conduct business;
Judge how I have chosen to raise my family;
Judge my faith.

I want to live a life that influences my world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, I embrace the judgment of those who watch.  I embrace their judgment because I know that they will be influenced while they evaluate me.  May we all be willing to stand before the judging eyes of our world so that we may be profound influences upon those who are watching and listening.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me of my fear of other people’s judgment.  Forgive me for relinquishing opportunities to influence this world because I am afraid of a negative reaction.  Help me to welcome the evaluation of my life; use my life to influence the world around me.  Lord, I pray that you will draw others to your Son, Jesus Christ, through the influence that comes from a willingness to be judged.  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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