Posts Tagged ‘Pride’

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A TALE OF TWO TRI’S – Sept 1

September 1, 2014

“For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” Psalms 149:4

The triathlon season has come to a close for me. I competed in only two events this summer, the Boise Ironman 70.3 and the Emmett Most Excellent Triathlon. I am confrontDSC_0085ed by very different emotions as I reminisce over the two events.

The Boise Ironman was an event that I trained specifically for. I blogged several times regarding my apprehensions associated with this new and longer distance. I had specific goals for each leg of the race.

I hoped to swim the 1.2 mile distance between 40 to 45 minutes.
I wanted to do the 56 mile bike in less than 3 hours.
All I wanted to do was survive the ½ marathon; my goal was a time of 2 hours 30 minutes.

swim-massThe swim was cold – frigid cold.  So cold, I wanted to quit when my head broke the surface for the first time. However, the race start filled me with enough adrenaline and coursing blood that cold water concerns quickly evaporated. I swam my typical serpentine route as I struggled to stay on course. Other than getting a little motion sickness from swimming through a couple wakes and drinking a couple waves, the swim went very well. I came out of the water right at 40 minutes. I was thrilled.

My official time corresponded well with my experience – 40:05, 2:04/100 average.

DSC_0108My plan on the bike was to ride within myself and stick to my nutrition and hydration schedule. I tried to maintain a speed of over 20 mph on the flat sections of the course, knowing that my average speed would suffer on the hills. Surprisingly, I was averaging just over 20 mph as I descended back into the City of Boise. However, my stomach threatened to revolt. I had been regularly drinking the Gatorade that I was packing and consuming a gel packet on the ½ hour. By mile 45, the thought of eating another gel pack made me want to vomit and I acquiesced to the will of my stomach when it sent up a warning “erp”. I slowly watched my average speed fall as I tried to manage the fatigue that was creeping into my legs. However, I still held onto my goal of finishing the ride in less than 3 hours. I chuckled when the timer beep signaled the end of my ride with only seconds to spare.

My official time corresponded well with my experience – 2:29:53, 18.68 mph average.

I transitioned to the run and into the unknown. I managed the first couple miles relatively respectfully. However, my heart rate began to rise and fatigue was setting in alarmingly fast. I changed to a run-walk strategy. I ran until my heart rate cliDSC_0110mbed to 160 bpm, when I would walk it back down to 140 bpm. I did this throughout the run and to my surprise it was a reasonably pleasant experience. I was going agonizingly slow as a constant stream of runners continued to pass me, but at this point I did not care.  I just wanted to finish. I shuffled over the finish line just over 2:30.

My official time corresponded well with my experience – 2:30:53, 11.31/mile average.

0727_010853Overall, I finished with a time of 6:17:27. I had hoped to finish at 6:15, but I was very satisfied with my performance. I was 68th out of the 105 athletes in my age group; my typical place in the meat of the bell curve. My experience corresponded well with the official results.

My second race of the season came after a week of business travel, followed by a week of County fair. I went to sleep after 11:30 PM following an evening at the 4-H and FFA livestock sell with the decision not to race the following morning. However, I awoke with plenty of time to make the race that I had pre-registered and paid for. I never have the opportunity for open water swims so I figured I would do the race for the swim and see what happened with everything else.

I had the best swim that I have ever had in a race. I swam a reasonably straight route and did not have any major corrections. For the first time, I did not even get caught up in the melee at the turning buoys. I focused on stretching long and felt like I was going fast; very few swimmers passed me. When I came out of the water, I discovered that I had missed the start button on my watch so I had no time. I came out just behind this young guy and felt very good about the fact that there were not very many athletes in the transition area.

My official time for the swim was 27:20, 1:40/100 average.

This time was only 20 seconds faster than my time last year. I felt so much faster than last year. Also, according to the official time, the guy coming out of the water ahead of me was 41 years old, not the twenty-nothing kid I had remembered. My experience did not correspond this official record.

I had a very good ride. I was feeling strong and did way more passing than being passed. I was averaging between 22-23 mph over most of the route. A young guy passed me on the most significant climb and we exchanged some words of condolence. He became my pace setter as we headed back to the City of Emmett. Some weird cross winds picked up over the last third course so I contented myself with riding between 20-21 mph. The last check of my average speed was 21.75 mph as I came into the City of Emmett.

My official time was 1:10:46, 21.07 mph average.

This time was actually 19 seconds slower than my time last year. That did not make any sense. I know I rode that course faster than last year. According to the official time, the young guy that paced me on the bike was actually the same 41 year old guy who came out of the water 2 seconds ahead of me. My wife videoed me coming into the bike-run transition area and also caught a glimpse of the rider just ahead of me. I found a picture of the athlete who should have been ahead of me according to the official records on Linkedin and checked it against the video. They don’t look like the same guy.

DSC_0309I began my run with the usual trepidation. The day was relatively cool and I was feeling good. The normal flow of runners passing me did not seem as ferocious as usual. I was hoping to run the 10K under 1 hour and after a first lap of just over 28 minutes, I was right on pace. I checked my watch regularly with about two miles to go. It was going to be close. I lengthened my stride and really started to dig deep over that last ½ mile and I was encouraged as I gobbled up several athletes who had passed me earlier. The last check of my watch as I headed down the final stretch put me under 59 minutes, I was going to make it. I crossed the finish line and as they were cutting my timing chip off of my ankle, I stopped my watch – 59:something. I had done it and came in under 1 hour.

My official time was 1:00:08, 9:41/mile average.

That was a 10 second per mile average improvement over last year but it did not correspond at all to my own time. By my reckoning, I should have been about a minute faster.

Overall, I finished with a time of 2:41:10. I was 6th out of the 13 athletes in my age group and exactly 1 minute faster than last year. However, my experience of the race tells me that I should have been knocking on the door of the podium.

I can easily accept the official results of the Boise Ironman because they are confirmed by my experience. I probably will never fully accept the official results of the Emmett Most Excellent Triathlon because they are so counter to what I experienced. However, the official results of both races stand, whether I accept them or not.

In many ways, the tale of these two triathlons illustrates one of the most significant stumbling blocks to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel tells us that every person is a sinner in need of a Savior. It tells us that we are not good. It tells us that we have rebelled against God and have earned the punishment of hell.

The Gospel is good news to those whose experience corresponds to the official record of the Bible. For these, Jesus Christ saves them from what they know they deserve and gives them what they could never earn.

The Gospel is a stumbling block to those whose experience tells them that they are good enough. Their experience has them comparing themselves to other people and concluding that they do not deserve condemnation. Their pride leads them to follow their own understanding and reject the official record of pending judgment.

Just as it is pride that elevates my race experience to equality with an official timekeeper, it is pride that keeps a person from acknowledging his place before God and keeps God from exalting him. It is pride that makes people believe that they deserve the podium.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:10)

At the end of the age, it is only the official record that will stand. It will not matter whether we agree with it or not. All will be humbled before the splendor of His majesty. All pride will crumble and utterly pass away before the Lord.

And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,
And the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.(Isaiah 2:17)

Don’t wait until that day to let go of your pride for then it will be too late. Today is the day to accept the official record of the Lord God and to receive the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for breaking my pride and enabling me to see past my experience and to the truth of your Word.   Forgive me for reverting back to that old pride and not living daily in the good news of the Gospel.  Lord, enable me to not think of myself.  Help to keep my eyes firmly fixed upon you. Father, break down the stumbling block of pride that is keeping the lost focused upon their personal experience.  Call them to yourself and salvation.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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PRIZE BIKE – April 9

April 9, 2014

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11

 I have entered my first writing competition. I submitted my paragraph online and have been waiting for this day. Today, the contest ended and the evaluation of the hopeful has begun.  There are many reasons to enter a writing competition.

It forces you to actually write and produce something worth reading.
It allows a wider audience for your work.
It is a good way to test the water of the broader writing community.
It forces you to write carefully and critically.

Bicycling (magazine)

While those are good reasons to compete, none were my motivation to enter. I entered my first writing competition because I wanted to win. The April edition of Bicycling magazine was their annual buyer’s guide. The issue contained 123 reviews of the latest and best that the world of bicycling manufacturers has to offer.

The competition was to enter a 150 word, cycling-themed, parody of Bicycling writer Bill Strickland. The winner of the competition will get to choose any bicycle reviewed in the April edition that has a suggested retail price of less than $5,000.

Team RadioShack Madone

Since entering my 150 words, I have spent way too much time thinking about the prize. I have gone through ridiculous evaluations between the merits of the Guru Photon SL and the Felt F2; considerations of which would be better for my riding, the Trek Madone 6.2 H1 or H2; the Specialized S-Works Roubaix SL4 is way over the $5K limit but maybe they would work me a deal.

I was surprised what all this prize contemplation wrought when I took the humble seat of my Fuji road bike for my latest ride. I rode along a familiar route in the crispness of the spring morning, past pastures of frolicking calves, accompanied by the harmonies of a thousand song birds, yet completely engrossed by how much better a ride on a prize bike would be. I realized the surprising level of disappointment that was crouching at my doorway when I considered the likelihood of not winning the prize bike.

Specialized S-Works Roubaix

I had allowed the fun possibility of winning a writing competition turn in discontentment. I own two very nice bicycles. My bikes are not the limiting factor of my cycling. I don’t need a $5,000 bicycle. I can’t justify a $5,000 bicycle. Yet, I want one. How foolish will it be for me to be disappointed if I am not elevated from my humble road bike to the exalted saddle of a prize bike?

An amazing level of discontentment can arise when all we focus upon is what we don’t have, rather than what we do.

Jesus told the parable of the wedding feast and how people chose the places of honor. He instructed us in a level of humility that selects for ourselves the lowest place of honor. Then, when the host comes and recognizes our lowly status he will move us up to a higher place of honor.  The parable is a wonderful image of how we are humbled when we exalt ourselves and how we are exalted when we humble ourselves.

However, what happens if no one comes to raise us up?

It is often easy to see those who exalt themselves in their desire for honor. There are some who insert their resume of spiritual prowess into every conversation. Those overt challenges for the high seats of honor are easy to identify.

However, the subtle pride of feigned humility is often much more difficult to capture. We can become masters of contrived humility, spoken in anticipation of elevation. This more socially acceptable variant of honor seeking pride is exposed when we do not receive the anticipated response.

How do you feel…

…when you are not acknowledged?
…when your advice is not sought?
…when you’re not asked to lead?
…when self-deprecating statements are not countered?
…when no one asks what is wrong?
…when your value is not extolled?

How do you respond when you are not elevated to a seat of honor?

Feigned humility allows discontentment to fester in anticipation of being elevated to the seat of honor. We can become so engrossed in winning the prize of people’s honor and praise that we fail to appreciate the seat of honor we, as followers of Christ, have already been elevated to.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17)

We have been elevated to sit at the Lord’s Table as an heir.

Is there any greater honor? We have been given the greatest prize the world has ever known. Let’s not wallow in the sinful discontentment of seeking the lesser prize of man’s praise.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for being a master of feigned humility.  Forgive me of the pride in my anticipation of praise.  Forgive me for giving so much thought and effort into seeking the prize of man’s honor.  Forgive my sinful discontentment.  Lord, you have given me an honor that I do not deserve and could never earn.  Thank you for adopting me into your family.  Thank you for lifting me from my lowly estate and giving me a seat at your table.  Help me to be content in you and you alone.  Open my eyes to all that you have given me.  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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“CAN STAND IDIOTS” – Dec 26

December 26, 2013

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:46

csi

I saw this message emblazoned across a young man’s shirt.  The t-shirt should be a statement of personal self-loathing but I know it to actually be a statement of arrogance.  Unfortunately, there are many who live by this personal mantra – “the world is full of idiots”.

However, they will never include themselves in that category.  When they are an expert in some area, they are quick to judge the  actions of people who do something foolish in that area of expertise and thereby demonstrate that idiots abound.  “Did you see that idiot trying to ______________.”

The reality is that they are more correct than they realize.  The world is full of idiots.  Actually, everyone is an idiot in more categories than they are not.

Can you explain the purpose of the camshaft in an internal combustion engine?
– No? You’re an idiot in mechanics.

Can you list the three components of a framed wall?
– No? You’re an idiot in construction.

Can you define a measure in music?
– No? You’re an idiot in music.

Can you calculate the future worth of an annuity?
– No? You’re an idiot in finance.

Can you list the primary colors?
– No? You’re an idiot in art.

Can you explain the difference between the cerebrum and  the cerebellum?
– No? You’re an idiot in medicine.

Can you solve this calculus equation?
49578938844528115f954f534f71a19f

– No? You’re an idiot in mathematics.

It takes very little introspection to realize that there are more things that I know less about than those that I know more of.  It takes even less introspection to acknowledge that there are many people who know more about every subject that I have the most knowledge of.

Therefore, I am a genius to a few and an idiot to a lot.

Any brilliance that I may have is dwarfed by the extent of my foolishness.  If I can’t stand idiots, then I can’t stand the majority of who I am.  So, why are we impatient with those who know less about the subjects in which we are most confident?

PRIDE

Those who are quick to point out the foolishness of other people usually do in order to make much of themselves.  They excel at degrading other people’s inadequacies because it makes them feel superior.  A humble view of the world as a whole should interpret “the world is full of idiots” as a statement of unity.  The world is full of idiots and I am chief of the idiots in many areas.

This arrogance of overconfidence has a way of infiltrating our spiritual lives.  We can arrogantly give simple solutions to complex problems that will be as helpful as pointing out how foolish someone may be.  It may make us feel better about ourselves but does nothing to help the other person.

We can judge a struggling brother or sister for their spiritual failures.

If they only read their Bible as much as I do, then they would mature more in their faith.
If they would only step out in faith like I have, then God would bless them.
If they would only trust God like I do, then they could resist temptations.

We should have compassion for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  They may be making very foolish decisions – we need to pray for them, encourage, and support them to make better decisions.  We should not arrogantly point out how idiotic they are.  I may not be struggling in the same area as they do but the reality is that I am struggling in other areas that might not be as visible.

Every follower of Christ is maturing in their faith.  Since our spiritual maturity is a work of the Spirit from the beginning to the end, there is no place in the body of Christ for spiritual arrogance.  The church is full of idiotic people.  That is a statement of unity.  I am chief in many areas among a foolish and imperfect people.

We foolishly fall short of the perfection that we are called to every single day.  Jesus told us that our righteousness has to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees or we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:20)

Do you retaliate when someone does something mean to you?
Do you love and pray for those who are causing you harm?
Do you go above and beyond your obligations?
Do you get angry and irritated?
Do your eyes linger lustfully?
Do you relish your wealth?
Do you want to be seen and made much of?

You are a moral idiot.
I am a moral idiot.

I am incapable of being perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.  I have made so many bad decisions.  I continue to make idiotic choices.

That is why I am so thankful that God is patient with idiots like me.  I am so thankful that He has provided a perfection that I could not achieve on my own.  I am grateful for Christ giving me His righteousness to cover all of my foolishness.

If God is so patient with an idiot like me, should I not be just as patient and gracious with His other children.  We need to humble ourselves and patiently endure the foolish, in ourselves and other people, because God can stand idiots – He is doing it right now.

Therefore, let us declare as God does,

CSI:
Can Stand Idiots

PRAYER: O Lord, forgive me for being impatient with those whom you are sanctifying.  Forgive me for being critical of those who struggle in areas where you have made me strong.  Father, thank you for being patient with me and all of the foolishness that I continue to return to.  Lord, continue your work in me.  Continue your work in the Church.  May we glorify You as we are transformed from our idiotic ways.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“A PERFERENCE FOR GOD” – June 12

June 13, 2013

“Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him!  But the thunder of his power who can understand?’  Job 26:14

I am rather particular about what I like:

I like my coffee with a little cream but not too much;
Salsa should have a little kick but it shouldn’t scorch my taste buds;
I am driven inside when it is too hot or too cold;
I don’t like it when it is too windy or breezeless;
I like my dessert sweet but not too sweet.

Everyone has preferences.  Those preferences have ranges that depend upon the person.  When the ranges of our particular preferences are exceeded, we become uncomfortable.  However, there are another set of ranges that affect our very existence.  Our lives cannot be sustained if the ranges of these parameters are exceeded:

The sun cannot be any closer or further away;
The atmosphere cannot be any thicker or thinner;
My heart rate cannot get too high or too low;
My immune system has to be sensitive but not too sensitive;
I need some gravity but not too much.

We are very delicate creatures in terms of the mighty forces at work in this universe and there is no greater power than God Almighty.  He embodies forces that can turn our fragile forms to dust in an instant.  Who can stand before the weight of His glory?  Who can take the thunder of His voice?  Who can bear the intensity of His image?  Who can comprehend His ways?

God is beyond the range that our forms can accommodate.  I am incapable of taking all of God.  He has to moderate His power in order that we can know Him without being hurt.  He has to show us glimpses of the divine in the safety of His hand.  There is no place for pride in the full revelation of God.  Humility is our only response when we consider the grace that God has shown us by limiting Himself in His own revelation just so that we can bear it.  I am astounded by my own arrogance by taking God’s limited revelation and limiting it even further by my own preferences.  I wonder at how often I find myself living as though I control the boundaries of God in my life.

I cannot bear the silence of God.
I strain against the whisper of His voice in frustration.
Yet, I am afraid to hear the full force of His voice.

So many of us live in an attempt to set limits on God’s involvement in our lives; like that is even possible.  We like a little bit of God but not too much.  We don’t want God to exceed the range of our preferences for fear of Him making us uncomfortable.  We cringe at the thought of God calling us to a lifestyle that may bear the ridicule for being a Jesus Freak.

Humility recognizes that we don’t have that kind of control. Humility comes before God willing to take all that He has to give.  That may mean patiently waiting in His silence.  That may mean obediently following the roar of His leading.  Only the sinful heart thinks it can manage God Almighty.  God is never a preference of our lifestyle.  He is the very essence of our life.  He is the air that we breathe.  He is the source of every heart beat.

May we humbly seek all that He is revealing to us, no matter where that leads.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for allowing yourself to be known by me.  Thank you for opening my eyes.  Thank you for breathing life into my dead soul.  Father, I want to know You.  Help me to be open to all that you have to reveal to me.  Sustain me in your silence.  Give me courage to follow when you speak.  Teach me to know your voice.  Jesus, keep me humble before your mighty throne.  Do not let the arrogance of my heart think that I can manage my obedience.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“GLORIOUSLY WEAK” – June 1

June 1, 2013

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”  1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Body buildingStrength!  Who does not want to be strong?  Who wants to be weak?  I have never known a person who strove to be a weakling.  My entire world has been dominated by the strong.

Athletics is a competition of strength.  Those who have the strength to generate the most power, speed, flexibility, balance, and agility will be the ones who win the competition.  I have never trained for an athletic event with the goal of getting weaker.

English: Albert Einstein. Français : Portrait ...Academics is a competition of intellectual strength.  Those who have the strength to manipulate complex problems, develop elaborate logic, and comprehend extensive treatises, are the ones who achieve the pinnacles of the ivory towers.  I have never studied with the intent to be weaker in a particular subject.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...Business is a competition of power.  Capitalism dictates that the strongest businesses will survive and prosper.  The business with the most capital, stronger market share, superior product, better price is the business that will prosper.  I don’t spend my work-week in the hope of making my company have a weaker balance sheet.

Relationships are built on strength.  Those who possess the strengths of love, compassion, patience, selflessness, and forgiveness will be the ones who have deep and meaningful relationships.  Deutsch: Georg Müller (1805–1898), Waisenvater...I don’t long for weak and meaningless relationships.

Faith is a matter of strength.  We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak. (Romans 15:1)  There are those with stronger faith than others.  I don’t seek God in order for my faith to become weaker.

Our world is built on a pursuit and desire for strength.  I have never known a person who liked feeling inferior.  Our own feelings of inferiority are merely an acknowledgment that someone else has a strength that is superior to your own.  Our objection to being cast as inferior is a refusal to accept another person’s opinion of differing strengths.  We spend our lives making assessments of strength, both our own and others.

Usain Bolt

There may be the self-deprecating sorts who don’t think that they have any strength.  That is simply a lie polished in the center of their self-obsession.  Anything that we do well is a strength and everyone does something well in comparison to someone else.  I am incredibly fast in a foot race with a four-year old.  I am not so fast in a race against Usain Bolt.  I will destroy a toddler in a cage match but I will run for my life against Jon “Bones” Jones.

We all have strengths.

We all want to be stronger.

That is how our world works.

Here is the problem with this approach that we all live by, “God does not use the strong.”  This is insanely counter intuitive.  God does not use those who are strong and wise.  God does not use those people who are particularly skilled in the arena of their talents.  That just does not seem right.  I can give you a list of people who appear to be using their gifts and talents in ways that are very much being used by God.

Whether God uses us has nothing to do with human ability.  It has everything to do with our attitude.  I can do many things in my own strength:

I can love my wife in my own strength.
I can parent my kids in my own strength.
I can write this blog in my own strength.
I can go to work in my own strength.
I can even seek God in my own strength.

I can do all of those activities and many more by doing what I am good at.  What happens when one of those activities excels due to my efforts?  I want to take a bow.  I want to be acknowledged.  I want to boast in an acceptable Christian manner.

This is the insidious nature of strength.  Our greatest strengths can lead us into unknown bogs of futility.  We can think that we are doing such great work using our strengths when God has turned His back due to our pride.  Pride lies in wait for the first glimmer of a strength.  Pride will snatch a strength in its burgeoning infancy and fan itself into a flaming beast.

Those of extraordinary skills and talents are the most susceptible to stumble into pride.  However, we all need to be diligent in examining where we attribute our strengths.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Eph. 6:10

What do you have that has not been given to you?  What strengths do you have that are not from God?  What talents or special acumen is not a result of the Creator’s hand?  Was not God’s sovereign plan guiding every opportunity that has gotten you to where you are?

Every strength that we possess is the result of a divine blessing from God.  Therefore, we have no accomplishment in which to take a bow for.  Honestly acknowledging the true source of our strength results in us boasting in the Lord.  He is the one who is due the credit.  He is the one due the acclaim.

Another aspect of strength that is good to remember is the fact that our strength is not that impressive.  Strength is relative.  Our accomplishments are meritorious only in comparison.  We can appear worthy of praise only in comparison to one another.  However, a boast in ourselves quickly appears rather silly in comparison to God.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????Most of us have examined the flexed bicep of a pre-pubescent boy.  We pat him on the head and praise him for how strong he is all the while smirking about the absurdity of his bony little arm.  We are much less than that scrawny little boy when we compare our strengths to God.  It seems so very foolish to make much of a strength when we consider the strengths of our Father in heaven.  The assessment of our greatest strength in comparison to God will result in us boasting in the Lord.

The reality is that we are weak.  We were made weak.  We will always be weak in comparison to God.  All the strength that we have is a gift and unfathomable strength resides in Christ.

The glory of God is best seen in our weakness.

We should revel in our weakness because that is when God is made much of.

Therefore, our weakness is glorious.

When we fully embrace the glorifying potential in the weakness of our strengths, then we really can be used by God.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me of the pride I have taken in my strength.  Forgive me for boasting in myself and not acknowledging all the blessings you have given me.  Forgive me for not humbling myself before your greatness.  Thank you for my weakness.  Thank you for creating me to need You.  Thank you for doing everything that my strength is so unable to accomplish.  Thank you for not giving me trials based on my strength  All my strength comes from You.  All that is good in my life comes through my weakness.  Lord, may you be glorified in my weakness.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“HUMBLY COACHED” – April 27

April 27, 2013

“And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.  But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his own destruction.” 2 Chronicles 26:15b-16

A swimming club of sorts has developed at my work.  There are four of us who make the trek to the pool throughout the week to get some exercise by swimming laps.  None of us are experts in the fine art of swimming.  So, we share articles and videos with advice on how to be more efficient at moving through the water.  We know we are weak swimmers but we want to get stronger.  Therefore, we try to tweak our technique when we find some good advice.

The CoachSwimming is an activity that is particularly hard to critique yourself.  You may think that you’re efficiently gliding through the water but it is hard to really know.  It is very helpful to have someone watch you swim and provide a little coaching.  One of my friends spotted a problem in my swim technique a while back.  I was able to do some drills based on that observation to correct a deficiency that I was not even aware of.  I could not see it.

Coaching is only of value if you are willing to listen and change. 

I am very willing to take coaching advice in areas where I know that I am weak or from people who I know are stronger than I am.  They are strong. I am weak.  I want to know what they think might be of help to make me stronger.

However, what happens when you become stronger?

Walter Miller  (LOC)I have to admit that I am less inclined to listen to those who I perceive to be weaker than I am.  I bristle when advice comes from someone who appears under-qualified.  I am tempted to disregard coaching when I question the person’s motivations or they make me feel inferior.

The problem with strength is that it can cause us to unknowingly slide beyond the help of coaching.  Coaching will work only if it is heard.  Relative strength is such a fiendish enemy because it plugs our ears.  If you are the strongest person you know, then what does anyone have to teach you?

This is why strength can easily lead directly into pride.  Pride is an inordinate opinion of one’s own strength.  That opinion gets displayed in how we feel other people should relate to us or the value we place in their observations.  It is easy for the proud to dismiss the coaching of others.  Pride will defend its lofty opinion when others don’t support it appropriately.

It is so easy to get caught in the trap of our own strength.  The only escape from this trap is to recognize that our perceived strength is relative.  It is relative to those who are around us.  It is easy to be the big fish in a small pond.  It is even easier to be the big fish when you’re the sole inhabitant of the fish bowl.  There is never a place for pride when we realize our pond is the universe.  No one has any strength that is greater than the great I AM.  We all stand humbled before God.  We all stand meritless before the worthiness of Christ.  Our boasts are laughable on the scale of our Redeemer’s works.

However, our pride is not amusing to God.  It is gravely offensive to our Lord.  God hates the proud because they deny His surpassing strength.  The proud are fools in thinking that they are equal to God. The practical result of comparing our strengths to the God of the Universe is a humility that opens our ears to coaching.  A humbled heart will recognize the weaknesses in their strengths.  It is by the work of the Spirit that we become stronger in our faith.

Sanctification is the result of following the coaching of God.

Praise God that he does not leave us to our devices to try to figure out our sanctification on our own.  The Father has sent the Spirit in the name of Jesus to teach us all things and to bring to our remembrance the teachings of Christ. (John 14:26)

We need to be humble and accept the teachings of the Spirit in all forms:

The Spirit directs us through the scriptures and prayer.

The Spirit teaches us through teachers and pastors.

The Spirit pushes us toward a deeper relationship with the Father through mature believers.

He also trains us through the weak.

He uses the questions of the immature to convict our own hearts.

He uses the accusations of the unsaved to reveal our hypocrisy.

He even can use the donkeys of this world to speak truth. (Numbers 22:28)

We must recognize that the rejection of a message simply due to our perceived status of the messenger is a form of pride.  Pride such as that is hated by God.  Now, we must be wise and discerning to recognize truth from the chaff of the world.  However, pride does not have a place in that process.

May we be humble, wise, and discerning to see the Spirit’s coaching in all the wonderful variations and forms that He uses.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for my pride.  Lord, I know how quickly I tend to take my eyes off of you.  Keep me from having the blessings of sanctification transform into a hinderance.  Forgive me if my pride has been a stumbling block to others.  Father, keep my eyes fixed on you.  May all my comparisons be to your surpassing worth.  Give me a humble and contrite heart that longs for only You.  I praise You and pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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