Archive for the ‘Philippians’ Category

h1

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

Enhanced by Zemanta
h1

IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL – Mar. 9

March 9, 2014

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”  Philippians 3:8

Angry Gopher

Angry Gopher (Photo credit: *~Dawn~*)

I walked my nine acres of unproductive farm-ground in hunt for the only thing my property produces in abundance – gophers.  The rains of March have cleared my land of snow and sapped the frost out of the ground.  As green sprouts begin to push out toward the surface, other monuments to spring have been appearing across my acreage – the miserable gopher mounds.  I have a gopher problem substantiated by last year’s trap total of 126 gophers.  I have written about my hate of gophers before (Trapped Like a Miserable Gopher).

In response, I have picked up my ritual of gopher trapping.  I walk across the fields carrying a five gallon metal bucket filled with traps and flags that creates a rhythmic beat as trap chains beat against the bucket’s metal side with each step.  My shovel acts as a walking stick, keeping time with each step across uneven ground as I scan the surfaces ahead for any irregularities.

glaukos / Foter / CC BY-NC

While I hate gophers, I enjoy gopher trapping.  The menial nature of trapping allows me to pray and think as I haphazardly meander from one suspicious dirt mound to another.  On this day, the beating of the chains against my metal bucket drew my mind to the song “It is Well with my Soul” and thoughts of this last week.

My week contained a very unexpected discouragement.  It was another notable discouragement in a series of discouragements that have spanned the last several years.  Therefore, the lyrics of this song became more of a question than a statement.

Is it well with my soul? 

Foter / Public Domain Mark 1.0

“When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot”…have I been taught to say, “It is well with my soul”?  I consider what has transpired over these last several years and contemplate much of what I have been taught.  I have not experienced anything even remotely close to the tragedy of Horatio Spafford, author of “It is Well with my Soul”.  I know how materially and relationally blessed I am.

Yet,I think that years from now when I look back on this decade of my life, I will recognize it as a time of sustained pruning.  I have been taught such important lessons through all these discouragements.  I have been taught that there is only one thing upon which we can place our hope.  My lessons have come by the loss of many things that I unknowingly held dear.  It was only through the curtailment of these treasures that I discovered just how much I overvalued them.  I have lost my health to cancer, wealth to business failures, respect to employee intrigues, service to a Church plant closing, and friendships to disregard.

As I cleared dirt from the gopher hole I had just dug up, I mentally tried to clear away the debris of feelings in my search for an answer to the question of whether it truly was well with my soul.  I look back at what I have learned from each of these experiences. Upon each loss, I have chosen Christ.  There has not been anything that I have lost that has made me question the love of Jesus Christ for me.  In fact, my disappointments have drawn me closer to him.  When I have been stripped of what I value, I have come to recognize that it is not precious in comparison to Christ.  I stood in an empty field as pockmarked with gopher mounds as my life with disappointments and I sang:

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

It truly is well with my soul.  I know that my losses are insignificant in comparison to some but I am learning to cherish each loss because of what I have come to deeply know through them.  It has only been through disappointment that I have learned to rest in the blest assurance of Christ.  I had not realized how blind I have been to my pride and discontentment.

Foter / CC BY-SA

I gazed at my house in the distance and know that I have so much more that can be lost.  I mentally imagined losing it all – would it still be well with my soul?  Can I count all that lay before me as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord?  I cringe at the thought of walking the same path as Horatio Spafford.  I immediately know that I could not endure that on my own but I also know that I would not have to.  Today’s troubles are sufficient for today, there is no need to fret about the losses of tomorrow.  My Lord’s hand is strong and he will provide the strength needed at the precise time of need.  Therefore, I sang:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

I know that my days of trouble are not over.  I have many disappointments in my future that will teach me many lessons that I have yet to learn.  My hope is that I will learn from these previous disappointments in order to handle future losses in a more God glorifying manner.

This recent loss has revealed another blind spot in my life.  I thought that I was living joyfully.  I thought that I was showing to the world that I cherished Christ more than the treasures of this world.  However, I have learned that the imperfect manner in which I let go of those things that I highly valued, had more of an effect on people that I care for than I had realized.

I have grumbled about unfairness.  I have moped over what should have been.  I have withdrawn in sadness and defense.  I know that I have walked joylessly for significant periods.  I guess I had hoped it had not shown.  I have learned that my sinful response to loss has been a discouragement to others with considerable ramifications.  I unknowingly allowed loss to become a repelling stench to some rather than a God glorifying aroma that draws others to my Lord and Savior.

Foter / CC BY-SA

I have learned the importance of being a shining light in this world particularly in times of personal loss.  I am prone to selfish navel gazing.  However, God is most glorified when others can see us counting everything as loss in the mist of the loss.  There are consequences to wallowing in our despair.  Others are encouraged in their faith when they observe us holding firmly to Christ and allowing the cares of this world to easily slip from a loose grasp.  It is our losses where we can show others the great hope that we have.  I cannot change the past but I can plan for the future.  Therefore, I hope to learn from my past and embrace future losses with an eye to glorifying God in all circumstances.  May the Lord grant us all the strength to look beyond our loss, and demonstrate to the world watching where our true hope resides.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for all the losses that you have allowed in my life.  Thank you for revealing to me what I have been esteeming more than you.  Forgive me for holding on too tightly to the things of this world.  Forgive me of my pride.  Forgive my of my lack of contentment in you and you alone.  Father, forgive me for missing the opportunity of glorifying you in my losses and showing the world around me how wonderful you are.  Protect and encourage those who I have let down and discouraged.  Lord, I praise your name (It is Well ~ Kutless).  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Resources:
How to Count it All as Loss

Enhanced by Zemanta
h1

“SPONSORED BLOG!” – Dec 4

December 4, 2013

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

There are some bloggers that get really good stuff.  I have read runner’s blogs who have been sent free shoes to review.  I have read bloggers who write reviews of the free books that they have been sent.  I have read triathlete blogs reviewing a variety of free stuff that they have been sent to try.

I like free stuff and I have a lot of opinions so I have always thought it would be fun to receive something to review.

Therefore, you probably can imagine my surprise and anticipation upon receiving an email entitled “Blog Sponsorship – We Want You!”.  My mind raced through the possibilities.  I had recently written a blog about my new Cervelo tri-bike.  Maybe, it was Cervelo wanting to sponsor some bike gear.  Maybe, it was Mizuno.  I had blogged about getting my running shoes.  I had recently emailed Tim Challies at Challies.com, a big-time blogger, maybe he had hooked me up.

I opened the email with great expectations.  The sender of the email was very complimentary of this blog, always encouraging, and thought that the voice and energy of this blog were perfectly in line with the kind of people they’re looking to attract to their brand.

It was their brand that caused me some confusion – bowling.

Full disclosure: I am not a bowler.  I have never blogged about bowling.  I take my kids bowling once or twice a year.  I don’t own any bowling equipment.  I have never owned bowling equipment.  I don’t even know how to keep score.  I let the bowling machine do that.

I am not the ideal person to review bowling equipment.

I explained this to the good people at BowlingShoes.com.  They understood and were still willing to send me some shoes.  My wife was not as understanding when she asked, “Are you going to sell out for bowling shoes”.  I was hurt.  I looked at her, arms extended with palms to the sky, and with a slight shrug, asked her if she even knew me.  If she knew me, she would know that I absolutely will sell out for free bowling shoes.

I am cheap; they are free.  What more is there to consider?

Bowling shoes 003I got my brand new Dexter Jack bowling shoes from BowlingShoes.com a couple weeks ago.  My experience with bowling shoes has been the clown shoes you rent at the bowling alley.  What I received are not those kinds of shoes – they did not have a strange chemical / sweat odor and I had no apprehension about putting my feet into them.  These shoes are actually comfortable.  I wore them around the house, sliding across the kitchen floor, to the general annoyance of my household.  The shoe has really good arch support, a nice stable base and rather stylish (another disclosure: I am an engineer by profession and my wife dresses me).

Bowling shoes 017However, a bowling shoe is not about looking stylish at home.  It should be good for bowling.  So, my kids and I took my new shoes bowling over the weekend.  Unfortunately, the shoes made no improvement on my game.  I was satisfied with breaking triple digits in all of our games, the same as usual.  However, the shoes were so comfortable that I did not think about them.  They did not even feel like they needed breaking in.  I was freed to focus on all the other aspects of my bowling technique that were leaving so many pins unadulterated.

These shoes are a quantum leap above what you can rent.  Even as person who doesn’t know much about bowling shoes, I can tell that they are good shoes.  So, I now have good shoes dedicated for an activity that I rarely do.

It does not make much sense to let dust accumulate on them.  So, I am going to wear them despite my wife’s objections.  People wear basketball shoes and running shoes to the grocery store.  Why can’t I wear my bowling shoes?  It might be fun to go sliding through the aisles of Wal-Mart.  I realize that the bowlers of the world might be aghast at using my bowling shoes for casual wear.  I realize that I will probably ruin the soles for bowling but I don’t bowl.

Bowling shoes 020These shoes are shoes that can be used for bowling but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used for anything else.  I might get some strange looks at the grocery store.  There might be some folks that question what I am doing.  I got a free gift from the nice people at BowlingShoes.com.  I think the best way I can show my appreciation is to actually use their product in whatever manner I can.  I am going to take my Dexter’s out on a regular basis.

I think a lot of people view their spiritual lives like bowling shoes.  They have a misconception that there is a separation between the spiritual and secular lives.  They confine their appreciation of what Christ has given them to the activities of their Church and designated worship times.

We should not have to put our worship on to go to Church and take it off to go to work.  Our worship is the continual garment of who we are.  It is a product of a grateful heart.

There will be folks who won’t get your worshipful attitude.  They may look at you like you’re wearing bowling shoes in a grocery store but your attitude is not for them.  Our worship is in the Lord and Him alone.  He does not change.  He is with us always, so our rejoicing should not change based on what we are doing.

Don’t be afraid to wear your worship everywhere you go – even if it feels like wearing bowling shoes.

PRAYER: O Lord, break down all notions that I have created as excuses not to worship you.  Forgive me for forgetting the grace that you have shown me.  Forgive me for getting so preoccupied with the monotony of my daily life.  Lord, I want to live in constant worship.  I want to be the same person throughout the business day as I am on Sunday morning.  I want to be the same person living with my family as I am in my quiet times with you.  Father, help be to be consistently aware of your Spirit with my eyes focused on you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

h1

“RUNNING ON A FLAT TIRE” – July 26

July 26, 2013

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:3-4

flat tire
flat tire (Photo credit: helga tawil souri)

“Not again,” was my thought as I walked onto our porch and saw the deflated back tire on my road bike.  I have experienced a rash of flat tires.  This was my third flat tire in four outings.  Fortunately, none of the causes have resulted in a deflation that left me standing along the roadside.  They have all been slow leakers.  I get done with my ride and the tire is a little squishy but the damage has been done.  Through the night the precious entrapped air escapes.

Without air in my tires, the rim will grind into the asphalt if I were to try to ride it.  The air in the tire creates some very important separation.  Road bike tires are impressive for the very small amount of area that actually comes in contact with the pavement.  The smaller that area can be results in less friction, which means you go faster.  However, you must have air in your tires.

I have come into contact with my world for my entire life, like a tire to pavement.  I have learned a few things when pressed up against family and friends.  I am aware of the effect when the weight of interaction is applied in school, work, church, or any other social occasion.

Flat Tire

Flat Tire (Photo credit: sam.d)

The more of me that comes into contact with other people the more friction there will be.

My flesh only knows the interaction of self-interest.  The pursuit of one’s self-interest will always result in friction.  I can grind into my world with a purposefulness of my self-interest that reveals itself in rivalry and conceit.  My values can get squishy when I pursue what I feel is best for me.  I become about as effective as a flat tire when my self-interest is given the lead.

Flat repairI know that I need separation.  I know that the less of me and my self-interest that interacts with the world the better.  That is why I need to be filled with the Spirit.  It is only by the filling of the Spirit that rivalry and conceit can be banished.  It is only through the power of the Spirit that our flesh can be pushed back so we can even see the interests of others.  The fruit of the Spirit is like a tire pump.  With each sustaining pump of the Spirit into our lives (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control), the amount of interaction between our flesh and others is reduced.  That reduces friction.

I have never wanted to seek other interests when I have been spiritually flat.  There was way too much of me grinding into my world to care about the interests of others.  We need the work of the Spirit in our lives to fill and lift us.  As the Spirit fills us from one degree to another, our sanctification will increase like the pressure in a tire.  I look forward to the day when my flesh is completely destroyed.  Until that day, I will rely upon the power of the Spirit to separate the remaining tentacles of my flesh from the world.

How is the pressure of the Spirit in your life?

PRAYER: Lord, I realize more each day how much I need you.  Thank you for sending your Spirit to teach and guide me.  Thank you for filling me and making me a new creature.  Father, help me to set my mind on you and not on myself.  Lord, develop the fruit of your Spirit in my life.  Transform me so that my nature will be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  That is who I want to be.  Father, raise me to be that kind of man.  May the world see more of you and less of me.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

h1

“COME DEATH…BUT NOT YET” – July 24

July 24, 2013

“Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.”  Philippians 1:25

I can relate to Paul’s longing for death.  For Paul, he knew that it was far better to depart and be with Christ.  I believe in the sweet release of death and look forward to being with Christ.  However, there is a difference between longing for what is far better behind the veil of death and simply wanting to escape the stress and unpleasantness of life.

Dark Night

Dark Night (Photo credit: Mat Sheridan)

Typically, I only think about death when the view on this side is bleak.  “O Lord, if you are going to take me, then now would be a good time,” has been a prayer that has crossed my lips on the eve of an important test that I was ill prepared for.  The oppression of discouragement and meaninglessness leads the eye to look to for what is far better beyond the horizon of life.  Feelings of being ill-suited for this world and without a role tend to increase the desire to go where you know you will belong.

On those dark nights, escape has been my primary motivation behind the desire to leave this world.

The duplicity of my motivation was revealed when the doctor explained the cancer that was confronting my mortality.  Suddenly, the attractive escape of death was not as appealing.  There was within me an earnest desire to remain here a little longer to help raise my kids and grow old with my wife.  “O Lord, if it is your will  then your will be done but please give me a few more years.  Allow me to be a father and husband a little longer,” was my prayer when the reality of death knocked.

The Lord graciously granted that prayer and I have been cancer free for more than ten years.  However, the earnestness of being purposeful wanes as the years have removed the palpable taste of death’s reality.  The taste may diminish but the reality remains.  We all are a missed heartbeat away from crossing the veil into the arms of our Savior.  The time that we have been give is precious and should not be wasted.

For those who are in Christ, it is far better for the Lord to take us home.  So, why doesn’t he?  We are here for a purpose:

For to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.  (Philippians 1:24)

sunrise silhouette

sunrise silhouette (Photo credit: LJ Mears)

Like Paul, we remain in this world not for our own account but for others.  We all have a necessary purpose that we can fulfill in the time that God has given us on this earth.  We are here to help others progress in their faith.  Our purpose is to increase the joy in their faith.  It should be said of every departing brother and sister that they brought joy, encouragement, and progress to the faith of those in their life.

We are never too old or young to bring joy and encourage progress in someone else’s faith.
We are never too immature or mature to be about the purpose of others.

My hope and prayer on the day that death is allowed to take me is that my life will have brought joy to the faith of those I love.  I want those in whom I have invested my life to say that they have progressed in their faith because of the time that we were together.

That will be a life well spent.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for every day that you have given me.  Forgive me for not making the most of them.  Forgive me for allowing my limited days to be consumed with thoughts of my self.  Father, I want to live purposefully.  I want those whom you have placed in my life to be joyful as a result of my love for you.  I want those whom you have called to go further in their sanctification as a result of seeing my desire to seek you.  Lord, may you grant this purpose to my life.  Keep it in the forefront of my intentions.  Help me to be purposeful with the fleeting hours that I have been given.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

%d bloggers like this: