Archive for the ‘Pride’ Category

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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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“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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“BEING SPECIAL” – Oct 22

October 22, 2013

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

AirmanMagazine / Foter / CC BY-NC

With one last pull of my arm, I glided to the end of the pool, my other arm extended in front of me.  Now, that was a good swim.  I had just completed 2,000 yards of swimming without stopping.  I had considered doing some shorter sets due to how I had started my day.

The days have been getting shorter, which has affected by workout routine.  The sunrise no longer quick enough in chasing the night away for me to squeeze in a morning run before I have to leave for work.  Therefore, my wife and I have returned to Jillian.  We are back to doing the Jillian Michaels 90 day Body Revolution.

Doing an upper body, weight training workout in the morning is not performance enhancing for a lunch hour swim.  My satisfaction in my 2,000 yard swim stemmed from overcoming this new workout schedule.  I felt the effects of Jillian’s super-sets, 5 laps into my swim.  I could feel the energy drain from my shoulders on every pull.  The tightness in my triceps made keeping my elbows high a challenge.  I wanted to quit at 10 laps.  I was very glad that I pushed through for another 30 laps.  I did not have a great time but that was not the point.

I was feeling pretty good about myself as I bobbed at the edge of the pool.  I was the only lap swimmer in the pool.  I shared the pool with a group of intellectually disabled (ID) swimmers who come to enjoy the pool once a week.  After a short recovery, I pulled myself out of the pool.  My upper body was shot but the benefit was that I had a pretty good pump going.

istolethetv / Foter / CC BY

I admit that I was being rather vain as I admired my muscles.  I had pretty good definition in my shoulders.  I could see a distinct diamond in my triceps and I could discern a shadow of a vein in my bicep.  The excavation of my abdominals, while still incomplete was showing the ripple of a couple ribs so that was encouraging.

I probably peacocked a little bit as I headed into the shower.  I had just got all sudded up, still enjoying vainness of my pump, when I noticed someone walking through the shower.  I was in the process of washing the soap off of my head when this interloper spoke.  The water flowing over my head prevented me from hearing him clearly but it sounded like he said something about the Olympics.  “Well that is cool, he must think I’m of Olympic quality”, is what I thought but in my heart I knew that could not be.

I swiped the water from my head with a back of the head to chin motion.  My lack of immediate response motivated my admirer to repeat himself, only louder.  This time his question echoed through the shower, “Are you in the Special Olympics?”

Lost in vanity, my immediate response was a surge of indignation rushing up my spine.  In a flash, my mind raced through all the implications of this obvious insult.  Why would this guy think I was in the Special Olympics?  He must have meant, “Am I WITH the Special Olympics” maybe a coach, but that is not what he said.  He said, “Are you IN the Special Olympics?”  Where is he going with this?  Regardless of his motivation, I squared up to my intruder in a move of unreasonable machismo.

I took one more swipe across my eyes to clear my vision as I blurted out, an incredulous “what?”  In an instant, I felt rather foolish.  Standing across from me was a man in his mid-twenties.  He was over-weight with stooped shoulders that shrunk his 6’-3” frame.  He repeated himself again, “Are you in the Special Olympics?” with an innocent and sincere face that acknowledged that he was intending to compliment me.

I laughed to myself as I said, “no.”  I asked him if he had been in the Special Olympics because I now recognized that he was part of the ID group that I regular shared the pool.  I was quickly awash in his effusion of words explaining that he indeed was a Special Olympian and that he had won several events.  I smiled at his joy of participating in the Special Olympics and realized that, for him, there was no greater accomplishment than to be a Special Olympian.  My vanity vanished in the delight of this Special Olympian as I praised him of his accomplishments.

This little experience reminded me of how much we can miss due to our vanity.  I could have dismissed this young man based on a misunderstanding of an unintended insult.  I would have missed the blessing of his joy.  He would have missed being encouraged.  We both would have lost if my vanity had won.

Vanity emerges in so many aspects of our lives:

Preoccupation with our image,
Demonstrations of strength for the sole purpose of strength,
Bound to the home with the chains of imperfect make-up,
Demanding the fashionable,
Shouting to be heard,
Spewing sarcasm to be witty,
Logging deserved praise and inadvertent slights,
Relegating hospitality to a dust layer.

What are we afraid of?  Are we afraid that someone will view our Olympic caliber efforts as “Special”?  No one can withstand the relentless pressure of public opinion.  Living for the opinions of peers is like sitting in a pressure vessel at the bottom of the ocean.  The slightest crack in our façade allows all of those feared opinions to rush in and crush a fragile and vain self-image.

Everyone will eventually succumb to the pressure.

No matter how hard I work out, age will have its way with my physic.  My hair will eventually gray and fall out.  My skin will wrinkle and sag.  My world will fall apart if it is based upon other people’s opinion of my appearance, intelligence, abilities or anything else.  If I allow people to get too close, they will eventually see that I am not perfect.

Consider what has to be sacrificed to the pressures of vanity and the fear of human opinion.

God’ opinion is so much more important than any man’s.  Therefore, it is God whose opinion we should be concerned about.  Freedom from the pressure of our peers comes when we remember that we don’t need to worry about other people’s vain opinions.

We cannot please God and man.

Everyone must pick who they will live to please.

Everyone must decide whose negative opinion they will fear.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me for being so vain.  Forgive me for often letting my vanity keep me from blessing other people.  You are the one whose displeasure I fear.  Help be to remember who I am in You.  Help me to value what you are making me into more than what the world wants me to be.  My hope is in you and not the opinions of my peers.  May all I do be pleasing to you.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“SACRICTY OF CHARACTER” – July 31

July 31, 2013

“O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved.  How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you.”  Jeremiah 4:14

Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner (Photo credit: maxintosh)

It seems that news stories continue to materialize that are themed upon character and character seems to be scarce.  The character of Anthony Weiner has overshadowed his New York City Mayoral candidacy.  San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has had to answer the questions that revolve around his character.  The main character of Lance Armstrong’s saga is his character.  The bankruptcy of the City of Detroit has been attributed by some to past leaders’ character.

Új fejezetek Oprah-tól: Lance Armtrong - exklu...

The news seems to be a perpetual drip of politicians, entertainers, and athletes who have been caught doing what they should not have been doing.  We have all witnessed the great effusion of apologies and explanations of the famous whose character was tested and found lacking.

John Wooden at a ceremony on Oct. 14, the coac...

I have heard character defined as who you are when no one is looking.  However, I don’t know if that definition goes far enough.

When are we truly alone?  When are we really free from the accountability?  The famous UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, defined character a little better.

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. ~ John Wooden

Who I really am is my character. 

My true character is what no one can see. My character resides in a place of solitude beyond the perception of others.  No one can know my true character because no one can know my thoughts.  Occasionally, an unfiltered thought may slip out, but for most of us our self-control plays an effective guardian over what we really are.

However, our true character is:

That curse word that comes out of nowhere.
That appetite for knowing the latest gossip.
That snicker when the proud fall.
That precise accounting of personal sacrifice.
That want for what others have.
That necessity to avoid the indecent.
That falsehood charmed to escape a trap.
That flash of anger from a slight.
That snarky come-back that forms a day late.
That pride in being humbled.
That competition to be better than others.
That warm feeling of praise.
That desire to be made much of.

The fact that these traits rarely materialize into actions does not negate the reality of their existence.  Character is what you really are.  The thoughts of our mind are our true character traits.

Based on this definition, who has character?  There are no people of character when judged upon our thoughts.  Just because you do the right things, even when there is no one around to see, does not mean you are a person of character.  A person of true character will be a righteous person in deeds and thoughts.  We know that there is none righteous, not even one. (Romans 3:10)  Therefore, we know that there is no person of character, not even one.

We need to honestly examine our thoughts to know are character.

I would be embarrassed for my thoughts to be known.  The war of my mind betrays who I really am.  The battle to set my mind on the things of the Spirit is a continual reminder of my need for a Savior.  I am not righteous.  Any righteousness that is within me comes from the grace and mercy of my Lord.  Any traits that might be called character are a result of the work of the Spirit.  There is no place for pride of character.  I am a man in need of grace from a merciful God.

My thoughts have convinced me of that.

PRAYER: Lord, I am a sinner.   Thank you for removing the condemnation of my sin.  Thank you for forgiving me and cleansing  me.  Forgive me for being proud of my  character.  Forgive me for taking credit for your work within me.  Lord, please continue that work.  I know that there is a lot of work that remains to be done.  Father, I want all that I do and think to glorify and please you.  Help me to set my mind on the things of the Spirit.  Help me to think upon that which is true, honorable, just, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.  Help me to think about these things.  Change my thoughts.  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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