Posts Tagged ‘First Epistle to the Corinthians’

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REVELATIONS FROM A BAD RACE – April 1

April 1, 2014

““Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

In my last post (Race Day), I was in the midst of pre-race excitement and the unknown of never having competed in a cycling event.  I am now in the haze of reflection on a weekend of bicycle racing.

 

ToO Road Race 2014

I now know that my day-dream of standing on a podium really was a silly fantasy.
I also know the dreaded realization of being crushed by  “real” cyclists.

Time Trial:

I knew I was in trouble as I watched the other riders warm-up. I was impressed by the degree of aero-equipment that whizzed past me; TT bikes, aero-helmets, aero-wheels, and skin-suits of every variety and shape.  The vast majority of my competitors wore the gear of a cycling team and looked very fit.  I did not see any newbies, like myself.

The actual race confirmed my fears. They release competitors individually, in one minute increments. I was passed by three racers. In fact, I was passed within the first two miles by the guy who started immediately behind me, after I had been averaging over 23 mph.  I finished 10th…out of ten, in my age group, 76th out of 87 overall. However, I had personal bests on both climbs and I maintained my heart rate between 155-165 bpm. It was probably the best I could do.

I am satisfied with the race since my finish was strong (for me).

Criterium:

The crit course is located in the downtown section of a local town, in the form of a rectangle with two block straight-aways and 90 degree corners. It is flat and fast. From the whistle, we were immediately up to 25 mph. I managed through the first and second corners.  On the third corner, I was set up on the outside of the turn. I could not see very far ahead due to the group so I set my line base on the rider inside of me. We all leaned into the turn but I quickly released that I was being pinched into the curb as we were coming through the turn. I grabbed my brake a little too hard and felt my back tire slip toward the curb at which point I felt this sense of weightlessness. The next thing I knew I was standing in a grassy area adjacent to the course, inspecting my bike.

I had crashed in my first lap. Fortunately, I landed on the only grass aligning the whole course.  A rider with better bike handling skills and experience probably would never have crashed. I am a little disappointed that I did not get back on my bike and finish the crit – I probably could have. The crash rattled and scared me.

I did not finish well. In fact, I did not finish.

Road Race:

I didn’t want to do the road race after my experience with stages 1 and 2. I had been humbled and outclassed. I had done the pre-race ride and knew what a day on the road race course would be like.(Strava-Like Community)   A few friends encouraged me to continue and consider the road race as an opportunity to train and gain experience. I had no answer to their encouragement so I sucked it up and went for it.

To my surprise, I hung with the group until the climb at the end of the first lap when I was dropped and the group was gone. I rode in solitude for the next two laps, as I had expected, finishing 12th …out of twelve, in my age group, 49th out of 58 overall. I am happy that I persevered through the race even though my time was not competitive.

Measure the Heart
I was thinking about Paul’s encouragement to compete in a way to obtain the prize.  Thankfully, God does not judge our faith by outward appearance. He knows our heart. He knows the blessings and abilities that He has granted each one of us. He does not grant the prize based upon the external accolades from this race we call life.

God judges us based upon our heart.

I may have exhibited more heart and determination than my weekend rankings may have exhibited. I have not been blessed with much of the youth, experience, strength and athleticism on display by those real cyclists. I don’t have the luxury of time to put into dedicated cycling training necessary to achieve the sort of cycling fitness and power that I saw this weekend. But given where I am, I might not be in last place if heart were a category.

God judges us based upon our heart and what our love for Him motivates us to do with all the blessings and abilities He has given us. That is why we should not judge other people by their actions. We never know how competitive their heart really is. They might actually be running a better race of faith than I am without many of the advantages I have been given.

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Race Well
We are all in a race. The goal of this race is to persevere and finish strong in our faith. We should all be striving to hear the words, “well done, good and faithful servant”.

We may feel outclassed by other people’s faith and dedication.
We may have crashed our faith due to inexperience and poor decisions.
We may be rattled and afraid of where following Christ might take us.
Bad experiences may have us at the edge of wanting to give up.
We might feel discouraged as we slog along in solitude.

Remember, God does not judge the external results of your faith. He judges your heart. He knows the gifts He has given you. He knows the disadvantages you are overcoming. He knows the faith He has given you. He has you exactly where He wants you. He is providing you with experience and training so that you will persevere to the finish line.

So, don’t give up; look to other real faith racers as examples of what is possible. Take heart in knowing that God has given them the strength to follow Him as they do. He can do the same for you. Most likely, He is already doing it as long as you continue to show some heart – a heart dedicated to loving God more than anything.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the opportunity to race this weekend. Thank you for showing me how important heart is.  Thank you for giving me grass to crash into.  Thank you for the faith that you have given me.  Thank you for the experience and training that you are putting me through.  Lord, examine my heart.   Give me examples to follow and be encouraged by.  Help me to suck it up and continue when I feel like giving up.  Remove all fear of following you with a wholly dedicated heart.  Help me to keep the prize of living well for your glory in sight. I want to embrace the hope of obtaining the prize. Grant me a spirit to race my life well. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“PACK RIDING” – June 9

June 9, 2013

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful.  “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.  Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”  1 Corinthians 10:23-24

981002_10201434224324276_965735367_oYesterday, I completed my first century bicycle ride, the Bob LeBow Bike Tour.  I had two different experiences on this ride.  I rode in a group for the first 60 miles and finished the last 45 miles on my own.  Riding in a group is better.

When we started the ride in the morning, we had a head wind.  It was the sort of wind that deafens your ears and steals any conversation from among the riders.  A head wind forces you to push into the pedals without a respite.  This head wind was not an encouraging sign for someone like me who was concerned about the energy requirements of a ride with a distance I have never known.

Fortunately, I fell in with a pack of riders.  Actually, they caught me.  They were riding faster than I had intended to ride.  However, the sweet relief that came as I was enveloped by this group gave me a huge incentive to cling within them.  We had a group of about 10-15 riders.  This amount of riders provides an intoxicating buffer from the wind.  The riders at the front have to work hard to break the wind but those in the back get the benefit of being pulled along.  They say that by riding in a group you can save as much as 20% of  your energy.  I believe it and I loved it.  I did all that I could to stay with this group.

The best way for a group like ours to maintain a strong pace is for everyone to take a turn at the front of the pack.  This keeps everyone as fresh as possible.  It allows the stronger riders a chance to rest without the group as a whole slowing down.  There is no benefit to riding in a pack if the riders are seeking their own good and not willing to work together.

Therefore, I took my turn at the front on a couple of occasions.  I tucked down onto my aero-bars and pushed into the wind and worked to maintain a consistent pace.  I could see the shadows of the other riders just off my back wheel as they caught my streamline.  As I tired, a rider from the back would come alongside with the pack forming around them and I would slip back into the groups streamline and get my chance to recover.

This works wonderfully well as long as the leader is setting a pace that the pack is willing to match.  I took the lead on one occasion and pressed into the wind.  I thought that I was doing a good job until I noticed that there were no shadows shadowing me.  I listened and heard only the hum of my own chain and tires.  When I glanced back, I realized that I had dropped the group.  That is not what I had intended.  I knew that I was going to need that group to make the whole ride.  I wanted that group for the rest that lay within it.  It was only a matter of time before they would catch me once again, anyways.  There was no purpose to dropping them.

Dropping them had proven to be a waste of energy.  I was disappointed in the fact that I had been working hard and no other rider had benefited from the effort.  That was not the way it was supposed to work.  The group as a whole had expended more energy because I had set a pace that was beyond what the other riders were willing to follow.  So, I slowed my paced and let them envelop me once again.  I knew that my good lay within the good of those other riders.

This experience made me think of how we, Christians, are supposed to live together.  I often hear a brother or sister in Christ lamenting about the Church or other believers.  They have a sense of being stifled by what they call the traditional church.  They feel as if their freedoms in Christ are being stolen by the judgmentalism of those within Christian circles.

The story is often the same.  They end up pulling away and isolating themselves from other believers.  They pursue their freedoms in Christ for their own good, mostly on their own.  We can pursue the freedoms we have in Christ in a manner that builds up no one else.  We can pursue our faith in a manner that is of no benefit to our neighbor.

We can work hard in our faith just like when I was riding ahead of the pack but to what avail?  We should want our faith to build up others.  We should want our strength to be providing a respite for others and pulling them along.  We should be seeking not only our own good, but the good of our neighbors.

We as the body of Christ will go to greater depths and be more relevant and effective if we are working together.  We can be used in amazing ways when we are willing to work for the good of others.  Ultimately, God is glorified when we are willing to sacrifice some of our freedoms in Christ for the well being and good of our fellow heirs with Christ.

Are you willing to take your turn and pull your neighbor along for their good and without thinking about your own good?

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for your Church and my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Forgive me for allowing myself to be frustrated by them.  Forgive me for so often thinking about my self first and my neighbor second.  Father, help me to use my strengths that are a gift from you in a way that is good for others.  I want to be building up.  Lord, keep me from working in a manner that tears down or is the avail of no one else.  Help me to use the freedoms that you have given me in Christ in the most useful ways, even if that means sacrificing them for the good of my weaker brothers and sisters.  Help me to live to your glory.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

Note: I am the rider in the center of the photograph with the shirt sleeve that is black on top and red below. Just a little proof that I was there.

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“MARRIAGE OF THE CONTROL IMPAIRED” – June 7

June 7, 2013

“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.  The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.”  1 Corinthians 7:2-3

wedding in church

wedding in church (Photo credit: Brian’s Tree)

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the presence of this company, to unite this groom and this bride in holy matrimony. Marriage was ordained by God in Eden and confirmed in Cana of Galilee by the presence of the Lord Himself, and is declared by the inspired Apostle Paul to be honorable among all men. It is therefore, not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, soberly and in the fear of God.  Whereas, it would be good for these two to remain single as Paul was single, they have determined it is better for them to marry because they can no longer exercise self-control.

These two are inflamed with a passion for one another that is beyond their self-control to resist the temptation of sexual immorality.  Therefore, this groom and this bride come before us to enter into this concession we call marriage as a safeguard against the temptations of Satan due to their lack of self-control.  It is fitting, therefore, that we should on this occasion, begin by asking God’s blessing on this marriage service. Let us pray.

I have never been to a wedding ceremony that started out this way but most adults understand the practical advice that Paul is giving us.  We need to build into our lives safeguards to help us fight temptations in areas where we know we are weak.  One of the roles of marriage is to provide an appropriate avenue for inflamed passions.  An important role of marriage is sexual purity.

I realize that there are a lot of couples who enter into marriage without sexual purity being one of the reasons.  There are a lot of wonderful blessings and reasons God has given us the institution of marriage.  However, it is a mistake for couples to forget about this important and practical function of marriage that safeguards both the husband and wife from sexual temptation.

There have been countless examples of marriages and families being shattered by a spouse who sought the satisfaction of their passions beyond the bounds of marriage.  The need for self-control never subsides.  For most, the fact that they are married is an acknowledgement to their lack of self-control.  The marriage bed is part of the discipline that marriage people should use to keep their bodies under control.

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  1 Corinthians 9:27

It is a disgrace, the number of ministries and witnesses that have been damaged due to Christians failing to discipline their bodies and keep them under control.  This is not limited to the marriage bed.  A married couple is a team.  A man and wife should be striving together in all aspects of their lives to assist each other in disciplining their bodies to the glory of God.

If one lacks self control of their tongue, the other should help them in keeping it shut.

If one lacks self control regarding a substance, the other should give up their freedom to help them beat that addiction.

If one lacks self control in overeating, the other should limit their self to help them.

If one lacks self control in their responsibilities, the other should encourage them not to be a sluggard.

If one lacks self control of their anxieties, the other should speak the truths of God’s promises.

San FranMarried couples who are walking together in faith have a huge advantage in the disciplining of their bodies.  We all have our weak areas.  A spouse should know their partner’s weaknesses.  A loving spouse will want to help their partner have victory over their particular weakness.

I want my wife to run her race of faith well.  I want her to finish well.  I want her to receive the prize.  Therefore, I am committed to helping her.  She wants me to help.  It is an expression of my love for her.  She doesn’t need help with her strengths.  She needs help with her weaknesses.  I need help with my weaknesses.  I need her to help me in those areas of my live where my self control is lowest.  I want her to help me.

We show each other love by supporting each other in our respective weaknesses in order that we will both be better at disciplining our bodies as we run our race of faith.

May our marriages be all that they were intended to be including a safe haven for bodies which are control impaired.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my wife.  Thank you for giving me a person who loves me and wants to help me follow you better.  Thank you for giving me a person who is committed to my well-being.  Father, may your blessing pour out on her.  May your face shine upon her.  May your Spirit fill her and abound in her.  Lord, help me to help her.  Give me wisdom in how I can practically support her in her weaknesses and may you give her the desire to help me in my weaknesses.   Father, we want to give you all the glory in our marriage.  We want to run well as a couple and as individuals.  We want to finish well.  Lord, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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